Cheese and Apricot-Habanero Spread Plate

Felt like something ~fancy~ last weekend. This was filling enough to have for lunch! Also, an excellent excuse to open a bottle of wine. Because, you know, its a “tasting.”

Apricot-Habanero Spread

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried apricots
  • 1 habanero, sliced
  • 3/4 cup white wine, plus 2tbs
  • Pinch of salt

Instructions

  1. Heat wine and apricots in a small saucepan over medium heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat – do not drain – and let sit until cool, about 45 minutes-1 hour.
  2. Drain apricots and pour into a food processor. Add salt, sliced habanero (with seeds removed to decrease the heat, if desired), and 2tbs of wine. Chop until the mixture is a fine paste.

To complete the plate, I usually choose two soft and two hard cheeses, two crackers or bread options, and a couple of different meats. In this case, we used parmesan (delicious with salami!), brie, champagne cheese (a semi-soft cheese we randomly chose that was a delicious surprise), and goat cheese. The apricot-habanero spread was especially good with the goat and brie cheese, as you can see below!

Other things you might want to include to round out your flavor options:

  • Olives
  • Gherkins or sliced pickles
  • Fig jam
  • Grapes
  • Coarse mustard
  • Honey
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes

Shakshuka Breakfast Pizza

For this week, Amanda and I were in the mood for some brunch. Since with the holiday and the new year, it’s definitely brunch hosting season. We wanted to share some interesting, low maintenance, and somewhat nutritious brunch ideas that would definitely please a crowd, just in case you still had a few people around to share a meal and you were sick of something too heavy. This breakfast pizza, a twist on the classic Shakshuka, might be something that is a little different, has a little bit of a kick to wake everyone up and is easy as can be. In addition, if you have a big day of eating ahead of you, as I often do when family is around, this will both be likely a different flavor profile than your future meals and has at least some nutrition. Overall, it’s a nice meal to add to your breakfast rotation, even if it’s not a special occasion and just a random Saturday, and its convenience is big selling point.

If you’re hosting a New Years Day get-together, sometimes being alone in the kitchen preparing a feast can be a much needed social pause (introverts ftw!). Often, though, at breakfast I just want to enjoy my tea and not dirty too many dishes. Since this pizza’s sauce and crust can be made in advance, it’s fairly low maintenance (which, I mean, I don’t know how you celebrate New Year’s Eve, but it you might not be in the mood to do too much). However, the results are pretty impressive so if you still need to get away, feel free to relax and sip your tea while hiding in the kitchen and pretending you’re slogging away.

Pizza Sauce Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp Hungarian Half-Sharp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp vegetable or grapeseed oil
  • Pinch of salt

Sauce Instructions:

Heat a small saucepot over medium heat and add the oil. Add your diced onions and salt to the pot and sweat them for 2-3 minutes until translucent in color. Add the minced garlic and stir in with onions, cooking for an additional minute.

Add your remaining sauce ingredients and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before adding to your pizza or make ahead of time and store in the fridge for up to 3 days in a sealed container.

Other Pizza Ingredients:

  • Pizza Crust (I used premade Naan but any flatbread would do, or you can make your own)
  • Feta Cheese crumbles
  • Eggs
  • Spinach Leaves

Pizza Assembly:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425°F (if using a pizza stone or baking steel, preheat the oven for 45 minutes at least).
  2. Spread a nice dollop of sauce onto your pizza crust (up to you how much you want although I went a little thicker than I normally would since Shakshuka is all about the sauce).
  3. Top with a few spinach leaves and feta cheese evenly distributed.
  4. If you’re planning on using a pizza stone, I would recommend transferring your crust and ingredients at this point in time. If using a baking sheet, no worries. Create a divot in the pizza sauce if possible and crack an egg or two into the divots or wherever you think the egg will not run off the sides. Try to make your egg placement so that the pizza will have good egg coverage. 2E77123B-C890-4740-B6FC-B17B999211F6
  5. If using that pizza stone/steel, quickly and carefully crack the egg directly onto the pizza on the stone.
  6. Bake for 12-18 minutes, monitoring how the eggs are set. Ideally you want set whites and fairly runny yolks. Remove from oven, allow to cool slightly and serve. Enjoy!

Wine Pairing: I mean, I know a Mimosa is my go-to breakfast drink, but that’s what I’d probably have. If you’re going the breakfast for dinner route or if you wanted to just go full on glass of wine (I’m not above it) I think I’d still pick a light wine like Pinot Grigio but a Beaujolais would go well also.

