Sunday, February 28, 2016

Queso Fundido with Bacon, Carmelized Onion, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

A warm soft flour tortilla packed with melty queso and little bits of chorizo is one of my favorite ways to indulge. Put a frozen strawberry margarita in my hand and I'm as happy as can be. The marriage of those two things is the perfect way to unwind after a long week.

Lately I've been experimenting  with queso fundido at home. Okay, maybe the term experimenting is putting it lightly. Queso has become something of a weekly routine. Our craving for it simply cannot be satisfied.

This week the grocery was out of chorizo. The nerve! Luckily I remembered this recipe from Rick Bayless and thought it was the perfect time to change things up a bit. I will say that we still love our queso and chorizo version best, but it's hard to argue with this version. Bacon, cheese, jalapenos, sweet sun-dried tomatoes all melted together in ooey gooey deliciousness.

Grab a spoon and put some on a tortilla chip or as a filling all rolled up in a warm flour tortilla for a decadent and gratifying treat that really hits the spot!

Queso Fundido with Bacon, Carmelized Onion, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Recipe adapted from 
Serves 6 as a light appetizer

 3 strips thick-sliced bacon
1 medium white onion, diced or sliced
Hot green chiles to tastes (1 large jalapeno or 2 serranos) stemmed & seeded
1/4 diced sun-dried tomatoes
3 tablespoons beer, preferably a full-flavored like Negra Modelo
8 ounces Monterey Jack or Mozzarella, shredded
1/4 cup chopped cilantro 
To serve: Warm corn or flour tortillas or tortilla chips

Heat the oil in a 8-inch non-stick skillet or cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook for 6 to 8 minutes or until browned and crisp. Remove the bacon and tip off mostof the fat, leaving about 1 tablespoon in the pan. Once the bacon has cooled, crumble and set aside for the garnish. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the onions. Saute for about 8 minutes, or until the onion is golden brown. Add the chiles and sun-dried tomatoes and cook for about 1 minute, or until the chile has softened. Pour in the beer and stir until the liquid has evaporated and the mixture is once again dry looking.

Reduce the heat to medium-low, sprinkle the cheese evenly over the vegetables and stir slowly and constantly until just melted, or place under the broiler until the cheese is melted and bubbly.  Garnish the queso with the crumbled bacon and cilantro and serve in a warm dish, or in the cast iron dish immediately. Serve with warm tortillas or tortilla chips.

Theme: February Potluck!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Ellie Krieger's White Chili

Winter calls for big steaming bowls of chili and this white chili does not disappoint. This isn't your classic version of white chili. Not at all!  This is a rather feisty bowl of white chili. Poblanos, jalapeno, and spicy cayenne pepper deliver heat to ground chicken, beans, and hominy. The result is a hearty bowl of chili with a fiery kick that will completely bowl you over!

In addition to packing heat, this chili also contains a delicious but underutilized ingredient: hominy. Having never tried hominy, I can only tell you that I've clearly been missing out! Hominy is SO good! It has the most lovely and intense corn fragrance that I find incredibly appealing. The hominy itself is big and puffy, which is not only pleasing to the eye, but also to the palate. As far as I'm concerned, hominy is the star of this chili! In fact, I will be adding hominy to all my chili from now on, without question.


If winter has you craving a big bowl of chili, I highly suggest making this version. It is right up there at the very top of the list!

White Chili
Recipe adapted from Food Network
by Ellie Krieger
Serves 6

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 stalks celery, minced
2 medium poblano peppers, seeded & diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded & diced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 pound ground chicken
2 (15.5 oz) cans white beans, drained & rinsed
4 cups chicken broth
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 (15.5 oz.) can hominy, drained & rinsed
salt & pepper, to taste
Toppings: Greek-style yogurt, chopped cilantro, lime wedges

Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over moderate heat. Add the onion, celery, poblanos, jalapeno, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, about 8 minutes.  Add the garlic, cumin, coriander, and cayenne and cook, stirring until fragrant, about 30 seconds. 

Add the ground chicken and cook, breaking up the meat with a spoon, until the meat is no longer pink, about 2 minutes. Add the white beans, broth and oregano.  Cook, partially covered, stirring occasionally, for 25 minutes.

Add the hominy and salt and more cayenne pepper, to taste, and continue cooking, partially covered, 10 minutes longer.  Ladle into individual bowls and top each serving with a spoon of yogurt, cilantro and a lime wedge.

Every Sunday @ Kahakai  Kitchen

Theme: Bowled Over!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Tessa's Spaghetti with Lentil Ragu

A few weeks ago, my sweet friend Deb @ Kahakai Kitchen, shared that this year was the Year Of The Pulse, and being the pulse lover I am, I knew I had to participate! I knew right away which recipe I would make. Ever since I first opened Tessa Kiros' latest cookbook, Recipes & Dreams, I longed to make this Spaghetti with Lentil Ragu. Now was the perfect time to make it happen!

A hearty dish like this lentil ragu was even more ideal when the weather plummeted to a low of one degree (1F) Farenheit, with a windchill of -10. A quick ride to the store revealed frozen roadways and creeks. No one was out on those desolate roadways, nor were they at the store, and everything was quiet and still. The kind of quiet and still that plays with your mind and feels somewhat lifeless. The still of winter.

