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Garlic Chicken with Pancetta served with Couscous with Pine nuts and Currants

May 13, 2009   

garlic-chicken-with-pancettaI was watching food television the other day and saw someone make chicken with 40 cloves of garlic. It looked delicious but it seemed quite labor intensive. I have been meaning to make this dish for a while but have been lazy – so I made it simpler. I decided to use less garlic- it takes too long to peel 40 cloves. I used one head of garlic instead and it was more than enough. I also coated the chicken pieces with seasoned flour before I browned them. I saved a step by doing this- I don’t have to take the chicken out and make a roux separately. I also decided to add pancetta for an extra layer of flavor – boy, what intense flavor bacon gives to a dish! Everything is good with bacon! The fresh thyme is a great addition- it brings a very earthy flavor to the dish. I served the chicken with couscous that I made with pine nuts and currants. I usually add golden raisins to my savory dishes- never used currants before- well I am a fan! They are great tiny little balls of sweetness and go really well in the couscous. My daughter who usually takes the raisins out, somehow didn’t mind the currants in the couscous. I added a little extra chicken broth to the dish so we can enjoy extra sauce with the couscous. 

So, since the dish didn’t have any vegetables, I was planning on serving a salad. I had baby arugula in the fridge and decided to make it simple and add some lemon juice and salt. It suddenly occurred to me maybe I should serve the seasoned arugula on top of the dish! What a brilliant idea- actually it’s not mine- I have seen it many times on food television– they usually add seasoned greens on pizza, pasta, etc. Well it is a great idea- it tasted fantastic!  The lemony arugula was perfect with the creamy chicken and the sweet couscous. It really was a brilliant dish and I think great for company. We drank a Riesling with the chicken- the same one I used to make the sauce. It stood up to the strong flavors of the chicken dish but was light at the same time. It was a very enjoyable meal indeed- nothing better in life than to enjoy great food and wine with the people you love most! 

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Spinach Meatballs stuffed with Mozzarella Cheese

May 12, 2009   

spinach-meatballs-with-mozzarella-cheeseWho doesn’t love meatballs? My daughter and husband especially do- in all forms. Last week Sia reminded me I had not made them in ages- she does that even when I have not made something in a week but in this case she was right- I had not cooked meatballs in a long time. Now that I am writing this blog, I feel I cannot repeat a recipe- so I started thinking how I can make the meatballs different this time. Of course I wanted to make them healthy but thought I should disguise some veggies in the meatballs as well. I decided to saute frozen spinach with some garlic and shallots and added the mixture to the ground turkey. Speaking of ground turkey- any ground meat can be used but I am trying to use less red meat and I feel dark meat ground turkey does the job really well- although you can’t beat the taste of meatballs made out of a combination of beef, pork and veal! I also decided to add a tiny chunk of fresh mozzarella cheese in each meatball. It give the meat a nice creamy texture- also while cooking the meatballs in the marinara sauce, as the cheese melts and, oozes out into the sauce making it extra delicious! Somehow meatballs taste extra yummy with spaghetti- don’t know what it is- maybe it’s the texture of the thin long pasta but any other pasta shape just doesn’t do. Instead of serving the meatballs with plain spaghetti, I dress it up a bit. Once I cook it, I saute it with some minced garlic, olive oil, salt, dried basil and oregano. It really makes a big difference to the dish on the whole- the dried herbs and garlic take the spaghetti to a whole new level. Another great way to serve the meatballs is on a crusty roll. I usually toast the roll with a drizzle of olive oil. I then rub a garlic clove all over the crusty goodness with a sprinkle of salt. I place the meatballs on top with a slice of provolone or mozzarella cheese- melt in the toaster oven and it’s the best meatball sandwich you will ever taste!!! Of course for the adults, some salad and red wine is a must!!

