Thursday, October 11, 2012

Roasted Chicken and Brussels Sprouts with Pumpkin Polenta

Fall has officially arrived in Durham! We had a brief glimpse of her a few weeks ago and then it got hot and humid all over again. Now, don't get me wrong, I love hot weather. Love love love. I am definitely a summer, bathing-suit, short-wearing, water-playing kind of girl. But one of the main reasons I love the weather in NC is the change in seasons. By the end of the summer, I am ready for fall. The crisp air, the crunchy leaves and the delicious, comforting food. When I started craving all things pumpkin, I knew that I was ready for the new season. This dinner came about by trying to figure out what to do with the random items I'd purchased at the store and the desire to satisfy my fall, comfort food cravings. And it definitely did the trick. The flavors meld together to taste a lot like a Thanksgiving meal but without the hours of work.
I recommend getting a jar of Herbes de Provence for your spice rack. One little jar includes a rich, aromatic blend of herbs, including thyme, basil and lavender. A good sprinkling of the blend can lend a ton of flavor to a dish without needing to buy a lot of individual herbs and spices. I also recommend keeping some canned pumpkin on hand this time of year. Make sure it is plain canned pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling as that's a whole different animal. You can easily stir some canned pumpkin into risotto, quinoa, or polenta to make a simple side into something perfect for the season.

Roasted Chicken and Brussels Sprouts
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 package boneless skinless chicken thighs, about 1 - 1.3 lbs
  • 1 bunch Brussels sprouts
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp herbes de Provence
  • 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper, or to taste
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
In a large, oven proof dish (I use my dutch oven), heat the oil over medium to medium-high heat.
Season the top side of the chicken thighs with salt and pepper.
When the pan is very hot - the oil should shimmer and move easily around the pan - add the chicken, seasoned side down.
Let the chicken cook without moving them for about 8-10 minutes. This will give them that nice golden color and the meat will tear if you try to move them before they're ready.
Season the underside of the thighs and then remove them from the pan to standby.
While the chicken is browning, wash the Brussels sprouts and trim off the ends. I usually cut them in half unless they are very small or even into quarters if they're very large.
After removing the chicken, turn the heat down a bit and add the sprouts and garlic to the pan.
Season with a bit more salt and pepper and add the Herbes de Provence.
Saute for a couple of minutes and then add the chicken stock.
Stir to get all of the browned bits off the bottom of the pan.
Add the chicken back into the pan, brown side up.
Place the pan into the oven and roast for about 20 minutes, until the Brussels sprouts are tender and the chicken is cooked through.
Serve over pumpkin polenta.

Pumpkin Polenta
  • 3 cups of liquid (milk, stock, water or a combination)
  • 1/4 tsp salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2-3 tbsp Parmesan cheese
Bring the liquid to a low boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Be careful if you're using milk as it will quickly boil over and make a big mess. I usually remove the lid when it starts to simmer.
Turn the heat down to low.
Slowly pour in the polenta and stir to combine, breaking up any lumps. Season with a pinch of salt.
Once the polenta is combined, stir in the pumpkin. I use a metal whisk to break up any lumps and make a creamy polenta.
Continue stirring until the polenta thickens and starts to pull away from the sides of the pan.
Remove from the heat, add butter and Parmesan cheese.
Stir to combine, and let sit, covered for a minute or so.

For a printable recipe click here

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Mateo Tapas: Downtown Durham Eats

