Summer Tortellini

It has been in the 80’s lately with high humidity, and I have to tell you I don’t want hot food. This is why this dish is perfect. Once you let everything cool down it’s so refreshing and light. We, of course, had to add chicken and I marinated it in olive oil with a rub of black pepper, celery salt, and a whole lemon’s worth of zest. The lemon chicken makes the dish taste fresh instead of heavy, adding a nice burst of flavor. I really enjoyed the browned butter to go on top making it a little sweet but not overpowering.

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I adapted this recipe from a favorite blog I follow called Annie’s Eats.

Yield: about 10 servings

Ingredients:

20 oz. fresh cheese tortellini
8 tbsp. butter
1 pint cherry (or grape) tomatoes
2 ears of corn, husked
½ cup peas, fresh shelled or frozen and thawed
Small handful of chives, minced
Shaved Parmesan cheese, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook tortellini according to package directions. Drain well and rinse briefly with cold water to stop cooking and cool the tortellini slightly.

Meanwhile, heat the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Let melt and continue to cook, swirling occasionally, until the butter is a deep golden brown color (be careful not to burn it). Set aside to cool slightly.

Slice or quarter the cherry tomatoes. Cut the corn kernels from the cobs. In a large mixing bowl, combine the tortellini, tomatoes, corn, peas and browned butter. Toss gently to combine. Stir in the chives and shaved Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Avocado snack

Brunel and I had a little extra time before brunch this morning so I thought I’d make a nice snack to go with our strong coffee (la colombe is the best!). I was really excited to buy some figs from the fruit stand guy yesterday, except when I looked this morning they were moldy 😦 No figs, no problem. Thankfully, we bought some beautiful avocados from another fruit stand guy. I have been itching to make little crudo snacks so I got a fresh baguette from our local shop, picked up some ricotta, poured some honey over it and BOOM! Easy, healthy, tasty snack. Don’t tell anyone, but I microwaved the baguette for 10 seconds and it was nice and soft (I can’t stand hard chewy bread).

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Vietnamese pork chops, Mexican corn salad and blueberry hand pies

One of my newest obsessions is the Bon Appetit magazine, especially for the iPad. Most of the recipes are fairly simple but pack a lot of flavor in them. I’m glad I found this Vietnamese pork chop recipe because I was getting tired of the standard garlic and rosemary chops. If you get a thick cut (an inch thick or so) then you can really sear the crap out of it to really lock in that meaty, juicy sauce/marinade that accompanies it. After about 10 minutes in the pan it comes out like this:

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From the BA magazine, here is the recipe:

Ingredients
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 1-inch thick-cut bone-in pork chops (about 2 1/2 pounds total)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Kosher salt
Lime halves (for serving)

Preparation
Whisk shallot, brown sugar, fish sauce, vinegar, and pepper in a shallow dish. Using a fork, pierce pork chops all over (to allow marinade to penetrate faster) and add to marinade in dish. Turn to coat. Cover and let pork chops marinate at room temperature, turning occasionally, 20 minutes.
Remove pork chops from marinade, scraping off excess (reserve marinade for sauce). Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly season pork chops with salt. Cook until browned and cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. Let pork chops rest 10 minutes before serving.
Meanwhile, bring marinade to a boil in a small saucepan and cook until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 4 minutes.
Serve pork chops with reduced marinade and lime halves.

For us, we didn’t need the sauce after we marinaded it but if you’re one to really get it slathered up, go for it. We don’t normally have shallots lying around so a regular small onion will do too.

I also wanted something light and fresh to go with it so I made this Mexican corn salad, which was a little spicy (I added extra for my heartily spiced Haitian man). I would recommend making sure the cheese is finer than I made mine so it blends better. Also, Brunel doesn’t like cilantro so I threw in fresh oregano and rosemary. Really, any fresh herb will do.

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Ingredients
4 ears of corn, husked
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/8 teaspoon paprika
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
2 ounce Cotija cheese or Parmesan, crumbled (about 1/2 cup), plus more for serving
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro plus more for serving
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

Preparation
Prepare grill for medium heat. Grill corn, turning occasionally, until tender and charred, 8–10 minutes; let cool slightly. Cut kernels from cobs and transfer to a medium bowl.
Whisk mayonnaise, lime juice, paprika, cayenne, if using, 2 oz. Cotija cheese, and 2 tablespoons cilantro in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper. Add corn and toss to combine. Top with more cheese and cilantro.
DO AHEAD: Dressing can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill. Corn can be grilled and cut from cobs 1 hour ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

Since we live in an apartment, we definitely can’t grill so I buy the canned corn, but I have to say it tastes so sweet; it’s one of the few things I will use from a can because it’s fast, easy, and flavorful. This is good for any season, but for the summer it’s better not toast them unless you decide to chill it afterwards. If you want to be adventurous, try it with a little smoked paprika.

Lastly, I had to make something sweet so I made these blueberry hand pies. I also like them because you get to make the dough from scratch which was also way too easy. You don’t even need a mixer, just a blender or food processor will do. I still have yet to perfect the art of rolling dough but I just went with what I could manage. I made 5 instead of 6, but I think next time I’ll double the dough recipe so the bread can really cover all the blueberries.

