Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Taco pizza

I made myself a "taco" pizza of sorts this evening.

With some leftover guajillo chile salsa as my sauce, I topped it with ground chorizo sausage, black olives, diced tomatoes, mozzarella and cheddar cheeses, and some fresh cilantro tossed on when it came out of the oven. Turned out very nice! I loved using the guajillo chile salsa as the sauce. It become so fragrant as it cooked, and it tasted great.

A nice change of pace from my usual pizzas. I will be doing this again sometime soon.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Giada's braciole

Over the weekend, my Mom made a fantastic dish. It was Giada de Laurentiis’ braciole, which is basically a rolled, well-seasoned flank steak that is simmered for a couple hours in marinara sauce and wine.

This recipe also can be found in her first book, "Everyday Italian." I believe Mom followed the recipe pretty much to the letter, with the exception of the wine. We had a bottle of red open, so she went with that instead of the white that is called for in the recipe. Truthfully, I think red might have been a better choice anyhow, making for a richer, darker sauce.

I can't possibly describe how good this was. Served over some spaghetti, the meat was so tender it could be cut with a fork. And the sauce was just decadent (and even better the next day). I will be making this one for myself sometime!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Minnesota Trail Tacos

Lately I have been reading up on Mexican street tacos. What I mean by that is the more authentic tacos you would find at a taco stand or buy from a street vendor. Not the Taco Bell crap with the hard shell, mystery meat, cheese, and lettuce. I'm talking about tacos that are filled with a simple meat, some onion, chopped cilantro, and a zippy salsa.

Recently I stumbled upon an awesome blog, The Great Taco Hunt. This blogger is in pursuit of the perfect taco in and around the L.A. area. Looking at all the wonderful pictures made me hungry, so I decided to make my own, but with a twist.

Given that I am nowhere near a Mexican street, but I am close to Minnesota trails, I thought I would do a little play on words and make “Minnesota trail tacos” using local venison as the meat of choice!

I made batch of guajillo chile salsa from the fantastic book, ”Salsa” by Reed Hearon. I bought this book well over a dozen years ago, and I have used it religiously, making numerous recipes from it. The guajillo chile salsa is like thick, but smooth textured, slightly smoky enchilada sauce.

For the venison, I marinated a pound of venison steaks overnight in a mixture of olive oil, ancho chile powder, paprika, Mexican oregano, ground coriander, and minced garlic. They were seared in a hot skillet, sliced, and served on flour tortillas with the guajillo chile salsa, cilantro, red onion, and a few drops of El Yucateco habanero hot sauce for good measure.

I did a good job with the venison. It was well-seasoned and juicy on the inside, so I did not overcook the meat. The salsa added spicy, smoky heat, and the cool contrast of the raw onions and cilantro was refreshing. The El Yucateco hot sauce gave everything an extra boost. Simple, flavorful food, and quite low in fat as well. Great stuff!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Valentine's M&M Chocolate Chip Cookies

I made some yummy Valentine’s Day cookies this afternoon with M&M’s and chocolate chips.

The recipe is very much the same as my Maca-Toffee-Choco-Cino Cookie recipe in terms of proportions.

Simply substitute Valentine-colored M&M’s (these were the dark chocolate variety) for the cappuccino chips, get rid of the macadamia nuts and the Heath bars, and keep the rest of the recipe the same. I just sampled one and it was fantastic!

I would also like to try this with those new Hershey's Kissables. I would think they would work equally as well in cookie recipes.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Gobbetti with Vodka Sauce, Chicken, and Mushrooms

Since I have a fun run tomorrow morning, I thought I would whip up some pasta for dinner this evening. I didn’t have a recipe that I followed, so with some improvisation I came up with a tomato-vodka sauce with chicken.

I love using chicken thighs. Not only are they cheaper than chicken breasts, but they have a lot more flavor, and they worked really well in this dish.

I used a shape of pasta called “gobbetti.” This particular pasta was a whole wheat version made by Bionaturae. It's like a curly, longer piece of elbow macaroni with ridges. If you don’t have it, don’t fear! You can make this with virtually any short, tube-shaped pasta, such as penne, ziti, or rigatoni.

