January 29, 2009

Pear, Apple and Cranberry Crisp

Uuummm... warm fruit and crunchy topping.... I mean is there really anything better on a snowy (i.e. gray slush) day? Ina has done it again! This crisp is so comforting and absolutely delicious. It has beautiful pieces of apple and pear, and tart little bits of dried cranberry. There is also a good deal of cinnamon, which gives it a real warmth, in addition to it being served piping hot out of the oven. As much as I love chocolate (and I LOVE chocolate), this is exactly the kind of dessert I crave when we are camped inside avoiding the wintery weather at all costs. Really, the only thing that got me out of the house yesterday was a trip to Bergdorf's. We gotta support the economy, right?! Thank goodness the sun has decided to show itself today, but the wind is still brutal. 

This is a very convenient dessert to serve when you are having friends over for dinner. Although there is a good amount of peeling and chopping to do, this whole crisp can be prepared before anyone arrives, then just popped in the oven while you are eating dinner. Or you can make it when no one is coming over and cherish the huge tray of leftovers you will be blissfully eating for the next week. Just buy 2 pints of vanilla ice cream. Wouldn't want you to run out and be forced to go to the local bodega to buy ice cream at 2 am in the snow. :)

Pear, Apple and Cranberry Crisp

4 ripe Bosc pears
6 firm apples (Ina suggests Macoun. I used Gala because that was what I had)
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup AP flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 1/2 cups AP flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, diced
  • Preheat oven to 350℉.
  • Peel and core pears and apples and cut into large chunks.
  • In a large bowl, toss fruit with cranberries, lemon and orange zest and juices, granulated sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  • Pour fruit mixture into a 9 x 12 x 2 inch baking dish.
  • Topping: In an electric mixture with a paddle attachment, combine all ingredients and mix on low speed for 1-2 minutes, or until mixture forms large crumbles.
  • Sprinkle topping all over the fruit mixture.
  • Place baking dish on larger baking sheet to catch any overflow, and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until the top is browned and the fruit is bubbly.
  • Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

January 27, 2009

Irish Onion Soup

I made this the other night when our friends came over for dinner (and some very intense Rock Band sessions!). It's been really cold in nyc for the past few weeks, so soup has never been more appropriate. I'm a big fan of this one because it is a take on a classical French onion soup, but instead the onions are braised in Guinness and the bread topper is smothered in melted Irish cheddar. 

The soup was really flavorful and the cheesy crouton made it substantial enough to serve as a main course. I also love serving things in individual dishes. It just makes for a fun presentation. Unfortunately, I did have a few hiccups with the timing of the recipe. The onions took WAY longer to cook than the recipe called for (they said 15 minutes, I cooked them for like 40 and they still weren't as cooked as I would have liked). Aside from that, and the fact that my eyes are still watering from cutting up so many onions, the soup is a cinch to pull together and everyone seemed to really like it. Especially the men, this is definitely guy food.

Irish Onion Soup

Yields 6 Servings

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced
8 yellow onions, or about 8 cups, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 1/2 cups dark beer (Guinness)
6 cups beef stock
6 slices country break, cute 1/2-inch thick, lightly toasted
1/2 pound Irish cheddar, thinly sliced
  • Heat olive oil in a pot over high heat and add onions and garlic.
  • Season with salt and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often.
  • Reduce heat to low and continue cooking onions, stirring occasionally, till they are golden brown, about 45 minutes.
  • Add thyme, vinegar and beer and cook until beer is reduced by half.
  • Add beef stock, bring to a simmer, and cook for an additional 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, preheat the broiler.
  • When soup is done cooking, ladle servings into individual, oven-safe bowls.
  • Top each serving with the bread and cheese.
  • Broil the soups until the cheese it totally melted and slightly browned.
  • Serve immediately.

January 22, 2009

Easy Winter Salad

I'm not a very big fan of salads as main courses, so when I have them they are usually served on the side of the main attraction or as a starter. This leads me to have some problems with most of the salad recipes out there. You see, there are salads that are ridiculously simple and lack any imagination (or flavor really), and then there are salads that have so much stuff in them that you will be full by the time you are done. 

This is the exact predicament I found myself in when I was planning our little dinner last week. I finally decided to throw together some of the ingredients I thought would go well and dress the salad with one of my all-time favorite dressings. What came together was the perfect salad for a cold night. It's very flavorful but won't leave you too full. I know this isn't much of a recipe, but so many people seem to be on the lookout for tasty salads I thought I would share.

Easy Winter Salad

Toasted Walnuts
Parmesan Curls
Pear, medium diced or sliced
Pre-Washed Mixed Greens
Salt and Pepper
Ina's Vinaigrette (recipe below)

Combine all ingredients, except for dressing, in a bowl. Toss with desired amount of salad dressing right before serving.

1/2 cup Olive Oil
1 tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
1/4 teaspoon Honey
1 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Pepper
1 tablespoon minced Shallot

Place all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together, or shake to combine in a salad dressing carafe. Dress salad just before serving.

