Category Archives: entree

Sausage, White Bean and Kale Soup

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This recipe is adapted from something I saw in Cooking Light Magazine (March 2011).  Winter is STILL alive and well in Nashville, but I’m growing tired of heavy cold-weather soups. So I was searching for something light and healthy but substantial enough for a main course. With 4-5 modifications (though still keeping the health benefits in tact) I came up with a very satisfying meal. Enjoy!

Ingredients
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup sweet onion – chopped
1/2 cup fennel bulb – julienned
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 links sweet Italian turkey sausage
2 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken stock
1 cup homemade garlic vegetable broth (hopefully you’ve made a batch before and froze some!)
1 (15oz) can Cannellini Beans or Great Northern Beans – rinsed and drained
2 1/2 cups kale leaves – torn (you can substitute escarole or swiss chard if you prefer)
3 tablespoons shaved Parmesan cheese

Preparation
Start by getting your Mise en Place together. This is crucial because once the meat is browned, everything moves quickly. Dice your onion (you’ll probably use 1/2 of a medium onion). Julienne your fennel. Be sure to peel off the outer layer which can be pretty tough and bitter. Mince garlic fine if not using pre-minced from a jar. After rinsing your kale, fold leaves lengthwise so that the spine shows. Pull away from spine and tear leaves into one inch pieces. Discard spines. Rinse and drain your canned beans. Okay – everything in place?

Ready to Cook?
Start by browning the sausage. Peel casings off sausage links and break into one inch pieces while stirring and browning. If you have an enamel cast iron pot, you can do this all in one vessel. But if not, use a frying pan or a pan that browns meat well. Turkey sausage doesn’t render a lot of fat so you may need to give it a splash of olive oil while browning. Once meat is browned and almost thoroughly cooked, add olive oil, onion, garlic and fennel and saute until tender, probably 5-7 minutes on medium heat.

Once the veggies are tender, add the chicken and garlic vegetables broths. [By the way, you can make this with just chicken broth, but I promise you - it won't taste as amazing.] Add the beans, cover and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. About 5 minutes. Then add the kale and simmer for another 5 minutes, or until the kale wilts.

Sprinkle the Parmesan shavings on top right before serving. Tip: I pre-shaved extra Parm and have it ready for leftover soup!

The Perfect Bite
Now this is one of my favorite “perfect bite” moments… when you can load your spoon with a little bit of everything. Seriously, scoop up a chunky piece of sausage, a couple of white beans, some leafy kale and some garlicky broth. And be sure to get some Parmesan on there! It’s like they were created to go together. You will hear poetry in your head.

The Perfect Pairing
Pairing wines with soup recipes can be tricky. If you breakdown your soup ingredients and view them as you would a pasta sauce or something of similar status then your task will be less intimidating. If your soup is a tomato base then you’d want a wine with a little less acidity and lighter on the tannin content. If your soup (or stew or chili) is heavy on beans or meat then you could also get away with a wine that has a bit more body and strength. Which is why I chose a 2007 Malbec from Pannotia Vineyards for this soup. With a hint of clove and cinnamon and full tannins, it will play nicely off the sweetness Italian sausage and hold up against the slightly bitter kale.

The Perfect Health
Thanks to Cooking Light Magazine who provided all the health specs for this soup.
Calories:230 Fat: 4.6g Protein: 179g Carbs: 15.5g Fiber: 4.7g Chol: 49mg Iron:1.3mg Sodium: 624mg Calc: 87mg

Roasted Pork Tenderloin in a Mustard Horseradish Sauce

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Pork loin is such a great cut of meat. It’s versatile, inexpensive and easily impressive. And as far as pork goes, it is probably the healthiest way to enjoy some pig.  :) Simply by seasoning and searing the outside and roasting in a dutch oven you will have the juiciest, tastiest slices of meat you can imagine. I learned from Chef John’s video that if pork loin is cooked properly, you can cut it with your fork. If you follow this recipe your fork will glide though your meat like buddah (butter).

Most pork loins come 2 to a package… and because of their versatility you can make both pieces and use them to create amazing leftovers through the week.

I discovered this recipe HERE (scroll half way down).  With the exception of a couple of tweaks, it’s pretty much all his recipe. I love that Chef John shows the whole process on video. I suggest watching the whole thing. He makes it all pretty effortless.

