Recipe of the week

Pasta with Pesto, Green Beans and Crispy Potatoes A Dinner Against the Clock Recipe By Foodie’s Markets Chef Laura Brennan

 

Pasta with pesto, green beans and potatoes is a classic dish from the Liguria region of Italy. This region comprises a narrow crescent of land that curves around the sea at the ‘top of the boot’ and stretches from the French border into Tuscany.

 

This dish was one of my favorites at cooking school; I made the pesto by hand using a mortar and pestle.  And of course, I made fresh pasta as well.  A labor of love.

 

Fast forward a few decades and I now buy pre-made pesto, and use excellent quality dried Italian pasta, either linguine or trenette, a fettuccine-shaped flat noodle, traditionally served in Liguria.  I look for pesto that is made with at least 50% extra virgin olive oil and is sugar-free.  Read labels.   And I have substituted crispy potatoes for the boiled potatoes.  The crunch of the crispy potato is a great contrast to the overall softness of the dish.  This truly is a quick dish to prepare…you could have dinner on the table in 35 minutes or less.

 

 

Red Lentil Turkey Bolognese Sauce by Foodie’s Chef Laura Brennan

 

Winter is not quite over……. sigh.

 

So, there’s still time for one more Bolognese sauce. 

 

This one’s a bit lighter, using ground turkey and red lentils in lieu of the usual suspects.  There’s no cream and a bit of bacon, only if you fancy it.  It cooks up more quickly than its more traditional counterpart and is best served over a shaped-pasta (‘macaroni’) instead of a long pasta (‘spaghetti’).  And, while fresh-made pasta certainly has a place at the Italian table, this sauce needs the ‘al dente’ bite of dried durum wheat pasta.  Choose your favorite shape.

 

 

Stuffed Artichokes by Foodie’s Market’s Chef Laura Brennan

Everyone is longing for Spring and in the kitchen, nothing heralds Spring more than artichokes and peas…well, longer days and warmer weather do play their part! If you have never cleaned an artichoke, I recommend that you find an instructive ‘youtube’ video. I find them so helpful; the videos do a great job of translating words into pictures.

ITALIAN EASTER ‘QUICHE’ by Foodie’s Markets Chef, Laura Brennan

My first-generation Italian mother and aunts negotiated yearly about who was going to make the “Pizza Gana”. This was a rustic ‘pie’ enclosed in pastry, 4-5 inches deep, with a three-pound filling (!) of ricotta, hard-cooked eggs and assorted salamis, sausages and cheeses. It was very dramatic when sliced and very delicious to eat.
No one makes it anymore. Then my sister invited me to Easter Brunch and slyly asked if I knew how to make it. A challenge of sorts! I thought about it and decided that I would make a lightened version of the dish. In my version, the amount of meats and cheeses are decreased, there is only a bottom pastry crust and the whole pie is reduced to about 2-inches in depth. The traditional flavors remain, but it is restrained (think Chanel, not Versace).
I made it in a traditional ceramic French quiche dish with an approximate 11-inch diameter, about a 2-inches depth, a flat bottom and fluted sides. An ‘American’-style pie dish with sloping sides would also work.
I think this dish would best prepared in the style of my mother and her sisters; that is, divide the work over a couple of days. At the least, make the pastry dough a day or two before.

A Thai Inspired Ragu By Foodie’s Markets Chef Laura Brennan

I make this dish a few times every autumn/winter and the recent nor’easter propelled me into the kitchen in lieu of shoveling. I used ground turkey instead of the more traditional ground pork and added greens to the finished dish - both of these changes improve the overall nutrition.
I thought it would be a good recipe to share and I was wondering what to name it for the column.
I wondered what Thai grandmothers call this dish? My Italian grandmother would have called it a ‘ragu’…..and so, it became “ A Thai-Inspired-Ragu”.

SPICED CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA by Foodie’s Markets Chef Laura Brennan

Chicken Masala is an Indian dish that’s fairly quick and easy to prepare. If you like Indian spices then this is a good dish to practice the art of combining aromatic and assertive spices. Having trained with a French chef (Madeleine Kamman) and being of Italian heritage, I was once very hesitant to push my taste buds outside their comfortable European borders. But, I was completely smitten with the food of Paula Wolfert (traditional Moroccan cooking) and Ana Sortun (modern Turkish cuisine). And I started to cook with different spices and slowly developed a ‘taste-memory’ for them. Once you can remember what new spices taste like, separately and combined, you can begin to incorporate them into your repertoire with confidence.

