Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Swiss Chard and Mushroom Quiche

Quiches have long been dishes that I thoroughly enjoy but have never attempted to really make myself. For the most part I experienced quiches through frozen packages that are thawed and baked or paired with a cup of tomato basil soup from La Madeline. Urban Acres, the produce co-op of which I am a member, recently began offering farm fresh eggs as add ons to their bi-weekly produce shares. I recently decided to give them a whirl and decided that a quiche was the perfect way to showcase them.

In that same share I received two bunches of swiss chard and a container of shitake mushrooms. Quiche Florentine made with spinach has long been a favorite quiche of mine so I decided the chard should be similarly delicious. Finally, I decided to throw in the mushrooms and some freshly grated nutmeg for good measure. The result was quite possibly the best quiche I had ever had. So if you enjoy quiche, do yourself a favor and give this one a try.

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Swiss Chard and Mushroom Quiche

Pilsbury pre-made pie crust, frozen or refrigerated
1 egg yolk, beaten
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1 cup heavy cream
3 eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 shallots, minced
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 bunches Swiss chard, chopped
1 8 ounce container Shitake mushrooms, stems removed and chopped

Preheat the oven and bake the pie crust according to the directions on the package.
Meanwhile, heat the first tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium high heat and saute the shallots until soft.
 Add the Swiss chard and saute until soft and the volume reduced in half.
 Remove from the pan to a bowl and place aside.
 In the same skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil and add the mushrooms.
 Cook until soft and the liquid is cooked off, remove from the pan and add to the chard.
When the pie crust is done, brush with the beaten egg yolk while the crust is still warm.
 In a large bowl, combine the 3 eggs, cream, nutmeg, salt, and pepper and whisk to combine.
 Add in the chard, mushrooms, and 3/4 cup of the cheese and whisk to combine.
 Pour the egg mixture into the pie crust.
 Top with the remaining cheese.
Bake the quiche at 375 degrees for about 30-40 minutes or when a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

French Style Stuffed Chicken Breasts

I've recently discovered that stuffing chicken breasts is a great way to to add flavor and moisture to boneless skinless chicken breasts. Before this recipe, I'd only stuffed chicken with cheese and herbs. This recipe is unique in that the tenderloins of the chicken breasts are ground and mixed in with the rest of the filling which adds moisture and helps bind the filling to the chicken. The result is really quite delicious.

Also, the pan sauce created from the braising liquid and deglazing the pan really elevates the dish to a new level. I've never really taken the time to make pan sauces to go with my protein main courses before, but after this experience I think I need to make it a more regular occurrence.

One quick warning. While this recipe isn't technically difficult, it is quite time consuming. I foolishly decided to attempt this dish on a weeknight and after 2.5 hours, we finally sat down for dinner at 9:30pm. Needless to say we were quite hungry. So do yourself a favor and save this for a weekend night when you have plenty of time on your hands.

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French Style Stuffed Chicken Breasts

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 8 ounce package sliced baby bella mushrooms
1 small leek, white part halved lengthwise and chopped
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup chardonnay
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Remove the tenderloins from the chicken breasts and set aside. Using a sharp knife, butterfly the breasts lengthwise, cutting almost all the way through.
Place the butterflied chicken breasts between sheets of wax paper and pound the chicken to about a 1/2 inch thickness.
Trim about 1 1/2 inches from the long side of the chicken and add to the tenderloins. Place the tenderloins and trimmed chicken to the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to grind. Remove the ground chicken and place in a medium bowl.

To make the stuffing, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil into a large skillet and cook until all the moisture has evaporated and the mushrooms are brown, about 10 minutes.
Add an additional tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and add the leeks and saute until softened, about 4 minutes.
Add the garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Transfer the mixture to the bowl of the food processor and pulse until the ingredients are chopped.
Add the mixture to the bowl with the ground chicken and add the parsley, Parmesan, salt, and pepper and stir to fully combine.

