Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Plantain and Queso Fresco Puff Pastry Spirals with Roasted Tomatillo and Parsley Crema

Those who know me well know that I love a challenge, especially in the kitchen. When I saw the "They Go Really Well Together" challenge over at "Should You Eat That?" I knew I wanted to be involved. I must admit when I read the 2 required ingredients, bananas and parsley, I had a little bit of trouble trying to wrap my mind around the combination. However, the more I thought about it, the more I knew it would make a winning pair.

I've always been a huge fan of plantains, and combined with the queso fresco, they make the perfect filling for the buttery puff pastry. I wanted to add a fuller flavor to the parsley crema, so I roasted some tomatillos and pureed those in as well. All in all, the flavors work extremely well together and these will definitely be making an appearance at the next get-together. Although it seems like a fiddly and long recipe, and not only in the length of the name, these can be made ahead of time and reheated in the oven right before serving.

Be sure to check out the full roundup for more wonderful combinations of these 2 ingredients.

Plantain and Queso Fresco Puff Pastry Spirals with Roasted Tomatillo and Parsley Cream

Plantain and Queso Fresco Puff Pastry Spirals with Roasted Tomatillo and Parsley Crema

3 tbsp olive oil
2 c plantain, chopped (about 2)
1 c vidalia onion, chopped
3/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp Adobo seasoning salt (or other salt blend)
1 (12 oz) pkg Queso Fresco, grated (Monterey Jack would work well too)
1 pkg puff pastry sheets, thawed

2 tomatillos, husks removed
1/2 c flat italian parsley leaves
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 tsp Adobo seasoning salt (or other salt blend)
8 oz sour cream

Place a large heavy pot over high heat. Add tomatillos and roast, shaking frequently, until there are brown spots, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. In food processor, process tomatillos and parsley until well pureed. Place in small screen strainer and strain while preparing spirals. Remove puff pastry from package and allow to thaw out at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In large pan, pour in oil and heat over medium high heat. Add plantains and onions and saute for 3 minutes. Add cumin, paprika, and Adobo, and cook until plantain and onion is tender. Remove from pan onto paper towel-lined plate to absorb excess oil. Place 1 puff pastry sheet on flour-sprinkled counter. Roll slightly with rolling pin. Place 1/2 of shredded queso fresco on sheet, leaving 1/2 in" border on both long sides and 1 short side. Top with 1/2 of plantain mixture. Starting at end, roll into a spiral, sealing the end with water. Slice into 1" slices and place 2 inches apart on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Place into oven and bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown. Remove to wire racks and cool slightly.

In small bowl, combine tomatillo and parsley puree from strainer to sour cream along with remaining ingredients. Serve warm spirals with crema and enjoy!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

You like me - you really like me!

You know, I started 28 Cooks in January of last year to keep track of all the things I was making in my kitchen. It sort of blossomed into a whole cooking & food photography thing, and every minute I get to spend on it is like a gift. For example, I spent most of today, before going into work at 3pm, in my kitchen, trying out new recipes, cooking, and taking pictures. It was the perfect day, with the sun streaming in and the music playing. So even if no one read this, I'd still do it, just because I love it.

Now that being said, it's always nice to read the comments, and every time I get one, I get a little thrill reading what you've made, how you've liked it, and what changes you've included to make it your own. And when one of my readers takes the time to nominate me for an award, like this:

My site was nominated for Best Food Blog!

It makes me feel honored and appreciated. Thanks for the nomination, and I would love it if you would take the time to vote for 28 Cooks. There are plenty of other great food blogs being nominated, so make sure you take the time to take a peek at those too.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Spicy Tomato Sauce with Goat Cheese

Did you ever have one of those moments where you invite people over to your house, only to realize you have nothing to offer them? That's happened to me more times than I can count. I love to entertain, so it's crucial to have some trusty recipes you can whip up with stocked pantry items in a short amount of time.

I was in Boston this weekend with friends and on Saturday afternoon, we went and had lunch at Tapeo, a great little tapas restaurant on Newbury Street. We had some great tapas, including a spicy tomato sauce with melted goat cheese. It was amazing and I filed the idea away in my head, thinking I wanted to try and recreate it at a later date. Little did I know it would happen so quickly. We met some dear old friends later in the afternoon and decided to invite them back to the house for an impromptu get-together. On the T-ride home, we talked about what we should put out for snacks, and I immediately suggested this, knowing it would be quick and easy to make. We got back to the house we were staying at and this was on the table in 15 minutes.

All of the ingredients, except for the goat cheese, are items that are usually stocked in any pantry, so all you need to add is some bread or crackers to serve it with. It's quick, it's easy, and best of all, it looks like you slaved over it much longer than 15 minutes. So go ahead - invite your friends over. I promise they'll love this. On Thursday, I'll post another recipe that was a great addition to our little impromptu tapas party.