Ingredients (makes 2-3 portions)
1-2 pork tenderloin, trimmed
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
1 tablespoons vegetable oil

Sauce
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon horseradish
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (smooth, not course)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons cream
1 teaspoon fresh chives – chopped finely
1-2 tablespoons cold butter

Preparation
Pre-heat oven 375 degrees.

Trim any of the silver tissue that might be on the tenderloin, though most come pre-trimmed now. There will be a little fat, but be sure to leave that alone. Your pork needs it to melt in the pan to brown it properly.

Ready To Cook?
Using a pan that can go from stove top to oven, pre-heat your oil on a medium burner. Sprinkle both sides of the tenderloin generously with the salt and pepper. Once your oil is ready – it should glisten – you want the meat to sizzle the SECOND it hits the oil or it won’t brown. Place your pork tenderloins in the pan. Leave them alone for 3-4 minutes. No seriously, LEAVE THEM ALONE! It’s tempting to pick up and peek to see if they’re browning every 20 seconds, but then of course, they won’t brown. Once ready, turn your meat over and the second side is going to brown in the oven. NOTE: The browning process is key to getting juicy meat. Don’t think you can skip this process. Unless of course, you’re a fan of shoe leather.

Cook in the 375 degree over for about 20 minutes. Use a meat thermometer – your pork tenderloin should be at an internal temperature of 145 degrees. Be sure to let your meat rest, uncut, for at least 10 minutes. The internal temperature will rise to 150-155 degrees while resting.

While the meat is resting comfortably on the cutting board, you can make your sauce. I do encourage you, once again, to watch Chef John’s video for this… he really takes the mystery out of making what might “sound” like a complicated sauce. But basically, you start by de-glazing the pan (while it’s still hot) that you cooked your pork in by pouring in the chicken stock and scraping up all the delicious little bits stuck to the bottom. Then add the horseradish, mustard and cayenne pepper. Whisk until fully blended and then pour in the cream. Bring to a simmering boil – you’ll see bubbles surfacing around the edges of the pan. Then remove from the heat and stir in the cold butter. I’m not sure how the science of this works, magic possibly, but this creates a very silky sauce.

Drizzle over sliced meat and sprinkle with chopped chives. Yes, you may name your first born after me.

The Perfect Bite
My perfect first bite is when the meat is warm and I swirl it through the horseradishy mustardy sauce. Then I like to add a little of whatever else is on my plate – a crunchy bite of asparagus, garlicy mashed potatoes… this is a meat that’s meant to play well with others.

The Perfect Pairing
Try the Twisted Oak Winery Viognier 2005 for its super-silky finish, plus it has a taste of allspice and white raisins. It’s a $20 bottle but since you’re making such an inexpensive dish… feel free to indulge here!

The Perfect Health
The spicy root of horseradish can be used as a natural treatment against rheumatic disorders and respiratory disorders, especially the superior respiratory ways. It is so beneficial because it is laden with a high amount of vitamin C and B complex, nutritive minerals (potassium, calcium, iron), natural antibiotics, enzymes etc. Read more HERE.

Italian Pork Tenderloin

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It’s not often that my first attempt at a new dish is successful. It usually takes some tweaking and experimenting until the flavor profile is just right. But after doing some online research and looking at all the ways people make pork tenderloin… I decided to go with Italian… and got right to work. The one consistent piece of advice I read regardless of the recipe… was that I should brine the tenderloin first. I’ve also never attempted to brine something before so it was quite a day of firsts!

So here we go!

Start with brining which enhances juiciness and is simpler than you think. Just mix a quart of cold water, ½ cup sugar and ¼ cup table salt in a large resealable plastic bag (include other spices, aromatics and lemon or lime zest for more flavor). Even 30 minutes will make a difference, but you can brine it up to 8 hours in the fridge. Be sure not to add any vinegar products or it will dry out the meat.

Ingredients
1-1.5lbs pork tenderloin
¼ cup mascarpone cheese
¼ cup pesto
2 tablespoons each of the Italian Big Five (thyme, rosemary, oregano, sage, basil)
1 pinch of salt (remember the brine already adds a lot of salt)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Preparation
Remove any excess fat from the outside of the tenderloin. Then take a sharp knife (do you have a sharpening steel? A sharpened knife makes all the difference! Never sharpened a knife before? Check this out)… and slice through the tenderloin lengthwise but not all the way through… this is called a butterfly cut.

