Asian Chicken with Broccoli and Rice - Photo Credit: Jeff Doucette
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Whenever I have Chinese, Thai, Japanese, or Korean food I always wonder how they get that sauce to well - taste like THAT SAUCE. If you have ever made stir fry anything before, you know that if you just dump a bottle of soy sauce on something, or dip your dish in duck sauce, it's just not the same thing. There's a trick to pulling apart the sauce ingredients, infuse them all with the flavor of vegetables, and dial up the Mmmm factor by mixing various spices and bottles of things together to blend them into something savory and special.
Chef Jeff unveils the secret components to a good Asian fusion sauce right here.
The sauce - is key to Asian cuisine. Without it, well, this dish would just be chicken and rice with some rather boring broccoli. But, when you add the magical "sauce" - it changes everything.
Don't be scared. TheLadyinRed's culinary counterpart, Chef Jeff, stuck to supermarket available ingredients here. You don't need to fly around the world to China or go seeking out a special Asian market.
If you've got chicken, broccoli, and rice on hand, you've got your prime time players for this plate ready to go!
This takes about 30 minutes to make; and it's a meld of Chinese and Thai flavor profiles that are going on here.... a food fusion.
As always, feel free to deviate a little bit by adding vegetables that make your mouth sing. You just know TheLadyinRed had to add her own personal touches here. (She pushes the envelope with Chef Jeff in her test kitchen because well - that's what cooks do! Never be afraid to make something your own!) She's got this thing for water chestnuts, so they went in. (They add extra crunch!) You can also add baby corn or mushrooms, too. (TheLadyinRed recommends only adding mushrooms if you go with beef bouillon, instead of chicken or vegetable bouillon. Mushrooms tend to complement beef the best because they are earthy.)
The leftovers are yummy, too - refrigerable for about 3 days max.
You don't need fresh cut flowers in your kitchen to spruce things up. If you put a bowl of colorful peppers as a centerpiece - it's just as pretty!
Peppers are just so colorful and awesome. Red, orange, yellow, and green bell peppers all taste the same, so take the opportunity to make your dishes pretty by adding color when you can.
Gathering your ingredients ahead of time will save you time in the prep process. Photo Credit: Jeff Doucette
Ok, well let's stop gabbing and get on with it! Ready, set, go!'
Chef Jeff likes to separate all of his ingredients while working in the kitchen. He's all nice and neat that way. :) Photo Credit: Jeff Doucette
TheLadyinRed is all about the fewer the dirty dishes - the better! LOL! So if the peppers and onions are going in the same pot, chances are as she slices and dices, they're going to wind up becoming best friends in one bowl, too! :)
1 cup uncooked white rice
1/2 head of fresh broccoli
2 large, thick boneless chicken breasts
additional chicken/vegetable/beef stock (for rice preparation)
1 lime (optional)
for the sauce:
2 cups water (or 2 cups of chicken, vegetable of beef stock) <--TheLadyinRed recommends using chicken or vegetable stock for a "lighter flavor"
1 chicken/vegetable/beef bouillon cube (ONLY if using water)
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup thinly sliced bell peppers (approximately 2 bell peppers) (any colors will do, but a combination of red, yellow, and orange looks appetizing)
1 cup thinly sliced onion (approximately 1 large onion)
2 garlic cloves (minced)
1 Tbsp. white, white wine, or rice wine vinegar (TheLadyinRed found out that white wine vinegar works well, too.)
1/2 tsp. sesame oil
1/2 tsp. powdered ginger or 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger (TheLadyinRed recommends using fresh ginger if you can. It adds that authentic Asian "zing" in the aftertaste of every bite.)
1/2 tsp. soy sauce
3 Tbsp. oyster sauce <-- yes, this is in a regular supermarket! Just ask! It's probably in the Asian aisle or with the various bottled sauces.
You can start with bouillon or stock. Once you add the cornstarch, you will see the magic happen as you stir it and the "gravy" transforms itself into a semi-translucent sauce.
1. If you are using bouillon, microwave 2 cups of water for 3 minutes with the cube or packet of bouillon, and then mix well. Add this to a large, deep pan on the stove.
If you are using stock, heat 2 cups of stock in a large, deep pan on the stove until boiling.
2. Add 2 Tbsp. cornstarch and mix until combined, over low heat - like super low, simmering style heat. :) You will see the magic happen as you stir the cornstarch into the broth. The "gravy" will transform itself into a semi-translucent sauce.
3. The sauce will need to simmer while the rest of the dish is prepared. Add all of the ingredients to the sauce, except for the rice, broccoli and chicken. This means those onions, peppers, garlic and other sauce components are going to dive right in the pot. This is why your pot needs to be large. The sauce flavor will mature as it's simmering, with the peppers infusing it.
(If you want to add anything additional - water chestnuts, baby corn, or mushrooms to the sauce - this is the time to do it. It's optional. Chef Jeff sticks to the basic sauce. TheLadyinRed breaks the rules, as usual. :) )
The peppers, onions, and garlic will go for a swim in the sauce along with the other sauce ingredients.
4. Prepare the rice as per package directions, except instead of water, use the chicken/vegetable/beef stock in lieu of water. This infuses the rice with flavor and makes it go from bland to oh-so-yum!
Any kind of white rice will work in this dish.
5. In a large saucepan, bring 3/4 of a pot of water to a boil.
6. While the water is coming to a boil, chop the broccoli into bite size pieces.
Use fresh broccoli in this recipe. This makes sure that the cooking time is equal for both the chicken and the broccoli as you poach both in the same pot at the same time.
7. Slice the boneless, skinless chicken breasts into strips, as if you were making chicken fingers. You want long slices, about 1 1/2 inches wide. This step is important so the chicken does not overcook and become dry.
Make sure that your chicken breasts are thick, and sliced into "chicken fingers". Photo Credit: Jeff Doucette
8. Once the water is rapidly boiling, add the broccoli and chicken at the same time. Cover the pot, remove it from the heat, and set it aside for 20 minutes. (We're not trying to make chicken-broccoli soup here; we just want to cook everything so the broccoli isn't mush and the chicken isn't dried out.)
The broccoli and chicken will become BFF's while they poach together in the boiling water. Love this step, as once again, there is one less dish to wash by sharing stove time!
9. Stir the sauce every few minutes as it thickens. If you are finding that your sauce is just too darn thick, or it looks like you've got more veggies than sauce, add 1/4 cup of water to it to thin it out a bit.
10. After 20 minutes, drain the chicken and broccoli into a colander. Remove the chicken and cut it into 1" pieces.
11. Put 1/2 cup of rice on each plate. Arrange some broccoli and chicken over the rice.
Just look at that plating! Chef Jeff rocks a plate! Photo Credit: Jeff Doucette
12. Generously spoon some sauce over the plate. Cut a lime into wedges (if using); and serve along side. Fresh squeezed lime adds a nice tart accompaniment.
Voila! And there you have it - Asian Chicken with Broccoli and Rice - as plated by Chef Jeff! Photo Credit: Jeff Doucette
If you like it spicy, add 1/8 - 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes to the sauce while it's simmering.
Leftovers last for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
Other sauce additions can include: water chestnuts, baby corn, and mushrooms. The addition of mushrooms is only recommended if using a beef stock/bouillon base to match the earthiness of the dish.
A pescetarian option would be to use vegetable stock, leave out the chicken, and substitute an equal portion of broccoli. Sorry - but the oyster sauce is essential to the flavor, so you really can't vegetarian this out completely.
TheLadyinRed plated the dish differently. You can mix the broccoli and chicken over the bed of rice and then add the sauce on top. As you can see, she added water chestnuts to her version, and used a chicken stock base.
Pad Thai - The Chef Jeff Way - Photo Credit: Jeff Doucette
Not near an Asian food store? No worries! Chef Jeff actually improves upon the traditional Thai dish by making leftovers last with - LINGUINI! Seriously, you have to give this a try. It's tasty, tangy, and has a little spice on the backburner.
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I will admit, before I tried this Pad Thai recipe, I was not a fan of Thai food. I've tried it in many restaurants which were highly recommended by friends, but it was (believe it or not) too sweet, too sour, too spicy, or just not my thing. Chef Jeff and I had a discussion about my disappointment, and he clued me in that my dissatisfaction most likely came from too little or too much tamarind in the sauce; or the chef just blatantly didn't now what s/he was doing.
I do like Asian food. I can eat sushi all the time. Tempura is my friend. Chinese - thumbs up! But after a few bad experiences with Thai food, I was ready to give up.
So when Chef Jeff told me to try his Pad Thai recipe as an Emergency Eats feature, I was a bit hesitant. But I figured, ok, I will try it, because there are Thai food lovers out there, even if I'm not destined to be one.
He made a believer out of me. His Pad Thai has given me hope for my dining future!
