Wine-Braised Brussels Sprouts

Reverse-Braised Brussels Sprouts

I moved apartments during the month of May, so I didn’t get a single blog post out during May. However, I did make this “reverse-braise” and flounder piccata for lunch while two of my friends hung art in the new place. Perfect timing—it took me about 20 minutes start to finish to make the two dishes and it took my friends 20 minutes to hang the art. We all got the best of both worlds—eating a delicious lunch while looking at photos of cheese and olives on the dining room walls!

So when my friends said they were hungry, I was a bit nervous. We had finished up all the fresh food the day before when we had salad. I turned to the freezer, a last resort for this fresh food junkie. I found a bag of flounder and a bag of Brussels sprouts. My mind, The Flavor Bible, and my pantry went to work to create a frozen dinner feast.

I had never cooked frozen Brussels sprouts before because I always make fresh ones, and I really, REALLY didn’t want to microwave them. So I decided to poach them in a dry white wine to defrost them, heat them up, and infuse them with wine. But poaching is not the most flavorful technique, so after poaching, I browned the outsides of the sprouts in garlic-infused olive oil, essentially creating a “reverse-braise” technique. To make the flavors pop, I added a bit of lemon juice, sea salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese.

Meanwhile, the flounder met a similar fate in a sauté pan with olive oil. After both sides were cooked, I added lemon juice, white wine, capers, and pepper to make a bit of a sauce. No salt here because capers are super-salty. Done!

My friends loved the Brussels sprouts and flounder piccata and were quite pleased they had let me cook while they made the house beautiful.

 

Wine-Braised Brussels Sprouts

Special Equipment: Large sauté pan with lid; Time: 20 minutes, start to finish

Serves 4 as a side-dish

Ingredients

1 family size bag frozen Brussels sprouts
½ cup dry white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay
2 tsp. olive oil
3 garlic gloves, minced
Juice of 1 lemon, to taste (opt.)
Red Hawaiian sea salt, to taste
Black Pepper, to taste
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated, to taste

1. Heat large sauté pan on stovetop over a medium-low heat. When hot add the frozen Brussels Sprouts, breaking apart with a wooden spoon as needed.

2. Add ½ cup wine to the pan. Stir. After wine is heated, cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low, stirring occasionally.

3. Cook the Brussels sprouts in the wine until fork-tender, about 8-10 minutes.

4. Remove the lid from the pan. Stir, incorporating the wine into the sprouts.  When the wine is evaporated, push the sprouts to one side of the pan.

5. Heat the olive oil in the open area in the pan and add the minced garlic. Sauté garlic until lightly golden brown. Spread the garlic-infused olive oil throughout the pan.

6. Reintegrate the Brussels sprouts, allowing them to brown slightly after each stir.

7. When Sprouts are nicely browned, turn off the heat. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir. Sprinkle with lemon juice until the dish has the desired brightness. Then sprinkle with Parmesan to taste. Serve.

 

© Elizabeth Taylor – 2011

Tahini Salad Dressing

I just tried a great yet simple salad dressing tonight, courtesy of the recipe on the side of Azar’s Tahini Paste. 🙂 Azar’s is a family-owned restaurant in the Hampton Roads area, which sells tahini paste under its own label. I use it for my hummus and now, apparently, my salad dressing!

Tahini Salad Dressing
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 tsp. red Hawaiian sea salt
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup tahini paste
1/4 cup water

1. In a food processor, finely mince the garlic. Add the lemon juice, tahini paste, water, and salt and run the food processor until well-blended. Adjust the seasonings to taste.

2. Serve on salad. Pairs esp. well with chicken served on salad. Enjoy!

Variations: Add cracked pepper to the dressing. Or try adding spices from my hummus–I’m considering cayenne, Aleppo red pepper, cumin, Smoked Spanish Paprika, though not all at once!

 

© Elizabeth Taylor – 2011

Weekend Brunch a Hit

On Saturday, I hosted a “coordinated-potluck” brunch for my friends. I was trying to keep the menu on the healthier side while still providing plenty of food. Check out the menu: Self-serve waffle station w/ pure maple syrup & sliced strawberries & whipped cream on request, Canadian bacon, turkey bacon, garden salad w/ avocado and cucumber tossed with homemade sherry vinaigrette, scrambled eggs, organic Guatemalan coffee, roobais chai tea w/ milk and Truvia, mimosas, and sparkling wine.

My friends loved the food, raving about the waffles as they polished them off. Meanwhile I nibbled on the relatively healthy bacon protein sources, scrambled eggs, the salad, and the unadorned sliced strawberries. I skipped the OJ from the mimosas, preferring to avoid the high sugar content and “just” have the delicious Brut sparkling wine from Louis Bouillout.

