A Mexican-Inspired Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette

salad 1

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the direction I want to take this blog. Is it all about the photography? Food styling? Or is it about developing original recipes? I started the blog not only as a way to reach out to friends and family when they requested a recipe, but also as a way to work on my food photography, with the possibility of turning it into something more professional in the future. I didn’t realize just how much time it takes to post a decent blog post, but I’m not willing to cut corners. Don’t worry, Jeannine’s Cuisine is not going anywhere — not after all the work I’ve put into it. But I’ve finally accepted that, as a full-time Government employee with up to 2 hours of commuting each day, sometimes I’m just not going to be able to post as often as I would like. I read about other bloggers who also work fulltime and have been doing this for years. How can they be so prolific? Where do they find the time? As for me, I’m still working out my “blogging routine.” I guess I’ll get it down eventually, but in the meantime, I will continue to post as time allows.

Salad 2

I’ve also thought a lot about my food message. Is it gluten free? Paleo? Desserts? Quick and easy? Original recipes or adapted from other sources? I think I made the right decision when I decided to name this blog Jeannine’s Cuisine, because the food style in my blog is about all of those things. It’s the way I like to cook. Sometimes the food is healthier and at other times the food I cook is better suited to a special occasion, or when I have all kinds of time to cook. What you won’t find here is any processed food or anything labeled “fat free.” I generally change pretty much every recipe I get my hands on to some degree, and occasionally I even get an original idea and just roll with it. But I also use my ever-expanding cookbook collection for inspiration quite a bit. My goal for the future is to expand the collection of recipes on the blog, both original and adapted, to offer something for everyone. Because that’s the way I cook.

Salad 3

Yesterday was Cinco de Mayo, and food bloggers everywhere were hard at work, coming up with all kinds of delectable Mexican-style appetizers, entrees, and desserts. I would usually have done the same, but this year, after returning from non-stop gorging on Mexican food during a week-long trip to Arizona, Yum! I decided something a little healthier was probably in order.

Salad 4

I take a salad to work for lunch most days of the week, and it’s normally a bowl of lettuce with some salad dressing. I’m starting to get pretty bored with that and have been experimenting with making the lunchtime salads a whole lot more interesting. This salad is the answer. A delicious bacon vinaigrette (who doesn’t love bacon?) goes over a mixture of salad greens, tomato, avocado, bacon “chips” and toasted pumpkin seeds. I was trying to come up with something for Cinco de Mayo – this salad contains avocado and pepitas that are sort of Mexican ingredients, right? Don’t limit yourself to May for this salad. This is good anytime of the year.

Salad 5

A Mexican-Inspired Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette

Serves 4

This recipe makes more salad dressing than you will need for the salad. Store leftovers in the refrigerator and warm to room temperature before serving.

1/4 sweet onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

4 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 pound bacon, cut crosswise into inch-wide pieces

4 large handfuls Romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces

1 large tomato, cut into wedges then cut crosswise

1 avocado, halved, peeled, cut into wedges, then cut crosswise into chunks

1/4 cup shelled pumpkin seeds, toasted and salted

Place the onion, mustard, and vinegar in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Slowly add the olive oil a small bit at a time, whisking with each addition. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Place the bacon in a cold sauté pan and turn the heat on medium. Cook the bacon until crispy then turn it out onto a paper towel-lined plate. Set the pan with the bacon grease aside while you prepare the salad.

Combine the lettuce, tomato and avocado in a serving bowl. Add the vinaigrette mixture to the bacon fat in the sauté pan and whisk well to combine. The mixture may splatter if the bacon fat is still hot. Dress the salad with as much dressing as desired, top with the cooked bacon pieces, sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds, and serve immediately.

Salad dressing adapted from The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins

 

Sautéed Cabbage with Bacon

Cabbage 1

Today’s recipe is from a guest cook, my husband Scott. I wanted to get it posted as soon as possible because I consider it to be more of a chilly weather recipe than something that represents Spring, which, knock on wood, finally might be here to stay for awhile. This time last week I was sitting right here at my computer and looked outside and saw – snow. I couldn’t believe my eyes. But it was short lived. Now, the daffodils are up and trees are budding, and I’m sitting in front of an open window.

