November 20, 2006

chicken tenders & tortellinis

A creamy white sauce was an ideal base for this mid-week pasta dish idea. I have to admit this wasn't the only time I relied on convenience foods. Store bought tortellinis ( they come in a variety of flavors and stuffing - I used Buitoni brand for this ) and chicken tenders were so easy to buy and use, that I'm afraid, it's so tempting to get used to them. Just marinate the chicken tenders in some lemon juice with salt and pepper and set aside for a few minutes. They were then pan-fried in some olive oil until slightly browned. They don't have to be fully cooked at this stage as they will be simmered later in the creamy sauce. Transfer them to a plate and keep warm. Next, some chopped bacon, deli turkey slices or ham were browned in a skillet. Transfer to a sieve to drain the bacon fat. Reduce the bacon fat in the same skillet to about a tablespoon, add in a pat of butter with a tablespoon of olive oil. Add finely chopped onions and about two tablespoons of all purpose flour. Stir in the flour with a wire whisk and cook for a few minutes. Then slowly add chicken broth and half and half. Whisk well until sauce becomes creamy with a thin consistency before adding some grated parmesan cheese. Simmer the sauce and return the chicken tenders to braise in the white sauce until cooked through. Spoon the cooked & well drained tortellinis beside the chicken tenders and simmer together for a few more minutes. Transfer to a serving platter, sprinkle the crumbled bacon and extra grated parmesan cheese on top and serve with a garnish of chopped fresh parsley and basil. The chicken tenders were an excellent choice for this dish, they cooked so quick and were much tender than regular boneless chicken fillets.

November 19, 2006

Italian wedding soup

Reading about the interesting background and origin of this soup, I learned that the "wedding" in this light Italian soup actually refers to the "marriage" of the flavors of the meat and the greens. There must be some confusion about the name because some say this soup is traditionally served in weddings around Italy. Got this information from this link. For me, it really doesn't matter now, this has become one of my favorite soups. Having just featured and posted almondigas a few weeks back, I keep seeing the similarities between the two. Both uses pork / beef meatballs dropped and cooked in the simmering broth with some form of flour noodle added to it. Although the flavors are not quite the same, both soups are delicious and satisfying. The addition of fresh greens like escarole or endive, which Italians are fond of using in this soup, lends a slightly bitter taste but adds great flavor. For the mini meatballs, combine ground pork and beef and mix them well. Season with salt & pepper, Italian seasoning, then some breadcrumbs were added. I find it unusual but interesting to form the mini half-inch size meatballs for this soup. I also added Israeli couscous - a much bigger type - instead of the suggested orzo in the recipe I found. A perfect wintertime soup to warm you up.

November 14, 2006

oriental noodles & fish cakes

Another tasty recipe idea from the Food 911 show. A hint of peanut butter in the noodles added a very distinct flavor to this asian-inspired noodle dish. It was a perfect side dish to these fish cakes. I made only half of the recipe ( below ) the first time I tried it.

Cold Sesame Noodles ( recipe from Food 911 show )

1/2 pound Chinese egg noodles
3 tablespoons dark sesame oil
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1-inch piece fresh ginger, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon red chili paste, such as sambal oelek
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
6 tablespoons hot water
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
Cucumber slices, for garnish
Fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

Cook the noodles in large pot of boiling unsalted water over medium heat until barely tender and still firm. Drain immediately and rinse with cold water until cool. Drain the noodles really well and transfer to a wide bowl. Toss with the sesame oil so they don't stick together. In a small saucepan, heat the peanut oil over medium-low flame. Add the green onions, ginger, garlic, and chili paste. Cook and stir for a minute until soft and fragrant. Mix in the brown sugar, peanut butter, vinegar, soy sauce, and hot water. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and the peanut butter has smoothed out. Toss the noodles with the peanut sauce until well coated. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Garnish with the sesame seeds, cucumber slices, and cilantro.

November 7, 2006

tilapia in creamy pomodoro sauce with Israeli couscous

Lately I've been buying individually wrapped frozen tilapia fillets at the grocery. I find them very practical and convenient to have for our Friday fish dinners. A very mild flavored fish, it cooks in a snap and there's no need to cook it outdoors like I always do with other kinds of fish with stronger fishy smell. There are plenty of delicious ways to cook it. I've tried breading and pan-frying it, baking, steaming and poaching it. Haven't tried grilling it because the flesh is very delicate so unless I wrap it in foil or banana leaves, it will surely have a tendency to stick and crumble on the grill. Although we like to grill whole tilapia, wrapped in banana leaves, in the Philippines, I've never seen whole tilapia sold here, at least not where we are. For this dish, the fillets were thawed and dipped in lemon juice then seasoned with salt and pepper. Then they were dredged in flour with the excess flour shaken off leaving a very thin flour coating. Next, they were pan-fried in a small amount of olive oil until slightly browned and cooked through, then transferred and kept warm on a serving platter as they cooked. In the same skillet or frying pan, minced garlic was sauteed, and the pan was deglazed with white wine and some chicken broth. Chopped tomatoes were added in along with some lemon juice. Finally, a little bit of half & half was poured in and the mixture was simmered before pouring over the tilapia fillets. Garnished with orange or lemon slices, chopped green onions and served with Israeli couscous ( we like this bigger couscous variety which tastes more like the Italian orzo pasta ) this is just another fast and easy tilapia dish to make.

Israeli couscous