Jamon Mixto (large) including Serrano, Lomo, Chorizo, and a local Mangalista
I'm going to jump on the Durham foodie bandwagon and sing my praises for Mateo Tapas, the Spanish eatery in downtown owned by Matt Kelly of Vin Rouge. There has already been a lot of hype about this new restaurant in the few short months it's been open. I wanted to see what all the buzz was about and judge for myself. Gavin and I have already been there twice together and he's been a third time as well. Considering we are relatively new parents with a baby that goes to bed at 6pm, this in and of itself says a lot about our feelings toward this place. We have also been fortunate enough to travel to Spain and experience tapas in their native environment. And we still love this place. Is it exactly the same as what you'll get in Spain? Of course not. Chef Kelly puts his own Southern spin on a lot of dishes. But on the other hand, there are many authentic offerings, like the meat plate pictured above - Gavin's all time favorite. And if you aren't able to fly to Spain any time soon, I promise Mateo will be a great place to visit in the meantime.
Ensalada de Remolacha Asada: roasted beets, orange, avocado, watermelon, pine nuts, goat cheese
The best thing about tapas is that you get to try a lot of different things. And fortunately the menu is varied enough that you're sure to get something that everyone really likes. The salad above combines Spanish and local flavors together to make a tower of deliciousness. Beets and goat cheese are one of my all time favorite combinations and I'm more than happy to let crisp watermelon and creamy avocado join the party. As you can see, Gavin and I are on opposite ends of the food spectrum when it comes to favorites but we both enjoy meeting in the middle and trying each others' favs... I guess our foodie relationship bodes well for our own relationship. :) But I digress...back to the food.
Fried calamari with pimenton aioli
As you may (or may not) know, I have a gluten allergy or sensitivity. I am not deathly allergic, thank goodness, but it makes me feel icky when I eat it so I tend to avoid it in general. However, I do make exceptions every once in awhile. Something so good it just screams "eat me!" with no care for my gluten sensitive self. One such dish would be fried calamari. Now pretty much all fried dishes are off-limits for me (sad, I know) unless they are breaded with cornmeal but that's rare. In general I'm ok with this and can pass on the fried delights. But fried calamari is just too stinking good to pass up. I've had it all over the world and at various places in Durham and, thankfully, Mateo's version does not disappoint. There is nothing worse than sacrificing my gut for something that is less than stellar. These tender rings with crispy outsides were just delicious. And that beautiful orange sauce on the side is a creamy aoili flavored with pimenton (aka Spanish paprika). As you can probably tell, my dinner companions had already dove upon the delights before I was able to take a picture but don't let the sloppiness fool you: it was awesome.

Now these are only a few of the dishes that we ordered and that are available. I could go on and on about the other treats like white anchovies, pork ribs, and Moroccan spiced chicken. But I'll let you discover some of those on your own. If your mouth isn't watering yet, check out a few more offerings at Carpe Diem or check out the six page drink menu complete with tons of sherry, Spanish wines, and creative cocktails.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Spicy Thai Chicken Noodle Soup

I have recently become obsessed with Pinterest. I'm probably late on this one but if you haven't joined the world of pinning, I highly recommend it. Or, possibly not, if you want to actually get anything else done. It tends to suck up a lot of time. But if you don't mind spending some extra minutes (or hours) perusing recipes, pictures of cute animals, fashionable shoes, etc. then it's definitely worth it. My boards on Pinterest focus mostly on food of course with some cute baby stuff and fancy shoes thrown into the mix. Follow me here if you're interested in checking it out!

Anyway, I made my first recipe from Pinterest last night and since I can't actually follow a recipe without adding my own spin, I decided to finally write a post and share it with you here. The original recipe is from Fitness Magazine and looks quite delicious. I just thought it lacked a little spice and seasoning so I added a few things and adjusted to my taste. As for the spiciness, you can add as much or as little as you like depending on your taste buds. I think the bit of Sriracha (Thai hot sauce) in the soup adds a great warmth without being too spicy and then any extra on top works for a true kick. Also, this made a ton of soup. We like leftovers so no problems here but you could easily cut back on the amount of broth and noodles and make less soup. When the noodles are added to the broth, they suck up a lot of liquid. If you'd like even less soupiness, this could easily become more of a stirfry than a soup by cutting back on the broth. Either way, it's a very yummy way to experiment.

