Get Lean and Mean with LentilsPosted on February 25, 2011
I have the very lucky problem of having to fit into a bathing suit in ten short days. During the last ice storm, my hubby and I booked a trip to Barbados, the thought of which has pretty much gotten me through the entire month of February.
Like many people, I tend to let myself go a bit during the winter months. I love to knock back that extra glass of calorie laden egg nog over the Christmas holiday and January to me means hearty meals and large glasses of red wine. I usually make it through to May flowers with a smile on my face. But I find as I get older that it becomes harder and harder to take the winter weight off. My challenge over the next week and a half is to create healthy, low-cal meals and snacks that are tasty enough for me to want to, well, eat.
These lentils make a perfect lunchtime option and are a great addition to a lean protein for dinner. I like to serve warm whole wheat pita along side so you can scoop up any extra cooking liquid. They're hearty and filling, and super healthy, loaded with fiber and flavor. Make a big batch, serve them up for a couple of lunches this week, and take walk around the block afterwards. You'll be Spring Break-ready in no time.
Guilt Free Lunchtime Lentils (serves 4)
2 cups lentils, rinsed and picked over
4 cups water
3 slices Canadian bacon, chopped
1/2 a medium yellow onion, chopped fine
1 carrot, chopped fine
1 sprig thyme
1 bay leaf
2 handfuls chopped beet greens or fresh spinach
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large sauce pan, combine water, lentils, bacon, onion, carrot, bay leaf and thyme. Season very lightly with salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer about 20 minutes until lentils are cooked through and soft. Add greens and simmer until wilted, about 1 minute. Drizzle olive oil over top, season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve warm in bowls with 1/4 of the cheese sprinkled over each serving.
Island EscapePosted on February 14, 2011
In my last post I waxed (not really) poetic about the virtues of winter and the beauty of the snow. I even said I liked it. What can I say? I've changed.
I think the last two-foot dumping, followed so quickly by the ice storm, got me so longing for spring I could almost taste it. I figured I'd cook up a meal that would bring me that much closer to the sound of swaying palm trees and frozen cocktails. That's what I love so much about being in the kitchen. You can start out the evening in the chilly Northeast, and end up somewhere south of the border, sipping on margaritas and noshing on cuisine that feels like spring break on a plate.
Serve these shrimp with an avocado, red onion and cilantro salad doused with lots of fresh lime juice, a dash of cumin, salt and pepper. The flavors are bright and acidic, balanced by the creamy refried beans. (You can use canned, whole pintos or you can make them from scratch, which I highly recommend. Just follow the cooking instructions on the package.) Make a pitcher of your favorite boat drinks, turn up the heat and put the Gypsy Kings on your iPod. It's not the same as hoping on a plane, but I promise it will lift your spirits.
Garlic Shrimp with Refried Beans and Tomatillo Sauce (serves 4)
For the tomatillo sauce:
I lb tomatillos, husks removed
1/2 white onion, chopped
1 jalapeño, chopped
Juice of 2 limes
Large handful fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Place tomatillos in boiling water, cook about 5 minutes until softened. Drain, rinse with cold water. In a food processor or a large bowl using an immersion blender, blend all ingredients until relatively smooth (you will still have some chunks from the tomatillo seeds but you don't want any big chucks of onion or jalapeño). Season to taste and set aside.
For the beans
2 cups cooked pinto beans
2 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 finely chopped white onion
1 garlic clove, minced
Dash of cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil in a medium sized saucepan. Add onion, sauté about 8 minutes until soft. Add garlic, sauté one minute more, being carful not to burn it. Add beans, salt, pepper and cumin. Stir to combine. Remove from heat and, using a potato masher, mash beans until smooth with some small chunks. Check for seasoning, keep warm.
For the shrimp
16 extra large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
Dash of cumin
Salt and pepper
Juice of half a lime
In a large sauté pan, heat oil. Add garlic, sauté about 30 seconds. Add shrimp, salt, pepper and cumin, sauté quickly until shrimp are pink through. This should not take more than 2 minutes. Squeeze lime on top. Serve shrimp over a mound of beans and top with tomatillo sauce.
Meredith Shanley is a private chef and caterer with clients in New York City and the surrounding areas. A graduate of The French Culinary Institute, Meredith has worked for several New York City caterers including Olivier Cheng Catering and Events, and Stuart & Welch. She lives in a drafty old house on Long Island with her very well-fed husband. For more on Meredith, her life and love of food check out her blog, whatsforlunchdot.com.
Not Your Grandmother's Stuffed MushroomsPosted on January 28, 2011
I've always been just a bit left of center, and my reaction to all of this wintry weather is no different. I love it. If it's going to be cold, bring on the snow. It makes things so much more festive: I love evenings spent by the fire, sipping a big Cabernet and enjoying the company of good friends.