Stir together pesto (either store bought or homemade) and room temperature mascarpone until creamy and thoroughly mixed. Then take the pesto mixture and spread it across the meat interior. Fold meat back together and either tie together with kitchen string or seal edges with toothpicks.

On a flat plate… mix together all the dry herbs (thyme, sage, rosemary, oregano, salt & pepper) and roll sealed tenderloin until covered with seasoning. The rub will stick best if meat is dry.

Ready to Cook?
In a stove-to-oven pan heat the olive oil. Use just enough to coat the bottom or you won’t get a good sear on your meat. Sear meat for a good 3-4 minutes on each side. And don’t forget the ends of your meat! Once you see a good darkened layer transfer the pan to a 425 degree oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until internal temperature is 145 degrees. I prefer my pork to be slightly pick in the center – if you prefer yours more well-done… let it get to 155 degrees. Remove from the oven and place the tenderloins on a plate. Tent the pork with foil and let it rest about 5 minutes before serving.

Cut your tenderloin into 1/4-1/2 inch slices and fan out on your serving platter. Make a quick pan sauce by de-glazing the skillet with chicken broth or white wine. Add a spoonful of mascarpone to thicken the sauce. Drizzle over your pork medallions and garnish with rosemary sprigs.

The Perfect Bite
Be sure to swirl your bite of pork in the herb and mascarpone sauce that you just made and drizzled over our dish. If serving with pasta or a couscous… be sure to scoop some of that as well.

The Perfect Pairing
A great wine to go with just about any pork dish… but especially this one’s Italian flavor profile… is the A to Z Pinot Noir. This wonderful little 2008 Oregon wine is heartier than most pinot noirs and its peppery tannins bring a great balance to the sweetness of the mascarpone filled pork. You can find in in most wine stores for about $20.00 a bottle.

The Perfect Health

It’s true: Pork really is the other white meat. Ounce for ounce, pork tenderloin has less fat than a chicken breast. And food scientists are finding ways to make it leaner and leaner every year. Best Tip: Avoid cured meats.  Read more here.

Garden Vegetable Pasta Bake (w/Italian Sausage)

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This is one of my favorite go-to meals, especially if unexpected company stops by… which happens frequently at my house. If your pantry is regularly stocked with an assortment of dried pastas and a few fresh garden vegetables (or even better – you have a vegetable garden in your yard!) you can whip this up on the spot… an hour’s time max!

Yields: 4-6 main course servings / 8-10 side dish servings

Ingredients
1 lb Fusilli or Rotini noodles (uncooked – I use Barilla Plus)
3-4 links Sweet Italian Sausage (optional)
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
1 medium zucchini squash
1 medium yellow squash
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 cup asparagus tips
1 small sweet onion
1 medium red tomato (seeded – rind only)
1 tablespoon of minced garlic
1 pinch each of what I call The Italian Big 5 (dried): thyme, basil, sage, oregano, rosemary
1.5 tablespoon kosher salt (divided)
1 teaspoon pepper as needed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons butter

Preparation
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

This is where your veggie chopping skills come in. I’m going to list how I chop my vegetables for this dish, but change it up to your own preference!
Zucchini - trim ends and then chop whole zucchini into three 1.5″-2″ rounds. Then take each round and quarter length-wise.
Yellow Squash – slice into 1/8″ dials. If the squash is fairly fat at the end (more than 1.5″) cut dials in half. The goal is bite-size.
Red & Green Bell Peppers – I cut them julienne. Which is a fancy word for skinny strips. Simply trim top and bottom off pepper and discard. Core and remove seeds and spines. Then slices in 1/4″ slivers about 1.5″ long.
Asparagus – I use just the tips because often the center can be a little woody if not cooked long enough. I cut the tips off about 2″ in. Then I reserve the remainder of the stalk for making soups or purees.
Sweet Onion - peel and dice finely… this should be for flavor and not something you want bite-size.
Garlic – same as the onion above.
Tomato – Slice in half and core out seeds and spines. We just want the fleshy part. Cut into 1″ chunks.

