Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Night With Ina Garten: Winter Slaw

Don't you just love Ina Garten?

I sure do.  My mom and I have been watching her show on the Food Network for years.  So when I was notified that she was coming to town and holding an event to talk about her new cookbook "Make It Ahead: a Barefoot Contessa Cookbook" I jumped at the chance to spend an evening listening to her.

It was a wonderful event held in an old 1920's art deco theater in Beverly Hills.  The place was packed with Ina fans both young and old.  There's no wonder why either. If you've ever tried any of her recipes you will know that they are very easy to follow. Her instructions are spot on, the food is not fussy, but so full of flavor, and as her book claims you can make these meals ahead.

So we spent the evening with Ina, listening to her tell stories about entertaining, her love of food, and the love of her life, Jeffrey.  She was funny, gracious, and vibrant.  I had the most wonderful time and got a signed cookbook!  She is such an inspiration to so many people who love to cook and entertain.  I certainly wanted to go straight home and cook from her new book.

And that's almost just what I did.  Thumbing through the book I found several recipes I wanted to try right off the bat. One particular item that caught my eye was her Winter Slaw. Such a simple salad with amazing flavors.  Remember the rule when you have few ingredients is to buy the best, and ingredients that have big flavor punches.  This salad is just that and more!  

I ended up making this salad for our Thanksgiving meal.  I put together the salad ingredients the day before as Ina suggested and put it all together in a flash an hour or so before serving. The only thing I changed was to add some toasted pecans for a little crunch.  I just love any help that makes things go smoother on a big cooking day, don't you?

The salad was a huge hit!  MGG and our guests just loved, loved, loved it.  Again, the flavors are distinct and pack a punch.  So I'm thinking that this would be the perfect salad for Christmas dinner, or New Year's eve!  The colors alone draw you to this salad.  You have to try it!

I've tried 2 or 3 other items from the book so far, and each one has been fantastic.  This book is a winner and one that I highly recommend.  Enjoy!

Winter Slaw

serves 8

adapted from: Make It Ahead a Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

1/2 pound large kale leaves, center rib removed (6-8 leaves)
6 oz Brussels sprouts, trimmed halved and cored
1/2 small head of radicchio, cored
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/2 cup good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (6 ounce) chunk good Parmesan cheese
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup toasted pecans

With a sharp chef's knife cut the kale, Brussels spouts, radicchio crosswise into thin shreds, as you would cut cabbage for coleslaw, and place them in a large bowl.

In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Pour enough dressing on the salad to just moisten it, reserving the rest.

Shave the Parmesan in big shards with a vegetable peeler.  Add the cheese, dried cranberries, and pecans to the salad and toss it carefully to avoid breaking up the cheese.  Check for seasoning and add more vinaigrette if necessary, and serve cold or at room temperature.

Make it ahead:  Prepare the salad ingredients, store in plastic bags, and refrigerate for a day or two.  Make the vinaigrette and refrigerate for up to one day.  Toss together a few hours before serving.  

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Chicken Ditalini Soup

Have you ever had one of those days?

You know, the kind where you feel you woke up on the wrong side of the bed and then everything snowballs from there and just goes kinda off.  Well, I had one yesterday.

It started with breakfast.  I was making some new muffins, that just about burnt.  I don't like the flavor of "over browned" muffins, and I'm sure you don't either. So wasn't to pleased with them.  Then I was rushing off to an appointment and couldn't find my keys. That never happens, cause I leave them in the same place all the time...but no, they were not there.  Now I'm rushing and having found my keys in my purse, I rush to the car....Oops!  no GAS!

What else is going to happen?  So, I made it to my appointment on time (barely) and things seemed to calm down for the moment.  So I decided to take a moment and re-adjust my outlook since it was spiraling out of control just as fast as the issues were occurring.  Turning on some music, I decided I needed to cook.

Comfort food was in order.  So I picked up some staples, a rotisserie chicken, and rounded up MGG for an early dinner and a movie.  Soup was in order.  Hot comforting chicken noodle soup, Italian style.  Served with some crusty bread and a nice Mediterranean style salad, the meal was just what the doctor ordered!

It's nothing fancy, but the flavors are hard to beat.  You can make this hearty satisfying soup in about 45 minutes.  Now that's a winner in my book.  

Comfort food is always a perfect way to set things back on the right track.  Trust me, I know!


Chicken Ditalini Soup

45 min meal

serves 6

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small white onion, peeled and diced
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
4 cloves garlic, minced
7 cups chicken broth, low sodium
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups (about 8 ounces) ditalini pasta
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
2 rotisserie chicken breasts, cubed
salt and black pepper

Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add carrots and saute for 4 minutes. Add onion, celery and garlic and saute for an additional 5 minutes. 
Add chicken broth, tomatoes, thyme, oregano, basil and stir to combine. 

Bring soup to a boil, add chicken and reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 min.  Add pasta and cook an additional 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thanksgiving Leftovers: Turkey and Swiss Panini

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with family and fun!

MGG and I hosted a nice dinner with some friends.  The food was perfect and the company even better!  It's so good to spend time laughing, telling stories, and just enjoying friends.

With that said I was exhausted the next day.  I mean I didn't want to even think about putting all the decorations away and getting the house back in order. After 2 days of cooking (the make ahead items were soooo helpful!)  Least of all was that I really didn't want to put much effort into a meal.  With all the leftovers around I always try and find ways to change them up and utilize them in different dishes.

For lunch I whipped up this wonderful Turkey and Swiss Panini.  A perfect way to use the leftover turkey!  You'll need some good bread, I used a country loaf, some leftover turkey slices, Swiss cheese, and veggies like lettuce and tomato. 
For the spread you can swap out several kinds to make it your own version such as leftover cranberry sauce, artichoke garlic spread, mayo, mustard, even tapenade would be great!

Once you put this together you just cook it in your panini grill, or a grill pan and weight it down with another pan....or break out the Foreman grill...!  All work fine.  Soon you will have a wonderful hearty sandwich.

Here's the recipe for this wonderful sandwich, served with a nice green salad.

For more thanksgiving Leftover ideas click on the link below.
Thanksgiving Leftover Ideas: Let's talk turkey!

Turkey and Swiss Panini

makes: 1 sandwich

2 slices of country bread
spread - mayo, mustard, artichoke spread, cranberry sauce etc.
3 slices of turkey
2 slices of Swiss cheese
tomato slices

Spread your choice of sandwich spread on each slice of bread.  Layer turkey, cheese, tomato, and lettuce on one slice of bread and top with the other slice.  Cook in a panini grill until golden brown on the outside and the cheese has melted.  About 6 minutes.  Cut in half and serve.


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