Spinach Salad with Feta and Pine Nuts

It’s true, I admit it: I’m obsessed with spinach salads. I can’t get enough. I’m forever thinking of delicious things to do to a bowl of baby spinach. I realize this obsession is a little strange, but since most of my food obsessions tend to involve things like duck fat or pork belly or ghee, a spinach obsession is probably a healthy thing!

I whipped this little salad up last night to accompany the tasty Whole Foods mushroom ravioli Joe was making. I just grabbed some things we had in the house, but it turned out to be marvelously tasty. It was so good I had another one later, while watching Jericho (excellent show, by the way), and packed one for lunch today. It’s that good. And it’s very simple to whip up.

Spinach Salad with Feta and Pine Nuts

Large handful of baby spinach, rinsed

Handful of pine nuts

A few tablespoons of crumbled feta cheese

Extra virgin olive oil (the best you can get)

Lemon juice

Pieces of leftover roast chicken (optional– use whatever you’ve got lying around)

Put the pine nuts in a dry pan and toast over medium heat until they are dark golden brown, but not burnt. They’ll be crunchy and release their oil, which is full of flavor. Crumble the feta over the spinach. Add the pine nuts, chicken, and olive oil and toss. Give it a few squirts of lemon juice and dig in. Repeat.

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Cappellini and Chicken in Fresh Pesto

Sarah was feeling a bit Crohn’s-y last night so I put together this light dish. It is a very simple preparation. Fresh ingredients are key here, however.

Ingredients:

1/2 pound cappellini

4 quarts of water

Two chicken breasts (in this case, organic from Trader Joe’s)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

For the Pesto:

1/4 cup of pine nuts

1 clove of garlic

1 bunch of basil

Extra virgin olive oil

salt

First, prepare the pesto. In a food processor (or a mortar and pestle if you feel like a workout and getting all artisanal) process the pine nuts until they are a fine grain. Add the basil, garlic, some olive oil and some salt. Process until all the basil is very fine and pasty. At this point you can add more olive oil to get it to the consistency that you desire. I like it to be kind of thick but it is personal preference.

Bring four quarts of water to a boil. Using a lot of water is important for thin pasta like capellini, which has a tendency to stick together and gum up.

While the water is coming to a boil, heat olive oil on medium heat for a few minutes. Add the chicken breasts. You want a nice brown crust while not drying out the chicken. Doing it on medium heat helps achieve this. Remove from the heat and let rest.

Right before the chicken is done add the cappellini to the water. Keep a close eye on the pasta. It can go from al dente to mushy very quickly. After 3-4 minutes taste the pasta and cook until the desired texture. Drain. Add back to pot with heat off and throw in 3/4 of the pesto that you made. Toss and put desired amount of pasta in bowls or plates.

Cut the chicken breasts on the bias into two inch strips. Toss in the remaining pesto until the strips are well coated. Lay 3-4 strips across the pasta. I garnished this with some amazing fresh tomatoes from Weaver’s Way and a basil leaf.  This is a dairy-free dish, and you can make it gluten-free simply by using GF pasta.

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Orange Roughy in a Spicy Almond-Pecan Sauce

This is a cookbook recipe that ended up morphing into a very different dish!  We started out making “Fish in an Almond-Walnut Sauce” from The Complete Book of Mexican Cooking by Elizabeth Lambert Ortiz.  I chose this recipe because we have lots of fish and also some fresh tomatillos we needed to use, and the recipe called for both.  However, as we started to make it, it became clear that we didn’t have the exact ingredients we thought we had.  So we got creative with substitutions and made what turned out to be a really tasty and healthy dish.  (Also dairy-free and gluten-free.) Here are the ingredients we actually used:

Orange Roughy in a Spicy Almond-Pecan Sauce

2 orange roughy fillets

1 onion, chopped

1 cup white wine

about 8 fresh tomatillos

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 cup blanched almonds

1  cup pecans

1 tbsp sesame seeds

1 green chilli, chopped

1 chipotle pepper (canned), chopped

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

First, prepare the tomatillos (you can skip this step if you used canned): Heat olive oil in a pan. Put in quartered tomatillos. Add salt and the diced green chilli. Saute for a minute and reduce heat to med-low. Add a couple tablespoons of water. Cook on med-low for about a half hour.

Once they are cooked, strain them to separate the liquid from the fruit.  Heat the liquid in the pan with a cup of wine, the onion and garlic, and the salt and pepper.  Simmer for 15 minutes, then add the fish and cook until flaky.  Remove the fish to a covered serving dish.

Pour the liquid from the pan into a food processor and add all remaining ingredients (except the fish).  Blend until you have a smooth sauce.  Pour over the fish and serve.

It has a nutty, smoky taste that went really well with the orange roughy, and a little kick of heat at the end.   Serve this with some sort of bread so you can sop up the sauce.  Also, if you buy canned tomatillos, it doesn’t take long at all.  I’ll definitely make this again.  (Next time I might even buy the right ingredients so I can make the official recipe!)

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Chocolate Almond Zabaglione

This is a nice dessert that is very flexible. Instead of chocolate and almond you can flavor it as you see fit. Classically, the flavoring is about a quarter to a half cup of Marsala wine. This is served with fruit. But this is something you can really experiment with. On to the recipe:

Chocolate Almond Zabaglione

4 egg yolks

1/4 cup sugar

4 tablespoons of Amaretto

2 tablespoons of Almond extract

3 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa or a 1/4 cup of chocolate, melted.

Boil about an inch of water in a pot. In a bowl that will fit on top of the pot to make a double boiler, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. When well blended, put the bowl on the heat. Add Amaretto and Almond extract (or any other liquid that you decide to use). Whisk vigorously for 5-7 minutes. You want it to be light in color, about doubled in size and falls off the whisk in long ribbons. Remove from heat and whisk in chocolate or cocoa. Serve with fruit or crushed biscotti etc. I used some crushed almond cookies and some fleur de sel and served it in a martini glass. But be creative and enjoy.

Gluten-free folks in the Philadelphia area would be well advised to use hazelnut biscotti or almond pizzelles from Mr. Ritt’s GF Bakery in this recipe!

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Cashew Banana Muffins

This is a wonderful, quick and simple recipe that was sent to me a few years ago by a very nice woman from the message boards at Celiac.com (I’ve made a few small alterations).  These are gluten-free and dairy-free, delicious, and an easy, nutritious breakfast.  They’re a great way for Crohn’s patients to get low-impact protein.  If you’re not into cashews, by the way, you can use peanut butter, almond butter or any other nut butter.

Gluten-Free Cashew Banana Muffins

8 oz cashew butter

2 bananas

4 eggs

1 teas. baking soda

pinch salt

1 teas. vanilla

1 tbsp cinnamon

1 tbsp flaxseeds (optional)

1-2 Tbs softened butter or oil (so the muffins will come out of the
paper cups)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Blend all ingredients in a food processor until they make a smooth batter.  Pour into a muffin pan (either lined with muffin cups or well greased).  Bake at 350 degrees for *about* 15 minutes or until top is slightly firm.  (To test whether they are done, insert a toothpick into the center of a muffin.   If it comes out clean, they’re done.)  These freeze really well and you can take a couple out in the morning for lunch or the previous night for breakfast the next day.  They’re particularly good toasted and buttered, or with yogurt. Makes about 12 muffins.

By the way… technically, these aren’t muffins at all, but soufflés.  I won’t tell if you won’t.

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