Saturday, February 25, 2012

Pasta with Greens, Garbanzo Beans, and Feta

I've had enough of cold, windy, and snowy weather and am so ready for Spring. This pasta recipe reminds me of that time of year when you have wonderful, fresh produce from your garden or the local farmer's market. It's so colorful and hearty, even though there isn't any meat in it.  You can cut the tomatoes in half to make a bit more of a sauce, but, leaving them whole gives you a pop of flavor when you bite into them. And, the addition of a little lemon zest gives it that hint of freshness that portends the growing season to come. It was my first introduction to Swiss chard and I love it!  Try it and let me know what you think.

Pasta with Greens, Garbanzo Beans, and Feta
(adapted from a recipe by Giada DeLaurentis)
Serves 3-4, total cost is $10.40

8 oz. orecchiette or small shells
¼ cup olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
6 oz. or 1 bunch Swiss chard, washed and dried and ripped into 2-3” pieces
6 oz. baby spinach
1 (15 oz.) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup small cherry or grape tomatoes
4 oz. feta cheese, cut into ¼“ cubes or crumbled
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Salt and pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm, stirring occasionally, about 8-10 minutes. Reserve about ½ cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta. Wipe the pasta pot out with a towel, and over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant and lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the garlic and discard. Add the Swiss chard and cook until wilted. Add the spinach and cook until wilted. Add the beans and tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the pasta, half of the cheese, the lemon zest, and season with salt and pepper. Toss well and thin out the sauce with a little of the pasta water.  Sprinkle some of the remaining cheese on top when you serve it.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Muffins for Two

Having gotten pretty excited about coming up with a recipe for only 6 cookies, I decided to use the same concept to make only a couple muffins. I decided that the first muffin recipe to perfect is one that can be used as a base for many flavors, such as blueberry or chocolate chip. I must say that this was definitely an exercise in the scientific method. I’d modify my base recipe by decreasing the oven temperature and the next day I’d use the leftover egg (even covered and refrigerated, an egg is only good for about 24 hours after it’s cracked open) and change the amount of sugar. Maybe later that day I’d work on the right amount of baking powder. After several days of this, my husband commented one morning “Another day, another muffin!”.

It definitely was worth the effort. This recipe makes 2 reasonably sized muffins; not the ginormous ones that you feel sick and guilty about after eating, and not so small that you gobble up the only other one. Try it out. In less than a half hour you can have a wonderful homemade treat. And, you won't be eating the same muffins for days!

Muffins for Two


Basic muffin batter:
½ cup flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 Tablespoon well-beaten egg (see Note)
2 Tablespoons milk
2 Tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
¼ teaspoon vanilla

Note: to measure the egg, beat it first to combine the white and yolk, then measure.

Preheat oven to 375°. Place two paper muffin cups in a muffin tin (not right next to each other) or butter two of the muffin cups. In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugars. In another small bowl or measuring cup, put egg, milk, butter, and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated.  Stir in the flavoring ingredients. Spoon half of the batter into the muffin tins and bake until lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes.

Some flavoring ideas:
¼ cup chocolate chips and 2 Tablespoons chopped, toasted walnuts
¼ cup frozen blueberries and ½ teaspoon lemon zest
¼ cup chopped peaches, 2 Tablespoons toasted sweetened coconut, and 2 Tablespoons toasted slivered almonds

Friday, February 10, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookies - just a few, please

[As you may know, School of Eating Good is two of us, Ronnie and Sharon. When you see "I," sometimes it's Ronnie and sometimes it's Sharon, though we collaborate on all the recipes. This recipe is totally Ronnie's creation, and it's a great piece of work that cookie lovers everywhere should celebrate.]

Sometimes I get in such a mood for cookies, I must make some.  But, I only want just a few.  Otherwise, I'll either be eating cookies non-stop for days, or worse, I'll put them in the freezer, forget about them, and eventually find them a broken, ice-laden mess several months later.

This recipe makes 6 good size (about 3") cookies.  Just perfect for a few snacks or to share with a friend.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 6

½ cup flour
⅛ teaspoon baking soda
⅛ teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 Tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon well-beaten egg (see Notes)
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips (regular size or mini-chips)
2 Tablespoons chunky peanut butter or 2 Tablespoons chopped walnuts (optional)

Place the flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl and whisk to blend. Place the butter, brown sugar, sugar, vanilla and peanut butter, if using, in a medium size bowl and mix until well creamed with a spoon. Add the beaten egg and mix until well blended. Stir in the flour mixture; then stir in the chocolate chips (and peanut butter or nuts, if using). Refrigerate dough for an hour.

