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Chef Thomas Barker - (707) 294-2285
Serving Napa, Sonoma And Surrounding Counties In The North Bay Area Of California

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Spring has sprung and gone...

Deja vu? I recall Spring 2016 starting the same, a couple weeks of 70 degrees, them POW! - 95 degrees- just like that! 

I guess I shouldn't complain, here in the North Bay Area we probably have the best weather in the country most of the time, so I'll look at the upside of the heat - it's a great way to start the growing season for my vegetable garden, great for Napa Valley grapes and a good excuse to pair light seasonal salads with good Sauv Blancs and Pinot Grigios.

I am making this one that I got from "Bon Appetit" (my favorite food mag) for some guests visiting the valley this month, it combines ripe seasonal fruit and vegies with rich, succulent....wait for it... LOBSTER- YUM!  

It's dressed with an easy to make lemon/shallot vinaigrette, and can be thrown together in a matter of minutes, enjoy!

Lobster, Avacado and Grapefruit Salad 

Ingredients

  • 1 live lobster (you can cheat with thawed previously frozen tails and claws) 
  • 4 teaspoons finely chopped shallot
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 sweet ruby red or pink grapefruit
  • 1 firm/ripe avacado
  • 1 ripe mango
  • 1 oz baby arugula

 

Preparation

Cook and cool the lobster, I prefer to grill the lobster, but boiling works as well. When it's cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the tail and claws, keeping the meat intact as you can. Chill for 1 hour or until cold.
 
Whisk together shallot, lemon juice and salt. Slowly add olive oil in a steady stream, whisking to emulsify (You can use a food processor as well). Refrigerate with the fruit and vegies until all are chilled.
 
Cut peel including all white perth from grapefruit, then slice out the segments and transfer to small plate to drain. You can add any drained juice to the vinaigrette for added flavor.
 
Halve the avacado lenghtwise, discard pit. Wrap 1/2 in plasticic wrap for later use and refrigerate. With the other half cut lenghtwise, then cut into 1/3 inch slices. Peel and do the same for the mango, cutting into bite size chuncks.
Cut the lobster tail in 1/2 lenghtwise, then into 1/2 inch pieces. 
 
Plate the baby arugula on two plates, then divide the grapefruit, avacado, and mango evenly between them, sprinkling them over the top of arugula. Do the same with the lobster meat from the tail, then garnish each salad with a whole claw on top.
Drizzle lemon vinaigrette over top of each and serve while somewhat chilled.

 

  

 

 

January 2016

Well, haven't posted in a while, I've been super busy/having fun  making tons of French Macarons. Who would of thought? You never know where this "chef stuff" is going to bring you, but I do know it's always interesting - never a dull moment! I will post some new seasonal recipes real soon, but for now here's a couple pics of my latest work and a popular recipe from the past....

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

I posted this recipe last year, but it got such good response that I figured why not one more time??

Sticky Miso Chicken Wings

January 2016 

It's a FACT- Football and chicken wings are a match made in heaven. Don't know why, I just go with it. You don't have to twist my arm to make wings- any flavor any time! So with that said, here's a recipe that not only gives you a little variety as far as flavors are concerned, but it's super easy and healthier because we're baking them, not frying. I didn't think I could achieve the crispiness that I demand of my wings, but I was wrong. Baking the wings with this recipe made them not only crispy, but left them moist and juicy as well.

They will be a nice contrast with the traditional hot wings- which should definitely be on hand as well. Try baking some of the hot wings instead of frying, using a hot sauce/ butter combination to baste in the last 10 minutes of baking - it makes eating them a little easier and neater.

 

Ingredients          

                                       

                                               

  • 12 chicken wings, tips discarded and wings split
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/3 cup light yellow miso
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon asian fish sauce
  • 1 Thai bird chile, minced
  • 3 tablespoons turbinado or light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup loosley packed cilantro sprigs
  • lime wedges for garnish 

 

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl toss the wings with oil. Transfer them to a rack set over a baking sheet. Bake for 40 minutes turning the wings halfway through, until they are golden, crispy and cooked through.

Meanwhile, in a small sauce pan combine all of the remaining ingredients except the cilantro and lime wedges. Add 3 tablespoons of water and cook over a moderately low heat, whisking frequently until sugar is dissolved and the glaze is smooth and slightly thickened. At this point add the cilantro sprigs and simmer to let flavors steep, on very low heat for   2-3 minutes. Remove sprigs and discard.

