Be sure to check out my Happy Eats Healthy site to see upcoming classes, seminars, for more information on Health Coaching, nutrition information and more!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Duck with Fruit Ravioli and Red Wine Reduction

My friend Catherine wrote me with a strange ingredient; her and her mother love duck and needed a recipe. They had previously made a whole duck and were disappointed at how much it shrunk during cooking. So they thought they would try duck breast this time.

I'm excited to make a recipe for them, I love duck as well and haven't worked with it in a while. One of the keys to cooking duck breast is is to cook it slowly, skin side down so that you render the fat....essentially you are cooking down that layer of fatty skin and then turning it crispy. If you cook this too fast you'll end up with that chewy or slimy-like texture that keeps many people from eating duck. As with any meat, always remember to let it rest for at least 5 minutes after taking it off the heat before you cut into it. This will help all the juices redistribute and stay within the meat and keep it moist.

The other part of this meal is the fruit ravioli. Cherries go so well with duck and with it being summertime, I didn't want a heavy side dish, which ravioli tends to be. So I created a fruit compote filling which is fun, light and real tasty with the duck! The use of Wanton wrappers instead of pasta dough makes it really easy to put these raviolis together - so you have no excuse not to try these! You can make these ahead of time too, so the timing is easier. Cat -I hope you like this dinner - let me know how it works out! Treat yourself to a special dinner tonight - you're worth it and deserve to be fat and happy!

Duck with red wine reduction
2 duck breast

Season the skin side of the duck with salt and pepper, then place in a pan over medium low heat, skin side down. This is going to cook for around 15 minutes, periodically pour off the fat as it starts to gather in the pan. The skin should be looking dark and crispy. Then you will flip the breast over and cook them with skin side up for 2 to 5 minutes, depending on your taste. I like my meat more on the rare side so I only cooked them for about 2 minutes at this point. Season with salt and pepper. Leave them in longer if you like your more done. Don't cook too long or the will get dry!

Take the breasts out of the pan and set aside, loosely cover with tin foil. Empty any grease in the pan. Now add 1/2 to 1 cup of red wine to the pan and place over medium high heat. Let that simmer until it begins to thicken. (if you're making the ravioli - add them to boiling water at this point, they only take a second to cook) Whisk in 1 tablespoon of butter and your sauce is complete- it's that easy! Pour over the duck and enjoy! If you want to make the sauce more cherry -like, you can substitute port for the wine, which will give you a deeper, richer sauce, or add some chopped cherries to your wine while it's reducing.

Cherry Ravioli
Toast 1/4 cup pine nuts

Sautee in a drizzle of olive oil and a pat of butter until slightly tender:
1/2 cup white sweet onion (chopped small)
1/2 cup celery (chopped small)
2 thin slices of prosciutto (chopped)
1/2 cup of raddichio lettuce (chopped small)

add in and continue to sautee for 6 minutes:
1 cup of chopped cherries
1/4 cup chopped dried cherries
black pepper (just a few turns on the pepper grinder)
sprinkling of fresh chopped parsley

Take off the heat, add in:
1/2 cup chopped pear (skin off)

Have ready:
1/4 cup of grated or chopped squares of Manchego cheese

That's the filling. Now we just need to assemble the ravioli. And there are two options here - make open ravioli or closed. The pictures above show each version; the difference is the closed ravioli you can make ahead of time. The open is assembled moments before serving. While many people think the closed ravioli is daunting, I think it's easier because with the open version you need to work with hot noodles. But I think the open is a pretty presentation.

Open ravioli:
Add wanton squares to boiling water, they only need a minute to cook and will float when done. Drain. Place one square on your plate, add a scoop of the cherry filling, top with another wanton square. Top with toasted pine nuts and Manchego cheese, and a drizzle of the red wine reduction.

