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

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