Cabbage 2

Although this cabbage is a recipe that we normally have for Saint Patrick’s Day, it is really versatile and will go with almost anything. I especially can see it alongside pork chops or chicken. The bacon is what makes this recipe special, so I don’t recommend leaving it out.

Cabbage 3

Sautéed Cabbage with Bacon

6 Servings

1/2 pound bacon, diced

4 tablespoons butter

1 large sweet onion, about 14 ounces, diced

1 head cabbage, thinly sliced

In a large sauté pan, cook the bacon over low heat to render as much fat as possible before the bacon browns, approximately 10 minutes. Add butter, and when it melts, add the onion. Increase the heat to medium and sauté until the onion softens, approximately 7 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Increase the heat to medium-high and start adding cabbage by the handful, cooking it down until you are able to add all of it to the pan, approximately 10 minutes. Add more salt and pepper to tasted. Continue cooking cabbage, stirring frequently, until done, approximately 10 minutes.

 

Quinoa Cabbage Sauté with Lemon, Cabbage, and Dill

Quinoa 1 

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.  I can’t believe it’s the 17th of March and when I got up this morning I was faced with this:

March Winter

The pansies I oh so carefully planted last weekend are buried in the stuff.  I just hope they survive.  Where is Spring?  It’s not supposed to be 23 degrees in mid-March!  Nevertheless, it’s still Saint Patrick’s Day, meaning all things Irish. It’s also a great reason to stock the fridge with Guinness.  Okay, I’ve never needed a special reason to stock up on Guinness, but for those who do, now is your chance.

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Today’s dish is another repeat.  Not a repeat on the blog, but another amazing dish that I liked so much I wanted to make it and eat it a second time in short order.  It’s not actually Irish, but it does contain cabbage, so I guess we can go there.

Quinoa 3

I am not a vegetarian by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m also not strictly a meat person.  Hmm, what DO I mean by that?  Well, I would never be happy having a chunk of meat with a side of vegetables for dinner every night.  My food has to have something extra.  It could be a sauce, a burst of lemon, perhaps some heat, but you will almost never see me eating a plain piece of protein seasoned with salt and pepper and that’s it.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a good steak, simply seasoned, but make that on occasion, not as a steady diet.

This dish is a vegetarian dish with a lot going on.  The quinoa and chickpeas provide protein, you get some nice saltiness from the olives and the lemon really brightens it up.  I eat this with a small container of plain Greek yogurt on the side for lunch and find that it fills me up just fine until dinner.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

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Toasted Quinoa Sauté with Lemon, Cabbage, and Dill

4 Servings

I have only made this recipe with red quinoa; however, I see no reason why you could not make it with any variety.  If you can’t find Savoy cabbage you could also use regular green cabbage.  If your pan is not big enough to cook all the cabbage at once, you can cook it in two batches.  I used Castelvetrano olives from the olive bar at Whole Foods for this, but Cerignola or even pitted Kalamata olives would also work.  This is a very flexible recipe that can be altered according to what you can find or have on hand.  

1 1/2 cups water

1 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided plus more for seasoning

1/2 cup red quinoa

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1/2 head (approximately 1 pound) Savoy cabbage, thinly sliced

1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

3 ounces pitted large Green olives, halved

1 lemon, zested and juiced

1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh dill

Greek yogurt or sour cream for serving

Bring water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a medium size saucepan over medium-high heat.  Stir in quinoa and return to a boil.  Cover saucepan, reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.  Uncover the pan, raise the heat to high and toast the quinoa until dry, stirring frequently to prevent scorching, about 5 minutes.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat.  Add the cabbage and 1 teaspoon salt and sauté until the cabbage is soft and golden brown. If the pan appears too dry, add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan.  Add the quinoa, raise the heat to high, stirring it into the cabbage until for about 2 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients, except for the yogurt.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve with Greek yogurt or sour cream.