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Garlic Ginger Pork Chops with Sweet Chili Glaze

We’ve had a bit of a hiatus lately as I prepared to move away from the east coast (boo!). While I am terribly sad that I am no longer within driving distance of Amanda, I sure am happy we took advantage of the lessened distance for those few months. Now, the distance dishes title seems more appropriate than ever as it is the perfect way to keep in touch between our (hopefully) semi-annual run-cations.

I’m sure it goes without saying though, that moving is a complete pain. Aside from living without furniture as the moving company is in transit, cross country driving along skinny country roads with two furry babies in the car, and the unpacking all my junk(still makes me shudder), the inability to cook a yummy, home-cooked meal was very wearing. There were 10 days from when the movers hauled our things from our South Carolina home to when they arrived in our new destination and another day or so before the pots and pans were located in our vast supply of boxes. Still, spending a few long days of unpacking, the last thing I want to do is go big time grocery shopping. For this post, we wanted to do something that feels fancy, is extremely flavorful and doesn’t use too many crazy ingredients. So, these garlic ginger pork chops with a sweet chili glaze is my go to. Inspired by this recipe by Skinnytaste, I absolutely love this dish. They feel a bit fancy, and are very low maintenance. To make these pork chops, you will need:

Pork Chops:

  • 4 thick cut boneless pork chops (or bone-in if you prefer)
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon ground garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1tsp ground black pepper

Glaze*:

  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp siracha
  • 1/4 cup sweet chili sauce

*The measurements/ratios of the glaze are fairly fluid and can be tuned to your palette. I prefer a spicier glaze so I may add a bit more sriracha. Usually I just eyeball this mixture. 

Instructions:

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Mix together the ingredients for the Sweet Chili Glaze in a small bowl and set aside as you prepare the pork chops.
  • Blend together ginger, garlic, salt and pepper together and rub the chops in the spice blend with even coverage. Don’t be shy about it.
  • Using a skillet or oven safe pan, brown the pork chops cooking about 5 minutes on each side.
  • Once the chops are nicely browned, I like to brush a bit of the glaze on eat chop before transferring to the oven, however you can save it all for the end if you’d like. regardless, transfer the pan to the oven and continue to cook the chops in the oven for 10-15 minutes until the internal temperature of each chop reaches 140 degrees.
  • Brush the entirety of the glaze onto the pork chops dividing between the four of them, cover in foil and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before eating. Enjoy!

Wine Pairing: To pair with the deliciousness and complex flavors of the sweet chili sauce, I coupled this dish with a Casillero del Diablo Devils Collection white wine blend that had notes of pineapple and citrus to match with the tart notes of the sweet chili. I think this was my favorite pairing so far, so if you happen to see this wine in the store, I highly recommend these two together.

Chorizo and Egg Breakfast Sub

 

Amanda and I recently had a girls getaway weekend at the beach, and did all the things we love together. Which is to say, there was a lot of show bingeing, pajamas, wine, and cooking involved that weekend. There was also an unfinished puzzle and some incriminating pictures taken of us in face masques, but that’s neither here nor there. I’m currently having the luxury of living within driving distance of Amanda temporarily, and one of the things I missed living so far away from her was my brunch buddy. Weekend morning breakfast indulgences with friends is one of my favorite things (makes me feel like a true millennial) so I knew I wanted to make us both a hearty breakfast to start our weekend of netflix….must stay energized for such a grueling day.

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This sandwich’s deliciousness is in it’s customization. It is a fluid recipe and you could change out the vegetables or cheeses to your preferences. However the version pictured, which was made for two, involves:

2 sub rolls from your favorite bakery

4 eggs, scrambled

1/2 red bell pepper

1/2 onion

1/2 lb of ground chorizo

1/4 tsp Garlic Powder

Salt & Pepper to taste

  • Grate Parmesan cheese, amount to your preference, although I would also recommend a sharp cheddar
  • Slice the sub rolls longways,3/4 of the way through if not pre-sliced.
  • Heat the chorizo in a pan over medium heat and season with salt and pepper until starts to dissipate and chorizo is almost cooked through.
  • Add the pepper and onions and cook the mixture until onions are slightly translucent and peppers are cooked.
  • Spoon chorizo mixture onto the inside of each sandwich roll and spread on one side. Top with half of your cheese.
  • Top the chorizo mixture with half the scrambled eggs on each sandwich and add more cheese to the top.
  • You may need a napkin when eating this as it is a bit messy, but the heat from the chorizo is quite tasty!

 

Wine pairing: We happened to have some sangria on hand (recipe to come), however a mimosa could certainly never go wrong.

