Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Hungry Hungarian!

   Yep, you guessed it, we are going Hungarian today. I am making "Leczo" (Lesco/Lecho), a traditional Hungarian dish with tomato, peppers and kielbasa. I could not believe that it wasn't a Polish dish when I first found out the origin of it. What??? It's not Polish??? But... but...we always make it, since I was a child as typical Polish dish! Oh well, I have to give it to the Hungarian people for coming up with a pretty delicious dish! You can make it two ways, original with only peppers, tomatoes and kielbasa or "Polish style" with the addition of zucchini! I personally like our version better and not because I'm Polish, just because it's "fuller", more satisfying and you can make much more of it (lunches for few days!). So without any further ado, here is the recipe:

*  2 red bell peppers (roughly chopped)
*  1 yellow bell peppers (roughly chopped)
*  4-5 ripe tomatoes (chopped)
*  4 zucchinis (chopped)
*  2 cups of chopped smoked kielbasa
*  1 medium onion (chopped)
*  2 tbsp olive oil
*  1 tbsp smoked paprika powder
*  salt and pepper

1. Heat the olive oil and saute chopped onions and kielbasa until lightly browned.
2. Add peppers, tomatoes and zucchini and cook everything for 5 minutes.
3. Add paprika powder, salt and pepper, mix well, bring to boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 40 minutes until veggies are tender and the dish resembles a stew.

   So good. It's light, but filling and as I mentioned before it makes the perfect lunches for a busy week. Just portion it, put it in the fridge and "to-go" lunch is ready to grab on the way to work!


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Tomatoes gone wild!

   My tomato plants went crazy! I can not believe that one plant can produce so many tomatoes! Unfortunately a month full of 100F days managed to dry them out even though they still have lots of fruit on them. As you can imagine we are eating a lot of tomato-based dishes recently and today's post will be no different. We love caprese salad and there is nothing better than using your own tomatoes and basil, which are way more flavorful and make it even better than it already is. The only thing is that you have to serve it with something else to make it a filling dinner. So I decided to make it into a caprese sandwich, with oven roasted, rustic bread and melted mozzarella. Wow, what a delicious dinner that was! Here is the recipe (you can make as much as you want so I won't give you the amount of each ingredient):

*  slices of rustic bread
*  tomato
*  fresh mozzarella cheese
*  fresh basil
*  olive oil
*  salt and pepper

1. Brush slices of bread with olive oil and put into 400F oven for 5 minutes until toasted and crispy
2. On a warm bread, put slices of tomato, sprinkle with salt, pepper and chopped basil. Put slices of mozzarella cheese and return to the oven for 5-7 minutes until the cheese melts.

   If only you could smell it. Bread is super crunchy, then you have a fresh, flavorful tomato and basil, and on the top of all of that is chewy gooey melted cheese. Perfect option for a light dinner or an appetizer for the party.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

When life gives you lemons...

   ... make lemon chicken! I could not believe how many people read and loved one of my previous posts featuring a chicken dish (Perfect chicken). Just this post alone had over twelve hundred views and it keeps going up (yay)! So I decided to come up with another simple, fast and delicious chicken dinner, that is far from boring. All you need is just a few ingredients and about 40 minutes of time and you can surprise your family or friends with a meal that is exploding with flavor! Lemon and black pepper corn chicken, doesn't it sound interesting? Here is the recipe (serves 4):

*  8 chicken legs
*  3 juicy lemons
*  2 cups white wine
*  2 cups chicken broth
*  1 tbsp black pepper corns
*  1 tbsp fresh mint
*  1-2 tbsp olive oil
*  salt and pepper

1. In a Dutch oven (I love my Dutch oven!!!) heat the olive oil, season chicken legs with salt and pepper and brown on each side.
2. Add wine, chicken broth, zest of two lemons, juice of three lemons, mint and pepper corns. Bring to boil, cover with the lid and transfer into the oven. Bake at 400F for 30 minutes.

   How easy is this? Not only easy, but also super delicious. Fresh, sour and lemony with a little kick from the black pepper. If you are tired of "boring" chicken dishes, give this one a try and I'm sure you will be satisfied!


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Not as tough as they say...