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living Magazine

Raspberry Dessert Sauce

Raspberries 1

Is it Spring yet?  As residents in the Washington, DC area batten down the hatches for what I hope will be the last winter storm this year, I have to wonder if Spring will ever come.  The signs are there – the tulips and other Spring bulbs are starting to poke out of the ground and the robins are building nests.  The lawn mowers and other yard tools are even in stock at Lowes and Home Depot as we found out yesterday when we foolishly tried to find a snow blower.  Don’t dig out your shorts and flip-flops yet, however, the forecasted low for Tuesday is 1 degree Fahrenheit.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve had just about enough of this winter stuff.

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Normally, I am a big fan of cooking whatever produce is in season.  It’s cheaper, but more importantly, it just tastes better.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been really disappointed with tomatoes in winter.  But, considering the forecast, I believe emergency measures are now necessary.     

Raspberries 3

Looking ahead to warmer times I decided to make a raspberry dessert sauce. I’ve recently decided to make my own fruit sauces to add to my Greek yogurt rather than buying the sugar-laden premixed varieties at the grocery store.  This raspberry sauce is a perfect choice.  It’s got just the right mix of fruit, sweetness and just a little touch of sour.  Although it’s great mixed into yogurt, don’t limit yourself to just that.  It’s fabulous over ice cream, and I imagine it would be pretty good over pound cake, if you are so inclined.

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Raspberry Dessert Sauce

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Raspberries 4

You can use any kind of berries or a mixture of berries for this simple sauce.  The sauce can be frozen, simply thaw in the refrigerator the night before you plan to use it.

 3 6-ounce packages raspberries

4 tablespoons evaporated cane juice (turbinado sugar)

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Place 2 packages of the raspberries in a saucepan with 1/4 cup water and the sugar.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the fruit falls apart.  Use a little of the liquid from the pan to make a slurry with the cornstarch, then pour the mixture into the pan with the fruit.  Continue to simmer until the mixture thickens.  Strain the sauce through a mesh strainer into a bowl.  Add the remaining 6 ounces of raspberries and the lemon juice and stir gently to cover the whole berries with the sauce.

Adapted from La Tartine Gourmande by Béatrice Peltre

Thai Beef and Mint Stir-Fry

Thai Beef 1a

Although I no longer cook professionally, I will always be extremely grateful that I had the opportunity to do so.  Not many people get the chance to leave a perfectly well-paying job to pursue a lifelong dream.  I was lucky that I had a very supportive husband as well as a military retirement pension to fall back on when things got tight, and boy did they at times.  The pay isn’t great, especially in the beginning, and the work is sometimes grueling, but for those with the passion, it can be a very rewarding career.  Some of the colleagues with whom I went to culinary school have become very successful in the profession, and I am so proud of them.

Thai Beef 1

I made some wonderful friends in culinary school as well as learned to be a much better cook. I credit school for setting me on the right track to eating real food rather than boxed and bagged items off the grocery store shelves with ingredients I can’t pronounce. 

The philosophy at L’Academie de Cuisine was simple – learn to prepare classic French cuisine and you can cook anything; however, the staff at the school neglected to tell me one thing, which turned out to be the biggest benefit of all – we didn’t just learn to cook French food.  Yes, we started with soup a l’oignon, making it with water at the beginning so they wouldn’t waste perfectly good stock on a bunch of non-cooks.  And the week we spent on puff pastry dragged on and on – wellingtons, cheese straws, soup with a pastry crust…  But because our pastry instructor was from Thailand and her husband was Indian, we also learned how to make all sorts of Asian and Indian dishes.  Curries, salads, appetizers, you name it – they were all delicious and a nice break from the cassoulet and beef bourguignon we typically made for lunch each day.

Thai Beef 3

My first exposure to Thai food was actually in Budapest of all places, where a Thai colleague with whom I was traveling introduced me to a variety of his native dishes.  We had just spent a week in Kiev and were desperate for some food with some flavor.  The dishes I later learned to prepare in school hooked me on Thai food for life, although I rarely make it at home.  This dish reminded me of culinary school, but unlike many of the dishes we prepared there, it is very easy to prepare and makes a nice lunch or light dinner.

