Sometimes it’s difficult to explain why I choose the meals I do each week. This meal happened to pop up in a list of Spring pasta dishes I was looking at on the Martha Stewart website last week. The list itself intrigued me since finding lighter pasta dishes that do not highlight lemon (since Kyle doesn’t love lemon nearly as much as I do) seems to be difficult. This wasn’t one of the typical light and Springy dishes but boy did it sound good! And truthfully, it was just as good as it sounded! The leeks give a nice undertone of onion flavor and were a really nice complement to the white beans and sage. I loved the idea of mashing up some of the white beans to thicken the sauce instead of using a butter-flour roux and this helped to keep the dish on the lighter side. I’m sure you could serve this pasta as a meal itself with maybe a side salad but we decided to pair it with broiled salmon (instructions below) and ate the pasta as a side dish. What a way to increase our healthy fat intake than with a beautiful piece of salmon!
Fettuccine with Leeks and White Beans
source: adapted from Martha Stewart, Everyday Food, April 2005
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound (about 1 bunch) leeks, sliced and cleaned
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- 2 cans (15 1/2 ounces each) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 cans (14 1/2 ounces each) reduced-sodium chicken broth, (3 1/2 cups)
- 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
- 12 ounces whole wheat fettuccine
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley, (optional)
- In a large sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Add leeks, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring often, until softened, about 10 minutes.
- Add beans, broth, and sage to pan; with a potato masher, mash about one third of beans. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer. Cook until sauce has thickened but is still soupy, about 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta 2 minutes less than package instructions suggest. Drain.
- Add lemon juice to sauce. Stir in cream and Parmesan. Add pasta; cook, stirring, until heated through, 2 minutes. Serve sprinkled with parsley and more Parmesan, if desired.
source: Smells Like Home
Yields: 4 servings
- 1 lb fresh boneless salmon fillet, divided
- 1 1/2 tsp canola oil
- Italian herb seasoning (I like Penzey’s Tuscan Sunset)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Turn the oven to broiler. Place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet.
- Place fillets on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle canola oil over each of the salmon fillets and gently rub the oil into the fish. Sprinkle with Italian herb seasoning, salt and pepper.
- Broil for 8-12 minutes depending on the size of the fillets until the fish is firm and starting to turn translucent from the bottom up.
- Remove from oven when fully cooked and remove the skin before serving.
Most of the time, I buy fresh fruits and veggies with a specific purpose in mind to use them – either in a recipe or as a snack. Sometimes though, I’m a little impulsive in the produce mecca that is Whole Foods and I recently picked up a quart of strawberries feeling thrilled to have found in-season Florida strawberries in the beginning of April. Here in the Northeast, strawberry season doesn’t happen until mid- to late-June…that’s a long time to wait for fresh, local strawberries! So I got home, ran a few recipe ideas through my head and started craving strawberry ice cream. I’m not sure why since I’ve never been a fan of it but I pulled out The Perfect Scoop and found this frozen yogurt recipe. It sounded wonderfully fresh and since I had some Greek yogurt to use up, I knew this was what I was looking for.
When I say this was one of the most simple frozen dessert recipes I’ve ever made, I’m not kidding. The strawberries are macerated then puréed with the yogurt and some lemon juice, chilled, frozen in the ice cream maker…and it’s done! You can eat it soft or freeze it in the freezer. I reserved about 1/4 cup of the strawberries before I puréed them and mixed them into the soft frozen yogurt and just loved the chunky berries throughout the smooth frozen yogurt – the recipe below reflects this minor change. So if it’s been a while since you’ve used your ice cream maker, dust it off and don’t waste another moment before you make this frozen yogurt…you won’t regret searching out some nice fresh strawberries!
Strawberry Frozen Yogurt
source: adapted from David Lebovitz, The Perfect Scoop
Yields: about 1 quart (1l)
- 1 pound (450g) strawberries, rinsed and hulled
- 2/3 cup (130g) sugar
- optional: 2 teaspoons vodka or kirsch
- 1 cup (240g) plain nonfat Greek yogurt
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- Slice the strawberries into small pieces. Toss in a bowl with the sugar and vodka or kirsch (if using) until the sugar begins to dissolve. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours, stirring every so often.
