Monday, May 21, 2007

Jumble of thoughts, plus a nudge about RRC#7

RRC#7's deadline for submission is in two weeks (Sunday, June 3 at 11:59pm EST); I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone comes up with!

We're in NYC right now, and visited L&B's Spumoni Gardens yesterday with my cousin Matt, his wife Catherine, and their new daughter Fiona (who is just adorable. I know everyone says that about babies, but let's face it, not all babies are - in fact, a lot aren't - but Fiona really is adorable.)

Anyway, the pizza is good, but the highlight was the spumoni: perfect little scoops of flavorful, creamy goodness piled into flexible paper cups. We ordered the rainbow spumoni (chocolate, vanilla, pistachio) but if we go back (it's kind of a schlepp), I'd just get a scoop of the chocolate and a scoop of the pistachio -- really, really great stuff.
Also, the people watching can not be beat.

So that's it: this will be the last post for a while (two weeks?) as Shane & I are flying to Moscow this afternoon for the tour. Wish us luck!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Pasta Toss with Tuna & Vegetables

About a week ago, Lis posted a gorgeous recipe on her blog for Pasta Shells with Italian Tuna, Grape Tomatoes & Baby Spinach. After wiping the drool from my lips, I knew I had to make it.

The only thing was that when I entered it into the WW points calculator, it said one serving equalled half my daily calorie allotment.

Now, it's not that I won't eat most my calories in on fell swoop. But I knew this recipe could be easily adapted for a lower calorie count and still be delicious and satisfying. (Also, I need to save mega calories for sweet splurges like the chocolate peanut butter milkshakes at Abbott's Custard.)

So, I first increased the total servings from four to six. Then, I swapped the traditional pasta for the whole wheat variety (I couldn't find whole wheat shell pasta, so I used rotini). Finally, I switched the Italian tuna packed in olive oil for tuna packed in water, though I used the kind that comes in a vacuum sealed pack rather than in a can. (Don't worry, not ALL the oil is eliminated.)

The result is an enticing dish, perfect for casual-yet-elegant al fresco dining.
I love that it's served warm yet is still light enough for warmer weather.

Pasta Toss with Tuna & Vegetables adapted from Lis' Pasta Shells with Italian Tuna, Grape Tomatoes & Baby Spinach

12 oz. whole wheat pasta (such as rotini or shells)
2 tsp. olive oil, plus more for drizzling to taste 2 garlic cloves, minced (or more to taste)
13 oz. albacore tuna packed in water, drained
1 10.5 oz. can of artichoke hearts, drained and cut in quarters
1 cup of grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1 bag of fresh baby spinach, about 6 oz.
1/4 c. of grated Pecorino Romano cheese
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta and follow the directions for cooking the pasta as listed on the box. When water comes to boil, salt it generously, then cook pasta according to package directions, until al dente.

Just after adding the pasta to the boiling water, heat 2 tsp. of olive oil over medium low to medium heat in a skillet large enough to incorporate all the ingredients (including the cooked pasta). Add garlic and saute until lightly golden. Add the tuna with the oil, artichoke hearts & tomatoes, sauteing until the tomato skins slightly wrinkle, about 3 minutes.

Just before your pasta is ready, add the baby spinach to the tuna mixture, folding in until the spinach is wilted.

Drain the pasta in a colander, reserving 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta water to make the sauce, and place the pasta in the skillet with the other ingredients. Then, sprinkle the Pecorino over everything and stir until well combined. If it's a bit dry, add a drizzle of olive oil and a bit of pasta water to the dish and stir. (Be careful not to use too much water or oil -- the dish shouldn't be too "wet.")

Finish the with a sprinkling of fresh pepper and some additional Pecorino Romano.

Serves 6.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Chicken Schnitzel

Shane spent a number of years in Germany as a kid, where he acquired a taste for schnitzel.

Kian and Sadie also picked up on his love of schnitzel and, to be honest, so did I. Veal or pork pounded thin, dredged in a seasoned flour, fried and served with lemon wedges? Nothing wrong with that!

Except maybe the frying part. Which, you know, tends to add width to one's ass.

Fortunately, Cooking Light has a recipe for chicken schnitzel, incorporating Dijon mustard, fresh herbs and Parmesan cheese which distinguishes it from a typical chicken cutlet.

The result is a flavorful, tender and moist dish -- it was wonderful. Serve with lemon wedges and lovely little salads (potato, cole slaw, etc).