Thai Beef 4

Thai Beef and Mint Stir-Fry

4 Servings

This dish was originally described as a salad to be eaten warm or cold over chopped Napa cabbage.  I turned it into “Thai tacos” by serving it warm wrapped in the Napa cabbage leaves.  You could also serve it over hot bean thread noodles or rice.  If you can’t find Thai chiles you can use 1 or two serranos.

1 pound flank or skirt steak

3 stalks celery

2 tablespoons coconut oil

Salt

Pepper

2 tablespoons ginger, peeled and finely chopped

1 tablespoon garlic, finely chopped

2 Thai chiles, finely chopped

5 plum tomatoes, cored and cut into thin wedges

2 scallions, but into 2-inch lengths

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced lengthwise

Juice of 1 lime

1 teaspoon fish sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

2 cups mint leaves

1/2 cup cilantro leaves

To facilitate slicing the beef very thin, you can place it in the freezer for up to 40 minutes.  Cut the steak against the grain into very thin slices, then cross wise into 2-inch lengths. Slice the celery by placing it on its side and slicing at a 45-degree angle to achieve V-shaped pieces.  Separate the cabbage leaves and set aside for serving.

Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat and add the coconut oil.  Heat the oil until it melts then swirl to coat the pan.  Add the beef, season with salt and pepper, and sear, stirring until it browns.  Add the ginger, garlic, and chiles and stir-fry for 1 minute.  Add the celery, tomatoes, scallions and red onions and stir-fry until the celery begins to soften, 3-5 minutes.  Stir in the lime juice, fish sauce and the sesame oil.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cilantro and the mint.

To serve place a spoonful of the beef mixture onto a cabbage leaf, fold over and eat out of hand.

Adapted from Café Pasqual’s Cookbook – Spirited Recipes from Santa Fe by Katharine Kagel

 

 

Sweet Potato Hash with Chorizo

Hash 1

Today’s post is about what my husband affectionately refers to as the “5-year rotation;” the way I plan meals.  I don’t think I have kept my cookbook addiction a secret.  Actually, it’s so bad that a better name for this blog might be “So Many Cookbooks, So Little Time.”  What can I say?  Cookbooks are one of my principal inspirations. Now that I have a food blog and am attempting food photography, the inspiration that a well-photographed cookbook provides has become even more important.

Hash 2

You can imagine that with so many recipes to try, I don’t do many repeats.  I crave variety, in every aspect of my life, and the food I eat is no exception. I do repeat recipes, but not that often, and I almost always vary it slightly each time; however, I’ve definitely never been one of those Meatless Monday or Friday fish sticks types. Although, as a young girl, when my mother was doing her meal planning and asked me what I wanted to eat that week, the answer was always Bavarian Supper Sandwich – a layered casserole with a poppy seed-flavored biscuit base, sausage, and a baked béchamel on top.  I absolutely loved that stuff.

So, it’s been something of a surprise that just in the past 2 months I have made a couple of recipes over again, almost immediately – the goat cheese salad recipe that I made for Christmas Eve dinner, and now this hash. It is very filling and makes a very satisfying breakfast, especially when topped with a fried egg.  It also works well for those following a Paleo or Primal eating plan.

Hash 3 

Sweet Potato Hash with Chorizo

4-6 Servings

This recipe will serve 4 to 6, depending on the size of the sweet potatoes you use and how much potato you like on your plate. 

2 large sweet potatoes (approximately 2 pounds total), cut into 1-inch chunks

2 tablespoons salt (for boiling water)

2 links (approximately 6 ounces total) fresh Mexican chorizo

5 tablespoons coconut oil, divided

1 medium onion, peeled and sliced

2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced

2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage

salt

pepper

4-6 fried eggs for serving

Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water by about 1 inch, and add the salt.  Bring the water to a boil and add the sausage links.  Cook until the potatoes can be pierced easily with a knife, about 10 minutes.  Drain the potatoes and sausage links.

