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Roasted Asparagus and Lettuce Salad with Poached Egg

Roasted Asparagus and Romaine Salad with Poached Egg

Roasted Asparagus and Romaine Salad with Poached Egg

Tonight I made a light dinner in honor of the first days of Spring. The temperature this morning was 5 degrees F, but I am trying to think WARM weather. The longer days and sunshine helps.

I love poached and soft boiled eggs. The French seem to use them often as a topping on their foods. I’ve eaten them on salads, toasted breads, cooked vegetables and on quickly cooked stews at home and in Paris and Corsica! Pretend you are in France enjoying the warmth and ambiance and give this recipe a try! It’s a very quick lunch or dinner that is special enough for company! It only takes 30 minutes :)

The original recipe is from Cooking Light May 2013. You can find the recipe there also. Today I used romaine because I could not find arugula at the grocery store. Choose your favorite lettuce variety. The arugula is more French. I also substituted cilantro for the tarragon because I had cilantro in the house. I did not add the toasted bread. If I had not eaten two pieces of bread at lunch, I would have added the bread to this salad tonight :)

Serves 4

1 pound asparagus, trimmed

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

3 tablespoons minced shallots

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon or other fresh herb ( I used cilantro today)

5-ounces baby arugula or other lettuce variety

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

4 large eggs

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  • Place asparagus on a jelly-roll pan. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons olive oil. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon pepper and 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Toss gently to coat. Arrange in a single layer. Bake at 450 degrees for 5 minutes or until tender-crisp.
  • Place in a large bowl: remaining 7 teaspoons oil,1/8 teaspoon pepper, 1/8 teaspoon salt, shallots, lemon juice and tarragon. Whisk together.
  • Add arugula and toss. Divide salad onto 4 dinner plates.
  • Top salad with roasted asparagus.
  • Add water to a large skillet, filling 2/3 full. Bring to a boil. Add vinegar.
  • Break each egg into a custard cup and pour gently into water. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook 3 minutes or to desired degree of doneness. The yolk should be runny, but the egg white should be white, not clear.
  • With a slotted spoon remove each egg and place one on each salad. Sprinkle with black pepper.
  • Voila!

Strawberry Pistachio Semifreddo

Strawberry Pistachio Semifreddo

Strawberry Pistachio Semifreddo

This “semi-frozen” dessert does not require an ice cream maker and is perfect for a dinner party because it serves 8-12. Or you can keep it all for yourself in the freezer! Thank you to Martha Stewart, this was a big hit at our last Dinner Club! Martha Stewart is the entertaining queen of our time. Her magazine, Martha Stewart Living and her website are inspiring sources. You can also find this recipe at MarthaStewart.com

http://www.marthastewart.com/978987/strawberry-pistachio-semifreddo

Our dinner party of 8 divided this dessert into 8 portions. Not a lick was leftover!

Thank you to Rose Thill for discovering this recipe and to Nadine Kanuch for preparing it so exquisitely!

1/2 cup unsalted roasted shelled pistachios

8 ounces strawberries, hulled (about 2 cups)

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar, divided

3 large egg yolks, room temperature

1 1/2 cup cold heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • Line a 5-by-9 inch loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving a 2 inch overhang on all sides.
  • Pulse pistachios in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Transfer to a small bowl.
  • Place strawberries and 3 tablespoons sugar in the processor
  • Puree until smooth and transfer to a fine sieve set over a bowl. Stir puree, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard solids.
  • In a medium bowl set over a pot of simmering water combine egg yolks and 1/2 cup sugar.
  • Beat on high until pale yellow and tripled in volume, about 3 minutes.
  • Transfer bowl to a larger bowl of ice water. Stir until mixture is very thick and cool, about 3 minutes.
  • In another large bowl beat together cream and vanilla until soft peaks form.
  • Whisk 1/3 of whipped cream into egg mixture, whisking until smooth.
  • Then fold egg mixture into remaining whipped cream with a rubber spatula just until thoroughly blended.
  • Pour 1/2 of the cream mixture into strawberry puree. Gently fold together until thoroughly incorporated.
  • Pour strawberry cream mixture into the prepared loaf pan; smooth top.
  • Fold pistachios into remaining cream mixture. Pour evenly over strawberry cream; smooth top.
  • Fold plastic wrap over surface and freeze at least 12 hours.
  • Keep frozen until ready to serve. Invert pan onto a cutting board. Unmold semifreddo, remove plastic, and cut crosswise into 3/4 inch thick slices. Voila!