Brush the glaze all over the wings and bake 10 more minutes, until the wings are golden brown and sticky. Serve with lime wedges.

 

 

 

 

Grilled Salmon Bulgogi on Mixed Greens

with a warmed Asian Vinaigrette

July 2015 

Wow! - What happened? One minute it's spring, stuff is blooming and the weather doesn't know what it wants, then pow!  Mid July, hot days with no rain in sight - perfect for grapes, tomatoes and......BBQ!!  I've been fortunate to be real busy - it's vacation season, and this is a top vacation destination (for the grown ups). So, amongst other things, this past month I've been BBQ'ing all sorts of stuff for some great folk from all over the country.

The most popular dishes that I constantly get great reviews about are the Memphis style Pork Ribs and my Grilled Salmon Bulgogi. I will post my rib recipe real soon cause it's seasonal, easy, and TASTY. But for these hot days I think this salmon dish is great with a nice cool glass of Fume Blanc, Pinot Grigio or any of your favorite drier whites.

You can serve it over some baby bok chof sauteed with a little garlic, ginger and soy, or, what I like to do is make twice the amount of the marinate, then after marinating the salmon cook the marinate down by half the volume or more - depending on how thick you like it. Then add about a 1/4 cup of rice vinegar and shazaam! - you've got a great dressing for your favorite greens. Serve the salmon on top of the dressed greens and dinner is served.

You can use salmon steaks, they will be cheaper, but there might be more bones than you like, in which case a filet is the way to go, leaving the skin on until serving.  

This pic is with the salmon served on sauteed baby bok choy with shitake mushrooms, so you have an idea what it might look like if you try the recipe this way instead of the salad.

Ingredients          

                                       

                                               

  • 4 large garlic cloves peeled and divided
  • 2/3 a cup chopped green onions
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry Sherry
  • 1 1/2 inch cube of peeled ginger
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons asian sesame oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce (found in Asian/ethnic aisles of  your supermarket)
  • 2 - 6oz. salmon filets
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 portions of your favorite green salad 

 

 

Directions:

For your convenience, I've already doubled all the ingredients in the marinate, so here you are:

Blend the first 7 ingredients together in a food processor. Then spoon all the marinate over the salmon and let marinate refrigerated for 1 hour.

Get the grill nice and hot.  While grill is pre - heating, remove salmon from marinate, letting some cling on the fish while reserving the rest in a small saucepan. Over a high heat, bring the marinate to a boil then turn down the heat to medium - low, simmering and stirring frequently. Reduce the marinate by about 1/2 until it starts to thicken. At this point whisk in the rice vinegar, and set aside until ready to serve on your salad.

Before grilling your salmon be sure to clean and lubricate your grill so the salmon won't stick. Over high heat put the salmon on the grill flesh side down skin on top, turning 45 degrees after about 2 minutes. Flip after another 2 minutes.Then turn the grill down to a medium flame and continue cooking 3 minutes or so, turning the fish 45 degrees one more time, then finishing for 3 more minutes.

Total cook time should be 10 -12 minutes depending how you like your salmon - some people like it medium rare, some well cooked - your choice.

Serve the salmon over the dressed salad, and enjoy immediately!

 

 

Spring Asparagus and Goat Cheese Dip

April 2014 

I've been busy lately, got a great gig making French Macarons, which is part of the reason I haven't posted any new recipe/blogs lately - but that's a story for a later time...

Spring seemed to come early this year. Some folks here in the "valley " would even say it left early too and summer is upon us with the heat we've been having lately - 90 + degrees this week! This kind of weather always inspires me to: 1) make sangria with lots of fruit-yum!, 2) host more happy hours out on my back patio, 3) stop by the local curbside produce stands where you can get super fresh spring vegetables including tender asparagus and spring peas.    

So what do you do with all these great spring vegies? Well, I'm going to need something to feed my guests on the patio at happy hour that balances well with our fruity sangria, and this app can be made ahead of time. All you have to do is pop it in the oven for 15 -20 minutes, just enough time to finish the first goblet of Sangria :-) , cut some crostinis from a baguette or fresh vegie sticks and you're good to go! 

So here you go, and keep in mind, you can  pretty much use any vegetable you'd like, the seasonal ones will usually be the tastiest and easier on your wallet $$.