Spicy Thai Chicken Noodle Soup
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil (vegetable oil would also work)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce (or 1 tbsp soy sauce)
  • 1 tbsp Sriracha
  • 6 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable stock
  • 12 oz bag of broccoli slaw (shredded broccoli and carrots)
  • 10 oz bag shredded green cabbage
  • 8 oz brown rice noodles
  • 1 cup canned bean sprouts, rinsed and drained
In a large soup pot, heat oil over medium heat.
Season chicken with salt and pepper.
Add garlic, grated ginger and seasoned chicken to the hot oil, before oil starts to smoke.
Saute until the chicken is no longer pick on the outside, about 10 minutes.
Stir the peanut butter into the crushed tomatoes.
Add tomato/peanut butter mixture, fish sauce, Sriracha and stock to the pot.
Bring the mixture to a boil. (Comes to a boil quicker if you put the lid on the pot.)
Stir broccoli slaw into the soup, reduce heat back to medium and cook for about five minutes.
While broccoli is cooking, soak the rice noodles in hot water.
Drain the rice noodles and add them along with the green cabbage to the soup.
Cook for another 3-5 minutes.
Add a pinch of salt or a bit more fish stock if needed.
Turn the heat off and stir in the bean sprouts.
Top with more Sriracha, according to taste.

Print recipe here

Friday, January 13, 2012

Lentils with Fennel and Sausage...and the love of my life

I'm back!! At least for long enough to write this post. I know that it's been months (six to be exact) since I last posted here and for that I apologize. However, I believe my excuse is pretty valid. Three months ago I gave birth to an amazing little girl, Lyra Amber. She has completely changed my life in incredible ways, some difficult of course but all worth it. So I have been spending my time getting to know her and tending to her needs instead of creating new recipes. I have managed to cook some good meals, despite the difficulties of the cranky dinner hour, but nothing particularly new or of note. Except for this latest dish. I decided I was ready to try something new and hopefully get a chance to write about it. As many things in my life, this post will probably take longer to write than I want it to. I tend to get a few things done while Lyra is sleeping or happily playing on her jungle mat (see below) and then have to go feed/change/comfort her before I can finish. But I will attempt to get this done!
The best and easiest meals for me recently have been the kind that I can eat without needing to use a knife and preferably all in one bowl. This allows me to hold Lyra if necessary and still eat my dinner. This meal fits that bill perfectly and also happens to be very tasty. I've written about lentils before as they are both incredibly healthy and quite delicious. And they take to many different flavor combinations very well. This dish combines the sweet flavors of fennel with the savory and salty flavors of sausage. I used chicken sausage for its slight health benefits but pork would also be delicious. You could also increase the amount of fennel and possibly add in some wilted spinach for a vegetarian version of this dish. I might try that next time. Either way, this is definitely a dish to try - satisfying enough for a cool winter evening without weighing you down.
Lentils with Fennel and Sausage

  • 1 cup lentils (I used French green lentils)
  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lbs or so of sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 medium to large fennel, bulb sliced and stalks discarded, reserving green fronds
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
In a medium sauce pan, bring lentils, water and 1/2 tsp of salt to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for about 20-25 minutes until lentils are tender but not falling apart. Drain lentils, reserving the cooking liquid.
While lentils cook, heat a large skillet with 1/2 tbsp olive oil over medium high heat.
Sear sausages until well browned on each side, about 10 minutes total.
Remove sausages and cut diagonally into slices.
Turn the heat down to medium, medium low and add remaining 1/2 tbsp oil.
Add onion, sliced fennel, garlic and fennel seeds, seasoning with remaining 1/2 tsp of salt and about 1/4 tsp black pepper.
Ladle about 1/3 cup of lentil cooking liquid into pan to help release the brown bits from the sausages.
Saute vegetables until very tender, about 15 minutes, adding more lentil cooking liquid as the pan gets dry.
Once the vegetables are tender, add the sliced sausages to finish cooking, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the cooked lentils, red wine vinegar and about 1 tbsp chopped fennel fronds.
Season with a pinch more black pepper and salt, if needed.
Garnish with more chopped fennel fronds.

