Filet Mignon with Balsamic Reduction and Goat Cheese

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Too much of a good thing is impossible. At least when it comes to goat cheese.

I am a goat cheese fanatic, and I am always looking for new ways to incorporate this rich and flavorful cheese into my recipes. Plus, for those that are lactose intolerant, it’s an LI friendly cheese!

Now, although Pleadings & Pasta likes to create original dishes, sometimes you come across a flawless recipe that needs to be shared with everyone. This recipe is one of those.

Ms. Giada De Laurentiis is my culinary muse, and her effortless approach to cooking is embodied in this recipe for a filet mignon with balsamic reduction and goat cheese.

The tangy balsamic reduction brought me back to my epic dinner at Acqua al 2 in Florence, Italy where I had a similar dish. The goat cheese melts so beautifully and makes for a fancy, but easy meal.20131014-122808.jpg

Eat with all of your heart,

G

Nutella Banana Fold-Overs

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Sometimes you just want dessert. Warm, gooey, chocolatey dessert.

However you don’t have a whole afternoon to dedicate to making a decadent dessert. So in honor of a visit to a dear friend and fellow chef in training, I made these nutella banana fold-overs as the perfect finish to our meal.

As a young girl I grew up on Nutella sandwiches. All of the kids in the lunch room would ask me how I convinced my mom to make me “chocolate sandwiches” and at the time, I had no idea how I was so fortunate. But, later on I learned Nutella is a staple of many European households, and growing up Italian-American, we were no exception to this rule!

Although I don’t eat Nutella as often as I did when I was a kid, it is still such a special treat for me and this recipe is a great way to get your Nutella fix.

Nutella Banana Fold-Overs

1/2 cup Nutella

Frozen phyllo dough or pastry dough equivalent

Sliced Bananas

1. Defrost the dough, and cut into squares

2. Fill with nutella and a few bananas

3. Fold over into a triangle shape, bake on 400 degrees for about 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

4. Serve warm (be careful though, I wasn’t patient and burned my  mouth in the process since it was fresh out of the oven)

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Eat with all of your heart,

G

Baked Orange Chicken

 

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Keeping up with the trend of food I crave, and decided to learn how to make, here is a recipe for homemade baked orange chicken.

The kicker on this recipe, is that you actually forget halfway through eating it that it’s pretty good for you in comparison to its deep fried counterpart. I served this recipe on a bed of quinoa instead of rice to make it even healthier. The quinoa nicely soaked up the rich and tangy orange sauce and made for a delightful and light meal!

 

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Baked Orange Chicken

Pleadings & Pasta 2013

4 chicken breasts, cut into cubes

Panko bread crumbs

salt and pepper

One egg, beaten

Sauce:

1/4 cup orange juice

3 tablespoons of brown sugar

1 tablespoon of soy sauce

2 tablespoons Sriracha

1 teaspoon cornstarch (or 2 teaspoons flour) to thicken the sauce.

 

  1. Mix panko, salt, and pepper into a bowl.
  2. Take the cubed raw chicken and dunk it in the beaten egg mixture.
  3. Then take the chicken and dip it into the panko mixture and place on an oiled cookie sheet.
  4. Continue until all are done and put in the oven at 400 degrees. Cook approximately 15 minutes until the panko is niceand crispy and the chicken is cooked within. Place the stove on broil quickly if you need to give the panko an extra crisp.
  5. Remove from oven.
  6. Prepare the sauce by mixing all the ingredients except the corn starch into a pan to boil. Let it simmer for 2-3 minutes then add the corn starch and keep stirring until the sauce thickens. (Feel free to double this recipe if you want it really saucy!)
  7. Mix the baked chicken tenders into the sauce, and serve immediately over rice or quinoa.

 

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I loved the sauce so much, I decided to pour the rest on top!

 

Eat with all of your heart,

 

G

Kick Ass Pad Thai

Pad Thai is my go-to for Asian takeout. Words cannot express how much joy a fresh batch of pad thai brings to my soul.

For many years now, I dreamed of being able to conquer the pad thai recipe. It truly has been my Everest. I would research “authentic pad thai” and get frustrated, or intimidated, and give up. To be honest, I was afraid to ruin this coveted dish I adored so much with just an “ok” version of my own doing.photo 1

However, for some strange reason I mustered up the courage, I researched endlessly, put together a combination of several recipes and added a few tweaks of my own, and finally did it. Yes, I made Pad Thai. Not only did I make it, but it tasted wonderful. Not only that, I loved it so much that I started to make it an ungodly amount of times until I got it down and could make it in my sleep. And now today, I share with you the crown jewel of my recipe box.

This recipe stands for more than just deliciousness. Nay, it stands as a reminder that you can achieve the impossible. It stands for a symbol of not being intimidated and for believing in yourself. And, when this beautiful recipe came into creation, it marked a time where I found my passion for cooking re-ignited, and inspired to push my own limits of my culinary creativity.