Ingredients          

                                       

                                               

  • 1 cup 3/4 inch cut asparagus
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup chopped leeks (white and pale green parts only)
  • 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup mild white grated cheddar
  • 14 oz jar artichoke hearts in water, drained
  • 1/4 cup fresh peas (frozen works if you can't find fresh) 
  • 2 Tbsp fresh chopped chives
  • 2Tbsp fresh chopped mint
  • 2 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
  • 4 oz. fresh crumbled goat cheese divided in 1/2
  • Salt and pepper 

 

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cook the asparagus in a large pot of salted boiling water until crisp tender, about 2 minutes. Drain and cool by submerging in cold water for a minute, then drain again and set aside. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped leeks and cook stirring often until soft, about 10 minutes.

Whisk in the flour, then gradually whisk in the whole milk. Bring to a simmer whisking constantly. Cook whisking occasionally until thickened, remove from heat. Add the grated cheddar and whisk until the cheese is melted and mixture is smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Fold in the asparagus, reserving the tips, and the next 6 ingredients up to/including 2oz. of the goat cheese until mixed evenly.

Transfer the mixture to a 4-5 cup baking dish, then arrange the asparagus tips on top and dot with the other 2 oz. of goat cheese. Bake until golden brown and bubbling, about 15-20 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving. 

Like I said earlier, you can make this dish ahead of time and store for up to 2-3 days before baking, perfect for an impromptu happy hour!

 

Mediterranean Meat Loaf

Febuary 2013 

 I have a ton of resources for recipes- Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Epicurious ( I love this site - www.epicurious.com ), the Food Network, etc. Even with that and all the other foodie search engines available, I'll often get some of my favorite recipes from my clients. So that's where this recipe came from. I like it not just for the moist, juicy and flavorful resulting loaf, but also the simplicity of it.    

 There's something about comfort foods, especially in the winter, and this recipe paired with some mashed potatoes and fresh vegies will make you feel all warm inside.  I'm pretty sure most parents would love to have a well balanced homemade dinner ready to go after a long days work, rather than one of those pre-made dinners from the market, full of salt and preservatives.  

 The beauty of meatloaf is it can be made days ahead of time, and in my opinion, like stews and dishes of that nature, it gets better as it sits a day or two. So make it while you may have some free time on the weekend, and you have lunches (meatloaf sandwiches-yum!) and dinner for days to come.  

Ingredients          

                                       

                                               

  • 1 (12 ounce ) jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
  • 4 slices sliced whole wheat bread, torn into small pieces
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 cup marinara, look for one with the least sugars
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder 
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef 

 

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl combine peppers, bread, eggs, 3/4 cup of the marinara sauce, basil, parsley, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Mix well. Add the ground beef and knead well until thoroughly blended.

Lightly pat the beef mixture into a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. Spoon the remaining 1/4 cup of marinara over the top of the meatloaf. Bake uncovered for about 1 1/2 hours, making sure that the center reaches 160 degrees. Remove from oven and let cool for 15-20 minutes, then tip and drain the fat from the pan. Let cool for another 1/2 hour to 45 minutes - the cooler it is the better it will hold while removing it from the pan. I like to refrigerate it after about 1/2 hour of cooling in room temp. to really let it set before removing it from the pan. Voila!

It will keep fresh if wrapped tightly for 5-6 days, and will also freeze and thaw very well. Enjoy!

 

Sticky Miso Chicken Wings

January, 2013 

It's a FACT- Football and chicken wings are a match made in heaven. Don't know why, I just go with it. You don't have to twist my arm to make wings- any flavor any time! So with that said, here's a recipe that not only gives you a little variety as far as flavors are concerned, but it's super easy and healthier because we're baking them, not frying. I didn't think I could achieve the crispiness that I demand of my wings, but I was wrong. Baking the wings with this recipe made them not only crispy, but left them moist and juicy as well.

They will be a nice contrast with the traditional hot wings- which should definitely be on hand as well. Try baking some of the hot wings instead of frying, using a hot sauce/ butter combination to baste in the last 10 minutes of baking - it makes eating them a little easier and neater.

So, those who know me might be a bit surprised when they hear this (being a Big Blue fan), but I gotta support the area I reside in, so - GO NINERS!!!! 

