Spring Green Beans Almandine

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What a week it has been so far, and it is almost over.  I thought for a while about what to post after yesterday’s exciting announcement, but everything felt like it would fall short! So I figured I would return to normal as best as possible and feature something fresh and seasonal.

As many of you know passover was last week as well as Easter, and for many these holidays really begin the Spring season. I went down to Texas to spend the holiday with my family, but I know in CT it was over 80F and sunny! What a way to kick off Spring parties and backyard barbecues!

I love this time of year and all of the delicious veggies that are becoming available at local markets. I have always been a big fan of green beans, and will eat them in almost any form.  I really like them still crispy, my pet peeve of cooked veggies is how so many people over cook them and lose that delicious bite!

This recipe is super easy, and only takes about 15-20min max and it is perfect for your next Spring get together!

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Why you need:

  • 2 bags of green beans
  • 3/4 cup of slivered almonds
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste

You don’t have to use the bags of green beans, but they make your life super easy! You just cut holes in them and microwave them for 3 minutes for lightly steamed perfection.

In a cast iron pan heat up half of your butter and fry up your almonds.  You want them to brown and get nice and toasted.

Once they start turning brown, add in your garlic clove and cook a further 2 minutes.

Throw in your green beans, lemon juice, and the remaining half of the butter and toss.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

This is such a great picnic option or perfect to serve for your next dinner party. These green beans are light and crunchy and could go back to almost anything!

Orzo Spinach Pasta

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We have had an eventful couple of weeks here at Casa Burke. I turned 30, which was great, we threw a huge party for said 30th, my parents flew up and then got stuck here – thanks winter storm Stella, and then I got lasik eye surgery! Luckily, last week and this week are Spring Break for most Greenwich schools, so I didn’t have too much client work to juggle with the family visit and then eye surgery.

I am pleased to say I now have 20/20 vision, which is such an awesome 30th birthday gift! It is life changing to not have to wear contacts or glasses anymore. I got glasses around the age of 8, and contacts around the age of 11 because I was that super cool kid who was lucky enough to get braces at the same time…. I will give you a moment to imagine how popular/cool I wasn’t…

Anyway, I have worked a couple of parties for clients lately and planned the food for my own party, but sadly I was neglecting the blog.  Tsk Tsk… I know! But today is a new day, and I can see clearly the road ahead! I have an exciting salsa project in the pipeline and a few other cool developments, so over all The Gourmet Cocina is cooking! (pun definitely intended… still imagining how cool I am not?)

Today’s recipe is part of a two part series.  I will post the pork tenderloin that we served with this pasta tomorrow.  The pasta is definitely a stand alone, and really yummy and healthy!

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What you need:

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • 2-3 cups orzo pasta
  • 1 cup sherry wine vinegar
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 cups of spinach
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (a high quality one)
  • sea salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot of salted water cook your orzo according to the packaging instructions.  Mine said for 10-12min.

Meanwhile, using about a tablespoon of olive oil, sauté your onion in a good, heat conducting pan on medium-low heat until translucent, about 8 minutes.

Add in your garlic and cook for about a minute until fragrant.

Pour in the sherry wine vinegar and reduce by half.

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Once your pasta is done and your vinegar has reduced, drain your pasta and mix together the reduction and the pasta in a large bowl.

Add in your fresh spinach, and the heat of the pasta and sauce will cause it to wilt slightly.

Add in the balance of the olive oil, the fresh lemon juice, and sea salt and pepper to taste.

This dish is so fresh and delicious, and would be a great accompaniment to a lot of different things.  Feel free to add parmesan or pecorino or even goats cheese if you want, but I kept this dairy free.

 

 

 

 

Kale/Apple/Beet Salad

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I hope everyone had a fabulous Valentine’s Day yesterday! Whether you were your own Valentine or you spent the evening with a significant other, friends, or a pet, I hope you had a delicious dinner and felt some love! Many of you probably had chocolate, or other decadent treats for the occasion, and might be needing a little detox after the wine and champagne.

As I mentioned I cooked last night and kept it pretty simple.  We had a fabulous dinner out on Monday and James bought me flowers then, but last night I made him a perfectly cooked steak with some mashed potatoes and a salad. Steak is one of his favorite things to eat, so on more special occasions I splurge on meat from our butcher because it really is delicious!

We don’t have much of a sweet tooth, so we passed on dessert, but I know Valentine’s Day is basically the chocolate-iest day of the year! Most people will want to avoid sugar, cheese, and other unhealthy things after last night, so I have made this delicious salad as a yummy detox meal. It is so delicious, and you get a little natural sweetness from the apple and beet without any guilt!

