Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Eve Feast - Broiled Lobster Tail, Truffled Cauliflower Mash, & Kale "Wedge" Salad

I can't quite believe 2014 is coming to a close. My family and I had a really whirlwind year. We had two engagements, two weddings, and a baby born this year! I married an incredible man and left my job at Nestle to pursue a new career. I do believe this calls for a celebration.

Though my husband and I are going out to a neighborhood restaurant for dinner this year, I firmly believe that you don't have to leave the house to celebrate on New Year's Eve. An intimate night with close friends and family, great food, and a television set for the count down are really all I need. It's also much easier on the wallet - especially now! Whole Foods is having their once a year sale on lobster tails. Instead of $9.99 each, they are $12 for two - such a good deal! I bought 6 and am keeping 4 in the freezer.

Like many other folks out there, we are planning to kick 2015 off with a healthy mindset. To get that mindset started a little early, I decided to make cauliflower mash instead of potatoes. With the richness of the lobster and the truffles, there just wasn't any need to pack on the indulgence of white potatoes. I got this recipe for lobster tails from my dad. He usually cooks them on a grill, but, since I live in a NYC condo, the broiler is my best option.

Broiled Lobster Tails
Serves 2
  • 2 lobster tails
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt 
  • pepper
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted for dipping
Preheat broiler. Sprinkle lobster tails with salt and pepper and rub with olive oil until coated. Broil hard shell side up for approximately 5 minutes, until tails turn bright red and start to brown. 

Flip and broil for an additional 3-5 minutes, until visible meat is white and shell begins to curve and brown. Serve with melted butter for dipping.

Truffled Cauliflower Mash
Serves 2-4 depending on hunger level and size of lobster tails!
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1/3 c reduced fat sour cream
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 3 tsp black truffle salt, more or less to taste
  • 2 tsp black truffle oil
Chop cauliflower into medium sized pieces. Add to a medium saucepan with 2 inches of water at the bottom. Cover and steam until very soft, approximately 20 minutes, ensuring that there is always water in the pan. 

Add more if water boils off. Drain. Add sour cream, butter, and black truffle salt. Mash. 

Blend with a hand blender for smoother consistency if desired. 

Plate and drizzle with a small amount of black truffle oil.

Kale "Wedge" Salad
Serves 2
  • 3 c chopped kale, large stems removed
  • 3 slices prosciutto
  • 2 oz blue cheese, chopped
  • 1/c c blue cheese dressing (I use yogurt blue cheese dressing - only 35 calories per serving!)
  • 4 cherry tomatoes
Broil proscuitto for 3-4 minutes per side, until crispy. Keep an eye on them to make sure they don't burn! 

In a large bowl, mix kale and dressing. 

Toss to coat. Separate into 2 serving bowls. Crumble half of one of the prosciutto slices over each bowl. Sprinkle 1 oz chopped blue cheese in each bowl. 

Slice tomatoes in quarters and add 2 tomatoes to each bowl. 

Top with a whole crisped prosciutto slice for presentation.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Steak House Dinner at Home

I took the month of November off from posting to get married! I'm now (mostly) officially Meghan Stevens. It turns out that it takes a couple of months to make that name change, but I can officially use the name now! My new husband has been working super hard to catch up after taking some time off for our wedding and mini-moon, so I decided to treat him to a weeknight date night with a Steak House Dinner at Home. This one includes a few elements, but each of them are really very easy: blue cheese crusted steak, grilled asparagus and truffled mashed potatoes. Most of the prep work can be done in advance, so the dinner will come together quickly at the end of a long work day.

Blue Cheese Crusted Steak

  • 2 oz Gorgonzola cheese, sliced
  • 2 steaks (tenderloin, filets or any steaks will do)
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

Rub steaks with salt and pepper. Allow to rest at room temperature for at least 20 minutes.

Preheat cast iron skillet under broiler. Rub steak with a small amount of olive oil.

Place steak on skillet and broil approximately 4-5 minutes. Flip steaks and broil 4-5 minutes more, topping with sliced cheese for the last minute, until steaks have reached desired temperature. Allow to rest at least 4 minutes before serving.

Grilled Asparagus
  • bunch of fresh asparagus
  • salt
  • olive oil
Cut off the bottoms of the asparagus.