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Scoop about 3 Tablespoons of the batter onto a parchment lined cookie sheet, spacing the mounds 2½ to 3 inches apart. Bake the cookies until they are golden brown, 13 or 14 minutes. 

Notes: To measure out the egg, beat it first to combine the white and yolk, then measure.

Use a ¼ cup measure to scoop the dough out, not filling them completely, since ¼ cup is equal to 4 Tablespoons and you want to use about 3 Tablespoons per cookie.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Valentine's Day Dinner for 2, under $15

In our cooking classes we usually teach dishes that students enjoy for everyday eating. We were going to do soups for our class this week, but our smart students had a better idea: one week before Valentine's Day, they wanted a nice date night meal. We were more than happy to oblige, because we think cooking for other people is one of the best ways to show how much you love them. Though this is a very elegant meal and sure to impress, it costs under $15 for 2 people.

Our menu included chicken rolled with fontina, prosciutto, and, sage served with roasted asparagus and an incredibly easy but totally cool dessert of frozen berries with a hot white chocolate sauce. We have included all these recipes below, as well as a simple recipe for polenta. Polenta makes a nice side dish but you can make some rice cooked in chicken stock or mashed potatoes instead, if you prefer.

It's very important to have all your ingredients ready before you start assembly of the rolls. Once your hands are covered with chicken is not a good time to try to open a package of prosciutto and tease apart the slices.

Pulling off a menu like this takes a little timing. Here's the order to do the recipe steps to assure that it all comes together at the same time. The dessert takes so little time that we suggest you wait until after you and your honey have eaten the chicken to prepare it.
  1. Make the lemon vinaigrette.
  2. Prep the asparagus so all you have left to do is put them in the oven.
  3. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  4. Assemble the stuffed chicken rolls.
  5. Brown the chicken and put in the oven.
  6. Cook the polenta. Cover and set aside while you finish the rest.
  7. Put the asparagus in the oven.
  8. Remove the chicken, slice, and dress with vinaigrette.
  9. Remove asparagus from oven.
  10. Plate by putting a big spoonful of polenta on the plate, lay on half of the chicken slices. Dress with additional vinaigrette. Add asparagus.
Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Fontina and Prosciutto, with Lemon Vinaigrette Sauce
Serves 2

For the vinaigrette:
1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
A pinch kosher salt
A pinch freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup olive oil

For the chicken:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about 6 ounces each
2 slices prosciutto (1 ounce)
1 ounce Fontina cheese, coarsely grated
2 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped (about 1 teaspoon)
About 6 wooden toothpicks
1 Tablespoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425°.

Make the vinaigrette:
Combine the vinegar, lemon zest, salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Slowly whisk in the olive oil until emulsified.

Make the stuffed chicken breasts:
With a sharp knife, make a horizontal slit, about ¾ through each chicken breast. Open each breast like a book, then place it in a plastic bag and pound with a rolling pin or a mallet to ⅛” thickness.  Lay each chicken breast out on a flat surface, and top each breast with a slice of prosciutto, half the grated Fontina cheese and half the chopped sage. Roll each breast up and secure with a few toothpicks by threading them through the seam side of each breast.  Pour a bit of olive oil in your hand and coat each breast with it.  Sprinkle each breast with salt and pepper.

Place the chicken in a frying pan set on medium-high heat, turning as needed, until golden brown on all sides.  Place the pan in the oven and cook until cooked through, about 15 minutes.  Remove the breasts to plates, remove the toothpicks, slice cross-wise, and, drizzle each breast with 2 Tablespoons of the vinaigrette; let rest 5 minutes.  Serve remaining vinaigrette on the side.

Roasted Asparagus
Serves 2

8 oz. asparagus, rinsed
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Sprinkle of salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425°F. You can roast the asparagus with the chicken, as they cook at the same temperature.

Hold the asparagus stalk at the thick end and a couple of inches up the stalk. Then bend the stalk away from you and the stalk will snap where the stalk is no longer fibrous. Put the asparagus on a small-rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil. Toss the asparagus to coat well. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 5 minutes, turn with tongs, and then roast for another 5 minutes. Cooking time may vary depending on the thickness of the asparagus.

(serves 2-3)

1 ½ cups milk or water (it will be creamier made with milk)
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup yellow cornmeal
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 ½ tablespoons butter

In a medium saucepan, bring the water and salt to a slow boil. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal so the water keeps boiling. A whisk and adding the cornmeal slowly are essential to preventing lumpy polenta.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently, until polenta is thick, about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan and butter until well-combined.

