The Real Deal (with eggs and anchovies) Classic Caesar Salad with Sirloin Steak

I’ve been on a recent obsession with classic caesar salads with anchovies and all.  I know some would turn their noses to anchovies, but I love those little suckers.  Salty and fishy.  Yum.  It’s the anchovies that make the caesar salad dressing.  Not the shaved parmesan.  Not the croutons.  It’s the anchovies.  I think it’s blasphemy to call a caesar salad dressing when the little fishies are omitted.  I just doesn’t taste the same.  Caesar salads are nostalgic to me.  It reminds me of our days living in the Parnassus library at the UCSF campus studying pharmaceutical chemistry, pharmacology, and pharmcotherapeutics.  We would be the first ones there and the last ones to close down the library.  And like any library, we weren’t allowed to eat there (at least not to their knowledge).  We definitely had our fair share of Pringles chips, coca-cola flavored gummies, boba tea, sodas, coffee, chocolate, chips, and more.  When we were finally craving real food , we walked down to Pluto’s on Irving and 8th Avenue, and I always ordered the steak caesar salad.  The steak was over cooked and tough, but the dressing.  Wow.  And when the croutons soaked up all the dressing at the bottom.  Oh em gee.

Classic Caesar Salad with Steak

1 teaspoon garlic, smashed into a paste
2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
6 anchovy fillets, mashed into a paste with fork
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 large raw or coddled egg yolks
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 ounces finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 3/4 cup)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 romaine hearts, cut crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick slices, rinsed, and dried very well
Croutons

If you can’t stomach the raw egg component of this recipe, try making a coddled egg, which essentially is an egg cooked briefly in boiling water. The taste of coddled egg yolks is similar to that of a raw egg. It’s just not as raw as a raw egg :) To make a coddled egg, place whole eggs into a pan of boiling water and simmer for 1 minute. Crack eggs and separate whites from yolks.

Mince the garlic, and then sprinkle a little salt over the minced garlic on your cutting board. With your chef’s knife in hand, press and crush the garlic with the knife on an angle. The salt draws out the liquid from the garlic, but also acts as an abrasive to mash the garlic into a paste. Continue this until a paste is formed.

Finely chop or mince the anchovy filets. Mash the anchovies into a fine paste using the back of a fork. Continue doing this until you have a smooth anchovy paste to work with.

In a large bowl, whisk together garlic paste, anchovy paste, and lemon juice. Allow to sit for 10 minutes. Whisk in Worcestershire, dijon mustard, and egg yolks. In a slow, steady stream, whisk in the extra virgin olive oil until the dressing has completely emulsified. Add 1/2 cup of Parmesan, salt and pepper to taste, then whisk until completely combined.

To serve, plate the romaine lettuce and croutons. Drizzle dressing overtop each serving, then sprinkle liberally with Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Roasted Beet, D’Anjou Pear, Mache Salad with Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette

Sleeeeeeeeeeeepy. I can barely focus.  You know what’s worse than not being able to cook and practice food photography?  Restless, sleepless nights.  Ones where you don’t fall asleep at all.  Tossing and turning, keeping yourself entertained with your laptop, iPhone, or TV to pass time.  Trying to lay still to not stir anyone from their dreamy night by counting sheep, but your mind races with thoughts that don’t make sense so you can’t really focus on the sheep.  Wanting to try a hot cup of almond milk to soothe and calm yourself, but it’s too damn cold to get out of bed.

I’ve had a lot of those nights lately.  So what do I do to remedy that?  Prescription sleep pills.  Something I didn’t think I ever needed.  Ever.  I was and still am a light sleeper, but I never had problems falling and staying asleep until the last few years, but it’s only gotten worse.  I used to poke fun at friends who couldn’t sleep without a prescription sleep aid.  Karma sucks.  I finally broke down and asked my nurse practitioner for a prescription sleep aid.  I told myself it was only going to be for when I absolutely needed it… like trying to fall asleep, but after an hour of trying and failing, then I could take the pill.  But then it got to the point where I would anticipate possibly not falling asleep, so I used it as a crutch.