The still of winter keeps you inside, only daring to venture out into the cold when you absolutely must.  It relegates you to the few things you can do indoors, such as: eat, read, and watch TV. If you're like me, and you don't like going out in this weather, then you will need to stock up on books and get cozy with Netflix. You'll also need to look for good comforting pantry staples like this one to carry you through those barren winter days.

Made from 100% pantry staples, this Lentil Ragu is hearty enough to satisfy even the most voracious of appetites. A quick simmer of  lentils, onion, tomato, earthy sage, and garlic and you have a thick hearty sauce to pour over hot buttered spaghetti.  A gratifying warm bowl of pasta that really hits the spot! A soul-soothing meal that helps pull you through those winter doldrums.

Spaghetti with Lentil Ragu
Adapted from Recipes & Dreams
by Tessa Kiros
Serves 5 

7 ounces small brown lentils
bunch of fresh sage
1 whole medium clove garlic, peeled
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
good pinch of red pepper flakes
2 heaping tablespoons chopped parsley
16 ounces of spaghetti
Parmesan cheese, freshly shredded

Rinse the lentils, pick out and discard any hard odd bits, then put in a pot and cover with water. Ad the sage and the garlic clove and simmer, partly covered, for 25 minutes or so. Add a little hot water if the level becomes low and season with salt toward the end of the cooking time. Drain, keeping the cooking water.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a saucepan and saute the onion, stirring with a wooden spoon, until it is sticky. Add the tomatoes, a pinch of salt and pepper, and the red pepper flakes. Simmer, mashing down the tomato chunks until they collapse. Add the lentils, along with about 1 cup of the cooking water, and simmer, uncovered, for another 10 minutes, for all the flavors to combine.  Add a drop more water, if it looks too thick or cook a little longer if too thin. Stir in the parsley and remove from the heat. 

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling salted water to al dente.  Drain the pasta and serve in warm, wide pasta bowls. Ladle some lentil ragu over each (you may have some ragu left over - Tessa likes to serve it with boiled potatoes the next day). Some like this spaghetti with Parmesan, but others insist it should be served without.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Ellie Krieger's Herbed Salmon and Orzo Casserole with Feta

Ellie Krieger's latest cookbook, You Have It Made, is a treasure trove of make ahead recipes designed to help you get through those busy weekdays in a healthy way. When reading through the book, I noticed that Ellie mentions this recipe for Herbed Salmon and Orzo Casserole with Feta and acknowledges it as one of her personal favorites. Once I read her high praise I knew I had to try this recipe.

Tender chunks of salmon surrounded by satisfying whole-grain orzo and salty bites of feta cheese made fresh, and rather herbaceous, by the addition of fresh dill and parsley, lemon juice, spinach and tomatoes. Make one ahead on the weekend, place it in the fridge or the freezer, and then on those busy weeknights just remove it and pop it in the oven. You'll be so glad to have this eye-pleasing casserole that hits the spot without weighing you down, leaving you with plenty of energy to get through your busy week!

Herbed Salmon and Orzo Casserole with Feta
Adapted from You've Got It Made
by Ellie Krieger
Serves 6

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large scallions, chopped
1-1/2 cups whole-grain orzo pasta
2 cups fish stock or water
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved*
2 cups lightly packed spinach leaves, chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 pounds skinless salmon fillet, cut into 1/2 chunks
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

Note: I used vacuum-packed sun-dried tomatoes in place of cherry tomatoes 

Heat the oil in a large, deep ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add the scallions, and cook, stirring, until they are softened, 2 minutes. Add the orzo and cook, stirring for 2 minutes more.  Add the stock and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low, cover, and simmer until the orzo is about halfway cooked, 5 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes, spinach, parsley, dill, lemon juice, salt, and pepper and cook until the spinach is wilted, 1 to 2 minutes.  Gently stir in the fish, cover, and cook, stirring once or twice, until the fish is cooked on the outside but still a bit translucent inside, 4 to 5 minutes. The mixture may be refrigerated or frozen at this stage.

To continue, preheat the oven to 450F. Sprinkle the feta over the top of the skillet, then place in the oven until the feta is lightly browned and melted, 8 to 10 minutes.

From the refrigerator:   Transfer to a 9x13 pan or two 8x8 ovenproof dishes. Refrigerate up to 2 days. When ready to serve, allow to sit at room temperature as the oven preheats to 375F. Bake, covered with foil, for 20 minutes, then uncover and bake for 10 to 15 minutes more.

From the freezer:  Transfer mixture to a 9x13 pan or two 8x8 ovenproof dishes. Chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes. Then sprinkle the feta on top, cover with airtight lid or plastic wrap and then foil, and freeze up to 3 months. Thaw in refrigerator for 18 to 24 hours then heat according to the "refrigerator" directions above. Cook in oven at 375F for 35 minutes, then remove foil and cook for 15 to 20 minutes more, until heated through.

Serving Size: About 1-1/2 cups; Calories: 460; Total Fat 17g; Protein: 40g; Carb: 30g; Fiber: 4g; Cholesterol: 95mg; Sodium: 550mg
Theme: Oodles of Noodles!