   One of the many advantages of me writing this cooking blog (besides all my wonderful fans!) is that I take risks, I keep challenging myself and I always try new recipes. I heard so many opinions about how tricky and difficult the perfect risotto is, and I took it as a challenge onto myself to perfect it! In every cooking competition I've watched they always are super surprised that somebody chose to make a risotto, because it's just the easiest way for a ticket home. I just couldn't take it any more and I decided I am going to conquer this "monster" and prove to myself that it's not rocket science! I was debating between mushroom and asparagus and my choice was an asparagus and lime risotto. Here is the recipe (makes about 6-8 portions):
*  3 cups Arborio rice (short grain)
*  7 cups vegetables or chicken stock
*  2 cups  dry white wine
*  2 cups asparagus
*  1 large onion (chopped)
*  1/3 cup Parmessan
*  1 lime
*  2 tbsp olive oil
*  2 tbsp butter
*  salt
*  2 tbsp chopped parsley

1. Cut asparagus into 1 inch pieces, put into boiling water for 3 minutes, and transfer into ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain the water and set aside.
2. In a meantime heat the broth and simmer it to keep it warm.
3. In a large heavy skillet heat the olive oil and saute the onions for 3-4 minutes. Add the rice and cook until lightly roasted for about 3-4 minutes. Add white wine and and cook until completely absorbed.
4. Stir in 1 cup simmering broth. Cook until broth is almost completely absorbed, stirring frequently, then add another cup of simmering broth. Repeat until the rice is slightly firm in center and looks creamy.
5. Add butter, salt, lime zest, lime juice,  and parsley and cook for 2 more minutes stirring constantly. 
6. Add Parmesan and asparagus, mix everything together and serve it!

   I promise you it's super easy! I don't know why people are so scared to make it and keep scaring others! I love the addition of  a lime zest and juice, it makes the dish refreshing and light. Wine is an obvious plus! You have to try it, it's delicious!

Good luck.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Stroganoff Polish style.

   Stroganoff is a Russian dish, but my fellow Polish citizens wouldn't be themselves if they didn't change the dish a little bit and make it "thier own". You probably think that I am being biased, but I definitely prefer the Polish version of it, and that's what I always make. I don't even think I ever had the original version, I just always thought that this is how it's supposed to be until I did some research and found out that all this time I was living a lie. Well, it's too late now, our version of a Stroganoff will always be the original for me and that's how I am going to present it to you.

*  2 lbs cubed beef
*  1 large onion
*  2 red bell peppers
*  2 cups white mushroom
*  4-5 dill pickles
*  2 tbsp tomato paste
*  2 tbsp sour cream
*  1 tbsp olive oil
*  1 tbsp sweet paprika powder
*  salt and pepper

1. In a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil and brown beef on each side.
2. Coarsely chop all the vegetables, add them to the beef and cook for 5 minutes.
3. Add 2 cups of water, tomato paste, paprika, salt, and pepper. Bring to boil, reduce the heat and simmer everything for at least an hour, until the meat is soft and tender. You can adjust the amount of liquid to your liking. I like mine nice and dense.
4. Add the sour cream, bring to boil, turn off and it's ready!

   It's one of those dishes that brings me right back home to my Mom's kitchen. It's a taste of my childhood. I think I have to make it more often. Serve it with a fresh French baguette so that you can dunk it in the broth and you have yourself a delicious "fake" Stroganoff Polish style!


Friday, July 20, 2012

Green, green, green!

   Here is a fun dish. I made a "dull" version of this before playing with different fillings and flavors, but this time I decided to also play with some colors. I took the traditional polish "nalesniki" (call them crepes if you want), gave them a punch of color, and stuffed them with flavorful chicken and mushroom filling. Who knew that you can end up with such a fun and delicious dish. It's almost like being a kid and playing with your food... that's my favorite part of cooking. Check this out:


*  2 cups all-purpose flour
*  4 cups skim milk
*  2 eggs
*  1 cup frozen spinach (thawed)
*  1/2 cup fresh basil
*  1/2 tsp salt
*  1/2 tsp sugar
*  pinch of nutmeg
*  cooking spray

1. Blend the spinach and basil with milk into a smooth puree.
2. Whisk all the ingredients together (besides cooking spray, of course) until everything is incorporated and has a nice smooth texture. The denser the batter, the thicker nalesniki will be.
3. Heat the pan, spray with cooking spray, and using a medium size ladle to scoop the batter into the pan, and tip and rotate it to form a thin layer. Cook about 1 minutes on the first side, flip on the other side, and cook 1 more minute.


*  1 chicken breast (cooked and shredded)
*  1 large onion (chopped)
*  1 cup mushroom (chopped)
*  1 fresh tomato (chopped)
*  1 tbsp ketchup
*  salt and pepper
*  1 tsp olive oil

1. Saute onions and mushroom with olive oil until soft. Add chicken, tomatoes, ketchup, salt, and pepper. Cook everything together for 5 minutes.
2. Spread a spoonful of a filling on a half of the crepe and roll it up.