Classic French Potato Gratin by Foodie’s Markets Chef Laura Brennan

 

I had chores to do after school and thankfully one of them was dinner prep. That was more enjoyable than say…folding clothes.  One of my Irish-German aunts taught me how to make ‘scalloped potatoes’:  sliced potatoes layered in a rectangular glass Pyrex dish with milk, margarine(!), salt and pepper.  No cheese or other flavors as I recall. Usually served with ham.  It was yummy, but the milk always curdled a bit rendering it more utilitarian than beautiful.  (Some recipes add a sprinkle of flour, but we never did.)                      Fast forward fifteen years and I’m enrolled in The Modern Gourmet Cooking School in Newton Center.  And we make a layered potato dish with a beautiful name: “Gratin Dauphinoise”.  The ingredients, in addition to the potatoes; more thinly and evenly sliced, now include a fine parsley-garlic mix (‘persillade’), heavy cream, salt, fresh ground white pepper & nutmeg and often gruyere cheese.  WOW!

 

I’ve continued to make many more potato gratins in my long career.  And in a nod to healthier eating, I don’t use heavy cream any more.  I think half-and-half has enough milk fat to prevent curdling.  It’s still a rich dish, worthy of a special occasion. For Easter, I’m serving this gratin with roast pork, so I’m flavoring the cream (that bathe the potatoes in the oven) with Dijon mustard, fresh thyme sprigs and crushed garlic cloves.  The infused cream will subtly flavor the potatoes and the top will be beautifully browned. It will be a delicious and elegant addition to the Easter buffet. 

 

“DINNER AGAINST the CLOCK”: a quick Paella with chicken, shrimp and chorizo By Foodie’s Markets Chef Laura Brennan

 

This the first in a new series of recipes designed to help you get dinner on the table in an hour or so…. depending on your experience in the kitchen.

 

‘Paella’ is a traditional Spanish rice dish which usually includes the evocative and expensive spice:   saffron.  (Not to worry, you can still make a delicious paella without it.)  Paella is made with a short-grain rice and is a one-pot wonder.  Gather all your ingredients and do all the advance prep work first.  This is your ‘mise-en-place’.  Once your ‘mise’ is-in-place, the assembly/cooking of the paella goes quickly.

 

And note:  For expediency, I have chosen to use some pre-cooked ingredients:  pre-cooked chicken breast and cooked chorizo.  And some other shortcuts:  peeled and deveined shrimp, canned diced tomatoes and prepared chicken stock.    

 

There is an expanding world of excellent quality, prepared ingredients available.  When you find products that are carefully made and tasty, it’s a smart time-saving move to incorporate them into your cooking.  Without a prep cook or two at home, most of us (including myself) find it daunting to have to prepare everything from scratch, every time.

 

Quinoa Casserole with Charred Broccoli, Sweet Potato and Mushrooms By Foodie’s Markets Chef Laura Brennan

 

This is a satisfying vegetarian casserole that could easily be modified by cooking different vegetables; such as cauliflower or heirloom carrots or by choosing a different seasoning path.  I am currently in love with Middle Eastern flavors and have used cinnamon, coriander, cumin, allspice and Aleppo pepper flakes. You could easily substitute cilantro, curry powder and cayenne pepper for an Indian flair.  Changing flavor profiles is similar to changing the outfits you wear …. you choose and wear pieces of clothing and accessories that harmoniously go together.  A recipe is merely an idea, an inspiration for you to seek your own cooking path.

 

 (Aleppo pepper is a fragrant and mildly spicy pepper from Syria; it has less heat than the more common red pepper flakes.)

 

 

This recipe is comprised of 5 simple preparation steps (A through E) that yield the prepared ingredients to then combine into one casserole/baking dish.  The steps are simple and straightforward and can be overlapped.

 

SHORT-CUT QUICK ROTISSERIE CHICKEN SOUP by Foodie’s Markets Chef Laura Brennan

 

I love chicken soup.  I love fresh chicken soup – not canned, not frozen, not box-packaged.  With my demanding palate in mind, I needed to develop a faster way to make a satisfying batch of my winter elixir.   Let me be clear, while simmering a fresh, organic, whole chicken with vegetables, wine and aromatics is the sine qua non of chicken soups, it’s not an after-work project.  To that end, I have developed a viable (and delicious) shortcut using a leftover rotisserie chicken and best quality, organic chicken broth. You can have fresh chicken soup on the table in an hour’s worth of time - give or take.