Slice the chorizo into half-inch coins and brown in a large skillet in 3 tablespoons coconut oil. Remove from the pan, but leave the oil and chorizo bits in the pan.

Sauté the onion and garlic in the hot fat until the onion begins to brown, 5 minutes.  Add the sage and stir until the scent is released, about a minute.  Add more coconut oil to the pan if necessary.  The pan should be thoroughly coated with the oil and have enough to brown the potatoes.    Add the potato chunks and cook until they are brown on the bottom, about 3-5 minutes. Return the chorizo to the pan with and cook until everything is warm and browned.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Divide the potatoes between 4-6 plates and top each serving with a fried egg.

Adapted from Gluten-Free Girl Everyday by Shauna James Ahern

 

 

 

 

Gluten-Free Green Chilie Corn Muffins

Chilie Muffins 1

My husband and I just returned from a short trip to Nassau, Bahamas.  Unlike most of our vacations that have purpose, usually visiting friends or family, this trip was just for us, with the primary goal of not doing much more than enjoying some delicious meals and staring at the ocean.

Beach_Bar

We accomplished that goal.  So much so, that it never occurred to us to check the Washington, D.C. weather until we were at the airport awaiting our return flight.  Imagine our shock when we discovered snow and negative-number wind chills were in the forecast.  Ugghh!  Don’t get me wrong, I love snow and winter weather, preferably when I am inside, in front of a fire.  But it was a bit too much when compared with the sun and sea, the bright blue sky, and the temperatures in the 70s that we had so quickly become accustomed to. 

Nassau_Beach

Reality check – it’s still winter, Jeannine.

For me, comfort foods come to mind when the snow flies, and that usually means some sort of soup.  I love them all – Thai chicken, chili, vegetable beef, broccoli and cheese, the varieties are endless.  Nothing is more comforting than a bowl of soup on a cold day, especially when accompanied by some fresh homemade bread, rolls or savory muffins.

I made these muffins to go with black-eyed peas on New Years Day, but they will go well with almost any type of soup.  Last New Years I attempted gluten-free baking for the first time by substituting gluten-free flour for regular flour in my normal cornbread recipe.  The results were anything but spectacular, but my wonderfully supportive husband choked that cornbread down until it was finished.  My gluten-free baking has improved considerably since that first effort, and I was really pleased with the way these muffins turned out.  I hope you like these muffins as well as I do.  If you make them, please send me a comment and let me know what you served with them.

Chilie Muffins 2

Gluten-Free Green Chilie Corn Muffins

Makes 12 Muffins

 I have found that I get better results by mixing my own gluten-free flour blend than when using a commercial product off-the-shelf, but in a pinch I use the King Arthur Gluten-Free Flour.  If you want to make your own, I used 2 cups white rice flour, 1 cup brown rice flour, 1 cup tapioca flour or starch, and 1/2 cup potato starch.  This makes quite a bit, but stores well in the freezer.  This recipe worked well with palm sugar, but you can use granulated if that’s what you have on hand. 

Nonstick cooking spray for the pan

1 cup gluten-free flour

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1/4 cup palm sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1/2 cup butter (1 stick or 4 ounces), melted

1 cup buttermilk

1/2 4-ounce can (about 2 tablespoons) chopped green chilies

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray or use paper cupcake liners. 

In a large bowl thoroughly whisk the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, xanthan gum, baking soda, and salt.  Make a well in the center and set aside.

In a separate medium bowl whisk the eggs until frothy.  Whisk in the butter and buttermilk and mix then stir in the green chilies.

Pour the liquid mixture into the well in the dry mixture and stir until just combined.  Do not over mix.  Spoon the batter into the muffin cups.  The cups should be almost full with a mound in the center. 

Bake the muffins 16-18 minutes, until golden brown. Immediately transfer the muffins to a wire rack, cooling them on their sides. 

