Asparagus w/ Chorizo & Croutons

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I love asparagus for its mild, spring like flavor but in this dish, from the Smitten Kitchen, this wonderful vegetable takes on a whole new persona. The spices of Spanish chorizo sausage combines with crusty croutons, crunchy almonds and tender white beans and the asparagus in a surprisingly flavorful and definitely interesting dish. Trust me on this one, the combination of ingredients might seem a bit odd but the results are out of this world. Plus the dish is fast to make. So fast and easy that it just might be one of my favorite Fast Friday dishes yet. So try it for yourself before the asparagus is gone for the season. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

ASPARAGUS w/ CHORIZO & CROUTONS

1 pound thick asparagus
1/4 cup olive oil
6 ounces Spanish chorizo cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups French bread croutons cut into 3/4 inch peices
1/4 cup whole almonds
1 cup cooked beans
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • Snap off the tough ends of each asparagus stalk and cut into 3 or 4 pieces.
  • Heat the oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the chorizo and saute for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the asparagus, croutons, almonds and salt and pepper. Stir well.
  • Cover and sauté over high heat for 5 to 6 minutes (thinner asparagus might be done sooner), tossing or stirring the mixture a few times, so it browns and cooks on all sides.
  • Add the beans and season with additional salt and pepper if needed.
  • Toss and cook for an additional 2 minutes or until the beans are heated through.
  • Serve immediately.

Serves 4

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Moroccan Spiced Pork Chops

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 It’s Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing I want to do is cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.
Apples are the perfect foil for the warm and fragrant spices we associate with Moroccan cooking. Cumin, coriander and cloves complement the tartness of apples, mellowing the fruit and making it absolutely delicious. I most often think of these flavors resulting from a slow cooked tagine dish but with this recipe from Cooking Light you can enjoy these flavors in a lot less time.
MOROCCAN SPICED PORK CHOPS
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 6 ounce boneless pork loin chops
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 small onion, diced
2 tart apples, peeled and chopped (I prefer Granny Smith)
1 cup apple cider

 **Moroccan Spice Mixture:

1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1/2 tablespoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cloves cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.
For the pork:
  • Rub 1 teaspoon of the Moroccan Spice Mixture and 1/4 teaspoon salt evenly on both sides of pork chops.
  • Melt the butter with oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Cook the pork chops four minutes on each side or until done.
  • Remove the pork chops from skillet and keep warm.
  • Add the onion and salt to the drippings in skillet; cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes.
  • Stir in the apples and the cider.
  • Cover, reduce the heat to medium, and cook 5 minutes or until fruit is tender.
  • Stir in the remaining 3/4 teaspoon Moroccan Spice Mixture and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook over medium-high heat 5 minutes.
  • Serve over the pork chops.

 

Serves 4

 

 

 

Ricotta & Onion-Port Jam Flatbread

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When is pizza not pizza? When it is flatbread of course. Flat bread is one of my favorite go to foods. It can be served as part of a light dinner, as an appetizer or even a mid afternoon snack. All it takes is some flatbread—pre made or my preference of fresh homemade pizza dough– and the toppings of your choice. You can make them sweet, savory or a combination of the two. Top them with meat, cheese, fruits or vegetables. Really, anything can be a topping for flatbread so you can make individual ones to please your entire family or bake up a variety for a smorgasbord.

This flatbread is one of my favorites and is inspired by the Savory Simple food blog. I’ve used my own pizza dough and topped it with fresh ricotta cheese, crumbled bacon and homemade port infused onion jam. The jam is sweet, savory and decadent and the key to its success is cooking the onions slowly so they caramelize. You can make the jam earlier in the day if you prefer then top the flatbread with it when you are ready to cook. So go ahead and try this recipe then let your imagination decide which direction you go next. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

RICOTTA & ONION-PORT JAM FLATBREAD 

For the flatbread:

1 recipe of your favorite pizza dough

1 cup ricotta cheese

1 cup onion-port jam

1 cup crumbled bacon

1/4 cup green onions, minced

For the Onion-Port Jam:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 large yellow onions, peeled, quartered and sliced thin

1/2 tablespoon sugar

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup water (more if needed)

1/2  cup port wine

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

  • Melt the butter on low heat in a large skillet.
  • Add the onions, sugar and salt.
  • Sweat the onions, stirring, until they begin to caramelize.
  • Turn up the heat to medium-low. Once the onions have begun to brown, pour approximately 2-3 tablespoons of water into the pan to deglaze, using a spatula to scrape up the brown bits and stir them into the onions.
  • Repeat this glazing and deglazing process until the onions have been thoroughly caramelized and taste both sweet and bitter, approximately 25-35 minutes.
  • Add the port wine and balsamic vinegar to the onions and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring periodically, until all of the liquid has reduced and is coating the onions.
  • Taste and add a bit more salt if desired.