   How cool do they look? Very bright, very fresh, and very "interesting". The basil is a great touch and just make the whole dish very special. The filling is a little bit sweet (ketchup), a little bit tangy (tomatoes), and because there is no sauce in it, it's very light as well. Try it, it's such a fun dish.

Good luck.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

I'm back!

   I can't get my act together after this wonderful vacation. It's so hard to believe that it's over and that we have to return to our "normal" life, but we have lots of pictures and amazing memories to keep us going. It's high time to get back into a kitchen and whip up some low calories goodies (vacation food is not figure friendly!!!). Today I did my own spin on a very traditional dish and made it completely different, but with similar flavors. I'm talking about "fasolka po bretonsku", which I guess can be literally translated to: bean and meat stew from Brittany (go figure). My Mom used to make it a lot and I hated beans, but loved the flavor of the soup at the same time, so I had to come up with my own "edible" version. So I substituted regular beans with green beans that I love, and kept all the other ingredients the same. And even though my tastes changed, and I now like white or kidney beans, I still make this dish with green beans and it's just perfect (and much lighter). Here is the recipe:

*  4-5 cups cut green beans
*  1 large onion (chopped)
*  1 cup chopped Polish kielbasa
*  1/2 cup tomato sauce
*  2 tbsp dry marjoram
*  2 cups chicken broth (or two cubs of bullion)
*  pinch of red paprica
*  1 tbsp olive oil
*  salt and pepper

1. In a deep pan saute onions and kielbasa with olive oil until browned.
2. Add water and chicken broth, cut green beans, tomato sauce, and all the remaining ingredients. Bring to boil and cook everything for about 10 minutes until beans are cooked but still a little bit crunchy.

   It's much easier and quicker than the "original" version. You can make it as dense as you want and as spicy or mild as you desire. I like mine dense and mild and that's how I make it... and I'm loving every bite of it.

Good luck.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

See you in a week!

   The time has come! After months of anticipation the vacation of my dreams is here! You are probably thinking ocean, beach, and palm trees, but no... my dream vacation, ever since I came to the US, was a road trip through the Colorado Plateau admiring all the amazing views, canyons, parks, and deserts! So forgive me that there will be no posts for the next week, but I promise I will make it up to you. I will leave you with a decadent, delicious, and festive dish perfect for any summer celebration. Pasta shells stuffed with spinach and ricotta cheese covered with bechamel sauce and mozzarella! Decadent enough? I used fat-free ingredients so it's not as "guilty" as it sounds, but it's definitely very rich and flavorful. Here is the recipe.

*  box of large shells pasta
*  16 oz reduced-fat ricotta cheese
*  small bag frozen spinach (thawed and drained)
*  1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
*  1 egg
*  1/2 stick butter
*  1/3 cup all-purpose flour
*  3 cups fat-free milk
*  pinch of nutmeg
*  2 cups reduced-fat shredded mozzarella cheese
*  salt and pepper

1. Cook the shell pasta in salted water for about 5 minutes (don't overcook it), drain, wash in a cold water and set aside.
2. In a meantime prepare bechamel sauce: melt butter, add flour and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add milk, nutmeg, salt and pepper and whisk everything together until it forms a smooth and thick sauce. If it's too thick just add some more milk.
3. In a bowl, combine ricotta cheese, drained spinach, egg, dill, salt, and pepper, and mix everything together.
4. Spread 1/3 of a bechamel sauce on a bottom of a baking dish. Stuff each shell with a generous spoon of ricotta stuffing and layer them tightly into a baking dish. Cover everything with remaining bechamel sauce and mozzarella cheese. Cover with a foil and bake at 380F for 45 minutes, then take the foil out and bake for 15 more minutes to brown the top.

   You know it's gonna be good, I don't even have to tell you. Creamy filling with crunchy and browned cheese on the top, it even sounds delicious. And it's so healthy too... come on, it has spinach inside... it has to be healthy, right?


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Perfect chicken!

   You probably wonder what makes this chicken dish perfect, don't you? Well three things: it's super tender, super delicious, and it couldn't be easier to make! I'm not sure, but I think this is one of  the first "real" dishes I created. I remember I would make it all the time for my friends whenever they were coming over for dinner. By now I evolved a little (just a bit!) and serve much more versatile dishes, but I still love this one and come back to it once in a while. It's also one of my "safe" dishes, so I make it if I have some new people over and I am not sure what their culinary preferences are. It's very simple, but delicious, and everybody loves it. Six ingredients is all it takes! I used to made it with five... but recently I added a fresh herb (whatever is in season) and bumped it up to six ingredients! It's a real feast, check this out:

*  skinless chicken thighs
*  1 large onions (sliced)
*  3 garlic cloves (chopped)
*  1 tbsp rosemary
*  2 tbsp olive oil
*  salt and pepper

1. Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides.
2. In a dutch oven, heat the olive oil and brown chicken for about 5 minutes on each side.
3. Cover with sliced onions, garlic, and rosemary. Add water (or chicken broth) to almost cover the chicken, bring to boil, put the lid on and bake at 350F for 45 minutes.