Slightly adapted from Gluten-Free Breakfast, Brunch, and Beyond by Linda J. Amendt

Warm Goat Cheese Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette

Goat Cheese 1

Snow day!  We don’t get too much snow here in Northern Virginia, so, when it does snow, it’s an event.  It started late yesterday afternoon, and, okay, it’s only an inch or so, but it’s snow!  When I got up at 4 a.m. to go to work, it was still snowing, the roads looked horrible, and I knew there was no way I was going to drive in this stuff.  Never mind that I used to drive in much worse in Germany.  Ahh, what good pair of snow tires will do for your car.  Anyway, I had two choices, ride to work with my husband or take the day off.  Hmmm, what to do?

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I grabbed my camera, went outside and started taking pictures.  The sun was just starting to come up, and the light was beautiful.  I stay pretty busy, and don’t often just stop and look at the beauty around me.  I did that this morning and realized I need to do a lot more of it.

Goat Cheese 2

Snow on the ground signifies that I can continue the Christmas season just a little longer.  The recipe I’m sharing today is a beautiful salad I made for Christmas Eve.  I loved it so much I made it again for New Year’s.  The colors, red pomegranate, green arugula, and white goat cheese, make it perfect for Christmas, but don’t limit yourself to just making it for Christmas.

Winter 2

Goat cheese salad, a French favorite of mine, is great any time.  And you could easily mix it up by adding or substituting ingredients, such as using frisee with a Dijon vinaigrette.  However, don’t skip the goat cheese.  Breaking into the crispy exterior of the cheese to the soft melty interior is what makes this salad.

Goat Cheese 3

Warm Goat Cheese Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette

4 Servings

This recipe can easily be doubled.  It can be made gluten free by using gluten-free flour and panko.  The best way I have found to cut goat cheese into smooth slices is to use dental floss.  If you don’t have any on hand, a knife dipped in hot water is also helpful.  Leftover vinaigrette would be delicious on a spinach salad with bacon.  You will need to allow the vinaigrette to warm up to room temperature before using.   

Pomegranate Vinaigrette

1 1/2 cups pomegranate juice

1/3 cup olive oil

5 teaspoons honey

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

salt and pepper to taste

Salad

1/4 cup arils (seeds) from half a pomegranate

2 4-ounce logs goat cheese

1/2 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 egg whites

1 cup panko

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 5-ounce container baby arugula

2 navel oranges, peeled and sectioned

Prepare the vinaigrette.  Bring the pomegranate juice to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the juice is reduced to about 1/4 cup, about 15 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool, about 30 minutes.  Whisk in remaining vinaigrette ingredients and set aside.

If using a whole pomegranate, remove the seeds.  I have found the best way to do this is to cut the fruit into chunks and use my fingers to remove the seeds in a bowl of water.  The seeds float to the top and the fibrous fruit chunks sink.  Place the seeds in a bowl and set aside.

Slice each log of goat cheese into 6 slices.  Set up a 3–station breading area by place flour and pepper in a shallow dish, the egg whites and 2 tablespoons water in a second dish, and the panko in a third dish.  Dredge the goat cheese rounds in the flour, thoroughly wet them by dipping in the egg white mixture then thoroughly dredge them in the panko. Arrange on an aluminum foil–covered plate or pan, cover, and chill for at least 30 minutes.  Heat the olive oil in a non-stick skillet and fry the cheese rounds 2 minutes per side or until lightly browned.  Drain on paper towels.

Assemble the salad by dividing the arugula and orange sections between four plates.  Drizzle with the pomegranate vinaigrette.  Sprinkle each salad with some of the pomegranate seeds, then top each with three cheese rounds.  Serve immediately.

Adapted from Southern Living A Very Special Christmas, December 2012

Crab Bisque

Crab Soup 1

Merry Christmas, everyone!  Christmas means different things to different people.  For some, it’s the celebration of Christ’s birth.  For others it’s a chance to get together with friends and family, those you see every day and those that perhaps you have not seen in a long time.  For many children, it might mean a visit from Santa Claus and gifts under the Christmas tree or next to the fireplace.  But, no matter how you celebrate Christmas, or perhaps Hanukah, holiday celebrations are all about traditions.

