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Thai Coconut Curry Turkey Soup

23 Feb

I overcooked the shit out of a turkey a couple of months ago.

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My apologizes for the flagrant profanity in the very first sentence of this post, but I feel that it is absolutely  necessary based on how dried out that damn turkey was. It was inedible in its current form. Really, really terrible. The worst I’ve ever had.

Have I mentioned that I worked at the Butterball Turkey Talk Line this year, and that I helped  hundreds  and hundreds of people  successfully cook their birds? The irony is not lost on me. This overcooked-is-an-understatement turkey happened well after the Turkey Talk Line closed for the season.

Now, I’ve cooked plenty of crispy-skinned, juicy turkeys in my past. In my own defense, I was using a meat thermometer that had somehow gotten waaaaaaay out of calibration. But I didn’t know that until it was way too late. And once a turkey is overdone, it’s overdone. And it’s all downhill from there. The USDA, Butterball, and anyone who understands food science agree that white meat is done at 165°F.

By the time I realized what was happening and checked the turkey with an alternate thermometer, the breast meat was registering north of 190°F. Nasty.

We choked down a couple of dry slices (aided by a lot of wine to help it go down), turned the carcass into turkey stock, and shoved the rest of the jerky meat into the back of the freezer. I couldn’t bear to throw it all away. What a waste that would be.

It’s been taking up space for a while, now, so today I decided to do something about it. I figured the only palatable way to use up this meat would be in soup form, since the broth would cover up the dryness. I love the flavors of a coconut curry soup, which is awesome with chicken or shrimp. As it turns out, it’s also excellent with turkey, even if it’s dryer than melba toast. Of course, it would be even more slurp-able with perfectly cooked turkey. 165°F in the breast and 180°F in the thigh – temperatures to live by!

And for the love of good-eating, check your meat thermometer before you start cooking to make sure that it’s accurate. It’s easy to do. Place the probe in boiling water. It should read 212°F, but if it is higher or lower, you can adjust your readings accordingly.

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Thai Coconut Curry Turkey Soup

This soup is delicious with turkey stock and turkey meat, but if you have chicken meat and chicken stock on hand, that will also work well. Substitute vegetable stock and shrimp for a vegetarian version.

1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon canola  oil
3 tablespoons red curry paste
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger
4 cups turkey stock
1 can (14 oz.) light coconut milk
2-3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2-3 teaspoons Sriracha sauce (or more if you’re a thrill-seeker)
2 cups finely shredded cooked turkey (leftovers work great)
7 oz. rice noodles
juice of a lime
For color and crunch: thinly sliced sugar snap peas, green onions and radishes, fresh cilantro, and lime wedges

In a large pot, saute the red pepper, carrot, and onion with canola oil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent. Add the curry paste, sliced garlic, and ginger and continue stirring until fragrant, 1-2 minutes.

Add the turkey stock, coconut milk, fish sauce, brown sugar, and Sriracha and stir until well combined. Adjust flavor by adding additional fish sauce for saltiness and Sriracha for heat. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, add the cooked turkey and lime juice, and simmer.

While the soup is simmering, cook and drain the rice noodles according to the package directions.*

Pile about 1/2 cup of cooked noodles into the bottom of a bowl. Ladle soup over the top of the noodles. Sprinkle with sliced sugar snap peas, green onions, radishes, and fresh cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.

Makes about 6 servings.

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*If you plan to serve all of the soup at once, feel free to throw the rice noodles directly into the soup pot to cook. If you will be saving some of the soup for later, make the noodles as instructed above, and refrigerate them separately from the soup so that they don’t get mushy.

 

Spaghetti Squash – Accepting It For What It Is

16 Jan

It seems impossible, but somehow I’ve survived 34 years and 2 stints in Weight Watchers without ever cooking spaghetti squash. Starving and delusional, many people following the program gush, “It’s just like eating pasta! You can’t even  tell the difference!”

They’re wrong. It’s funny how we can totally lie to ourselves when we want to drop a dress size.

Spaghetti squash with caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, and chicken sausage.