Pour the wine into the skillet used to cook the veggies and return the pan to the heat to deglaze the pan and remove the browned bits. Transfer the liquid to a small bowl and set aside.
Take one of the chicken breasts and lay it flat, placing a quarter of the filling along the seam.
Roll the breast up and secure with twine or toothpicks. Repeat with the remaining chicken breasts. Season each breast with salt and pepper.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in the same skillet used earlier over medium high heat and brown the chicken breasts on all sides for about 2 minutes per side.
After browning, pour in the chicken broth and reserved wine mixture to the pan with chicken and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to low and cover, simmering until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 160 degrees, about 18 minutes.
Remove the chicken from the skillet and let rest covered with foil.

While the chicken is resting, whisk in the mustard in with the cooking liquid.
Increase the heat to a high simmer and scrape the browned bits from the chicken off the bottom of the pan. Simmer for 10 minutes until the liquid has reduced to about a 1/2 cup.
When the sauce is done, cut the breasts into slight diagonal pieces and pour the sauce over the chicken.

Source: Adapted from Annie's Eats

Friday, February 24, 2012

Holy Ravioli: Fresh Ravioli for the Taking

Bunker and I love ravioli, especially fresh ravioli. But, I for one am not the biggest fan of making pasta dough, it is a lot of work! Perhaps someday if I get a pasta maker/roller/Italian grandmother to make the pasta for me, then I might enjoy making my own ravioli. Until then, there is Holy Ravioli in Dallas. This tiny storefront on Lovers is packed with fresh raviolis stuffed with every imaginable filling which you can accompany with their many fresh sauces, salads, veggies and breads.

At first glance upon entry into the store, you might think you accidentally walked into an ice cream parlor. The raviolis are made fresh, and then immediately frozen, so that when you take the ravioli home and take them out of your freezer (you should keep them in the freezer until you are ready to cook them) and boil them, it is as if they were freshly made minutes before you cook them. They store the fresh ravioli in  ice cream tubs, and as they pull the ravioli out of the tubs and pour them into your bag, you feel kind of like a kid, just imagining the flavor. To be honest, it kind of is like an ice cream parlor for adults! You have all kinds of choices and all kinds of toppings, and best of all, you end up with a fun treat to bring home for the whole family to enjoy, and a night off cooking for you!

The ravioli flavors range from traditional to gourmet to eccentric. Some flavors are: Five Cheese, Traditional Sunday, Chicken Quesadilla, Lobster, Spinach and Feta, Chicken Gorgonzola with Walnuts, and Cheeseburger! Although ravioli is the main focus, Holy Ravioli also features fresh made pastas in flavors like Spinach, Garlic and Herb, and Red Bell Pepper. Their pasta sauces range from Tomato Basil, to Alfredo, to Chipotle Cream, to Bolognese and more! They also feature an extensive Take and Bake menu, a welcome feature for anyone with a life that takes on a life of its own. These meals include Lasagna, Chicken Tetrazzini, Baked Ziti, Mac and Cheese, and King Ranch.  They will even make you fresh pizza that you take home and bake yourself! Another feature that I like is a nice selection of cheese from Dallas' own Fresh Mozzarella Company, always a welcome accompaniment to any meal.    

The staff is incredibly knowledgeable, amiable and warm. We chose the Traditional Sunday ravioli and Arrabbiata sauce. The pasta was perfectly tender and the filling was full of flavor. I loved the Arrabbiata sauce, which added a nice kick and robust tomato flavor. All in all, a repeatable meal! I think next time I will try the Chicken Gorgonzola with Walnuts ravioli! Go try out this local dinner saver.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Roasted Cauliflower

Up until recently, cauliflower has been one of those vegetables that I considered to be off limits for my dinner table. Sure, I love broccoli prepared in almost any way, but cauliflower just did not tickle my fancy. Then last week, I went to a local mediterranean restaurant where they served fried cauliflower. The cauliflower wasn't breaded, so it was different than many friend vegetables I've tried in the past, but the depth of flavor was so delicious it was hard to get out of my mind.

