Friday, January 31, 2014

Fresh kale pasta

So a couple of weeks ago I bought a huge bunch of gorgeous fresh kale. The problem is that since I only cook for myself (most of the time), I can't go through fresh produce fast enough! Last week, and before it had time to wilt any further, I embarked on the colored-pasta train. You know those healthy spinach pasta everybody raves about? Well, I made uber-healthy kale pasta. Ha!

INGREDIENTS (will yield about 1 to 1.5 lb fresh dough):
- 300g AP flour
- 3 eggs (thought I'd only need 2 at first, but I had to add another one mid-recipe)
- a bunch of fresh kale
- a pinch of salt

- remove the ribs of the kale and blanch the leaves 1 minute in salted boiling water (the leaves should remain a vibrant green and keep their crunch)

- drain, pat the kale dry and pulse a large handful in a food processor (yields about 1 cup of shredded blanched kale)

Note: if you have more kale than you have use for in this recipe, you can absolutely freeze blanched kale and use in another recipe (for example: Kale pesto, kale omelet or scrambled eggs or even use in a healthy chunky vegetable soup or minestrone).

- in a bowl combine kale, flour, salt and eggs and mix until the dough is smooth and elastic (about 5 minutes kneading in a standing mixer with a hook attachment, or 10-15 with elbow grease)

- shape into a disc on a lightly floured surface and let rest in the fridge, wrapped in plastic for an hour

- when the dough has rested, put on a floured surface and roll it in a thin sheet (using a rolling pin or a pasta machine)

- shape into your favorite pasta shape: spaghetti, tagliatelle, parpadelle or you can use the whole sheets for a healthy green lasagna variation
- since Santa Claus brought me a gnocchi board for Christmas, I decided to shape mine into garganelli, a gorgeous ribbed short pasta: cut 1.5 inches squares and roll on the heavily floured board

Note: with this amount of dough, I only rolled out half of the recipe and yielded 4 servings of pasta. I froze the remaining dough wrapped in plastic and will use it another time.
- those pasta cook very fast (about 2-3 minutes in boiling salted water), they will rise at the surface when ready
- enjoy with your sauce of choice!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Tomates Farcies (Stuffed tomatoes)

Stuffed tomatoes are always a crowd pleaser (provided said crowd likes cooked tomatoes...).

I've always loved this classic dish and make it at least once a year. There is just something very comforting about those little balls of deliciousness and I usually combine it with baked tomato rice, which coincidentally is also one of my all-time faves.

Here's how you can make them.

INGREDIENTS (4-6 people):
- 6 large beefsteak tomatoes (with stems will look nicer, but without stems works fine too)
- 2lbs ground meat (I used a combination of ground pork and lean beef, but I would recommend either full pork, or using fatter beef, like 80-20% instead of 95% lean)
- 2 shallots, diced
- 3 fat cloves of garlic, grated
- 1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley (not pictured)
- salt, pepper to taste
- optional: 2 cups white rice
- optional: a few sprigs of thyme
- optional: 4 cups of chicken broth

- pre-heat your oven at 400F
- in a large bowl, mix the ground meats, diced shallots and grated garlic, parsley, salt and pepper and reserve in the fridge until ready to use

Note: my stuffing tasted good, but was really lean and turned out a little dry to be honest. I would recomment adding an egg and 1/3 cup of breadcrumbs in the mix to ensure moist and tender meatballs
- slice the tops off the tomatoes and spoon out the seeds and inside flesh, reserve both on the side.

- divide the meat filling in 6 and stuff the tomatoes, covering back up with the tomato tops
- place the tomatoes in a baking dish and roast for 45 minutes at 400F or until the meat is cooked through
Optional rice dish:
- if you decide to bake the tomatoes with the rice, place your stuffed tomatoes on top of the rice in a baking dish and sprinkle with thyme

- dice the reserved tomato meat and drain the seeds, keeping the juice

- sprinkle the tomato dice between the stuffed tomatoes and add the tomato juice and heated chicken broth

- cook for 45 minutes at 400F or until the meat and rice are cooked
- Enjoy!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Cheesy scalloped potatoes (Gratin de pommes de terre)

Who doesn't like a rich, creamy and comforting cheesy potato gratin? I sure do :)

Here's how you can make it!

INGREDIENTS (4 people as side dish):
- 4 medium potatoes (I used Yukon Golds)
- at least 1/2 pint heavy cream (I did not measure exactly how much I used, just splashed it a few times over the dish)
- nutmeg (I prefer using freshly grated, but already ground is fine too)
- salt, pepper
- grated Gruyere cheese (it really makes a big difference here. I would rather not use cheese at all than use anything else; Gruyere has a very specific nutty taste that no other cheese can recreate :) )

- preheat your oven at 350F
- peel the potatoes and slice them really thin using a mandolin

Note: be careful with the mandolin and use the guard! If you do not have a mandolin, you can use a knife.
- lay a single layer of potatoes in the bottom of an oven-safe dish, season with salt and pepper and grate a little nutmeg and sprinkle grated Gruyere on top

- repeat with other layers of potatoes until there is no more!

Note: only grate nutmeg every other layer, otherwise it will be overpowering. Salt, pepper and cheese can be used every layer :D
- finish with healthy dose of grated Gruyere and splash heavy cream on top (between a half a pint and a whole pint)

- bake for an hour at 350F, then turn off the oven and leave the potatoes to cool in the closed oven for another hour
- serve alongside a green salad for a light dinner. It's also a fantastic side dish to red meat.
- Enjoy!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Chicken pot pie soup

Today I bring you a tweaked version of the ultra-classic chicken pot pie. Now don't get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE me a thick and creamy chicken pot pie, but! I also love, love, love soups.
There is nothing better in the winter than a large bowl of steaming hot soup, and if it tastes like a delicious homey comforting chicken pot pie, then it's even better!

Here's how I make it.

INGREDIENTS (4 people):
- 2 cups shredded cooked chicken meat
- 3 carrots, peeled and diced finely (I like them to be the size of frozen peas)
- 1 1/2 cups of frozen peas
- 1 8oz basket of fresh button mushrooms
- 4 tbsps butter
- 1/3 cup AP flour
- 4 to 6 cups of chicken stock or more if you want your soup thinner
Note: if you make your own chicken stock (click here for a recipe), it can get a little fat. No worries, just let it sit in a pitcher and spoon off the fat from the top
- a splash of olive oil
- optional: oyster crackers

- slice the mushrooms thinly, and saute in a skillet in a splash of olive oil over medium high heat. They will first release a lot of moisture and get slimy, but continue cooking them and stirring until the liquid evaporates and the mushrooms get golden. Reserve on the side until further use

- in a pot, make a roux: melt the butter, add the flour and cook over medium heat while whisking constantly until the flour is bubbly and frothy (should take 1 to 2 minutes)

Note: be careful not to burn the flour at this stage! just use medium heat and stir a lot :)
- add the chicken stock in one go and whisk, whisk, whisk! The roux will melt in the stock and the smooth thin white sauce will be your soup base.

Note: in a regular chicken pot pie, this would be the step where you make the thicker white sauce, using more flour and less stock.
- add the carrots, chicken and peas in the soup and cook for about 20 minutes on medium heat, or until the carrots consistency is to your liking (the peas will cook really quick and the chicken just needs to warm up since it is already cooked)

- serve hot, sprinkled with oyster crackers
- Enjoy!