One of Chef Jeff's secrets is that he infuses the linguini with flavor. You will see below. And, if you do want to take the more traditional route, this recipe will adapt if you want to use standard rice noodles, or bean sprout noodles - which are good if you plan on serving all of this dish immediately. He's also outlined vegan and gluten free options in the "Special Notes" for you, too.
The Emergency Eats inspiration for using a gluten-based noodle in Pad Thai is because rice-based noodles are great if you serve them immediately; the same with bean sprout noodles; however, if you want to make this dish in advance or want leftovers later in the week, those kinds of noodles turn to mush. Linguini stands up to the test of time. Udon Noodles (fresh only) is the closest substitution that may hold up under refrigeration for about 3 days.
It's so cool to have someone skilled in Asian cuisine like Chef Jeff cranking out these dishes that are very adaptable as you will see!
Gathering the ingredients. Looks so colorful! Photo Credit: Jeff Doucette
1 red pepper
1 cup fresh snow peas (in the pod)
1 tsp. fresh ginger root, grated
2" piece fresh ginger root (will be used when boiling the noodles)
2 garlic cloves
1 cup bean sprouts (rinsed & dried)
1/2 cup firm tofu (cut into 1" rectangles, 1/4" thick)
1 lb. shrimp (shelled, deveined, tails on) (medium, large, or jumbo are fine)
1 cup shredded cabbage
2 limes, each quartered
1/2 lb. dried linguine noodles
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. fish sauce
3 Tbsp. soy sauce (2 Tbsp. will be used when boiling the noodles)
1/2 tsp. Sriracha hot chili sauce (you can substitute 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes)
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 lemon (juiced)
1 tsp. dried tamarind (fresh tamarind fruit is hard to find; if you can find one, grate the green part. Knorr Tamarind Soup Base works well. You can also substitute 2 Tbsp. white vinegar if all else fails)
Get your ginger and noodles ready to go! Oh, and some of your soy sauce too!
1. Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a BIG pot.
2. Add 2 Tbsp. soy sauce to the water.
3. Cut the 2" piece of fresh ginger into 5 rings about 1/4" thick. Leave the skin on. (There's a method to this madness of counting 5 rings - you will see!)
4. By adding the soy sauce and ginger to the water, this will infuse the noodles with flavor while they cook. Cook the linguini until it's al dente. (slightly firm with a toothy bite) If the box says boil for 8-10 minutes, subtract 2 minutes from the cooking time - that's a good rule of thumb. While the noodles boil, your mouth will water. Who knew soy-ginger water smelled so good!
Who knew soy-ginger infused water smelled so good!
5. IMPORTANT! Do NOT drain the noodles because you don't want the broth to go down the drain! Scoop off about 1 - 2 cups of the broth, and reserve it to the side. Then, you may drain the noodles in a colander. Do NOT rinse them.
6. Remove the 5 pieces of ginger root that were boiled with the noodles. No one wants to bite into boiled ginger hunks! Toss them in the trash.
7. Cut the red pepper, onion, and carrot into 1"-2" long matchstick pieces. (Chef Jeff is a perfectionist with this. He has mad knife skills. TheLadyinRed is not so fussy - and that's fine.) :)
8. Cut the cabbage as thinly as you can. (Or get out your food processor with the shredding blade; or cheat and buy the pre-packaged shredded cabbage)
9. Cut the white part of the scallions into small rings and the green part into 1" pieces. Leave the snow peas alone. Mince the garlic.
Tofu sizzling. - Photo Credit: Jeff Doucette
Tofu cooked to a golden brown on both sides. - Photo Credit: Jeff Doucette
10. Preheat a deep and large frying pan or wok with 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil. Add the tofu in a single layer. Cook the tofu about 3 - 5 minutes on each side. Tofu contains a lot of water and the idea is to let that water evaporate so the pieces turn golden brown on both sides. Once the tofu is browned, remove it from the pan and set it aside.
The cooked garlic shrimp. Delicious even by itself!
11. Use the same frying pan, and reheat it again with the other tablespoon of vegetable oil. Add the garlic and the shrimp. Stir frequently keeping the shrimp coated with the garlic on medium-high heat. Shrimp cook quickly. Once they are orangey-pink, they are done. That will happen in 3 - 4 minutes. Remove them from the pan and set aside. (As a side note, you can just prepare garlic shrimp on its own just like this for a quick meal!)
12. TheLadyinRed and Chef Jeff are all about minimizing clean-up in the kitchen so we're going to re-use that same pan or wok AGAIN! (Yay for less dirty dishes!) Add the final Tbsp. of vegetable oil to the pan over medium-high heat and get ready to stir and not leave the stove! You want your veggies on the crunchier side - not a soggy sad mess.
13. Add the cabbage, carrots, and grated ginger root. Stir for about 1 minute to coat them with oil.
14. Add all of the other vegetables and 3/4 of the bean sprouts. (Reserve the remaining bean sprouts to add to the top of each plate upon serving for extra crunch.)
15. Stir the vegetables until they are crisp-tender - about 5 - 6 minutes should do it. If you like them softer, cook them longer.
I juice the lemon into a separate bowl so I can remove any seeds before using the liquid in a dish.
16. Place the linguini in the wok/pan. It will be clumped together but that's ok.
17. Add back the tofu, shrimp, and reserved broth. Stir to combine over medium-high heat.
18. Add 2 Tbsp. fish sauce, remaining 1 Tbsp. soy sauce, 1/2 tsp. Sriracha sauce, 1 Tbsp. sugar, 1 tsp. dried tamarind, and the juice of one lemon. Mix well. Taste it. If you would like it tangier, add more tamarind. It it's not spicy enough, add more Sriracha or hot pepper flakes. If you want it saltier, add more soy sauce.
19. Plate with most of the noodles at the bottom and try to arrange some of the shrimp and vegetables on top for nice presentation. Place a small amount of the reserved bean sprouts on the top of each serving. Serve with lime wedges on the side so each person can adjust the citrus flavor to their own liking by squeezing limes onto their own plates.
Plated Pad Thai - Photo Credit: Jeff Doucette
This serves 6-8 people. Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 4 days; or you can make it in advance for a future "Emergency Eats" reheat situation.
Experiment with adding vegetables you love. Suggestions are:
- thinly sliced raw Brussels sprouts (or if you are a patient person, remove the leaves one at a time and add them to the dish for complimentary flavor)
- sliced mushrooms (all kinds) <-- highly recommended by The Lady in Red
- different colors of bell peppers
- sliced fresh tomatoes
- bamboo shoots
- water chestnuts <--yes please! says The Lady in Red
- string beans
- yellow or green zucchini/squash
- spinach, kale, or any other green leafy vegetable
- peanuts <-- yay! says The Lady in Red
- omit the fish sauce
- add more tofu
- add more vegetables
GLUTEN FREE OPTION:
- replace the linguini with rice or mung bean noodles
- use a gluten free soy sauce (Kikkoman makes a good one)
Chicken Piccata Stew - Photo Credit: Jeff Doucette
The best part of veal or chicken piccata for many people is the tangy, lemony sauce with garlic overtones, studded with salty capers. There just never seems to be enough of it. This recipe solves that problem!
Like most stews, the dish is phenomenal fresh; but once the flavors meld, the leftovers bring out the best in the combination of fresh vegetables, savory sauce, and tender meat. As with many Emergency Eats recipes, this allows you to prepare more than enough for one meal, so you can freeze the leftovers for future servings when you just want to thaw and reheat something hearty and homemade.
Perhaps you've never heard of a piccata stew. I Googled it. Google never heard of it either! That's what makes this creation by Chef Jeff even more unique! It seemingly has never been done before!
You're probably wondering what kind of piccata is going on here? Chicken? Veal? Pork? That's the great part - you can substitute any of those meats in this recipe. And if you want a meatless version - just bump up the addition of spaetzle, leave the meat out, and you're good to go.Chef Jeff created a chicken version for this recipe and The Lady in Red used veal. No pounding, breading or frying is required, either. It's THAT easy! Bon Appetit!
As usual, we use fresh vegetables whenever possible.
