Thursday, September 18, 2014

Baked Rigatoni with Brussels Sprouts, Figs and Blue Cheese

I'm not sure how this recipe hasn't made it onto the blog yet, but here it is. This is one of our favorite fall pasta dishes (although you can make it all year round of course). I never would have thought to put these ingredients together, but it works really well! The cheese melts into the pasta water, creating a creamy sauce.

We have made this recipe many times now, and it is pretty adaptable to what you have on hand. We have made it with more brussels sprouts than called for (up to 2 lbs), and we have also made it with less (only 1 lb). This last time, we only had 1 lb brussels sprouts, so we added some cooked swiss chard to increase the greens. In a pinch, we have even used frozen brussels sprouts, but we prefer to use fresh when possible. We have made this with both gorgonzola and blue cheese, sometimes measuring out the exact amount, sometimes just throwing some on and seeing how it tastes. Depending on our mood, sometimes we skip the nuts on top (although it does add a nice crunch). You can also substitute any dried fruit in for the dried figs, although I can't think of anything that would work better. We've never made it with fresh figs, and I don't think I would recommend it. Fresh figs are so delicate, and have such a unique flavor, that I think they are better when eaten fresh (uncooked).

Recipe: Baked Rigatoni with Brussels Sprouts, Figs and Blue Cheese
Slightly Adapted from Mark Bittman
Yield: 4 servings

8 oz rigatoni (the large kind)
1 1/2 lbs brussels sprouts, trimmed and roughly chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
4 oz blue cheese or gorgonzola, crumbled
3/4 cup dried figs, chopped
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped almonds, for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and salt it. Add the pasta and cook 4-5 minutes, until about halfway cooked. It should still be quite firm inside. Add the brussels sprouts to the pot and cook 3 minutes, until the vegetables and pasta are both just barely tender. Drain, reserving some of the pasta water (at least 1 cup), and return the pasta and brussels sprouts to the pot.

Stir in the oil, cheese, figs and black pepper. Add a splash of the pasta water, and stir to combine. Add extra salt and pepper to taste. You want the sauce to be on the thin side, since the pasta will continue to absorb water while baking. Add more pasta water if necessary.

Spray a 9x13 pan with nonstick cooking spray, and pour the pasta mixture into the pan. Cover with foil, and bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil, and make sure there is still some liquid at the bottom of the pan (add more cooking water if there is no liquid left. Bake another 5 minutes, or until mixture is bubbling. Let cool 5 minutes, garnish with almonds, and serve.

Mixed up, about to be baked


Close up, in an attempt to show the bubbling sauce!

A new take on stroganoff - a vegetarian alternative

Joey and I like watching most of the shows on The Food Network. One show we've started watching recently is "Beat Bobby Flay." I used to find Bobby Flay to be incredibly obnoxious and arrogant, so obviously the idea of someone showing him up sounded great. I don't find him to be as bad anymore, but it's still fun watching people try to beat him. There was recently an episode where the chef he was battling chose their signature dish Beef Stroganoff. Somehow, not only had Bobby never made the dish, but he also claimed to have never tasted the dish. Even more miraculous was the fact that he still ended up winning...

Anyway, this started a conversation about beef stroganoff, and the vegetarian version that Alton Brown has made. We looked up his recipe, thought it sounded amazing, and cooked it within the next few days. Let me tell you - it is so so good. It was surprisingly simple to make, and didn't include a ton of ingredients. The flavors all worked really well together - I really liked how the tang of the goat cheese cut through some of the richness. Joey bought some stew meat that he cooked separately, and mixed into his portion.

We made a few changes to Alton's recipe. To make the recipe truly vegetarian, we omitted the beef stock. Instead of just using water, or using vegetable stock (which sometimes has a strong flavor that doesn't work with the rest of the dish), we made a mushroom stock from dried mushrooms. This really enhanced the mushroom flavor, and then we used the reconstituted dried mushrooms in the dish. I've seen mushroom stock sold in stores before, but since we couldn't find any at Kroger, we used this. I think I would much prefer doing it this way in the future instead of buying a pre-made stock that's full of sodium. The only other change we made was with the dairy at the end. We used 5 oz of goat cheese instead of 4 oz, mostly because the log we bought was 5 oz. A cup of sour cream sounded like a lot, so we reduced it to 1/3, and we used greek yogurt instead of sour cream. I've seriously been using greek yogurt as a substitute in everything lately (biscuits and pancakes). It's pretty versatile, and we always have it on hand. I think it gave us the perfect creaminess.

Recipe: Vegetarian Mushroom Stroganoff with Goat Cheese
Adapted from Alton Brown
Yield: 4 servings

12 oz extra wide egg noodles
3 tbsp unsalted butter
5-6 large portobello mushrooms (1 1/4 - 1 1/2 lbs)
1 tsp kosher salt
1 bunch green onions
1 tbsp all purpose flour
14 oz mushroom stock (see directions below for homemade)
1/3 cup greek yogurt or sour cream
5 oz goat cheese
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Add noodles to 4 quarts of cold water in a 6-quart pot, cover and place over high heat. Cook to al dente, 18-22 minutes (check package for exact cooking time), stirring occasionally.

