Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Nigel Slater Inspired Chili

The days are still hot, but the nights are starting to cool down, making football games and bonfires so very enjoyable. As we dig out our big comfy sweaters, jeans, and boots we start to crave comfort food.  It's time for big pots of chili and all the fixings.

Chili can be served a variety of ways and I like to celebrate that by creating a chili bar.  Baked potatoes, pasta, hot dogs, burgers, french fries, and nachos are all great with a little chili on top.  Then you need toppings for the chili: crackers, cheese, sour cream, jalapenos, and onions are the most popular at my house.  Everyone loves to customize their own meal. 

My favorite is a chili dog with onions and mustard but that runs a close race with a baked potato topped with chili, cheese, jalapenos, and onions.  I can never decide which I like best.  My husband and daughter love their chili over pasta and everyone in my house loves chili and cheese over french fries. There are so many tasty options.

The type of chili you serve is all about individual taste.  I haven't really met a chili that I didn't like but I definitely favor chili with lots of beans.  This version is adapted from a very simplistic Nigel Slater recipe.  I doubled the recipe because I love leftover chili and I added lots of spices, veggies, and some jalapenos for heat.  This version was thick and delicious and I'd definitely make it again.

Gameday Chili
Inspired by Nigel Slater
recipe via The Guardian
Serves 6-8

2 tablespoons canola oil
2 onions, chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped
5-6 cloves of garlic, minced
2 jalapenos, minced
4 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon chili sauce
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 - 14.5 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 pounds of ground turkey
2 cans of chili beans, with liquid

Add oil to a large Dutch oven and cook onions and peppers over medium heat until softened, 5-6 minutes.  Add garlic, jalapenos, all the seasonings, and stir until everything is blended.  Add tomato paste and chili sauce and cook for 1-2 minutes to develop a deep tomato flavor.   Add can of crushed tomatoes and stir to combine.  Remove this vegetable mixture to a bowl.  Cook the ground turkey until it becomes a rich dark color.  Add the vegetable mixture back in the pot.  Add in the chili beans, with their liquid, and cook over low-medium heat until thick.  Continue to season and taste.  You may want to add a little more heat via red pepper flakes, jalapeno, or hot sauce.  You may even wish to season the chili with a bit more chili powder.  I usually add a little more minced garlic towards the end.  Garnish the chili with cheese, sour cream, cilantro, green onions, crackers, chips, etc. Serve over baked potatoes, pasta, hot dogs, burgers, french fries, and nachos.  Create your own little chili bar.
Theme: Ladle It Up!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Baked Manicotti with Sausage and Peas

"Did you eat it? Did you eat the last one?" I asked him this while giving him the death stare.  I knew he did, of course, but I had to ask.  The look in his eye confirmed my worse fears.  I knew in an instant there was no more Baked Manicotti with Sausage and Peas. He had done it.  He had ate the very last one.  

I didn't even try to hide my disappointment for a minute because I wanted that last manicotti with every fiber in my being.  Oh my goodness those manicotti were absolutely amazing. Beautiful pasta tubes stuffed with perfectly seasoned Italian sausage, petite peas, and fluffy ricotta cheese. A little marinara and a creamy dreamy fonduta sauce (a blend of milk, cream and Pecorino Romano) blankets the pasta.  Top all that with lots of ooey gooey mozzarella cheese, and after some time in the oven, you have one delectable, family-pleasing, feel-good casserole worth fighting over.  

Baked Manicotti with Sausage and Peas
Serves 4-6

Fonduta sauce:
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
6 ounces (about 3 cups) grated Pecorino Romano
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves 

For Sausage and Pea Filling:
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 large or 2 small shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus 1/2 teaspoon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus 1/4 teaspoon
1/4 cup white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
3/4 cup (4 ounces) frozen petite peas, thawed
1/2 cup whole milk ricotta 

To Fill and Bake:
12 manicotti shells
1 (26-ounce) jar marinara sauce
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded mozzarella 

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9-by-13-by-2-inch glass baking dish with vegetable oil cooking spray. Set aside.

For the fonduta sauce: In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the milk and cream to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low. Add the Pecorino Romano and whisk until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the basil. Set aside.