So with that, I present to you, kick ass pad thai!

Kick Ass Pad Thai

Pleadings & Pasta 2013

  • 8 oz. Thai rice noodles (or enough for 2 people), linguini-width, available at Asian grocer
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups chopped chicken breast or tofu
  • Marinade for Chicken/Tofu: 3 Tbsp. soy sauce, 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups fresh bean sprouts
  • 3 green onions, sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh coriander/cilantro
  • 1/3 cup crushed peanuts
  • olive oil or sesame oil for stir-frying, and lots of wedges of lime
  • PAD THAI SAUCE  (Highly suggest doubling this in proportion to the number of noodles you have and adding it to taste. Loved this sauce and wanted more of it on my noodles!)
  • 3/4 Tbsp. tamarind paste dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water (look for tamarind at Asian or Indian grocer)
  • 2 Tbsp. fish sauce+ more to taste
  • 3 tsp of Sriracha Sauce (I added some more because I love the kick)
  • 3 1/2 Tbsp. brown sugar (can add a bit more if you want a richer sauce)
  1. Bring a large pot of pot to a boil and dunk in your rice noodles. Cook until firm, you don’t want them too mushy so you can fry them later. Drain and rinse with cold water to prevent sticking. Set aside.
  2. Make pad Thai sauce by combining the sauce ingredients together in a cup. Stir well.
  3. Marinate chicken for 10 minutes. Stir well and set aside. (For a vegetarian option, use tofu! Marinade and prepare the same way).
  4. Add a little oil to the pan, and add the tofu or chicken and cook until done.
  5. Add the noodles, and pour the Pad Thai sauce over. Using two utensils, use a gentle “lift and turn” method to fry noodles (like tossing a salad). Stir-fry in this way 1-2 minutes. If you pan is too dry, push noodles aside and add a little more oil to the bottom of the pan.
  6. Stir in bean sprouts.
  7. Place noodles in plate and top with lots of fresh cilantro, onions, and peanuts. Add fresh lime wedges to squeeze over each portion.

There are no words, other than YUM!

Eat with all of your heart,

G

Baked Garlic and Herb Lobster Tail

photo-1One of my favorite indulgences is lobster. When I’m celebrating a big event, it’s always my go to dish of choice. There’s something about it that just feels celebratory and grand.

Fresh lobster is by far the best for cooking, and makes for a delicacy when served. Unless you live near the ocean, very fresh lobster is hard to come by. When you do find it, it’s usually very expensive. So I was on a mission to find a way to prepare frozen lobster in a way that would make it taste as divine as fresh lobster.

Since embarking on my mission, I’ve discovered several new ways to cook my lobster beyond the bland steaming method, and I think you’ll enjoy the fruits of my experiment. On deck today, we have the Baked Garlic and Herb Lobster Tail. If you have never tried baked lobster, you’re in for a treat.

Baked Garlic and Herb Lobster Tail

by Pleadings & Pasta © 2013

*Note, the recipe below is for one lobster tail. Multiply accordingly based on the number of lobster tails you have.

Ingredients

1 frozen lobster tail, defrosted

2-3 tablespoons of butter at room temperature, (amount depending on preference)

4 basil leaves

2 cloves of roasted garlic*

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Take the defrosted lobster out of the fridge and with a set of kitchen scissors (not regular scissors) cut through the shell upward. You will want to start at the base (away from the tail) and cut upward toward the tail in a straight line. Right before you reach the end of where the meat meets the tail, stop.

2. Pull back the shell and pull the lobster meat up and on top of the shell. Now take a knife and cut an incision in the lobster meat down the center. The same way (vertical) that you cut the shell. Congrats, you just completed butterflying a lobster!

3. Take the garlic* (see recipe for roasting below) and mix together with chopped basil leaves. I was thrilled to use some of the fresh basil from my garden. Press the two together in the bowl to allow the flavors to combine. If you have a mortar and pestle, this will be a great time to use it. Add the paste to the room temperature butter and combine thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4. Preheat the oven at 350 degrees. Place the lobster tail meat side up on a cookie sheet covered in foil. Stuff the lobster (where you made the incision) with the garlic herb butter. Some people really love butter on their lobster so if this isn’t enough whip up more of the mix and stuff the tail until it’s overflowing.

5. Place the lobster tail in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Lobster tail will be done when it is a bright red color. Take out, and serve immediately with a side of choice! I recommend a hearty potato dish and a salad as a nice compliment.

Now if you want to be able to cut into your lobster with a fork and knife, I recommend removing as much of the shell as possible during the butterflying stage, as opposed to just pushing the meat up and over the shell. Pushing the meat over the shell provides a more artistic presentation, but removing most of the shell is more practical for eating purposes.