Note: We added the noodles to almost boiling water and didn't have problems - Alton suggests adding to cold water and bringing them to a boil together. He claims that this helps the sauce coat the noodles better.

Clean the mushrooms well. Remove the stems, and then slice the mushrooms in 1/4-1/2 inch slices. Melt the butter in a 12-inch straight-sided saute pan set over medium-high heat. Increase the heat to high, add the mushrooms, and sprinkle with salt. Saute until they darken in color, soften, and give off their liquid. This can take as much as 10-15 minutes, but keep an eye on it.

Slice the green onions, keeping the white part and the dark green part separate. Add the sliced white part to the pan, and saute another 2-3 minutes.

Sprinkle in the flour and stir to combine. Cook until the flour disappears, and the fond (little crusty parts on the bottom of the pan) turns dark brown, about 1 minute. Deglaze with the mushroom stock. Bring to a simmer and decrease the heat to medium-low. Cook for 10-12 minutes, or until thickened.

Add the greek yogurt (or sour cream), goat cheese, and black pepper. Stir to combine, then partially cover and bring to a simmer to warm through - 2-4 minutes.

Meanwhile, your noodles may have already finished cooking. If they finish before the sauce is ready, drain them and spray with some nonstick spray, so they don't clump together. If they finish after the sauce is ready, then great - add them straight to the sauce after you've added the greek yogurt and goat cheese. Stir everything to combine. Garnish with the green onion tops and additional black pepper.

How to Make Your Own Mushroom Stock:
This is really simple. Put 1/2 oz dried mushrooms (I used porcini) in a large heat-safe bowl. Carefully pour 2 1/2 cups boiling water over the mushrooms. Let the mushrooms reconstitute for 15 minutes. Pour the liquid through a coffee filter before using. The recipe calls for 14 oz - if you don't have enough, add some water. (The mushrooms soak up quite a bit of that water, reducing the total volume.) Chop up the reconstituted mushrooms, and add them to the sauce when you add the sliced white bottoms of the chopped green onions.

1/2 oz porcini mushrooms in boiling water

The water turns golden brown almost immediately

Reconstituted mushrooms

Strained mushroom stock - Joey used some to cook his stew meat, so I added enough water to make the final volume equal 14 oz

6 large portobello caps, all sliced up

The reconstituted mushrooms, chopped up, on the left. The sliced white part (and light green part) of the green onions, on the right. The green part of the onions at the top, waiting to be sliced

Cooked egg noodles - ours were finished way before the sauce was ready

The mushrooms have started to release their liquid

We added the reconstituted mushrooms and white/light green onions

See that dark brown stuff on the bottom of the pan - that's the fond. That's where all the flavor comes from!

The stock has been added, and now everything is going to simmer

Lots of sliced green onion tops!

Everything all mixed together

And again

The finished product, with more green onions on top. Delicious!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Awesome Pancakes (with or without blueberries)

Joey had frisbee practice Saturday morning, and I asked what I could make for him once he got back. He declared that he wanted pancakes. I decided this would be the perfect opportunity to test out our new trick for substituting greek yogurt for buttermilk. I knew I wanted blueberries in my pancakes, but he preferred to have them plain. They turned out so so well, and I will make these again and again. I love the amount of pancake batter this recipe gave us - it was the perfect amount for me to have 2 medium pancakes, and for Joey to have 2 large pancakes. If you want more than that, just double or triple the recipe!

Note: we were completely out of almond milk, otherwise I would have used 1/2 cup milk to mix with the 1/2 cup greek yogurt. If you have milk on hand, feel free to use that. Otherwise, I really liked the flavored creamer cut with water. We had hazelnut creamer, but any flavor would work well (or just plain half and half).

Recipe: Awesomely Fluffy Pancakes
From: Working Out and Eating In Original
Yield: 4-5 pancakes

3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup greek yogurt
1 tbsp flavored creamer, brought up to 1/2 cup with water (or 1/2 cup milk)
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 egg
nonstick cooking spray
blueberries (optional)
pancake syrup or maple syrup for serving

Whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside. In a liquid measuring cup with a spout, whisk together the greek yogurt, creamer and water (or milk) until smooth. Add in the melted (and cooled) butter, mix to combine. Add in the egg, and mix well so the egg is beaten. Pour the liquid mixture into the dry mixture, and gently mix until no flour streaks remain.
Spray a nonstick medium pan with nonstick cooking spray, and heat over medium-high heat. Once pan is hot, spoon about 1/3-1/2 cup of pancake batter onto the pan into a circular shape. Add a handful of blueberries, pressing them in to the batter so they are level with the top, if desired. Once bubbles have formed on the pancake surface, and the bottom is golden brown, flip over. It should take 2-3 minutes per side.
Continue with the rest of the batter, re-spraying the pan between pancakes. Keep the pancakes warm in a 200 F oven, or covered with foil.
Serve with extra blueberries on top and syrup.

Joey made me some scrambled eggs to go with my pancakes :)

Seriously, such a delicious breakfast