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Mango Macadamia Nut Cake

May 11, 2009   

mango-macadamia-cakeHere we go with another mango recipe! I just can’t help myself. There are so many of them in my house and this last variety I bought from the Indian store are extremely fragrant- so I can smell them all over the kitchen and dining area. My cousin had given me some macadamia nuts from Hawaii. I stored them in the freezer and was waiting for the perfect opportunity to use them. I had already baked mango cookies and wanted to look for something different- how about a mango cake, I thought!! I started to look for inspiration on the web but there wasn’t that much out there. I finally found one and tweaked and modified it to my liking. What I liked about this particular recipe was that it had crushed pineapple in it- actually the recipe didn’t have any fat-, no butter or oil. I think that is why they included the pineapple since it gives the recipe great texture in the absence of fat. Well, I decided to include both the fat as well as the pineapple. My choice of lipid was extra light olive oil. I like using it for my baking, it does not have the nutty and fruity taste of extra virgin olive oil but it still has it’s goodness. I believe in cooking healthy but don’t like the idea of eliminating the fat all together.  Overall the cake had great texture and a fabulous taste. The macadamia nuts brought a nice creamy crunch to the dessert.  The mango chunks and the pineapple melt in the mouth.  Its a great cake to have with afternoon tea or even a nibble for breakfast. I usually cut a little piece for my husband to enjoy before he goes to work- he likes that- a nice sweet way to start your day.

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Smoky Tomatillo Rice with Avocado and Mango Salad

May 10, 2009   

mexican-rice-with-turkey-and-tomatillosOnce in a while I come up with an absolutely genius one pot meal. Well, this is it- I even surprised myself when I tasted it. I wanted to make something with spanish and mexican flavors but didn’t want to make the normal quesadillas or fajitas or even burritos. I thought about it for almost the whole day and then finally came up with this fabulous dish. I had bought some ground turkey from Trader Joes the day before- I was actually planning to make meat balls with veggies but somehow didn’t feel like it. I have noticed that if I force myself to cook a dish, it doesn’t taste very good… I have to really want to make it – I usually visualize it in my head before I cook the dish- it sounds a little cooky but that is how my brain works. Anyway, I wanted to incorporate the ground turkey somehow in the dish, so I decided to pair it with rice and beans. When I think of Mexican food- tomatillos come to mind – I love using tomatillos– they have a very tart and creamy flavor.  I also wanted to create a smoky dish but didn’t want to add any heat since I wanted Sia to enjoy it- so I decided to use smoked paprika which has a little bit of heat but a lot of flavor. I also decided to use one of my favorite ingredients- roasted frozen corn.  It also has a nice roasted smoky flavor.  I blended the tomatillos, garlic, cilantro and vidalia spring onions and used that as the underlying flavor for the rice.  I don’t know if you all have noticed huge vidalia spring onions every where??  They are delicious- mild enough to use in salads but also have a lot of flavor for sauces, etc.  Once the rice was cooked with all the delicious ingredients, I decided to take it to the next level and add cheese. My first thought was to add queso blanco but then I remembered I had a blend of shredded mexican cheeses in my fridge.  It included monterey jack, queso blanco and a bunch of other cheeses- perfect!  I love sweet and savory flavors in my dishes and decided to add raisins- they are optional but I would highly recommend them.  The little burst of sweet juice midst the smoky rice was very pleasant.  Now as we all know my daughter is obsessed with mangoes- so we have plenty in the house at all times.  I wanted to make a cool salad to go with the rice and decided to combine avocados with mangoes.  I thought very hard about this since both the ingredients have similar textures- my initial idea was to add some crunch to it but at the end I decided to keep it simple- some salt, lime juice and cilantro.  I served the salad on top of the hot rice- it was out of this world!!!  If you cook just one dish from this blog I would recommend this one- it was truly delicious.  All the flavors went really well together- the hot smoky rice with the cool creamy salad- a match made in heaven!

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Asparagus with Shallots and Pancetta

May 7, 2009   

asparagus-with-shallots-and-pancetta When I think of spring, asparagus comes to mind.  It’s the first thing I start to notice in the fresh markets- I am talking about local asparagus.  We do see asparagus from other countries in the winter but somehow it’s not the same- I guess it’s the mindset- the ones in season just taste better to me. Anyway, to round off the Mother’s Day dinner I decided to make asparagus. I also love the salty taste of pancetta and thought it would go really well with the creamy fresh tasting asparagus. Pancetta is an Italian bacon that is cured with spices and not smoked. It gives dishes an underlying depth of saltiness and nuttiness. I decided to use shallots instead of onions or garlic- I wanted the pancetta taste to come through and not be over powered by anything stronger. Well, the marriage of those flavors was a very successful one!  The asparagus was perfectly cooked and bright green with little red brown specs of pancetta all over.  It was a feast for the eyes as well as the mouth.  Overall the steak, potatoes and asparagus made a fabulous meal- now only if someone would cook it for me again!!!