For the filling: In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the sausage, shallots, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook until the sausage is cooked through and the vegetables have softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, break the sausage into 1/2-inch pieces. Increase the heat to high. Add the wine and scrape up the brown bits that cling to the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Cook until the wine has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool slightly. Add the peas, ricotta, and 1 cup of the fonduta sauce. Season with remaining 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until just tender, 7 to 8 minutes. Drain and set aside.

To bake:  Place half of the marinara sauce over the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Using a small spoon, fill the manicotti shells with the sausage filling and arrange in a single layer in the baking dish. Pour the remaining marinara sauce on top of the filled shells. Spoon the remaining fonduta sauce on top and sprinkle with the mozzarella. Drizzle with olive oil and bake until bubbly and golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes.

Theme September Potluck!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Salmon Cakes over Pea Puree

Every year on September 11th, we have a special family dinner. This special dinner is our way of remembering and honoring all those who were affected by the tragedy.  On this day we make it a point to take some time out and celebrate our family and how blessed we are to have each other.

Thirteen years ago on September 11th my daughter turned six months old and I was about excited as I could be because this meant she could eat real food for the first time.  I had looked forward to this day for such a long time.  I had a special outfit chosen for her with a matching bonnet. I also had a homemade pea puree prepared and waiting in the fridge. My plan was to dress her up, feed her, and take all sorts of pictures.  Everything was laid out and waiting.

Then I went to work and that day turned into something I will never forget.  The fear, the panic, and the heartbreak seemed neverending as one tragedy unfolded after another.  Thankfully my employer let us leave early and there was nothing I wanted to do more than see my baby girl's sweet little smiling face. 

I was never so happy to see Olivia and give her a big hug.  I didn't know what else to do so I went ahead and took her to her appointment.  The doctor gave his approval for her to start eating real food. I no longer felt like celebrating but I took her home, dressed her up, fed her pureed peas, and took a few pictures. She was smiling and happy and it was just what I needed in that moment.  When I look back on that day my first thoughts are about the tragedy.  Then I remember my sweet baby girl and how she made me smile on a day when there was so little to smile about and I'm incredibly grateful.   

So each year on September 11th, we remember the tragedy and we honor it with a special meal.  Our special meal always has to include peas, of some sort, and Olivia always gets an extra helping.  We tease her that she has to dress up just like I made her do on that day thirteen years ago. We congratulate her on eating real food for thirteen years, or however many years it happens to be.  Mostly we are just silly and grateful to be together. 

Salmon Cakes
Adapted from The Guardian
by Nigel Slater
Serves 2-4

1 pound (500g) salmon, diced
a large stick of lemongrass, chopped finely
zest and juice of a lime
a thumb sized piece of ginger,grated
a small hot chili, diced
clove of garlic, grated
2 spring onions, diced
handful of cilantro, chopped
8 tablespoons breadcrumbs
salt and pepper, to taste
butter and/or oil, for cooking

Place the diced salmon into a mixing bowl. Add the finely chopped lemongrass, the grated ginger, chopped spring onions, grated garlic, and diced chili.  Stir the salmon adding in the lime juice and zest.  Be sure to use a light hand as to not turn the salmon into a paste.

Fold in the chopped cilantro and breadcrumbs together with a little salt and pepper.  Take up scoops of the mixture and pat into small thickish cakes.  The mixture should make about four patties.  Warm a little butter and oil in a skillet.  I prefer cast iron for frying.  Lower the salmon cakes into the skillet and cook until golden on each side.  Serve with the pea puree. 

Minted Pea Puree
Adapted from The Guardian
by Nigel Slater
Serves 2-4

One bag frozen peas
4 sprigs of mint
one clove of garlic
salt and pepper, to taste

Boil the peas, mint sprigs, and clove of garlic in lightly salted water till tender, drain, and whizz peas and the mint in a food processor with the oil till smooth.  Be sure to taste and season well. Serve with salmon cakes.

Theme: Lentils, Legumes, and Pulses Oh My!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Chicken Po'Boy

To be perfectly honest I wouldn't normally turn to a British cook, like Nigel Slater, for a Chicken Po'Boy recipe.  However, Nigel's recipe seemed like a good jumping off point and I did happen to have all the ingredients on hand.