Closed ravioli:
Layout the wanton squares, one for the bottom and one for the top. Place a scoop of cherry filling on one square, top the filling with Manchego cheese. Dip your fingers in water, and run them along the outside of the square - now place the top square on the bottom and press all the edges together. I like to also fork all the edges to ensure they are sealed. Simply take a fork and press along all the edges with the end of the fork. Place these in boiling water - again they only take a minute to cook and will float when done. Drain, place on your plate and top with toasted pine nuts and a drizzle of the red wine reduction.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Grilled Pineapple with Caramel Sauce

One of the easiest desserts you can make involves fruit and a grill. Simple slices of pineapple, grilled to invoke a sweet smoky flavor, then topped with ice cream and caramel.

There are two ways you can make this - if you're really short on time you can simply stop pick up at the grocery store and pick up some ice cream, a can of pineapple and a jar of caramel.

If you have a little more time, you'll find it so satisfying to actually make the ice cream and the caramel... either way, it's a quick simple end to any grilled meal.

If you're a making you're own ice cream, be sure to do this the day before. See one of my recipes for ice cream, I think the black pepper and the mascarpone ice cream are both good with this. Have tried the lavender honey ice cream and it was just a bit too many flavors.

Grilled Pineapple
If you're using canned pineapple, just be sure to get the round slices, not the diced. I would urge you to get a fresh pineapple though, the flavor is just so much more pure. Clean the pineapple, be sure to get all of the outside husk off. Now slice the pineapple in 1/2 inch thick rounds. You will need to cut the middle core out - either use a round cookie cutter, if you happen to have one the right size, or simply use a pairing knife. Try to keep the pineapple in one piece so you have something that resembles a donut. Have your slices ready, then start the caramel sauce.

Caramel Sauce
If you're using a bottle of caramel, just simple warm the sauce. But the recipe I'm giving you is so simple it's done in minutes!

Take equal parts of butter and brown sugar, bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Once that mixture has come together, whisk in roughly an equal part of whipping cream. Let that simmer for about 5 minutes, whisking occasionally and your done! it's that easy. With the whipping cream, I never measure. I just add until the deep caramel turns a lighter golden color and thins out a little. You'll can adjust based on your tastes and the humidity that day.As far as the portions, start with 1/2 of each ingredient, it's going to give you around a cup of caramel sauce. You can always move into one cup of each if you have a larger crowd.

Plan to serve this immediately. Start with a clean grill. Simply drop the pineapple slices on the grill for about 4 minutes, turn over for another 4 minutes. Place one slice on each plate. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream in the middle of the pineapple and drizzle with your homemade caramel. Voila, you've got a fat and happy dessert that will wow your guests!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Pizzeria Via Stato

Do you ever have that problem when you decide to got out to eat, but you don't know where to go eat? Let's admit that in Chicago, there are hundreds, nay thousands of restaurants to choose from. But during that moment when someone says: where should we go.... I draw a complete blank.

So we started by making a list of all the places we wanted to visit, but thanks to technology we have stepped up to a Google map. It's our food map; searchable by location or cuisine, of course. Really, this helps! And you can keep track of which places you like and which places to pass on next time.

Pizzeria Via Stato
is billed as a oven fired, thin crust Roman pizza. Being huge fans of thin crust, this restaurant quickly rose to the top of our list. We happened to pass by it as we were biking to Quartino to pick up a $5 bottle of wine. We had just come from playing volleyball at the beach, so we looked completely haggard. Luckily they have a great outside patio and the waiter treated us completely fabulous...even though we probably looked homeless. This is a really big factor for Dave and I. If you can't treat nice just because we happened to be a little under-dressed one day, chances are you're going to see a greatly reduce tip or quite possibly we will leave without purchasing anything.

Even though we had Sangria on the brain (which wasn't available since we were at an Italian place), our waiter choose a wonderful Barbaresco wine, perfect for a sunny afternoon. We started with an appetizer - the Fonduta. Spinach and pecorino cheese served in a cute tiny little cast iron pot with crostini ; good flavor but I have to say the crostini was more like toasted white bread. We did quite enjoy the cheesy spinach dip though and felt there could have been just slightly more served in the cute pot.