   I told you it was easy, and it's such a yummy dish. So flavorful, so tender, it just melts in your mouth, and you don't even need teeth, but I definitely don't recommend teethless entertaining, it might scare some of your fellow diners. This dish has a special place in my heart and other than adding different herbs I never change it. It's just perfect as it is!


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Three star dish!

   I know it looks like it's tart season in the Morgan house, but it's such a summery dish to me that I wouldn't have it any other way. There is so many delicious vegetables and herbs around nowadays and they are perfect in a tart. You can get as creative as you want, mix and match ingredients, try new unexplored things, and you are almost always guaranteed to get a delicious dish (almost always!). The basic dough recipe is always the same, but I try to keep it exciting and add different herbs each time to make it unique. The most important thing is to make sure it's super crunchy, so you can get a nice contrast with a creamy filling. Here is one of the ideas for a delicious, summer-like leeks and turkey bacon tart:

*  1 1/2cup all-purpose flour
*  1 tsp salt
*  1 tsp sugar
*  1 stick cold butter
*  1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
*  2-3 tsp ice water

*  10 slices turkey bacon (chopped)
*  3 large leeks (sliced)
*  1 large onion
*  1 tbsp butter
*  1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
*  2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
*  1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
*  salt and pepper

1. In a food processor combine the flour, salt, sugar, and basil. Pulse to combine.
2. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is finely chopped and the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the ice water and run the machine just until the mixture is moist and crumbly, but does not form a ball. Do not over mix. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3. In a meantime, crisp the bacon and set aside on the paper towel.
4. In the same pan melt butter add leeks, onions, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper and cook everything for 10 minutes until soft. Add fresh mint, cheese and crisped bacon.
5. Roll the refrigerated crust and transfer into greased pie baking dish. Cover the crust with the leek mixture and bake at 350F for 45 minutes.
6. If you have any remaining crust dough you can go crazy and decorate the top of the tart, like I did.

   Isn't it cute? Perfect for the 4th of July. Not only good looking, but also yummy and nutritious. The crust is crunchy and fragrant (thanks to basil) and the filling is creamy and cheesy.

   Who wouldn't like a mixture of onions and bacon? Well, if you are vegetarian or don't like leeks I guess you wouldn't like it, but cheese? I'm sure everybody loves cheese! Try it, I'm sure you will enjoy it.

Good luck.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Quick Quiche!

   Here is another one of the simple dishes that I make once in a while for a quick and delicious dinner. It takes only few ingredients mixed together, covered with cheese, and baked to perfection. It can be made with any ingredients you want or have on hand and always tastes good. I am talking about quiche, a French pastry crust dish filled with an eggs/cream/cheese mixture. Not only will you end up with a delicious dinner, but also you can show off in front of your friends that you can make French dishes! Here is my favorite combination of ingredients (makes 2 quiches)

*  2 store bought quiche crusts
*  1 cup cooked broccoli
*  1 cup sliced baby portobello mushrooms
*  1 1/2 cup shredded crab meat
*  8 eggs
*  1 1/2 cup fat-free milk
*  2 cups reduced-fat shredded mozzarella
*  1/2 tsp curry powder
*  1/2 tsp salt
*  1 tbsp butter

1. Whisk eggs, milk, and spices together. Add shredded mozzarella cheese, divide in half, and set aside.
2. Saute sliced mushroom with butter for 5 minutes until softened, mix with cooked broccoli and transfer into one of the crusts, and cover with half of the egg mixture.
3. Fill the other crust with shredded crab meat and cover with the egg/milk mix.
4. Bake both quiches at 380F for about 45 minutes. Let it cool for 15 minutes before serving so everything can set.

   I think the broccoli/mushroom quiche is my favorite. Portobello mushrooms are so meaty and flavorful, and broccoli is fresh and crunchy. But that doesn't mean the the crab quiche isn't good.

   It's actually Justin's favorite, so we didn't have to fight for last piece, because each of us wanted a different one. Is that a perfect marriage or what? You can probably fill it with anything and when you cover it with eggs and cheese... it will taste good no matter what.