It’s stringy.  Other than that, it’s not like eating noodles, but no matter. Spaghetti squash has it’s own merit. It can be roasted in the oven, caramelizing the sugars and ramping up its inherent squashiness. Or, it can be nuked in the microwave in about 1/3 of the time, leaving it a blank canvas for whatever flavors you  toss it with.

I’ve never made spaghetti squash before, but I’ve eaten plenty of it. Like lots of vegetables, it’s bland when it’s not seasoned properly. That why I chose to toss mine with a whole bunch of bold flavors. I’m not giving a full recipe for this one. I raided my fridge and pantry, using what I had on hand, and eyeballed the amounts of the ingredients. This is my absolute favorite way to cook.  Taste and adjust as you go. You should try it! It’s liberating!

Here’s what I did:

  1. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Scooped out the seeds and guts and discarded. Sprinkled generously with salt and pepper. Placed cut side down in a glass 9 in. x 13 in. Nuked on full power for 15 minutes, checked to see if I could fork the flesh into it’s characteristic thin strands easily, couldn’t, and then nuked for another 5 minutes. That did the trick. Timing will vary depending on the size of your squash and the pep of your microwave. Everything else happened in the time the squash was cooking.
  2. Caramelized an onion with a few roughly chopped anchovy filets (left over from my kale salad) in olive oil, salt, pepper, and about 1 tablespoon of dry. Onions were cut into half moons so they’d be fork-twirlable like the squash.
  3. Cut a roasted red pepper into very thin strips (also twirlable).
  4. Seared off a couple of chicken sausages (Mild Italian flavor) and sliced on the bias.
  5. Deglazed the pan with a bit of Sauvignon Blanc (it was open). Added a small pat of butter and another pinch of Italian seasoning
  6. Grated some parmesan.
  7. Rough chopped a handful of parsley
  8. Pulled the cooked sqush apart with a fork. Drizzled with a bit of olive oil and sprinkled generously with salt and pepper. Tossed it all together and ate a huge amount. Saved half for an awesome lunch tomorrow.

Is spaghetti squash in your regular cooking rotation? How do you prepare it?

How To Trick People Into Eating Anchovies – Roughed Up Kale Salad

12 Jan

Roughed Up Kale Salad

 

I had a lovely afternoon yesterday. My sister and her daughter took me out on the town as a belated birthday present. We had matinée tickets to The Little Prince at Lookingglass Theater, and beforehand we dined at Bar Toma, a restaurant just steps off of Michigan Avenue. We were “ladies who lunch,” if just for the day.

The menu at Bar Toma includes antipasti, salads, a few sandwiches, and several pizzas baked quickly in a wood-burning oven. My sister briefly glanced at the menu, and suggested that I pick out a couple of things to share and order for the both of us.

This was a bold move on her part. She’s not picky, but she tends to stick to the standards on a menu. I, on the other hand, am a little more…adventurous when it comes to eating. I’ve willingly eaten crickets and worms. I’m in to offal. And I’m not afraid to order food from the seediest looking street vendor in a foreign country. I just want an authentic experience!

I asked her if she was sure, and then placed our order with our server. One Kale Salad, coming up! Maura and Kaia had never had kale before, which we discussed briefly before I ordered. I knew that the kale wouldn’t be an issue because they’re both salad-loving people. The salad arrived to the table looking fresh and delicious, the kale left in large pieces and fading from dark green at the edges to vibrant purple in the center. There was a soft-boiled egg quartered and laid over the top, and garlicky, crunchy breadcrumbs generously spooned over. We dug in and all three of us loved it.

Several bites into the salad I revealed that the dressing was an anchovy vinaigrette. The world stood still for a split second, before my niece’s chewing mouth fell into a frown. She was pretty disgusted, and I was pretty amused. If either one of them had seen that description on the menu, that salad wouldn’t have ended up in our bellies, much less on our table.

Anchovies get a bad wrap. Sure, as whole fillets they look totally prehistoric and disgusting. I get that. Even I’m weirded out by whole anchovies! But when finely chopped, they melt into whatever you’re combining them with, adding flavor through salt and their natural oil. If you’ve eaten a real, from scratch Caesar Salad, then you’ve eaten anchovies, because they’re a big component in Caesar dressing, too. See? No biggie! Anchovies are delicious!