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What you need:

  • 1 bunch of lacinato kale
  • 1 green apple
  • 1 red beet
  • 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • sea salt and pepper to taste

Chop up your kale thinly, and put in a large salad bowl.

Cut your apple and beet into matchsticks and put on top of your kale.

Mix together your dressing ingredients and dress your salad.

Season the salad with salt and pepper and dig in!

If you don’t love kale, try mixing the kale with some romaine so you still get the health benefits of kale, but not a full kale salad.

This salad is an awesome base for grilled chicken or quinoa if you want to turn it into a heartier meal. James would definitely need both of those to call this a meal!

Creamy Goats Cheese Polenta

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As promised, here is the delicious polenta recipe from the short rib dinner the other night. James said to me before making this, “I don’t really like polenta.” Challenge accepted, and guess what, he liked this polenta A LOT!

I don’t have a ton of experience with making polenta, so this was a bit of an experiment, and I plan on doing a few more experiments with it in the near future, but it is essentially cornmeal. You cook it with water and then add in your seasoning or flavor towards the end of cooking.

It really is a blank canvas for flavor, and even though it is traditionally Italian, I think I am going to try it with with some Mexican flavors as corn is the base of so many Mexican dishes.

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What you need:

  • 4 1/2 cups of water
  • 1 cup polenta (slightly under 1 cup actually)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 4 oz goats cheese
  • black pepper to taste

Pour your water into a pot, and whisk in the polenta in a steady stream.

Simmer the polenta for 15minutes whisking it frequently. If you notice it looking thick and not creamy, add in small amounts of water at a time to adjust.

After about 15 min, add in your salt, butter and goats cheese,  and black pepper making sure to whisk it the whole time to get a smooth mixture.

Serve it with your short ribs or anything else you might like it with and enjoy!

For those naysayers out there, polenta is somewhere between grits, rice, and mashed potatoes. It is hearty and can be full of flavor, but it requires a little something extra like cheese or jalapeño or seasoning to really elevate it to the next level.

Bacon Brussels Sprouts

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Because everything is better with bacon!

Growing up we all had pretty terrible experiences with brussels sprouts.  This is because most often our mom’s or grandma’s boiled them to kingdom come! An interesting fact about brussels sprouts is that when they are over cooked – they emit a sulfurous smell and taste – YUM!!!  This is the charming scent and flavor we all thought brussels sprouts tasted like.

Then sometime around 2014, a revolution in the world of cruciferous vegetables occurred and people tried sautéing and oven roasting sprouts and finding totally new, delicious results. I can now say that well cooked brussels sprouts are one of my favorite things.  They are really good for you, and when done right, really tasty! By adding bacon, well you can get just about anyone to agree to trying them!

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What you need:

  • 4-5 strips of thick cut bacon
  • 1 stalk of brussels sprouts or two cups
  • 2 tbsp sherry wine
  • salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat your oven to 400F.

Cut the base off of your sprouts and cut them in half.

Chop your bacon up into small pieces and sauté it in an oven safe pan.

When your bacon is nice and cooked, but just slightly before crispy, drain out some of your bacon grease, and add in your halved sprouts.

Toss in the sherry wine to deglaze the pan and scrape off any fond from the bottom and then put it in the oven for 15min.

Sprouts should still look quite green with some of the outer leaves slightly browned and crispy. They should still have a firm texture, but a fork should go through them easily.

Season with salt and pepper as you want and enjoy with our dijon wine pork chop or a simple grilled chicken.

Enjoy!

Traditional Potato Salad

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Potato salad is kind of a Southern staple at any barbecue, and there are probably a million ways to make it.  This version is definitely more on the traditional side, but another day I will show you another version I make without mayo.

Potato salad is a great side to make for a lot of different things.  It’s perfect for potlucks, picnics, and week night dinners.  It does not need to be heavy, and if you want to sneak in some chopped spinach, kale, or chard, it’s a great way to sneak in those veggies your kids think they don’t like!

We had this version the night I made bbq kale, and it was a great pairing. I am not the biggest fan of celery, so I left this out, but if you love it, go ahead and add it in!

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You will need:

  • 1 lb mini yellow potatoes, quartered
  • 3/4 cup mayo
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 tbsp chopped chives
  • paprika to sprinkle over

Wash your potatoes carefully before cutting them up.  Put them in a large pot of warm, salted water and bring to a boil until done and you can stick with a fork easily.

While the potatoes boil, mix your mayo, vinegar, mustard, garlic, chives, salt and pepper in another bowl. If you find this a little bit sharp, add some honey or agave to cut the acidity from the vinegar and mustard.

Drain the potatoes and put them into a large bowl.

Add the mayo mixture to the bowl and toss thoroughly to coat.

