Saturday, May 7, 2011

Basil Thai Chicken Pizza

Confession: I don't particularly enjoy writing recipes. I love cooking food. I love photographing food. I really, sincerely highly dislike methodically measuring and recording the components of my creations. Doing so cramps my style. It ruins my rhythm and flow the kitchen, and takes the joy out of cooking.

Having said that, I present to you a recipe that is a compilation of educated guesses. Proceed with caution, but know that it can't be ruined if you decide to take my lead and forgo the measuring cups. This freedom can feel liberating.

Oh, and I guess I should introduce the meal itself. It's a "middle ground" meal that appeals to Jay's obsession with pizza and my obsession with making sure he eats his vegetables. It's a portion-controlled, Asian-inspired meal that happens to be a nice change from the tomato-based, cheese heavy American favorite.

The Edibles:
  • 1 chicken breast
  • 1/3 c. orange juice
  • 2 T. sake
  • 3 T. low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 T. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 T. dried cilantro (or a small handful of fresh cilantro)
  • 2 whole wheat pitas
  • 2 c. fresh spinach
  • 10 baby carrots, cut into quarters
  • 1/2 c. part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • small handful of basil leaves, sliced into strips (optional)
The Making:
  1. Place chicken breast in a gallon size plastic bag with orange juice, sake, low-sodium soy sauce, ginger, garlic, red pepper, and cilantro. Massage the meat in the bag to ensure marinade is evenly dispersed. Place on a plate and refrigerate at least 30 minutes up to overnight.
  2. Once marinaded, preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  3. Coat sauté pan lightly with olive oil cooking spray and place over medium heat. Using tongs, remove the chicken from the bag and place in the pan, reserving the marinade. Cook about 5 to 10 minutes on each side, until chicken is no longer pink and has a bit of brown color. Remove from pan and slice into thin strips.
  4. Using the chicken pan, sauce spinach and carrot sticks with a little olive oil spray and a sprinkle of garlic powder. Cook until wilty, about 3 minutes.
  5. While the chicken cooks, pour marinade into small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and allow the liquid to reduce. This will take about 5 minutes.
  6. If you want to extend your pitas, carefully tear each into two round pieces. Otherwise, you can use a whole pita as a crust. Either way, toast each pita in oven for 3-5 minutes, until cripsy. Remove from oven. Top with chicken, spinach and carrot mixture, and a light sprinkling of mozzerella cheese. Drizzle marinade over the top of the pizza.
  7. Bake in the oven for about 5 minutes, until the cheese is melted. Serve topped with basil.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Double Kale Quinoa Pesto

Let me set the scene:

It's Sunday.

I know that dinner won't make itself.

I know that if Jay makes dinner we'll be eating Target brand pizza.

I know that Jay's diet on Saturday consisted of Taco Bell for lunch and McDonalds for dinner.

Knowing all this it sounded like the perfect day to make the most vegetable-centric dish I could find. The boy was due for some greens.

Enter... Double Kale Quinoa Pesto, also known as the Fast Food Detox.

Quinoa is a great grain for vegetarians because it is a complete protein, meaning that it contains all 9 essential amino acids (an anomaly of vegetarian protein sources).

The addition of a leafy green like kale (known for its wealth of Vitamin K, of which each cup contains 1327% of the RDV) really kicks up the healthfulness of this recipe.

In fact, I just can't get over the surplus of heath-benefiting ingredients in this recipe. Lemon juice, olive oil, almonds... all help to keep you strong, healthy and functioning at your best! Should I mention that it is delicious? Much more so than any McNugget or Quad Steak Burrito. But maybe I'm biased by my love for vitamins...

