Thai Butternut Squash & Pineapple Curry

I must admit that I have never cooked with Thai red curry paste, so I thought I'd give it a go ... and I'm glad I did! Delicious. I was a bit cautious and added just one tablespoon, but I think I could have safely added 1-1/2 or 2 tablespoons. You could also add some chicken, or experiment with additional veggies (spinach, red pepper, etc.). As you can see below, I had just baked some yummy pumpkin cake donuts, but that story is for another time!

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Recipe

1 T. coconut oil
1 onion, chopped
1-2 T. Thai red curry paste
1 clove garlic, smashed and chopped
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into cubes
1 can coconut milk (I used Trader Joe coconut cream)
3/4 c. vegetable stock
2 c. green beans, trimmed and cut in thirds
8-ounce can pineapple, drained, cut in chunks
1/4 c. chopped coriander + some for garnish (or Italian parsley if cilantro's not your thing)

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and fry the onion for about 5 minutes until softened.  Stir in the red curry paste and garlic to coat the onions and cook for a minute. Add the butternut squash and beans, stir well, then add the coconut milk and stock, stirring to combine. Bring to a bubbling simmer, then turn heat down to a low simmer and cook for 20 minutes until the squash is tender and the sauce has reduced a bit and thickened.

Stir in the pineapple and cilantro and cook for another 5 minutes until the pineapple is warmed through. Serve over rice and sprinkle with some more chopped cilantro. Serves 4. 

Chocolate + Earl Gray Pudding

I love chocolate pudding. Add an Earl Gray tea component, some melted chocolate and maple syrup for sweetener and you've got yourself a dessert! Look for silken tofu (the really silky, extra soft kind) at an Asian market for the best quality (I got mine at Uwajimaya). It doesn't need much time in the fridge to set up, a few hours tops. And it's vegan! 

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Recipe

1/2 c. boiling water
1 T. loose Earl Gray tea (or use a tea bag)
12-oz. silken tofu, drained
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3.5 oz. Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate bar, broken into pieces (+ extra for garnish if desired)
1/4 c. maple syrup
Red Ridge Farms Vermont Maple Sea Salt (or other flaky sea salt)

Add the boiling water to a cup and steep the tea for 30 minutes to get a nice strong taste. Use a tea ball to make straining easier, or use a tea bag.

Wrap the tofu in a clean towel and press it to get rid of as much moisture as possible. Transfer to a food processor. Add the steeped tea and vanilla and process until smooth.

Put the chocolate pieces and maple syrup in a heatproof bowl over simmering water and let it melt, whisking until smooth. Add to the food processor with the tofu/tea mixture. Process on high until silky smooth.

Transfer the pudding to 4 ramekins, bowls, or festive dessert glasses and refrigerate for a few hours to set up to a thicker pudding consistency. To serve, sprinkle with the salt. Add some grated chocolate if you like – use a vegetable peeler to shave off some nice curly pieces.

– based on a recipe by Anna Jones

Crusty Baked Shells & Cauliflower

This recipe is a great way to celebrate cauliflower! It's first sautéed in a hot pan, then combined with cooked pasta shells, fresh sage, a hint of lemon, and lots of cheese with a crunchy topping. Easy and delicious! Can be assembled up to 24 hours prior to baking, keep covered in the refrigerator.

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Recipe

3/4 lb. small shell pasta (such as Barilla)
Olive oil (about 1/2 cup total)
large head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
3 T. fresh sage leaves, roughly chopped
2 T. capers
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 c. grated Fontina cheese (I used Trader Joe's Quattro Formaggio Shredded Cheese Blend)
8 oz. ricotta
1/4 c. creme fraiche
1/2 c. panko bread crumbs
6 T. freshly grated Parmesan
3 T. parsley, minced
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400-degrees.

Fill a large saucepan with water, add 2 T. kosher salt and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 6 minutes (or according to package instructions). Drain and put in a large bowl. Add 3 T. olive oil and stir. Set aside.

For the cauliflower, heat 3 T. olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cauliflower in one layer and saute for 6 minutes, tossing occasionally, until lightly browned. Pour into the bowl with the pasta. Add the sage, capers, garlic, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper and mix well. Stir in the 2 cups of grated Fontina cheese. Transfer half of the mixture to a 10x13x2-inch rectangular baking dish. Mix the ricotta and creme fraiche in a small bowl, then spoon it over the pasta mixture, spreading somewhat evenly. Then add the rest of the pasta/cauliflower mixture on top.

Combine the panko, Parmesan, parsley and 1-2 T. olive oil in a small bowl, and sprinkle it evenly on top of the casserole. Bake for 30 minutes.

– Based on a recipe by Ina Garten

Grape, Avocado & Arugula Salad with My Favorite Vinaigrette

This is my favorite salad, as well as my favorite vinaigrette. Change up the ingredients however you want, but the basics need to stay: grapes, avocado, toasted walnuts, crumbled goat cheese and red onion. I had a friend over for lunch and a movie and expanded the ingredients a bit by adding some baked chicken and croutons. Tangy arugula is the preferred green for this salad, but a spring mix works well too as I did here (because I forgot to pick up arugula!).