For me and my family, many of those traditions center around food.  As a child, the Christmas season started the day after Thanksgiving with making cut-out sugar cookies.  My mom rolled and cut the dough with a huge selection of cookie cutters, and the kids got to paint them with egg yolk paint and decorate them with a variety of candies and sprinkles.  I must admit, some years the cookies looked a little better than others.  But they tasted great, nevertheless.  There were other baked goods; some homemade, like a variety of cookies, cranberry bread, and pumpkin bread.  Later we added stolen and panettone, purchased from local bakeries.

I didn’t do much baking this year.  I attempted a gluten-free version of shortbread, a disaster that boiled over in the oven.  I’m hoping to try again next week.  Being new to gluten-free baking, I think I’d better stick to tried and true recipes until I get the hang of it.  Anyway, with no baked goods in the house, I wanted our Christmas Eve dinner to be special.  Growing up, Christmas Eve dinner was always Oyster Stew, a creamy, briny soup with plenty of oysters.  We usually had it with a selection of cheese, sausage, and crackers, some sort of salad, and Christmas cookies for dessert.  I continued the Oyster Stew tradition until we moved to Germany, where there were no oysters to be found.  We settled on a Lobster Bisque made with the small frozen lobsters we could get at the Military Commissary.  I shelled the lobsters and used the shells to make the stock that I used in the soup.  What an eye opener.  It was delicious!

When we returned from Germany a year ago, we went back to the Oyster Stew.  However, this year I wasn’t sure I would be able to find oysters; but finding crab in Virginia was a pretty good bet, so I decided on Cream of Crab soup.  I don’t generally eat the Cream of Crab soup that is available in many of the local restaurants.  You just never know what it’s going to be like — too floury, too thin, not a scrap of crab to be seen.  In one of the restaurants I used to work in, they used canned soup and doctored it up with a little extra crab.  So making my own crab soup seemed like a great idea this Christmas Eve.

Although we had this soup for Christmas Eve, it’s great for anytime of the year; no holidays necessary.  We had it as a light meal with a goat cheese salad, but you could also serve a small bowl as an elegant first course at a dinner party.   This recipe is not your typical Maryland–style cream of crab soup.  Hence, the “Bisque” in the recipe name.

Crab Soup 2

Crab Bisque

4 Servings

I made my own fish stock for the soup, which I honestly believe will give you the best results.  You can, however, certainly make a decent version of this soup using boxed fish or vegetable stock. When preparing the soup, I strained the stock after cooking the vegetables because I did not want the vegetables in the final soup.  It’s a little more work, but I really believe the soup is better for it. I used a claw/back crabmeat mixture to make the soup and finished it with half a pound of jumbo lump crab.  If you can’t get jumbo lump crab, just use 1.5-2 pounds of whatever crab you can get. This soup can be made gluten free by using gluten-free flour to make the roux.

7 tablespoons (3.5 ounces) butter, divided

1 onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 stalk celery, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

1 cup dry white wine

3 1/2 cups fish or vegetable stock

1 bay leaf

2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme

the juice from 1 lemon

1 pound crab

3 tablespoons flour

2 cups heavy cream

1 tablespoon tomato paste

Dash cayenne pepper

1/2 pound jumbo lump crab

4 teaspoons dry sherry, optional

1 tablespoon finely chopped green onion, optional garnish

Melt 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) of butter in a soup pot, add the vegetables, season with salt and pepper and cook on medium heat until they are beginning to brown slightly.

Deglaze with the wine, scraping any vegetable bits off the bottom of the pan.  Cook until the pan is almost dry, then add the stock, bay leaf, thyme, and lemon juice.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer this mixture for 10 minutes.

Strain the stock into a bowl, pressing on the vegetables to extract as much liquid as possible.  Return the stock to the pan and add the pound of crab.  Bring the stock to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for approximately 10 minutes or until you are finished with the next step.

Meanwhile, in a separate medium size saucepan, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter and add the flour.  Stir to make a paste and gradually add the cream, stirring between each addition.  Season with salt and pepper and cook this mixture on low for 10 minutes.