The Stuff:
  • large saute pan
  • food processor
The Edibles:
  • 3 cups cooked quinoa*
  • 1 medium vidalia onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 large bunch kale, washed and trimmed, sliced into strips (about 5 cups uncooked)
  • 5 medium garlic cloves, minced (or the equivalent of jarred or powdered garlic)
  • 1/3 cup sliced or slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 pinch salt (more to taste)
  • hearty amount of fresh ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Optional toppings and additions:
  • slivered basil
  • sliced avocado
  • crumbled feta or goat cheese
  • white beans
The Making:
  1. Heat the quinoa and set aside.
  2. Spray a large sauté pan with non-stick olive oil cooking spray and place over medium heat. Dump the equivalent of 1 clove minced or powdered garlic in pan, pushing it around with your wooden spoon or spatula for about 30 seconds.
  3. Place onion in pan and stir around so as to ensure it is completely covered with oil. Cook for about 2-4 minutes on medium, then turn down to medium low. Add the colored peppers. Stir frequently; cook until the onion turns somewhat translucent and is caramelized (really juicy looking).
  4. Remove the cooked diced onion and peppers from the pan and set aside in a bowl.
  5. Using the same pan, Spritz it with another round of non-stick olive oil cooking spray and place over medium heat. Cook 1 clove garlic, pushing it around with your wooden spoon or spatula for about 30 seconds. Add kale by the handful, stirring frequently so as to ensure oil is distributed over its surface. The green will cook down significantly, so if you feel you cannot fit it all in at once, wait until some has cooked down and add more at that point. Once all the kale is looking really wilty, turn stove off.
  6. To make the kale pesto: puree two cups of the cooked kale, 3 cloves garlic, 1/4 cup of the almonds, Parmesan, salt, pepper and lemon juice in a food processor. Drizzle in the olive oil and pulse until smooth.
  7. Just before serving, toss the quinoa, reserved onion and pepper mixture and remaining cooked kale with about 1/2 of the kale pesto. Taste and adjust if needed, you might want to add more of the pesto a bit at a time, or you might want a bit more salt or an added squeeze of lemon juice. Turn out onto a serving platter and top with the remaining almonds and some fresh basil. Some great additions include sliced avocado and feta cheese.
Serves 4 - 6.

*To cook quinoa: rinse one cup of quinoa in a fine-meshed strainer. In a medium saucepan heat the quinoa, two cups of water (or broth if you like), and a few big pinches of salt until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer until water is absorbed and quinoa fluffs up, about 15 minutes. Quinoa is done when you can see the curlique in each grain, and it is tender with a bit of pop to each bite. Drain any extra water and set aside.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Calamari Bruschetta

It has been more than 2 months since I've posted my last recipe, but that doesn't mean I haven't been cooking up a storm! The many weeks of my absence have been full of small life changes such as moving across the country, starting a new job, and getting acclimated to a new apartment in a new city with a new culture. The shock hasn't really set in yet, but to say I've been feeling mildly disoriented would be putting it lightly. Couple my disorientation with the fact that my computer has 15 gigs of photos and videos slowing it down, the thought of adding some more is just downright daunting. Before you start getting all "an external hard drive would solve your problem and relieve your agony" on me, let me tell you that it's on my radar but ugg, could all of these moving costs just go away already?

Alright. Enough whining. More recipe-ing.

Being so close to the ocean, Philadelphia grocery stores and markets offer an array of sea creatures for purchase. I've been eying the crab, drooling at the shrimp, and swooning at the salmon, but all just seem to be a little pricey for a budget-conscious gal like myself. My solution? Calamari! At just $4 per pound, I selected two from a street market and it only ended up setting me back $1.67.

Today I'm featuring a dish that was inspired by a favorite appetizer of mine at Angelina's in Chicago. Squid is usually cooked rapidly so as to prevent the rubber band effect that can occur when overcooked. Interestingly, my research informed me that when calamari is cooked slowly, it becomes increasingly tender over time.

This is a very simple recipe that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. It's full of tomatoey goodness (so if your boyfriend has heartburn issues like mine, it's best enjoyed with a glass of milk and some antacids). Feel free to add more mild, cooked vegetables (like diced carrots or sauteed spinach) to up the vitamin count. In a nutshell: this is low-calorie and protein-packed dish that happens to be down-right, unarguably, very delicious.
The Stuff:
  • non-stick olive oil cooking spray
  • medium-sized skillet

The Edibles:
  • 2 hand-length calamari, or about 1/4 to 1/2 pounds fresh or frozen calamari rings
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 garlic clove, minced
  • 1-28 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • pinch (or two) of dried cayenne pepper
  • hearty shake of dried oregano and basil (or fresh basil, if you're lucky and didn't kill your plant like I did)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

The Making:
  1. Prepare fresh calamari by slicing into rings. (Follow these instructions if you're feeling uneasy about it.)
  2. Spray a skillet with olive oil non-stick spray; place skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. Stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until the onion begins to turn translucent.
  3. Add the squid and saute for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. Add the tomatoes, wine, cayenne pepper, spices, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down low and cover. Cook uncovered on low heat for 15 minutes. Cover and cook on low heat for an additional 15 minutes.
  5. Remove bay leaf. Serve hot with fresh bread as an appetizer for 3-4 people; alternatively, serve over pasta (such as linguine) as an entree.