Inga's Indulgence

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Some Wine while you Dine?

In my house, if a bottle of wine is not finished on the first try, chances are nobody will drink it again. The good news is, it doesn't necessarily go to waste. I love using wine while cooking. It's complexity, tang, and sweetness makes for an excellent base to a flavorful sauce.

In fact, the other day when I found myself unethusiastically reaching for the chicken in my fridge, the half drunken bottle of Pinot standing right next to it suddenly looked very appealing. Make sure the wine is drinkable though, because the process of cooking tends to concentrate the flavor, and you wouldn't want to concentrate something that's not even decent in its natural state.

  Chicken with White Wine Mustard Pan Sauce
         (yield: 4-5 servings)

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tbsp canola oil
flour, as needed
1 egg, beaten with 2 tsp water
1/2 cup Pinot Noir (or any dry white wine like Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup chicken broth
salt & pepper, to taste
parsley, chopped (optional)

Prepare the chicken: Slice each chicken breast horizontally into three pieces. Using a mallot or a heavy pan, pound each slice until it is about 1/4-inch thick.

Heat the oil in a large saute pan. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour, shaking off excess, and then in egg wash. Once the pan is hot, sear the chicken briefly, about 1 minute per side. Remove from pan and set aside.

Lower the heat, and deglaze pan with wine, stirring with a wooden spoon to retrieve all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Simmer on low, until wine reduces by 1/2. Stir in garlic, dijon mustard, and chicken broth. Simmer 3-4 minutes. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Add the chicken back into pan, and simmer for another 3 minutes. Garnish with parsley.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Dippity Do Da


Some things are meant for dipping; oreos, bread, your finger on occasion. But the most "dippable" of all culinary creations has got to be the biscotti. A twice baked cookie that was perhaps designed for the purpose of dipping into espresso or  a perfectly cold glass of milk, in my opinion, the biscotti is a sophisticated cookie. Don't ask me why. I feel sophisticated when I eat it, okay?!

Triple Chocolate Biscotti
(yield: about 30 cookies)

 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder (unsweetened)
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
10 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

Line a large rectangular sheet-pan with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine first 4 ingredient. Stir well to combine. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together next three ingredients. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and mix just until a dough forms. Mix in 1/3 of the chocolate chips. Refrigerate for 40 minutes.

Divide the dough in half and place onto prepared pan, forming two rectangular logs the length of the sheet-pan. Flatten the logs slightly so that they are about 1-2 inches high. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven, and let cool slightly. Using a serrated knife, slice the logs horizontally into 1/2-inch slices. Lay the slices flat onto the sheet-pan, and bake for an additional 10 minutes, flipping them over after 5 minutes. Cool completely.

While the biscotti cool, melt the chocolate: Place remaining chocolate chips into a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave for a minute, stopping to mix every 15 seconds, until chocolate is completely melted. Dip 1-2 inches of each biscotti into the melted chocolate, and place back on parchment-lined sheet-pan. Refrigerate until chocolate is set.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

1, 2...Did someone say chicken?

I love to cook, it's my life. Once in a while, however, there are days when I shamefully glance toward the infamous take-out menu drawer. The truth is, and listen carefully when I say this, NOTHING GOOD CAN EVER COME FROM TAKE-OUT!

I don't care if you order from the best restaurant in town, take-out sucks. If you want to go out for a bite when you've got the cooking blues, by all means do it, but please do yourself a favor and don't order in.

Why am I so adamant about this topic? First of all, ordering in results in unhealthy eating the majority of the time. Think about it, when you decide to order in, what are the first few options that come to mind - pizza and Chinese food. Don't even try to deny it. Okay, maybe you'll go for a slightly healthier alternative like sushi (which may not be that healthy after-all) or a salad. But do you really want to feast on raw fish or a salad that's been hauled around for X amount of minutes, or even hours? Ordering food to go while it should be served as soon as it's prepared, compromises its integrity and quality, and for the most part, leaves you unsatisfied in the end.

So, today when I was about to fall pray to the take-out drawer, I stopped myself. Instead, I made something fresh so fast that my meal was done before I had even realized that there was cooking involved. It was delicious, filling, healthy, and best of all it wasn't a big deal.

Chicken a la "Snap"
(yield: 3-4 servings)
1 tbsp olive oil 
1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2-inch strips
salt & pepper, to taste
1 medium red onion, sliced
1 1/2 cups marinara sauce
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 cups arugula

Heat the oil in a large saute pan over high heat. Once pan is hot, add the chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Brown on all sides. Lower heat and add onions, saute 2-3 minutes. Add marinara sauce and oregano. Simmer 6-7 minutes.
Stir in balsamic vinegar and arugula, and cook just until the arugula wilts. Adjust seasoning with more salt and pepper if necessary.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Burger that won't stick to your Buns

Summer is a very funny time. One second you're on the beach vowing to start the diet that'll make you look like the skimpy bikinied 16-year-olds, and the next you're fantasizing about sucking face with a juicy burger. Put less nicely, summer is a bitch.

