Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Hello friends and fellow foodies,

Here's a picture of our New Year's Eve table setting. We cooked a crazy-hard dinner (duck cooked two different ways that nobody but us would even attempt) in anticipation of DIETING LIKE CRAZY starting January 1!!!!!

Maggie and Jeff

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Baked Eggplant with Sun-Dried Tomato Stuffing

Jeff likes to joke I’ll eat anything that is covered in tomatoes and cheese, and he’s not far off, especially when it comes to eggplant. I just don’t get why so many people love this ubiquitous vegetable. It’s bland, it’s mushy, and even poisonous to some (the nightshade-fearing set). Well, I don’t hate it that much, especially if it’s mixed with sun-dried tomatoes and fresh feta cheese. Top it off with crispy breadcrumbs, and watch me scarf it down.

This recipe comes from my stash of Cooking Light recipes. There must be hundreds of tattered and stained recipes stuffed into in my big black file folder, which is where I store the results of 20 plus years of clipping, collecting and creating recipes. I modified this recipe by adding sun-dried tomatoes to up the flavor quotient. Dehydrated or oil packed, these tasty little tomatoes add a layer of richness and flavor to any tomato-based dish.
Baked Eggplant with Savory Sun-Dried Tomato Stuffing
Serves 4
2 medium eggplants, each cut in half lengthwise
1 piece of leftover bread
1 ½ cup onion, finely chopped
½ cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 cup plum tomato, diced
½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, drained and diced (reserve oil)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbls. fresh basil, finely chopped
¼ cup parsley, chopped
1 tsp fresh oregano, finely chopped
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
¼ tsp. salt and pepper
Olive oil cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Score cut side of each eggplant half by making 4 crosswise cuts. Place the eggplant halves, cut sides down, o a foil-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on pan for 10 minutes. Remove the pulp, leaving a ¼-inch thick shell.  Chop the eggplant pullp. Reline the pan with fresh aluminum foil, coated with cooking spray. Place eggplant shell on pan and set aside. Place bread in a food processor, plus until coarse crumbs (about ½ cup). Reduce oven to 350 degrees. 

Heat a large nonstick skillet with 1 tsp. of the reserved sun-dried tomato oil, add onion and sauté for 3 minutes. Stir in the chopped eggplant, bell pepper, tomato, basil, oregano, and garlic; cover, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and cook for 5 minutes until liquid evaporates. Remove from heat, stir in cheese, parsley salt and pepper. Stuff each eggplant shell with about ½ cup mixture, sprinkle each one with ¼ of the breadcrumbs. Spray breadcrumbs with olive oil cooking spray. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes until lightly browned.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Chili-Citrus Rub

We used to subscribe to quite a few cooking magazines but over the years the list whittled down to just one—Cook's Illustrated, that is until recently. We are now inundated with cooking mags. As a result of a donation to a children’s charity, our mailbox is now stuffed as a turkey with four monthly magazines—Cooking Light, Bon Appétit, Food and Wine and Everyday Cooking with Rachel Ray. And frankly I’ve been having trouble keeping up with them!

The magazines were piling up and cluttering the hearth in our living room so I decided to spend a couple of hours last weekend going through all of them to determine which recipes I was interested in trying. I decided to try this slightly exotic chili-citrus chicken recipe from Bon Appétit first. It was a great choice; sort of Morocco meets Bobby Flay. The dish is full of flavor from the combination of citrus (orange juice) chili powder, paprika, cumin, and oregano and the added pungency of a handful of mixed olives. Slowly roasted in the oven, the spice rubbed chicken thighs and potato wedges get crispy and caramelized, making a perfect supper for a chilly fall evening. You will need a heavy duty rimmed jelly roll pan to make this dish, which if you don’t have one are available at Target of Bed, Bath and Beyond for about $15.
Roasted Chicken Thighs and Potatoes with Chili-Citrus Rub
Serves 4
1 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes
8 large skinless chicken thighs with bones
2 tbls. fresh lime juice, divided
1/3 cup orange juice
3 tbls. chili powder
1 tbls. paprika
1 tbls. smoked paprika
2 tsp. finely grated orange peel
1 tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. salt
2 tbls. olive oil
1 cup chicken broth
2 tbls. cilantro, coarsely chopped
1 tbls. parsley, coarsely chopped
10-20 pitted olives (preferably mixed colors and sizes)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cook potatoes in a large saucepan of lightly salted water until almost tender, about 7 minutes. Drain.