Easy Schnitzel
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
1 1/2 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 lemon wedges (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°.
Place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound to 1/2-inch thickness using a meat mallet or rolling pin. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.

Place flour in a shallow bowl. Combine mustard and egg in a shallow dish. Combine breadcrumbs, cheese, parsley, chives, and garlic in a shallow dish. Dredge 1 chicken breast half in flour, turning to coat; shake off excess flour. Dip in egg mixture; dredge in breadcrumb mixture. Repeat procedure with remaining chicken, flour, egg mixture, and breadcrumb mixture.

Heat oil in a large ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; sauté 2 1/2 minutes or until browned. Remove from heat. Turn chicken over; place pan in oven. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until chicken is done. Serve with lemon wedges, if desired.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 chicken breast half)

CALORIES 328 (22% from fat); FAT 8.1g (sat 1.9g,mono 3.8g,poly 1.3g); PROTEIN 45.3g; CHOLESTEROL 153mg; CALCIUM 85mg; SODIUM 636mg; FIBER 0.7g; IRON 2.6mg; CARBOHYDRATE 16.7g

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Nutella S'mores

We had marshmallows. We had graham crackers. We had a campfire and long, lean sticks.

But no chocolate. Nutella was an excellent stand-in. In fact, I think I prefer it...

Nutella S'mores

1 graham cracker, broken in half
1 well toasted marshmallow (lightly browned on the outside, flowing and hot on the inside)
about two teaspoons of Nutella (more or less to taste)

Spread the Nutella on one half of the graham cracker. Top with marshmallow, followed by the other half of the cracker. Smoosh down and enjoy.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Deep Dish "Pizza"

Shane has spent some time in Chicago recently for job training. While there, he fell in love with deep dish pizza. It wasn't enough for him to enjoy his culinary discovery, he had to call me and taunt me with it. Repeatedly.

Look, I'm a New Yorker. I was born in Beth Israel, grew up on Long Island, went Marymount Manhattan College, followed by grad school at NYU, and now I live in Upstate NY (roughly defined by "down-staters" as anything north of Westchester. I tend to agree).

So, while I know Chicago style "pizza" is delicious, I don't consider it pizza. It's more of a casserole lined with pizza dough, or as Sadie described it, "lasagna with crust."

Is it good? Yes. Is it pizza? Uh, no. This, this, this, and this is pizza. This is not.

Let the wrath begin.

Despite my feeling on this, I promised Shane I would make deep dish whatever it is for him. So I did, using a Cooking Light recipe and substituting Wegman's pizza dough. But I used far too much dough, hence the puffiness of the crust.

The verdict? Very good and I'd make it again, either using the original dough recipe or using much (much) less premade dough.

But I'm not calling it pizza.

Deep Dish "Pizza"

1 teaspoon sugar
1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
3 cups all-purpose flour (about 13 1/2 ounces), divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
Cooking spray

1/2 pound turkey Italian sausage (about 2 links)
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 (8-ounce) package presliced mushrooms
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
2 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) preshredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan cheese

To prepare dough, dissolve sugar and yeast in warm water in a large bowl; let stand 10 minutes. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 1 cup flour and salt to the yeast mixture, stirring with a whisk until well combined. Stir in 1 3/4 cups flour, stirring until a dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes); add enough of remaining 1/4 cup flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel sticky).

Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; cover and let stand 5 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375-degrees.

To prepare topping, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Remove casings from sausage. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add sausage and onion; cook for 5 minutes or until sausage is browned, stirring to crumble. Drain; set sausage mixture aside.

Return pan to medium-high heat. Add mushrooms; cook 5 minutes or until moisture evaporates, stirring frequently. Remove mushrooms from pan, and set aside.

Return pan to medium heat; add 1 teaspoon olive oil. Add garlic; cook 30 seconds or until lightly browned, stirring constantly. Add tomato paste; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Stir in oregano, fennel, and tomato sauce; simmer for 5 minutes or until sauce mixture is slightly thickened.

Coat a 12-inch cast-iron skillet with remaining 1/2 teaspoon oil, and sprinkle cornmeal over oil. Place dough in skillet, gently stretching edges to evenly coat bottom and sides of pan. Sprinkle mozzarella evenly over the bottom of dough; top evenly with sausage mixture and mushrooms. Top mushrooms with sauce mixture; sprinkle Parmesan over sauce. Bake at 375-degrees for 40 minutes or until crust browns and topping is bubbly. Let pizza stand 10 minutes before serving.

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 1 slice)