Monday, September 29, 2008

Roasted Garlic and Broccoli Soup

We had a great weekend in Atlantic City - gambling, a Phillies win to send them to the playoffs (wooo!!!) and the Alanis concert. Unfortunately I stayed out with my friend Stacey until 5 AM so I didn't have my normal productive Sunday. I did manage to make a nice pot of soup when we got home.
I made this one up as I went along instead of looking for a new recipe. I combined ingredients and methods from two previous soup recipes -
Roasted Garlic Soup and Broccoli Mascarpone Soup.

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1.5 bulbs garlic, roasted
  • 8 cloves raw garlic, minced
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 2 large heads broccoli, florets only
  • 6 cups low sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth for a vegetarian version)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
  • Pinch of turmeric
  • Pinch of dried thyme
  • 1/2 c light cream


  • Heat butter and olive oil in a soup pot
  • Add onions, saute 1 min
  • Add raw garlic, saute 1 min
  • Add broccoli and roasted garlic, saute 3-4 minutes
  • Add broth, salt, white pepper, thyme, and turmeric. Let simmer 10-12 minutes, until broccoli is tender.
  • Puree in a blender or by using a handheld immersion blender.
  • Return to heat and slowly add cream.

I added the turmeric after tasting the soup and realizing that it was missing something. I smelled the spice jar and it seemed like it would go perfectly, and it did.

This was a quick and easy soup, was extremely comforting, and I'm glad I decided to experiment today, no matter how tired I was!

Have a great week!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Grilled, Marinated Chicken

I needed a protein to serve with the tortelloni, and Jon felt like grilling, so I marinated some chicken.

For three chicken breasts:

  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp white truffle oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 small shallot, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 small orange pepper (I wanted red but didn't have one), roughly chopped
  • Pinch of dried thyme
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley (didn't have any fresh)
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes

I let the chicken marinate for about 5 hours before Jon grilled it.

Once again, Jon grilled the chicken beautifully and made the most perfect grill marks. The marinade was wonderful - so tasty, just a touch of spice, and a ton of flavor. This marinade would probably work well with pork, too.

Have a great week!!

Ricotta and Spinach Tortelloni in a Garlic Cream Sauce

Fall is here and my travel schedule is crazy. I'm traveling 1-4 days every week through the beginning of December. I don't mind the travel or being busy (busy is good!), but I do miss cooking when I'm away. One can only take so much room service and restaurant food!

So my goal is to make something new every Sunday - I promise to have at least one blog update a week!

Yesterday I was in the mood for pasta, and didn't want to just use the stuff out of the box. I found
this recipe on the Epicurious web site. I followed the pasta instructions, but did not make the sauce in the recipe.


  • 1 10-ounce package spinach leaves, stems trimmed
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Ground nutmeg
  • 24 square wonton wrappers
  • I added 3 cloves garlic, and a pinch each of salt and pepper


  • Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute.
  • Add spinach; cook until most of liquid evaporates, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Drain and cool. Squeeze out liquid.
  • Place spinach in processor. (I chopped the spinach myself and just mixed the ingredients instead of using my food processor)
  • Add ricotta and blend well.
  • Blend in 1/2 cup Parmesan.
  • Season filling to taste with nutmeg, salt and pepper.

To assemble the pasta:

  • Step 1: Place 1 wonton wrapper on work surface. Brush edges with water. Place 1 scant tablespoon filling on 1 half. Fold diagonally in half, forming triangle. Press edges to seal.

  • Step 2: Overlap 2 ends together; press to adhere.

After the second step this is what I ended up with and it didn't look right to me:

So with the next few wrappers I tucked the top down and squished them a bit. I don't think this is how they are supposed to look, but I thought they were cute and it worked for me!

  • Repeat with remaining wrappers, water and filling. Place in single layer on floured baking sheet. (Can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover with plastic; chill.)
  • Working in batches, cook tortelloni in pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer to bowls.

Note: be sure to keep a damp rag on top of the wonton wrappers that are waiting to be used otherwise they get dried out and hard very quickly.