To prepare the asparagus in advance, bring a large pan of water to a boil. Add a tsp of salt to the water. Add asparagus and cook until bright green, approximately five minutes.

Remove asparagus from water, drain and cool. Set aside to grill later.

To prepare the asparagus just before the meal, you can skip the boiling step. Toss asparagus in olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Preheat grill to high.

Cook asparagus on the grill until charred on the outside and tender in the middle just before serving.

Truffled Mashed Potatoes

  • 2 medium Idaho potatoes
  • 1 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1/3 c reduced fat sour cream
  • 3 tsp truffle salt, more or less to taste

Peel and chop potatoes. (Usually, I leave the peels on, but I find that the skin can interfere with the experience in truffled potatoes.)

Add chopped potatoes and 1 1/2 tsp truffle salt to a medium pot of water. Bring to a boil with potatoes in the water. Boil for 20 minutes, until potatoes are soft.

Drain potatoes and return to pot. Add butter, sour cream and 1/2 tsp truffle salt.

Mash and add more salt to taste.

This whole recipe can be made in advance and reheated on the stove or in the oven just before dinner. If reheating, mix in another two tbsp of sour cream or 1 tbsp milk prior to reheating to avoid drying out the potatoes.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Butternut Squash Soup with Fried Sage Leaves

The Delightful Butternut Squash Soup with Fried Sage LeavesI absolutely love the plethora of winter squash in the fall. It's amazing that nature can produce these foods that are so luxurious in texture and so nutritious. Though they can be used in pastas, breads, desserts, and roasted as a delicious side, one of my favorite ways to prepare butternut squash is in soup. Its versatile flavor means that there are tons of different variations on the basic soup below. You can add a few tablespoons of maple syrup if you prefer it sweet or a dash of cayenne pepper to make it spicy - or both! This recipe can also easily be made vegetarian by swapping the chicken stock for vegetable stock. I finished mine with a few fried sage leaves and a drizzle of butternut squash oil. You can find squash or pumpkin oil in the oil section of many supermarkets. To make the fried sage, just heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add sage leaves for 2 minutes, flip and fry for about another 2 minutes. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt.

Butternut Squash Soup
Serves 8

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, chopped
  • 5 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 tbsp dry rubbed sage
  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled and chopped
  • 3 c chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
The Delightful Butternut Squash
Add olive oil, onion, carrots and celery to a large stock pot. Cook over medium heat until onions just start to soften. 
The Delightful Carrots Onions and Celery for Soup Base

Add sage, squash and 1 tsp each salt and pepper. Cook over medium head until squash begins to soften.
The Delightful Butternut Squash in the Pot

Add chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer. Cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Add more stock or water if liquid reduces to lower than solids in pot. Puree. Taste. Add chicken stock to thin if necessary or continue to simmer over low heat if soup is not thick enough.
The Delightful Butternut Squash Soup in Progress

 Top with fried sage leaves or squash seed oil for presentation if desired.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Tomato Basil Goat Cheese Tart

This one is so incredibly simple. It is perfect for a light dinner for two people or would be a great, easy starter for a dinner party. Each slice is light and delicate, not overly filling. I used heirloom cherry tomatoes, but regular tomatoes would work beautifully as well.  Also, if you're not crazy about goat cheese, you could easily substitute feta or Parmesan.

Tomato Basil Goat Cheese Tart

  • 1 frozen pie crust, defrosted
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 3 tbsp basil, chiffonade
  • 1/4 lb goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400F. Turn pie crust out onto larger pan so that crust is flat. Layer tomatoes and zucchini, alternating in a circular design. Top with crumbled goat cheese. Drizzle with olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste. Bake for 20 minutes. Top with basil. Bake for an additional 5 to 8 minutes until crust and cheese are golden brown and tart is bubbling. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Nectarine Berry Cobbler Clafoutis

Cobbler is an absolute staple in our house. It's one of those amazing desserts that works with seasonal fruit year-round. It can be made ahead for parties and makes for a gorgeous presentation in individual ramekins. My staple cobbler recipe is really a short bread cookie recipe over the top of fresh fruit. However, I recently had one reminded me of a clafouti. A clafouti is a traditional french dessert, which is like a cobbler, but, instead of a crumbly baked topping. The fruit is poured into a dish filled with batter, and the batter bakes up around the fruit. I played with the recipe a bit, and this delight is what I came up with. It would work with any combination of stone fruit and berries.