Warm White Bean and Spinach Salad

Spinach Salad Ready to Serve

Spinach Salad Topped With Parmesan Crumble

Spinach Salad Before Adding the Baked Crumble

Spinach Salad Before Adding the Amazing Crumble

Dave and I have been enjoying delicious food and friendship with our Dinner Club for many years. The four couples meet every 2 to 4 months for a dinner which the host plans. They then assign the other 3 couples one recipe to make. This past weekend our assigned recipe was one the host experienced at a cooking class in Bay City, Michigan at Fusion 1 Café.

This spinach salad is reminiscent of the 1970s version which includes red onion, chopped egg, bacon pieces and a red wine vinaigrette. The Fusion 1 Café recipe goes beyond this, adding northern beans to the dressing. Bacon is substituted with a crumbly mix of toasted whole grain bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. I used a very hearty whole grain bread which is my favorite choice Kroger Private Selections Artisian Multi- Grain Boule.

This is a hearty salad which can be a nice lunch or light dinner.

2 slices multi-grain bread (the larger middle slices of a round boule)(dry overnight on a rack on the counter)

1 cup grated parmesan cheese, high quality such as Parmigiano-Reggiano

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

10 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped (use generous size cloves)

Salt and pepper

3/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh chopped rosemary

1 pound great northern beans, (I used 1-15 ounce can, slightly drained.)

4 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped

6 tablespoons red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 pound baby spinach (I used 10 ounces for 8 people)

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced and soaked in ice water for 5 minutes

1 yellow bell pepper, thin julienned sliced

Shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese as needed

2 hard boiled eggs

  • In a food processor place the dried bread, parmesan, 2 tablespoons oil, salt and pepper. Pulse until ground and combined.
  • Toast the mixture in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Set aside.
  • Place a skillet over medium heat.
  • Add the 3/4 cup olive oil and heat. Add the garlic and rosemary.
  • Cook only 1 minute or less. Do not brown.
  • Add beans and cook on low for 7 minutes.
  • Stir in tomatoes, vinegar and Dijon. Remove from heat.
  • In a large salad bowl place spinach, onion and sliced pepper.
  • Pour bean mixture over all. Add the cheese and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Shred the eggs over all and top with bread crumb mixture.
  • Present at the table and toss slightly to serve.

Sausage and Kale Saute

Sausage and Kale with Cauliflower Mash and Romano Cheese

Sausage and Kale with Cauliflower Mash and Romano Cheese

Enjoy this kale and meat delish dish, rich in K 1 and K 2. I found this recipe in Real Simple Magazine last fall and I made it even more “simple”, changing it from a crock pot recipe to a quick stove top sauté. Serve it with pasta, mashed potatoes, or my Cauliflower Mash. All are good. Cauliflower has fewer carbs and some alternative nutrients. The Romano cheese is not essential, but it’s a yummy addition.  We like spicy and try to avoid fat, so I used hot Italian turkey sausage which is perfect for us. The sweet Italian turkey sausage would be good too. Don’t be afraid to add a ton of kale. I use the entire bunch, removing the stems before chopping. It shrinks up a lot!

Kale is the rage for it’s richness in Vitamin K which was first discovered in the early 1930′s for it’s role in coagulation. Deficiencies in Vitamin K are rare, or at least for K 1.  There is also a K 2 where deficiencies are common.  In the 21st century we are learning of the impact K 2 has on our heart and bone health.

K 2 is found in liver, chicken, beef, bacon, ham, egg yolks, and high-fat dairy foods. Some studies indicate it may help strengthen our bones and prevent the accumulation of calcium in our veins and arteries. This is significant, considering that 20% of our atherosclerotic plaques are comprised of calcium.

K 2 is also found in a fermented soy food called natto. The studies of Japanese women indicate those who eat natto regularly have a lower risk of hip fracture. High doses of vitamin K 2 supplements are approved in Japan for the treatment of osteoporosis.

