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by Caitlin Saniga

Use herbs to the max in this recipe. I chopped up about a cup of parsley, basil and chives for each serving.

My recommendation: Use herbs to the max in this recipe. I chopped up about a cup of parsley, basil and chives for each serving. My plate probably had 1-2 servings of vegetables by the time I tossed everything together.


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by Caitlin Saniga

Stuffed cabbage

Stuffed cabbage was another one of Baboo’s signature dishes. She called it “pigs in a blanket.” She’d prepare a big batch and serve it with mashed potatoes and, if we were lucky, some apple crisp with French vanilla ice cream for dessert. Even though this isn’t Baboo’s recipe (I actually called my Great Aunt Martha, Baboo’s sister-in-law, for some tips.) I still felt so close to her while I was making this.

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by Caitlin Saniga

Don't judge! You'll drop a gremolata-pine nut bomb on your plate, too.

Don’t judge! You’ll drop a gremolata-pine nut bomb on your plate, too.

  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • olive oil
  • 1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch rounds
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • 2 large cloves garlic, peeled, trimmed and minced

Heat the oven to 350. Arrange the pine nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet, and toast in the oven until golden and fragrant, about 4 minutes.

Lightly coat the bottom of a large frying pan with olive oil over medium heat. Add a single layer of eggplant slices to the pan. Cook on each side until tender and golden-brown, about 3 minutes per side. Season with salt and pepper. Repeat until all of the eggplant is cooked.

To make the gremolata, combine the parsley, lemon zest and garlic in a small bowl, and lightly season with salt and pepper.

Arrange 3 or 4 eggplant slices on each plate and top with gremolata and pine nuts. Serve immediately.

Makes 3-4 servings.

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by Caitlin Saniga

Roasted garlic soup

This soup was smooth, creamy, garlicky and beautifully aromatic, thanks to the bay leaf and white wine. For leftovers, I added a big scoop of rice and some steamed asparagus, which made it into almost a risotto and was also terrific.

  • 1 large garlic head, whole, unpeeled
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped carrot
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and cubed
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • chopped scallion, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using a serrated knife, cut the top off the garlic head so that the tip of each clove is exposed. Place the garlic on a piece of aluminum foil and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the bay leaf and fold the foil to form a packet. Place the packet in the oven and bake for 40 minutes. Cool slightly. In a small bowl, squeeze the garlic head until all of the roasted flesh is released. Discard the outer husks the bay leaf.

In a large heavy-duty saucepan, heat the remaining olive oil and butter, add onions, and cook over medium heat until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the carrots and continue to cook for 5 more minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the potato, chicken stock, white wine, roasted garlic, salt, and pepper. Cover and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and continue to cook for 35 minutes.
Using a blender, purée the soup in small batches until smooth. Return the soup to the saucepan over medium heat and whisk in the heavy cream. Heat until warmed. Do not boil. Keep warm until ready to serve.
In a large pan over medium heat, drop Parmesan by the rounded tablespoonful into 4 separate clumps. Cook undisturbed until the cheese crisps up and turns golden-brown. Transfer the pan to the fridge, placing a hot pad underneath, and let cool for 2 minutes. Dab the cheese crisps with a paper towel to remove any excess oil.
Ladle the soup into 4 bowls. Place a cheese crisp on the surface of each bowl of soup. Garnish with chopped scallions. Serve warm.

Recipe adapted from: Country Living

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by Caitlin Saniga

Carne asada lettuce wraps with guacamole and red cabbage

There’s a little Mexican restaurant in downtown Roanoke called Alejandro’s that serves what the menu calls “Shorty Tacos” (Stay tuned. There may be a $6 Snack review of those delicious tacos yet!), which are tiny corn tortillas filled with chili-lime marinated steak, pico de gallo and guacamole. It’s one of mine and Eddie’s favorite dishes in Roanoke. So for his birthday, I decided to do a spin on our beloved shorty tacos by making them fresh at home — and turning them into lettuce wraps! I set out all of the ingredients in separate bowls, and we had so much fun trying different variations at the table. What a happy memory!

Carne asada:

  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice (from 3 or 4 small limes)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 sweet onion cut into small chunks
  • 1 2-pound beef rump roast
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

Lettuce wraps:

  • 1 large head Bibb or Boston lettuce, leaves removed, rinsed and patted dry
  • chopped Roma tomatoes
  • shredded red cabbage
  • chopped cilantro
  • sour cream
  • guacamole
  • lime wedges, for garnish

In small bowl, beat lime juice, oil, vinegar, cumin, paprika, chili powder, cayenne, salt and pepper.