Over all, the pizzas had great flavors and I did enjoy the thin crust. But there was just too much cheese on the pizza, which made the crust soggy. It's rare I see that much cheese on a high end thin crust pizza. I expect that much cheese at a place like D'agastinos. But here? And for the price of these pizza's... I want my share of toppings ... but the toppings that should have been doubled up on wasn't the cheese. The Roasted Fennel pizza was real slim on the radicchio that was listed as one of the ingredients. The Potato pizza, with fingerling potatoes, pancetta, smoked mozzerella and rosemary was quite good, but slim again on the toppings and too much cheese.

Overall, yes, go. Great place with great service. And maybe you like more cheese and less crispy crust. But I do want to stress that the flavors were great. If you're in Chicago, give it a try; it made our 'green light' list (red means don't go back!)

Make a list- hand write it, hang a map on the wall with tacks or create something on the computer. What ever works for you. But keep a list so you remember which restaurant you want to visit. And when you find a good one - email me! I'd love to go! Cuz I love to be fat and happy!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tabouli-Inspired Couscous Salad

My favorite foodie friend Carolyn and I stepped out for lunch the other the other day at a Middle Eastern restaurant. The owner quickly developed a little crush on Carolyn and offered her an 'extra' side free of charge- go Carolyn!

This was a simple lunch place in the Loop but it was really quite good. Aside from the typical lamb on the spit, they had chicken roasting on the spit that was wonderful. It looked like they just took chicken breasts and layered them one after the other to form a large mound around the spit. I'll definitely get the chicken again

When I started to mill around that evening looking for dinner options, I saw two big bunches of parsley ... the taste of the tabouli salad from lunch came to mind - I love a good tabouli salad! Traditionally, this is made with bulger, parsley and tomatoes; my tabouli was going to be a tabouli-inspired salad using couscous, no tomatoes (due to the tomato salmonella scare) and an assortment of veggies topped with feta.

I'm pretty happy with this outcome; I could have used a bit more parsley because by the time I cleaned it all, much had gone bad already and there wasn't a whole lot left. So I'm giving the recipe for how much you should put in as opposed to how much I had on hand! This dish could be a side dish, or if you had some left over chicken or turkey, you could shred that up and turn this into a main course. Play with it, have fun with it, substitute whatever veggies you have in your fridge. And as always - be fat and happy!

Tabouli-Inspired Couscous Salad
2 Lemons juiced, 1 zested
2 cups of chopped parsley (simply cut this down if you don't have that much available)
1/4 cup of chopped mint
1/4 cup broccoli (chopped small)
1/4 cup radicchio (sliced in thin short strips)
1/4 cup green onion (chopped small)
1 cup cooked couscous (usually use bulgar)
feta cheese (handful to to)

Cook the couscous according to directions on package, let cool. Add all ingredients, except the lemon juice and feta, to a medium size bowl. Now drizzle the juice into the bowl, half at a time, tossing in between. Depending on the size of your lemon, you may not need all the juice - adjust according to taste. Keep in mind that the lemon juice is for flavor, but your not looking for a runny dressing. Allow the flavors to meld for at least an hour. Toss before serving and top with a handful of crumbled feta cheese.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Lavender Honey Ice Cream

Summer times means fresh fruit, grilling and ice cream! I've been on a huge ice cream making kick lately! My goal is to recreate Claudia's Ice Cream - the best tasting ice cream I've ever experienced. I served this in my restaurant; it was a bit more expensive, but worth it, for the real cream that she used and she didn't over whip air into it.

Since Claudia's Ice Cream isn't available in Chicago, it's up to me to recreate it. I'm close. But what I'm also finding is that different flavors require different bases. Sure I could just make the same base and add varying flavors to it - but some flavors just require a lighter or a heavier base. Having some leftover dried Lavender that Aaron and Alina sent for the 'strange ingredients' challenge, I decide to match that with pure farmers market honey.