When we received a head of organic cauliflower in our produce share last week, I decided it was time to make cauliflower a side dish for dinner. I had heard that nutmeg pairs well with the cauliflower so I decided to use my birthday gift from Suzie which was a nutmeg grater with a bag of fresh nutmeg. I also decide to sprinkle some parmesan cheese towards the end of the roasting to enhance the flavor a little bit. The results were quite tasty. I don't know that I'd call it my favorite vegetable side, but it certainly has earned its place in the rotation.
My new nutmeg grater with fresh nutmeg
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Roasted Cauliflower

1 head of cauliflower
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons grated parmesan

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Rinse and dry the head of cauliflower and cut the head into florets.
Place the florets on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle the salt, pepper, and nutmeg over the cauliflower florets.
Place in the oven and roast for 20 minutes.
Remove from the oven and sprinkle the the parmesan cheese onto the florets and return to the oven to roast for an additional 5 minutes.
Remove and serve with your favorite meal.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Grissini: Italian Breadsticks

I love bread in almost any form. So, it might not come as a surprise to you that I love breadsticks. No, not the kind that you can get when you call 1-800-pizza, but the kind you get at an authentic Italian restaurant, grissini, crisp and rich in flavor, thin and erratic in shape. Bunker and I really fell in love with these breadsticks at a tiny Italian restaurant outside Malibu, CA. We chatted with the waiter and he told us that they made the grissini (breadsticks) in house, and changed them up everyday by adding rosemary, red pepper flakes, Parmesan or whatever else they thought would be tasty accents to these crispy treats. You could wrap prosciutto or thin slices of cheese around the grissini for an appetizer, or use them like crackers for dips. 

New toy!

I found this recipe on:
These turned out okay...I think I will try a different recipe next time...also...some got a bit darker than I would have liked on the bottom...and my smoke detector also decided they had gotten a bit too brown...that wasn't super fun.

Cort The Beautiful. 

I was watching a history show about the House of Savoy in Italy. First of all, it is a fascinating history, reaching far deeper and wider into history than I ever expected. Second of all, it is a history that is integral to the tasty treat at hand, the grissini. In the late 17th century with the House of Savoy located in Turin (Northern Italy, in the Piedmont region), the young Duke, Victor Amadeus II (Vittorio Amadeo), experienced severe digestive issues, and the court doctor, Don Baldo di Lanzo, was called upon to solve the problem. He enlisted the help of the court baker, Antonio Brunero, to make a very light bread that would be more easily digested. Brunero's solution was to take ghersa, a traditional bread of Turin, and stretch it out into thin strips, so that when baked, the bread is light and crispy. Luckily, this solution aided the Duke greatly, and he was eventually crowned King of Sardinia. So, thanks to the Duke's upset tummy and the imaginative solution of the doctor and the baker, we have a versatile treat that we can all feel good about eating.

This is what I come home to everyday...warms my heart!

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3 1/2 cups of all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 teaspoons of salt
1 package of yeast
1 tablespoon of honey
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 1/2 cups of water

1. Gather your ingredients and your food processor. You do not have to use your food processor. You can mix everything together by hand or in a mixer with the dough attachment. But, I was feeling particularly lazy, and the food processor really makes things a bit faster.

2. Combine the flour, salt and yeast in the food processor, and pulse a few times, until fully integrated.

3. With the food processor set to low, add the honey, olive oil and water. Keep the lid on and use the tube on the top to feed the ingredients into the mixture. Otherwise, with the top off, you will have a huge mess!

4. Once fully combined, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.

5. At this point you can decide if you need more water or more flour. If you need either, add very little at a time as you knead the dough. Remember, you can always add more, but you cannot take anything back out.
6. Knead for about 5 minutes, until soft and elastic.

7. Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover. Let rise for about 1 1/2 hours.

8. Turn the dough out onto your floured surface and punch the air out of the dough.

9. Shape the dough into a large rectangle.

10. Cover and let rest for about 15 minutes.
11. Using a pizza cutter, going along the long side of the rectangle from one side to the next, cut the dough into long thing strips.

12. Roll each strip into a long cylindrical shape.
13. Sprinkle a cookie sheet with cornmeal.

14. Gently place the rolled strips onto the cookie sheet.

15. Begin to preheat your oven to 450, and while the oven preheats, cover the strips to let them rest one last time.
16. Once the oven is preheated, bake the grissini for about 15 minutes, you want them to be lightly browned.
17. Enjoy!