When you are ready to build your flatbreads:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. If your oven has a pizza setting, use that.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper then set aside.
  • Divide the pizza dough into four even portions and working one at a time on a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a long oval.
  • Place each piece of dough on the prepared baking sheet taking care to make sure the edges are not touching.
  • Place 1/4 cup of the ricotta cheese on the top of each piece of dough and use a rubber spatula to evenly distribute it across the entire surface.
  • Divide the onion-port jam amongst the flatbreads, spreading it to cover as much of the surface area as possible.
  • Add the bacon and the green onions to each flatbread, evenly distributing them across the top of each one.
  • Bake flat breads for 15-17 minutes or until the crusts are browned and crisp and the toppings are beginning to bubble.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before slicing and serving.

Yields: 4 flatbreads

Saffron Toasts

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It doesn’t get much easier than a recipe with only four ingredients.  These golden toasts from King Arthur Flour taste like a savory and earthy biscotti.  I love them since they are fast and easy to make. They are good on their own but absolutely delicious when served along side a hearty tomato soup, corn and vegetable chowder or pumpkin soup.  Talk about the ultimate in comfort food.

SAFFRON TOASTS

1 pinch saffron threads soaked in 1 tablespoon of warm water

2 large eggs

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

  • Soak the saffron threads in the water for 10-15 minutes to soften them for baking.  Preheat the oven to 375 and lightly grease a 9 inch x 5 inch loaf pan.
  • Using a hand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together until light in color, thickened, and foamy.
  • Stir in the saffron and water.  Lightly sprinkle the flour over the surface of the  mixture and fold it in gently.  The mix will be thick and sponge-like, full of air and deep yellow in color.
  • Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 to 32 minutes.  The edges will be well browned and begin to pull away from the sides of the pan.  Set the pan on a rack to cool for 10 minutes.
  • Turn the loaf out onto a cutting board and use a sharp serrated knife to slice the bread into 1/2 inch slices.  Lay each slice on a baking sheet making sure that the cut sides are facing up (and down).
  • Place the pan under the broiler until the toasts begin to darken at the edges, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Remove the pan from the oven, carefully flip each slice over and broil the reverse side as well.
  • Allow the toasts to cool completely before serving.  Store in an airtight container or zip top bag for up to 3 weeks.

Yield:  16-18 slices

Strawberry Mint Muffins

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Muffins are the perfect breakfast item.  I will bake up a batch on a Sunday morning to be enjoyed over lazy cups of coffee all morning long.  Leftovers can be reheated and eaten on the go for busy weekday mornings.  Just about anything can be added to a basic muffin recipe.  Fruits, nuts, chocolate; the possibilities are endless.  I like to use buttermilk as the liquid in this recipe since I think it adds a slight tang to the muffin but you could easily substitute plain yogurt or even sour cream.  Depending upon the add-ins, I’ve also used good quality unsweetened flavored yogurt with fantastic results.

This time of year I like to use fresh fruit.  Fresh seasonal fruits are a perfect foil to the sweet, crumbly cake but if fresh fruits aren’t in season, frozen makes an absolutely acceptable substitution.  With fresh strawberries in abundance I had been thinking about baking up a batch of strawberry muffins all week.  When I discovered mint growing in my garden I decided to turn these muffins into the ultimate spring treat.  The mint adds a fresh contrast to the sweet berries and the combination is amazing. Do eat these muffins warm.  If you can’t eat them fresh from the oven reheat them in the microwave for a few seconds. You won’t be disappointed.

STRAWBERRY MINT MUFFINS

3 cups flour plus 1 Tablespoon

1 cup white sugar

1 Tablespoon baking powder

1/2 Teaspoon baking soda

1/2 Teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 1/4 cups buttermilk

1 1/4 cups sliced strawberries

1 heaping Tablespoon fresh minced mint

1 Teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Granulated sugar (if desired)

  • Preheat an oven to 375 degrees.  Generously grease a 12-cup muffin tin.
  • Combine 3 cups of flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk in the mint and lemon zest.  Set aside.
  • In a medium-sized bowl whisk the eggs until blended.  Add in the buttermilk and stir to combine.
  • Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the egg-buttermilk mixture.  Gently stir until just combined.
  • Add in the butter and mix until incorporated.
  • In a small bowl toss the strawberries with 1 tablespoon of flour.  Mix into the batter being careful not to crush the berries.
  • Using a large ice cream scoop or spoon divide the muffin batter evenly between twelve muffin cups.
  • Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with granulated sugar if desired.
  • Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until browned and a tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.
  • Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the tins.