And it may matter that we eat meat that is grass fed, rather than grain fed. We get vitamin K 2 from animal foods because animals synthesize vitamin K 2 from K 1 which they get from the grass they eat.

Hard cheese is a better source of K 2 than other dairy foods. Vitamin K is a fat soluble vitamin, so it makes sense it is found in high fat foods.  Interesting that eating high fat foods may help our hearts and bones!

At this time we can accurately measure our blood levels of K 1, but not K 2. In the meantime, we need to be aware of the food sources of vitamins K 1 and K 2 and know that K 2 deficiency is prevalent.

For more information on Vitamin K go to the link below:

http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/060113p54.shtml

Sausage and Kale Saute

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound hot or sweet Italian chicken or pork sausage links, casings removed

1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, chopped or diced tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

Salt and pepper as desired

1 bunch kale, stems discarded and leaves roughly chopped (about 7 cups or more)

  • Heat a Dutch oven or large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the oil.
  • Add onion and sauté until tender.
  • Add the garlic and stir constantly for 30 seconds. Do not brown!
  • Add sausage and break apart with a large spoon as it sautés.
  • Once the meat is thoroughly cooked, add the tomatoes and tomato paste and kale.
  • Mix and simmer 20 minutes.
  • I cook on an electric flat surface stove top. If you use a gas stove top, you may have to cover and/or add some water to prevent  sticking to the pan surface. I find cooking with gas is a drier heat. My next stove top will be gas :)
  • Serve in shallow bowls over Cauliflower Mash. Sprinkle with grated Romano cheese if desired. My favorite is the Locatelli brand.

Fish Packets

Fish and Vegetables Baked in Parchment

Fish and Vegetables Baked in Parchment

I love to experiment with parchment packets of fish, veggies and flavors. It takes less than 30 minutes from start to finish. Here is my latest based on a recipe from Cooking Light.

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
  • Take 2 pieces of parchment paper measuring about 15 x 23 inches.
  • Fold each piece in half and draw in half of a heart shape, using most of the paper. Cut shape and unfold.
  • Place a six-ounce fish fillet on one side of each heart shape. I use cod or swai. Any fish will work. Salt and pepper fillets on both sides.
  • Julienne slice 1 1/2 cups vegetables such as red pepper, carrot, and another veggie like snow peas, leeks or shallots.
  • Place half the vegetables over each fillet.
  • In a small bowl combine: 1 1/2 tablespoons softened butter, 1 teaspoon lemon rind, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon fresh dill weed, chopped.
  • With a small spatula, place 1/2 of the butter mix over the vegetables.
  • Place a stem of dill over the butter if you like.
Packets Ready for Folding

Packets Ready for Folding

  • Wrap up the parchment packets as follows: Bring remaining half of paper over the fish. Double-Fold the raw edges together tightly to seal, starting at the top and working your way down. At the bottom, twist the tail to tighten the seal.
  • Place packets on a baking sheet. For more folding instructions and photos, see the link below.
  • Bake 15 minutes. Serve in the packets on plates.
Ready for Serving!

Ready for Serving!

For step by step photos on folding these packets go to:

http://www.cookinglight.com/cooking-101/techniques/fish-cooked-in-parchment-00412000070915/page10.html

Almost Pure Chocolate Cookie

Soft and Crinkly Chocolate Cookies

Soft and Crinkly Chocolate Cookies

Valentine’s Day and chocolate is a combination that remains endless. This Double Chocolate Cookie is perfect for meeting the desire for chocolate and is also our new favorite Christmas cookie. The recipe is from Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan. My copy of this book is well stained and the binding is completely split with use. It’s a compilation of recipes from the experts who baked with Julia Child during her PBS cooking series. It is a classic reference book for bakers of all aptitudes. Rick Katz contributed the recipe.

I prefer small cookies. It’s a technique for preventing weight gain :) The original recipe makes 2 dozen large cookies. I changed this to 4 dozen small cookies. I also use the microwave for melting the chocolate instead of a double boiler.

