Sunday, May 25, 2014

Vegetable Rolls with Chile Yogurt Sauce

I'm not going to sit here and lie to you.  This is a "somewhat fussy" recipe.  Fiddling around with rice paper can be a little frustrating.  In fact, I'd be willing to go out on a limb and say even the most experienced cook is going to tear one or two of those pesky little wrappers.  So just expect a few rips here or there and remind yourself that your rolls don't have to be perfect! Or at least that's what I tell myself.

I'm also not going to tell you this recipe is "speedy" whatsoever.  There's lots of washing, chopping, boiling, mixing, dipping, and delicate handling involved.  Towards the end you might even feel as though these little rolls took entirely too long. I will confess to being totally over them by the time I was done making them. 

However, all those negative thoughts will fly right out the window as soon as you take that first bite.  These little veggie rolls are pretty much screaming with flavor.  Bright pops of red, orange and yellow veggies add color and crunch.  The chile yogurt sauce is fiery hot and lends a decadent creaminess that makes these rolls feel truly indulgent.  The soft soba noodles make for a pillowy soft center that is rather addictive.  I found two of these rolls very satisfying.  We loved these and I would most definitely make them again!

 Vegetable Rolls With Chile Yogurt Sauce
Adapted from Feel Good Food
by Giada De Laurentiis
Makes 8/Serves 4

1/3 cup plain nonfat 0% Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon Asian chile sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce or fish sauce
1 garlic clove, minced* 
1 tablespoon light agave nectar

4 ounces dried soba buckwheat noodles
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, shredded
8 (8-inch) rice paper rounds
8 fresh lettuce leaves, ribs removed
8 fresh basil leaves
8 fresh mint leaves

For the Sauce:
In a medium bowl, mix together the yogurt, chile sauce, lemon juice, fish/soy sauce, garlic, and agave.

For the Rolls: Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat.  Add the noodle and cook until tender, about 8 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water. Using scissors, cut the noodles into 2-inch pieces.  Add the noodles, red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, and carrot to the yogurt sauce and toss until coated.

Lay a damp kitchen or paper towel on a work surface.  Soak a rice paper round in warm water until softened, 20 to 30 seconds.  Put the rice paper on the damp towel.  Lay a lettuce leaf in the middle of the rice paper and spoon 1/3 cup of the noodle mixture on top.  Put 1 basil leaf and 1 mint leaf on top of the noodle mixture.  Roll the rice paper around the filling and seal the ends with a little water.  Repeat with the remaining ingredients.   

If not serving immediately, drape the finished veggie rolls with damp paper towels, wrap with plastic wrap, and store in the refrigerator for up to 6 hours.
Per Serving (2 rolls): Calories: 110; Protein: 4g; Carbs: 24g; Fiber; 1g; Sugar: 4g; Fat: 0g
Theme: May Potluck!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Mini Spinach and Feta Pies {Spanakopita}

I'd like to dedicate this recipe to all the boxes of phyllo dough that expired in my freezer over the years.  You see, I've always wanted to try my hand at making Spanakopita, spinach and feta pies, but honestly the task always seemed a little too daunting.  So I procrastinated this recipe, or a version of it, for a few years and then quite honestly another few years. Cause that's how I roll.  I'm pretty much the Queen of Procrastination.

So here it is.  My rather lazy approach to Spanakopita. I couldn't possibly be bothered to make the recipe as directed, which was to make one large and enclosed rectangular pie.  That task seemed entirely too fussy for me.  Instead I cut the phyllo dough into squares and made mini pies in a muffin tin.  I supported my laziness by telling myself my pies would be prettier than the enclosed version because you'd actually be able to see the filling in my version.  One excuse wasn't enough to make myself feel better about not making the full-fledged version, so I also told myself that my version would be easier to eat.  I've noticed that I need a minimum of two excuses to feel better about things.  

Mini Spinach and Feta Pies
Adapted from The Guardian
by Nigel Slater 
Makes 8 mini pies 

6 sheets of filo pastry
melted butter, for brushing
1/2 onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
250g spinach
8 ounces of feta, crumbled

Set the oven at 200C/375F.  Saute onion and garlic a pat of butter.  Add spinach and cook until wilted and combined with onions and garlic.  Once the spinach is cooked down add the feta cheese and combine in pan.  Set filling mixture aside to cool.