Ready To Cook?
Put a large pot of water on medium heat. Drizzle olive oil and add a tablespoon of salt to the water. I use a good amount of salt when cooking pasta… I’ve heard your water should taste like the ocean when you’re done. Infusing your pasta with salt is better than adding salt to your meal later.

Once your water comes to a boil add your pasta and continue cooking until it’s just shy of al dente.  Remember, it’s going to cook a little more in the oven so we don’t want to overdo it. I prefer to use the fasilli or rotini noodles because the corkscrew shape holds the seasonings best… but feel free to use whatever your favorite pasta is – I’ve used to bowtie with this as well, which makes for a festive looking dish.

Next, if adding Italian sausage to this dish, you’ll want to start by taking the casings off of the links. In a large skillet using a wooden spoon, break sausage into small bite-size pieces. Cook over medium heat until browned. You won’t need to worry if they’re completely cooked because they’ll be going in the oven soon and will finish off nicely. Be careful not to overcook. Roughly 3-4 minutes should do it. The recipe calls for 3-4 links, but most packages come with 5 links. So, if you’re like me… you’ll want to cook all 5 to compensate for all the “taste-testing” you’ll do.

Using the same skillet (don’t clean it – you want all those great flavors!), pour in 1/4 cup of olive oil. While bringing it to a medium heat toss in The Italian Big 5 (dried thyme, basil, sage, oregano, rosemary). Once your oil is ready (it sizzles with a drop of water), gently add in your onion and garlic first. Stir well so that the dried herbs are worked through the oil, onions and garlic. Saute for 3 minutes then slowly add the veggies in this order (based on cooking time): Peppers, asparagus, zucchini, squash. Reserve the tomato, which won’t be added until ready to bake. Pour the 1/4 cup of white wine over veggies and continue sauteing for 5-6 minutes or until the zucchini has become tender and can easily be stabbed with a fork.

Drain pasta and transfer to a large baking dish (a lasagna dish works best). Add sausage. Add diced tomatoes. Then pour all the contents from your skillet over the pasta and sausage, including olive oil/wine reduction that’s happened in the pan while sauteing. This is going to be the sauce. TIP: If your pan has become too dry while sauteing, you may have overcooked your veggies. Just add more olive oil and a splash of white wine and de-glaze the bottom of your pan. Add that to your pasta-veggie mix.

Immediately add 2 tablespoons of butter so it can melt. Add half of your Parmesan cheese and mix thoroughly until everything is coated and you can see that the herbs are distributed evenly.

Taste your dish to see if additional salt and pepper is needed. TIP: Don’t assume it needs salt – the sausage and salted pasta may have added plenty. Always taste your food before seasoning!

Sprinkle top with remaining grated Parmesan and bake uncovered on middle rack for 20 minutes (or until cheese starts to brown at edges).

TIP: If making extra to freeze for later, do not bake the portion you want freeze. Freeze after it’s cooled. Should last in freezer up to a month.

The Perfect Bite
This is one of my favorite kind of dishes to get a perfect bite from. I love stacking my fork with a twirly little noodle, a juicy piece of sausage, a buttery bite of zucchini and sweet sliver of red pepper. Oh, my mouth is watering just thinking about it! I love the nutty Parmesan and lightness of this invisible sauce.

The Perfect Pairing
This is a great summer dish so I prefer to pair it with a chilled glass of wine. Now, I’ve long since been a rosé snob. Pink wine? Really? My mind immediately goes to that giant box of Almaden Pink Blush Chablis that sits warm on the edge of my mom’s kitchen counter. Sorry Mom, but really?

However, rosé has come a long way… and I’m starting to warm up to them… well, at least when they’re chilled (again Mom, really?). Try pairing this dish with this French Rosé Note Bleue Cotôs De Provence Rosé 2009 – it’s sweet and earthy. A perfect compliment to the buttery pasta and veggies and peppery sausage. Served chilled, about 47 degrees.

The Perfect Health
Using Barilla Plus, reduces carbs and adds protein to any meal.  It’s made from legumes such as Chickpeas and Lentils as well as Egg Whites, Spelt, Barley, Flaxseed, Oat Fiber, and Oats.  Be sure check the box for cooking instructions – Barilla Plus can take longer to boil. Unlike many wheat or whole grain pastas that taste a little, well, cardboardy. This one is delicious! And I’ve found it holds up better in soups (as in, doesn’t swell and get mushy).  Read more here about its nutritional value.