January 20, 2009

Fancy Schmancy

After too many nights of easy to prepare comfort food, I was feeling ready to tackle something a little bit more challenging this weekend. So I planned this lovely dinner for Brad and I, complete with all our fancy china and crystal (thank-you wedding guests!). The star was rack of lamb, served with roasted tomatoes and potatoes. It was delicious!! And really not hard at all, which totally shocked me because lamb just seems like restaurant food and not something that would be all that good when cooked at home. I don't mean to toot my own horn or anything, but this lamb was just as good as many of the places we've been to, and even better than others.

All you have to do is brown the lamb, then rub it with a delicious garlic, herb and olive oil mixture. Then you roast it in the same pan over potatoes that crisp up nicely in the oven and get all those savory lamb juices. At the same time, you roast up some tomatoes with the same garlicy mixture. The whole thing looks and tastes amazing. If I hadn't cooked it myself, I swear I would have believed that it came from the cute little french brasserie down the street.

This would make the most beautiful Valentine's Day dinner for the person you love - or for your pal who has nothing to do on the 14th either. To complete the entire meal, we started with a 1/2 bottle of champagne (a habit we happily picked up while in France after noticing that many patrons ordered a glass of bubbly while they were perusing the wine list), had a lovely salad to start (which I will share with you later this week), and sipped a beautiful Cabernet-Sauvignon that had been recommended to accompany the lamb. If serving on the big V-day, I would definitely advise to not skimp on the bubbly or vino. :)

Proven├žal Rack of Lamb with Roasted Tomatoes
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine - October 2008
Serves 2

2 Garlic Cloves
Salt and Pepper
2 tsp chopped Thyme
1 tsp chopped Rosemary
3 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 medium Tomatoes
1 (1-lb) frenched Rack of Lamb, cut in half
2 medium Shallots, thinly sliced
2 medium boiling Potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 Tbsp Water
  • Preheat oven to 400℉.
  • Mash garlic to a paste with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper, using the back of a knife.
  • In a small bowl, combine paste with the chopped herbs and 1 Tbsp of oil.
  • Half tomatoes and place inside a small, oiled baking dish.
  • Drizzle 1/3 of garlic mixture on top of tomatoes, and roast for 30 - 40 minutes, or until tomatoes are tender.
  • While tomatoes are cooking, pat dry the lamb and season with 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.
  • In a skillet over medium-high, heat the olive oil until it begins to shimmer.
  • Brown lamb on all sides, for about 1 minute per side, or 4-6 minutes total.
  • Place lamb aside and discard any excess oil in the pan.
  • Heat remaining Tbsp of oil over medium heat and add shallots and potatoes.
  • Cook until potatoes start to get slightly brown on the edges, 3-5 minutes.
  • Stir in water and half the remaining garlic mixture and turn off heat.
  • Rub remaining garlic mixture on the fat side of the lamb, and place, fat side up, on top of potatoes and shallots in pan.
  • Roast for about 20-25 minutes for medium-rare, or until lamb is at 130℉ (careful not to touch the bone).
  • Place lamb on cutting board and cover loosely with foil for 5-10 minutes.
  • Serve with tomatoes and potatoes.

January 14, 2009

Breakfast Granola

First off, I want to thank everyone so much for all of their well wishes. I am feeling much better and am excited to be rejoining the world outside our apartment! All of your cheers really helped and I appreciate everyone taking the time to leave a comment. Now on to my latest and greatest...

I have yogurt, fruit and granola for breakfast almost every morning after my run. It's a hearty enough breakfast that I'm left feeling full until lunch, and also gets in lots of healthy fruit, protein and fiber. I also can't stomach a huge breakfast right after a run, so something light but filling, like this granola, is the perfect start to my day. If you are looking for a healthy breakfast that doesn't feel healthy, please try this combo. No, it's not a stack of pancakes. But when mixed with yogurt, it is sweet, crunchy, creamy and really delicious.

This is my favorite morning granola recipe because it is sweet without any additional sugar and is crunchy without being break-your-teeth hard. The addition of the dried fruit also makes it colorful and adds an extra flavor punch. It's also quick and painless to put together and you won't be left washing dishes for hours afterwards, which means you might actually be inclined to make this every few weeks. It will keep nicely if stored in an air-tight container at room temperature for 1-2 weeks. You could freeze it as well.

I just saw that Grace, over at A Southern Grace, has posted a little contest for recipes containing cinnamon in them, so I'm sending this her way. The cinnamon in the granola adds a really nice bit of spice and flavor without any additional calories. Be sure to check out her awesome blog and enter a recipe yourself!

