Monthly Archives: October 2011

He did the Mash

Ravioli with Pumpkin Sauce

Simple and In Season

Happy (almost) Halloween!  The candy has been purchased, the (few) Halloween decorations have been placed out, and the fall chill is in the air.  I have never been a big Halloween person but this year I was inspired by all of the Halloween-ie recipes on the web and wanted to give it a go.  I realized early on in my quest that if I was going to do this, I needed to go with a pumpkin recipe. This was a tough decision for me since I am not a fan of pumpkin in its most popular form: the pumpkin pie. Be it lightly spiced, fresh roasted, or from a can I just don’t like it.  So I realized that in order to survive my personal pumpkin challenge I would need to prepare the pumpkin with something familiar and delicious.  My first thought was to do a version of the Top Chef pumpkin lasagna recipe, which Tiffani did during the first season, the logic being who doesn’t have lasagna.  I quickly gave up on this, realizing I didn’t have the time needed to properly cook the pumpkins given on how busy things have been lately.  Instead I decided to keep with the pasta, and do a simple pumpkin sauce to go over some cheese stuffed ravioli.

Ingredients: (serves 5)

  • 1 lb cheese ravioli
  • 1 tbsp EVOO
  • 1/2 vidalia onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 cups roasted pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 basil leaves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan Cheese
  • pinch of pepper

Directions:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic and cook for 5 minutes before adding the pumpkin puree, vegetable broth, and water.  Bring to a boil, then cover and allow to simmer for 10minutes.
  2. Meanwhile cook the ravioli per instructions, drain and return to pan.
  3. Stir the pumpkin sauce, then add the basil, cheese, and pepper.  Pour the sauce over the ravioli and gently mix.  Serve! 

I roasted my pumpkin the same day I made the sauce, but it could easily be roasted the day before.  I used this as my guide, adding a little bit of vegetable stock to the puree for a slightly looser mixture.  I also added some toasted pumpkin seeds for a quick crunch, which was the perfect final touch.  

So Many Things

Black Bean and Corn Enchiladas

I am a bean girl, not gonna lie.  I have tried them in so many dishes and so far they seem to go with everything.  When I was in college beans were an easy cheap go-to for dinner and now that I’m out of college and can afford other options, beans are still one of my favorite dinner options.  A few months ago Joe spent a weekend with his sister, and her husband whipped up an “amazing” bean dip that I “had to try”.  The recipe was simple enough: black beans, brown sugar, and chipotles in adobo sauce and then blend.  I decided to morph to take the basic ingredients from this dip and make some delicious enchiladas.  Black bean enchiladas are nothing new, but I had never tried making them (or any enchiladas) with the chipotles before.  Normally when I get the chipotles I’m making salad dressing or a spicy sour cream dip.  I did leave out the brown sugar in this recipe, and used the corn to help cut the spice of the sauce.  Needless to say, this recipe was a HUGE HIT in my house and we were fighting over the leftovers.

Ingredients: (serves 4)

  • 8 corn tortillas, fajita/enchilada sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 vidalia onion, diced
  • 2 cans no salt added black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup corn off the cob
  • 3 chipotles in adobo sauce, diced with at least 1/2 tbsp of the sauce
  • 1 1/2 cup favorite enchilada sauce  (I use veg. stock)
  • 1/2 cup shredded Mexican Cheese
  • sour cream to top

Directions:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a sauce pan over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook 5 minutes before adding the beans, corn, and chipotles.  Cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 350.  Pour some of the enchilada sauce on the bottom of a large roasting pan/casserole dish.  One at a time begin filling the tortillas with the filling, with about 2 tbsp of filling going in each enchilada.  Roll tight!  Cover with the remaining enchilada sauce before covering with tin foil.  Bake for 30minutes.
  3. Remove from oven and top with the cheese before returning to the oven to bake for a final 15minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese is starting to brown.  Serve, topped with sour cream if desired.
These enchiladas do pack a bit of a punch, but that can be controlled by the amount of adobo sauce used as well as the enchilada sauce.  Feel free to serve them up with some Mexican or Spanish style rice, and/or some refried beans!  These also go great with Strawberry Margaritas, but that’s just my opinion. 