Carrot Tahini Muffins

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I have a carrot fan in my house. Ever since his teeth came in, my son has been obsessed with carrots. We visited Rome, Italy when he was just over a year old and tried to introduce him to McDonald’s french fries. Much to my husband’s display the fry was discarded in favor of a carrot. A year later on an epic road trip he ate so many carrots that crunching became the soundtrack for our trip and I began to see an orange tinge on his skin. (Maybe it was my imagination but given the amount of carrots he consumed I’m not so sure). At school he is known as the kid who loves carrots and will opt for the crunchy orange vegetable over a sweet treat any day. And carrots have become a staple on my weekly trip to the market; not having them in the house can cause chaos to ensue. But really, I’m not complaining because what mom doesn’t want her children to like healthy foods.

So in my quest to keep things fresh on the carrot front I’m always on the lookout for new recipes that include this favored vegetable. So when I came across this SmittenKitchen recipe for carrot muffins, I knew I had to give them a shot. I loved the fact that they aren’t filled with a lot of sugar and butter, instead relying on olive oil, buttermilk and a tahini for their moistness and flavor. Yes, tahini; the sesame paste most often associated with hummus and other Middle Eastern treats. Plus the afore mentioned carrots.

And the results? Absolutely delicious. They were a hit in my house and will be making regular appearances on my breakfast menus.

CARROT TAHINI MUFFINS
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup tahini
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cup packed coarsely grated carrots

Sesame seeds, for garnish

  • Heat oven to 425 degrees F.
  • Whisk the olive oil, tahini and brown sugar together in the bottom of a large bowl.
  • Whisk in the eggs, then the buttermilk and vanilla.
  • Whisk in baking powder, baking soda and salt, then switch to a spoon or flexible spatula and stir in flour, then carrots, mixing just until combined.
  • Coat a standard sized 12-cup muffin tin  with a nonstick spray.
  • Fill each about 3/4 of the way with batter then sprinkle the tops with sesame seeds.
  • Bake muffins for 14 to 16 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of each comes out batter-free.
  • Let them cool in pan for 5 minutes on a rack before transferring them to the cooling rack to cool completely.

Yields: 12 muffins

Chicken Lyonnaise Saute

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It’s Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing I want to do is cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

This chicken dish, from the Washington Post kitchens, is so delicious and fast that it proves that you don’t need a long laundry list of fancy ingredients to make great food. Onions, garlic, broth and a splash of white wine combine to form a rich sauce for simple chicken breasts. Serve the chicken with rice or another grain that will soak up the tasty sauce and you are sure to have a new family favorite.

CHICKEN LYONNAISE SAUTE

1/3 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon dried thyme

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 large egg, lightly beaten

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium onions, thinly sliced

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1/3 cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 teaspoons tomato paste

1 cup low sodium chicken broth

1/2 tablespoon sugar

  • Place the flour, salt, pepper and half of the thyme in a sturdy plastic food storage bag, seal and shake to combine.
  • Beat the egg in a medium bowl.
  • One at a time, dip the chicken pieces into the beaten egg, letting the excess drip back into the bowl, then transfer to the bag.
  • Seal and shake to coat the chicken in the flour mixture. Transfer the coated chicken pieces to a plate.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Once the oil shimmers, place the chicken pieces in the pan, smooth side down. Cook for 5 minutes, until golden brown, then turn the pieces over and cook for 5 minutes, until golden brown on the second side.
  • Transfer to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet.
  • Stir in the onions, garlic and remaining thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 7 to 10 minutes or until the onions are translucent.
  • Increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes or until a light golden brown.
  • Add the wine and vinegar; cook, stirring to scrape up any browned bits, for about 3 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by half.
  • Stir in the tomato paste, then the broth and sugar. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes or until the sauce is slightly reduced.
  • Return the chicken to the skillet, along with any accumulated juices.
  • Turn the chicken pieces to coat them with the liquid, then cover, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes or until the temperature of the thickest part of a chicken piece registers 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.
  • Transfer to a serving platter or individual plates, spoon the sauce over the chicken, and serve.

Serves 4

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