I wanted to make the waffles a little healthier so a made a few changes from my normal buttermilk waffles from the Joy of Cooking with ingredients in my pantry. For the flour, I changed out white flour to bread flour to add gluten to prepare for my two flour substitutes. I used 1/4 cup each of flax seed meal and almond flour as a substitute for 1/2 cup total of the flour (1 3/4 cup flour in recipe total). The flax seed meal and almond flour cut down on the carbs, added healthy fats including Omega-3s, and, I hope, cut down some on the glycemic index of the waffles. Olive oil replaced the butter, and I used the minimum quantity of added fat (4 Tbsp. instead of the normal 8 Tbsp.). Olive oil cut down on the saturated fat. To make the waffles more almondy, I added about 1/4 tsp. of almond extract–next time I would try adding 1 tsp. of extract.

Next time for the waffles, I’m considering trying whole wheat flour + gluten + flax seed meal + almond meal for the flour mixture. I’d like to get more fiber into the dish, lowering the glycemic index. If you have other ideas on how to reduce the highly-processed flour and increase the fiber, let me know!

For the salad dressing, we mixed 1 Tbsp. olive oil with 1 Tbsp. sherry vinegar and a touch of balsamic vinegar, red Hawaiian sea salt, and fresh ground black pepper. A touch of honey or agave nectar would likely have had the same general effect as the balsamic–to cut the acidity of the sherry vinegar by adding a little sweetness. We dressed the entire salad with this small amount, tossing with tongs to coat.

In all, great food, friends, and conversation!

Salud!

Sweet and Spicy broccoli for snack or light lunch!

I tried out this combination last night for dinner and was surprised how good the cooked broccoli could taste with a sweet and spicy blend. I cooked the broccoli in the microwave then added Trader Joe’s Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, Penzeys Aleppo Pepper (Turkey), red Hawaiian sea salt, and fresh ground black pepper. I tossed with a fork and it was done!

Sweet and Spicy Broccoli

Prep Time: 1 min
Cook time: 5 min
Special Equipment: Pampered Chef veggie steamer for microwave OR bowl w/ Cling Wrap

Ingredients:
10 oz. broccoli, e.g., Bird’s Eye box of broccoli
1/2 Tbsp. Trader Joe’s Balsamic Vinegar of Modena
Sprinkle to taste of Penzeys Aleppo Pepper (Turkey)
Pinch of red Hawaiian Sea Salt to taste
2-3 grinds of black pepper

1. Cook broccoli according to package instructions, about 5 minutes.
2. When cooked, drain off the water.
3. Sprinkle the remaining ingredients over the broccoli.
4. Toss, serve, and enjoy!

Roasted Eggplant Fries


Have you ever just had a feeling that you should try something new in the kitchen? That the flavor combination or cooking method will just work out for you even though you haven’t done any research? That’s how I felt last week when I made what I’m calling “Roasted Eggplant Fries.”

At girls’ night last week, Rafah had purchased a couple of eggplants that she didn’t plan to use for our dinner of Stuffed Grape Leaves. I had an idea. What about cutting up the eggplant into steak fries, lightly coating with olive oil and a bit of kosher salt, and roasting in the oven for about 30 minutes? I tried it and it worked. Not only did it work, but Katie and I nearly polished off the two eggplants by the time Rafah and Erika even got to try the fries. At Rafah’s suggestion, we dipped the roasted eggplant strips in my homemade hummus. Oh my goodness! Talk about the whole being greater than the sum of its parts!

I love these eggplant fries so much that I have made them two more times this past week–once for a dinner party and once for a girls’ hangout night. Still a hit! So I have to tell you all how to make them. Trust me–this one’s easy.

Roasted Eggplant Fries


Special Equipment: Oven, baking sheet or roasting pan (nonstick is preferable), knife, cutting board

Prep Time: 10 min; Cooking Time: 15-30 min
Preheat Oven to 425º

Ingredients
4 eggplants
4 tsp. olive oil
Kosher salt to taste
Hummus, to serve (optional)

1. Rinse and dry whole eggplants.

2. Cut eggplants into about 3/4 inch strips. If eggplant is longer than 5 inches or so, cut the eggplant strips in half.

3. Apply 1 tsp. olive oil to the baking sheet, spreading with your hands to coat. Sprinkle kosher salt on the baking sheet to taste.

4. With the oil still on your hands, rub the eggplant pieces. Pour another 1/2 to 1 tsp. olive oil to your palms and rub your palms lightly to coat. Rub a set of eggplant pieces lightly to transfer olive oil to each piece while minimizing oil use. Place the lightly oiled eggplant pieces on the baking sheet, skin side up where applicable. Repeat until all pieces are lightly coated.

5. Sprinkle the eggplant pieces with kosher salt to taste. Drizzle another tsp. of olive oil over the eggplant pieces if desired.