Place chicken thighs on a rimmed jelly roll pan coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle chicken generously with salt and drizzle with 1 tbls. lime juice; set aside. Whisk 1 tbls. lime juice, orange juice, chili powder, both paprikas, grated orange peel, cumin, oregano and ½ tsp. salt in a small bowl and mix well. Rub mixture all over chicken. Arrange potato wedges on the baking sheet, nestled around chicken. Drizzle olive oil over the chicken and potatoes. Bake chicken and potatoes for 20 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees. Turn chicken and potato wedges and spoon juices over. Bake 10 minutes longer. Add chicken broth, 1 tbls. cilantro and parsley, stirring to scrape up any chili bits on bottom of the baking dish (be careful not to break the potatoes). Turn the chicken over and cook another 10 minutes until beginning to brown.

Carefully transfer the chicken and potatoes to a platter, keeping potatoes in tack. Place the baking the sheet over 2 stove-top burners. Boil sauce until reduced to 1 cup, about 3 minutes. Mix in olives. Pour sauce over the chicken and potatoes; top with remaining cilantro and serve.

Tips and Tidbits
The recipe calls for 50 olives, which I thought was excessive, but if you really olives, go for it! If you don’t like olives you could theoretically omit them, but I’m not sure the recipe would really work with out them.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Halloween from Chez Maggie and Jeff

Wishing all of our food friends and family a Happy Halloween!
Chez Maggie and Jeff

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Goat-Cheese and Herb Stuffed Chicken Breasts

With the holidays right around the corner Jeff and I have been working on taking off a few pounds in advance of facing all the wonderful food that is so hard to resist this time of the year. Mostly we’ve been grilling and eating simply during the week and then making one really nice meal each weekend, but that gets boring pretty quickly so I brought out my trusty Weight Watchers cookbooks to liven up our weekday meals. A while back I joined WW and lost 30 pounds. The program really works, but it does require vigilance, which as much as we like to cook sometimes slips away in the sauce. So back on track for this home chef.

One of my all time favorite recipes from WW is this goat-cheese stuffed baked chicken from WW’s Simply Delicious cookbook. The crispy, Panko-crusted chicken filled with a gooey concoction of goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, green onions, and basil tastes divinely decadent but is only 284 calories per serving (6 points in WW lingo). You will not think you’re dieting when you bite into this chicken.
Goat-Cheese and Herb Stuffed Chicken Breasts
Serves 4
2 ounces goat cheese
2 oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, patted dry and diced
2 scallions, minced
1 tbls. basil, chopped
1 tbls. kalamata olives, diced
2 tsp. thyme, diced
¼ cup Panko crumbs
2 (½ lb.) whole skinless, boneless chicken breasts
4 tsp. reduced calorie mayonnaise
1 ½ lb. pounds of baby spinach, rinsed

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a pan with aluminum foil and coat with nonstick spray. Combine the cheese, tomatoes, scallions, basil, olives and thyme in a bowl, mashing with a fork until blended. Place the Panko crumbs in another dish.

Lay the two whole chicken breasts flat on a cutting board covered with a plastic wrap ( do not separate the breasts, leave them whole). Cover the breasts with another sheet of plastic and pound them until they are about ¼ inch thic). Spread the cheese mixture on one half of each of the whole breasts. Fold the other side of each chicken breast on top of the cheese mixture until it is covered (you'll secure it in a minute with toothpicks).

