Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Spring Pasta with Asparagus, Peas, and Prosciutto

"Spring has sprung, the grass is ris; I wonder where the birdies is?"  I have no idea of the origin of that silly poem but I remember my grandfather reciting it to me as a kid and can't help but think of it at this time each year!  Happy spring everyone!

I am so ready for warm weather, and fresh, lighter foods.  It is also great to see fresh asparagus abundantly available.  I made this spring pasta dish with what I had on hand and thought that it was just perfect.  I have been extraordinarily busy and this came together quickly, and was delicious. 

My next post will be in honor of my daughter Cailyn.  She was accepted to her first choice college yesterday!  

Spring Pasta with Asparagus, Peas, and Prosciutto

¾ pound favorite pasta
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup grated parmigiano reggiano.
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
½ cup petite frozen peas, defrosted
1 cup reserved pasta water
6 oz. sliced prosciutto
6 tablespoons sliced basil
salt and pepper to taste

Boil asparagus for 3 minutes in a large pot of salted water. Remove to an ice bath with tongs or a spider. Reserve the water for cooking the pasta. Cut asparagus into 1 ½ inch pieces. Cook penne in the water that was used to cook the asparagus. While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add the garlic, and cook until it is fragrant (about 30 seconds). Be careful not to burn the garlic. Next add the peas and the prosciutto. Lastly add the asparagus. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Add the contents of the sauté pan to the pasta in a large serving bowl. Toss to combine. If the pasta is dry add some of the reserved pasta water. Add the basil and grated cheese. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Toss and serve immediately.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Perfect Corned Beef Baked in Foil with Braised Vegetables

Well the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day continues at the Jersey Shore. The weather this weekend was picture perfect following the terrible storms of late. There was a large turnout for the annual Seaside Heights, NJ St. Patrick’s Day parade which had been postponed by the storm. The local Irish pubs were also hopping. Since we had Irish stew on the 17th, I still had not made corned beef and cabbage. I can’t imagine the entire month of March going by without having it at least once!

I really don’t like the traditional boiled corned beef and vegetables. In my daughter’s words “it is flubbery!” The vegetables get soggy and get coated with fat – yuck! The boiling hunk of meat is just extremely unappealing to me.

Well a few years back, I began cooking my corned beef in the oven wrapped in foil. Simply soak the corned beef brisket (3-4 lbs.) in a pot of water to remove some of the salt. After a half hour or so rinse the brisket and pat it dry with paper towels. Line a shallow 9x13 baking pan with heavy duty aluminum foil. Pour ¼ cup of water over the brisket and seal the foil tightly around the brisket. Bake in a preheated 300 degree oven for four hours. Trim the remaining fat and be sure to slice the meat against the grain. This method makes perfect corned beef!

I really like braised vegetables as opposed to boiled ones. The method is so simple but absolutely outstanding. Simply cut a trimmed cabbage into wedges, add a sliced onion, two peeled and sliced carrots, and place in a lightly oiled baking dish. Top with a ¼ cup mild flavored extra virgin olive oil (I used Frantoia) and ¼ cup chicken stock. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and place it in the oven with the corned beef when two hours of cooking time remain. Once the corned beef is out of the oven, raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Uncover the vegetables and continue cooking until lightly browned (approx. 10-15 minutes). I added a capful of balsamic vinegar before returning the vegetables to the oven based on a suggestion found here– great idea - just delicious! I also served potatoes tossed with Irish butter and parsley.  Perfect corned beef and cabbage dinner!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

St. Patrick's Day Favorites - Beef & Smithwick's Stew & Irish Soda Bread

Beef and Smithwick's Stew

I love St. Patrick's Day!  What a great holiday - no pressure, just good traditional food, festive music, the "wearin' of green", and a beer or two.  Since I am half Irish (my mother is 100% Irish), I like to celebrate each year.  Oh, and a great way to start the day is a green bagel (not Irish but very Jersey Shore)!   This year I made an Irish stew instead of the Irish-American classic of corned beef and cabbage.  I saw the recipe for Beef and Guinness Stew in the March issue of Cooking Light and decided that would be dinner on St. Patrick's Day.  I followed the recipe fairly closely but substituted potato for the turnip and Smithwick's for the Guinness Extra Stout.  Smithwick's (pronounced smitiks) is an Irish Ale from the Guinness Brewery in Dublin.  When we were in Ireland, it was the favorite of the local pub goers (it is a lighter ale).  My husband prefers it to the Guinness, so I figured why not try it in the stew.  It was absolutely delicious! 

Irish Soda Bread
What would St. Patrick's Day be without a slice of Irish Soda bread slathered with Kerrygold butter?  I have been searching out a good Irish soda bread recipe and finally found one that I loved.  I prefer a moist and slightly sweet soda bread that I can enjoy with my Bewley's Irish tea.  This family recipe is courtesy of  Kathleen Reynolds, an editor for Edible Jersey Magazine.  I am so glad that Kathleen shared it in her e-newsletter!