Ingredients for Stew:2 boneless chicken breasts (or 1 lb. cubed veal stew meat, or 1lb. pork loin, cubed)1 medium red potato (other types of potatoes are fine; the red skin just adds a bit of color)1 medium onion1 stalk celery4 garlic cloves1 Tbsp capers, drained (The Lady in Red LOVES capers, so feel free to ad more! She added a 1/2 a jar!)6 cups chicken stock (vegetable stock may be substituted for a vegetarian version)1 lemon (optional: a second lemon used for garnish)1/2 cup milk (WARNING: do NOT use soy milk! It will ruin the broth!)1/4 cup flour (The Lady in Red recommends Wondra. She learned a little trick from Chef Nicholas Hararay, who runs the #1 Zagat & Gayot restaurant in NJ: Wondra incorporates into sauces without lumps a lot easier than flour.)1 stick butter2 Tbsp. olive oil1/4 cup dry white wine (optional, but recommended)2 Tbsp. soy sauce1/4 tsp. dried thyme1/2 tsp. paprika1/4 tsp. salt1/4 tsp. ground pepper
Normally ,The Lady in Red doesn't endorse brand names in recipes. However, Chef Nicholas Harary, of the #1 Zagat and Gayot rated restaurant in New Jersey, taught her a little trick. Wondra, is better than flour in stews and gravies because it blends into the sauces easily without lumps. If you don't have Wondra, don't worry. You can still use old-fashioned flour. You will just need a little extra whisking and elbow grease so your sauce doesn't have any lumps.
Instructions for Stew:
1. Cut each chicken breast in half the long way if you are using thick filets. This will make 2 thin filets from each chicken breast. (If your chicken breasts are already thin, skip this step.) Then, cut the filets into 1/2" strips, then into 1/2" pieces. (If using cubed veal, cut each cube into 1/2" chunks. If using pork loin, cut that into 1/2" chunks.)
The chicken breasts - Photo Credit: Jeff Doucette
You want your meat to be in 1/2" cubes so it cooks quickly and you don't have to spend a half day at the stove. - Photo Credit: Jeff Doucette
The Lady in Red used veal stew meat. Be sure to cut them into 1/2" cubes before cooking.
2. Place the meat in a bowl and add the soy sauce. Mix well, cover, and put it aside - a little marinating magic.
Melt the butter in a stock pot. Add the olive oil.
3. Melt 4 Tbsp. of the butter and add the 2 Tbsp. of olive oil to the stock pot.
4. Chop the onion, carrot, potato, and celery into 1/2" pieces. (You don't have to peel the potato.) Mince the garlic.
Bite size veggies cook quicker than large chunks. - Photo Credit: Jeffrey Doucette
5. Sauté the vegetables with a little salt and pepper in the stock pot for about 5 minutes, until the carrots start to caramelize. Add the thyme and paprika. Then add the garlic, and sauté for another 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
Sauté the vegetables for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic last. Minced garlic cooks quickly. It can burn by the time the other veggies are sautéed if you add it at the same time. No one likes burnt garlic!
Add the spices during the sauté.
6. Turn up the heat to high and add the white wine. Use a wine that you like to drink. The flavors of the wine will enhance the flavors of the food. I recommend a dry or mostly dry chardonnay that you really like. The best wine pairing with this meal will be the one you cook with. If you aren't using wine, go on to the next step.
When cooking with wine, the first rule is to use a wine you like. The best wine pairing with this meal will be the one that you cook with. For this particular stew, a dry white wine works best. Sweet wines are better for making dessert sauces. Cheers!
When you add the wine, scrape any bits from the bottom of the pot. The wine will deglaze it, and these "bits" add depth to the gravy.
7. Scrape the bits from the bottom of the pot, as the wine deglazes it. Bring the wine to a simmer. If you aren't adding wine, then do the scraping as you now add 4 cups of the chicken (or vegetable) stock to the pot.
Add the stock to the pot.
8. Add the capers. (Chef Jeff says to rinse the capers prior to adding them to the stew. The Lady in Red likes the salty, briny taste, so she doesn't rinse them. The choice is yours.)
9. Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon into the pot. Add the rest of the butter.
1. Making the piccata gravy: 1/4 cup flour/Wondra + 2 cups chicken stock
3. Adding the meat to the stew.
2. Adding the gravy and milk to the stew.
10. Meanwhile, on the side, in a separate bowl, mix 1/4 cup of flour (or Wondra) into 2 cups of room temperature chicken (or vegetable) stock. Whisk until the flour is incorporated and there are no lumps. If you are using Wondra for this step, you will have no lumps. If you are using flour - well - you probably will have lumps. Chef Jeff recommends pouring the gravy through a strainer as you pour it into the pot to eliminate lumps. The addition of this flour-infused stock will thicken the sauce.
11. Add the milk to the pot. Stir.
12. Add the chicken/veal/pork with any leftover soy sauce drippings to the pot. Stir. The meat will poach in the sauce while the vegetables continue to soften for about 10 minutes more. You can let it simmer for longer if you want to, while you prepare the (optional) spaetzle.
Eggs, milk, flour, and butter are the basic spaetzle ingredients.
Ingredients for Quick Spaetzle: (optional)
1 cup Wondra (or flour) <-- again, The Lady in Red Recommends Wondra for its easy ability to be dissolved without lumps
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
2 Tbsp. butter
WARNING: DO NOT ADD NUTMEG TO THIS SPAETZLE!
(Most spaetzle recipes call for nutmeg. Trust us; you don't want nutmeg in your piccata! It spoils the flavor profile.)
Incorporating the Wondra into the eggs and butter.
Instructions for Quick Spaetzle:
1. Mix all of the ingredients together. You want the consistency of pancake batter.
This is the spaetzle mixture before adding milk. You want to achieve the consistency of pancake batter. There will be a few butter lumps in the batter. That's ok. Just make sure you did your best to break up the butter. I find kneeding it with my fingers helps a lot!
2. If the batter is too thick, add a little more milk 1 Tbsp. at a time.
3. Using 2 spoons, fill a spoon with batter and use the 2nd spoon to push off 1/2" dumplings into the stew, which should be bubbling hot. The spaetzle should float to the top of the stew when it's done cooking.
The piccata stew is done! You can see that the meat is cooked through, the vegetables are tender, and the spaetzle ha has floated to the top.
1. Try adding 1" pieces of cut fresh asparagus to the vegetable medley. The lemon overtones complement asparagus nicely and add more color to the dish.
2. If you prefer rice instead of spaetzle, that works! Just prepare some rice on the side and serve the stew over it.
3. If you want a purely vegetarian version, omit the meat and use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock. Just be sure to add some spaetzle to give the stew substance.
4. Garnish each bowl with a lemon slice for presentation. (optional)
5. Leftovers refrigerate or freeze well for future meals.
Serves 4 - 6 people, depending on portion size.
Dinner is done.
Chef Jeff's Beef Minastrone with Basil Parmesan Crostini - Photo Credit: Jeff Doucette
When it's cold outside, don't you want something hearty that warms you up from the inside out? I do. The problem is, most soups are wimpy, and they are not filling enough to stand alone as an entire meal. You know, you leave the table and you're hungry a half hour later. Well, this beef minestrone soup is about to change all that.
Oh, and good news for those who like a vegetarian option - just leave out the beef & Worcestershire sauce, and use a vegetable stock only, and you're good to go.
The vegetables listed in the ingredients are your basic minestrone starters. Feel free to add in some small pieces of zucchini, corn, cut green beans, kidney or black beans, or my favorite - cut okra! (Yes, I know okra is what you usually find in a gumbo, but I find it's a very satisfying addition here, that holds up well in the broth.)
And don't fret over the noodles. Tri-color pasta makes it look pretty, but you can sub-out plain. I like a rotini, but other hearty dime-to-quarter size shapes work well, too. Just don't go crazy on the addition of pasta because it will soak up too much broth if you go overboard.
If you don't have a red potato, use any old potato. If you don't have a red onion, white works just fine. Can't find Italian bread? That's ok, use French bread. You can even substitute escarole or kale instead of spinach.
The most time consuming part of this recipe is dicing the vegetables, but the soup pretty much cooks itself. When all is said and done, you will have a dish that's infused with the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants of fresh vegetables in every mouthful. And yes, you will have leftovers! :) That's the best part. That's what makes it all worth it - because as many Emergency Eats recipes, the leftovers give us those quick thaw-and-heat meals on nights when we don't have the time, or don't want to cook, but still want to eat something that doesn't come out of a cardboard box.
This soup freezes well, too. If you find that there's not enough broth for subsequent servings in the future, just add a little water prior to reheating.
The crostini is so good, you might want to try it alongside other meals. It makes a great accompaniment to Italian dishes, and you can substitute oregano for the basil, or do a combination of both! Get crazy and rub some garlic on the bread, too!
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The fresh vegetables that you use in this soup will infuse the broth with colorful vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that taste phenomenal.
1 lb. cubed beef chuck (omit for vegetarian soup)
1 red bell pepper
1 medium onion (red or white)
1 bunch scallions
1 medium potato (red or yellow)
2 medium carrots
2 stalks celery
1 bunch (about 2 handfuls) fresh spinach (or kale, or escarole)
1 cup dried tri-color pasta (rotini or similar works well)
2 gloves garlic
1 28oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 rounded Tbsp. tomato paste
6 cups chicken stock (or beef stock, or vegetable stock, or use a combination of 2 or 3)
4 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce (omit for vegetarian version)
2 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp dried sage
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
ground black pepper
Some of the ingredients for the Beef Minestrone Soup. Photo Credit: Jeff Doucette
Ingredients (Basil Parmesan Crostini):
1 batard French or Italian bread
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
4 - 5 leaves fresh basil (or 1 Tbsp dried basil), minced
Cut the beef cubes into smaller chunks. Chef Jeff likes 1/2 inch size beef cubes. The Lady in Red prefers 1/4 inch size beef cubes. The choice is yours.
