Sunday, August 22, 2010

Good Eats.... Who says they have to be hard to make?

Another day, another hard decision about what to make for dinner, right? It's hard to come up with innovative and surprising ideas to keep your family enthused about dinnertime.... or is it? Who said creating "Good Eats" had to be hard or take a long time or mean you have to be a Chef in order to accomplish this task? No one..... and it's true.

Doesn't matter what your tastes run to or what diet you're on or what your budget is- there are "Good Eats" for you that can fit your tastes, lifestyle and skill level. Another thing to take into account is for those that work full time and don't want to come home and face 2-3 hour preparation times just to put good food on the table (hey, even lazy bones want something quick and good...) so I set my sights on just these very things and have come up with some great ideas!

I'm still on Atkins (doing good but I do miss carbs, but will keep at it...)- but most of these will work (with a few tweeks) yet they will be practical for most folks. Nothing weird that you can't find at your local A&P and can be made quickly and easily yet produce "Good Eats".....

Here's a version of one of my favorites (Steak au Poivre) that's just as yummy and will be a winner with your family! Few ingredients and quick to make yet lots and lots of flavor....

Steak with Cherry-Shallot Sauce.- A wonderful Bistro dish for everyone!

4 tbl garlic infused olive oil (or sliced garlic and olive oil)
2 1/2 lbs trimmed hanger steaks, or approximately 4 (8-ounce) pieces (or arrechera)
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
2 shallots, thinly sliced (or thinly sliced small onion)
1/3 cup pomegranate juice (I've used cranberry juice too)
1 cup cherry preserves or jam

Heat a grill pan or outdoor grill to medium. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of oil over steaks and season all sides with salt and pepper, to taste. Put on a hot grill pan or outdoor grill. Allow the meat to cook for about 3 minutes on the first side without moving. Turn, and cook until preferred doneness is reached, another 5 minutes (just a bit more for larger cuts). Remove the steaks from the grill to a cutting board and allow to rest 5 to 7 minutes. If you like meat well-done (we don't) cook for a longer period.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. In a medium saucepan over high heat, add the shallots and remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and cook until golden. Deglaze the pan with pomegranate juice, scraping up the brown bits, then stir in the cherry preserves. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until thick. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Thinly slice the steak against the grain and arrange on serving plates. Serve with the cherry sauce.
NOTE: I love infused oils but I don't buy them, I make them! Get a couple of clean glass bottles and put garlic, rosemary, chili or whatever flavor you want to create, then fill with olive oil and Voila! In a couple of weeks you'll have fancy infused oil.....

Crispy Goat Cheese Salad and Greens.- A wonderful side salad or appetizer any time!

1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1/4 cup rosemary infused olive oil, plus 3 tsp
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves, plus 4 sprigs for garnish
1 (12-ounce) log fresh goat cheese, sliced into 1/2-inch disks
4 ounces baby mixed greens, washed and dried

Preheat the oven to 375 F. In a small bowl, mix the bread crumbs with salt and pepper, to taste. Add 2 to 3 teaspoons of the olive oil, to just dampen the crumbs and mix well with a fork. Spread onto a rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven until golden and crisped, about 5 to 7 minutes. Allow to cool, then toss in chopped thyme.

Brush the goat cheese disks lightly with the remaining 1/4 cup of the oil and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Coat the cheese on all sides with toasted bread crumbs. Bake on a parchment or silicone lined rimmed baking sheet (I use foil covered sheet with non-stick spray on it) until warmed through and golden, about 5 minutes. Keep an eye on it. Divide the mixed baby greens between 4 plates. Carefully, divide the goat cheese rounds on top of each salad, garnish with a sprig of thyme and serve.

Roasted Sweet Potato Fries.- A lighter, less greasy take on fries. Sweeter yet just as satisfying and a nice change..... You'll love it! You can use most root vegetables too.

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus 2 teaspoons
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

Preheat the oven to 450 F. Cut the sweet potatoes strips (fry shape) and put them into a large bowl. In a small saucepan, combine the orange juice, 1 tablespoon of oil, salt and pepper, to taste, the ground ginger and cayenne pepper. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, whisking until reduced to a thick consistency. Remove from the heat, pour over the sweet potatoes and toss to coat.

Rub 2 teaspoons of remaining vegetable oil on a nonstick baking sheet or liner and omit oil. Arrange the sweet potato strips on the prepared baking sheet and bake until brown, about 25 minutes, turning after about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer the potatoes to a serving dish. Eat and enjoy!

Indian Style Corn with Curry Sauce.- You have to try this if you love exotic flavors!!

4 large ears corn, shucked and cleaned
1 (7-oz) container Greek yogurt, plain
1 tablespoon honey (optional but nice)
1 lime, juiced, plus wedges for serving
1 teaspoon curry powder (I use turmeric and some chili)
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat a grill pan to med-high heat. Grill the corn, turning frequently, until evenly browned, 10 to 12 minutes. In a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, honey, lime juice, and curry until smooth.

Transfer the corn to a cutting board, cut them in half crosswise (cobettes) and serve immediately with a drizzle of curry yogurt, a sprinkling of salt and pepper, and squeeze of fresh lime, if desired. Corn can also be refrigerated and served cold.

Flank Steak Roll-Ups.- A new take on an old favorite....