Into the Sun

Southwest Soup

I have been stuck in the wonderful world of workplace training lately, which means my slow cooker has been working overtime.  After 8hrs of classroom fun and a commute on the roads of DC I honestly have no desire to spend time in the kitchen.  Unless I’m making something sweet…

This recipe is the result of a pantry/fridge cleaning that I had to do back in college and it stuck around.  I have advanced it over the years as I have perfected by roasting techniques, but the basics are still there.  Since this is based on a fridge cleaning, the vegetables can be switched up based on what you have available.

Ingredients: (serves 6)

  • 1/2 lb tomatillos, halved
  • 2 jalepenos, halved (deseeding optional)
  • 1 red onion, thickly quartered
  • 2 cans Great Northern Beans, rinsed/drained
  • 3 cups no salt added Vegetable Stock
  • 1/2 cup grated carrots
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 3/4 cup corn off the cob (canned or fresh)
  • 1/2 tbsp oregano
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tbsp roasted red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • sour cream to top (optional)
Directions:
  1. (This part can be done up to 24hrs in advance) Preheat oven to 425.  Place the tomatillos, jelepenos, and red onion on a roasting pan and lightly cover in olive oil.  Roast for 15minutes, flip and roast for a final 15minutes.  Place all ingredients in a blender and puree making about 1 1/2 cups. (salsa verde)
  2. Turn slow cooker to low and add the beans, vegetable stock, vegetables, and seasonings.   Cook for 7hrs then turn to high and add 1 cup of the salsa verde.  Cook on high for at least 30minutes, adding additional seasonings as desired.
  3. Serve hot topped with sour cream (if desired)
I prefer my soup slightly on the thick side, but this is one more thing that can be adjusted as desired.  Someone I know prefers almost no liquid and tends to eat his “soup” with chips in place of a spoon.  

Gonna Be

Israeli Eggplant Stew w/Poached Egg

or Shakshuka

I know I’ve mentioned it before, but recently Joe and I went to NYC for a belated birthday celebration.  While there we got lunch at Hummus Place, a local chain that specializes in hummus and other Middle Eastern delicacies.  I decided to branch out and order something that I had never heard of before, Shakshuka.  According to Wikipedia shakshuka is “is a dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers, onions, often spiced with cumin.”  The dish I got came with two eggs over easy and eggplant and it completely blew me out of the water.  All of the tastes combined to make an amazingly rich and filling dish, with everything working together in delicious harmony.  I knew right away that I wanted to give this dish a go once I got home, which is when the Googling started.   I borrowed some from the dish I tried at Hummus Place while adding spices of my own that I thought would work.  I doubt this version is anything like a traditional Shakshuka but it is insanely good and comes together with little work, just a bit of cutting.  I also put my slowcooker to work, which resulted in some great smells when I got home from work.

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 medium vidalia onion, diced
  • 1 lb eggplant. cubed
  • 1 green pepper, sliced
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes, with juices
  • 1 cup whole stewed tomatoes, with juices
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • 5 basil leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 fresh eggs (optional)
Directions:
  1. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat, then add the garlic and onion.  Cook for 5-7minutes, or until onion starts to turn golden.  Add the eggplant and the green peppers, and cook for an additional 10minutes until the eggplant starts to become soft.  
  2. Add the onion, garlic, eggplant, and peppers to the slow cooker, along with the tomatoes and spices.  
  3. Cook on low for 6hours, adding more liquid as desired.  
  4. Turn slow cooker to high for the final 30 minutes, adding more seasonings as needed. 
  5. Meanwhile, poach the eggs in either a deep frying pan or a small sauce pan.  I used this guide and it worked great!  Serve the stew in bowls and then top with the poached eggs.

For those in a hurry this dish can also be prepared directly on the stove top, just allow the dish to simmer for at least 45minutes.  The other advantage of cooking on the stove top is that is allows for the eggs to be poached directly in the dish.  Yummy!