Either way, once you bite into this lobster, it will be hard to justify paying market price at the local seafood restaurant when you can make this delicacy in the comforts of your own home.

Roasted Garlic Recipe

Such an easy recipe! Roasted garlic adds depth to so many dishes and this recipe can be used in some of your favorite recipes that call for garlic.

Ingredients

1 head of garlic

Olive oil, salt, and pepper

1. Cut the top of the head of garlic off exposing the cloves. Peel off any unnecessary skin on the garlic.

2. Place head of garlic on aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil, and salt and pepper. Close up the clove in the aluminum foil (wrap it up like a ball) and place on a cooking sheet.

3. Preheat oven to 275 and let the garlic slowly roast for 45 minutes to an hour.

4. Remove, let cool. Then peel garlic. You can save the garlic in a jar of olive oil in the fridge for a few days for use in other recipes!

Quick Gardner’s tip: Before you cook the garlic, if you take one of the stray cloves and plant it in the ground, you will be able to grow your own bulb of garlic! It’s so easy to grow, and you can even use the snapes (top of the garlic) to cook with as well.

Eat with all of your heart,

G

Spicy Ginger Tofu

I have recently fallen in love with tofu.

Yes, I just said that.

It’s a wonderful staple to have on hand and can be added to so many recipes. I have been battling with tofu preparation since the very beginning, as I always want to get it to a restaurant quality consistency: firm, crisp, and full of flavor. This recipe I concocted uses dry frying and I highly recommend it for first timers attempting to cook tofu! Plus,I especially loved this recipe since it gave me an excuse to go into my garden and pick some of the fresh scallions growing in my backyard.

I am still a newbie to the world of tofu, so please, I invite you to share your favorite ways to prepare this versatile staple below.

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Spicy Ginger Tofu
by Pleadings & Pasta © 2013
Ingredients
Half block of extra firm tofu
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons fresh ground ginger (or frozen ginger you can get at trader joes, in that case 3 cubes)
2 tablespoons Sriracha (I like mine spicy so I add more!)
2 teaspoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons crushed black pepper
2/3 cup chopped scallionsSesame oil for frying
1. Chop up tofu into thin rectangles or triangles.
2. Please tofu in between paper towels and let drain for an hour in the fridge.
3. Get a nonstick pan and put at a very very low heat. This is the key to dry frying.
4. Place the tofu slices into the skillet without any oil and let cook slowly over the low heat until the tofu starts to brown on the bottom.
5. Flip the tofu and let cook for another two minutes.
6. Remove the tofu.
7. In a bowl combine all of the ingredients except the scallions and ginger.
8. In a skillet sauté the scallions in the sesame oil with the ginger until fragrant.
9. Add the tofu slices and the marinade at the same time and sauté on medium heat until the marinade Is fully absorbed by the tofu. The tofu should have a nice caramelized color.
10. Throw the tofu over some brown rice or quinoa and enjoy!This is a very basic recipe and you can add as many vegetables as you like or switch up the sauce a bit. No matter how you make it your own, it’s a basic enough recipe to start you off on your tofu cooking adventures!20130619-190843.jpgNew to tofu? No problem! Here are a few basics

  • There are different types of tofu. Silken, firm, extra firm. Depending on your recipe or preference one may be a better choice over the other. I am a huge fan of extra firm tofu because it seems to keep together better while you’re cooking.
  • Very wet tofu and very hot oil can equal serious burns. Always consider draining the tofu before throwing it in oil.
  • There are so many ways to cook tofu! Do a quick Google search and you will find ways to bake, sautee, and grill this fabulous staple.
  • Storing tofu is so easy. It can be frozen (this changes its texture a bit, though) and you can also take it out of the box you got it in at the store, put it in a ziploc bag filled with fresh water and it will stay just as long as the expiration date indicates. So you’ll always have it on hand for a last minute meal.

Eat with all of your heart,

G

Zucchini Flower Poppers

photo 3One of the delicious Calabrese traditions I grew up with was sitting down for a plateful of Nonna’s famous fried zucchini flower fritters before our main course. If you haven’t tried a zucchini flower before, you are missing out! These flowers are delicate, flavorful, and beautifully colored, and make for a great appetizer to any  meal.

Since my zucchini plant has been blooming with many flowers this season, I took it as a sign that it was time to fry up the delicious zucchini flower fritters I grew up on, but with my own Pleadings & Pasta twist.

photo 2So I took to reconstruct the traditional recipe but with a more modernized pub flair. I am a big fan of jalapeño poppers, but often find them to be a bit too heavy for my liking. So, instead, I took the concept of the jalapeño popper, “Mediterraneanized” it, and arrived at the delicious and comforting Zucchini Flower Poppers recipe below.

