Thursday, June 25, 2009

Chicken Gyros

My DB and I have found THE best place for gyros (pronounced yee-ros): Steve’s Gyros, located in a tiny stand at the West Side Market (Cleveland, OH). It has, undisputedly, THE BEST gyros my lips have ever tasted. We have searched and tasted high and low here (Cincinnati, OH), but we both can agree that no one can top Steve’s. When we’re up north, we always make a special trip there to get our fix. Unfortunately, we can’t always make the 4.5-hour drive home, so we were on the hunt for a terrific recipe… and this definitely foots the bill (as I've had this tagged in Reader for a LONG time!). The chicken breasts are marinated in a Greek citrus vinaigrette to produce moist and flavorful meat, which is then topped with garlicky tzatziki cucumber sauce. All of this is piled into a warmed pita flatbread. Add some chopped tomatoes and red onions and voila- a wonderfully delicious gyro is made!

Although there is some marinating/marrying of flavors that needs to be done, this recipe is a great weeknight meal option as everything comes together so quickly… just make sure you allot enough time to do the prep work. I only made ½ the recipe of the Tzatziki sauce, which was the perfect amount. This was the first time I've used Greek yogurt, and all the hype about it is true- it has a thick and creamy texture, and a wonderful creamy taste. Going forward, I would skip the "straining yogurt" step and just use Greek yogurt- you'll save yourself A LOT of time this way. I'm looking forward to using this product in future dishes. I would recommend using Greek Pita Flatbread, which is different that the traditional pita breads, which tend to be dry. I know I've already said this before, but if you can do the prep work the evening before, the meal took no time at all to put together tonight.

Marinated Chicken
4 cloves garlic, smashed
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 heaping Tbsp. plain yogurt
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
1-1/4 lbs. chicken pieces (I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts)
Salt and pepper
4 (pocketless) pitas (I used Greek Pita Flatbread)
1/2 batch of tzatziki (Recipe below)
Sliced tomatoes
Sliced onions (I use red as they are the only kind I like raw)

Tzatziki Sauce (Original recipe here, but I made ½ the recipe, seen below)
16-oz. container (2 cups) plain yogurt (I do NOT recommend fat free, but a fat free Greek yogurt will be OK, since it’s thicker)
1 hothouse cucumber or 2 regular cucumbers, seeded
2-3 cloves garlic–depending how garlicky you like it, minced
1 tsp white wine vinegar
Squeeze of 1/2 fresh lemon
1 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
Freshly ground black pepper, little
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

For the Chicken
1. Whisk together the garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, oil, yogurt, and oregano in a bowl. Add the chicken and rub the marinade in. Cover and refrigerate for about an hour.

2. Preheat the broiler (or grill, or pan on the stove). Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides, and then broil until cooked through, about 5 minutes per side, depending what size/type chicken you are using.

3. Allow the chicken to rest for a few minutes before slicing into strips.
4. Meanwhile, heat your pitas.
5. Top the pita with the chicken, tzatziki sauce, tomatoes, and onions. Roll up and eat!

For the Tzatziki Sauce
1. Strain yogurt using cheesecloth over a bowl (if you don’t have that, a strainer lined with a coffee filter will work) for several hours or overnight to get out as much moisture out as possible. (Omitted this step since used Greek yogurt)
2. Peel and seed the cucumber.

3. Shred the cucumbers (used my food processor) and then squeeze the life out of them to get rid of as much excess moisture as possible. (I used paper towels to do this, and you will get a lot of liquid so don’t skip this step! Yes, there is a lot of straining and squeezing–and it’s all important! You don’t want a runny tzatziki.)

4. Mix together the strained yogurt, shredded cucumbers, garlic, vinegar lemon juice, and dill. Salt and Pepper to taste. It’s best to refrigerate for 30 minutes or more before serving, so flavors can meld. (This resting time is very important.)
5. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top.

Source: Elly Says Opa!

Gnocchi with Sausage and Spinach

I was looking for an easy, yet satisfying, weeknight meal, and this recipe was recommended by BMK of Reservations Not Required. I was concerned that this meal would be too bland in flavor, but it was surprisingly good, and a cinch to put together in a pinch. (My DB cooked it for me.) The flavors of the sausage and shredded Parmesan really imparted great flavor to this dish. The only suggestion my DB stated would be to add a Parmesan cream sauce- he felt it was a little dry. Otherwise, an easy weeknight meal that is colorful, includes vegetables, and tastes great.