The combination of tomatoes with a little bit of half & half added gives a luxurious, creamy flavor to the dish. It was a delicious way to load up on some carbs for tomorrow’s run!

Gobbetti with Vodka Sauce, Chicken, and Mushrooms


-Olive oil
-5 cloves garlic, minced
-2 shallots, minced
-1/4 t. red pepper flakes
-1 t. fresh rosemary, minced
-28 oz can whole tomatoes, pureed
-1/3 c. vodka
-8 oz. crimini mushrooms, sliced
-1/2 c. half & half

In a deep pot add some olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the garlic, shallots, red pepper, and rosemary until the shallots are translucent. Add the tomatoes and the vodka. Give it a good stir. Add the mushrooms, and allow to simmer until ready to add the chicken. Hold off on adding the half & half until just about ready to serve.

The Chicken and Pasta

-4 strips of bacon, cut into lardons
-Olive oil
-1 1/4 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs
-1 T. fresh rosemary, minced
-Salt and pepper
-1 lb. gobbetti pasta (or other short pasta)
-1 Roma tomato, diced
-Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for serving

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp. Drain bacon, set aside on a paper towel, and reserve about 1 T. or the bacon drippings in the skillet. Add about 1 T. olive oil and turn the heat to medium high. Add the chicken, and season with the rosemary, some salt, and pepper. Cook until the chicken is browned, but not cooked all the way through. Transfer the chicken to the tomato-vodka sauce.

Turn the heat on the tomato-vodka sauce up to medium high just to get things bubbly and heated through. Reduce to a simmer and let it cook for 30 minutes to an hour. Add the half & half to the sauce and give it a good stir to incorporate.

Cook the pasta to just shy of al dente and drain. Add the pasta to the sauce and stir until the pasta is completely coated with the sauce. Toss in the reserved bacon and the diced Roma tomato. Serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Chili on a chilly Super Bowl Sunday

Yesterday was positively bitter outside, so I didn’t go anywhere. Instead, I lounged around and made a pot of chili for the Super Bowl.

The recipe was loosely based on my beer chili recipe. The only real difference was that I used a combination of beef and chorizo sausage, and I used one can of black beans, and one can of small red beans instead of the kidney beans. Otherwise, the recipe is virtually identical.

The chorizo added some outstanding flavor, so that might become a regular addition to my chili. And, I enjoyed the different beans for a change of pace. It was delicious and made for a great Super Bowl snack on a ridiculously cold Sunday in Minnesota!

Also, I found a new favorite hot sauce. The El Yucateco habanero hot sauce (pictured on the left) is delightfully spicy and sharp tasting, with a nice burn to it. Great stuff!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Moroccan-Spiced Cornish Game Hen

A bitter cold day here in Minnesota. My neighborhood saw a high of -7 degrees! What a great excuse to stay inside and cook. :)

A couple of years ago, I found this Tyler Florence recipe for a roasted Moroccan chicken. What I really like about the recipe is the spice mixture. What an exotic aroma that is created by this blend! It is not spicy, rather the flavors are earthy, with the cinnamon, cumin, and cloves really shining through. Few things smell as good coming out of the oven as this chicken does. I thought it was fantastic.

Anyhow, I made a large batch of the spice mixture some time ago, keeping in an airtight container. It has been used in dishes from this chicken recipe, to lamb sausages, and even dusted over a salmon fillet. Today, I thought I would use it on a Cornish game hen.

Really, this is no different than a chicken, only smaller. I marinated the game hen overnight in some of the seasonings, a little olive oil, the juice of half an orange, and also the zest of that orange half. Today before roasting, I stuffed the cavity with some orange slices that had been dredged in the spice mixture, trussed the bird, seasoned it with salt, pepper, and some additional olive oil.

After a 75 minute roast in the oven at 350 F, the bird came out moist and juicy, with a wonderful perfume of orange and earthy spices. Accompanied by some curry and ginger couscous, roasted carrots, and Brussels sprouts, it was yummy meal on a frosty Februray day!