Instructions for soup:
1. Cut the beef chunks into smaller cubes. Chef Jeff prefers 1/2 inch size cubes; The Lady in Red likes 1/4 inch size cubes. The choice is yours.
2. Heat a deep sided sauté pan, on medium-high heat, and add 2 Tbsp. olive oil. Season the beef with approximately 1/8 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. pepper. (You don't want to over-salt it. There will be plenty of salt added intrinsically when the tomatoes and soy sauce are added to the soup later.) Sauté it for about 8 minutes, stirring it occasionally. The beef will turn a gray color at first, then it will start to brown. The brown color is what you want.
Beef meets pan.
3. Meanwhile, so you're not bored or anything, start cutting your veggies.
- Slice & dice the red pepper
- Peel, slice & dice the onion
- Peel & dice the potato
- Mince the scallions
- Dice the carrot (peeling is not necessary)
- Dice the celery
- Rough chop the spinach/kale/escarole
- Mince the garlic
And if you are using zucchini, or green beans, dice them, too. If you are using frozen okra or any other frozen veggies, it's not necessary to defrost them. Basically, you want to prepare all of your veggies while the beef browns.
Clockwise from top left: Scallions, potatoes, celery, carrots, garlic, red bell pepper, and onion.
4. When your beef is brown, get it off of the stove, out of that pan, and put it right into your big-ass soup pot (or crock pot) - with all of the drippings. (I'm all about having fewer dirty dishes to clean up.)
5. Then add all of your stock, the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, and soy sauce into the soup pot.
6. Give it a stir, cover it, and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. You're not done! Don't go away! :)
7. Now for the veggies: Take that same sauté pan you just used for browning the beef and add the remaining 2 Tbsp. olive oil to it. (No cleaning pans here. Save your energy!) Heat it on medium-high.
8. Add all of the veggies, EXCEPT FOR THE SPINACH (OR KALE OR ESCAROLE) and save 1/2 the scallions for garnish. Add the garlic last, because that will cook the quickest and burnt garlic is gross.
So I added the red pepper, then potatoes, then the celery, and then the carrot..... (Yes, I use the celery tops, too. It adds extra flavor!)
9. Stir the veggies to mix them all together. Add the soup spices. Stir again. (This is my favorite part. I love dumping all kinds of ingredients into a big pot watching it turn into something amazing! This part is really fun for kids, too. Just like when you make chili, you keep on adding tons of stuff to make something even better!)
Here come the onions, then the scallions, and then the garlic. Finally you add the soup spices and when you mix it together as it's sizzling stove-top, it's going to look so pretty - and smell so good!
10. Sauté the vegetables for about 5 - 10 minutes, stirring sometimes. (I went more for the 10 minute side, because I wanted to make sure those carrots and potatoes softened up just a bit. Chef Jeff will tell you to go more for the 5 minute mark because he likes his veggies a bit more firm. You decide.) Then, add them to the pot of soup.
Tri-color pasta is so pretty, but if you can't find it, don't fret! You can use regular pasta. I find that rotini or a shape of similar size works well for this soup. Be sure to add NO MORE than 1 cup of pasta to your soup. The noodles will absorb broth as they cook. You don't want your soup to turn into a stew!
11. Turn up the heat! - in the kitchen, on the stove - well, you can turn up the heat elsewhere later, but this is a PG recipe! :) Increase the heat to high, and add the cup of pasta to the soup. Stir. When the soup starts to boil, turn the heat off, cover the pot. (Alternatively, if you like softer vegetables, turn the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer the soup while you prepare the crostini below.)
I like spinach. You just need to give this a really rough chop.
12. Rough chop the spinach (or escarole or kale) and add it to the soup pot. Give it a stir and cover the pot again.
Stirring, and stirring, and stirring my soup!
Instructions for crostini:
1. Preheat oven to 375°.
2. Cut the bread on the bias (angle) so you have long pieces of bread about 1/2 inch thick to work with. (The Lady in Red likes her breadsticks thin, so she sliced the bread on the bias, then cut each slice in half lengthwise.)
3. Butter one side of each breadstick and place them on a baking sheet.
4. Sprinkle each breadstick with the grated cheese and basil.
Counter-clockwise from top left: Sliced bread, breadsticks topped with butter, cheese, and basil, and finally the finished breadsticks!
5. Bake the crostini for 10 minutes. (Watch them, you don't want burnt breadsticks!)
The best part about being the chef is you get to sample! (Shh! I couldn't wait until the soup was served! These crostini are so good!)
6. Ladle the soup into bowls. Garnish with reserved scallions. Serve with crostini on the side, which is great for dipping, too!
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Of course I had to sample the soup before serving it! Actually, it's a good idea to taste whatever you have prepared before plating. This gives you a chance to adjust seasonings to your taste.
Serves 8+. Expect leftovers with this recipe. That's what's so great about it - you expend the effort once to make this soup, then you can freeze leftovers for future 'Emergency Eats'.
When thawing leftovers, you can add a little water to the broth before you reheat it, since the pasta can absorb some liquid.
To make this recipe vegetarian, use vegetable broth and omit the beef and Worcesterhire sauce.
The crostini are a great accompaniment to Italian dishes. You can substitute oregano for the basil, or do a combination of both herbs.
The vegetables listed are a base for minestrone. Other additions can include, diced green beans, corn, cut okra, diced zucchini, kidney beans, or black beans. Be aware, that the more vegetables you add, the thicker the soup. If you find the soup to not have enough broth, add an additional cup during the cooking process.
If you are using frozen green beans, zucchini, or okra, it is not necessary to thaw them out before adding them to the soup. Add them to the broth at the same time you add the other sautéed vegetables. The frozen vegetables will cook in the soup as it simmers.
Don't use more than 1 cup of pasta. The pasta absorbs broth as it cooks. You want a soup; not a stew.
You can cook this in a crock pot! Follow steps 1-10 for the soup preparation, then set your crock pot on low for 4 - 6 hours. When you walk in the door, just add the spinach (or kale or escarole), give it a stir, and that's it!
Soup is served!
Extraordinary Enchiladas - plated with extra enchilada sauce, minced scallions, avocado slices, and a dollop of sour cream. It's not just garnish - it enhances your gastronomic experience.
When you think of traditional enchiladas, you probably picture them folded all pretty for presentation. Presentation counts, but perfection to me is when the taste of something precedes what it looks like. I've always said, some of the messiest foods are the most delicious: melty ice cream, buttery corn on the cob, ribs slathered in a savory barbeque sauce, or cracking crab shells to get at the succulent meat inside, are all examples of messy food that come to mind where the flavor comes first.
Plating option one - with extra enchilada sauce and avocado garnish. Photo Credit: Jeff Doucette
Plating option two - with extra enchilada sauce, and no avocado garnish. Photo Credit: Jeff Doucette
Additionally, if preparing a meal is a nightmare to make, you won't want to make it again. Chef Jeff has simplified the cooking techniques used here, by turning traditional enchiladas into a casserole. Everyone he's served it to, has raved about it, including me. The dish is very versatile in that you can leave it vegetarian, or mainstream it for meat eaters by adding shredded chicken, shredded beef, or ground beef. His proprietary seasoning blend and use of toasted corn tortillas lends a Mexican authenticity to this meal.
This recipe will easily serve 8 very hungry people. It takes a bit of preparation, but my recommendation is to make the entire recipe, and freeze any leftovers (without garnishes) for future use. You will appreciate this 'Emergency Eats' meal at a future date when all you need to do is defrost any leftovers, reheat, and serve.
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18 corn tortillas (I could only get a packet of 16 - that's fine!)
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 28 oz. cans MILD enchilada sauce (I could only find 10 oz. cans. If you get 10 oz. cans - get 6 of them. Yes, you really need this much sauce!)
1 15 oz. can black beans (drained)
1 15 oz. can chickpeas (drained)
1 15 oz. can corn (drained)
1 large red onion, diced (yellow onion can be substituted)
1 bunch scallions (green stalk minced and reserved for plating; white portion diced and used for filling)
1/2 lb. grated cheddar cheese
1/2 lb. grated monterey jack cheese
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 - 2 avocados, sliced (optional, for plating)
1 lime (optional; if using avocado slices, lime juice squeezed over them will prevent them from turning brown and provide a slight complimentary tangy flavor)
sour cream (optional; added at plating)
1 small bunch cilantro, minced (If you don't like cilantro, don't use it.)