- Reserve 1/4 cup of the strawberries on the side. Transfer the remainder of the strawberries and their juice to a blender or food processor. Add the yogurt and fresh lemon juice. Pulse the machine until the mixture is smooth. If you wish, press mixture through a mesh strainer to remove any seeds.
- Chill for 1 hour, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
I may have made these cute little cupcakes for St. Patty’s Day this year but don’t be mistaken…no one will complain if you bring these to work say, in the middle of August. I had heard so so much about the now famous Guinness and Bailey’s cupcakes and honestly, at first, I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of beer cupcakes. In fact, it took me two St. Patty’s days to finally work up the courage to make them. But boy am I glad I did! I absolutely loved how they turned out and since the Guinness gives just a little undertone of flavor to the chocolate cupcakes, I was able to concentrate on the awesomeness of the Bailey’s Irish Cream buttercream. Oh.My.Goodness. The buttercream was seriously great. Because the buttercream isn’t cooked, the Bailey’s is a prominent flavor so if you’re serving them to those who are averse [ahem] to alcohol, they should probably be forewarned. Everyone who tried these cupcakes raved over them, even those who didn’t know there was alcohol in them, and I will not hesitate to make them again for anyone who requests them.
Guinness Cupcakes with Bailey’s Irish Cream Buttercream
Makes 20 to 24 cupcakes or 48 to 52 mini cupcakes
For the Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes
1 cup stout (such as Guinness)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream
Ganache Filling (Updated to double it, based on many commenters suggestions — thanks!)
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 to 2 teaspoons Irish whiskey (optional)
Baileys Frosting (see Recipe Notes)
3 to 4 cups confections sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperatue
3 to 4 tablespoons Baileys (or milk, or heavy cream, or a combination thereof)
Special equipment: 1-inch round cookie cutter or an apple corer and a piping bag (though a plastic bag with the corner snipped off will also work)
Make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners. Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.
Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, rotating them once front to back if your oven bakes unevenly, about 17 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a rack completely.
Make the filling: Chop the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then stir until smooth. (If this has not sufficiently melted the chocolate, you can return it to a double-boiler to gently melt what remains. 20 seconds in the microwave, watching carefully, will also work.) Add the butter and whiskey (if you’re using it) and stir until combined.
Fill the cupcakes: Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped (the fridge will speed this along but you must stir it every 10 minutes). Meanwhile, using your 1-inch round cookie cutter or an apple corer, cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes. You want to go most of the way down the cupcake but not cut through the bottom — aim for 2/3 of the way. A slim spoon or grapefruit knife will help you get the center out. Those are your “tasters”. Put the ganache into a piping bag with a wide tip and fill the holes in each cupcake to the top.
Make the frosting: Whip the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, for several minutes. You want to get it very light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time.
[This is a fantastic trick I picked up while working on the cupcakes article for Martha Stewart Living; the test kitchen chefs had found that when they added the sugar slowly, quick buttercream frostings got less grainy, and tended to require less sugar to thicken them up.]
When the frosting looks thick enough to spread, drizzle in the Baileys (or milk) and whip it until combined. If this has made the frosting too thin (it shouldn’t, but just in case) beat in another spoonful or two of powdered sugar.
Ice and decorate the cupcakes. [I used a star tip and made little “poofs” everywhere and sprinkled it with various colors of sanding sugar to keep it looking festive for New Years. I bet shaved dark and white chocolates would look gorgeous as well.]
Do ahead: You can bake the cupcakes a week or two in advance and store them, well wrapped, in the freezer. You can also fill them before you freeze them. They also keep filled — or filled and frosted — in the fridge for a day. (Longer, they will start to get stale.)
Some of you may be wondering what the heck I’m doing posting a clear-cut cold-weather meal almost halfway through April. Well, if you had some of the nasty weather that the Northeast endured during the final weeks of March and into the beginning of April, you know how much a warm meal on a raw and rainy night was appreciated. This jambalaya was the perfect meal for that night. And maybe what was best about it (aside from it’s deliciousness of course) was that it was an easy meal to put together on a weeknight.