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Roasted Potatoes with Thyme and Garlic

May 6, 2009   

roast-potatoes-with-thyme-and-garlic I am always looking to come up with new potato recipes- I just love them. I think if I could, I would eat a whole bag of potato chips!  I actually used to do that in college- aah, the good old days when weight was not an issue!! Now I am always looking to make them healthy but delicious!

When I came up with the steak dinner for Mother’s Day , potatoes came to mind immediately. Ideally I would want to eat the yummy steak fries one gets with a steak at restaurants, but I want to avoid fried foods as much as possible, so roasted potatoes it is! There is a local steak place where the steak fries are out of this world!  They are crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside but most importantly, they are extremely flavorful! I could eat those potatoes three times a day, seven days a week- just writing about it makes me want some…

For these potatoes, I decided to roast them first with some olive oil and lots of salt.  I think that is the secret, people forget how much salt it takes to season potatoes.  Once they were golden brown, I took them out briefly and rubbed a mixture of fresh thyme, garlic and more salt.  The potatoes came out absolutely delicious- crispy and creamy, and most importantly, very flavorful. They are a perfect side dish with any kind of meat preparation but taste especially yummy with a steak!

 

  • 4-5 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and cut in half
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon plus one teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced

Preheat oven at 400 degrees.

In a medium pot add the potatoes and water to cover and boil till half done. Dry the potatoes and add to a lined baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon salt. Bake for about 30 minutes, or till golden brown and fully cooked. In the meantime, in a small bowl mix 1 tablespoon olive oil, one teaspoon salt, thyme and garlic together. Massage the potatoes with the garlic and thyme mixture and place them back in the oven. Bake for 5-6 minutes until the potatoes are fragrant.

Marinated Steak with Blue Cheese Sauce

May 5, 2009   

tip-steak I wanted to come up with an easy, quick, reasonably priced but delicious meal idea for Mother’s Day. I am usually not keen on going out for the big day- all restaurants are packed and serve subpar food- oh, and they charge a lot of money.  We usually go out the day before for a nice meal and stay in on Sunday.  I usually sleep in and get a beautiful home-made card from Sia- my favorite thing in the whole world- I digress! While I was thinking what to make,  brunch came to mind- I guess that is the most common meal people go out for Mother’s Day. I wanted to do something different- a steak dinner!  I found some tip steaks at Trader Joes. I had never cooked with them before but the steaks looked delicious with lots of marbling and they were very reasonably priced. The balsamic vinegar and worcestershire sauce marinade give the steaks great flavor and color.  I grilled the steaks on my grill pan indoors and got great grill marks on them.  I LOVE steaks with blue cheese- but usually the sauce is made out of lots of cheese and heavy cream- quite unhealthy!  I decided to buy a yummy stilton and pair it with low fat sour cream and fresh thyme.  It’s amazing how much flavor it had- a little bit of cheese and fresh thyme and garlic made a fabulous sauce.  It really excites me when I can recreate a dish with lots of flavor but not a lot of fat! I made the dinner with some roasted potatoes with thyme and garlic; and asparagus with pancetta and shallots- recipes to come tomorrow and day after just in time for Mother’s Day.  The meal was delicious and not very time consuming.  I highly recommend it! We opened a bold French Bordeaux- it stood up to the steak and blue cheese sauce really well!

  • 1 pound tip steak- about 3-4 strips

Marinade

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

Mix all the ingredients and add to a zip lock bag with the steaks. Marinate for 2-3 hours.

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Heat a grill pan on high and add the olive oil. Place the steaks and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side or till they reach the desired doneness.

tip-steak-with-blue-cheese-sauceBlue Cheese Sauce

  • 1/3 cup Stilton Blue cheese, crumbled
  • ¼ cup light sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

Mix the blue cheese and sour cream together in a small bowl. Cook in the microwave for 30 seconds. Mix well and add the thyme and minced garlic. Keep aside for the steaks.