 

Ingredients          

                                       

                                               

  • 12 chicken wings, tips discarded and wings split
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/3 cup light yellow miso
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon asian fish sauce
  • 1 Thai bird chile, minced
  • 3 tablespoons turbinado or light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup loosley packed cilantro sprigs
  • lime wedges for garnish 

 

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl toss the wings with oil. Transfer them to a rack set over a baking sheet. Bake for 40 minutes turning the wings halfway through, until they are golden, crispy and cooked through.

Meanwhile, in a small sauce pan combine all of the remaining ingredients except the cilantro and lime wedges. Add 3 tablespoons of water and cook over a moderately low heat, whisking frequently until sugar is dissolved and the glaze is smooth and slightly thickened. At this point add the cilantro sprigs and simmer to let flavors steep, on very low heat for   2-3 minutes. Remove sprigs and discard.

Brush the glaze all over the wings and bake 10 more minutes, until the wings are golden brown and sticky. Serve with lime wedges.

 

 

 

Spiced Bundt Cake with Apple Caramel Sauce

January, 2013 

Winter time always makes me want to do two things: Head to the mountains, and when I can't do that - Bake! 

Over the holidays I was experimenting with new cookies and scones amongst other things, and decided to dive into some cakes as well. I started to remember the aromas of "Christmas spices" coming from my mom's kitchen when I was growing up - wafts of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves - coming from either the traditional "Glug" simmering on the stovetop or an apple pie made from the tree in our backyard, cooking in the oven.

Wanting to duplicate those smells in my kitchen, I started looking through all my books and subsribtions for some inspiration. I finally found this recipe in "Food and Wine". It bakes all those aromatic memories into a not to hard to make "Spiced Bundt Cake".

Make sure you generously coat the Bundt pan well with nonstick spray so the cake doesn't stick. Don't do this until just before pouring the batter in.

 

Ingredients             

                                       

Caramel Sauce                                                     

  • 1 cup sugar
  • pinch of cream of tartar
  • 1/4 fresh apple cider
  • 1/4 heavy cream
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt 

 

 Cake

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 Vanilla bean, split lenghtwise
  • 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 slivered almonds
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground allspice
  • 3/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar, plus a little more
  • 1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
  • 3 large eggs
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 cup whole milk

 

Directions

 

Caramel Sauce:

Combine sugar, cream of tartar, and 1/8 cup water in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Cook without stirring,occasionally swirling pan for even cooking until mixture turns a dark amber color. remove from heat and slowly add apple cider, cream, vinegar, vanilla and salt (mixture will bubble vigorously), whisking to combine. Return pan to medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook, stirring to dissolve any caramel bits, for 1 minute. Remove from heat and let cool. Cover and chill. Rewarm slightly before using.

Cake:

Arrange rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Place butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. srape in seeds from vanilla bean, then add rest of bean. Cook stirring often until butter foams, then browns (do not burn), about 5 minutes. Carefully remove vanilla bean, pour brown butter into medium bowl and chill until slightly firm, about 45 minutes.

Pulse the flour and the almonds in a food processor until the almonds are finely ground, transfer to a large bowl. Whisk in the baking powder and the next 7 ingredients, set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat the brown butter, brown sugar, sugar and 3/4 cup powdered sugar in a large bowl, frequently scraping downs sides fo bowl and beaters, until light and fluffy, about five minutes. Mix in lemon zest. Add eggs and yolks one at a time, beating to blend between additions; beat mixture until fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Reduce speed to low, add half the dry ingredients and mix until almost blended. Add milk and mix until almost blended. Add remaining dry ingredients and mix until the batter is blended and smooth. Scrape into well greased bundt pan. Tap pan to even out batter.

Bake until a tester inserted near the middle comes out clean and the cake is dark golden brown, and has begun pulling from sides of the pan, about 65-70 minutes.

Transfer pan to wire rack, let cake cool in pan for 25 minutes. Invert cake onto rack and let it cool completely, about 1 hour.

Dust cake with remaining powdered sugar, then drizzle warmed caramel sauce over cake, allowing it to drip down sides and into grooves and crevices. Serve remaining sauce along side .

Enjoy!!

 

 

Root Vegetable and Cauliflower Tangine with Quinoa Leek Pilaf

December 4th, 2012 

I've been cooking for a vegan couple lately which has got me looking deep into my recipe books. The key for keeping menus interesting and diversified is keeping an open mind when it comes to new ingredients, sometimes using some meatless options or spices that you aren't necessarily familiar with. This is a Moroccan recipe I found in "Food and Wine" that does just that.

