Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Jalapeno-Peanut Pesto With Masa Gnocchi

One of my favorite hangouts is a pub called the Bleeding Deacon here in St. Louis. They have an awesome jukebox, good beer selection, comfy, friendly feel and good food. One of their appetizers is grilled chicken served with a jalapeno-peanut pesto. Yum! I thought that was a brilliant idea for a pesto, and decided to try making something similar at home.

But what to serve it with? I thought it would be fun to do a Mexican play on gnocchi, just as the pesto is a Mexican-influenced version of Italian pesto. Thanks to the Rick Bayless recipe I made last month, I knew just the thing. Masa Gnochhi! This time, however I added an egg to the dough, in an attempt to make the gnocchi less dense. It worked! I bought some smoked chicken thighs and used the meat from those as my protein and added flavor for this dish.

The pesto recipe makes much more than you will need for this dish, but it would also just be good as a dipping salsa!

Jalapeno-Peanut Pesto

-6 jalapenos, seeded and chopped very roughly
-3 Pablano peppers, seeds intact, chopped roughly
-6 cloves garlic, chopped roughly
-1 1/2 cups roasted, unsalted peanuts
-1/2 cup olive oil
-juice from 1 lime
-salt to taste

Pulse the peppers, garlic and peanuts in a food processor until a paste starts to form. Drizzle in lime juice while processor is running. Slowly drizzle in oil until a desired consistency is reached. add salt to season.

Masa Gnocchi

-1 1/2 cups instant masa flour for tamales + extra for dusting
-3/4 cup hot water
-1/4 teaspoon baking soda
-1 Tablespoon olive oil
-1 egg
-salt to taste

Mix masa and water well. Add baking soda, oil and egg. Combine to form a slightly sticky dough. With floured hands, roll dough into marble-sized balls and press with a finger to indent.

Cook gnocchi in salted boiling water for about 5-7 minutes. Reserve some of the cooking water. Drain.

Combine gnocchi, the chopped meat from 2 smoked chicken thighs, 3/4 cups of the pesto in a pan and gently combine over medium heat, adding the gnocchi cooking water to thin out sauce, until heated through. Serve with shredded Manchego cheese.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Tempeh Broccoli Stir-Fry

I've explained this many times, but I will keep saying it... I love meat, and I love tofu. I don't like when people try to make tofu a substitute for meat. I think that's why poor tofu has a bad rep! The other day I decided to try tofu's cousin, tempeh. Tempeh is made from soy beans too, but unlike tofu, they are left whole, making a more textured, denser product. It also has a more pronounced flavor...kinda nutty and bitter?

I used mine in a stir-fry with broccoli and cashews. I was worried about the bitterness of the tempeh, but this turned out really good! I am a fan, now. I like the texture and nuttiness of the tempeh, especially in a stir fry.

Tempeh Broccoli Stir-Fry

-1 8 oz. pkg. tempeh, sliced into about .25-inch slices, then cut in half to make bite-sized pieces.
-about 4 Tablespoons oil
-about 5-6 Tablespoons soy sauce
-about 4 Tablespoons sugar
-3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
-2 inch piece of fresh lemongrass, chopped fine
-1 large shallot, chopped fine
-1 teaspoon red chili flakes
-1 medium onion, sliced into half moons
-1 head fresh broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets
-2 teaspoons sesame oil
-1 cup cashews

1. Heat 2 Tablespoons oil in a wok. When hot, add tempeh slices and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring gently until there are some nice brown spots on them. Add a couple Tablespoons of soy sauce and cook another minute or so. Set aside on a plate.

2. Add rest of oil to wok, cook garlic, lemongrass and shallot until translucent and beginning to brown. add a Tablespoon of soy sauce and the sesame oil and chili flakes. cook for about 30 seconds, then add the broccoli and onion. Stir/toss often. When the Broccoli starts to turn bright green and the onions start to soften, add a few more Tablespoons of soy sauce and the sugar. Cook, stirring often, until onions are very soft. Add tempeh back in along with cashews. Cook until everything is heated through. Serve over rice with Sriracha hot sauce.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Martha Plans My Dinner-Curry Shrimp!

Martha. Domestic God. She is completely nuts, and I love her for it. I am a big fan of her magazine...it is inspiring in so many different areas. One regular feature is the "What's For Dinner" recipe section, in which there are 4 recipes to make up one entire menu, main course, side dishes and dessert.

I have always wanted to cook all 4 recipes, so, when faced with dinner guests the other night, I turned to Martha and the January issue of Living to guide me. The 4-course menu that month included Shrimp Tikka Masala, Toasted Coconut Rice, Honey Roasted Eggplant with Chiles, and Pistachio Brittle with Ice Cream. This menu called to me, as it is the middle of dreary old, cold, snowy winter. This menu screams warm climate, sunshine, HEAT.

I started with the pistachio brittle. This was my first time making candy... ever. I was nervous, and I had not armed myself with a candy thermometer or even a "wet pastry brush." But I followed the recipe, and, even lacking the pastry brush to wet down the sides and avoid crystallization, the brittle turned out!! It was much easier than I ever expected, and now I find myself thinking about all the brittle possibilities. Endless!

I made the coconut rice next. Ohhhhh mercy me, the smell of toasted coconut. The recipe calls for unsweetened coconut. You will find this in the Indian section of your grocery store... The bag I have is called "coconut powder."

The eggplant was the easiest. Olive oil, chiles and honey to coat eggplant cubes which you then roast.