These particular flavors lent themselves to something a little lighter, so the base needed less cream and eggs. I was a little worried about the amount of lavender I put in, thinking it was too much and too perfume-y, but after freezing it, I found I really liked it. And Dave loved it - he couldn't stop eating it, which I didn't expect at all. But if your nervous about a real heavy lavender flavor, just cut back, adding half the amount. You can always make a second batch and refine for your tastes. This would pair so nicely with a simple grilled pound cake, or a real dense chocolate cake. It's great on it's own as well. You'll be surprised with this recipe - in a good way. Mix, freeze and be fat and happy!!

Lavender Honey Ice Cream
2 cups cream
1 cup milk
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup honey (heaping)
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbls dried lavender
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Add the cream, milk, lavender and honey in a pot. Bring just to below a boil, turn off heat, place a cover on and let steep for about 15 minutes. Then whisk together the yolks and sugar until the yolks turn a fluffy pale yellow (this is going take about 5 or 6 minutes, just keep whisking! You're building muscle!) Now, temper the eggs by add a cup of the warm cream to the eggs, one cup at a time. This is bringing the eggs up the the temperature of the cream slowly to avoid scrambling the eggs.
Once you've tempered the eggs, add them to the pot and turn the heat on to medium low. Stir until the the liquid starts to thicken and coats the back of a wooden spoon (if you run your finger across the back of a spoon you can see a line drawn through the custard.) Do not boil though. Whisk in 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla. Strain into a bowl to remove the lavender. Place the bowl in a larger bowl of ice and water to cool. If you need to make the ice cream immediately, add it to your ice cream machine and follow the manufacturers instructions. If you can wait a day, place the custard mixture in the refrigerator for the night, and then continue with the ice cream machine after that. This helps the ice cream to become slightly smoother and creamier!

Check out my other postings for ice cream: Guinness Ice Cream, Mascarpone Custard, Blueberry Swirl and Black Pepper Ice Cream or see all my creamy fantastic ice creams.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Catherine's Cookies

It's so fun to open my email and find a note that says someone tried one of my recipes. Makes me think people are actually reading this blog!!

My friend Catherine (she was my right hand/prep cook at the Super Fun Bachelorette party in Breckenridge) sent an email to say she was headed to the beach for the weekend and tried out the peanut butter chocolate sandwich cookies to take with her. She sent photos to prove it! Looks like success! I especially love the photo of the dishes, and the wine glass with the cookies! It's no wonder why we get along so well!

My hats off to you Cat! Thanks for being phat and happy! I'm working on a strange ingredient recipe for you- hoping to have it done soon!

Spicy Tuna Tartare with Avocado Sake Soup

When I'm planning for a dinner party, I like think about who my guests and what their tastes are. My plan is not to serve them what they have had in the past but rather to make a twist on those flavors and offer a new variation they may not have experience before. Knowing that I would have a room full of sushi fans made me think of the tuna tartare- but what would the twist be? My friend Lesley is a huge fan of avocados so those needed to be worked in. Ultimately I came up with the spicy tuna tartare with the avocado soup chaser. True to form, I made up the spicy tuna recipe on the fly and didn't write the recipe down until a week later, so I'm guesstimating on some of the amounts I used. I will make this again and come back and refine this if needed (if you make and find the taste slightly off - please write and let me know!)

This was a great hit and fun course. Just use whatever small shot glasses you have to serve the soup or if you want to turn this into a bigger course, serve a larger bowl of soup and float the cucumber-topped tartare on top! Just think about who your guests are, have fun with your dinner, wow your friends and be fat and happy!

Avocado Soup

1 ripe avocado
1 cup buttermilk
2 tbls sake
1 garlic clove
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup lime juice

Place all ingredients in a blender, blend until smooth. You may need more or less liquid, depending on your avocado. You can either use more or less buttermilk, or add in some water for a less heavy soup. If you're not a sake fan or if kids will be eating with you, simply omit the sake.