Using 1/2 a dozen herbs and spices, this spiced seasonal dish can be made ahead of time, great for a party or just a family dinner. The Quinoa-Leek Pilaf adds a great texture balance and can EASILY be made right before you want to serve. There is also a Parsley Yogurt that can be served as an accompaniment which is optional. To keep it vegan, you need to find a plain soy yogurt with no sugar which is harder than it sounds. If you don't mind using real plain yogurt (it is much easier to find), also try to find one with little or no sugars.

Serves 4-5                                                                      

Ingredients              

                                                

Tangine:

(When it comes to purchasing spices, I've found that "Gourmet Collection" has the best prices, especially saffron)

                                                       

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, 1 inch diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoons ground coriander- I prefer crushing whole seeds, but pre-ground will work
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 pounds turnips, peeled 1 inch dice
  • 1/2 pound parsnips, peeled 1 inch dice
  • 1- 14 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron
  • 1/2 pound sweet potoatoes, peeled 3/4 inch dice
  • 1 head of cauiflower, broken into 1 to 2 inch florets
  • 1 -15 ounce can of chickpeas drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup dried currants
  • 1/2 cup pitted green olives, halved
  • 3/4 cups plain soy yogurt, low or no sugar
  • 1/8 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Quinoa Pilaf:

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pounds of leeks, white and pale green parts only, halved lenghtwise and sliced thinly crosswise
  • 1 1/4 cups quinoa (1/2 pound) rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water

Directions

Tangine:

Heat oil in a large sauce pan or cast iron casserole. Add the onion, garlic and a pinch of salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat stirring often, until soft and starting to brown-about 5 minutes. stir in the tomato paste, cumin, coriander, crushed red pepper, caraway and cinnamon, stirring until fragrant and glossy- about 2 minutes.

Add the turnips, parsnips, tomatoes and their liquid, broth, saffron and a cup of water to the pot and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over a moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the turnips and parsnips begin to soften, about 10-12 minutes. Add the sweet potato, cauliflower, chickpeas and currants to the pot. Cover partially and simmer over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are tender- about 12-15 minutes more. Stir in the olives and season with salt and pepper.  Serve over bed of quinoa pilaf.

Quinoa:

Heat oil in a large deep skillet or sauce pan. Add the leeks and a pinch of salt and pepper and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally until soften- about 5 minutes. Add the quinoa and cook a few more minutes until dry. Add the broth and water to the skillet and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over a moderate low heat for about 20 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed and the quinoa is tender. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes, fluff with fork and serve.

Optional-If using, mix the chopped parsley and yogurt, serve on the side.

 

 

 

                

Stoup

November 2012

 

So it's supposed to be fall here in the North bay, but it has been 90 degrees for the last couple of days (still have tomatoes growing!), and I wanted a hearty dish that wasn't to heavy. It made me think of a recipe some friends gave me, via Rachel Ray on the Food Network- I'm pretty sure. It's has enough "stuff" in it to keep it interesting, healthy, AND fill your family. The best part is the recipe is EASY and makes enough for leftovers, which is even tastier the next day after sitting overnight in the fridge.

 

  • 1 pound chicken tenders or breast                                                            
  • salt and pepper
  • 3/4 pound chorizo sausage
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 6 small red potatoes, diced
  • 1-15 oz. can fire roasted chopped tomatoes Muir Glen is good
  • 1-15 oz. can dark red kidney beans, drained
  • 2 teaspoons hot sauce
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1 bag tortilla chips-unsalted preferred
  • 2 cups shredded pepper jack or cheddar

 Suggested garnishes-chopped scallions, chopped cilantro.

Chop chicken into bite size pieces. Season  lightly with salt and pepper. Dice the chorizo. Add oil to a medium soup pot and warm over medium-high heat . Add the diced chicken and lightly brown for 2 minutes, then add chorizo and garlic. Cook another 2-3 minutes, then add peppers, onions and potatoes. Cook 5 minutes, then stir in tomatoes, kidney beans and hot sauce. Add chicken stock and bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer on medium low heat for 12 more minutes to let the flavors marry.

Pre-heat broiler. Ladle soup into shallow bowls, top each bowl with a generous handful of tortillas, then cheese. Melt the cheese under the broiler. garnish with chopped scallions and cilantro.   

Thats It!