Butternut Squash Lasagna

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It’s a misnomer that butternut squash are just a Winter vegetable. Here in Middle Tennessee we have big beautiful squash year long… especially if you get them from your local Farmer’s Market. Granted, there’s a larger abundance of them in the Winter – but you can still easily find them now.

This recipe is made with a butternut squash puree and a nutmeg & basil rue. Sound a little complicated? Only slightly… but the results are ridiculously tasty and you can make a large batch and freeze the remaining. I’ve also included sweet Italian sausage in in this but you can make it vegetarian-friendly if you prefer.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 (1 1/2 to 2-pound) butternut squash
1 lb sweet Italian sausage (usually found in links)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup water
3 amaretti cookies, crumbled (optional of you can’t find)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups whole milk
Pinch nutmeg
3/4 cup (lightly packed) fresh basil leaves
12 no-boil lasagna noodles
2 1/2 cups shredded whole-milk mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan

The Rue

Melt the butter in a heavy medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, whisking often, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the nutmeg. Cool slightly. Transfer half of the sauce to a blender*. Add the basil and blend until smooth. Return the basil sauce to the remaining sauce in the pan and stir to blend. This is your basil-nutmeg rue. Season the rue with salt and pepper, to taste.

The Squash Puree

Cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds, then quarter if squash is large. Coat in olive oil and place flesh side down on cookie sheet. Roast on top rack of oven at 425ountil tender… roughly 45-50 minutes. Be sure to use a cookie tray with at least a 1/2 inch lip as squash will give off a lot of water.

When squash is done, scoop flesh from peel and put in food processor. Add crumbled amaretti cookies and a pinch of salt. Puree until smooth. TIP: When blending hot liquids – remove liquid from the heat and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes. Transfer liquid to a blender or food processor and fill it no more than halfway. If using a blender, release one corner of the lid. This prevents the vacuum effect that creates heat explosions. Place a towel over the top of the machine, pulse a few times then process on high speed until smooth.

Ready To Cook?
Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.

*Saute and brown sausage in a skillet. Break up into 1/2″ pieces.  Drain and set aside.

Lightly butter a 13 by 9 by 2-inch glass baking dish. Spread 3/4 cup of the sauce over the prepared baking dish. Arrange 3 lasagna noodles on the bottom of the pan. Spread 1/3 of the squash puree over the noodles. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese. Drizzle 1/2 cup of rue over the noodles. Repeat layering 3 more times. *Scatter sausage on second layer and cover with the mozzarella.

Tightly cover the baking dish with foil and bake the lasagna for 40 minutes then remove and uncover. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses over the lasagna. Continue baking uncovered until the sauce bubbles and the top is golden, 15 minutes longer. To firm up, let the lasagna stand for at least 20 minutes before serving.

The Perfect Pairing

It’s a sultry summer – try your hand at making a sangria. Sangria’s come in all types and flavors – check out this great site filled with Sangria recipes.

The Perfect Health

Butternut squash is not just low in fat and calories, but these squash are high in Vitamins A & C and high in Potassium and dietary fiber. It’s also a great source for anti-oxidants and works toward heart and lung health. Read here for more details

Rosemary, Sage & Shiraz Beef Tips w/Herbed Goat Cheese Dumplings

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The secret to cooking with wine, especially red wine, is to use one that you think tastes good when drinking it by the glass. Many people make the mistake of cooking with a wine that’s been open too long and has become a little bitter. I appreciate not wanting to waste it.. but if it tastes bad in the glass… it’s going to taste bad in your food. So, please – toss that sour stuff out.  You don’t have to buy anything super expensive… the little Shiraz I used for this stew was only $7.99 a bottle!

INGREDIENTS

For the Stew
(serves 4-6)

2 pounds beef, cubed (I use locally-grown grass-fed beef from Whole Foods – Stew cut)
1-2 cups flour
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1/2 cup butter or olive oil
2 cups wine – I used a Shiraz (wait, make it 3 cups – 1 for drinking while cooking)
5 cups beef stock
5 stalks celery, sliced
1 medium fennel bulb – cored & sliced
1 medium sweet onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
5 medium red potatoes, cubed
2 bay leaves – whole
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
1 sprig fresh rosemary – whole
4-5 fresh sage leaves – whole
pepper – a pinch to taste

For the Dumplings:
2.5 cups flour
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup soft goat cheese
2 teaspoons each of fresh parsley, sage and thyme – finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
3-4 cups chicken stock (you can use beef stock if you have leftover, but chicken is lighter and doesn’t discolor the dumplings).