Spicy Tomato Sauce with Goat Cheese

Spicy Tomato Sauce with Goat Cheese
1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 tsp paprika (use hot if desired)
1/2 tsp crushed fennel seed
1 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp sugar
3.5 oz goat cheese (preferably sliced, although you can use crumbled)

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and stir over medium heat until well combined and simmering. To serve, either pour into large serving plate and placed sliced goat cheese in the center, or for a fancier touch, place into individual ramekins. Place under broiler for a few minutes until cheese is melted. Serve with fresh bread or crackers.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Asian Lime Marinade

One of my coworkers has been trying to make some changes in her diet and is trying to add more healthy items into her daily menu. Her cardiologist suggested she try tilapia, since it's such a great tasting fish, yet is very healthy. For those who aren't fish eaters, it's a perfect fish to try, as it's very mild and almost sweet in flavor. It's also usually relatively inexpensive, so it's a great thing to know how to make.

I wanted to try a few recipes so that she'd have some quick and simple things to prepare after a long day of work. This is definitely one of those. It takes about 10 minutes to make this marinade. All of these items can be stocked in your kitchen, and you can have a great dinner on the table relatively quickly.

Although I used tilapia this time, I'm sure this marinade would lend itself well to almost any other fish, such as salmon or swordfish, or would even be excellent on shrimp. This marinade is also perfect for the upcoming grilling season.

Asian Lime Marinade

Asian Lime Marinade

2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 tsp finely minced ginger
zest and juice of 1 lime
1/4 c soy sauce
1 tbsp honey
1/4 - 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)

In a mini food processor, process garlic, ginger, and lime until well mixed. Add remaining ingredients, and process until combined. Pour over desired seafood in a ziploc bag, and marinate in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. Grill, bake, or broil until done. (As a note, the tilapia took about 10 minutes under the broiler, 5 minutes on each side)

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Citrus Peanut Noodles

I'm such a huge fan of cold noodle salads. Not only are they easy to whip up, but they typically store well in the fridge and are great to throw in a lunch bag. This week, since I'm wrapping up my finals, I just wanted something I could just grab and go.

This originally started in a completely different direction than what it ended up as, due to what I had on hand in the old kitchen. I'm actually glad I didn't have what I wanted on hand, as this is such a tasty creation. The citrus juices and peanut butter pair so well together, and the chili garlic sauce adds such a nice heat. On the 28 Cooks hot-o-meter, this ranks about a 3 out of 5 peppers, so if you're heat sensitive, cut back on the amount of chili garlic sauce.

This is a perfect noodle salad to take to summer get-togethers instead of the same old boring potato salad. It's a great base to add your favorite vegetables to, or even some shredded chicken if you're a carnivore.

Citrus Peanut Noodles

Citrus Peanut Noodles
8 ounces of your favorite noodles (I used linguine)
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp chili garlic sauce
1 tbsp lime juice
zest and juice of 1 orange
2 tsp finely minced ginger
1 tbsp creamy peanut butter
1/4 c fresh cilantro, chopped

Cook noodles in well-salted water until al dente. Drain, rinse, and place in large bowl. In food processor, combine remaining ingredients. Combine until well pureed. Pour over noodles and chill in the refridgerator for a bit. Add cilantro just before serving.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Asparagus Ravioli

Geez, it's been awhile. But don't worry - I'm wrapping up finals and soon I'll be back to my more regular postings.

I am still on an asparagus kick. Of course, it doesn't hurt that it's available at every Amish fresh produce stand around here. I've had this idea of doing a ravioli for awhile, but today was the first day I was actually able to get into the kitchen and whip it up.

This is a quick and easy recipe to make, especially if you use the wonton or potsticker wrappers. Of course, if you are so inclined, I'm sure you could easily substitute your own favorite pasta dough. The lemon and fresh asparagus are a perfect pair together, and the romano cheese adds a nice flavor. I also love that I was able to include protein-packed tofu in this, and I swear no one would be able to tell the difference. If you're a tofu-phobe, you have my word that you won't even miss the ricotta.

Serve with your favorite marinara, or drop these into your favorite broth recipe. The wontons freeze well uncooked, so you can always have them on hand for a quick dinner. The ravioli filling would also be excellent in a lasagna.

Asparagus Ravioli

Asparagus Ravioli
Makes about 30 ravioli

1/2 pkg extra-firm tofu
zest of 1 lemon
2 cups chopped asparagus
1/2 c romano cheese
1/2 tsp salt
Pepper to taste
1 pkg wonton or potsticker wrappers

In a food processor, combine tofu and lemon zest. Pulse until tofu is well-broken up. Transfer to a medium mixing bowl. Add asparagus to food processor and pulse until well minced. Add to bowl and add cheese, salt, and pepper. Combine well. Place 1 tsp filling on center of wrapper and top with another, sealing the edges by rubbing with a little water. (Push all air bubbles out of ravioli before sealing) Boil for 1-2 minutes in salted water, drain, and serve with your favorite sauce.