Sunday, July 29, 2012

Quick Lunch

I'm making a braised leg of lamb for dinner tonight and needed to make something quick and light for lunch. I made a quick tomato salad with cherry tomatoes and a single piece of Burrata mozzarella.

Tomato Salad:
- 2 containers of heirloom cherry tomatoes
- 1 clove of garlic minced
- 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- Shredded Basil leaves
- Pinch of Salt
- Black Pepper

Wash and slice the cherry tomatoes in half.
Mince the garlic & slice the basil.
Mix all the ingredients and serve with mozzarella.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Chicken Empanadas

Before starting on the dough which would be the most time consuming I wanted to marinate the chicken.

For my marinade I used :

  • Paprika 
  • Garlic 
  • Pepper 
  • One shot of Citron Tequila  
  • Thyme 
Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit while you prepare the dough.

For the empanada dough recipe I looked up a few different variations. The one I ended up going with calls for the following:
  • 3/4 cup of cold water
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tsp. of white vinegar 
  • 3 cups of flour
  • 1 tsp salt 
  • 3 tablespoons of shortening, I used Crisco's Vegetable shortening

In a separate bowl beat the egg, egg white, vinegar, and water together.

I beat the egg white first before adding the other ingredients. Whipping some air into the egg white adds to the volume of the mixture.

 Mix the flour and the salt together. 

Add the shortening into the flour mix and blend thoroughly. 

Make a well in the center of the flour, and pour the liquid mixture into the flour. 

Slowly mix the ingredients all together with a fork until it becomes more solid.

Begin to knead the dough until it gets more solid. 
Sprinkle some flour onto a hard flat surface, place the dough on the surface, and knead until the dough is smooth. 

Once the dough is smooth, wrap in plastic wrap and let it sit in the refrigerator for at least one hour. You can freeze the dough but it is better if it's used on the day you make it. It makes about 15-20 three inch empanadas.

Once you're done with the dough start preparing the chicken. 

Take the chicken and place it in a baking dish. Add some crushed tomatoes to the baking dish and some chicken stock. Roast it in the oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. 

While that is cooking, dice 1/4 cup of green chili peppers 
and one yellow onion. 
Take the diced onion and caramelize it in a skillet with a little bit of olive oil and salt. 

Add the chilies cook for 2 minutes and remove from the heat and reserve in the skillet. 

After the chicken is done cooking remove from the oven and allow it to sit for five minutes. 

Remove the chicken from the baking dish and shred it using two forks into bite sized pieces. Add the chicken to the onion and chili mixture in the pan with 2 tablespoons of Old El Pico Taco seasoning mix for chicken. Cook this mixture on low heat for 3-5 minutes. Remove it from the heat. 

Roll out your dough onto a floured surface. Use a measuring cup as a gauge for how big you would like your empanadas to be. 


Cut the dough into your desired size circle and fill with the chicken mixture. Remember that you will have to seal the dough completely around the mixture so for a 3 inch diameter empanada you would fill it with approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons of your desired mixture. 

Then fold over the dough into a half moon shape. Take a fork and pinch the two halves of the dough together. Repeat this until you have used up all the dough. 

Place a clean frying pan with approximately 1/4 inch of olive oil onto medium heat.

Test that the oil is sufficiently hot by putting in it a small amount of the scrap dough you have left over. If it begins to cook the oil is hot enough. Remove from the oil to prevent it from burning.

Cook one to two empanadas at a time for about 2 -3 minute per side. you will be able to tell that the empanada is ready once it turns a golden brown color. The reason for cooking them individually is so that the oil maintains the correct temperature. If you were to try to cook too many at one time the oil wouldn't be hot enough and the dough instead of getting crispy would get soggy and slimy.

Once it has completely cooked place it onto a plate lined with a paper towel so as to absorb any extra oil from the empanada.

Repeat until all the empanadas are thoroughly cooked.

You can serve these with sides of guacamole, salsa and sour cream.

Zucchini & Shrimp

I had some leftover grated zucchini from making my zucchini bread and I tried to replicate one of my favorite dinners from our local Italian restaurant. It's light, minimal calories and absolutely delicious. 

One thing that you have to be wary of is the excess liquid that you will inevitably have in the pan as you are cooking from the zucchini. If you wanted to add additional liquid to the pan for flavor, I would suggest that you first pour off the excess water before adding any additional flavors that you would like to reduce down. 

I purchased precooked shrimp, defrosted and shelled them (I think it is incredibly annoying to have shells in the dish) before cutting them up.. When I defrost shrimp I usually just fill the plastic bag with COLD water and let it sit in the sink while I prepare the other ingredients. After about ten minutes I pour it out into a colander and then let water run over it to get rid of any "fishiness." 

For a single serving, you will need:

Approximately 2 cups of grated zucchini 
1 cup of cooked cut up shrimp 
Red pepper flakes to taste
Salt to taste 
2 teaspoons of olive oil 

Start by cooking the zucchini in a skillet with the olive oil and salt. Make sure to stir occasionally so nothing adheres to the pan. After about 10 minutes add the shrimp & red pepper flakes, allow to cook for another 5 minutes. 

Before I added the shrimp and red pepper flakes, I drained off most of the liquid from the zucchini, and added a splash of white wine (Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio) and I allowed that to reduce down before I added the shrimp and the red pepper flakes. 

There you have it, a quick healthy dinner that is surprisingly filling and delicious, 
serve with some thin slices of a toasted baguette and enjoy! 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Zucchini overload- Zucchini Bread

This year we've grown more zucchini than we know what to do with! 
I've been trying to give most of it away and use whatever is left over but it's been... 
a little bit challenging.  

I decided to make zucchini bread, and since I don't really have that much experience with baking I based it off of several recipes that I found online. I had  more than enough "raw material" to do several batches before I found a recipe that gave me a flavor I was happy with.  

Start by grating the zucchini, some people suggested using a Cuisinart food processor in order to expedite the process, but I just grated it by hand.  

Because of the size the zucchini's have grown to, I was careful to remove the seeds (which had reached the size of PUMPKIN seeds) and the spongy center.
 Spongy center = Weird texture, no flavor, no thank you! 

You will need: 
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup of vegetable oil
- 1 and 3/4 cup of sugar
- 2 cups of grated zucchini 
- 3 cups of all purpose flour 
- 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon of baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
- a pinch of powdered ginger
- 3 tsp. cinnamon 
- nutmeg to taste ( I used 1/4 teaspoon) 

You can add 1 cup of chocolate chips, or walnuts or whatever you want to. 

This makes about 2 loaves of bread, I added the chocolate chips to my second loaf and left the first plain. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and grease two bread loaf pans with butter and flour.

First scramble the eggs well and at a rapid whisk. 

After these have been well scrambled, whisk in the vegetable oil slowly being sure to fully incorporate the oil in small increments before adding more. 

You want to aerate the egg batter as you're whisking, this will add volume to the mixture. 
Once you are done adding the oil, mix in the sugar in the same manner. Small increments, well whisked then add the vanilla extract. 

Mix the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl and mix them well. Reserve the nuts and/or chocolate. 

Slowly mix the flour mixture into the egg batter. 

Follow with the zucchini folding this into the batter, following with the nuts and or chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the two greased pans and bake in the oven for one hour.
 To check that the bread is done put a fork in the loaf, if it comes out cleanly without any residue then it is done. 

Allow to fully cool, remove from the pan, and enjoy!