 

Chicken Tikka Masala

 

Indian food is my favorite cuisine – the flavors are so complex and warm. Chicken tikka masala is a great introductory dish for someone unfamiliar with Indian cuisine. The familiar tomato based sauce and glorious spicy smell will win over even the most suspicious and picky eater! This recipe is an adaptation from Christine Ha’s Recipes from my Home Kitchen, which Merideth got me for Christmas this past year! An “adaptation” because it has my new favorite secret ingredient: fenugreek! When I was in Boston earlier this spring, I happened to grab a barstool next to a Nepalese chef visit for “research” (excellent excuse to tour Boston’s culinary scene!). I told him about my favorite tikka masala dish and he gave me three suggestions: 1) marinate the chicken overnight instead of the hour that this recipe instructs; 2) don’t discard the marinade when adding in the chicken; and 3), use fenugreek! I added 1 tablespoon to have a similar balance with the other spices.

Ingredients

1 cup plain yogurt

1 tablespoon lemon juice

4 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground red pepper (I substituted red pepper flakes once, but I don’t recommend it since the flavors do not blend as well).

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon peeled, minced ginger (I typically grate it)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

salt

 

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into cubes

2 tablespoons butter

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon paprika

1 1/2 cups tomato sauce

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Top with cilantro (optional)

 

Instructions

1) In large bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice, 2 teaspoons of the cumin (half), red pepper, pepper, ginger, cinnamon, and salt. Add the chicken and marinate overnight (or at least one hour).

2) In a large saucepan, melt the butter, stir in garlic, and cook. Add paprika , remaining cumin, and salt to taste. Stir in the tomato sauce and cream and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the sauce thickens.

3) Add the chicken to the simmering sauce for an additional 10 minutes. Serve over basmati rice. I also serve it with fresh baked naan (more info on naan to come)!

Wine Pairing

For this dish, we paired with a nice merlot. Not toobold, but complimented the flavors nicely with it’s slightly spicy flavor and hints of berries–it matched the spiciness of the dish while  also adding calming notes between bites. IMG_0246.JPG

Peanut Butter Soup

When Amanda first suggested this blog as something for us to do together, despite our distance, I was definitely excited. The next question after “Do we really want to do this?” (which was a resounding “Hell Yes”) was “where do we start?” Amanda and I really seem to bond over our love of flavorful and exotic spices and so we knew we wanted to start with something new. We chose African inspired dishes because it had both a combination of interesting flavor layers and it was certainly a cuisine I had never cooked before so it was something new and exciting with intriguing familiarity.

We chose to do different recipes for this week’s installment as it was a bit last minute and my newly relocated pantry was a bit lacking. While Amanda was able to make a beautiful and interesting Moroccan Chicken, I was looking for something somewhat simple to start with ingredients I had on hand and something on the healthy side (having just moved across country my pants were/still are a bit tight from road snacks). So I decided on a simple, vegetarian Peanut Butter Soup recipe which, although not traditional, is inspired by the West African dish.

I decided to use the recipe adapted from Hurry the Food up at http://hurrythefoodup.com/african-peanut-soup/ however, after 2 harried trips to the crowded grocery store I returned home only to be unloading my groceries from the car and saying to myself disappointedly “tomato paste!” I had forgotten to grab it and I then decided I was going to improvise because I certainly wasn’t going to deal with people any more that day.

So, before I began to cook the actual soup, I had to fashion some tomato paste substitute out of my only tomatoes in the house, a can of diced tomatoes. Apparently to make a workable substitution tomato paste the steps are very simple:

  • One 8 oz can of tomatoes
  • Puree in blender or food processor
  • Cook in a saucepan over medium heat for around 12-15 minutes until liquid is reduced enough that it will not add too much liquid to the dish.

I found that one 8oz can of tomato gave me around 1/4 cup of tomato paste.

Now I was ready to start on the soup, which was quite easy and quite delicious. The recipe on the the website was straightforward. To up the nutrition content, I added a few handfuls of spinach leaves as I ate the leftover portions.

If you have never tated this dish before, it tastes exactly as you wish it would. One giant, steaming bowl of peanut buttery goodness that would be the perfect comfort food for a cold day or really any day.

Wine Pairing:  To combine with the nuttiness in the dish I was craving a white wine tonight, which I can say I have never craved before. Generally I tolerate white wine if it is included in an tasting cases I order. However, tonight I paired this with a chilled Chenin Blanc which provided a light tartness to cut the strong peanutty taste as well as added an extra layer of temperature change.