Preparation
There is a lot of chopping and mixing required to prepare this dish. So it’s a perfect example of when Mise en Place would be a necessary discipline. 

Ready To Cook?

Dumplings
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt and mix well. In a small bowl, beat the eggs. Add the milk to the eggs. Add the egg/milk mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well. Stir in the goat cheese and the herbs. Season with freshly ground black pepper. Have the stock boiling in a small saucepan. Make sure the sauce pan is small enough that the dumplings will have room to float. Using 2 tablespoons, drop the dumpling batter into the boiling stock. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the dumplings float to the surface. Remove the dumplings from the stock and place on a plate. To finish: Place the dumplings into the stew.

*Note: This is a fairly messy process. Do not be discouraged if your chicken stock is full of goo and looks disgusting. It will. The key is to leave the dumplings alone for 5 minutes so they can cook. The more you mess with them the more they’ll fall apart. I suggest reserving some of the stock to add after each batch. It’s probably best not to cook more than 3 at a time. Give them room in the pot.

Stew
In a large frying pan, heat 1/2 the butter or olive oil and sauté the celery, onion, potatoes and garlic until slightly browned. Set aside.

Combine flour, paprika, parsley and some pepper in a shallow bowl –  roll the beef in it until well coated on all sides. (TIP: Pat the beef dry with a paper towel and the flour mixture will stick better and your meat will brown. Meat will not brown if it is too wet. Julia Child was right!). Melt remaining butter or pour oil into in a large stew pot, and then add meat.

Sauté the meat until well browned. Make sure to have your pan well-heated – the key to a good sear is high heat. You only want the outside browned… not cooked all the way through. Add the previously prepared vegetables and sauté for about two minutes with the beef in the stew pot.

Add the wine, and sauté another three or four minutes.*

*This is when you would transfer the contents of your pot to a slow cooker if that is the method you’re using to make this stew. Otherwise, leave everything in your soup pot.

While the pot is hot, pour in the beef stock and the Bay Leaves, rosemary and sage and allow to simmer covered for about 2-3 hours in a preheated 300 degree oven. After this time the vegetables and beef should be very tender. You should be able to easily cut the meat using only a fork when it’s ready. TIP: I always thought I was cooking the meat too long which is why it was coming out tough – but actually I wasn’t cooking it long enough! It needs time for all those connective tissues to break down… so be patient!

At this point remove the lid, sift in any additional flour required to thicken to a desired consistency (use fresh flour – not from bowl), and allow the liquid to simmer roughly 30 minutes.

You may add pepper and salt to taste. But you shouldn’t have to if seasoned well. ;o) Serve with one dumpling per bowl of stew.

The Perfect Bite
The perfect bite for this stew consists of stacking your fork (yes, your fork… it’s thick enough to for-go the spoon if you’d like) with a piece of juicy meat, rich red potato, a bit of tangy celery and of course, be sure to include a chunk of the dumpling… so you can swirl it all around in the gravied-juices. I’m just sayin’… this may change your life a little.

The Perfect Pairing
There’s a fun little wine I recently came across called Luna Di Luna… it’s fun because none of their dual varietals are too overpowering or too weak. It’s kind of a wine you don’t have to worry about. Be sure to click on the link to their site and enjoy some groovy tunes.  Each varietal blend comes in solid colored bottles that take people by surprise and look great on the table. I paired this stew with the Merlot/Cab blend… which went perfectly with the hearty roasted beef and tangy goat cheese dumplings. Here in East Nashville I can find it for about $8.99 a bottle.

The Perfect Health
Did you know that a 6-ounce steak from a grass-fed steer can have 100 fewer calories than a 6-ounce steak from a grain-fed steer?  If you eat a typical amount of beef (66.5 pounds a year), switching to lean grass-fed beef will save you 17,733 calories a year! Read more here about the health benefits of eating grass-fed livestock. Also, I highly recommend seeing the movie Food, Inc. I can no longer just buy a hamburger at the drive-thru or pick up the cheapest chicken at WalMart or Kroger. It may be more expensive to get the grass-fed beef but it’s worth it and you can actually taste the difference!   Keep in mind that when buying free range chicken this is not what you think it means in the U.S. The only way to know how the chicken was raised is to buy from local farmers that you can get to know and trust.  That may not be an option for you… but just don’t be fooled into paying more by misleading labels and claims.