Summer Haze

This or That: Frozen Yogurt Edition

 

I can fight it no longer, Fall has arrived and the lazy (hot!) days of summer are behind us.  I figured this would be a good time to wrap up the self-journey I went on this past season to find the perfect Frozen Yogurt place in the Northern Virginia area.  I have always been a FroYo girl, not sure why that is but there is something about the sweet tartness of yogurt that really speaks to me.  I have tried various container/grocery store yogurts but none of them have ever come close to replicating that incredibleness of fresh yogurt.  Needless to say I’m thrilled with the wave of new yogurt stores opening up across the nation and have done my best to go to as many as possible.  This list will just take in to consideration stores in the No. VA area that I have been able to visit on more that one occasion in order to insure that I got a good sampling of what the store offers.  I rated stores based on taste, toppings, price and customer service.

  1. Sweet Frog – I don’t think my waist line has quite forgiven me for finding out about this gem of a yogurt shop.  Not only do they have an insane selection of flavors ranging from an incredible original tart to a sinful red velvet, they also have a crazy number of toppings.  The prices are also the best in the area since you pay by the ounce, and when compared to other per ounce stores they are lower by about ten cents (which can add up).   The only down side I found is that they are not nut-allergy friendly, or at least as allergy friendly as they could be.  The only behind the counter option they had were bananas, everything else ran the risk of cross contamination due to the buffet set-up.  Their customer service was also above and beyond, and the store was insanely clean for the number of kids enjoying the topping buffet.
  2. Pinkberry – Options, options, options…if you can think of it chances are Pinkberry can deliver.  For the more traditional yogurt eaters like myself they offer a wonderfully tart original flavor that can be topped with as many toppings as fit in the cup for one price.  They also offer delicious smoothies, they while on the pricey side, blow most of the local smoothie places out of the water.  I also enjoyed how fresh the fruit was, it was clear that everything had been spared been frozen which is always a great treat.   The service is also incredible, the staff was very energetic and quick to answer any and all questions.  They also have peanut safe toppings, and the dry toppings were well partitioned from the fruit toppings.  I also noticed that the servers were great at making sure spoons and such didn’t go wandering around.  Overall great experience and great yogurt, and for those seeking many toppings their pricing structure is the best.
  3. Yogen Fruz – Very basic, very simple, very tasty.  If you are looking for basic yogurt with fruit toppings, this is probably the place for you.  While I wish the original flavor was slightly more tart, the quality of the fruit toppings made it easy to overlook.  The price is on the higher side, but to be fair I was in a very pricey area so the price works for this location.  The customer service as this location was slightly lacking, there were available for questions and paying which is what matters.
  4. Iceberry – It was tough deciding between this one and the next in regards to worst experience, in the end the yogurt was the deciding factor.  Iceberry offers a decent basic yogurt flavor, slightly on the sweet side but not that bad.  However every time I visited it was clear that the fruit had been frozen and re-frozen which is not something I like seeing.  The prices were alright, they offer a pay for ounce as well as a set price mix in option which is nice however given the quality of the toppings the prices did not seem justified.  I also didn’t enjoy that the employees spent more time talking among themselves about beer (?) then they did helping the customers.  At one point four of us were waiting to pay while the three employees chatted about 1 ft from the register.
  5. Cultured – I really wanted the locally owned/operated (organic!) store to be number 1, and was hoping that the problems with my first cup wouldn’t be present in my second cup.  However that was not to be the case.  While this yogurt has a great authentic tart taste, it is way way way too icey.  I felt like I was eating an Italian Ice-style yogurt, and that wasn’t a very pleasant experience.  The customer service is incredible and the have a great selection of toppings but the quality of the yogurt is just not there.  I’ll admit that both visits were later in the day, so it’s possible that this is a place to visit before dinner, however I can’t overlook the crunch I got in my yogurt.
I originally was going to give points for allergy safe practices, but realized that with the self-serve method popular at most of these stores it’s really not possible.  The only solution would be keeping some toppings behind the counter, handled only by employees which defeats the idea of self-served yogurt.  There are still a few more places I want to check out, namely Red Mango, but I think I had a successful summer.