As I took the pasta out of the boiling water, I drizzled them with a touch of olive oil so they wouldn't stick. I was very impressed with how they looked after cooking -

I made a simple cream sauce -

  • Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a pan
  • Add 2 cloves minced garlic and 1/2 chopped shallot; saute 2-3 min
  • Add 1 c light cream, 1 tsp red pepper flakes, 2 tsp dried parsley, pinch of salt and pepper. Bring to a steady simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Whisk in cheese; I used an Italian blend of pecorino romano, parmesan, asiago, and fontina.
  • Stir until creamy; keep warm over low heat stirring occasionally.

I was very happy with both the pasta and the sauce. Although the assembly process was a lot of work, it was fun and I love doing something on Sundays that I wouldn't normally do on a weekday. I'd recommend this recipe, and using wonton wrappers for pasta is so easy. Someday I'll make my own pasta dough, but for now wonton wrappers work just fine.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Another Delicious Marinade by Jon (for Pork Chops)

Several years ago our marinades consisted of something store bought, or a bottle of dressing. Over the past few years, however, Jon has become the master of marinades! He creates the most interesting and delicious marinades for meats and I love how he does it - mostly by smell. Check out the marinades tag to the left of this post to see his other concoctions.

Over the weekend we grilled some pork chops and of course I put Jon in charge of coming up with a marinade. When he asked what I wanted, I only told him I wanted him to create something new and I'd make the sides work with whatever flavors he chose.

Here is a list of ingredients in the marinade, amounts are approximate:
  • 1/3 - 1/2 c olive oil
  • 1.5 tbsp chili-garlic paste
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 2 tsp dried cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp dry vermouth

Jon's words: before marinating you have to stab stab stab the pork chops 57 times on each side. Maybe 37.

In other words, he made a lot of tiny holes in the chops with a fork to allow the marinade to really get into the meat. They then marinated for about 6 hours before we cooked them.

WOW - this was so delicious!!! It was perfect for pork, and Jon cooked them perfectly. The grill marks were beautiful and the pork was so juicy. This marinade may also work for chicken, but it's absolutely perfect for pork.

Scalloped Potatoes

We decided to stay in and cook again on Saturday night . Whenever we stay home instead of going out to eat, it seems that we always choose to cook beef.

Saturday night I picked up 2 filet mignons. I couldn't get Ruth's Chris off my mind after looking at the steak, so I decided to make scalloped potatoes and roasted asparagus. I had never made scalloped potatoes before - they are one of Jon's specialties. However, I wanted to tackle it on my own and try to make mine better than his!

My Scalloped Potatoes


  • 5 baking potatoes, sliced into rounds (about 1/8 inch thick)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 pint light cream
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1.5 cups shredded cheese; I used a mixture of sharp cheddar, mozzarella, and Parmesan
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced


  • Melt butter in a pot, add flour and stir to make a roux
  • Whisk in the cream and red pepper flakes and bring to a steady simmer.
  • After about 3-4 minutes of simmering, remove the cream from the heat and let sit for about 2 minutes.
  • Whisk in the cheese - adding the cheese after removing the pot from the heat is the trick for getting a smooth sauce. When I have added cheese to cream over heat, my sauce sometimes would become chalky (when making mac n cheese)
  • Season with salt and pepper
  • Put a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of a casserole dish. Layer in some potatoes, onions, and garlic. Pour more sauce and continue with the layers until your dish is full.
  • Cover and bake on 400 for 25-30minutes; uncover and cook for another 10 minutes.

My sauce was delicious, but I used just a bit too much. Of course that didn't stop me from eating them with dinner on Saturday AND Sunday (ok, I confess - I had them for lunch today too!).

So Jon's potatoes win the challenge but only because of the sauce to potato ratio. I think one day we'll have to stage a showdown in our kitchen!!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Chicken Florentine and Roasted Red Pepper Orzo

I love browsing cooking web sites for ideas. I keep a recipe box on Epicurious, and have a list of other recipes to try on my computer. When planning my menus for the week, I turned to that list for inspiration. Giada's Chicken Florentine Style seemed like the perfect Sunday night meal. I made roasted red pepper orzo as a side.

Chicken Florentine Style

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • All-purpose flour, for dredging
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter I used less butter, added EVOO
  • 2 tablespoons shallots, sliced I used 1 medium shallot
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic I used 3 cloves
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine I didn't have wine, so I used 1/2 c vermouth and 1 c chicken broth - perfect!
  • 1 cup whipping cream I used light cream
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 (10-ounce) packages frozen cut-leaf spinach, thawed, drained I used fresh - not sure why she used frozen in this recipe!


  • Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper (I also added some paprika and red pepper flakes). Dredge the chicken in the flour to coat lightly. Shake off any excess flour.
  • Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. I used 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp EVOO
  • Add the chicken and cook until brown, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate and tent with foil to keep it warm. My chicken had a touch of pink in the center so I finished it in the oven.
  • Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in the same skillet over medium heat. I used 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp EVOO. Add the shallots and garlic and saute until the shallots are translucent, stirring to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the skillet, about 1 minute. I also added a pinch of red pepper flakes.
  • Add the wine (I added the vermouth first, let it cook off a bit, and then added the chicken broth). Increase the heat to medium-high and boil until the liquid is reduced by half, about 3 minutes.
  • Add the cream and boil until the sauce reduces by half, stirring often, about 3 minutes.
  • Stir in the parsley.
  • Season the sauce, to taste, with salt and pepper.
  • Add the chicken and any accumulated juices to the sauce, and turn the chicken to coat in the sauce.
  • Meanwhile, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in another large skillet over medium heat (I used EVOO only). Add the spinach and saute until heated through. Season the spinach, to taste, with salt and pepper. Arrange the spinach over a platter. Place the chicken atop the spinach. Pour the sauce over and serve.

The sauce was so delicious, and I liked the addition of red pepper flakes. Also, adding paprika to the chicken before cooking helped give it a deeper color. I would never use frozen spinach in this dish - I only use frozen if the spinach is not a main ingredient, or not being eaten alone, such as in my spinach artichoke dip or tortellini soup.

I have grown to love the flavor of roasted red peppers, and especially love pairing it with spinach. I whipped up a roasted red pepper orzo as our side.


  • 1 tsp butter and 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 roasted red pepper, chopped
  • 2 tbsp onion, chopped
  • 1 c dry orzo
  • 2.5 cups chicken broth
  • Approximately 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese


  • To roast the pepper, I put it over the flame on my stove, and turned it every few minutes until all sides were blackened. Then I put it in a bowl, covered it with plastic wrap, and let it sweat for about 15 minutes. After sweating it is really easy to peel off the skin. Seed the chop the pepper.
  • Heat butter and oil in a pot.
  • Add onions and saute 1-2 minutes.
  • Add orzo and toss until coated.
  • Add broth, bring to a boil, then turn heat to low. Cover and let simmer until broth is absorbed, about 20 minutes.
  • Stir in roasted red peppers and cheese.

Delicious! I kept these leftovers for my own lunch today...sorry dad! I'll have to make it for him sometime :)

Have a great week!

Beef Wellington...modified. And some braised leeks, too.

Continuing with our Saturday night in, I decided to try beef wellington for the first time. It would be something fun to do together, and would be the perfect entree to take the place of going out to a nice restaurant to eat.

Jon went to a local farm to get the steaks - the same place where we got our Christmas turkey. Everything we have had from this farm has been amazing (until tonight). He seasoned them with just a bit of Kosher salt and black pepper, and then seared them on the stove. I floured my wooden cutting board and opened the box of puff pastry only to discover that I purchased puff pastry shells instead of sheets. I didn't want dinner to be a flop so I went with what I had and used my imagination.

That's what I'm asking you to do when you look at this picture... use your imagination!

I didn't have a recipe for beef wellington, but have seen it made several times before so I had the general idea. Here is what I did.

  • Make mushroom duxelles: finely chop white mushrooms. Melt butter in a pan and add mushrooms. Saute over medium heat for about 10 minutes. I made the mushrooms about an hour before dinner and then reheated them for plating.
  • Make sauce: add 3/4 c dry red wine and 1/4 c balsamic vinegar to a pot. Bring to a boil and then simmer until liquid has reduced by more than half. I also made this ahead of time and slowly reheated for plating.
  • Sear steaks; move to a 400 degree oven to continue cooking to desired temperature
  • Make pastry shells according to directions on the box. I brushed them with an egg wash since I already had the egg ready to brush on the pastry sheets I thought I bought..

When everything was done, I did my best to salvage this dinner! I put two pastry shells on a plate, topped them with the mushrooms, and then placed a steak on top. I then drizzled the entire thing with some of the red wine reduction.