3 ½ cups flour
1 cup sugar (scant)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 TBS carroway seeds
1 cup raisins
2 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350
Grease loaf pan.
In large bowl, mix dried ingredients well- including raisins.
Add buttermilk, stir until blended.
Spoon batter into prepared pan and bake for 55 minutes.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Best Blueberry Pancakes

This is the very first recipe that I ever posted and I think that it is deserving of a re-post. My family loves these pancakes and it is my go-to pancake recipe.  Blueberry pancakes are my favorite which is only natural since the blueberry is NJ's state fruit.  I can't wait for some fresh blueberries from Emery's Blueberry Farms in New Egypt, NJ!   If you live anywhere in the area it is a great place to visit and pick your own fresh, organic blueberries.  I made these with frozen blueberries from Trader Joe's - still very good.  The whipped egg whites make these pancakes nice and fluffy.  A little pat of Kerrygold Irish butter (love it!) and some warmed real maple syrup - perfect pancakes!  Have a great weekend! 

Recipe found here.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Shrimp and Avocado in Tamarind Sauce

My daughter is home from college on spring break - yay!  I can't believe how fast this year has gone by.  It looks like I will actually survive the first round of empty nest syndrome.  We are now anxiously awaiting college acceptance letters for my younger daughter.   The college process is exciting, stressful, emotional, and expensive! 

Well for now I am enjoying the week with everyone home and enjoying the warmer weather!  The snow is just about all gone from my yard and it finally feels like spring will be here soon.    

My daughter requested an Asian inspired dinner.  We have some of the greatest food here in NJ but we seriously lack any good Asian restaurants.  You must travel or make your own.  I had bookmarked this shrimp recipe from epicurious.com and decided to give it a try.  It was quite easy to throw together especially with the help of my daughter.  There is some chopping and measuring involved but no complicated steps.  My whole family absolutely loved it.  I loved all of the different flavors and textures - just perfect!  This recipe is definitely a keeper and sure to satisfy Asian takeout cravings.  Its four fork rating is well deserved.  Trust me, this is so good!! 

Notes:  I substituted about a tablespoon of tamarind concentrate for the tamarind pulp.  The tamarind concentrate is sold in the Indian section of the International foods aisle of my local Wegmans.   My family enjoys spicy foods but you could remove the seeds from the pepper for a milder dish.  I also only used one large avocado which I thought was plenty. 

Shrimp and Avocado in Tamarind Sauce
Gourmet April 2005

Yield: Makes 4 servings

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large shallot, thinly sliced and separated into rings
1/4 cup tamarind pulp (from a pliable block) (I substituted tamarind concentrate)
1/2 cup boiling-hot water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 firm-ripe California avocados (I used one large)
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
2 (1 1/2- to 2-inch-long) fresh Thai chiles or 1 serrano, stemmed and minced (including seeds)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 lb large shrimp in shell (21 to 25 per lb), peeled, leaving tail and first segment of shell intact, and deveined
1/3 cup roasted salted peanuts, chopped

Accompaniment: jasmine rice

Garnish: fresh cilantro sprigs

Fry shallot and make tamarind sauce:
Heat oil in a 1-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then fry shallot, stirring, until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain (shallots will crisp as they cool). Reserve oil.

Soak tamarind pulp in boiling-hot water in a small bowl until softened, about 5 minutes. Force pulp through a sieve into a bowl, discarding solids. Add sugar, soy sauce, fish sauce, and 1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice and stir until sugar is dissolved.

Cut avocados and cook shrimp:

Halve, pit, and peel avocados. Cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks and toss with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice in a bowl.

Transfer reserved oil to a 12-inch heavy skillet and heat over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté ginger, garlic, chiles, and salt, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add shrimp and sauté, turning over once, 2 minutes total. Stir in tamarind mixture and simmer until shrimp are just cooked through, about 2 minutes more.

Spoon shrimp and avocado over rice, then sprinkle with peanuts and fried shallot.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Best Bangers and Mash with Onion Gravy

Sausage and mashed potatoes - BORING - or so I thought.  There is a reason that this is the number one comfort food in Great Britain!  It is delicious - soul satisfyingly delicious.   When my butcher had a special of any sausage $1.99 a lb.(usually $4 -$5+ ) I bought my favorites - parsley and provolone, broccoli rabe, Italian, and something that I normally would never buy - bangers.  Well all of the cold and snow brought out the urge for some great comfort food, European style!  I perused many recipes and eventually came up with a hybrid of many that sounded interesting.  I am so happy with the results and I am now a bangers and mash fan!  I absolutely loved the caramelized onion gravy!  Great pub grub! 

1 lb. bangers
2 medium onions, halved, peeled and thinly sliced
1 1/2  tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp. thyme
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 14.5 oz. can beef stock
2 tsp corn starch
2 tsp cold water
Salt and black pepper

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Add bangers to an oven safe dish and baked in preheated oven until cooked through.  Remember to turn them during cooking so that they brown uniformly. 

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and butter in a heavy saute pan.  Add the onions, season with thyme, and cook over low heat (stirring every so often) until softened and beginning to caramelize.  Stir in the sugar and balsamic, cover the pan, and cook on low for 5 minutes.  Next add the beef stock and bring to a boil (uncovered).  Whisk together the corn starch and water.  Add to the onion gravy.  Stir and boil until it becomes slightly thickened.  Serve immediately with mashed potatoes.  Enjoy!