I’ve recently decided to wean myself from the prescription sleep aid, and the result of this is lack of sleep.  I think this is going to be a long, painful process of little to no sleep for a long time while my body adjusts to the change.  It’s very interesting how your body can adapt and change to something easily, but takes a long time to adjust back.

So while I lay sleepless the other night, I came across a recipe calling for roasted beets with a honey roast garlic dressing that looked mouthwatering.  I thought it was going to be a great recipe to adapt with all the red beets that I just purchased from the farmers market.

Roasted Beet, D’Anjou Pear, Mache Salad with Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette (adapted from No Recipes)

For roasting:
2 beets
1 head garlic, top cut off

For salad:
2 D’Anjou Pears, sliced into O’s, core ones with seeds, and then slice in half
3 cups of Mache salad
Blue Cheese
Candied Walnuts

For vinaigrette:
3 cloves roasted garlic, mashed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon honey
Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Wrap each beet tightly in foil. I usually like to double wrap mine in foil. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle a little salt onto the garlic bulb, and wrap tightly in foil. Place both the beets and garlic on a baking sheet. Roast garlic for about 30-40 minutes, and beets for about an hour (or once you can poke a knife all the way through).

While the beets and garlic are roasting, prepare the vinaigrette by whisking all the ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

Once cool to handle, peel “skin” off the beets. Slice beets into 1/8-inch slices. Dress the beets with enough vinaigrette to coat in a separate bowl. Do not do this in the same bowl where the vinaigrette was prepared, or else you’ll have a purple dressing. But if that’s okay with you, then by all means, go for it!

To assemble the salad, place three slices of beets on a plate. Place three slices of the pears onto each slice of beet, with the round shape of the pear facing out. Lightly dress the mache lettuce with the vinaigrette, and place a handful on top of the beets and pears. Top with some crumbled blue cheese and candied walnuts. Repeat the same process for three more plates.

Makes 4 servings.

Roasted Ratatouille Bisque with Parmesan Crisps

ratatouille, ratatouille soup, ratatouille bisque, roasted ratatouille, roasted vegetables, vegetables, parmesan crisp

ratatouille, ratatouille soup, ratatouille bisque, roasted ratatouille, roasted vegetables, vegetables, parmesan crisp

I’m losing my mind.  I have been so forgetful lately.  And I feel like it’s only getting worse.  I’ll think of something that I need from the bedroom, walk to the bedroom, and completely forget what I needed in the two seconds it took to walk to the bedroom.  I know the example is a common problem for a lot of people.  However, I seem to be doing this many times during the day, several days a week!  Here’s another example that I have been doing a lot of lately… I go to the grocery store with a huge list of items to purchase, gather all the stuff, place all the items on the belt at the cash register station, and just as I am about to pay I realize that my wallet was left at home!  It wouldn’t be so bad if I went to the grocery store a few blocks away, but the two places I love to shop at is a 15-20 minute drive EACH way.  So what should be a 45 minute endeavor, ends up being an hour and a half grocery store trip from hell!  No bueno. This cuts into my limited cooking time.

Ratatouille Bisque with Parmesan Crisps (adapted from Modern Comfort Food)

For the soup:

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, cut into quarters
6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 red bell peppers, seeds and pith removed, sliced
1 small eggplant, peeled and diced to large cubes
1 medium-sized zucchini, peeled and diced to large cubes
2 1/2 pounds of fresh tomatoes (mix of heirlooms, cherry, vine and plum tomatoes), cut into halves
6 sprigs of thyme
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
3 cups of chicken broth
1/4 cup fat-free half and half
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Spread the tomatoes, red bell pepper, eggplant, zucchini, garlic cloves and onions onto a baking tray.  Use two baking trays to not overcrowd the baking tray with too many vegetables.  I find that when I “crowd” the baking tray, the veggies tend to “steam” rather than roast properly.  Drizzle with 1/2 cup of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, or until caramelized.

Remove vegetables from the oven and transfer to a large stock pot. Add 3/4 of the chicken stock, thyme, cayenne, and sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until liquid has reduced by a third.