To carnivorize this dish: (optional)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded, blended with 1/2 of the seasoning blend* <--I usually do this a day ahead of time. You could use leftover shredded roast chicken, too.
- or -
1 lb. ground beef, cooked with 1/2 of the seasoning blend*, drained
- or -
12 oz. steak, grilled and shredded, blended with 1/2 of the seasoning blend* <--I usually do this a day ahead of time, or you can use leftover steak.
- or -
1 lb. total ground beef/pork/veal, cooked with 1/2 of the seasoning blend*, drained
The filling for this dish will be very colorful. Pictured: fresh scallions, red onion and garlic.
1 Tbsp. cumin
1 Tbsp. smoked paprika (regular paprika is fine)
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. oregano (dried)
Getting the garnish ready. Here are the green tops of the scallions, an avocado, and minced cilantro. Don't cut the avocado until the enchiladas are done baking, to preserve its bright green color. Once sliced, squeeze fresh lime juice over the slices to add a pleasant tang, and ensure that the color remains appealing.
1. Add all of the enchilada sauce and crushed tomatoes to a large saucepan. Simmer on medium-low heat, stirring every five minutes so it doesn't scorch. Continue simmering while you prepare the rest of the dish. This might seem like a lot of sauce, but the enchiladas will absorb it. Plus, you will want to add extra when serving. Any portions that you reheat will need additional sauce, too.
Enchilada sauce combined with crushed tomoatoes simmering stovetop.
2. Add 2 Tbsp. olive oil to a pre-heated large sauté pan, on medium-high heat. Add the onion and white parts of the scallion to the pan.
3. While the onion and scallions are sautéing, drain and rinse the beans, corn, and chickpeas. Add them to the pan.
Adding the corn to the onion/scallion sauté.
Next, after the corn, add the beans. So colorful!
After the beans, add the chickpeas.
If you are adding any meat to the dish, do it now, after the corn and beans have been added. I used pre-cooked, shredded chicken.
4. Add the rest of the seasoning blend. Stir. Sauté for 8-10 minutes stirring frequently. At this point, remove the enchilada sauce from the heat.
Tortillas, some cut in half to aid placement in the baking dish(es). Photo Credit: Jeff Doucette
5. Technically, when you buy a bag of corn tortillas, they are not cooked, per se. Applying a little bit of heat to them really brings out their flavor and will give a very authentic taste to the dish.
If you are NOT using meat in your filling, you can get by with using one 9"x13" oven-safe baking dish. If you ARE using meat in your filling, plan on using one 9"x13" baking dish and another 9"x9" baking dish to accommodate all ingredients.
Toast your tortillas directly on the burners of your stove, using tongs. Toast them on both sides for about 20 seconds on each side. Do this directly on the stove - no pan! If you get a few burn spots on the tortillas, that's ok.
6. Ladle some enchilada sauce in the bottom of your baking dish(es) to coat the bottom, spreading evenly.
7. Take the tortillas one at a time and dip them right into the pot with the enchilada sauce, so they are coated with sauce on both sides. Then place them in the 9"x13" baking dish (and if also using a 9"x9" baking dish) as shown below. 3 whole tortillas down the middle of the 9"x13" baking dish, and 3 half-tortillas on each side will cover that dish perfectly.
The tortillas going for a swim in the enchilada sauce. Photo Credit: Jeff Doucette
This is how you place the tortillas that were cut in half in the 9"x13" baking dish. Photo Credit: Jeff Doucette
Three whole tortillas are placed overlapping the halves as shown here in the 9"x13" baking dish. Photo Credit: Jeff Doucette
If using an additional 9"x9" baking dish (you will only need this second baking dish if your filling contains meat), just make the tortillas dipped in sauce work to fit the bottom of the dish any old which way.
8. Add an even layer of filling across the entire dish(es), patting down with your spoon as you go.
9. Add a few more ladles of sauce.
10. Preheat the oven to 350°.
My filling contained meat (shredded, cooked chicken), so I had to use two baking dishes. Layering on the filling!
11. Add half of the cheeses, sprinkled evenly on top.
Here comes the cheese!
12. Repeat step 7, adding another tortillas-dipped-in-sauce layer to each baking dish.
13. Ladle some sauce over the top of the tortillas.
14. Sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese.
15. Bake for 40 minutes uncovered.
Enchilada casserole right out of the oven. All done!
16. Let the dish rest for at least 15 minutes prior to serving to let it settle. Meanwhile, slice the avocado and squeeze some lime juice over the slices; get your garnishes ready.
17. Ladle some sauce onto the bottom of a plate. Place a portion of the enchilada casserole over it. Sprinkle it with some scallions. Arrange a few avocado slices on top, with a dollop of sour cream. Finish plating with a sprinkle of cilantro, if desired.
All garnishes are optional. However, the flavors enhance the main dish.
You can assemble the dish ahead of time and refrigerate it for up to a day. If you refrigerate the dish before baking, bake it at 350°, for 60 minutes instead of 40 minutes.
This recipe is a base for more inventive enchilada casseroles. You can try adding shredded pork, or different leftover meats. If you like heat, try adding minced jalapeños to the filling mixture when sautéing, or add them as a garnish.
Chef Jeff prefers not to add meat to the filling and leave the dish vegetarian, when baking. Afterwards, he will plate the dish with the heated, seasoned meat at the bottom, a portion of enchilada casserole placed on top, extra sauce, sliced avocado, sour cream, green scallions, and an extra squeeze of lime juice all over the top.
You can definitely freeze leftovers! Don't freeze it with the garnishes, though. Just make sure you freeze extra enchilada sauce separately on the side, so you can rehydrate the dish when serving.
When my seven year-old tried this meatless menagerie, she literally got up from the dinner table and did a dance. (Yes, gangsta style.) I don't know if it was the chunky tomatoes, or the Parmesan topping that made our mouths water...but you'd never guess that there's puréed butternut squash in the gravy that cradles the wonderful tender vegetable morsels, which provide your mouth with texture and taste. In under an hour you can have this quick, rich, and satisfying vegetarian stew with fall flavors. Oh, freakin' yum.
Butternut Squash Stew - Photo Credit: Jeff Doucette
Chef Jeff's done it again! This time he's incorporated some classic fall flavors with some smoky and savory enhancements to bring you a stew that's minus the meat, yet warms you up on a chilly day from the inside out.
I will admit, if you tell me a dish is vegetarian, I still get a little apprehensive. Before I tried this Butternut Squash Stew, I never had a stew without meat. Unless you give me a meatless recipe that packs some punch and carries a lot of flavor, I'll usually pass it over as a menu choice. I miss my meat, unless a dish is presented to me that satisfies my ability to sink my teeth into something and tantalize my taste buds at the same time. What can I say? I'm a tough critic. Chef Jeff is a confident cook. He knows he's placing a dish before a gal who is definitely going to try it before she sends someone else off to buy the ingredients to duplicate it. I tried it. I liked it. Now, I hand it off to you. It passed my tests for ease of preparation and taste justification with flying colors.
The ingredients for a simple stew as colorful as the rainbow. If you don't have a red onion, feel free to use a yellow onion in its place.
1 medium (or large) butternut squash (A 9 - 12 inch squash is a good medium size one. A larger one is fine, too, and will only make the sauce slightly thicker. The tomato and bean juices will thin out the gravy a bit anyway.)
1 15oz can white cannellini beans
1 28oz can peeled plum tomatoes in tomato juice
1 diced medium onion (any color works)
1 medium carrot (cubed small)
1 medium potato (cubed small)
2 garlic gloves (minced)
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 tsp. dried sage
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/3 cup chives, plus a 12 whole chives places to the side for garnish
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional, for garnish)
salt & pepper to taste
The idea is that you want all of your vegies to be in bitesize pieces for even cooking and ease of eating.
1. Bring the stock to a boil in a large pot.
2. While the stock is coming to a boil, cut up the onion, carrots, potatoes, and chives (except put 12 whole chives to the side). Cut, peel, and skin the squash. Cutting the squash will take a bit more skill. Follow the photos below for the technique. (Or yes, you can buy the pre-cut fresh squash and cut it into bite size bits. Shh! We just won't tell anyone you did that!)
Cut the top and bottom off of the butternut squash and slice it down the middle from top to bottom. - Photo Credit: Jeff Doucette
Using a teaspoon, grapefruit spoon, or melon baller, remove the seeds and pulp from the inside of the squash. Photo Credit: Jeff Doucette
Using a vegetable peeler, place the squash orange-side down on a cutting board. Use your muscle and shave the outer skin off of the squash using long strokes.. - Photo Credit: Jeff Doucette
When you finish peeling one half of the squash, continue peeling the other half using the vegetable peeler. - Photo Credit: Jeff Doucette
Cut each half in two parts right at the juncture where the long stalk meets the bottom bulb of the squash. Slice each part into thin strips. - Photo Credit: Jeff Doucette
Take the butternut squash "sticks" and cube them. Do the same with the curved portion of the squash. This is where Chef Jeff shows off his amazing knife skills. - Photo Credit: Jeff Doucette
3. Add the cubed butternut squash to the boiling stock. Boil for approximately 15 minutes until the squash is fork tender.
