Sunday, April 28, 2013

Bruschetta with Ramps and Parmesan

Ramp Mania has hit New York City and here is a list of restaurants collated by Grub Street that are serving ramps :

I try to cook with ramps at least a few times during the short season that they are available. Last year I posted a recipe of risotto with ramps which was truly spectacular. This time it is bruschetta with ramps. In case you have never eaten ramps, they look like scallions with darker leaves and have a mild onion flavor and definitely worth a try - you might even get addicted.

Bruschetta with Ramps and Parmesan

8 oz baby ramps
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, peeled and minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large clove of garlic, peeled and minced
½ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
Shavings of  Parmesan cheese
Half baguette, sliced thin into 1/4 inch thick slices

  1. Preheat a grill pan - if you don't have a grill pan, just toast the bread.
  2. Trim the end of the ramps to remove the roots. Chop the white and green parts into small pieces. 
  3. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and the shallots. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and  sauté until the shallots are slightly translucent. Add the garlic and the white parts of the ramp and sauté for another minute. Finally add the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and the red pepper flakes to the ramp and shallot mixture along with the ramp leaves. Cook until they are just wilted
  4. In the meantime, grill the baguette slices or toast them. Top the grilled baguette with a couple of teaspoons of the ramp mixture. Top with parmesan shavings (best done with a vegetable peeler).
Serves 4 people as an appetizer

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Mexican style pasta bake with roasted corn and black beans

The dish is the perfect example of Mexican meets Italian. Recently I found a bright red colored penne at the grocery store which boasted of being made with actual tomato and carrot puree and it says it takes care of  the daily serving of veggies per 3.5 oz serving of pasta. So, I had to give it a try - mostly for the lovely color.

I was not in the mood for a traditional mac and cheese with the ubiquitous white sauce. So, this version has the mac and the cheese but with a punch.  I add black beans, roasted corn, taco seasoning for the punch  and a mix of Mexican queso blanco, a creamy, soft, and mild un-aged white cheese and a little sharper cheddar cheese. The queso blanco is like fresh mozzarella and is good spread out throughout the dish in cubes while the cheddar holds the dish together, since there is no sauce. Then finally I top it with cubes of avocado for that creamy finish.

Mexican Style pasta with black beans and corn
 2 cups Barillas' veggie penne
1 cup chopped Spanish or yellow onion
1 cup fire roasted corn kernels - (Trader Joes frozen or freshly roasted over an open flame)
1 cup canned unsalted black beans (half a 14 oz can)
1 cup queso blanco (fresh mexican white cheese), cubed
2 cups yellow cheddar, shredded
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon taco seasoning ( I used Trader Joes brand, but any good brand will do)
1 small avocado, diced
Fresh Lemon juice
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
  2. Cook the penne as per instructions on the box - 10 to 11 minutes in boiling water for al-dente. Drain and set aside to cool if not using immediately.
  3. In small skillet, heat 1 tablespoon canola oil and add the chopped onion. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes till the onion is just beginning to become translucent.
  4. Add the roasted corn, black beans and the taco seasoning. Toss well and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes till the flavors are mixed well. Set aside to cool if not using immediately.
  5. In a medium oven proof baking dish, add half the cooked pasta, followed by half the cheese cubes spread evenly and then half the black bean and corn mixture. Top with a cup of shredded cheddar cheese. Repeat the same with the remaining ingredients.  Cover loosely with a foil and place the dish on a baking sheet.
  6. Bake in a pre-heated 375 F oven in the middle rack for 20 minutes, till the cheese has melted and everything has warmed up.
  7. Serve with chopped avocado drizzled with a little lemon juice as a garnish.
Serves 2 as a Main course

Monday, April 15, 2013

Crispy Brussel Sprouts with Hoisin Sauce and Sesame seeds

These Brussel sprouts are finger licking good and ultimately addictive. I came up with recipe to use up five brussel sprouts which were sitting in my refrigerator waiting to be used. There was nothing I could come up with to pair them up with some other vegetable. Hence this recipe was born.
The brussel sprouts are simply shredded either with a knife or your trusted food processor (use the slicing blade). Then they are tossed with four ingredients - hoisin sauce ( a sweet and salty Chinese barbecue sauce), toasted sesame oil, chili flakes and sesame seeds. And in the oven they go and come out wonderfully crispy and delicious.
This recipe can be multiplied easily. The only thing to watch for is to ensure you use a large enough baking sheet so that the Brussel sprouts are in a single layer. Also, if you use a very heavy baking sheet, the sprouts will stew instead of roasting. Hence a medium weight baking sheet is good for this dish.

Crispy Brussel Sprouts with Hoisin sauce and sesame seeds
5 Brussel sprouts, cleaned and shredded
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
pinch of dried chili flakes (adjust as per how spicy you like it)
2 teaspoons sesame oil + 1 teaspoon canola oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. 
  2. In a mixing bowl, toss the shredded Brussel sprouts with all the ingredients EXCEPT the sesame seeds.
  3. Lay them out in a single layer on a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the middle rack of the oven. Cook for 10 minutes. Remove the baking sheet and sprinkle the sesame seeds. Put back in the oven for another 10 minutes or until the edges are crisp.
Serves 1 to 2 persons.
Note: Hoisin sauce can be purchased at most grocery stores in the US or at an Asian grocery store or online at amazon.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Quinoa salad with chickpeas and avocado

Spring is here and yesterday high in NYC was 82 degrees. That called for food which required very little cooking and this quinoa salad is just that.
I cook the quinoa as per the directions on the box with vegetable stock. Then I use a can of chickpeas and blister it with some taco seasoning to give it a little punch. And combine the two with the salad ingredients - avocado, beefsteak tomatoes and some red onion.
The dressing is just a little olive oil and lots of lemon to keep it fresh. If you have fresh herbs like parsley or cilantro, it will be a nice addition to this salad, but I didn't have any on hand and it was still great.

Quinoa salad with chickpeas and avocado

1 cup quinoa
1 ¾ cup liquid (water or broth)
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
1 14 oz can unsalted chickpeas
1 teaspoon taco seasoning
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup finely chopped red onion
½ large ripe beefsteak tomato - about 1 ¼ cups chopped
1 avocado, chopped into ½ inch pieces
Juice of 1 lemon
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Rinse the quinoa in a fine sieve to get rid of the bitter coating in quinoa called saponin. Place the washed quinoa with the water or broth and ¼ teaspoon salt in a 3 quart sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes till all the liquid is absorbed. Remove from the heat and allow the quinoa to cool a bit.
2. Transfer to a serving bowl and add the juice of ½ a lemon and set aside.
3. Heat 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil in a small skillet and add the drained chickpeas. Toss for a minute and add the taco seasoning and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook over a medium flame for 5 to 7 minutes till the chickpeas get a brown color and are beginning to blister. Remove from the pan and add it to the quinoa and mix.
4. When the quinoa and chickpeas have cooled, add the chopped red onion, chopped tomato, avocado, juice of the remaining ½ lemon, 1 tablespoon olive oil, ¼ teaspoon salt and a healthy dose of freshly ground black pepper and toss lightly.
5. Serve at room temperature.

Serves 3 as a main course and 4 as a side