Spread 2 tsp. of the mayo over each breast and then sprinkle with the Panko crumbs. To secure the cheese mixture inside each chicken breast weave three tooth picks through the edge of each breast to close them up. Spray the tops of the chicken lightly with nonstick spray and bake until the chicken is cooked through and crust is golden, about 40-45 minutes.

When the chicken is almost done, place the spinach in a large steamer basked set in a saucepan over 1 inch of boiling water. Cover tightly and steam until spinach just wilts, about 2 minutes. Slice the chicken on the diagonal while the spinach is cooking. Put some  spinach on a plate and top it with two slices of the chicken (each chicken should produce 4 slices).

Monday, October 25, 2010


Winter came to the Bay Area this weekend and Jeff and I burrowed in to do some cooking and reading, weathering the weather so to speak. When the temperature drops and the rain comes we want comfort food—braised something or other. This weekend we decided that Ossobuco would do the trick. Ossobuco is usually made with veal shanks, but when we went to the grocery story the veal shanks had very little meat on them so we opted for beef shanks to make this homey dish. This recipe comes from Tyler Florence and what makes it unique is his take on gremolata, a traditional parsley, lemon and garlic garnish for Ossobuco. Instead of lemon, he uses oranges and cranberries. The hearty flavors of the dish really perk up with the the cranberry and orange accents, although we decided next time we'd use roasted garlic as fresh garlic is a little hard on us boomers.  
Serves 4
1 cup all-purpose flour
 Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
 4 pieces veal or beef shank
 Extra-virgin olive oil
 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
 1 onion, diced
 1 celery stalk, diced
 2 carrots, diced
 1 lemon, zest peeled off in wide strips with a vegetable peeler
 1 head garlic, cut horizontally through the middle
 2 bay leaves
 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
 1 bottle Amarone or Zinfandel wine
 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can low-sodium beef broth
 2 (28-ounce) can whole Italian tomatoes

Cranberry Gremolata:
 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
 1/4 cup chopped dried cranberries
 1 garlic clove (or 2 roasted garlic cloves)
 1 orange, zest finely grated
 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Put the flour in a large shallow platter and season it with a fair amount of salt and pepper. Dredge the shanks in the seasoned flour and then tap off the excess.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat and add 3 tbls. of olive oil. Add the butter and swirl it around the pan to melt. Sear the shanks until all sides are a rich brown caramel color. Remove the browned veal shanks to a side plate.
Using the same pot, sauté the onion, celery, carrots, lemon zest, garlic, bay leaves, and parsley over medium heat. Cook the vegetables down until they start to get some color and develop a deep, rich aroma. Season with salt and pepper; add a little oil if needed. Nestle the veal shanks back in the pot. Pour in the wine and let it simmer down for 20 minutes, until the wine has reduced by half. Add the beef broth and tomatoes and stir everything together. Cover the pot and put it in the oven. Braise for 1 and a 1/2 hours. Then remove the cover and continue to cook for another 30 minutes. The sauce should be thick and the meat tender and nearly falling off the bone. Remove bay leaves.

For the Gremolata:
Finely chop the pine nuts, dried cranberries and combine. Combine this with the garlic together in a mini chopper or with a mortar and pestle. Fold that into the orange zest and parsley. Scatter the gremolata over the Ossobucco before serving.

Tips and Tidbits
This is definitely a weekend project. The meal takes about 3 hours to make between the prep and cooking time.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Eggplant Parmesan Stacks

Have you heard of Meatless Mondays? I became aware of the concept a couple of years ago after reading Michael Pollan’s brilliant book, The Ominvore’s Dilemma. I’d also read articles about the negative effect of eating too much meat on our bodies, industrially raised animals and even the planet. Who knew? Cow farts produce methane gas, a significant contributor to global warming according to some scientists.