Sprinkle with paprika and enjoy!

If you are adding any veggies to this just add them in with the mayo mixture before you toss together.

Special Fried Rice

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When James and I were on our honeymoon, we had the most delicious garlic fried rice at one of the restaurants at our hotel.  It was a Teppanyaki restaurant and they served the rice at the end of the meal. At that point you are already so full, but after we took our first bite, we did everything we could to finish it!

This isn’t an exact recreation of that dish, but it wasn’t too far off. I made us a few spicy grilled shrimp to put on top, but the main event is the rice!  James ate enough for a family of 4 to himself, so I would say this dish was a success!

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For the special fried rice you need:

  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 4 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons rice wine
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon oyster sauce
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 5 garlic gloves, minced
  • Salt, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil, divided
  • 6 cups of cooked rice (I used brown rice to make it healthier)
  • Your soy sauce mixture (see above)
  • scallions, finely chopped whites and greens separated
  • 3 tablespoons of Sambal Oelek (spicy chili paste)

Mix your top section of ingredients together and warm in a small sauce pan on the stove until all ingredients are mixed together.

In a wok quickly scramble your 3 eggs with a little bit of oil, and remove from the pan.

Then add your whites of your scallions and your garlic into the wok with 2 tbsp of oil. Cook for 1 minute until fragrant.

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Add your rice to the scallion and garlic mixture and fry it in the oil for a few minutes. Once warmed throughout and the edges start to crisp up, add your soy sauce mixture and continue to cook.

After about 5 minutes add in the greens of the scallions, keeping a few for garnish, and the Sambal Oelek.  This is optional if you don’t like spice, but it really gives it a great flavor.

Cook another 2 minutes and serve hot.

This rice is light and delicious and such a great base for many different proteins!

Beet and Goat Cheese Salad

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Though many of you are still fighting the heat, here in CT we’ve started cooling off. In order to “beet” the end of summer blues (see what I did there… moving on…), I am making an effort to eat colorful foods. And honestly, minus the current rainy conditions, we have had spectacular weather here! It has been mid 70s and crystal clear sunny skies, if that is fall in CT, I am all about it!

As we get into fall, root vegetables will become more and more of a weekly staple. I am not yet mentally prepared for this, but this pretty salad is a great introduction to fall veggies. I used red and golden beets, and they do actually each have their own flavor.  Golden beets are sweeter while red beets have that rich earthiness you come to expect.

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What you need for this salad:

  • 2-3 of each golden beets and red beets
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup good olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • arugula
  • goat cheese (you can add as much or as little as you like)

When working with raw beets, you want to make sure to give them a good wash before boiling them.  Then, depending on the size of your beets, boil them whole for 45min to an hour. Like with potatoes, you will use a fork to see if they are soft, at which point they are done.

Meanwhile, mix your vinegar, olive oil, mustard, and salt and pepper in a large bowl.

When your beets are done, run them under some cold water to cool them off before you peel them.  The skin should essentially fall off, it will be very easy to peel them when they are done.

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Cut your beets into quarters, and while still warm toss them in the dressing and let them sit for 10-15minutes to absorb the flavor.

Place a bed of arugula on a plate and break apart your goats cheese.

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Pour the beet mixture of the salad and enjoy this very tasty and light introduction into fall foods!

Red Cabbage Slaw

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Growing up, coleslaw is one of those things you don’t really like. I was never a huge fan of mayo, and usually coleslaw is just a vessel for people to eat more mayo! Plus cabbage tends to have a more bitter flavor, so as a kid your palette really doesn’t get it.

Later in life I still didn’t find a coleslaw I loved, so when I started really getting into cooking, I decided to come up with one of my own. I will admit it does have a little bit of mayo in it, but its only a small amount!

Cilantro is another controversial flavor, but my biggest beef with it, is that people tend to over use it.  Everything in moderation can be really tasty, but it’s a coping mechanism for many people to add a ton of flavor without having to think. It isn’t my favorite herb, but when used in the right proportion, it can really add some freshness to your recipes.

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To make this slaw you will need the following:

  • 1 head of red cabbage
  • 1 bag of shredded carrots or regular carrots you shred yourself
  • 1/2 or less red onion
  • 1 tbsp brown spicy mustard
  • 2 tbsp mayo
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp cilantro
  • salt and pepper to taste

Remove the core of the cabbage head and slice thinly.

Thinly slice the red onion and chop up the cilantro.

Mix everything in a bowl including the condiments and oil and vinegar and toss.

This has a lightness and freshness to it that most slaws don’t, and its the perfect pairing with your delicious fish tacos!

I’ve also added in a green or golden delicious apple and taken the onion out of the slaw, and it was amazing on a whole new level!