Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Italian Tossed Salad

I tossed this together with things I had on hand to bring to a pizza party at a friend's house the other night.  It was super easy, and was a nice alternative to Caesar salad or just a plain dinner salad.  I didn't really measure, so I'm guessing below, but like I always say, do what looks right to you!

Italian Tossed Salad
2 hearts of Romaine, chopped, washed, dried 
about 1/3 c. chopped hard salami
about 1/3 c. chopped Picante Provolone cheese
1/2 of a small red onion, sliced very thin
banana pepper rings (a few forkfuls from the jar)
2 tbsp. Italian dressing (I poured a little in, and then tossed to coat, and adjusted as needed)
2 tbsp. of grated Parmesan
freshly ground black pepper

Note: If you're bringing the dish somewhere, add the dressing when you get there so it doesn't get soggy. Add lettuce to a large bowl.  Sprinkle in salami, cheeses, onion, banana peppers, a few good grinds of black pepper, and toss to combine.  Add dressing when ready to serve.  

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Asian-Inspired Slaw

I tried a recipe from the "try it eventually" folder last night for some Asian chicken sliders, and they were decent, but unremarkable.  It was still a fruitful effort, however, because I found a super simple, tasty side to serve in the future (although the kids were not fans). I guestimated on the measurements, since I just chopped and added - do what looks right to you.  I made about 1/2 of this recipe, since it was just for 2 of us, but you could easily multiply it for a larger crowd, too.

Asian-Inspired Slaw

2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 tbsp. EVOO
1/2 c. cilantro, minced
pinch of kosher salt
a few turns of freshly ground black pepper
2 c. red cabbage, shredded
1/2 c. carrot, julienned or grated on the large holes of a box grater
1/2 c. red onion, finely diced (could do thin slices if you prefer)
1/2 c. red bell pepper, julienned or diced

You could get crazy here, and add some sliced scallions, toasted sesame seeds, minced jalapeno, garlic, etc.  I'll be experimenting with this over the summer, for sure.

Whisk together the first 5 ingredients.  Add remaining ingredients, and toss to coat.  Serve on a BBQ chicken or pork slider, on the side with any BBQ dish, etc.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Addictive Parmesan Wonton Crisps

I was looking through my Pins for a recipe I wanted to make tonight, and found this one.  I decided to try it, and oh. my. word.  They are so good.  I did have to tweak it a little, though.

For me, following the suggested baking time resulted in the 2nd photo - burned to a crisp (ha ha, get it?).

So I baked mine for HALF that time, for 4 minutes at 375 degrees.  I also added a TEENY sprinkle of cayenne pepper on some to try it, and I liked the kick - might be a good variation next time, with cumin, garlic powder, oregano, etc.  I will be experimenting a lot with these babies, for sure.

This combo was some freshly ground black pepper, grated Parmesan, and some dried parsley, since I didn't have fresh.  I also sprinkled a little garlic powder on some.

On my wonton wrappers, it says 1 serving is 8 wrappers, and if you slice them in 1/2 (like top photo), you'd get 16 crackers.  If you went with the lil' triangles like the 2nd photo, you'd get double that. That's a decent serving size - very satisfying.  They won't do as much damage as a handful of Cheetos (you actually know what all of the ingredients are, too), and are just about as addictive.

I will definitely try these for a party since they look so fancy, but they're going to happen for random snacking from time to time, too.

Feel free to share some flavor combos in the comments if you try some!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Fabulous French Onion Soup

I LOVE French Onion Soup.  I hadn't made it yet this season, so I made a big pot this weekend.  I froze half of it, and served the rest for a Sunday lunch.  The kids don't mind it, but they tend to supplement a much smaller portion with a grilled cheese or salad.  

The key to the amazing flavor is the caramelizing of the onions, so take your time and do it right.  You can do it a day or two in advance if you like, as long as you're cool with onion-ing up your house for 2 days (my kids are always horrified with the oniony aroma when they come home on a day I've been reducing a big pot of onions).  I also recommend making the soup a day or two before you're going to serve it - the flavor is even better when you give it a little time.   The recipe below looks long and involved, but it's really not bad at all.   You can walk away from the onions while they're in the oven, as long as you set a timer, and the stove time is not bad.  Give it a try!

Fabulous French Onion Soup
Adapted from From Cook's Illustrated
Serves 6

Be patient when caramelizing the onions in step 2; the entire process takes up to an hour.  45 to 60 minutes. For the best flavor, make the soup a day or 2 in advance. Alternatively, the onions can be prepared through step 1, cooled in the pot, and refrigerated for up to 3 days before proceeding with the recipe.

2-3 tbsp. unsalted butter
4-6 large yellow onions, sliced thinly (I use my mandoline)
2 c. water, plus extra for deglazing
1/3 c. dry sherry (Don't buy cooking sherry, please - it's salty and gross.  Go to the wine section.)
4 c. low-sodium chicken broth (Swanson Natural Goodness is good)
2 c. beef broth  (Swanson Natural Goodness is good)
6 sprigs fresh thyme (tie with twine if you have it - makes it easier to retrieve stems)
2 bay leaves
salt & pepper to taste

Cheese Croutons
(I prefer these to the giant glob of melted cheese on top that you often get at restaurants.)

1 small baguette, cut into 1/2-inch slices
approx. 2 c. shredded Gruyère cheese (I've used a combo of Swiss and Asiago, too)

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray inside of heavy-bottomed large (at least 7-quart) Dutch oven with nonstick cooking spray. Place butter in pot and add onions and 1 tsp. salt. Cook, covered, 1 hour.  We're not done.  

NOTE: Do not forget to wear your oven mitt when you remove and replace the cover of your Dutch oven over and over during the process.  Not that I have ever done that.  

Remove pot and stir onions, scraping bottom and sides of pot - you'll see some liquid in the bottom of the pan, and your heap o' onions will have reduced a bit.  Return pot to oven with lid slightly ajar and continue to cook for another hour, and stir again.  Continue for another 30-45 more minutes, until onions are golden brown and soft.  I have stopped at this point, and refrigerated my onions for a day or two.   

Place Dutch oven on the stove over medium-high heat.  Don't walk away during this step - you need to watch so you don't end up burning that golden goodness!  Cook onions, stirring frequently and scraping bottom and sides of pot, until liquid evaporates and onions brown, 15 to 20 minutes, reducing heat to medium if needed.  Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until pot bottom is coated with dark crust, 6 to 8 minutes, adjusting heat as necessary. (Scrape any fond (the dark, gooey good stuff) that collects on spoon back into onions.) Stir in 1/4 cup water, scraping pot bottom to loosen crust, and cook until water evaporates and pot bottom has formed another dark crust, 6 to 8 minutes. Repeat process of deglazing up to 3 more times, until onions are dark brown. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the pot for any remaining bits of fond.  Stir in sherry and cook, stirring frequently, until sherry evaporates, about 5 minutes.

Add broths, 2 cups water, thyme, bay leaf, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Increase heat to high and bring to simmer, uncovered. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 30 minutes. While the soup simmers, make your cheese croutons.  Arrange baguette slices in single layer on baking sheet, sprinkle liberally with shredded Gruyere, and put under the broiler until cheese begins to bubble. Set aside until it's time to serve.  Remove and discard the bay leaf and thyme stems and season with salt and pepper.  Ladle into bowls, add a cheese crouton or two, and you're ready to go.  Enjoy!