This is unlike most cookie dough. It is a liquid and needs to be chilled before spooning onto baking sheets. The cake-like batter consists of a pound of chocolate, mostly melted, except for some coarse chunks stirred in and only 1/2 cup flour. It’s almost gluten free!!!

In a medium bowl whisk together:

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Whisk Dry Ingredients Together

Whisk Dry Ingredients Together

Prepare chocolate: Chop 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate into pieces larger than chip size chunks and divide in half. The first half will be melted, so only needs to be cut or chopped into small squares. The 2nd half needs to be in chunks larger than chips. These will eventually be folded into the batter.

Bittersweet Chocolate Cut Into Pieces Larger Than Chocolate Chips

Bittersweet Chocolate Cut Into Pieces Larger Than Chocolate Chips

In a large microwave proof bowl combine and heat the following slowly on the “melt” cycle or heat over simmering water. Heat mixture, stirring occasionally just until melted and smooth. Remove from heat or microwave.

1/2 of the chopped bittersweet chocolate

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped

1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter

Half the Bittersweet and All the Unsweetened Chocolate and Butter, Beginning to Melt

Larger Pieces of Chocolate and Butter, Ready to Melt

Melted Chocolate and Butter

Melted Chocolate and Butter

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment combine and beat the following on high for 10 minutes. The mixture will get very thick and form a slowly dissolving ribbon when the whisk is lifted and the mixture drizzles back in the bowl.

4 large eggs, room temperature

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons instant coffee powder

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

A Ribbon of Beaten Eggs, Sugar, and Flavorings

A Ribbon of Beaten Eggs, Sugar, and Flavorings

  • With the mixture on low speed, gradually add the warm chocolate mixture to the egg mixture. Use your rubber spatula to scrape the bowl. Mix until just combined.
  • Fold in the flour mixture and remaining bittersweet chocolate chunks.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic and chill in the frig several hours, overnight or up to 4 days.
Cookie Batter with Egg, Chocolate and Flour Mixtures Blended

Cookie Batter with Egg, Chocolate and Flour Mixtures Blended

Chilled Cookie Dough

Chilled Cookie Dough

Baked and Ready for Cooling Racks

Baked and Ready for Cooling Racks

Baking:

  • Position the racks of the oven to divide the oven into thirds. Preheat to 350 degrees F.
  • Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Mine are 13 x 17 1/2 inches.
  • To make the smaller cookies use a lightly heaping teaspoon and for large cookies use a heaping tablespoon.
  • Drop the dough onto the lined sheets, leaving 2 inches of space between each mound. These are spreaders.
  • Bake small cookies 7-9 minutes and large cookies 10-12 minutes.
  • Rotate the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through the baking.
  • Watch the cookies closely. They will puff, then sink and crinkle and wrinkle around the edges.
  • Remove them from the oven too early rather than too late!
  • They should not appear dry and they won’t be crisp.
  • Use a metal spatula to transfer the cookies to cooling racks.

Pasta alla Marinara alla Americano

Marinara Sauce

Pasta and Marinara Sauce with Italian Turkey Sausage and Grated Parmesan

Pasta alla Marinara is an Italian dish from the Campania area around Naples Italy. All of the ingredients are available in this region. These people immigrated to the US in large numbers and gave us our current love of Italian pizza and tomato sauce.

We have broken some rules with this recipe as you can see above. #1 We served meat with the pasta. #2 Sauce was served on top of the pasta. #3 Grated parmesan was added to the final dish.  We did eat the green salad after the pasta though :)

Yes food is a religion in Italy and the rules are endless. As the New York Times articles inform us, the meat is served after the pasta on a clean dish; the pasta is not left to drain in a colander, but is lifted out of the cooking pot and then added to the marinara sauce for final cooking; parmesan is not added to marinara. We did combine the pasta with most of the sauce in the skillet. Otherwise, we followed the specifics of this recipe and Lidia Bastianich’s recommendations.