It turns out eating less meat goes way back: “During World War I, the U.S. Food Administration urged families to reduce consumption of key staples to aid the war effort. “Food Will Win the War,” the government proclaimed, and “Meatless Monday” and “Wheatless Wednesday” were introduced to encourage Americans to do their part.

The effect was overwhelming. Some 10 million families, 7,000 hotels and nearly 425,000 food dealers pledged to observe national meatless days. In November 1917, New York City hotels saved some 116 tons of meat over the course of just one week. According to a 1929 Saturday Evening Post article, “Americans began to look seriously into the question of what and how much they were eating. Lots of people discovered for the first time that they could eat less and feel no worse – frequently for the better.”

Now, we are no vegetarians, far from it, but I decided we should do our part to reduce global warming, and hopefully improve our health, by eating at least one vegetarian meal a week. Our go-to meatless menu is eggplant Parmesan; it’s delicious and filling and you can get several meals out of this recipe. I’ve adapted the traditional recipe two ways: tidy little stacks that make for great lunch leftovers; and also a “skinny” version, which is included at the bottom of this post. I like to serve this with pesto pasta. Of course, I like to everything with pesto!
Eggplant Parmesan Stacks
Ingredients for Eggplant Stacks
2 large eggplants, sliced 1/8 inch thick
1 cup dry, fine seasoned bread crumbs
2 eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup flour
¼ olive oil (and more if necessary for sautéing eggplants)
8 oz. part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
¼ Parmesan cheese, coarsely shredded
2 cups tomato sauce

Ingredients for Tomato Sauce
¼ cup olive oil
1 Spanish onion, ¼ -inch dice
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tbls. fresh thyme leaves, chopped or 1 tablespoon dried
1 tbls. fresh oregano leaves, chopped or 1 tablespoon dried
1/2 medium carrot, finely grated
 2 (28-ounce) cans peeled diced tomatoes
½ can tomato paste
½ cup red wine
1 ½ tsp. sugar
1 tbls. Balsamic vinegar
 Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation for Tomato Sauce
In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until soft and light golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the thyme and carrot, and cook 5 minutes more, until the carrot is quite soft. Deglaze the pan with the red wine. Add the tomatoes with their juice, the sugar and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for 45 minutes until thick. Add the Balsamic vinegar and cook an additional 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Preparation for Cooking Eggplant and Assembling Stacks
Place sliced eggplant in a colander and salt both sides. Let set ½ hour and then dry them on paper towels to remove the excess moisture.

Place the flour, eggs and breadcrumbs in three separate dishes. Dredge eggplant slices first in flour, then dip them in the eggs and coat them with breadcrumbs. Repeat process until they are all coated. Heat 1/8 cup oil on medium high heat in a large non-stick frying pan. Sauté eggplant slices one minute on each side and set on paper towels to drain. Add remaining 1/8 cup oil as needed.

In a large glass-baking pan (coated with non-stick spray), place one layer of eggplant slices to cover entire bottom of the pan. Spread a dollop of tomato sauce on each eggplant slice and sprinkle with cheese. Place the rest of the eggplant  slices directly on top of the eggplant slices in the pan to create a stack. Repeat steps of covering each stack with tomato sauce and a generous topping of the Mozzarella cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for ½ hour.

Tips and Tidbits
The eggplant stacks hold up to a week in the refrigerator; they make great leftovers for lunch (or dinner for that matter). You can substitute homemade tomato sauce with store-bought sauce, but it’s not a good. To pick a perfectly ripe eggplant, make sure the stem and green leaves are bright green.

To make a lower-fat version of these eggplant stacks, use this recipe for baked eggplants (use the tomato sauce from the recipe on this post) and fat-free cheese. The only fat-free cheese we like is made by Lifetime. As a general rule, non-fat cheese is awful, but this brand works if you’re using it in a baked dish. It doesn’t melt as nicely as real cheese, but if you’re watching your calories, it is a suitable substitute.