Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Spinach Puff

This is one of those recipes that have been around a long, long time. A spinach puff makes a great side dish, especially with beef or lamb, and it combines the vegetable and the starch together. Another plus is that it works great with frozen spinach and the recipe calls for a standard 10 ounce box of frozen chopped spinach.

This can also be used as a vegetarian main dish (just double the recipe) – perfect for a Lenten Friday dinner or for those who prefer meatless options. The recipe contains eggs, so it delivers protein in addition to the healthy spinach. It also allows you to be creative with the seasonings if you wanted to give the dish more of a Greek or Italian personality. 

If you are a fan of spinach then you’re going to like this one!

Spinach Puff

10oz box frozen chopped spinach
2 eggs separated
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
¼ tsp dry mustard
1 TBSP dried minced onion
1 cup cooked rice (white or brown)
½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium saucepan with a lid, bring ½ cup of water to a boil. Remove spinach from box and put in boiling water. Cook covered for 5 to 6 minutes, breaking up block of spinach with fork as it cooks. Remove from heat and drain into a colander. Press spinach to remove as much of the water as possible and set aside to cool.

Using two mixing bowls, separate eggs. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form (use your preferred tool here – hand mixer, rotary mixer or whisk). To the egg yolks, add the cooked rice, dried onion, salt, pepper and mustard powder. Combine. If you want, you could sauté ¼ cup of onions in butter until soft and slightly golden and add those instead of the dried onion. Finally, add the cooked spinach to the rice mixture and combine.

Gently fold the rice and spinach mixture into the beaten egg whites until everything is incorporated. Grease a 1 ½ quart casserole dish with non-stick spray. Add mixture and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. If desired, spread top with shredded Parmesan cheese as soon as it comes out of the oven. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Here Comes The Hummus!

Here’s a dish that makes a great appetizer or a side, and can be made well in advance. Hummus has its roots in Middle Eastern cuisine, which is a staple here in the Detroit area because we have a large Middle Eastern population. And like many ethnic recipes there are countless variations. Many families have their own unique set of ingredients or process of making hummus.

As food goes, hummus actually delivers a good bit of nutrition, too. The main ingredient is chick peas, also known as garbanzo beans or chi chi beans. It also contains tahini, which is made of ground sesame seeds. It is a thin paste and available at most major markets (it also can be ordered online) and the tahini gives the hummus its unique flavor. Other ingredients include olive oil, garlic and lemon juice – all good stuff!

While most hummus recipes share the basic ingredients above, the spices that get included vary. Ralph makes a great hummus, and I think his stands out because of the seasonings. For this reason, we put Ralph in front of the camera this time to share his recipe! He also makes delicious homemade pita chips to go along with the hummus, but that’s another episode!

This makes a large batch – good for a big party or dinner crowd. Feel free to cut the recipe in half if you don’t need a huge amount.

2 – 15oz cans chick peas, drained with the liquid reserved
4 cloves garlic
3 TBSP tahini
4 TBSP olive oil
6 TBSP lemon juice (fresh is best, but you can used bottled)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp granulated chicken bouillon or chicken soup base (optional – leave out if you want to keep it completely vegetarian, but add a little more salt instead)
½ tsp onion powder
¼ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp white pepper
½ tsp ground cumin
½ cup+ reserved bean liquid (you can add a little more if you want hummus a little thinner)

You really need a strong blender or a food processor for this recipe. I think a food processor works best. In the bowl of your food processor, put in all the ingredients (in order) except the reserved bean liquid. Start the processor and run for about three minutes. While running, gradually pour in the bean liquid and let run for another three minutes. Taste. Adjust seasoning as necessary. If the hummus is thicker than you would like, add a little more of the bean liquid and run for another minute. 

Serve with pita bread, pita chips, raw veggies, crackers – it’s great with almost anything!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Buttermilk French Toast

It seems like the decision to make French toast usually stems from the realization that a loaf of homemade bread is on the verge of becoming a doorstop. That said, there are few better ways to use up an otherwise good loaf of bread before your options are limited to making croutons or breadcrumbs! A few weeks ago, we made a recipe of homemade white bread and we used the leftovers for this recipe.

I like to use unsliced bread for French toast. This gives us the option to cut the slices as thick as we like. Generally, the slices are at least one-half inch in thickness. This provides enough room for the bread to soak up the yummy custard mix before it hits the griddle. This insures a nice, moist piece of bread that not only deliver flavor, but stand up to the butter, syrup, preserves or whatever else might go on top.

Using buttermilk is optional, but it adds such a wonderful richness to the French toast that it’s worth picking some up. This recipe calls for two cups (16 ounces) and yielded eight hearty slices. You could also use whole milk, evaporated milk or coconut milk. For our last batch, I added some shredded coconut to the mix. This adds a great flavor and makes the dish extra special.

Buttermilk French Toast

Hearty bread (I like a white bread, but you could also use brioche, raisin bread or a wheat bread)
6 eggs
2 cups buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg
½ cup shredded coconut (optional)

Cut eight slices of bread – at least one half inch thick. Set aside. If the bread is a little dry, it will absorb the egg/milk mixture better. Crack six eggs into a large bowl and beat well with whisk. Add buttermilk and spices (and coconut, if using) and beat well.

Heat a griddle or large skillet on stove to medium/medium-high heat. Using a pair of tongs, dunk each slice of bread into bowl. Let bread soak up mixture for ten seconds or so. Bread will become heavy and delicate, so carefully take bread from bowl and place directly onto hot griddle or skillet. Depending on the size of your griddle/skillet, you should be able to do three or four at a time.

Check bottom of bread after a couple of minutes. When it is medium to dark brown, flip bread over and cook the other side. When second size is done, transfer to plate (keep in a warm oven if you are doing additional batches). Serve with butter, your favorite syrup, dusted with powdered sugar or spread on some preserves. It goes great with salty breakfast meat like bacon, sausage or country ham. Enjoy!