Remove sprigs of thyme from the pot. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth. Return soup to medium heat, add cream and adjust consistency with remaining chicken stock, if necessary. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Garnish with a parmesan crisp.  Forget the crouton.  Do the crisp.

For the parmesan crisps:

2 cups shredded parmesan cheese

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking liner. Sprinkle four 1/4-cup mounds of parmesan about 2 inches apart onto each prepared baking sheet; slightly flatten with a spoon. Bake until golden-brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Let cool for 30 seconds. Using a thin metal spatula, drape the crisps over a rolling pin until hardened into shape, about 3 minutes.

Makes 4 servings.

(Healthy) Chicken Enchilada Casserole Verdes

In my quest to make healthy, almost authentic, homemade Mexican food, I’ve thought about a few things I wanted to try.  Mostly, I’m hoping to make dishes that will satisfy and satiate my partner’s cravings for Mexican food.  If you haven’t read my two previous posts, my partner’s one vice in life is Mexican food.  I originally thought (or hoping) it was Chinese food, but have learned over the last several years that it’s Mexican food.  She is a glutton for anything Mexican, but mostly nachos, burritos, tacos, beans and rice.  She can eat Mexican food for several days in a row when she gets on her Mexican food kick.  And she’ll try to satisfy these cravings from Mexican restaurants to Taco Bell.  I know.  I know.  Taco Bell.  Sigh.  She eats very healthy majority of the time, but it’s the Taco Bell that drives me crazy.  No.  Actually, it kills me.  Like a slow painful death.  So we struck a deal as of yesterday, and that was if she stops eating Taco Bell, I’d cook her healthy Mexican food more regularly.

So I found a really tasty recipe for homemade chile verdes sauce, and had lots of leftover shredded chicken, and thought chicken enchiladas verdes would be the perfect first Mexican food dish to start off with.

Don’t let the title fool you.  I know that “healthy foods” can sometimes mean lacking flavor; however, this is anything but lacking of flavor.  This recipe beats out the chicken enchiladas verdes that I get at Mexican restaurants.

Chicken Enchiladas Verdes

24 Mission Foods’ Extra Thin Corn Tortillas (taco size)
3 chicken breasts, shredded
1 cup Cotija cheese, crumbled
6 cups homemade chili verdes sauce
2 cups shredded low-fat Mexican cheese blend
Greek yogurt (instead of sour cream), optional
Guacamole, optional

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Toss together the shredded chicken, 1/2 cup of chili verde sauce, and 1/3 cup of the Mexican cheese blend.

Spoon a thin layer of the tomatillo sauce on the bottom of the 11×7-inch baking dish.  Place 4 corn tortillas, overlapping as necessary, in the bottom of the baking dish.  Cover with one-third of the meat mixture; top with 2 cups of chili verde sauce; sprinkle with 1/3 of the cotija and shredded cheese.  Repeat layers twice, then top with remaining tortillas.  Pour chili verde sauce over tortillas; sprinkle evenly with cotija and remaining shredded cheese.  Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Makes 3 servings of 2 casserole squares each.

Calories per serving: 400 calories

Healthy Mini (Almost) Egg White Breakfast Frittata

I wanted to surprise my partner with a Valenine’s Day breakfast before she went to work.  Why not a romantic candle-lit dinner?  Well, she was planning to help my parents out at their restaurant for dinner service since it can be one of the busiest nights of the year.  And even though breakfasts are not the most romantic meals of the day, I thought it would be something special to wake up to.  So I perused through the various recipes that I had bookmarked and was specifically looking for something healthy.  Something tasty, filling, but low in calories.  I was super excited when I came across this frittata recipe!

If you’re wondering what a frittata is, it’s an Italian version of the French omelette.  Omelettes traditionally have the egg mixture cooked and folded around a filling, while a frittata just mixes it all up, cooked in a mishmash combination all at once.  It may be baked, or it may be started in a frying pan. When started on a stove top the frittata can be finished in an oven, under a broiler, or it may be flipped and finished in the pan.