I prefer to keep menus seasonal. There's a reason we crave hearty, earthy foods when it's cold outside. Our bodies are literally crying out for warmth. There's been a huge trend lately towards rustic fare, and comfort foods. New York City restaurants specializing in fried chicken, meatballs and pie are opening every day. Something about hard times (and cold weather) has people lapping up the kitsch and comfort of throwback, home style foods, which is why I love these stuffed mushrooms. My grandmother used to make them stuffed with deviled ham, for Thanksgiving and Christmas
hors d'oeuvres. I brought them into the 21st century with Panko, fresh spinach, lot of herbs and creamy mozzarella cheese. Try these for your next cocktail party, served with an earthy red, or better yet, an old school cocktail (I think a Sidecar would be perfect). Light a fire, throw on some jazz, and hunker down (or yuck it up) with those you love.
Stuffed Cocktail Mushrooms
20 cremini (also known as baby bella) mushrooms, stems removed and caps brushed clean
3 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoon fresh picked thyme, chopped
3 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
2 handfuls fresh spinach, chopped
1 cup yellow onion, chopped fine
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups Panko bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 cup fresh mozzarella cheese, grated
Salt and pepper
In a large sauté pan, melt half of the butter over medium high heat. Add 10 mushroom caps, sauté until golden brown but still firm, seasoning lightly with salt and pepper. Remove to baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining butter and mushrooms. Return pan to heat, drizzle with olive oil. Add onions, sauté until translucent. Add garlic and herbs. Add spinach, cook until wilted. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and add Panko. Toss to coat. Cool slightly, stir in egg and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Stuff each mushroom cap with a rounded teaspoon of mixture. Line on a baking sheet, top with mozzarella cheese. Can be made a day in advance. Cover and chill. Bake at 350°F for about 10 minutes until cheese is melted and golden.
Party onPosted on January 19, 2011
January always has me feeling a little blue. The holidays are over. The tree waits patiently on the curb for pick-up, the ornaments are boxed up and tucked away in the attic till next year. The next several weeks will be spent in semi-detox, cleaning up stray pine needles.
As a social person, I think what gets me down the most about January is the fact that most people are partied out. I look forward to the holidays for the very simple fact that I get to go out, have fun and have cocktails, without all the guilt that normally follows a night of drinking and eating. How many times have I said to myself "Hey, it's the holidays. Have the extra cookie (insert martini, cigarette, chocolate, cheese puff or other frowned upon vice here)."
But come the New Year, people are feeling puffy and exhausted. Most are on (short-lived) diets, new workout regimens and cleansing courses. In short, the party's over.
The thing is, it takes a village to beat the winter doldrums. Seeing friends and enjoying the creature comforts of a crackling fire and a warm meal are the things that get us through these short, chilly days. So why not have a dinner party that gets everyone together while still keeping them in line? Work with everyone's resolutions and serve hearty winter fare made healthy. Don't go overboard on the cocktails, rather, serve a couple bottles of good red wine and make sure every guest's water glass is filled to the brim. Wanna keep active? Revive an old classic: charades. A bit kitschy, but it will keep everyone involved and moving in an entirely wholesome way. You won't even miss the martinis.
New Year New You Pasta Bolognese (serves 6)
2 tablespooon olive oil
1 1/2 lb lean ground sirloin
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry red wine (leftovers work well here. Not that I ever have any)
1 28 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes (try to find a lower sodium, organic brand)
1 small can tomato paste
½ cup water
1 whole small carrot, washed but unpeeled
1 bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon each chopped fresh oregano, flat leaf parsley and basil
4 handfuls fresh spinach, washed and chopped
1 pound box whole wheat fusili, cooked al dente
1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
Heat olive oil in a large saucepan or dutch oven over medium heat, until hot but not smoking, about 30 seconds. Add onion and cook until translucent but not colored, seasoning lightly with salt and pepper. Add meat, cook through until browned. Drain some of the fat, return pot to stove. Stir in garlic and red pepper flakes, cook about a minute, just until fragrant. Add about ½ teaspoon salt. Add wine, cook two minutes until alcohol has evaporated. Add tomato paste, stir to combine. Add whole tomatoes (Here’s the fun part: squish them up with your fingers. You want nice pieces of tomato in the sauce and this is the easiest way to do it), water and carrot. The carrot will absorb some of the acidity from the tomatoes and also impart a nice flavor. Add bay leaf and a bit more salt and pepper. This is where you use your instincts. Don’t be afraid of the salt, but remember the sauce will reduce so season lightly to begin with. You can always adjust later. See what tastes good to you. Ideally it should not taste salty, it should just taste more like “itself.” Let the sauce simmer uncovered on the stove about an hour and a half until thickened. Complete your seasoning and add your fresh herbs and spinach. Simmer about 10 minutes more. Add cooked pasta to sauce and cook about one minute. Toss with cheese and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve hot. whatsforlunchdot.com