Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Spinach, Mushroom & Cheese Strata - a savory bread pudding recipe

When this strata came out of the oven this morning, I knew that it would be the basis of my next blog post.  I like to think of a strata as a savory bread pudding. Unlike the sweet versions, this one is full of wholesome vegetables and, due to the addition of thyme and nutmeg, it makes the kitchen smell a little bit like Thanksgiving. The other good thing about a savory bread pudding is that, even though it lends itself easily to breakfast, it can make a quick weeknight dinner. 

Spinach, Mushroom & Cheese Strata
Serves 4 

2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 sprigs of thyme
8 to 10 mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
10 oz fresh or frozen spinach (if using frozen, make sure to squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can)
6 cups cubed bread
1/4 cup chopped green onions
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1/2 cup grated cheese
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1. Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Grease and set aside an 8"x10" baking dish.
2. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the thyme and mushrooms. Cook, stirring regularly, until the mushrooms have browned on both sides, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the spinach. Making use of the residual heat, toss the spinach with the warm mushrooms until it has wilted a bit.
3. In a large mixing bowl, add the bread, green onions, cilantro, cheese and the mushroom mixture.
4. Whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Pour over the bread mixture and toss well. Pour the pudding mixture into the prepared baking dish and bake at 350 °F for 40 to 45 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Serve warm.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Encamaronadas (Cheesy Shrimp Tacos)

It's taco Tuesday at our house today and I could hardly wait to tell you about these tacos. Outside of Mexico, these are probably my favorite. The first part of the recipe calls for a fresh salsa, which essentially is a pico de gallo. Juicy tomatoes, fresh onion, garlic, chili peppers, cilantro, Mexican hot sauce and a bit of ketchup - a mixture that certainly can stand on its own. I remember the first time I made this, the aroma took me straight back to Mexico, particularly to meals we had on the beach looking out at the impossible blue of the Caribbean sea. What I wouldn't give to be in Mexico right now or on any beach in the Caribbean for that matter. The facts are: this is Minnesota, it's ten degrees, and I have no upcoming plans for a sunny getaway. But this is what I like about cooking - it brings some of my favorite places to my home kitchen. 

Encamaronadas (Cheesy Shrimp Tacos)
(Adapted from Rick Bayless)
Makes about 10 to 12 tacos 

3-4 ripe tomatoes, diced
1 small, white onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 serrano chili, minced (you can use more or omit this based on your preference)
juice of 1 small lime
1 tbsp hot sauce (more or less depending on your preference)
1 tbsp ketchup
Salt (to taste)
Approx. 1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp, chopped into small pieces
10 to 12 corn tortillas
1 cup grated cheese

1. Make the salsa by combining the tomatoes, onion, garlic, cilantro, chili, lime juice, hot sauce, ketchup and salt. Mix well.
2. Warm a large skillet over medium heat, add two tablespoons of oil, then add the salsa. Cook for about five minutes. stirring occasionally. Once most of the liquid has evaporated and the vegetables have softened, stir in the chopped shrimp. Continue cooking until the shrimp has cooked through, another two to three minutes. Remove the mixture into a bowl. Wash and dry the skillet, and return it to medium heat.
3. Cover the base of the skillet with a thin layer of oil. Place one tortilla in the base of the pan and heat for about 10 seconds. Flip and add a couple tablespoons of cheese to one side. Top the cheese with about a tablespoon of the shrimp filling. Fold the uncovered part of the tortilla over the filling to resemble a turnover. Gently press flat. Continue cooking until crisp, about two minutes per side. Continue making the encamaronadas in the same way with the remaining tortillas and filling.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Chocolate Mousse

With Valentine's Day just a few days away, desserts take on a very chocolatey tone. And I'm happy to share this simple, intensely rich chocolate mousse with you.  Most mousse recipes that I seen are somehow very complicated and require quite a number of ingredients. This one calls for only two, semi sweet chocolate chips and heavy whipping cream, and can be ready is less than an hour. 

Chocolate Mousse
Serves two 

4 oz semi sweet chocolate
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream 

1. In a double boiler, add the chocolate and 1/4 cup of whipping cream. Allow the chocolate to melt, stirring occasionally. 
2. While the chocolate is melting, whisk the remaining cream until stiff peaks form. Set aside
3. Place the bowl of warm, melted chocolate in an ice bath (a larger bowl with ice and cold water) and whisk until the chocolate thickens a bit and cools slightly. Remove from the ice bath, and gently fold in the whipped cream in two batches, reserving some for the topping. Pour the mousse into serving glasses, and chill for about half an hour before serving. Top with whipped cream to serve.