Breakfast Granola

3 cups Rolled Oats
1/2 cup Unsalted Hulled Sunflower Seeds
1/2 cup Flaked Coconut
1/4 Wheat Germ
1 1/2 cups chopped Unsalted Mixed Nuts (I used pecans, walnuts and almonds)
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
4 tablespoons Unsalted Butter
1/3 cup Pure Maple Syrup
1 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
2 tablespoons Water
1 cup chopped Mixed Dried Fruit (I used raisins, prunes, strawberries and apricots)
  • Preheat oven to 350℉.
  • Combine first 7 ingredients in a large bowl.
  • In a small sauce pan, over low heat, melt the butter into the maple syrup.
  • Stir vanilla into syrup, and pour over the oat mixture.
  • Add water and stir until well combined.
  • Spread granola out on a large baking sheet, making sure the edges are not thinner than the middle (the edges will tend to burn if they are too thin).
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes, stirring the granola at 8 minute intervals, or until golden brown.
  • Allow granola to cool completely in the pan, then stir in the chopped fruit.

January 11, 2009

Enchiladas with a side of pain killers, please.

So I underwent a a fun little surgery last week that has had me either tied to the bed or in a pain-killer-induced fog for what seems like forever now. What a way to ring in the new year! Since I haven't been able to stand for long and have no appetite there has been a sudden lack of home-cooked food coming from our kitchen. Brad has been taking good care of me and the man sure knows how to work the take-out menu! But all this has me really aching to get back in the kitchen and make something that didn't come to our door in 30 minutes or less. I'm also dying to go for a run but that looks like it ain't happening for a while. I never thought I would be envious of all the new year's gym slaves.

I've had this recipe on hand for a while as it's an old standby for me. I mean who doesn't love enchiladas? The cheese, beans, and red sauce all make this a home run. It's quick and easy (seems to be a theme for me lately - I promise to try something a little more challenging once I'm back to my normal self), and can be on the table in under 25 minutes. This is yet another one of those meat-free dinner options with a few low-fat additions, so you can feel assured it won't reck any resolutions you might have made a week ago.

Cheese and Bean Enchiladas
Adapted from Cooking Light

3/4 cup finely chopped Onion
1 16-oz. can fat-free Refried Beans
2 cups shredded reduced-fat Mexican Blend or Cheddar Cheese
6 Corn Tortillas (taco sized, or 12 fajita sized)
1 19-oz. can Enchilada Sauce
2 tablespoons low-fat Sour Cream
6 tablespoons minced fresh Cilantro
  • Preheat oven to 400℉.
  • Saute onions in a pan over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until softened.
  • Combine cooked onions and refried beans in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for 3 minutes (or until heated).
  • Stir in 1 1/2 cups of cheese.
  • Place tortillas in a pile surrounded by damp paper towels and microwave on high for 1 minute, or until soft.
  • Pour half the enchilada sauce into a 13 x 9-in. baking dish.
  • Coat the tortilla shell in the sauce on both sides, then spoon bean mixture (about 1/4 cup amount) down the center.
  • Roll tortilla and place tightly in baking dish.
  • Continue until dish is full.
  • Top with remaining sauce and cheese.
  • Bake for 8 minutes, or until completely heated.
  • Serve individual enchiladas with sour cream and cilantro.

January 6, 2009

Eggplant Gratin

It seems like everyone is beginning their New Year's Resolutions and attempting to eat healthier, so I thought I would share this recipe for Eggplant Gratin. It's not necessarily healthy given all the cheese, but it doesn't have any meat, which is a start, right? I'm not the biggest "healthy" meat fan - chicken and pork are blah unless they are covered in some kind of yumminess like cheese or BBQ sauce. The only meats I really swoon over are beef and sausage. Not exactly the right choices to start 09 off on the right foot. So I give you a meatless entree that is satisfying enough to let you go veggie for a night without ever missing the meat. And it sure as heck tops a baked chicken breast!

This has layers of eggplant, tomato sauce and cheese, all baked in together until warm and bubbly. It's kinda like lasagna, but much cutter since it is baked in individual gratin dishes. The one aspect I wish this had was a bit of a crunch. I think next time I might add some bread crumbs to the top just to give the dish something more to bite into.

Hope everyone is off to a great 2009, and is enjoying the calm after all the holiday hoopla!

2 Servings

Olive Oil
3/4 pound Eggplant, unpeeled, sliced 1/2-inch thick
1/4 cup Ricotta Cheese
1 extra large Egg
1/4 cup Half-and-Half
1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
Kosher Salt and Pepper
1/2 cup bottled Marinara Sauce
  • Preheat oven to 400℉.
  • Heat a large frying pan over medium and lightly coat in olive oil (about 1/8-inch).
  • When oil is on the brink of smoking, add several eggplant slices and cook, turning once, until lightly browned on both sides (about 5 minutes).
  • Drain eggplant slices on a paper towel-lined plate.
  • Repeat this process until all eggplant slices have been cooked.
  • While eggplant is cooking, mix together the ricotta, egg, half-and-half, 1/4 cup Parmesan, 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.
  • Place 2 individual gratin dishes on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet.
  • To assemble each gratin: place a single layer of eggplant, sprinkle with Parmesan, salt and pepper, and half the marinara sauce. Add another layer of eggplant, salt and pepper, half the ricotta mixture, and top it all off with another sprinkle of Parmesan.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until nicely browned and filling is set.