(2) 9-ounce packages refrigerated gnocchi or one 17.5-ounce package shelf-stable gnocchi (I used Buitoni Whole Wheat Cheese Tortellini)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 pound Italian sausage, casings removed (I used spicy sausage)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
5-ounce bag baby spinach (I used frozen broccoli, thawed)
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
3/4 cup (3 ounces) grated Parmesan, plus more for garnishing

1. Cook the gnocchi according to the package directions, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid.

2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

3. Add the sausage and cook, crumbling it with a spoon, until browned, 5 to 7 minutes.

4. Add the garlic, broccoli, salt, and pepper and cook, tossing frequently, until the broccoli warms through, about 3 minutes.

5. Add the drained gnocchi, the reserved cooking liquid, and the Parmesan and toss.

6. Divide among individual bowls and sprinkle with additional Parmesan.

Tip: Gnocchi are small, quick-cooking dumplings, usually made from potatoes. You'll find them with the fresh or dried pasta in supermarkets, or you can substitute a short pasta, such as rigatoni, penne, or farfalle.

Yield: Makes 4 servings
Source: Real Simple, MARCH 2007

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Hearty Beef Stew

Beef stew in June? It’s true. My DB has been requesting this for a few weeks now, and quite truthfully- I thought he’d let go of the idea of beef stew since it’s been getting warm, and at times humid, outside. But no, he has not. And to be quite honest- this beef stew is absolutely delicious, and despite it being 85 degrees and humid outside, it tasted simply divine. It is my favorite beef stew, and I’m not even a red meat fan. The beef broth in this dish is out of this world! It has such a robust, bold flavor, and tastes like you’ve been hovering over your stove for hours. Don't be intimidated by the blackened pan after cooking all the stew meat- that's where all the flavor is. When the wine and chicken stock are added, make sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to get all that flavor into your beef stew.

The beef and vegetables are so tender too. Though the meal does take a few hours to cook, the prep work is relatively simple. Make sure to have a splatter screen ready- the oil will splatter! I love to dip toasted, crusty bread into the beef broth and eat the slow-cooked vegetables. This dish makes enough for 4 servings, but since there are only the 2 of us, my DB likes to take it for lunch- it reheats beautifully. A big thanks to Katie of Good Things Catered for her delicious recipe!

3 lbs. Beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1-1/2 in. cubes
Salt and ground pepper
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 medium onions, chopped coarse
1/4 tsp salt
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
1 cup full-bodied dry red wine
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (I used unsalted chicken stock)
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried thyme
4 medium red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-in. cubes (I used Yukon Gold)
4 large carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4 in. thick
1 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup minced parsley
Worcestershire sauce (optional)
Cayenne pepper (optional)
Crusty bread, for dipping

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
2. Dry beef thoroughly and season generously with salt and pepper.

3. Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.(I cooked over medium-low heat.)
4. Add half the meat so that pieces are not touching and cook, not moving the beef until brown, approximately 2-3 minutes. Use tongs and rotate pieces until all sides are browned (about 5 additional min.)

5. Transfer beef to medium bowl and add another 1 Tbsp oil to the pan, repeating previous steps with other half of beef. (The beef will impart oil so I didn't need to add additional oil to the pan.)
6. Reduce heat to medium and add the additional 1 Tbsp oil to the now empty pan and swirl to coat bottom.

7. Add onions and 1/4 tsp salt and cook, scraping bottom of pan for brown bits until softened, approximately 5 minutes.

8. Add garlic and continue to cook for 30 seconds.
9. Stir in the flour and cook until lightly colored, approximately 1-2 minutes.

10. Add wine, scraping the bottom and stirring until thick and flour is dissolved.

11. Gradually add the chicken broth/stock, stirring constantly, scraping up the remaining browned bits on bottom of pan.

12. Add bay leaves and thyme and return to simmer.
13. Add beef, return to simmer, and place the pot in the oven. Cook for 1 hour.

14. Add potatoes and carrots. Cover and return to the oven to cook for an additional hour.

15. Remove the pot from the oven. Add the peas, cover and allow to stand for 5 min. 16. Stir in the parsley, discard bay leaves, adjust seasoning (add Worcestershire sauce and cayenne pepper, if needed), and serve immediately.