Nectarine Berry Cobbler Clafouti

  • 2 c chopped nectarines
  • 1 c blackberries
  • 2/3 c flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c butter, softened
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c half & half
Preheat oven to 375F. In an 8 inch square baking dish, mix nectarines and berries. 

Set aside. In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, vanilla extract and half & half. Add flour mixture to butter mixture, stirring just until combined. 

Pour batter over fruit, covering the fruit as evenly as possible. 

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until topping is golden brown and edges are bubbling.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Smoked Whole Fish

This past weekend, I was lucky enough to travel to Amelia Island for my "beachlorette" weekend. When I'm at the beach, I try to eat as much fresh, local and sustainably caught seafood as possible. As with most meats, fish is more flavorful, more tender and retains more moisture when cooked on the bone. One of my favorite ways to enhance these benefits is to grill or smoke fish whole. This super simple preparation looks impressive on the table and really tastes amazing. It also requires surprisingly little effort...unless you catch the fish yourself. If you buy the fish from a market, you can ask them to clean and gut the fish, leaving the head, tail and skin on, and to score it. If you catch the fish yourself, you're on your own for those steps. I used Pompano, which is a wonderful fish for smoking. It is an oily fish, but that is actually makes it perfect for smoking. It is unlikely to dry out, and the flavor of the smoke balances the flavor of the fish beautifully. If you don't have access to Pompano, another one of my favorites to prepare this way is Branzino. For this preparation, I used a charcoal grill and wood chips. Follow the instructions and use whichever preparation is recommended for the equipment you have.

Serves 6-8

Smoked Whole Pompano

  • 3 cups hickory chips
  • 3 medium Pompano, cleaned, gutted and scored (approximately 6 lbs)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 large lemon, sliced
  • 1 large onion, sliced into rounds
Cover wood chips in water and soak for at least 30 minutes. Start the grill. 
Rinse the fish in cold water and pat dry inside and out. Place fish on grill-safe pan. Rub salt, pepper and olive oil over outside and inside of each fish. 
Slide at least one slice each of lemon and onion into the inside of the fish. Add more if it will fit. 
Once charcoal is ashed over and hot, drain wood chips. Layer 2 cups of drained wood chips on top of the hot coals. Replace grill rack and place grill-pan on rack. If you put it off direct heat, increase cooking time by approximately 5 minutes. Cover the grill and seal to contain smoke. Allow to smoke for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove pan and rack. Add remaining wood chips on top of coals. Flip fish to cook on other side. 
Cook for an additional 10 to 12 minutes, or until fish is white and flaky. Top with additional lemon slices and serve.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Zucchini Orecchiette Carbonara

As the influx of summer squash from the CSA continues, I find that I am having to get more and more creative on how to use it. At the beginning of the summer, sliced fresh Zucchini Carpaccio with just a touch of olive oil and lemon juice was my staple. However, after eating it almost every day for most of the summer, I branched out into zucchini mini muffins, Zucchini Crab Cakes, and Zucchini "Pasta". With just a few more weeks of summer left, I'm sure I'll soon be missing the light, refreshing zucchini flavor, but for now, I'm going to continue my creativity. Last week's riff on a traditional dish was Spaghetti Carbonara. I've mentioned before my distinct dislike of peas, so, what better way to improve an otherwise delicious dish than to ditch the peas for one of my favorite vegetables - zucchini?!

Serves 2-3

Zucchini Orecchiette Carbonara

  • 1 1/3 c dry orecchiette
  • Cooking spray
  • 3 slices bacon, chopped into small pieces
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 small zucchini, seeded and chopped
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1/4 c half & half
  • 1/2 c Parmesan, grated, plus more to serve
  • 2 tsp ground black pepper
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. While water is heating, mix eggs, Parmesan, half & half and pepper in a small bowl, and set aside. 

Add salt and pasta to boiling water. While pasta is boiling, spray large saute pan with cooking spray and cook bacon over medium high heat until beginning to brown. Add garlic and zucchini. Saute until zucchini softens. 

Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 c pasta water. Add drained pasta to zucchini mixture and reduce heat to low. Add 4 tbsp pasta water to egg mixture, stirring constantly. 

Add egg mixture to zucchini and pasta, stirring constantly so that egg cooks but doesn't scramble.

Top with additional Parmesan and serve.