Recipe

6 cups fresh arugula or mixed spring greens, loosely packed
1 c. halved seedless grapes, red or green
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced
1/2 c. crumbled goat cheese
1/2 c. chopped toasted walnuts (or pecans)
half a small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced

White Balsamic Vinaigrette

1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
3 T. white balsamic vinegar
2 T. agave nectar (or honey)
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Add the vinaigrette ingredients to a jar and shake to combine; or put in a bowl and whisk.

Add salad ingredients to a large bowl, drizzle with vinaigrette and mix well.

Green Tea Soba Noodles with Lime & Cardamom Salsa

Another delicious, simple and unique recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi. He never disappoints. Green tea soba noodles can be found at any Asian grocery (I bought mine at Uwajimaya). I couldn't locate nigella seeds noted in the original recipe, so I substituted black sesame seeds. The ground cardamom adds a wonderful and unexpected, subtle flavor. I served this dish with Jamie Oliver's spice crusted tuna steaks with cilantro and basil accompanied by a Penner Ash 2014 Pas de Nom pinot noir. Dessert was Anna Jones' recipe for chocolate and earl gray pots. Spectacular!

Recipe

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7 oz. (200g) green tea soba noodles
2 T. basil leaves, roughly chopped
2 T. coriander leaves, roughly chopped
5 T. shelled pistachios, lightly toasted and roughly chopped
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
2-3 limes (enough for 3 T. juice | use one cut in quarters for garnish | zest one to get 1 tsp. zest)
3 T. peanut oil
1 garlic clove, peeled, crushed and minced
1 small green chili, deseeded and finely chopped (optional)
2 avocados, peeled and sliced
4 eggs, soft boiled
1/4 tsp. black sesame seed

Cook the noddles in rapidly boiling water for six minutes (or according to your package directions). Rinse under cold water and drain.

For the eggs bring a pot of water to a boil, then add the room temperature eggs and simmer for six minutes for a slightly runny yolk (as you may notice in the photo, I accidentally cooked mine a little too long and got a hard yolk). Run under cold water for a few minutes and just before serving, peel and cut in half. 

In a large bowl add the basil, coriander, pistachios, cardamom, lime zest, lime juice, peanut oil, garlic, chili (if using), and 1/2 tsp. salt. Mix well, then add the noodles and mix with your hands. Serve and top with the avocado slices, two egg halves, a sprinkle of black sesame seeds, and a wedge of lime on the side.

Panko Crusted Salmon with Warm Lentil Salad

Today's posting includes two delicious recipes from Ina Garten — Panko Crusted Salmon and Warm Lentil Salad. They go so well together that I can't resist including both! The salmon dish is quick and easy but loaded with flavor, and the same goes for the lentil salad. Use the French green Le Puy lentils if you can find them, it's worth it. The salmon can be made a few hours ahead, just get them ready and refrigerate. The lentils can be served warm or at room temperature and make great leftovers.

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Panko Crusted Salmon Recipe

 Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

For two servings:
1/3 c. panko
1 T. minced fresh parsley
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 T. olive oil
(2) 6 to 8 ounce salmon fillets, skin on
1 T. Dijon mustard
1 T. vegetable oil
Lemon wedges

Preheat the oven to 425-degrees.

In a small bowl mix the panko, parsley, lemon zest, 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Add the olive oil and stir until the crumbs are evenly coated. Set aside. Salt and pepper the top of the salmon fillets, then generously brush with mustard. Press the panko mixture thickly on top of the mustard (it helps the panko adhere). Heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a cast iron skillet. When the oil is very hot, add the salmon fillets, skin side down, and sear for 4 minutes, without turning, to brown the skin. Transfer the pan to the hot oven for 7 minutes until the salmon is cooked and the panko is browned. Remove from the oven, cover with foil, and let it rest for 5 minutes. Serve the salmon hot or at room temperature with lemon wedges.

Warm Lentil Salad

2 T. + 1/4 c. olive oil
1 leek, white and light green parts, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 tsp. garlic, minced
1 c. French green Le Puy lentils
1 small to medium onion, peeled and stuck with 6 whole cloves
1/2 of a large white turnip, peeled
1 tsp. butter
heaping tablespoon of Dijon mustard
2 T. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Heat 2 T. olive oil in a medium sauce pan, add the leek and carrots, and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute, take off the heat and set aside.

In a large saucepan add the lentils, 4 cups of water, the onion studded with cloves, and the turnip and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 20-25 minutes (you want the lentils al dente, not mushy). Remove the turnip and onion (take out the cloves and discard) and drain the lentils. Put the lentils in the sauce pan with the leek and carrots and add the butter. Stir well. When cool enough to handle, chop the onion and turnip and add to the lentil mixture.

In a small bowl add the mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper and whisk until incorporated. Add the olive oil and whisk again. Add to the lentils, stir well, and allow to cool until just warm. Before serving taste and add salt and/or pepper, if needed.

– Ina Garten, Food Network