Add a ladle of the stock mixture to the cream then pour everything back into the pot with the stock.  Add the tomato paste and cayenne and stir to combine.  Add the jumbo lump crab, stir gently to combine.  Cook, stirring constantly just long enough to mix the ingredients and allow the additional crab to heat up.

Ladle into soup bowls, add a teaspoon of dry sherry to each bowl, and sprinkle with chives or scallions.

 

Chinese Five-Spice Chicken

Five Spice Chicken 1

I don’t know about you, but about this time of the year I am looking for ways to get dinner on the table — fast.  All the decorating, package wrapping, and card sending don’t leave much time for leisurely experiments in the kitchen. 

Confession — I absolutely love the idea of Martha Stewart.  Many years ago I attended a wedding shower where one of the gifts for the bride-to-be was her original Entertaining book.  All it took was one look through that book, and I was hooked.  I purchased Entertaining as soon as I could afford it and proceeded to cook my way through it, hosting as many dinner and cocktail parties as I could manage.  That book was eventually followed by the Martha Stewart’s Christmas book.  Well, that one sent my fantasies of a perfectly decorated house, gifts made at home, and a constant stream of adoring visitors to my country estate right through the roof.  Reality check — There was no country estate, I was active duty in the Army, and had a work schedule that absolutely did not allow for meticulously creating Christmas puddings, pomanders, and conserves, as much as I would have liked to do so.

Five Spice Chicken 2

So, as much as I would love to be making something much more elaborate, a quick seared chicken dish is much more my speed when my “to do” list is the size of the New York City phone book.  I’ll save the elaborate Martha projects for the holiday itself.  Meanwhile I’m cooking from Weeknight Paleo, 9 Weeks of Quick and Easy Gluten-Free Meals, by Amber Beam.  I found a chicken dish that looked like it would have some flavor, but more important it was a breeze to prepare.  I made the original idea my own by eliminating a matchstick salad and using the salad dressing ingredients to create a sauce to go over the chicken and the rice I served it with.  It’s full of flavor – but maybe a little too much for some.  This dish is spicy.  If you want to tame the heat you can cut back or eliminate the chili garlic sauce, the cayenne or both.  I collect condiments like some women collect shoes, so I had an Asian Chili Garlic Sauce in the pantry.  A variety of choices is available at any supermarket with an Asian section.    

Five Spice Chicken 3

Chinese Five-Spice Chicken

4-6 Servings

This dish is extremely adaptable.  If gluten is not a problem for you, regular or sodium soy sauce and hoisin sauce would work fine.  Gluten-free soy sauce, also called tamari, and gluten-free hoisin sauce are available at Whole Foods.  If dairy is a concern, use all coconut oil in place of the butter. This dish can be made with chicken breast instead of thighs; you will need to cut back the cooking time to 4-5 minutes total.  

2 tablespoons Chinese five-spice powder

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs

2 tablespoons coconut oil

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon finely peeled and chopped fresh ginger

1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic

1/4 cup gluten-free soy sauce

2 tablespoons Asian chili garlic sauce

1/4 cup cider vinegar

2 tablespoons gluten-free Hoisin sauce

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Place the Chinese five-spice powder, cayenne, salt, and pepper in a Ziploc bag, shake a little to blend spices then add the chicken thighs, making sure the thighs are unrolled if they were rolled in the package.  Shake well until chicken is completely coated with the spice mixture.

Melt coconut oil and butter in a large sauté pan. Remove the chicken from the Ziploc bag and brown in the pan until it reaches a temperature of 165 degrees, about 3 minutes per side on medium high.  Remove the chicken from the pan, and set aside on a plate. 

Turn the heat down to medium, add the ginger and the garlic to the pan, and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute.  Add the soy sauce, chili garlic sauce, vinegar, Hoisin sauce, honey, and sesame oil to the pan and reduce until sauce is thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes.

Return the chicken to the pan and turn over a couple of times to coat the chicken with the glaze.  Simmer about 5 minutes to rewarm the chicken.  Serve sprinkled with chopped cilantro.    

Adapted from Weeknight Paleo, 9 Weeks of Quick and Easy Gluten-Free Meals, by Amber Beam