Attencion! Pay attention to the following points of advice from Lidia Bastianich and Julia Moskin:

  • Make sure the garlic is not yellow or sprouted and is firm and white
  • Only peel and slice the garlic. Mincing the garlic breaks down the cells and releases the sulfurous molecules which give the strong flavor and odor.
  • Look for Cento brand or other San Marzano certified D.O.P. whole plum tomatoes, though this special tomato authenticity is questionable. The San Marzano tomato is only grown near Mt. Vesuvius (think Pompeii) and is only a 60 square mile area. That’s a pretty small area for the millions of cans of “San Marzano certified” tomatoes sold every year. A domestic brand recommended is Redpack.
  • Taste test several canned tomatoes to discover a favorite. Look for tomatoes that are fleshy and juicy, ripe from end to end, naturally ripened with few seeds and with a taste balance of acid and sweet. Whole tomatoes with added water/juice may be better than tomatoes canned with added sauce. The added sauce may make a Marinara too thick, but it is all about the taste!
  • Again, I will only add water to the tomatoes, no stock or wine which “muddies” the taste.
  • I will again only use a small dried whole red chile!
  • Fresh basil only, though I do have the dried oregano on the branches purchased in Greek Town Chicago, which is an intriguing alternative. I will pay attention to look for the fresh basil with smaller leaves such as the small potted plants available.
  • A new additional ingredient to this Marinara is seaweed and sea salt. Alla Marinara means “of the sailor”. The historical references are many, but one is the sailor’s trick for deepening the flavor: Their tomato sauce contained seaweed and sea salts which contain glutamates and produce umami, an element that adds a a rounded satisfying and savory flavor.
  • Look for a lightweight pasta pot with a perforated lid such as the Barilla pasta pot Lidia Bastianich uses. She drains the hot water into the sink, but reserves some water in the pasta pot to prevent sticking. If not, I will cook the pasta al dente and then lift it out of the pasta pot and hold it above the hot steam for a moment before adding it to the simmering sauce for final cooking. “Never, never leave pasta sitting around in a colander. In Italy you could go to jail for that.”
  • Never serve Marinara on top of plain pasta. This is the most important rule! Add the al dente pasta to the sauce to heat through and complete the cooking. Serve the sauce coated pasta on the serving plate.
  • No cheese with Marinara! Never serve cheese with fish or seafood either!!!!
  • The meat will be served after the pasta, though for me, this is not a big deal to combine them at serving. I won’t cook the sausage in the sauce. Marinara can be cooked with fish and seafood, added at the last moments of cooking.

The following is written by Julia Moskin, The New York Times. Adapted from Lidia’s Commonsense Italian Cooking by Lidia Bastianich. Click the link below for a cool video.

Homemade marinara is almost as fast and tastes immeasurably better than even the best supermarket sauce — and it’s made with basic pantry ingredients. All the tricks to a bright red, lively-tasting sauce, made just as it is in the south of Italy (no butter, no onions) are in this recipe. Use a skillet instead of the usual saucepan: the water evaporates quickly, so the tomatoes are just cooked through as the sauce becomes thick.

TOTAL TIME
25 minutes                            

Ingredients

  • 1 28-ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes,certified D.O.P. if possible
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 7 garlic cloves, peeled and slivered
  • Small dried whole chile, or pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large fresh basil sprig, or 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, more to taste

Preparation

1. Pour tomatoes into a large bowl and crush with your hands. Pour 1 cup water into can and slosh it around to get tomato juices. Reserve.
2. In a large skillet (do not use a deep pot) over medium heat, heat the oil. When it is hot, add garlic.
3. As soon as garlic is sizzling (do not let it brown), add the tomatoes, then the reserved tomato water. Add whole chile or red pepper flakes, oregano (if using) and salt. Stir.
4. Place basil sprig, including stem, on the surface (like a flower). Let it wilt, then submerge in sauce. Simmer sauce until thickened and oil on surface is a deep orange, about 15 minutes. (If using oregano, taste sauce after 10 minutes of simmering, adding more salt and oregano as needed.) Discard basil and chile (if using).
YIELD: Makes about 3 1/2 cups, enough for 1 pound of pasta
           Originally published with             Marinara Worth Mastering

My husband Dave looks for recipes like the research scientist he is. This Marinara Sauce he found scrolling through the New York Times. Here are the two links which have all the info.

http://www.nytimes.com/recipes/1015987/marinara-sauce.html

http://nyti.ms/MbjajG

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