So, we had a lovely meal, and both Kaia and Maura came away anchovy lovers, even if they’re not ready to admit it. I’m thinking of printing them up t-shirts that say “ANCHOVY LOVER”, with a huge whole fillet right underneath, but I suspect that they would never get worn. That’s okay. Down the road, if either of them considers eating something that contains anchovies, then my work here is done.

If you would like to ease into the flavor of anchovies, give this salad a shot. It’s a riff off of what we ate for lunch, and it’s darn good as a main course, or along side grilled chicken or shrimp.

Roughed Up Kale Salad

10 ounces red new potatoes, washed and quartered
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, finely minced
1 shallot, finely minced
4 anchovy fillets, roughly chopped
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
3.5 ounces fresh kale (about 1/2 a bunch), cut roughly into 2 in. pieces, washed and dried
4 dried apricots, cut into strips
2 radishes, sliced paper-thin
1/4 cup roasted pistachios

Place the potatoes in a saucepan and fill with enough cold water to cover the potatoes by at least an inch. Season the water with salt. Cook over high heat until the potatoes are fork tender. Drain the potatoes and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking.

In a saute pan, cook the breadcrumbs and butter over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until the breadcrumbs are golden brown. Season with a bit of salt while they’re still warm, and remove from pan.

In the same saute pan, heat the olive oil. Add the minced garlic, minced shallot, and chopped anchovy fillets and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the shallot is translucent and the garlic is very fragrant. Transfer to a small food processor or to a pestle and mortar. Add the lemon juice and dijon mustard and process until it is emulsified, but still a bit chunky from the shallot and garlic.

Pour the warm dressing over the kale and use your hands to squeeze and coat it in the dressing. This is often called “massaging” the kale, but what you really need to do is rough it up a little so that it softens to a more appealing texture. After it’s been crunched together for a minute, and the leaves are all well coated, leave the salad to rest for 10 to 15 minutes, and the leaves will continue to tenderize.

Add the cooked potatoes, sliced apricots and radishes, and pistachios and toss to coat. Give it a taste and add additional salt, pepper, lemon juice, or olive oil as needed. The flavors tend to get lost in the kale, so you will likely use more salt and pepper than you would think necessary. Just before serving, top with the toasted breadcrumbs.

Serves 2 as a main course, or 4 as a side dish.

Summer Salads

26 Jun

I’m not a big salad eater. Never have been. But there’s something about digging into a big, colorful bowl of vegetables when the temperature outside is soaring…it makes me feel virtuous.

That feeling usually lasts until I am digging into a big, chilly bowl of ice cream approximately 2 hours later. Hey, nutrition is all about balance and moderation, right?

Salads and ice cream: two foods meant for summer days.

Here’s a simple spinach salad that we ate a couple of weeks ago. Easy-peasy.

Baby spinach leaves + grilled chicken breast + chopped cucumber + chopped strawberries + green onions + candied walnuts + spicy apple cider vinaigrette.

More about the ice cream in the coming months!

Spinach Salad with Strawberries

Spinach and Strawberry Salad

Feeding the Baby – Mushroom and Ground Turkey Lettuce Wraps

27 Apr
Mushroom and Ground Turkey Lettuce Wraps

Mushroom and Ground Turkey Lettuce Wraps

My Facebook feed is rampant with babies. Every third post is either a photo of a half-naked cherub in a bubbly bathtub or or a disturbing account about dirty diapers. I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point in the recent past, most of my friends got together and decided it was time to get pregnant. Not in the same room or anything…you know what I mean.

I don’t want to sound bitter or put off. No one loves cute pictures of fat, rosy-cheeked babies in cuddly onesies with eared hoods that make them look like teddy bears more than me. No one! I giggle every time. It’s true – this influx of kidlets has softened me, especially since my best friend and her husband are welcoming their first child in early fall.