1 flank steak, about 1 1/2 lbs
6 sweet pickled cherry peppers, stemmed and finely chopped, plus 1/2 cup liquid from the jar
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
12 ounces farmer's cheese or drained ricotta (I use drained and pressed cottage cheese)
4 sheets, 9 by 12-inch, lavash bread (whole-grain if possible), I use large flour tortillas from the Mexican market
2 cups baby arugula leaves

Put the flank steak in a glass baking dish and pierce all over with a fork. Pour the pickling liquid over it; turn over several times to coat, and let stand, turning frequently, for 15 minutes. Preheat a stovetop grill pan over med-high heat. Drain excess liquid from the steak, season well with salt and pepper, and grill, turning once, until medium rare, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a cutting board and let stand at least 10 minutes before cutting against the grain into thin slices.

In a medium bowl, mix together the farmers cheese and chopped cherry peppers. Season with salt and pepper; to taste and add a few drops of water to make the cheese moist and spreadable. Lay a lavash sheet or tortilla lengthwise on a work surface and spread 1/4 of the cheese mixture over it, leaving a 1-inch border. Evenly scatter 1/2 cup arugula leaves, followed by 1/4 of the sliced steak over the cheese. Fold the ends in toward the center, then, roll the lavash tightly from the bottom into a roll. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Wrap the rolls tightly in a sheet of plastic wrap or parchment paper and refrigerate until ready to serve. Don't leave them unwrapped in the fridge or they'll dry out and become nasty.

To serve, slice the roll-ups into 1-inch segments and arrange them on a serving platter. If needed you can secure roll ups with toothpicks.

Celery and White Beans.- Unusual and flavorful, here's a new side dish for you!

1/4 cup basil flavored olive oil, plus more as needed
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1 (14.5-oz) can (white)cannellini beans, drained and liquid reserved
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
6 to 8 celery stalks cut lengthwise into thin strips, about 1/4-inch by 6-inches long

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until very soft, but not brown, about 10 minutes. Add the beans and 1/4 cup reserved liquid from the can and season well with salt and pepper. Raise heat to medium-high and continue cooking until beans begin to break down, about 5 minutes. Cool slightly and transfer the mixture to a food processor and puree, drizzling in more reserved liquid, if needed, until it is the consistency of thick hummus. Taste and adjust seasoning. Transfer to a wide, tall glass and drizzle with additional basil oil before serving.

To serve, stand the celery stalks upright in the dip. (Choose a container that's small enough with high sides to allow the celery to stand upright). I leave the celery as-is but in 6 inch pieces, fill with the spread and serve as appetizers- really great!

Pumpkin and Ginger Tart.- Easy and rich, a real treat!

2 1/2 cups crushed thin Swedish ginger cookies, (about 55 to 60 cookies)
6 tbl butter, melted
1 (15-oz) can pumpkin puree
3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
2 large egg yolks
Pinch salt

Preheat oven to 350 F. Put a 9-inch removable-bottom fluted tart pan on a baking sheet (or use a pie pan). Make the crust by combining the ginger cookie crumbs and melted butter in a large bowl, until well blended. Add the crumbs to the tart pan and evenly press over the bottom and up the sides with the bottom of a measuring cup. Bake until set and a bit darker in color, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

In a bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, condensed milk, egg yolks and salt until well blended. Pour the filling into the cooled crust, return to the oven, and bake until set and beginning to brown on the top, about 30 minutes. Remove tart from the oven, cool to room temperature and then chill in the refrigerator, at least 1 hour (or more) or until ready to serve.

To serve, carefully remove outer tart shell ring and slice. Eat and enjoy! I've also made this in paper cupcake liners with just some of the crust on the bottom. You need to refrigerate really well so it will set nice and hard. Great for lunch box treats or just to have in the fridge for those middle of the afternoon, coffee breaks....

Brioche Banana Bread Pudding.- This dessert is worth cheating with, serve with ice cream and some whipped cream and it's heaven!

1 loaf brioche (about 1 lb), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 cups heavy cream
1 1/4 cups brown sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
Pinch salt
3 large eggs, plus 6 egg yolks
3 soft very ripe bananas

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Put the brioche cubes in a large bowl. In a saucepan, add the cream, 1 cup of brown sugar and pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Whisk the eggs and yolks together in a large bowl. In a slow stream, pour the hot cream mixture into whisked eggs to temper. Strain through a fine mesh sieve over the brioche cubes. Let this sit to allow the bread to absorb some of the liquid, about 10 minutes.

In a bowl, mash the bananas with 1/4 cup of the brown sugar. Fold the mashed bananas into the bread cubes and transfer the mixture to an 8 by 11-inch baking dish. (Spray with non-stick spray really well) Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and cover with foil. Bake until mostly set, about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 15 minutes. Remove from oven when top is golden brown.
NOTE: Think of extra things you can add, like almonds, coconut, raisins, etc. Just great!

How about that, cool, huh? Easy, few ingredients and sure to please, what more could you ask for? Even experienced cooks will appreciate some time savings meals and being few ingredient recipes is always a plus, so why not try some of these and relax..... Great food that's good enough for company so if you're having some people over you won't have to whip up anything complicated or involved- just something quick that will make them think you worked all day! Plus look at lots of the steps that can be made in advance so there's even less preparation time involved.....

Sending everyone our best wishes , hoping you're all healthy and happy. Talk soon......

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