Let’s just say that regardless of the level of familiarity you may have with jambalaya, you’re going to love this dish. I had been looking for a great jambalaya recipe for close to 3 years and since I had never made it before and had only eaten it a couple of times as a kid, I wanted to make sure I chose the perfect one. This was it, thanks to Annie and her love of Cook’s Illustrated. Kyle and I both adored this meal and I’m already looking forward to next fall when the weather will be calling for it again!
Chicken and Shrimp Jambalaya
1 medium onion, trimmed and quartered
1 rib celery, cut into quarters
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and quartered
5 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tsp. vegetable oil
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
8 oz. andouille sausage, halved lengthwise and cut into ¼-inch chunks (or crumbled, if in delicate casings)
1½ cups long-grain white rice
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. fresh thyme leaves
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained (¼ cup of juice reserved)
1 cup bottled clam juice
1½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1 lb. shrimp (31-40 per lb.), peeled and deveined
2 tbsp. minced fresh parsley
Combine the onion, celery, bell pepper and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until chopped fine, about six 1-second pulses, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice. Be careful not to over-process.
Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the chicken to the pot, skin-side down, and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Using tongs, turn the chicken and cook until golden brown on the opposite side, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside. Lower the heat to medium and add the andouille. Cook, stirring often, until browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer the sausage to a paper towel-lined plate using a slotted spoon, and set aside.
Lower the heat to medium-low and add the chopped vegetables to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened, about 4 minutes. Add the rice, salt, thyme and cayenne; cook, stirring constantly, until the rice is coated with the fat, about 1 minute. Add the diced tomatoes, reserved tomato juice, clam juice, chicken broth, bay leaves and cooked sausage to the pot. Stir to combine. Remove the skin from the chicken pieces and place the chicken on the rice so that the side the skin was just removed from is now facing down. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and let simmer for 15 minutes. Stir once, keeping the chicken in the same general position, and continue to simmer until the chicken is no longer pink inside, about 10 minutes more. Transfer the chicken to a clean plate or cutting board and set aside. Scatter the shrimp over the rice, cover, and continue to cook until the rice is fully tender and the shrimp are opaque and cooked through, about 5 minutes more.
While the shrimp are cooking, shred the chicken into thin strands. Once the shrimp are finished cooking, discard the bay leaves, stir in the chicken and parsley, and serve immediately.
While I’m always up for a hearty sandwich, I just wasn’t feeling the big hunk of bread this week so I took the liberty of adapting this sandwich into a nice hearty chicken Caesar club salad. It was easy enough to do but I went a step further in lightening up the this meal by using equal parts light mayo and nonfat Greek yogurt. The bacon, of course, stayed and added the perfect amount of bacon-y flavor to this light and crisp salad. You’ll see my changes below but if you’re not up for a salad, I’m sure the club sandwich would be fantastic with nice fresh piece of crusty ciabatta.
Chicken Caesar Club Salad (Sandwich)
source: adapted from Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa at Home
- 2 split (1 whole) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- Good olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 4 ounces bacon
- 1 small garlic clove, chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 1/2 teaspoons anchovy paste
- 1 teaspoons course grain mustard
- 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/4 cup good mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
- 1 head Romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces and washed and spun dry
- 12 sun-dried tomatoes, in oil
- 2 to 3 ounces Parmesan, shaved
- Heat 2 tsp olive oil in a sauté pan to medium high.
- Pat the chicken breasts dry then sprinkle with salt and pepper. When oil is hot, cook the chicken for 12 minutes or until cooked through, flipping over using tongs after about 6-7 minutes. Cool slightly and slice the chicken on a bias (against the grain) into about 1/2″ slices. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, in a medium frying pan, cook bacon until crisp. Set aside to drain on paper towels. When cooled, break up in to pieces.
- Place the garlic and parsley in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until minced. Add the anchovy paste, mustard, lemon juice, mayonnaise, and yogurt and process again to make a smooth dressing. Blend in a little olive oil if the mixture is too thick. (Refrigerate the Caesar dressing if not using it immediately.)
- In a large bowl, toss lettuce with dressing. Mix in bacon and sun-dried tomatoes. Divide the salad between two plates, top with sliced chicken and Parmesan cheese.