Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sausage Potato Pancakes

We all grow up hearing mom say “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”, but I often skip it — and I know I’m not the only one who does.
Sometimes I’m just too lazy in the mornings, or I get bored with eating the same thing over and over.
That's all changing. I’m experimenting more and more now with breakfast, and recipes like this can add variety. This was the first time I’ve cooked these potato pancakes and they were incredible — crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. (In fact, they’re so crispy they actually crackle when you bite into them). Try combining different vegetables, like grated carrots, sweet potatoes, and/or spinach. See what you have in your fridge.
Next time I plan to leave out the sausage and see how they turn out.
Prep time was about 15 minutes and they cooked in another 10 minutes.

2 large russet potatoes, grated
1/2 large white onion, grated
2 tbs white flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup crumbled and cooked sausage
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 tsp crushed dried oregano
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs

Peel the potatoes, and grate on a cheese grater. Put the grated potato on top of some paper towels and press to release the liquid. Do the same with the large onion.
In a pan, fry the sausage, breaking it up into small pea-sized crumbles. Set aside on a paper towel to drain.
In a bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients, whisking to make a good mix.
Add the potatoes, onions and sausage. Mix well again.
Place a pancake-sized portion onto an oiled pan and cook about 5 minutes on each side at medium to medium-high heat.

Garnish with cilantro, oregano, or flat-leaf parsley. If you like, top your pancakes with a fried or poached egg.

Prepared on 2011-06-08 (Tulsa, OK), Photographs by Michael Findley

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Fettuccine Alfredo With Broiled Chicken Breasts

Fettuccine Alfredo is one of those comfort foods I always try when I go to a new Italian restaurant. I love the Alfredo sauce and I’m a big pasta fan.
When I make it at home I usually grill the chicken, but this time I broiled the chicken because I ran out of gas for the grill. The chicken actually turned out juicier.
I just discovered why Parmigiano Reggiano is so expensive — apparently it literally comes from Italy. You can buy a block of Parmesan cheese instead (just make sure to get the kind that is hard to the touch).
Although I love this recipe, I only make it a couple times a year, because it’s so rich with the heavy cream, butter and cheese that I’d feel guilty if I ate it more often than that. (Not to mention I’d never hear the end of it from mom, telling me how many calories it has in it.)
I love the garlic in the sauce, and it adds just the right kick, but don’t go overboard. It can quickly overpower the flavor.

Ingredients: (makes 3 to 4 servings)
17 oz package Fettuccine Pasta
1 pound boneless chicken breast

Chicken Marinade:
2 tbs olive oil
2 tbs white cooking wine
1 tsp liquid smoke
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbs soy sauce
juice of one lime
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp salt

Alfredo Sauce:
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/4 cups grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Parmesan cheese
2 medium garlic cloves smashed
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/3 tsp black pepper

Start by combining all the ingredients for the marinade in a small bowl, and whisk vigorously until combined. (This has a tendency to separate otherwise.)
Dump the chicken into a ziplock bag then pour in the marinade. Seal and remove as much of the air as possible. Work it with your hands for a few minutes and then set it in the fridge for at least 1 hour before use.
Bake the chicken for 10 minutes at 350 degrees, then switch to broiling the chicken on both sides until it turns golden. While the chicken is baking, start the sauce.
Start by adding the butter to a saucepan on medium-low heat. Once the butter is completely melted, add the garlic. Whisk the garlic for about 30 seconds or so; you don't want to give the butter time to turn brown. Add the cream and whisk together with the butter. Once it’s heated all the way through, add the salt, white pepper and black pepper. While whisking rapidly, start adding 1 cup of the cheese, a pinch at a time, while working it into the sauce. If you add too much, it might clump up. Once the cheese has been fully incorporated into the sauce, stir for a minute or so, cover and remove from the heat.
When the chicken is done, remove and cut into chunks or strips to be used as a topping for the Fettuccine Alfredo.
Add the pasta to about 4 quarts of water and cook according to the instructions, about 10 to 12 minutes.
Once it’s cooked al dente, drain and immediately return to the pot, ladle some of the sauce into the pasta and stir until its well coated. (Keep a bit of the sauce for the presentation.)

Ladle a large portion on a plate or bowl. Lay several pieces of chicken on top. Sprinkle a bit of the sauce on top of the chicken, then sprinkle some more of the cheese on top.

Prepared on 2011-05-18 (Tulsa, OK), Photographs by Michael Findley

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Crispy, Spicy Baked Potato Wedges

I love to cook with potatoes and I plan to use them a lot in the coming months. They can be used in so many ways, and with the price of food going through the roof these days, a potato is one of the cheapest foods you can buy.
These potato wedges are simple to make and they can be a side dish to just about any food you can imagine. It takes a lot of self control on my part to keep from eating them before I put them on the table for everyone else.
I can even serve these to my vegetarian/vegan friends. I like to leave the skin on the potatoes; it adds a lot of texture to the wedges and since the potato skins have a lot of vitamins, they’re also healthier. Double the amount of cayenne pepper if you want these wedges really really spicy (my sister would probably want me to triple the amount).