Tuna Tartare

Fresh Tuna (1 lb)
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1 tbls toasted sesame seeds
zest of 3 limes
1/2 cup lime juice
2 tsp wasabi powder
1 tbls sesame oil
1 tbls chili oil
1 tbls Sriracha sauce
olive oil to emulsify (roughly 1/4 cup)

Chop the tuna and scallions, add the sesame seeds and set aside. Combine remaining ingredients and whisk while slowly drizzling in olive oil. Pour dressing over tuna ( you may not need all the dressing, so only add half at a time), toss to coat. Refrigerate for an hour before serving to allow the flavors to meld. Serve atop a cucumber slice.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Fried Goat Cheese

Hamburger, chocolate, pickles... cheese? Who doesn't get cravings? (other than the obvious pregnant women) I crave food all the time. There is hardly a day that goes by that I don't crave something... I just don't really crave basics - nope, can't be that simple. I gotta crave something that I will entail forming, dicing, building, chopping, cleaning, frying, grilling.... bottom line- I crave stuff that takes some work to make.

Today I wanted cheese, not just cheese, but I wanted warm soft cheese. I've been into grilling cheese lately (yes you can grill cheese - just for a minute or two...), it's the soft warm gooeyness that is comforting and the grill adds a great smoky flavor!

So, I thought I was coming up with a whole new idea by breading some cheese and frying it. Turns out it's not a new idea, (think mozzarella sticks) but all the same - this works extremely well and tastes worlds better! This pairs nicely with a few field greens tossed in a simple olive oil and lemon dressing. I've used this as part of a meat course in my latest 7 course dinner party, and I've also now served as an appetizer, and even had as a lunch. Next time you get the craving for something warm, cheesy and comforting - try this out. I think you'll find it a filling yet light and comforting option! The taste is fabulous! Go ahead, fry some cheese and be fat and happy!

1 log of goat cheese
1 egg white or 1 beaten whole egg
bread crumbs, seasoned with pepper, salt, dried basil and garlic powder
olive oil and butter

First you will need to form the goat cheese into little rounds. if you let the log warm slightly, then you can slice off a section of the round (about 1 inch thick), and form into the round. Then place in the refrigerator to firm up.

Place a pan on the stove on medium hight heat, with 1 tbls butter and 1tbls olive oil. Now place the goat cheese round in the egg white (or whole beaten egg). Then push into the bread crumbs on each side. Add to the already warm fry pan. Fry on each side for about 2 minutes, until brown and crispy. Serve immediately.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Dinner Party with Friends

The other night I had one of the most wonderful dinner parties. Amazing food, super friends and and a party lasted till 3:30 a.m..... now that's a party!

I can't wait to fill you all in on the details. In the meantime, here is a few photos for you to drool over; I'll have the recipes and detail up soon! Until then, be fat and happy!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Tequila Scallops with Mango Relish

I had a craving to make some sort of mango dish, didn't matter what, I just wanted mango. That's how this dish started- building the dish around one ingredient.

That's a little bit like decorating a room around one vase. Sure it's possible, but a decorator would typically look at the room as a whole, figure out the style and the colors and continue to drill down from that point. I'm reversing the process - I'm starting with the vase and building up from there.

So what to do with the mango? It was such a nice sunny day - which warranted bright, cool flavors that a mango salsa quickly came to mind, or some would call it mango relish or even mango salad; it's all the same. I added a few simple flavors like onion, cucumber and avocado, then a little jalapeno for taste.

I needed a protein to go with this, and I didn't want a heavy red meat. Scallops seemed just right, shrimp would have worked well here too, but I thought the tenderness of the scallops would pair well with the mango. I debated between marinating them in a black tea or in tequila - tequila won hands down. Although I do like the black tea idea and will work with that soon.

My dish turned out stylish, based on the 'vase' that set the tone. Seriously, the results were great - although I wonder if more tequila would have yielded a deeper flavor or if I needed to actually use a cheaper tequila? I had Patron on hand and used that but perhaps that was a bit too smooth... my suggestion is to just use whatever you have on hand and taste it, adding more tequila to your liking.

You can leave the tequila out if kids are involved! But at the very least, mix a nice big margarita to go with your mango and scallops and be fat and happy!