Chicken Curry with Coconut Rice

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Ladies and gentlemen… for the very first time… I’m about to post a semi-homemade dish on here (*gasp*).  No offense to that Sandra Lee lady…  but it kind of goes against my principles to call something a “recipe” when it all comes from boxes and/or bottles.  Yeah, call me a food snob, I’m okay with it. I’ve learned to own it.

But I love this dish and could easily eat it every week… and I get the same response from everyone I’ve made it for (or maybe I should just say, “prepared” it for?) .   And for that reason alone, it I feels highly unfair to keep it from you all. So, at the risk of compromising my “from scratch” integrity – here goes:

Ingredients
(serves 4)
1 pound uncooked chicken tenderloins (either purchase them already cut, or defy Sandra Lee and cut your own)
1 cup cut okra (fresh is best but you can use frozen if you must – but pay attention to prep notes when using fresh)
1 cup whole green beans – fresh
1 cup sliced orange or red bell pepper – fresh
2 tablespoons Patak’s Hot Curry Paste (pictured – use mild if you are not a fan of spicy food).curry paste
2 cups coconut milk (Trader Joe’s has a light milk that’s excellent!)
2 cups water
2 cups white rice – uncooked
3 bottles Thai Yellow Curry Sauce from Trader Joe’s (Patak makes good one as well, if there’s no TJ’s nearby)

Preparation
I start with the rice… it can take awhile if not using instant:
For every 1 cup of rice use 1 cup of water and 1 cup of Light Coconut Milk
Bring water and milk to a low boil, then add rice and stir once to mix. Bring rice to a full boil for about 5 minutes, then remove from heat and cover. Let sit for 15-20 minutes until rice is tender. Fluff with a fork. It should be loose and not clumpy like sticky rice.

Onto the curry chicken:

  • Cut okra into 3/4 inch dials. If using fresh okra you should toast them in a dry pan for a few minutes before adding to the sauce. They tend to get gummy and mushy otherwise. Toasting them firms the skin and helps them hold up better.
  • Slice bell pepper julienne -style into 2-3 inch long strips.
  • Trim your whole green beans (unless you paid the extra cash and bought them trimmed)
  • If you bought whole boneless chicken breasts, cut them into tenderloin strips.

Empty two of the bottles of curry sauce into a soup pot. Add the veggies and put on a low heat.

In a large saute pan, empty half the remaining bottle and turn to a medium heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the red curry paste. Add half of your chicken and saute, turning each piece until thoroughly cooked. Go ahead and cut your largest tenderloin open to check if it’s done. Be careful not to overcook or your meat will dry out. Once each piece is done (6-8 minutes depending on size of tenderloin), use tongs and place chicken in soup pot with veggies.  The sauce in your saute pan will have reduced, so add remaining sauce in bottle as well as the remaining tablespoon of curry paste and continue cooking the rest of your chicken. Once all chicken is done and in your soup pot, pour the leftover sauce and bits from your saute pan into the mixture. That adds some amazing yumminess.

Leave your soup pot on a low heat until a slow bubble starts and your veggies are tender (but not mushy).

Your rice should be done by now. For a more refined presentation (as pictured above), take a ramekin or an old butter cup (or something of similar size & shape) and firmly pack it with rice. Flip it upside down on your plate. It should leave a clean solid dome of rice. Drizzle curry sauce over the rice and neatly place a couple of chicken tenderloins and some veggies on top.

For a more rustic presentation, use shallow bowls and scoop a cup of rice with a cup of curry, chicken and veggies on top. It tastes just as good this way!

The Perfect Bite
Of course you want a perfect bite of rice, veggie and chicken together all on your fork. But also make sure you have enough sauce so that you can mix it with whatever leftover rice you have. The curry and rice alone is delicious!