Frozen Berries with White Hot Chocolate Sauce
Serves 2

2 oz. white chocolate
2 Tablespoons heavy cream
¼ teaspoon vanilla
1 cup frozen berries

Combine the chocolate, heavy cream, and vanilla in a heat-proof bowl and either microwave it on medium, 1 minute at a time, or set it over a pan of simmering water until the chocolate melts. About 5 minutes before serving, remove the berries from the freezer and place them on individual serving plates. Ladle the warm chocolate sauce over the berries and serve.

Note: You can either buy frozen berries, or freeze your own by placing berries on a flat tray or plate in one layer. When the berries are fully frozen, keep them in a plastic bag in the freezer. Larger berries, such as strawberries, do not freeze well.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Parmesan Tasting

We just held another class with a group of students at our local university. Besides teaching them some solid cooking skills, we like to throw in a tasting of some sort. While the dishes are cooking, we can take a break and build some taste awareness.

This class we blind-tasted Parmesan cheese. We had 3 types of Parmesan and a ringer (an Italian Pecorino-Romano). Real Parmigiano-Reggiano is precious stuff. Since we like to present recipes with good value - our Valentine's Day dinner for 2 cost about $15 - it's hard to tell cash-strapped students to spend close to $20/lb on a hunk of fine Italian cheese. On the other hand, we don't think the stuff that comes in the green canister (you know what we're talking about but we're not going to name names) is even cheese. We want to give our students the opportunity to discover the flavor differences for themselves. That's why we do the tasting blind.

Our students are wonderfully honest. One exclaimed after trying the cheese from that famous green canister "What is this stuff??!!" with a definite look of confusion. Side by side with the other cheeses, it doesn't even taste like cheese.

Opinions varied but generally the domestic Parmesan showed really well. It tastes mild and fresh. It's not too salty. It doesn't have the depth of flavor of the aged Italian Parmesan but many of the students who had never tasted 36 month Parmigiano by itself thought it a bit intense. If you are looking for a solid domestic Parmesan, the Classic Parmesan from Sartori, made in Wisconsin, is an excellent choice. Still not cheap at $12.80/lb but a very good cheese.

Other domestic Parmesans can be found for as low as $8/lb and they can be good values. Try to buy a small amount and taste different brands to find one you like. Don't expect it to be really cheap. Making good cheese is a milk and labor intensive process and you will have to pay a bit more for quality.

How did our ringer do? Some liked it, others didn't. Pecorino-Romano is a sheep's milk cheese which makes it a little funky but in a good way. Like the aged Parmigiano-Reggiano, it's not shy. Try some yourself and see what you think.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Spicy Chipotle Wings

Chipotles in adobo (
Super Bowl time! Here's a zippy chicken wing recipe for your Super Bowl party. Chicken wings are great as an appetizer or party food, but this is also great as an entree if you use thighs instead. The chicken marinates at least 2 hours (or up to overnight), so plan ahead. Unlike Buffalo-style chicken wings, these are baked, simplifying the preparation.

Chipotle chiles are ripe jalapenos (which are red) that have been smoked. They are quite hot and they have an incredible smokey flavor. Adobo sauce is a tomato-vinegar sauce that chipotles are commonly packed in. Chipotles in adobo sauce are sold in small cans. You will only use 2 chiles for this recipe, but the leftovers can be transferred to a small glass or plastic container, and they will keep in your fridge for a very long time. They can also be frozen. If you like chili, a single chipotle added to your usual chili recipe will add an interesting smokey/spicy note.

Spicy Chipotle Wings
(adapted from Perfect Party Food)

3 pounds Chicken Wings, or drumettes or thighs

¾ cup Seasoned Rice Vinegar
¼ cup Vegetable Oil
3 cloves Garlic, peeled
2 Canned Chipotle Chiles In Adobo, with 1-3 tsp adobo sauce (depending on your heat tolerance)
¼ cup Packed Fresh Cilanto Sprigs
½ cup Red Onion, coarsely chopped
¼ cup Honey

1 tsp Kosher Salt

Put chicken in a bowl or large ziploc bag.

Combine vinegar, garlic, chipotle chiles, adobo sauce, cilantro, onion, and honey in a food processor. Process until smooth. Pour over chicken and smush it around to coat chicken well.

Park in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375° F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spray with nonstick cooking spray or rub with a little vegetable oil. Transfer the chicken and marinade to the baking sheet and spread chicken into one layer. Sprinkle with salt. Cook for 20 minutes, turn over chicken pieces, and bake for another 20 minutes.

Serve hot.