Place the chopped onion in the bottom of a slow cooker. Place the beef over onion. Pour the lime juice mixture over the beef. Sprinkle the garlic over top.

Cover and cook on Low heat for 8 to 9 hours.

Using 2 forks, shred the beef. Stir well to mix the beef with the sauce.

Place all lettuce wrap ingredients on separate serving dishes so everyone can customize their wraps. Generally, though, place a small amount of beef in the center of a lettuce leaf. Add various toppings, roll the leaf around the toppings and eat.

Serves 8.

Carne asada recipe adapted from: Betty Crocker

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by Caitlin Saniga

Balsamic chicken and mushrooms

For a romantic meal for two, serve the chicken over rice (There should be plenty of sauce!), add a salad of mixed greens with balsamic vinaigrette, and sip some white wine.

  • 2 skinless, boneless, thin-sliced chicken breast filets
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound white mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
  • 1/4 cup dark balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon butter, chopped into pieces
  • thyme sprigs, for garnish

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Place the flour in a bowl and season with more salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken breasts in the flour mixture.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and saute until nicely browned on one side, about 3 minutes. Turn the chicken breasts. Scatter the garlic and mushrooms over top. Continue frying, shaking the skillet and stirring the mushrooms. Cook for about 3 minutes, then add the vinegar, broth, bay leaf and thyme. Cover tightly and simmer over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, turning occasionally.

Transfer the chicken to a warm serving platter, and cover with foil. Set aside. Continue simmering the sauce, uncovered, over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Swirl in the butter and discard the bay leaf. Pour the mushrooms and sauce over the chicken, garnish with thyme sprigs, and serve.

Makes 2 servings.

Recipe adapted from: a recipe that appeared in The Roanoke Times from Elizabeth Merian

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by Caitlin Saniga

The most beautiful colors

Someone recently told me that his guiding principle for cooking is: “Cook with color.” I love that idea! (My favorite color is rainbow.) And this dish, to me, is what that motto is about. I picked beautiful, colorful ingredients and put them together in a bowl. The greens I chose provided a variegated base of pale green, grass green and pinky-purple. The pistachios added bright green, brown and more hints of purple. The pomegranate seeds (which have always reminded me of rubies) added a pop of deep red. And last but not least, the blood orange dressing was the most beautiful rosy gold color. Together, it’s a feast for your senses!

If you haven't worked with blood oranges before, like I hadn't, it's good to know that the coloration of the flesh and juice can vary greatly between fruits. The inside of the oranges I chose looked similar to the color of grapefruit with streaks of crimson. The juice was a deep pink color. Other blood oranges can be solid pink, to solid red to almost black. And the flavor tends to be florally sweet, with a hint of grapefruitlike bitterness.

If you haven’t worked with blood oranges before, like I hadn’t, it’s good to know that the coloration of the flesh and juice can vary greatly between fruits. The inside of the oranges I chose looked similar to the color of grapefruit with streaks of crimson. The juice was a deep pink color. Other blood oranges can be solid pink, to solid red, to almost black. And the flavor tends to be florally sweet, with a hint of grapefruitlike bitterness.

Vinaigrette:

  • 1/2 cup blood orange juice (from one large orange)
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed, peeled and minced
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Salad:

  • 12 ounces torn greens (I used frisee, arugula and radicchio.)
  • 1 pomegranate, seeded (See a video I made on prepping pomegranates.)
  • 1 cup shelled pistachios (I used the roasted and salted type.)
The pomegranate I chose seemed almost perfect. The seeds were large and sweet and deep red. Some tips I picked up in the process: Look for a pomegranate with deep red, smooth skin (not pink) and no bruises or soft spots. And if you find one like this, use it within a day or two of purchasing.

The pomegranate I chose seemed almost perfect. The seeds were large and sweet and deep red. Some tips I picked up in the process: Look for a pomegranate with red, smooth skin (not pink) and no bruises or soft spots. And if you find one like this, use it within a day or two of purchasing.

To make the vinaigrette, whisk together all of the ingredients in a medium bowl.

Toss the torn greens in the vinaigrette, and divide the mixture among salad bowls. Top with pomegranate seeds and pistachios, and serve immediately to avoid wilting. If serving later, seal the vinaigrette in and airtight container and store in the fridge, separate from the greens and toppings.

Makes 4 servings.

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