Nigel's recipe is as classic as ever.  Fresh baguette, strips of fried chicken, shredded lettuce and mayo.  The only personal touch I added was to add quite a bit of Lawry's seasoning to my chicken as it fried.  Lawry's seasoning is pretty much amazing on anything fried, especially chicken, and it was definitely a great addition in this recipe.   

The result was perfectly golden strips of fried chicken nestled in a hot crispy baguette with lots of shredded lettuce and mayo.  Every bite was heavenly. This sandwich is decadent, comforting, and satisfying on so many levels.

Chicken Po'Boy
Adapted from Real Fast Food
by Nigel Slater
For 2

2 small baguettes
2 chicken breasts, sliced into 3 strips each or
6 chicken tenders 
 cornmeal or flour, to coat
*Lawry's seasoning, to taste
a little canola oil for frying
shredded lettuce

Note: A homemade remoulade would be wonderful in place of the mayo

Split the baguettes lengthwise, put the halves together, and warm them in a hot oven.  While they are heating, slice the chicken breast into six pieces and roll in the cornmeal or flour.  Alternatively, put the cornmeal or flour in a bag and shake the pieces in it.

Fry the chicken in hot shallow oil till crisp, about 7 to 8 minutes, turning once.  Remove the bread from the oven and spread all the cut sides generously with mayonnaise.  Add some shredded lettuce to the bottom half of each baguette, then pile on the fried chicken pieces.  Press down firmly and eat while still warm. 
Soups, Salads, and Sammies Every Sunday at Kahakai Kitchen
Theme: Bread Ahead!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Fun Little Fiesta {Inspired by Rick Bayless}

Put on some festive music, pour yourself an ice cold beverage,  and dance around.  It's time for a little fiesta, courtesy of Rick Bayless, and his fabulous recipes. Here's what's on the menu.

 Fiesta Menu
Late Summer Salsa Mexicana
Simple Guacamole
Tortilla Chips
Pollo Monterrey
Garlicky White Rice
Watermelon Cooler
The only way to kick off a fiesta is with this  Late Summer Salsa Mexicana.  You may even have all the ingredients in your very own garden! Gather up some ripe tomatoes and dice them up with some white onion, jalapeno, and cilantro.  Toss it all together with some lime juice and a little salt and you have one fresh summer fresh salsa! Serve with chips as an appetizer or use it as a topping to brighten any meal.
Add a little more color to your fiesta with this Simple Guacamole.  Ripe avocado along with some white onion, lime juice, serrano peppers, and garlic come together to make one luscious and creamy dip or topping for your Mexican fiesta!
Since we're building layers of flavor, a little of Rick Bayless' Garlicky White Rice, can only help things out, right?  This simple and fluffy white rice has six cloves of garlic goodness and is definitely a welcome change from the typical Red Chile or Mexican rice served in most Mexican restaurants.  If garlic is your thing then I definitely urge you to give it a try.
 For the main course, I made my own version of a family favorite, Pollo Monterrey, or simply put...chicken topped with cheese sauce.  I seasoned thin chicken cutlets with Sazon and seared both sides in a hot skillet.  I topped the chicken breasts with shredded monterey jack cheese and covered the skillet for a few minutes to melt the cheese.  Delicious, easy and simple. I served my version of Pollo Monterrey with warm flour tortillas, the salsa, simple guacamole, shredded lettuce, cilantro, and all the ingredients to build your own taco.  It was a fun, flavorful, family-friendly meal. 
To wash it all down I made Rick's Watermelon Cooler, a refreshing blend of fresh watermelon, lime juice, and sugar.  This was by far our favorite part of the meal. Perhaps it had something to do with the extreme heat and humidity outside?  Not to mention, I think the kiddos felt like they were drinking a grown up drink.  If you're in the mood for a special little sipper I would highly suggest making this while watermelon in season!

*click on the recipe titles for the link to each recipe

Theme: August Potluck with Rick Bayless!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Oatmeal Cookie Sandwiches with Lemon Mascarpone Filling

What's better than one oatmeal cookie? TWO! Two is always better than one. 