The great thing about this recipe is it’s customizable, easy to make, and is a perfect summer recipe to accommodate all of the summer blooming zucchini blossoms. Also, it gives you that to die for combination of warm gooey cheese in the middle of fried goodness, but with a lighter feel. Watch out though, that means you’ll probably want to (and be able to) eat more of them!

Zucchini Flower Poppers

by Pleadings & Pasta © 2013

Ingredients

  • 12-13 zucchini blossoms; delicately rinsed and stamens removed*
  • 6 ounces goat cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped basil or your other favorite fresh herbs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2/3 cup of flour
  • 3/4 cup of beer (whatever is on hand, preferably a lighter or wheat beer)
  • Olive Oil
  • Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese, grated
Instructions
  1. Rinse off your flowers and let them dry completely. This will help in the frying process. You can let them air dry on a paper towel or alternatively in the fridge to keep them fresh and prevent wilting
  2. Continue by mixing the goat cheese, chopped herb, salt and pepper together and set aside
  3. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour and beer  together. Add a pinch of salt to the mixture. The consistency should be like that of pancake batter.photo 1
  4. Start filling the zucchini blossoms with a mound of the goat cheese mixture.. Be careful not to tear the flower petals. I noticed it was easiest to insert a rolled up ball of the  mixture right inside that wasn’t too large so it sat at the bottom inside of the flower. Push the petals together to close up the flower so the filling doesn’t escape during frying.
  5. Fill a pan or pot with several inches of olive oil or frying oil of choice. Heat to medium heat, or approximately 350 degrees.
  6. Place the filled zucchini blossoms into the batter until fully coated, then lay them into the hot pan of oil. After 2-4 minutes the first side will be brown, and you can flip them over for another 2-4 minutes. Remove from the heat once golden brown and let them drain on a plate lined with paper towels.
  7. Sprinkle with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese as a finishing touch and serve!

photo 2This Pleadings & Pasta original was by far one of my favorite creations, and it’s sure to become a favorite of yours too. And of course, wash down the delectable poppers with the beer you used for the batter to bring the pub atmosphere into your very own kitchen.

A quick gardener’s note for those using flowers from their own garden. I am a new gardener, and I was hesitant to start picking the beautiful flowers I worked so hard to take care of before they became bright green zucchini.photo 1 However, rest assured you can pick the male zucchini flowers (skinny stem with stamen in the middle) as they only serve the purpose to pollinate the female flowers and never will become zucchini. So once your female flowers are pollinated, don’t let them the male flowers go to waste and fry up a few with the recipe above!

Eat with all of your heart,

G

The right ingredients

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Much like having the right facts and laws in prepartion for filing a brief, you need to start with the right ingredients in preparation for making a carefully constructed dish if you want a stellar final product.

Perhaps my view is a bit skewed, and I should divulge my biases up front. For me, food is one of the best ways to spend your hard earned money. If you get a few key ingredients such as a good extra virgin olive oil and quality spices, and always have the essentials on hand (i.e. garlic, onions, etc.) then you can whip up a decent meal any night of the week depending on what you’re in the mood for. Plus, with a strong home base of ingredients it gives you enough security to venture out slowly into uncharted territories or types of cuisine, without falling too flatly on your face. I will explain this theory in my Pad Thai post when I first had to use “tamarin” and let me tell you that was an adventure.

Also, it’s very important to cook with what’s fresh and in season. I learned this when I studied abroad in Italy, although I didn’t realize it until I got back to the states. You see when I was abroad I would go to the market everyday and cook whatever was fresh and on special.

My dishes were always bursting with flavor, and the leaving it up to fate of picking up what was in season helped push my creative limits as a cook.

For the average professional, shopping for groceries everyday is unrealistic. I know, I feel you. But if you make smart choices in your grocery selections, several ingredients can last you all week! Yes, it’s doable.

Best of all, if you live somewhere that will allow you to grow plants of your own, you can even grow your own ingredients. No pesticides, all natural!

Now I know what you’re thinking. G, I am a busy person, I don’t have time to grow my own ingredients! And you know what? You may be right. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to at least grow one thing to get yourself started. Herbs are an excellent place to start. When you’re only cooking for 1 or 2, sometimes buying a ton of parsley or basil at the market is just a waste of money because it ends up wilted in your fridge after a few days. Spend the same amount of money on a basil plant at say, Trader Joe’s, put it in a pot and water it, and you’ll have basil all summer.

I recently ventured into growing my own ingredients, and I have to admit, I’ve become quite addicted to it. You’ll see on this post some cherry tomatoes, basil, sierra lettuce, and shallots.

No matter where you get your ingredients, start with the right ones. The old saying goes, “only get drunk on good wine” and although it’s actual meaning has to do with mate selection, I think it applies here as well. If you’re going to get full, get full on good food! And good dishes require good ingredients.

Eat with all of your heart,

G