 

Squash and Broccoli Rabe Lasagna

October 2, 2012

A family that I have been cooking for was trying a vegetarian diet , kids and all, but was finding it hard to vary the meals, keep them interesting, and most of all leave them feeling satisfied. I found this recipe in Bon Apetit, replaced the lasagna with the no boil type to cut down the prep time, and played around a few times with it, adding fresh peppers and/or carmelized sweet onions to the filling.

Mom called me this morning asking for the recipe, her kids wanted to eat it the following night again! So here it is in it's original form (still replacing the lasagna noodles), but try adding some of your favorite vegies to it for a little variety.

For Filling

  • 2- 2lb.butternut squash, peeled, halved, seeded, cut crosswise into 1/4 " thick slices
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • kosher salt, fresh ground pepper
  • 2 # broccoli rabe, tough stems removed
  • crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 # fresh mozzerella, coarsely grated
  • 1# whole milk ricotta
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmesan
  • 1 Tbsp. finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tsp.minced fresh sage
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary

 

  • Bechamel and Assembly
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 5 cups half and half and a little more
  • 1/8 tsp. or a little more fresh grated nutmeg
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 #  no boil lasagna noodles 
  • 3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan

Filling

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place squash and 3 Tbsp. of oil in a large bowl, toss with salt and pepper, evenly coating squash. transfer to 2 rimmed baking sheets spreading out in a single layer, overlapping slightly. Roast until tender but not mushy, about 15 minutes.

Quickly blanch broccoli rabe in a large pot of boiling salted water just until it wilts, 1-2 minutes. Drain, briefly cool under running water. Squeeze out excess water, coarsley chop and transfer to a large bowl. Season with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and a little oil to coat. Mix mozzerella with the next 5 ingredients in another large bowl.

For Bechamel

Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour, stir until slightly thickened without browning, 2-3 minutes. Increase heat and slowly whisk in half and half ,1/2 a cup at a time, allowing bechamel to thicken in between additions, which helps prevent lumps from forming. Add 1/4 tsp. nutmeg and bay leaf. Reduce heat to low and cook thinning with with more half and half if it is to thick, until sauce is a milkshake like consistency-about 10 minutes longer. Strain through a fine meshed sieve, into a metal bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of gently simmering water to keep warm.

Assembly 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Ladle 1/4 cup bechamel into a 13"by 9" by 2" baking dish; spread evenly over bottom. Line dish with a single layer of noodles, cutting them if needed to fit. Layer 1/3 of squash over, layer 1/3 of broccoli over. Dollop 1/3 cup ricotta mixture randomly over greens. Drizzle 1/2 cup bechamel evenly over ricotta mixture. Repeat process 2 more times for a total of 3 layers, finishing with a layer of noodles. Spread remaining bechamel over; top with Parmesan. Bake lasagna uncovered until bubbly and starting to brown, about 45 minutes. Turn oven to broil. Cook until browned and golden, 4-7 minutes. let rest for 20-30 minutes before serving.

Like most lasagnas, you usually make more than you need- no worries! Seal pre-portioned leftovers in an airtight plastic freezer bag and freeze, the lasagna reheats nicely in the microwave after thawing in advance. 

 

Thai Butternut Squash Soup

September 24, 2012

It's that time of year again, you can almost smell it in the air. The tomato plants are on their last legs, but big beautiful squashes and pumpkins are popping out everywhere!  Made this great recipe the other day, it has a little more depth and complexity than the traditional version, but is still easy to make.

 

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1  medium sweet onion, chopped
  • 1-2 inches fresh peeled then grated ginger
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon red curry paste
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) coconut milk
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 3 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 Teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup unsalted chopped peanuts
  • 1/3 cup sliced scallions
  • 3  whole wheat pitas or flatbreads, halved
  1. Heat oil in a large, lidded pot over medium heat. Add onion and saute until softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add ginger and garlic and cook 1 minute.
  3. Stir in curry paste and cook another minute.
  4. Pour in coconut milk and chicken broth; stir well to break up the curry paste.
  5. Add squash, bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer.
  6. Cover partially and cook 15 to 20 minutes or until squash is tender.
  7. Puree soup with an immersion blender until smooth.
  8. You can also use a food proceesor, but let soup cool first to avoid HOT steam and soup from expanding and overflowing in processor.
  9. Reheat if necessary.
  10. Stir in lime juice and salt.
  11. Serve with peanuts, scallions and pitas / flatbreads.

 

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