I’ve known Kristin since the summer before our freshman year of high school. She was one of the oldest kids in our class, and I was the youngest, so she was constantly carting my ass around before I had a license. We were roommates at Marquette, and afterwards, in our first two Chicago apartments. I was there the night she met her husband Colin, and I stood up next to her at their wedding. Sometimes when a song comes on the radio that reminds us of each other, we’ll text the lyrics back and forth. We’ve had a lot of great times together, and we’ll have a lot more. I adore her, and I already adore their baby.

Kristin is about as big around as a sewing needle, so when she told me that she already had a baby bump, I had to see it for myself, and I had to feed it. She and Colin came for dinner last week. I wanted to make something healthy for the mommy-to-be, and since I was also feeding Colin and Jon, it needed to taste not-healthy. These mushroom and ground turkey lettuce wraps did the trick. I used extra lean ground turkey, seasoned with tamari, cilantro, fish sauce and other goodies. The meaty filling was so flavorful that you’d never know that there was barely any fat in the dish. Served with a side of veggie-heavy rice and pickled cucumbers, it made a light but satisfying meal that I’ll certainly make again.

And because I do want to make it again, I’m typing it out here so that I don’t forget what I did. If only I would have typed out the events of some of those college nights with Kristin, we might remember them a little better, too. But baby doesn’t need to know about his (or her) mama’s wild younger days. Those memories live in our minds, not in the internet.

Mushroom and Ground Turkey Lettuce Wraps

Serves 6.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
8 ounces crimini mushrooms, cleaned and finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
1/3 cup finely diced red onion
3 tablespoons minced garlic
3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger root
1 pound 99% lean ground turkey
1/4 cup tamari (or regular soy sauce, if you have that on hand)
2 tablespoons Sriracha hot chili sauce
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 1 lime)
2 small heads bibb lettuce, leaves separated, washed, and dried
1/2 cup chopped peanuts
Additional lime wedges to serve

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet. Cook mushrooms and onions over medium heat until the water that is released from the mushrooms evaporates. Add garlic and ginger root and cook one minute more. Add the ground turkey to the skillet, breaking it into small pieces with a spatula. Stir in tamari, Sriracha, and fish sauce. Cook until the turkey is lightly browned  and the sauce is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Stir in cilantro and lime juice. Cook for 1 minute. Pile meat and mushroom mixture into a bowl. Stuff bibb lettuce leaves with the mixture. Top with chopped peanuts and a sprinkling of lime juice. Some like it hot , so keep the bottle of Sriracha at the ready, too.

Red Snapper En Papillote

19 Mar
Fish En Papilotte

Red Snapper En Papilotte

The last few weeks were gonzo, but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped eating. For a while, everything I consumed revolved around cupcakes or the individual components that comprise a cupcake. I spent an entire week in Los Angeles, staying in a hotel that was directly across the street from Border Grill, but I was too short on time and too full of cupcakes to make it there for dinner. It’s regrettable, to say the least.

Coming off of a three-week sugar high is rough. Since I got back into town, I’ve been much more mindful about what I’m eating. Dinner tonight consisted of the speedy and timeless fish en papillote. Can’t pronounce it? Who cares? All you need to know is that it’s fish enveloped in parchment paper with a few other things thrown in for flavor and color. Tonight it was red snapper with baby red potatoes and asparagus, seasoned with lemon and thyme. It all gets wrapped up like a present in parchment paper and thrown in the oven to cook together, just until the potatoes are tender. I quartered my little taters so that they would cook quicker. Everything steams inside of the parchment packet, so the fish stays nice and tender, and the veg is steeped in lemony goodness.

Time to get into the oven: 5 minutes

Time to cook: 25 minute

Can a healthy dinner get any quicker than that? What are you favorite quick healthy meals?

One-Word Wednesdays: Sammich

8 Feb
Al's Beef Italian Beef

Italian Beef with Sweet Peppers from Al's Beef

Have you entered yet for your chance to win a copy of The 150 Best Slow Cooker Recipes, Second Edition by Judith Finlayson? Because you should! Click here for the rules and to give yourself a fair shot. It could be your lucky day!

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