Boil the squash in the stock until tender. - Photo Credit: Jeff Doucette
4. While the squash is cooking, in a large frying pan, add the butter and olive oil on medium-high heat.
5. Add the carrots, onions, and potatoes. Sauté for approximately 5 - 10 minutes then add the minced garlic. The potatoes and carrots will not be soft at this point. Don't panic! It's ok!
This is how The Lady in Red sautés her veggies.
Sauté the vegetables until tender. Here are Chef Jeff's veggies sautéed a bit more than mine. - Photo Credit: Jeff Doucette
6. When the squash is done cooking, do not drain it. Use an immersion blender and purée it until it's silky smooth and incorporated into the stock.* (If you use an immersion blender, use your medium blade. That's not the smooth round one, and not the one that looks like a helicopter propeller. Use the one that's round with some notches.)
My immersion blender rocks! (Never leave home without it! LOL) Seriously, you can get a good Bamix one at Williams Sonoma, and it's so much safer and easier to use when blending anything hot in the pot! As a side note, when my daughter was 3 she called it my "Emergency Blender". :) Good name! Yes, it helps with those 'Emergency Eats'! :)
Purée the cooked butternut squash and incorporate it into the stock. - Photo Credit: Jeff Doucette
7. While the vegetables are finishing their sauté , remove the whole tomatoes, reserving the juice, and cut them into 1/2 inch pieces. A rough chop is ok. (I like my tomatoes chunky style for this. Below you will see how Chef Jeff chopped them. I left my pieces in approximate 3/4 - 1 inch wedges. I wanted a bigger veggie to bite into, and less tomato breakdown into the gravy. The choice is yours.)
Remove the tomatoes from the juice and roughly chop them. Reserve the juice. - Photo Credit: Jeff Doucette
8. Sauté the vegetables 3 - 5 minutes more until they are almost fork tender.
9. Add the sautéed carrots, onions, and potatoes to the puréed squash.
10. Add the chopped tomatoes and juice.
11. Add the cumin and sage, and a light sprinkling of salt and pepper.
12. Add the Cannellini beans (with juices).
13. Simmer uncovered for 10 - 20 minutes on medium-low heat. (I recommend simmering for 20 minutes to make sure your potatoes and carrots are tender. The simmering process will finish softening them up.)
14. Serves 6, two-cup servings. Garnish each bowl with a sprinkling of chives, plus two sprigs of chives criss-crossed, and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper to taste**.
Special Notes: * If you do not have an immersion blender, carefully pour the stock with the squash in small amounts into a regular blender and purée in batches. Be sure to vent the top of the blender and not have the lid sealed tight. Use a dish cloth while holding the lid on to protect yourself from hot splatters! The steam captured inside of the blender will pack pressure. If you fill your blender too much and don't let some steam escape when pulsing the tender squash into the stock, you can risk seriously burning yourself.
** Seasoning is very personal, so that's why if you choose, you can add additional salt and/or pepper before serving. Be careful not to over salt this dish. There is added salt in the broth, tomatoes, and Parmesan cheese. You may not need to add much more.
As much as I am reluctant to have to start putting on my jacket when I leave the house, and I miss the summer skies, it's that time of the year for comfort food and football Sundays. So, in honor of crock-pot cooking, I figured I'd try something new.
This ain't yo' mamma's chili! It's something a little different for those days when you don't want to really cook, but want something savory to warm you up from the inside out. The best part - you can freeze the leftovers in ziploc bags for an easy 'Emergency Eats' dinner a few weeks later, where all you have to do is thaw it and eat!
That's right! Chef Jeff and I are switching hats (and aprons) - just for this month - and I'll be dishing out something easy, while he's going to satisfy your hunger with an autumn-flavored feast.
Mmmmm mmmmm good!
Ingredients for Beer-Blasted Ham & Beans:
2 ham steaks, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 15.5 oz can small white beans
1 15.5 oz can black beans
1 onion chopped
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tbsp quality bbq sauce
1 tbsp ketchup
1 16 oz. package bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 bottle of dark beer (you don't want anything sweet!)*
Chop, chop, chop!
Ingredients for Collard Greens:
1 bunch fresh collard greens
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1 tsp olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
These are what fresh collard greens look like. Just tear the leaves off going down the sides of the hard stem. Discard the hard stems. Then, tear the leaves into smaller bite-size bits with your fingers.
Instructions for the Beer-Blasted Ham & Beans:
1. This is so freaking easy - just take all of the ingredients and throw them into your crock-pot. Turn the heat up to high and cook for 6 - 8 hours, until the bacon is done. Voila! Dinner is served! (The bacon will be floppy, but that's ok!)
Beans, onion, and garlic getting to know each other in the crock-pot.
Instructions for the Collard Greens:
1. Ten minutes before you serve dinner, start on the collard greens.
2. Heat a large sauté pan over medium-low heat and melt the butter in it. Add the olive oil.
3. Meanwhile, rinse your collard greens and tear the leaves off going down both sides of the stems. (The stems are hard and chewy. You don't need them or want them. Discard them.)
4. Take the leaves you just tore off the stems, and tear them again into bite-size pieces.
Glossy, buttery, fresh collard greens cooking down.
5. Place the collard greens in your sauté pan and stir them around to coat them in the butter and oil. Cover the pan with the lid.
6. By covering the pan you will cause the collard greens to cook down, wither, and soften up.
7. In about 5 minutes, lift the lid and stir the greens around. Cover it again.
8. In another 5 minutes the collard greens should be done. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Beer-Blasted Ham & Beans with a side of Collard Greens - so hot it's steaming!
*If you don't want to use beer, you can substitute about a 1/2 cup of water instead. The idea here is that the beer will change its flavor as it cooks. I'm not a big beer drinker myself, but when I cook with beer I can really appreciate its influences on food. Please don't substitute a sweet or pale ale here. I tried it that way, and it doesn't work with the flavor profile, in my opinion. A dark beer is definitely the way to go.
Collard greens make a great accompaniment with this dish. It offsets the smoky flavors of the bacon and barbecue sauce in the ham and beans. I know there are a million ways to prepare collard greens, including cooking them in bacon fat, lard, or even adding bacon to them. In this case, I consider it overkill because of the pairing with the main dish.
When you think of macaroni salad, you probably think of it as a summer side dish. What about serving it up year-round - along side a hot dog, or a burger, or even some fantastic ribs!
Chef Jeff has gotten accolades from friends and family with this simple macaroni salad recipe. It will provide you with a very delicious base salad that you can doctor up to suit your tastes.
Chef Jeff's Famous Macaroni Salad doctored up with some dill and a dash of paprika for color.
Chef Jeff says that the key to great macaroni salad is the cook time and tenderness of the macaroni. If you follow the directions on a standard box of elbow macaroni, it will say to cook the noodles in rapidly boiling water for 8-10 minutes. If you are making a cooked pasta dish, this amount of time may work; but for the best macaroni salad, cooking your noodles for 7 minutes, tops, is recommended.
Your noodles should be slightly firm - just a little more firm than al dente, when you get that toothy bite to your pasta. Cooking the macaroni to this point is very important. Although the noodles will appear to be half-cooked, and a bit underdone, you want them to have the ability to absorb the sauce that you will create so every noodle captures maximum flavor. Once the noodles absorb the combined ingredients, the macaroni salad will remain firm for about 5 days, which is the maximum recommended shelf life.
The second most important step: Make sure that your veggies are chopped as fine as possible! It makes all the difference in the world. If you leave them in large chunks, the recipe can quickly go from fantastic to flop - so stop! and chop! :)
1/4 cup minced red pepper (or finely grated)
1/4 cup minced onion (or finely grated)
1/4 cup minced carrots (or finely grated)
3 quarts boiling water
1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni
1 tsp salt to add to boiling water
1 tsp salt to add to final mixture
1/4 tsp black pepper to add to the final mixture (or more to taste)
1 cup mayonnaise (It may appear to be a lot, but once the salad sets for a few hours, the noodles will absorb the extra.)
We've got mayo, and macaroni, and minced veggies!
1. Boil the water.
2. Once the water is at a rolling boil, add 1 teaspoon of salt.
3. Add the 1 1/2 cups of uncooked macaroni. (A 1 lb. box of macaroni yields 2.5 cups. Double this recipe if you are using a whole box of macaroni. Keep the boiling time to 7 minutes though!)