Two chewy oatmeal cookies sandwiched between a creamy lemony filling.  Trust me.  You need these in your life. 

Remember those old fashioned oatmeal cookie sandwiches with the fluffy vanilla filling?  The ones from your childhood? These are like that, but with a unique twist.  A more adult version. The lemon filling provides a refreshing change from the original.  They are addictive and crave-worthy all on their own, especially for those of us who enjoy lemony desserts.

It's a good thing the recipe only makes a handful or two because these babies were gone, gone gone.

Oat Cookies with Lemon Mascarpone Filling
Adapted from The Guardian
by Nigel Slater
Makes 8-10 sandwich cookies

For the cookies:
120g butter
120g light brown sugar
one egg yolk
120g old fashioned oats
90g all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt

For the filling:
100g mascarpone cheese
100g lemon curd

Set the oven at 180C/gas mark 4. Dice the butter and put it into the bowl of a food mixer. Add the brown sugar and beat till light and creamy, then mix in the egg yolk. Mix together the oats, flour, baking powder and salt.

Divide the mixture into 8-12 cookies depending on how large you want them to be. Roll into balls then flatten and place on a baking sheet. They should be quite thick, so they remain chewy after baking.

Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, until they are lightly colored but not yet crisp. Remove the tray from the oven, leave to cool for a minute or two, then transfer to a cooling rack. As they cool they will crisp up.

Make the filling. Put the mascarpone in a mixing bowl, stir in the lemon curd, then use to sandwich the cookies together.

Theme: Zest It Up!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Nigel Slater's Classic Peach Melba

Juice dripping...first down your chin, then onto your hands, and eventually all the way down your elbows.  That can only mean one's peach season!  To me, there is nothing better than a ripe, juicy peach!  It's one of my favorite things in the world.

Most times I eat my peaches hunched over the kitchen sink with peach juice dripping everywhere.  Messy as all get out but oh, so delicious!  Easily my favorite way to enjoy a peach! When I'm feeling a little more dignified I like to slice my peach and serve it in a bowl with raspberries on top.  Peaches and of those most heavenly combinations ever! So colorful and pretty.

Peach Melba has been on my to-make list for years and years.  Not sure why I haven't got around to making this sooner, but I'm so very glad I finally did!  Sweet and tender peaches poached in a light sugar syrup, with a bright red raspberry sauce, topped off with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  It's a beautiful classic dessert that pleases your eye with it's vibrant colors and sweet and tart flavor. It will definitely leave you wanting more!

Classic Peach Melba
Adapted from The Guardian
by Nigel Slater
Makes 4 sundaes

The Recipe
Poach 4 small peaches in a syrup made from 400mls of water, sweetened with 2 tablespoons of caster sugar. When they are tender, skin them, halve them and remove their stones. Whizz 250g raspberries in a food processor together with a tablespoon or two of the poaching syrup, then push through a sieve to remove the seeds. Place a ball of ice cream and two peach halves in each dish, then spoon over the raspberry sauce. A white peach looks very elegant here.

The Trick
Peaches need to be poached in sugar syrup for a dessert such as Peach Melba, but too often they come out cloyingly sweet. Use only a small amount of sugar in the syrup and add both a little twist of orange and some lemon juice to brighten the flavour of the fruit. Peaches need to be poached with their skins on, then slipped off after cooking. Use your thumb. It's a sign that the fruit is ready when the skin starts to pucker and can be slipped off with ease. If it sticks, the fruit won't be soft enough yet. Although it's a drag, the raspberry purée needs to be pushed through a sieve. Even the most sabre-toothed of food processors won't turn those pesky seeds to crimson purée.

The Twist
A wafer is not obligatory. Most people tend to stick to the classic interpretation above, lest Dame Nellie Melba turns in her grave, but a modern version might include a blackcurrant – or more fashionable blueberry – sauce instead of raspberry. This involves cooking the raw fruit with a small amount of sugar, then blending to a purée. Unlike the classic raspberry version, the berries must be cooked first. The ingredients can also be made into an ice cream terrine, with layers of vanilla ice and peaches studded with raspberries, and served with a sauce made from the fruit.

Theme: Moreish Meals