Source: Adapted from Good Things Catered

Garlic Knots

I wanted something easy, quick, and satisfying to accompany Anne's Excellent Meatballs recipe. I remember this wonderfully lovely Garlic Knots that my old pizzeria used to make that would accompany every pizza we ordered. Seriously, the Garlic Knots were out of this world. It possessed a crispy exterior, and warm, soft interior. Every bite would fill your mouth with buttery, garlicky goodness with a touch of coarse salt, shredded Parmesan, and chopped parsley. It was that good that sometimes, I'd eat it before I would even touch the pizza (and pizza is one of my favorite foods.) This recipe mimicks those Garlic Knots. They are freakin' awesome- truly delicious and I made them on the fly. I couldn't stop eating them!

Parchment paper or Cooking spray
Pizza Dough (I used Pillsbury Thin Pizza Crust)
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp garlic, minced
Extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle
Kosher salt, sprinkle
1/8 cup shredded Parmesan
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees (or pizza dough/crust directions). Place parchment paper on large baking sheet, or spray with cooking spray.
2. Over medium-low heat, melt butter and minced garlic until garlic is fragrant- approximately 3-4 minutes.

3. Remove from heat, cover, and set aside.
4. Lightly flour work surface.
5. Place pizza crust/dough on top and roll out dough into a large rectangle.

6. Sprinkle the olive oil on top. Using a brush, brush the olive oil on top, ensuring to cover the entire dough.

7. Cut the dough into strips about 1" wide.

8. Fold the dough strip in half (length-wise), and tie each dough strip into a knot, stretching gently if necessary.

9. Place each knot onto the baking sheet. Sprinkle with kosher salt.

10. Bake until golden brown and risen, approximately 10 minutes.

11. Brush the warm garlic-butter mixture on each knot, and sprinkle the shredded cheese and parsley. (The golden knot absorbed the garlic-butter mixture quickly- I brushed each knot twice.)

12. Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt, if necessary. Serve immediately.

Source: ME!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Baked Brownie

This recipe has been awarded best brownie honors from America's Test Kitchen, The Today Show, and Oprah's O Magazine. This recipe produces chewy with light, crispy edges, and a rich, dense fudge-like middle. This is one RICH brownie! The brownie's chocolate flavor is really deep and intense, and the moist, chewy texture is absolute perfection. It was one of the BEST brownies I had ever eaten (and Ina’s Outrageous Brownies are hard to beat). If you’ve made Ina’s brownies, you’ll likely see there are many similarities to this recipe. The (slight) differences are: this recipe uses a combination of bittersweet chocolate and dark cocoa powder (Ina uses semi-sweet and unsweetened) and the addition of brown sugar. The prep work is easy too- I like how you only use 1 (large) bowl for the entire recipe. The only difficult step is to ensure you do not over-mix the batter- that will result in a cake-like brownie. Next time, I'll start this recipe melting the chocolate/butter/instant espresso first- that way, I can allow time for the ingredients to melt and then cool to room temperature while I prepare the rest of the recipe.

1-1/4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp dark cocoa powder
11-oz quality dark chocolate (60-72%), chopped coarsely (I used Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips)
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 tsp instant espresso powder
1-1/2 cups sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
5 large eggs, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Butter the sides and bottom of a glass or light colored metal pan 9x13x2 pan.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, the salt, and cocoa powder.

4. Configure a large sized double boiler. Place the chocolate, the butter, and the instant espresso powder in the bowl of the double boiler and stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and combined.

5. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water of the double boiler and add both sugars. Whisk the sugars until completely combined and remove the bowl from the pan. Mixture should be room temperature. (Start with Step #4 and #5 FIRST!)

6. Add 3 eggs to the chocolate/butter mixture and whisk until just combined- don’t over mix!.
7. Add the remaining 2 eggs and whisk whisk until just combined- don’t over mix!.

8. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not over beat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.
9. Sprinkle the flour/cocoa/salt mix over the chocolate. Using a spatula (DO NOT USE A WHISK), fold the dry into the wet until there is just a trace amount of the flour/cocoa mix visible.

10. Pour the mixture into the pan and smooth the top with your spatula.

11. Bake the brownies for 30 minutes (rotate the pan half-way through baking) and check to make sure the brownies are completely done by sticking a toothpick into the center of the pan. The brownies are done when the toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs.
12. Cool the brownies completely before cutting and serving.

Yield: 24 brownies
Source: Baked: New Frontiers In Baking (Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito)
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