Marinade in a bowl for at least 20 minutes:

6 Scallops (depending on the size of your scallops, I planned for 3 per person)
1/2 cup tequila
Juice of 1 small Lime
fresh ground pepper

In the meantime, add to a bowl (do not mix until all ingredients are in)

1 chopped mango
1/2 of medium jalepeno, finely diced (add the whole jalepeno if you like more heat)
1/2 of an avocado, chopped
1/2 of a medium cucumber, chopped
1/4 of a red onion, chopped
1/4 cup of chopped parsley

whisk together in a small bowl:
Juice of 1 lime
1 Tablespoons of red wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons of Tequila
Fresh ground pepper
Salt to taste

Combine the vinaigrette into the mango bowl and toss gently to coat. Set aside while you cook the scallops. Remove scallops from marinade and toss the marinade. You can grill or pan fry your scallops, I seared them in a pan on the stove. Use a medium high heat and simple fry until you have a light brown color on one side, and then flip over and do the same to the second side (just a few minutes per side.) You don't want to over cook them or they will become chewy and stringy. Place a scoop of mango salsa on the middle of a plate and pile the scallops on top. You can serve with a lime wedge.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Goat Cheese Pasta Sauce

The title sounds fancy, but we are talking about good old mac n cheese. Hearty, filling, calorie-loaded macaroni and cheese. Remember those blue boxes of Kraft - I swear that was a staple in everyones cupboard. Kraft saw more students through college than any professor or 'adviser' ever did!

I have numerous recipes and creations of mac n cheese and I definitely have my favorites- as does everybody. In my restaurant, our Macaroni and Cheese was made with homemade semolina pasta noodles in a seriously thick and creamy sauce. This was best on a cold snowy day and kept your tummy filled for days!

Todays creation is a bit lighter than that, but still has the creaminess of a hearty sauce with a touch of graininess from the goat cheese and mustard. The use of whole wheat pasta actually makes this dish slightly heavier in my opinion, but offers great omega 3's and fiber. And who doesn't need more fiber?

The cheeses I choose for this dish melded together so nicely! The Havarti was truly outstanding served with the Glorious Rotisserie Turkey I was so excited to find in my local grocery store. You can have fun with this dish as well; think about adding chopped olives, crispy pancetta or roasted peppers to this dish to vary the flavor. Or simply use the cheese sauce as a sauce for your grilled meat or vegetables. It's all about having fun and being versatile in the kitchen. And if you try something that doesn't work out- so be it - it's not brain surgery. so eat your mistakes and move on. If nothing else, it's a step up from the 'blue box macaroni and cheese'. Make the move from the box and be fat and happy!

1/2 cup minced onions
1 tbls olive oil
2 tsp butter

add and continue to sautee for 2 or 3 minutes:
2 or 3 cloves of minced garlic
Fresh ground black pepper

add, bring to a boil and them reduce heat to a simmer:
1 cup whole or skim milk
2 tbls grainy mustard

Now add:
1/2 cup heavy cream

simmer until desired thickness (if your sauce is not thickening, see note below)
Remove from heat and stir in:

3/4 cup diced havarti cheese
1/4 cup goat cheese

Add more pepper and salt if needed to taste.
Serve over hot pasta or on meat and veggies.

Quick way to thicken sauce:
There are times when my dishes don't quite work out as I want them, it's true! Happens a lot actually. The key is being able to recover from these minor set backs (and never admitting to it.) My plan was to not use flour in this sauce - the problem was I couldn't get the sauce to thicken. Had I let it simmer for another 15 minutes, I fully expect it would have turned out great. But I didn't have the time to let it thicken on it's own. But now the problem was how to add flour at this stage, without it turning lumpy?? I saw this great trick recently and use it quite often now, gravies, stews and sauces - it works for all of them! Take about a tablespoon of room temperature butter- place it in a bowl. Add a tablespoon of flour (adjust more or less butter and flour based on the size or amount your attempting to thicken), now mix this together with you hands. Be sure to get all the flour mixed into the butter. Then simply add to your sauce, stir and watch the thickening happen immediately. Be sure to let this cook a few minutes to cook all the flour taste out. The butter adds extra flavor too!


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