6. Roast at 425º for about 15-25 minutes until the bottoms are nicely browned. Flip the pieces over and roast another 5 minutes or until eggplant in nicely browned but not burnt. (The eggplant fries will not be crisp.) UPDATE: I found the roasting time varies greatly depending on the packing of the eggplant fries, the thickness of the fries, and the oven in use. Also, while flipping gives the best results for appearance and texture, I have neglected to flip my eggplant fries several times and they still taste great. 🙂

7. While still warm, serve with hummus. Serves 4 as a side dish or appetizer.

Lebanese-themed dinner party a hit!

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Okay, so I have a recipe for a Lamb and Bean Stew I really want to share with you all, but I don’t have the time to type it up yet. But I wanted to whet your appetites. 🙂

This past weekend I hosted a Lebanese-themed dinner party. Believe it or not, the entire meal was low glycemic (except the wine, of course)!

Mezze

For Mezze, I made hummus and tzatziki, served with a vegetable assortment and whole wheat pita that one of my guests brought. Another friend made tabbouleh salad that we served with lettuce leaves to eat almost like a taco during Mezze. I also had out a Greek olive assortment.

We then moved on to a beautiful, guest-created salad with a bed of mixed greens and spinach topped with oven-roasted veggies, including bell peppers and zucchini, and feta cheese. I topped my salad with some of the tzatziki rather than the lite balsamic vinaigrette. Delicious!

Main Course

Now for the main course: Lamb and Bean Stew. It was absolutely amazing–I really think it’s the best lamb I’ve ever tasted! The lamb melted in my mouth and had so much flavor. The beans and tomatoes had an intense yet satisfying flavor, resulting from the slow stove top cooking of the stew. A Lebanese “mixed-spice” blend added richness, complexity, and the “wow!” factor, all from spices I normally keep in my spice cupboard. Overall, the flavors, perfectly melded, surprised and excited the palate because they were not a standard American combination. Everyone loved it!

Wine pairings

During Mezze, we opened wine that people had brought, including a Zinfandel, a light white blend, a Chardonnay, and a Moscato D’Asti (I had to put some strawberries out to pair with that!). After I finished kitchen prep, I had time to find some excellent pairings.

Still during Mezze, I opened a 2008 Pinnacle Ridge Cabernet Franc from the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania. I’ve found that Cabernet Franc tends to pair perfectly with vegetables. This particular Cab Franc is my favorite Pennsylvania wine right now and the primary reason I visited Pinnacle Ridge on a recent trip to PA. We also opened a gorgeous 2000 Spanish wine, a blend of Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet, which a wine-loving friend brought. Complex yet smooth, this wine paired beautifully with Mezze and the main course.

To pair with the lamb stew, I opened a 2005 Holdridge Syrah from Russian River Valley in Sonoma County. I purchased this wine in 2006 and have cellared it since. The rich flavors of the Syrah held up to the intense, meaty flavors of the stew.

Dessert

For dessert, a guest brought low-fat, plain Cabot Creamery yogurt, which we topped with honey and toasted walnuts. I used agave nectar instead of honey due to its low glycemic index. Delicious!

Photos are courtesy of Emil Chuck.

Hummus

I decided to try making hummus after seeing a hummus recipe hanging up at The Energy Club. The only problem is I kept forgetting to pick it up. So I improvised off a couple of recipes at allrecipes.com, what I could remember from the gym version, and my own tastes.

I loved this dip so much that I have shared it at the Superbowl playoffs and a girls’ road trip. Everyone who has tried it has given it rave reviews. So now I’m making it for my diet. Here I have reduced the amount of grapeseed and olive oil used and thinned the hummus with water instead of grapeseed oil. (If you want the more decadent version, add 1 Tbsp. grapeseed oil to the hummus and top with ¼ cup olive oil.)

To keep with the healthy theme, try pairing the hummus with mushrooms, sugar snap peas, carrots, broccoli, and bell peppers instead of white pita bread. You’ll get your veggies and lean protein in while delivering lots of flavor and a full mouth feel.

Hummus

Time: 15 minutes
Special equipment: Food processor

1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
¼ cup tahini paste
¼ cup lemon juice, from 2 lemons
4 garlic cloves
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp. sea salt
½ tsp Penzeys Aleppo Red Pepper (or red pepper flakes)
1 tsp. grapeseed oil
Dash cayenne
Pinch Penzey’s Smoked Spanish Paprika
1 Tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil

1. Add first 7 ingredients to the food processor. Process until smooth.
2. With the food processor running, add up to ¼ to ½ cup water to the food processor feed tube to produce a better dipping consistency.
3. With the food processor running, add 1 tsp. grapeseed oil to feed tube.
4. Remove bowl from food processor and empty hummus into serving container.
5. Sprinkle hummus with cayenne and Spanish paprika to taste. Drizzle 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil over the top.
6. Serve with mushrooms, sugar snap peas, carrots, broccoli, and bell peppers for a healthy snack or meal.