For a printable recipe click here

LocalEats featured blog

Friday, July 29, 2011

Polenta Pie with Roasted Vegetables

My very good friend Lily is incredibly smart. In fact, she is currently taking the bar exam, which I'm sure she will ace after three successful years of law school. In addition to being smart and motivated and all that, Lily is also a great cook. Clearly more interesting than her law skills in my opinion and, fortunately for us foodies, also something she finds worth exploring and expanding even in the midst of studying for said bar exam. So while most law students hunker down and don't leave the library until the bar exam is over, Lily decided to start a food blog, appropriately named Bar Food. So while she was presumably doing a lot of studying, she was also exploring a whole list of food tasks that she's been meaning to tackle. One should eat while studying anyway so why not make it an enjoyable learning experience at the same time? Seems reasonable to me and the result is a very funny blog full of good food tips and fun recipe ideas.
Lily and I often talk about food and different things we like to make or want to try making. One food we've discussed often is the delightful dish of polenta. It's so versatile and easy and absolutely delicious. A recent recipe on her blog was for a vegetable pie with a polenta crust, something that both looked delicious and fit into my need for gluten free delights. So I decided I had to make it using up all of the delicious produce available at the farmers' market. Our versions are slightly different based on what we each had available. But give it a try with whatever you have on hand. It's easy to make and tastes amazing. I only wish I had had some goat cheese to melt on the top like she time!
Polenta Pie with Roasted Vegetables
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 large zucchini and 1 yellow squash, sliced into thin half moons
  • 1 eggplant, peeled and sliced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tbsp + olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 3 cups water or vegetable/chicken stock
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil, thinly sliced
Preheat oven to 450*F.
Toss onions, zucchini, squash, eggplant and tomatoes with enough olive oil to lightly coat and season well with salt and pepper.
Arrange vegetables in an even layer on a large baking sheet.
In a small saucepan, bring stock to a boil with a pinch of salt.
Turn heat to low and slowly pour in polenta, stirring thoroughly to avoid any lumps.
Continue cooking, stirring frequently, for about 5-8 minutes, until polenta is thick.
Spread cooked polenta into a lightly greased (vegetable spray works) pie pan, making it as even as possible.
Put both the vegetables and the polenta pie into the oven and cook for about 10-15 minutes, until vegetables are tender and the polenta begins to get golden on the edges.
Meanwhile, mix together eggs, milk and Parmesan cheese. Season with black pepper.
Remove polenta and vegetables and layer as many of the vegetables into the polenta pie as you can fit, pressing down the polenta as you go.
Turn the oven down to 375*F.
Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables, pressing with the back of a spoon to get it to soak in.
Place the veggie pie back into the oven and cook for 25 to 30 minutes, until the eggs are set.
Garnish with fresh basil and more Parmesan cheese.
Let the pie rest for a bit before cutting to let it set. I was too impatient for this and mine fell apart a bit. Still delicious though!

For a printable recipe click here

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Summer Vegetable Ratatouille with Feta

I've written about this type of dish before but it's just too good to not include this version of it on my blog. And besides, it's been awhile since we've had an abundance of summer produce available so it's time to start thinking about these great vegetables dishes again. The farmers' market is full of different types of squash: zucchini, yellow squash, Lebanese, patty pan and eggplant (not really a squash, but you get my point). Not to mention bright red tomatoes waiting to burst they're so juicy. So with these incredibly fresh ingredients at the ready, there are tons of delicious dishes just begging to be made. One of my favorites is a ratatouille type dish, served over gluten free pasta (or regular if you can eat it of course), topped with cheese. For this version, I went with feta, a change up over the usual Parmesan or other similar cheese but equally delicious. I chose feta because that is what Chapel Hill Creamery had at the time I went to the market. But I think it was just a cosmic push to include this wonderfully salty, briny cheese into my dish to add a whole new level of flavor that just wouldn't have come from anywhere else. Although the vegetables are incredible on their own, sauteed in a bit of olive oil with garlic, salt and pepper, I added a few things to create something new and add to the overall yumminess of the dish. The red wine vinegar adds a brightness to the dish while the sugar brings out the sweetness in the tomatoes. Finished off with some fresh basil and a bit more feta cheese and you've got yourself quite a meal.