Ingredients: ( 3 servings)
3 large russet potatoes (1 per person)

Spicy Marinade:
2 1/2 tbs canola oil (vegetable oil)
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp crushed cumin
1 1/2 tsp dried crushed oregano
1 tsp dried basil
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

In a small mixing bowl, combine the oil and all the spices. Whisk constantly with a fork while adding each spice, to keep them from forming clumps in the marinade.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F while you scrub and rinse potatoes, until all the dirt is washed away (they will get several shades lighter when you’re done).
Cut the potatoes lengthwise in as many wedges as you want (if you cut them into 4 wedges try to do the same with all the potatoes; different sized wedges will not cook evenly).
Place the raw potato wedges into a large ziploc bag, then pour the marinade in. Seal, removing as much of the air as possible and work the marinade into all the potatoes with your hands. Keep the potatoes in the bag until just before cooking.
Place all the potato wedges onto a greased shallow baking pan.
Bake 25 to 35 minutes, turning once halfway through. You can test the potatoes with a sharp knife while in the oven to see if they are cooked all the way.

Prepared on 2011-06-05 (Tulsa, OK), Photograph by Michael Findley

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Quick and Easy Nachos

This is one of those super easy and tasty quick snacks, that will have you munching in less than 10 minutes. 
I learned to make these nachos from a friend many years ago when I lived in Stillwater, Oklahoma. This was her favorite midnight munchies snack. She sometimes used taco meat and refried beans. Although I like both, I’m usually in a hurry to eat, and prefer the quick version with just salsa and cheese — and when you use fresh, homemade salsa it’s even better.
If you keep a mix of shredded cheddar and Monterrey Jack cheese, and you’ve already made (or bought) your salsa, you’ll be taking your first bite in less than 10 minutes.

1/2 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
1/4 cup homemade fresh salsa (store bought chunky salsa will also work)
tortilla chips

Lay a layer of tortilla chips on a microwave safe plate.
Spoon salsa on top of the chips (you don’t need much).
Sprinkle mixed cheese over the salsa.

Add more layers of chips, salsa and cheese.
Microwave on high until cheese is completely melted.
Eat right away before the chips get soggy.

In addition to taco meat and refried beans, shredded lettuce, jalapeno slices and guacamole are also great additions.
Prepared on 2011-05-19 (Tulsa, OK), Photographs by Michael Findley

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Creamy Ranch Cucumber Pasta Salad

While I was growing up in South America, I spent many summers at my grandparents’ house in South Carolina. They had a huge field of vegetables growing behind their house. (I don’t call it a vegetable garden, because to me, at that time, it seemed as large as a farm). The great thing was that we ate fresh, right-out-of-the-ground vegetables every day. Although I remember many of the dishes my grandma used to cook, this cucumber pasta salad was the only one I ever asked her to show me how to make. I truly regret that now. My grandparents passed away several years ago, but one of these days I’ll ask my aunt and my dad to share some of her other recipes with me. Its a refreshing, cold pasta salad for those hot summer days.

2 cups diced cucumbers (keep a few large pieces)
1/2 cup diced onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup celery, sliced
1/2 diced bell peppers (green, yellow, or red)
1/2 cup homemade mayonnaise
1/2 cup cucumber ranch dressing
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried dill
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano
2 tbs apple cider vinegar
juice of 1 lime
1 large clove garlic, smashed
6 oz large shell pasta
6 oz rotini pasta

In a large bowl, mix mayonnaise, ranch dressing, lime juice and the spices until everything is well combined, then set in the fridge while you chop vegetables. Add vegetables to the bowl, stir thoroughly and put back in the fridge.
In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. When the water starts to boil, add pasta, cook for 10 to 12 minutes, or follow the directions in the pasta package, then strain under cold water until it has cooled completely. Set aside to drain, then add to the vegetables and dressing. Toss well.
Store in an airtight container for a few hours before serving.

Garnish with chopped cilantro and/or basil

Prepared on 2011-05-17 (Tulsa, OK), Photograph by Michael Findley

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Crockpot Lentil Soup

One Monday, while on vacation in Peru, I was served a plate of lentils and told “for your good luck this week.” I didn’t think anything of it. Over the next three Mondays I’d be served with lentils cooked in some form or other, and always told it was for my good luck. So one day I asked Mari, who works at my grandma’s house, why we ate lentils every Monday, and JUST on Mondays. She told me that if you eat lentils every Monday, then you are guaranteed to have enough money in your pockets, and enough food in your belly for the rest of the week. Soon after that, I discovered that everyone in my grandma’s house subscribes to that superstition. Since then I’ve done a little digging and found out that its not just in my grandma’s house, but in all of Peru. Although this recipe did not come from my grandma, it was inspired by all the different lentil dishes I had in Peru every Monday.
Since I pureed half the batch, it’s both a smooth and chunky soup.
Oh and by the way, I ate it on a Tuesday; I wonder if it will still bring me luck.

1 pound lentils
1 cup finely chopped white onion
1 cup finely chopped carrots
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
2/3 cup finely chopped bell peppers (green, yellow, or red)
2 tsp salt
1 cup chopped tomatoes
2 quarts vegetable broth (use a bouillon if you don't have the broth)
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed coriander seeds
1/2 tsp cumin
3 large cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp oregano
1 bay leaf
1 tbs butter (optional)
2 tbs olive oil

Add all the vegetable ingredients to the bottom of a large crockpot, then add the spices, butter and olive oil. On top of this, add the lentils and then the broth.
Cook on high until it starts to boil, then turn to the crockpot’s lowest setting and simmer for 3 or 4 hours until the lentils break apart when mashed against the side of the pot. Season with more salt and pepper to taste.
Let the lentil soup sit for an hour to cool down.
Puree half the mixture in a blender and return it back to the crockpot and stir one final time.

Ladle soup into a soup bowl. Squeeze a little fresh lime juice on top and garnish with grated parmesan cheese, cilantro, and diced green onions.

Prepared on 2011-05-17 (Tulsa, OK), Photograph by Michael Findley