Not to worry, you can have your burger. This burger will make you salivate without having to loosen your pants afterwards. Oh, and it's high in Omega-3's. Score!

Spiced Salmon Sliders with Yogurt Cucumber Sauce

(yield: 6 sliders)

1 1/2 lbs salmon filet, skin & bones removed, cut into large cubes
1 scallion, roughly chopped
1 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
1/4 cup parsley
1 egg
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp nigella seeds (optional)*
1 1/2 tsp salt

Yogurt Cucumber Sauce
1 medium Persian or Israeli cucumber, skin on
1/2 cup greek yogurt
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp mint leaves, chopped
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

1 tbsp canola oil
whole-wheat hamburger buns
greenleaf lettuce, as needed
6 slices red onion, sliced into thin rings (optional)

Place all ingredients for sliders (first 11) into a food processor. Pulse about 20 times, until everything is combined, but still somewhat chunky. Transfer to a bowl, and refrigerate 1 hour.

Make the Yogurt sauce: Grate the cucumber, and drain, squeezing out most of the water. Combine with remaining ingredients. Reserve.

Heat the canola oil in a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Divide salmon mixture into 6 patties. Add patties to hot pan (working in batches if necessary), and lower the heat to medium. Pan- fry 4-5 minutes per side, until desired degree of doneness is achieved.

Assemble sliders: Brush the insides of the buns with a little bit of oil, and toast briefly in a hot pan. Top with lettuce, a salmon pattie, sliced onions, and a dollop of the yogurt-cucumber sauce.

If you're feeling extra ambitious, make this slider completely carb-free, and swap the buns for more lettuce.

 * Nigella seeds are aromatic, black seeds, often referred to as black cumin. They are commonly used in Middle Eastern and Indian preparations.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Lucky Beans

Yesterday I found myself staring at a giant canister of beautifully vibrant red lentils.

Waiting patiently in the back of my pantry cabinet for what seemed like eternity, these lentils were straight up looking up at me with sad puppy dog eyes. I couldn't let them down this time, so I grabbed them, and the staring contest persisted.

It was for the sake of love that I parted with these velvety, meaty vessels of protein, and countless other nutrients, in the first place. My husband claims to be allergic to them. I say diarrhea is not an allergy. In any case, I pretty much stopped cooking with them because it's no fun cooking for yourself, and frankly, you can't eat lentil soup all year round.

But now it was time for a reunion. It was time to use lentils in something other than soup. They were far too healthy and pretty to disregard. So I made something a little different, and scoffed it down all by myself.

       Red Lentil Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette
    (yield: 2-3 servings)

    1 cup red lentils 
    2 cups water
    1/2 tbsp dijon mustard 
    1 clove garlic, finely minced
    1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar
    1 tsp lemon juice
    2 oz olive oil  
    4 tbsp red onion, finely chopped 
    1 plum tomato, pulp & seeds removed, small dice 
    4 kalamata olives, small dice
    1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
    3/4 tsp salt
    1/4 tsp pepper

    Rinse the lentils under cold, running water. Place into medium pot with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 5-7 minutes, until lentils are cooked through but still have a bite. Drain, and rinse again under cold, running water. Transfer to a bowl, and set aside.

    While the lentils cook, make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk together Dijon mustard, garlic, lemon juice, and red wine vinegar. Whisk in the olive oil. Pour vinaigrette over warm lentils, and mix in remaining ingredients

    You may eat right away, but this salad is best after spending a few hours in the fridge. 
    FYI...
    Lentils are great sources of protein, fiber, iron, and phospherous.

    Super rich in folate, you should sneak lentils into your diet as often as possible if you're pregnant.

    Oh, and I'm not really even sure that they are beans, but with a resume like this, they've gotta be lucky!

    Monday, June 6, 2011

    Mama Chef has not left the building...

    My sincerest apologies for being MIA for the past week (or two)! Between dealing with the baby teething at a record pace and having to barricade my entire house in an attempt to prevent him from reaching every possible hazard, mommyhood had me kind of wrapped up.

    But I'm back now, and I have some great recipes for all you mommys, moms-to-be, and anyone else in the mood for good summer eats.

    I've been working on some more healthy hemp-based recipes for Hemp.com and I have to admit, the Mango Hempseed Chutney with Hemp Flatbread is definitely one of my favorites. Check it out...
    http://recipes.hemp.com/2011/05/mango-hempseed-chutney-with-hemp-flatbread/