Summer Vegetable Ratatouille with Feta

  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 2 zucchini, chopped into small cubes
  • 1 yellow squash, chopped
  • 1 large eggplant, peeled and cubed
  • 4-5 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp dried thyme, or 2-3 tsp fresh
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper, or to taste
  • 3 oz feta cheese, crumbled, plus more for garnish
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
Heat oil in a large skillet, preferably with straight sides, over medium heat.
Add garlic cloves, zucchini and yellow squash, season with a pinch of salt and pepper; saute for a few minutes.
Add eggplant and tomato, stirring to combine. Cook until vegetables begin to soften, about 5-8 minutes.
Stir in tomato paste, red wine vinegar, thyme and sugar. Season with a bit more salt and pepper.
Simmer sauce for about 8-10 minutes until all of the flavors are well combined and the vegetables are tender.
Remove from heat and stir in crumbled feta and fresh basil. Check seasoning and add more salt or pepper if needed.
Serve sauce over cooked pasta or rice and garnish with a bit more feta cheese.

For a printable recipe click here

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Geer Street Garden: Another Durham Gem

Image courtesy of
Gavin and I are always in search of great new places to eat and Durham rarely disappoints when introducing a new restaurant. In the past couple of years, we've been lucky enough to have a number of great new restaurants, especially in the downtown area. The next area to be developed - with more to come, I'm sure - is the Central Park district. Already home to the Durham Farmers' Market and Piedmont Restaurant, this stretch of Foster Street and surrounding area seems to be exploding. Fullsteam Brewery recently opened on Rigsbee Avenue, serving up cold seasonal and local beers along with music and food truck eats. And even more recently, this Central Park district has welcomed Geer Street Garden, an old gas and service station turned casual eatery, using local produce, meats and cheese. The restaurant combines a lot of what is great about Durham: an old, brick building repurposed to serve great food highlighting local farmers' and artisans.
I was a little nervous about trying it out when I first looked over the menu, wondering if they would have any options for me that didn't include gluten. Although their sandwiches sound and look amazing, I am unfortunately unable to eat them. For most of the gluten-eating population, however, the menu is full of great looking finds, from the locally raised beef burgers to the giant pimento cheese sandwich - a southern classic. However, when we arrived at the restaurant, I was pleasantly surprised to find a number of gluten-free options and a very helpful bartender who was willing to check and assure me which menu items I could eat. Instead of being forced to order the one and only gluten free option, I actually had choices! I was thrilled with what I ended up ordering - the seasonal vegetable stew, pictured above - but I'm sure the other choices would have been equally as tasty.
Gavin and I started the evening off with the local salami and cheese board. Unfortunately we gobbled most of it up before I remembered to take a picture but it was complete with thin slices of salami, local fresh goat cheese covered in honey, apricots, and almonds, delicious little pickles and black olives. The toasted crostini rounded it out for Gavin but I didn't miss the bread with all of the other great flavors on the board. As I mentioned, I ordered the seasonal vegetable stew, which was exactly that: a mix of all of the vegetables I had just seen at the farmers' market earlier that week. Mine included patty pan squash, snap peas, carrots and greens, but yours might look a bit different depending on whatever is the freshest available that day. Topping the soup was a generous triangle of polenta cake with sprinkled Parmesan cheese. An absolutely delicious and satisfying meal, showcasing the best our local farmers can produce. Gavin chose the local, pasture-raised burger, complete with a slice of cheese and spicy red cabbage on the side. Not to mention a delicious mound of fresh-cooked French fries, which I was happy to sample. To accompany your dinner, Geer St. offers several beers on tap and in the bottle, a short but tasty looking wine list, and a number of signature cocktails along with anything you want the bartender to whip up for you. The inside of the restaurant is rather small but the big patio outside nearly doubles the space and makes for a lovely evening. All in all, our visit to Geer Street Garden was a huge success and will definitely be followed up by more visits. Nothing beats an affordable meal, highlighting both the history of Durham and the incredible food produced locally.