So I went to the grocery store at 9:30 p.m. after I finished work on Sunday evening with my list in one hand, and the basket in the other.  Shopping was like a race to the proverbial finish line.  I wanted to make sure my partner wasn’t suspicious of why I was getting home so late.  The real dilemma was trying to get the groceries into the house!  I set the groceries on the counter of the laundry room right as I walked through the house, hoping she didn’t hear the rustling of the shopping bags.  Luckily, she didn’t.  As my partner was getting ready for bed, I slipped to the kitchen to put the groceries away.

I waited, and waited, and waited until my partner finally fell asleep so that I could sneak away to the kitchen to prep the ingredients.  I wanted to ensure the perfect timing of the dish as she finished getting ready for work, but also a little sit down time to eat together.  As I was about to sneak away, my partner sort of woke up from her slumber and asked if I was okay.  I said that everything was okay, and wondered if I was ever going to make it to the kitchen.  She fell asleep, and waited for another five minutes before I thought it was safe.  I was able to sneak out, but our little dog who sleeps with us got out of bed to check on me.  This really made me nervous because he isn’t always quiet, and I just knew he was going to wake her up.  I’m so happy she can be a deep sleeper because she didn’t stir from him at all!  So I started chopping and prepping away.

Well, needless to say, everything went perfectly on Valentine’s Day.  Her alarm sounded off at 6:09 a.m. and as I realized she woke up a little later than I had hoped, I jumped out of bed and ran to the kitchen to preheat the oven.  The latter is what I was afraid was going to foil my entire plan.  I don’t even know if the oven preheated to the desired temperature, but I popped the muffin into the oven and waited very (in)patiently.  As nervous as I was, the frittatas cooked perfectly and in the right about of time!  Yay!

Mini Egg White Breakfast Frittata

5 egg whites
1 egg with yolk
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup baby spinach
1/3 cup bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup low-fat shredded cheese
2 slices canadian bacon, diced
Olive oil spray such as Pam
Muffin tin

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Beat egg whites with whole egg.  Fold in baby spinach, cheese, bell pepper, and canadian bacon.  Mix ingredients together.  Add a dash of salt and freshly ground pepper if you’d like.  I omitted the salt since the canadian bacon adds a bit of saltiness to the dish already.

Lightly spray the muffin tin.  Use a measuring cup to pour the egg mixture into the muffin tin, filling each over a little more than half full.  Place muffin tin into pre-heated oven, and bake for 30 minutes.

Makes 3 servings of 2 frittatas each.

Calories per serving: 55 calories

Lemon Chicken Noodle Soup

I roasted a four pound chicken following Thomas Keller’s recipe for dinner the other night.  The roasted chicken was AMAZING.  I usually break down the chicken after dinner so that the chicken doesn’t take up too much room in the refrigerator.  It also makes it easier to just grab and go for meals the days after.  But I didn’t want random meals of chicken incorporated into salads, wraps, and such. I wanted something better. I wanted Giada’s lemon chicken soup with spaghetti. I enjoy chicken noodle soup, but it can be a bit boring.  This recipe just blows boring chicken noodle soup out of the waters!  It’s super flavorful, and warms you up from head to toe on a cold wintery day.  If you are not a citrus lover, I would suggest cutting the lemons back as it may be overpowering for some.  This is a wonderful lemony soup.  We heart our citrus.

Lemon Chicken Noodle Soup (adapted from Giada De Laurentiis)

12 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 4 lemons)
6 bay leaves (or a few dried bay leaves)
1 (four-inch) piece Parmesan cheese rind
4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2 cups (about 5 ounces) spaghetti, broken into 2-inch pieces
4 cups diced cooked roasted chicken
2 cups grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Kosher salt

In a large stockpot, bring the chicken broth, lemon juice, bay leaves, and Parmesan rind to a boil over medium-high heat.

Add the carrots and simmer until tender, about 5 to 8 minutes.

Add the broken pasta and cook until the pasta is tender, for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken and heat through, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Remove the bay leaf and the Parmesan rind and discard.  Stir in 1/2 of the cheese and the parsley.  Season with salt, to taste.  Ladle the soup into serving bowls and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Makes 8 servings.

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