The shrimp was sooo tasty. I did not shell the shrimp. Yes, my guests had to get a little messy and do a little work at dinner... but who doesn't love a good sticky-finger meal? I also left out the tomato paste and replaced it with Mango chutney, as my Sis-in-law cannot eat tomatoes. I recommend this change. the sweetness was quite nice. I also used curry powder instead of the garam masala, and a mixture of spices in place of chili powder.

I also doubled all the recipes, except for the brittle. Here are all the recipes as I made them, with links to the originals from the magazine.

Pistachio Brittle
From Martha Stewart Living

-Vegetable oil cooking spray, for baking sheet
-1/2 cup shelled raw unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped
-1 cup sugar
-1/4 cup water
-Mango or vanilla ice cream

1. Coat a 13-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Sift pistachios using a fine sieve to remove dust and fine pieces. Heat sugar and water in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon and washing sides of pan often with a wet pastry brush to prevent crystals from forming, until dark golden, about 9 minutes.

2. Stir in pistachios, and immediately pour mixture onto baking sheet. Distribute pistachios evenly using a rubber spatula. Let stand until hardened, about 15 minutes.

3. Lightly bang baking sheet on a counter to break brittle into pieces. Serve with ice cream.

Toasted Coconut Rice
From this recipe in Living

-1.5 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
-1 cup finely shredded unsweetened coconut
-2 cups basmati rice
-4 cups water
-3/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook coconut, stirring, until golden brown, about 6 minutes.

2. Set aside 2 tablespoons coconut. Stir rice into pan with remaining coconut. Add water and salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, covered, until water is absorbed and rice is tender, about 20 minutes.

3. Garnish with reserved coconut.

Honey Roasted Eggplant with Chiles
adapted from this Martha recipe

-4 regular eggplants, peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes
-3 green chiles, chopped fine
-1/2 cup honey
-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
-Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss eggplants with chiles, honey, and oil to coat.

2. Roast eggplants and chiles on a rimmed baking sheet until eggplant is golden, about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so. Season with salt and pepper.

Shrimp Tikka Masala
adapted from this recipe

-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
-2 large onions, thinly sliced
-5-6 tablespoons grated peeled fresh ginger
-5 cloves of garlic, grated
-2 Tablespoons sweet mango chutney
-2 Tablespoons curry powder
-2 teaspoons cumin
-1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
-1/4 teaspoon cardamom
-1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
-2 cups water
-2 lbs. large (20-30 ct.; about 40 total) shrimp, shells on
-1/2 cup plain yogurt
-Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven or a stockpot over medium heat. Cook onion until golden, about 20 minutes. Add ginger, garlic, chutney and spices, and cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes.

2. Add water and shrimp. Cook until shrimp are opaque and cooked through, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in yogurt. Season with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Winter Salsa

Last night I had Nachos and margaritas for dinner. I wanted to make salsa from scratch to go on said nachos, but it's wintertime! There are no good tomatoes for making fresh salsa! So I used jarred salsa, and while good (it's hard to make BAD nachos), I kept thinking about how I could make a decent salsa in the dead of winter. I knew chipotles would be involved... I just always seem to have them on hand.

For the tomatoes, I had planned to used some good canned ones, but while in the produce department I spotted the tiny grape and cherry tomatoes. While big tomatoes in the winter are inedible, tiny tomatoes tend to be pretty good all year round. And whatever flaws they may have, I would discount by roasting them. Yes! roasted vegetables! Perfect for winter!

I also decided this salsa needed to be colorful, to chase away the cold gray weather blues. So I used 4 different colors of bell peppers. I have seen orange and chipotle paired up in other recipes, so I thought I'd give it a try here. Orange=sunshine,after all. The result is a smokey, spicy, bright and slightly sweet salsa. Take that, winter!

Winter Salsa

-1 pint cherry tomatoes
-4 small bell peppers ( I had 1 red, 1 yellow, 1 orange, 1 green)
-5 cloves of garlic, peeled
-1 medium red onion, finely shopped
-1 large shallot, finely chopped
-1 orange
-2-3 canned chipotles in adobo + adobo sauce
-olive oil
-salt & pepper

1. Cut 2 of the bell peppers into large chunks. Toss those, the tomatoes and the garlic cloves in a couple Tablespoons of olive oil and some salt and pepper and spread out on a cookie sheet lined with foil. Roast in a pre-heated 400ºF oven for about 40 minutes, stirring gently halfway through, until the vegetables have some nice brown and black spots. remove from oven and let cool.

2. Chop the other 2 bell peppers up finely. Saute in about 1 Tablespoon of olive oil along with the onion and shallot for about a minute. Finely chop the chipotles and add them to the pan, along with 1-2 Tablespoons of the adobo sauce. Let cook until the vegetables just start to soften. Zest the orange and put zest aside. Slice the orange in half and squeeze it's juice into the chipotle mixture. Stir then remove from heat. Stir in the orange zest.

3. Chop up the roasted vegetables. Add them and their juices to the chipotle mixture. Combine well, taste for seasoning, and add a handful of finely chopped cilantro. Let cool completely and serve.

Huh, this would be great for the upcoming Superbowl! For more awesome recipes for the big game, check out the post I did for Food Blog Mafia on party foods.

Speaking of FBM, We got our photos taken!! My friend Corey Woodruff is an AWESOME photographer. We had lots of fun on the shoot. Here is Corey's blog post about it, and here are all the resulting pics.

More Iron Stef Salsas:
Rick Bayless's Tomatillo salsa
Violet Verde Salsa
White Bean Salsa

Iron Stef Loves Chipotle:
Chipotle Black Beans with Masa Gnocchi
Sweet Potato Chipotle Enchiladas
Barbecued Beef Potpie with Chipotle Masa Crust