The Perfect Pairing
If you’d like an appetizer for the entree trying pairing it with my Curry Hummus and Naan Bread.Or you can just make the Naan and use it to scoop up the curry goodness. For a beverage, try pairing this with Gnarly Head Zinfandel Old Vine 2007. Lots of plum and berry flavors with a hearty finish. The subtle sweetness will balance well with the savory chicken & veggies, but the strong peppery finish will hold its own against the power of the curry. In my opinion, this wine is best with served with food… its flavors don’t come alive well on their own.

Did You Know?
Okra is native to the Old World tropics (West Africa) and has become established in the wild in some New World tropical areas. It is believed that okra first reached the New World during the days of slave trafficking. The species apparently originated in the Ethiopian Highlands, though the manner of distribution from there is undocumented. Read more here.

Red & Orange Roughy

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This is one of my favorite dinners, and probably one the most healthy entrees I’ve created so far.

Orange Roughy are a deliciously light and ‘non-fishy’ deep sea fish that’s a little pricier than the more common Tilapia… but worth every penny.

Ingredients (per filet)
Orange Roughy filets
Fresh Rosemary, 2-3 sprigs
Sweet roasted red bell peppers from jar, 2-3 strips
Butter, 1 tsp
White wine, 1/4 cup (*see pairing below)
Course salt, pinch
Black & red pepper, pinch
Panko bread crumbs, pinch
Asparagus, 5-7 spears
Olive oil, 1/2 tsp

Preparation

Fish

  • Preheat over to 375 degrees.
  • Tear off a large enough piece of tinfoil to form a boat-like baking dish (see photo), crimping edges up enough to hold liquid.
  • Place filet in boat (be sure it’s thawed if you’re using frozen Roughy).
  • Wedge a couple of rosemary sprigs under and around the filet.
  • Pour wine evenly over fish. It shouldn’t cover the fish completely… only about 1/4 to 1/2 way.
  • Take the tsp of butter and divide into tiny pats and place evenly throughout fish.
  • Pull 2-3 strips of the sweet roasted peppers out of the jar and lay atop the filet.
  • Sprinkle pinches of salt & peppers across fish
  • Sprinkle Panko crumbs across fish. Make sure this is the last step so they don’t get soggy.

Asparagus

  • On a non-stick baking tray, lightly drizzle olive oil over asparagus spears. Roll spears to completely cover with the small amount of olive oil
  • Sprinkle with course salt

Ready To Cook?
Put tinfoil fish boat(s) on a baking tray or right on to the middle rack. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes. The narrow end of the filet will start to brown and curl up when fish is done. Move your second rack to the very top rung. Place baking tray of asparagus spears there and bake simultaneously with the Orange Roughy. Asparagus will be done in 15-20 minutes. If you do not have a 2nd rack you can use the broiler. But only cook spears for 5 minutes under the 500 degree broiler.

When both fish and asparagus are done, place asparagus in center of plate, then place filet on top of the asparagus. Drizzle leftover juices from the tinfoil boat across both.

The Perfect Bite
Stack your fork with an inch of rich, green asparagus spear, a flaky bite of buttery roughy and be sure to include a little of the sweet roasted red pepper. Enjoy!

The Perfect Pairing
Now, I’m not against pairing red wine with fish. But… I also wear white shoes after Labor Day. So, perhaps you shouldn’t trust me. Regardless, if you have a red-wine-only policy… please, feel free. Just find a gentle red with light tannins like Washington’s Red Diamond Cabernet. However, even though I prefer reds over whites on any given day, with this particular dish… I wanted to find something crisp and fresh that wouldn’t over-power the entree’s delicate flavors… yet wouldn’t be wimpy standing all on its own. Meet<!–DOMAINE LAPORTE –> Henri Bourgeois’s Pouilly Fume La Porte de L’Abbaye 2007. The light, yet smoky French Pouilly Fume perfectly compliments the earthiness of the roasted red peppers and rosemary, all the while balancing the buttery-ness of the roughy. *I would recommend using this same wine for the 1/4 cup in the ingredients above).

Did You Know?
Fish and seafood is one of the “power foods” that have a multitude of health benefits that include inproving physical, emotional and mental health levels. And Did You Know that Rosemary, beyond being a flavouring-enhancer for certain foods and its use in cosmetics, has been used as an extract with a long history of medicinal uses too. It has been used to treat a wide range of ailments, including stomach upsets, digestive disorders and headaches.