Butter a muffin tin well.  Roll out the 6 sheets of filo pastry and brush with melted butter, somewhat generously (Nigel's instructions call for brushing each sheet of pastry individually with butter.  I did not do this.  I just buttered the top sheet generously and noticed the butter seemed to sink through).  Cut the filo pastry into 8 squares.  Place a filo square into each muffin tin.  When the filling has cooled somewhat fill each filo square with the spinach mixture.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until pastry is golden and filling is set.  Cool well before eating to avoid burns. 

Theme:  A Little Cheese, Please!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Nigel Slater's "Needs Must" Fettuccine Alfredo

When my good friend Deb, of Kahakai Kitchen, shared this recipe for Nigel Slater's "Needs Must" Fettuccine Alfredo I knew straight away I had to make it!  I found myself drooling over Deb's pics of creamy and comforting fettuccine noodles.  Then I noticed how simple the recipe was.  Easiest recipe for Fettuccine Alfredo ever.  Five ingredients.  Dead Simple. 

Now I will confess.  It's hard to justify eating something so indulgent.  However, my thirteen year old daughter simply loves Fettuccine Alfredo and it just so happens that she is underweight.  Do you see where I'm going with this?  I made this Fettuccine Alfredo for her.  After all, the doctor did say she needed to gain weight and it is my job to feed the child. I'm telling you.  This parenting gig is a rough job sometimes.  The things we have to suffer through.

 Nigel Slater's "Needs Must" Fettuccine Alfredo
recipe found on Kahakai Kitchen 
and also found in Notes From the Larder
by Nigel Slater 
Enough for 2

9 ounces (250g) fettuccine or other favorite pasta shape
1 cup (250ml) heavy cream
thick slice of butter
About 3/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving
Salt and lots of black pepper, to taste

Boil the fettuccine (or other pasta shape) in deep heavily salted water till al dente.  Put the cream in a saucepan with the butter and warm over gentle heat.  Grate in a little nutmeg.  Stir in most of the grated Parmesan and a generous amount of black pepper, then toss in the lightly drained pasta.  Toss gently and serve with remaining Parmesan.   

Theme: Weeknight Favorites!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Brown Rice, Carrot and Cashew Pilau

Rice is always a welcome side dish in my home.  Lately we've switched to brown rice and I have to say the entire family enjoys the nutty flavor of brown rice.  We loved this particular recipe because the toasted cashews really accentuate the natural nutty flavor of the brown rice. Not to mention, the added texture and crunch of the cashews is really nice.  The pops of color from the cubed carrots, sliced scallions, and black sesame seeds make this very easy on the eyes. 
If you're looking for a new rice dish this is it! I served this alongside some roasted chicken legs and broccoli and it was a delicious pairing.  In fact we loved the broccoli when mixed with the rice and found ourselves mixing it in. Next time I would probably go ahead and add the broccoli straight to the rice.  It was a wonderful combination of colors and flavors!

Brown Rice, Carrot, and Cashew Pilau
Adapted from Nigel Slater 
via The Guardian
Serves 2 as a main course
Serves 4 as a side

The Recipe: Scrub and finely dice two medium carrots. Warm a slice of butter and a little oil in a frying pan, add a couple of roughly chopped spring onions and then the diced carrots. Let the carrots and spring onions colour lightly then add three whole cloves and a teaspoon of ground coriander. Add 200g (equivalent of 1 cup)  brown basmati rice and 500ml of vegetable stock, bring to the boil, season generously with salt, then cover tightly with a lid and turn down the heat so the rice simmers gently. Cook for 15-20 minutes until the rice is almost tender. Leave to settle, still covered with a lid, for 10 minutes. Toast a couple of handfuls of cashews in a dry pan until they are lightly brown and set aside. Remove the lid from the rice, add two teaspoons of nigella seed, one teaspoon of garam masala, a thick slice of butter and the cashews. Fork the butter, nuts and spices through the mixture, stirring well, then serve.

Tricks and Tips: I always wash my rice three times in a bowl of warm water, swishing the rice round with my fingers. This removes any surface starch and helps to keep the rice separate. Partly necessity and partly ritual, it is probably only truly necessary to do this once, but I have always done it three times and my rice never sticks. It's best cooked with a tight lid and is done when deep holes appear on the surface. Peep occasionally to check.

A Few Twists: Use parsnip instead of carrot, but cook a little longer before adding the rice, so the roots are really sweet and caramelised. Use white rice, cooking it for a shorter time. It will take about 12 minutes depending on the type of rice and how soft you like it. I have used soft spicing here, but for a hotter mix use ground chilli, cumin and paprika. Add these while the carrots are cooking rather than at the end.

Theme: Rootie Patootie!