They looked nice, smelled good, but unfortunately the steaks were the worst steaks we have ever purchased. They had zero flavor. Jon joked that the cows must have been fed only water. How disappointing!! Maybe it's good that I didn't go through all the trouble of wrapping the steaks in the puff pastry. I will try this again, but won't ever buy steaks from that farm again.

Dinner wasn't a total flop - the roasted garlic soup was delicious, and the braised leeks from the Epicurious site were good as well.

Braised Leeks


  • 4 small or medium leeks, tough outer leaves discarded and leeks trimmed to about 7 inches long and cut lengthwise into quarters or eighths I cut off the tough green tops, sliced each leek in half lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest


  • In a shallow dish soak leeks in cold water to cover 15 minutes, rubbing occasionally to remove any grit. This wasn't enough washing for me as the leeks hide a lot of dirt in all of their layers! Be sure to thoroughly wash your leeks.
  • In a heavy skillet melt butter over moderate heat.
  • Lift leeks out of the water and with water still clinging to them add to skillet.
  • Cook leeks, stirring occasionally, five minutes and add broth and zest.
  • Braise leeks, covered, 5 minutes, or until very tender, and season with salt and pepper.

Roasted Garlic Soup

I am pushing for fall to get here, and the weather if finally turning just a bit. On Saturday we were washed out by all of the rain from Hannah, so we decided to stay in and have a date at home - Saturday is normally our night to go out to a nice restaurant.

Our first course was roasted garlic soup, based on
this recipe in my Epicurious recipe box.

I find soup very difficult to photograph, but at least you can see the beautiful, warm color.

  • 26 garlic cloves (unpeeled) You can just keep the bulbs full to make your life easier
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
  • 2 1/4 cups sliced onions
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme I used dried thyme, about 3/4 tsp
  • 18 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream I used light cream
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 ounces)
  • 4 lemon wedges I didn't add lemon


  • Roast garlic: Preheat oven to 350°F. Place 26 garlic cloves in small glass baking dish. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Cover baking dish tightly with foil and bake until garlic is golden brown and tender, about 45 minutes. Cool. Squeeze garlic between fingertips to release cloves. Transfer cloves to small bowl.
  • Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and thyme and cook until onions are translucent, about 6 minutes.
  • Add roasted garlic and 18 raw garlic cloves and cook 3 minutes.
  • Add chicken stock; cover and simmer until garlic is very tender, about 20 minutes.
  • Working in batches, purée soup in blender until smooth. I used my handheld immersion blender
  • Return soup to saucepan; add cream and bring to simmer. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat, stirring occasionally.)
  • Divide grated cheese among 4 bowls and ladle soup over. Squeeze juice of 1 lemon wedge into each bowl and serve. I don't think it needed the lemon, so I didn't add it

I say this with every soup post because I love soup, but this one is my new favorite! It was more elegant that a chunky, hearty winter soup. It was smooth, sweet yet rich, and just delicious.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Pasta in a Fiery Chili Garlic Paste

After our long weekend in Vegas, I wanted something quick and easy. I saved
this recipe for Bucatini in Fiery Chili-Garlic Paste in my Epicurious recipe box for a night just like this.

When I went to the market I completely forgot to get Bucatini (a long, tube shaped pasta), so I used linguine instead.


  • 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, 3 peeled and 1 minced
  • 6 small dried chili peppers or 1 teaspoon chili flakes (I used chili flakes, and probably more than a teaspoon)
  • 1 pound bucatini
  • 2 tablespoons salt (I used less)
  • I added a touch of Parmesan cheese at the end, maybe a tablespoon


  • Heat 1/3 cup of the olive oil in a small skillet over a medium flame (I used a large saute pan so I could use it later to toss the pasta).
  • Add the peeled garlic and chili; cook 2 minutes, or until the garlic is golden and the chili peppers are swollen (or the chili flakes are aromatic).
  • Cool the garlic and chili 5 minutes, then crush in a mortar with a pestle into a coarse paste.
  • Add the remaining 1/3 cup of olive oil to the skillet over medium heat and cook the minced garlic until aromatic, about 30 seconds.
  • Stir in the prepared garlic-chili paste and cook 30 seconds.
  • Meanwhile, bring 5 quarts of water to a boil. Add the bucatini and salt and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.
  • Transfer the bucatini to a serving platter, fold in the chili-garlic sauce and the reserved cooking water, and serve hot.

Mmm, love that heat! Quick, easy, and delicious. Enough said!