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Pie crust
Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Preparation
Pulse flour, sugar, and salt in a food proces-sor. Add butter; pulse until the texture of very coarse meal. Add 1/4 cup ice water; pulse, adding more water if dry, until dough comes together in clumps. Form into a square, wrap in plastic, and chill until firm, about 2 hours.
DO AHEAD: Crust can be made 3 days ahead. Keep chilled. Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes before rolling out.

Hand pies
Ingredients
Buttery Pie Crust (see above recipe)
All-purpose flour (for dusting)
2 cups blueberries (about 10 ounces)
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg, whisked with 1 teaspoon water
1 tablespoon raw sugar

Preparation
Preheat oven to 375°.Roll out dough on a floured surface to a 15×12-inch rectangle. Cut into 6 rectangles.
Toss blueberries, lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Brush edges of rectangles with water; mound some blueberries in center of each. Fold dough over, and press edges to seal. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, brush with egg wash, and sprinkle with raw sugar. Cut slits in tops.
Bake hand pies, rotating sheet halfway through, until juices are bubbling and pastry is golden brown, 35–40 minutes (juices will run onto parchment). Transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Mac and Cheese

In our quest for saving money, mac and cheese is a perfect dish to make since it’s not only comfort food, but really filling. There are many different ways to make a mac and cheese, but the classic never fails. We need meat in ours, though, so Brunel put in chicken and bacon, for extra crunch. My favorite thing to do is to make it with different types of pasta, so this time we did it with orecchiette (little ears).

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I don’t know why I never made my own breadcrumbs, but I have to tell you that freshly made, they are so good. Especially in dishes heavy with breadcrumbs, it makes a huge difference in the taste. I might try to experiment soon with putting different herbs in with it, but just plain is really nice too. Brunel also used an ingredient I wouldn’t have thought of using in it, evaporated milk. But it gave it an extra-rich and creamy texture, though don’t skimp on the butter! After you mix everything up just pop it in the oven for 25 min at 350 deg and voila!

cheese

Adapted from the mac and cheese on allrecipes

Challah French toast with homemade ricotta and strawberry compote

I like using local ingredients as much as possible so I couldn’t resist buying a nice loaf of challah from our favorite coffee shop. Since we’re trying to save money we decided to make brunch on Saturdays instead of going out for it. It works out better really because you can always make something you’re craving instead of trying to find something on the menu that looks appealing.

We slightly adapted the french toast recipe from see you in the morning by putting allspice in the mix instead of vanilla extract (also, I was too lazy to go downstairs to the store). Don’t forget to use quality eggs because you can taste the difference! Also, strawberries are in season and I thought it would be nice to make a little compote to go on it. I loosely followed this recipe for the compote from the food network.

Brunel had to make bacon so most likely you’ll always see it accompany our food 🙂

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Making ricotta and a one pot Italian wonder

Tonight, I made two of my favorite things: ricotta and pasta (though not for the same dish). Until the other day I didn’t realize it was so easy to make your own ricotta. However, it doesn’t always turn out the way you see it in the magazine (darn you Martha Stewart for making things look so easy).

This is how I started:

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So, you put half a gallon of the best whole milk, one and a half cups of the best heavy cream, and a teaspoon of salt over medium-high heat. I bought a candy thermometer because you need to get the temp up to 195 degrees F before you dump 1/4 cup of lemon juice in it. After that you need to separate the curds and wheys.

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It took a lot longer than I thought for this to drain. Most likely because I only had a small mesh strainer. After about half an hour my mother-in-law told me (in creole) that the cheese said it wasn’t coming out tonight…

After an hour or so it settled fairly well:

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They say if you want it to be chunkier you should let it hang and drain for an extra hour, but I had just about enough waiting and will deal with creamier ricotta. Also, if you happen to have a husband who works out a little too much like mine, go ahead and save the wheys for their protein shake. It saves a good deal of money on protein powder.

Tomorrow will be the true test, though, since I’m going to make it in my challah french toast with ricotta and strawberry compote.

The second thing we made tonight was a wonderful one pot pasta dish that I’m not sure why I never thought of doing it before. Martha Stewart again makes life easier (and tastier). Her version has no meat, which doesn’t fly in our house so we add/change a few things.

First, Brunel makes the meat (usually chicken). Being the Haitian that he is, he likes to make it a little spicy, so he marinates it with paprika, cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, steak rub, black pepper, celery salt, cumin, and a touch of lime juice.

quick note* in Haiti the word citron means lemon or lime. They are interchangeable in their culture, so keep that in mind when I talk about Brunel cooking.

After that, you fill a pan with all the dry ingredients you want. We put linguini, onion, basil, olive oil, salt, and pepper in ours.

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We like to heat up our water separately so not to make the pasta too soft. When it’s just about boiling pour the water in with the dry ingredients and let sit for 15 or so minutes (covered). I love tomatoes so much I add a small can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes (love the Muir Glen type) to give a really great texture and depth of flavor.

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At the end just mix it up-

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-and enjoy! (With a little grated cheese)

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I got both recipes from the June issue of the Martha Stewart living magazine:
Ricotta
Pasta