4. Set a timer for 7 minutes or Chef Jeff will come to your house with the macaroni police and hunt you down. 7 MINUTE MACARONI is all you will need to remember. Stir the noodles once every minute so your noodles don't stick together.
5. Drain the noodles and rinse them under the coldest water possible. (If you're impatient like me, dump some ice cubes on them for good measure and let them melt as you rinse your noodles.)
6. Set your noodles aside.
7. In the same pot you just boiled your noodles in, combine the remaining ingredients, adding the noodles last and stir them all up.
8. Do NOT taste this now. Really, we mean it. Go put it in the refrigerator for 2 - 3 hours and forget about it until then. If you disobey us and taste this macaroni salad right after it's made, it will not resemble the taste of the final product.
It's important that the vegetables are very finely chopped. Chef Jeff has had individuals who did not care for vegetables in their
macaroni salad totally enjoy this one because he used his amazing knife skills and chopped the onions, pepper, and carrots like crazy (or if you're like me you'll give your food processor a workout).
Large pieces of vegetables change the taste completely. That's not a good thing. Make sure to include any juices left behind while
cutting the vegetables or watching the food processor do it for you. The juice greatly adds to the final flavors.
This is a base macaroni salad. It tastes fantastic as-is; however consider the following additions (not all at once!) to fine tune it to your expectations. (These additions can really rock a potato salad, too!)
- Add 1 Tbsp white vinegar if you like a tart snap to your salad
- Add 1/2 Tbsp dried dill weed or 1 Tbsp fresh dill weed (1 of Chef Jeff's favorites)
- Add chilled, chopped hard boiled eggs (The Lady in Red votes for this addition!)
- Add 1/4 tsp dry or regular mustard to kick up the spice
- Add 1/4 tsp sage for a nice floral back flavor
- Add 2 Tbsp chopped bacon for a smoky, meaty addition
- Add 2 Tbsp sour cream to add a sour note
- Add 1 tsp (or more) of regular sugar to add a sweet back note
- Add 1/4 cup of minced celery (Get out the food processor again!)
- Add 1/4 cup de-seeded tomato, cut into very small pieces
- Add 1/4 cup chopped, and towel dried roasted peppers.
- Add 1-2 Tbsp finely chopped pickles to add an extra zest (The Lady in Red is a fan of macaroni (and potato) salad pickliciousness.)
- Add 1 Tbsp finely chopped parsley or cilantro leaves for vibrant fresh flavor
Nutritional Information Per Serving:
This analysis is based upon a 1/2 cup serving.
Fat: 20 g
Carbs: 18 g
Protein: 2 g
Sodium: 320 mg
Sugar: 3 g
Potassium: 0 mg
Cholesterol: 10 mg
Vit A: 87% (of daily)
Vit C: 12% (of daily)
Calcium: 1% (of daily)
Iron: 1% (of daily)
Fiber: 1 g
*NOTE: These figures are only estimates. They are provided as-is and may be inaccurate depending on individual ingredient choices and measurements. This should be used only as a general assessment. This is not intended to diagnose or treat any ailment or deficiency, but to provide an estimated nutritional profile. The term (“of daily”) is based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Here's how you can take some of the best of the Orient and make your fish zing with flavor. Give this dish an Asian flair with some ginger, Nori, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and sesame seeds for starters; and serve your tilapia with these accompaniments in a new way.
Asian-Inspired Nori-Crusted Tilapia served over Garlic Mashed Parsnips & Asparagus - complemented with Cabbage Slaw. You can also add lemons for garnish. Photo courtesy of Chef Jeff.
This is a dish incorporating a main dish, served with two sides; so please do not be intimidated by the number of steps involved. Of course, you can break each component down and serve it separately. However, the flavor profile has been designed so that the mash compliments the sushi-like tilapia, while balancing the pungent, throaty heat of the ginger in the slaw.
Let's start with the slaw!
The cabbage slaw is so colorful. Here are a few of the ingredients that show amazing contrast.
Ingredients (cabbage slaw):
1 cup thick-shredded green cabbage*
1 cup thick-shredded red cabbage*
1 medium carrot* (julienned in matchstick cuts - you can use a mandoline, food processor, or cheat like I did and buy the pre-cut kind :) )
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* - The above trio also comes in a bag, pre-cut. If you can't find it, you can also use a mandoline or food processor to shred the cabbage to a thick shred. If you can't find both kinds of cabbage, feel free to use all green or all red - your slaw will just be a little less colorful, but the substitutions won't affect the flavor.
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3 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp soy sauce (you can substitute light soy sauce if you prefer)
1 lemon, squeezed
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 or 1 Granny Smith apple (julienned in matchstick cuts - you can use a mandoline, food processor, or take your time with a knife)**
1" or 2" piece of skinned, fresh ginger, grated***
It's hard to get the "perfect shred" on your slaw. Don't fret over it. And, as you can see here, I only had purple cabbage on hand. If you can't find both purple and green it will be a little less colorful but just as tasty!
1. Combine all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate while you prepare everything else.
** - If you are like me, you will wonder what to do with a leftover 1/2 of an apple. If you decide to put an entire apple, julienned, into this slaw, it will be perfectly fine. The choice is yours.
*** - This slaw has a distinct tartness and Asian flavor. If you are serving this to kids, or want to tone down the spice, I suggest using a 1" piece of grated ginger. If you want to give it more kick, tune it up to 2".
I presented the slaw first, because you can make this up to a day in advance of serving it, to cut down on prep-time.
Now onto the Garlic Mashed Parsnips with Asparagus - or Mashed Potatoes with Asparagus - depending on your preference.
Parsnips are cousins of carrots. They actually look like white carrots! If you prefer a milder, slightly more creamy mash, you may also substitute mashed potatoes and keep all other additions of asparagus, garlic, milk, and butter the same. To make this totally "kid-friendly", I actually suggest making this recipe with mashed potatoes instead of mashed parsnips. Photos courtesy of Chef Jeff.
Ingredients (mashed parsnips & asparagus - you can also substitute mashed potatoes instead of mashed parsnips):
Quart saucepan of boiling, well-salted water
3 large parsnips (or 6 small ones), cut into 1/4 inch rings (or 3 large potatoes, peeled, diced)
1 cup asparagus (24 baby asparagus spears or 12 larger ones) - ends trimmed, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
2 garlic cloves (peeled, whole)
1/2 cup milk (Chef Jeff recommends 1% but I went with whole milk and it works just fine)
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1. Add cut parsnips and garlic to the boiling water for 10 minutes. (If using potatoes, place diced potatoes and garlic in cold water, bring to a boil, and cook for 15 minutes.)
2. After 10 minutes, (or 15 minutes if using diced potatoes) add the cut asparagus and boil for 5 more minutes. (It's important not to boil the asparagus for more than 5 minutes or it will become mushy. Mushy = yuck!)
3. Drain everything in a colander.
4. Using the same pot, add the butter, salt, and milk over low heat so the butter melts. Turn off the heat.
5. Once combined and the butter is melted, add the parsnips (or potatoes) and garlic. DO NOT ADD THE ASPARAGUS! Place the asparagus to the side.
6. Mash the parsnips (or potatoes) to a smooth consistency.
7. Add the asparagus. Mix well. Set aside, covered.
Here we go! Now onto the Nori-Crusted Tilapia! Yeah!
This, is Nori. Nori is Japanese dehydrated, edible seaweed that's used typically when preparing sushi. Don't be afraid of it. It packs a lot of flavor. This is a shelf-stable product. You won't use an entire box for this recipe, so just place the remainder in a zip loc bag and call it a day.
Ingredients (Nori-Encrusted Tilapia):
2 full sheets of Nori
4 tilapia filets
1/4 tsp. paprika
1 medium shallot
1 garlic clove (minced, or use garlic press)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 Tbsp. sesame seeds
1 Tbsp. butter
This demonstrates how to pulverize your Nori. :) First, test your cutting skills and use kitchen sheers to slice and dice it up small. Then, you have your choice - get a work-out with a mortar and pestle (bottom left) to grind it fairly fine; or use a spice grinder. I like using an old-school spice grinder (bottom right) as you see here. You can also use a fancier electric spice grinder if you prefer. I don't recommend using your coffee grinder, unless you like salty, Nori-flavored coffee in the morning.
1. Using kitchen shears, cut the Nori sheets into small pieces.
2. Using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle (or even your fingers!), crumble the Nori bits into a very rough powder/piece mixture.
3. Heat a small frying pan with no oil (dry) on medium-low heat. Add the sesame seeds and Nori.
Roasting the sesame seeds and Nori.
4. Stir the sesame seeds and Nori constantly until you smell the seeds roasting. This will take about 2 - 3 minutes. It's very important you don't burn the seeds! Once you smell the seeds roasting, remove the mixture from the pan and set it aside in a bowl.
5. Using the same frying pan, increase the heat to medium, add the butter. One the butter is melted, add the garlic, shallots, and paprika. Stir and saute for about 2 minutes.
6. Add the Nori-sesame mixture back into the frying pan. Add 1/8 tsp. salt, 1/8 tsp. pepper, and juice of one lemon.
7. Stir and cook 1 more minute until everything is combined. Take the pan off of the hat and set this aside.
Prepping the tilapia. Photos courtesy of Chef Jeff.
8. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray or rub some olive oil on it.
9. Place 4 tilapia filets on the baking sheet after lightly salt-and-peppering both sides of each.
10. Spoon an equal amount of the Nori-sesame mixture on each piece of tilapia. Spread it out evenly and thinly on each filet.
11. Set your oven to broil on HIGH. Once your oven reaches broil temperature, place the tilapia on the top oven rack for 7 - 8 minutes. (If you've got Chef Jeff's hyper oven, this could take more like 6 minutes. In The Lady in Red's oven, it took 8 minutes. Watch your fish.)
12. Here's the exciting part! Place a scoop of the parsnip (or potato) mash in the center of the plate (about 1/4 cup per person). Flatten it down a little. Put 1 filet on top of the mash. Add a scoop of slaw on the side (about 1/4 cup per person). Optional: Add sliced lemons to garnish each plate.
Nutritional Information per serving:
Carbs: 9 g
Sodium: 124 mg
Sugar: 5 g
Vit A: 95% (of daily)
Vit C: 26% (of daily)
Calcium: 2% (of daily)
Fiber: 2 g
Garlic Mashed Parsnips
Fat: 5 g
Carbs: 6 g
Protein: 1 g
Sodium: 6 mg
Sugar: 2 g
Cholesterol: 6 mg
Vit A: 9% (of daily)
Vit C: 11% (of daily)
Calcium: 2% (of daily)
Iron: 4% (of daily)
Fiber: 2 g
Fat: 13 g
Carbs: 2 g
Protein: 28 g
Sodium: 130 mg
Potassium: 38 mg
Cholesterol: 63 mg
Vit A: 5% (of daily)
Vit C: 8% (of daily)
Calcium: 11% (of daily)
Iron: 11% (of daily)
Fiber: 1 g
Entire Recipe as a Meal
Fat: 18 g
Carbs: 17 g
Protein: 29 g
Sodium: 260 g
Sugar: 7 g
Potassium: 38 mg
Cholesterol: 69 mg
Vit A: 109% (of daily)
Vit C: 45% (of daily)
Calcium: 15% (of daily)
Iron: 15% (of daily)
Fiber: 5 g
*NOTE: These figures are only estimates. They are provided as-is and may be inaccurate depending on individual ingredient choices and measurements. This should be used only as a general assessment. This is not intended to diagnose or treat any ailment or deficiency, but to provide an estimated nutritional profile. The term (“of daily”) is based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Is your garden turning out more eggplant than you know what to do with right now? Ever see those purple vegetables in the supermarket and wonder what to do with them? Or do you just like good Italian food? Chef Jeff has the answer to all of these questions with his Eggplant Towers recipe in this month's Emergency Eats!
A plated Eggplant Tower. Photo Credit: Chef Jeff
'Emergency Eats' is all about using fresh, seasonal ingredients that you either have on hand, or are fairly easy to find; and making something really delicious out of them without a ton of effort. Once you assemble Eggplant Towers, you can go help your kid with his homework, take a quick shower, or go unwind with a glass of wine while they bake in the oven (the eggplant, not your kids) :) . It's the kind of dish where the assembly is quick, and although the total time in the oven may push it to over a hour until dinner is served; it leaves you free to tend to other things while you wait.
Eggplant are in season July through September in North America.
There are a few variations of this dish that you can try. The first time made this, I stuck to Chef Jeff's original recipe and was full, and fulfilled. I liked that this was easy to assemble, and baked, not fried. (I'm not one for cleaning up a greasy mess in my kitchen.)
This is a great vegetarian option, and if you'd like to spice it up by adding some ground sausage to the sauce, feel free. Creativity and inspiration in the kitchen lead to some of the world's greatest dishes.
As for Eggplant Towers, my seven year old said, "My concept of this is excellent." :) It brought out the junior food critic in her. If it can wow a first grader, it's safe to say it's something special. It's cheesey, toothy, garlicky, and oh soo good.
Some of the ingredients.
2 large eggplants*
1 35 oz. can crushed plum tomatoes**
1 cup ricotta cheese (1/4 cup per eggplant serving)
1 cup grated mozzarella
3 garlic cloves (smashed or minced - I prefer minced)
1 small bunch fresh basil, minced (I suggest 7 or 8 large leaves), plus 4 whole basil leaves for garnish
1 small bunch fresh oregano, separated from stems, minced (I suggest 5 - 6 stems)
3 tablespoons olive oil (plus more for greasing the baking dish if not using non-stick cooking spray)
Sauce simmering with sautéed garlic, fresh basil and oregano. Your kitchen will smell like an Italian trattoria!
1. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a heated pot. Add garlic & cook until slightly tan in color. (It should take less than 1 minute.) Stir the garlic constantly.
2. Add the crushed tomatoes.
3. Add the basil and oregano.
4. Let the sauce simmer until it's barely bubbling. (Cover the sauce to prevent splattering.)
The eggplant procedure :) Photos courtesy of Chef Jeff.
5. Cut the ends off of the eggplant. Then cut each eggplant in half. Each eggplant should make 2 serving portions.
6. Core each eggplant half by using a small knife and carving out the center leaving about 1/8 of an inch border around the skin. Save the inner eggplant pieces.
7. Cut the eggplant that you cut out of the halves into 1/2 inch pieces, or smaller.
8. In a separate heated deep-sided pan, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and immediately add the eggplant pieces with salt and pepper to taste. Stir the eggplant quickly until all of the pieces are coated.
Eggplant absorbs oil very quickly so you can't dilly-dally here. If you were too slow, you may need to add a bit more olive oil to the pan to give all pieces a good coating.
9. Sauté the eggplant stirring frequently on medium-high heat for about 12 minutes or until the eggplant starts to soften and change to a less opaque color. The color darkens a little bit.
10. Add the eggplant to the sauce.
Sautéed eggplant for filling.
Eggplant added to the sauce.
11. Prepare a baking dish or an oven sheet with sides by coating it with non-stick cooking spray or rub some olive oil on it.
12. Take the eggplant halves and place them in the baking dish standing up.
Eggplant Towers ready to be stuffed, sitting all pretty on their baking tray.
13. Preheat your oven to 425 ⁰.
14. Using a tablespoon, start building the layers. This is what I mean: Take 1 generous spoonful of the eggplant sauce and place it in each eggplant half. Top with 1 teaspoon of grated mozzarella. Top that layer with 1 tablespoon of ricotta cheese.
15. Repeat layers of eggplant sauce, mozzarella, and ricotta, gently pushing down with the spoon until you reach the top. (2 layers usually does it.)
16. The top layer should end with the ricotta cheese and then you can sprinkle a bit of mozzarella on last for a finishing touch.
Filling the eggplant towers. It's easy and fun. Even my 7 year old could do this! Photo credit: Cheff Jeff
17. Place the eggplant in the oven for approximately 45 minutes.
18. When you take the eggplant out of the oven, let them sit for about 5 minutes before plating so they firm up.
Baked Eggplant Towers - Photo Credit: Cheff Jeff
19. Spoon any leftover eggplant sauce in the center of each plate for presentation. Place an eggplant half in the middle of the sauce. Garnish each eggplant half with a basil leaf in the center.Special Notes:
Serves 4.* Depending
on how large your eggplants are, you may get 3 servings out of one eggplant by cutting it into thirds, instead of just 2.** I prefer to use boxed tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, or tomatoes packed in glass jars versus canned. Here's why: The resin linings of tin cans reacts with the acidity in the tomatoes, which causes BPA to penetrate the contents.
Variations: Add cooked, crumbled sausage to the eggplant sauce. You can also sauté chopped onions and/or mushrooms with the garlic and incorporate that into the sauce, too.
Nutritional Information Per Serving:
This analysis is based upon using part skim ricotta.
Fat: 17 g
Carbs: 17 g
Sodium: 382 mg
Sugar: 11 g
Potassium: 0 mg
Cholesterol: 5 mg
Vit A: 6% (of daily)
Vit C: 3% (of daily)
Calcium: 6% (of daily)
Iron: 1 mg
Fiber: 0 g*NOTE: These figures are only estimates. They are provided as is and may be inaccurate depending on individual ingredient choices and measurements. This should be used only as a general assessment. This is not intended to diagnose or treat any ailment or deficiency, but to provide an estimated nutritional profile. The term (“of daily”) is based on a 2000 calorie diet.