Monday, April 13, 2015

Caramalized Onion, Bacon, Cheese and Baby Kale Strata

Before I say good bye to winter, I must share my latest strata (last of the comfort food hopefully?). Remember, I live in New England and while a lot of the country has been enjoying comfortable temperatures, I made this dish 3 days ago when it was hailing on my way home from work. It's a simple fix, and I know you're going to like the caramelized onion/cheese/bacon/kale combo. Oh and the little tang of Dijon mustard is just perfect. Here's what you need to put this little darling together, and you don't have to be having a tough winter to make this, it's a great brunch entrée- hot out of the oven or served at room temp.

End of the Winter Strata
Serves 6

6 slices bacon chopped 1 inch pieces
1 T olive oil
2 medium sized onions chopped
1/2 cup Fontina cheese shredded
1/2 cup Gorgonzola cheese crumbled
3/4 cup baby kale chopped
8 slices hearty white or Italian bread cut into 1 inch cubes
4 large eggs
1-3/4 cups milk or half and half
1 T Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 T unsalted butter melted

Let's do this with pictures. It will help me next year when I'm at my wit's end with cold weather. Yes, that might help!

Sauté bacon in a large pan.

When just about crisp, remove from pan and drain on paper towel. Save 1 T of bacon fat and place back in pan and add 1 T of olive oil. Add your onions and cook on low heat for at least 20-30 minutes.

Add a little salt and pepper if you like. I did. While onions are caramelizing, shred your Fontina cheese and crumble the Gorganzola. Now chop your baby kale, slice your bread, melt butter and prepare your egg custard. In mixing bowl or large measuring cup mix eggs, milk, mustard, salt, pepper and cooled melted butter.

Prepare an 8" x 8' baking dish with cooking spray and layer 4 of the sliced pieces of bread.

Add your cooked bacon, caramelized onions, cheese and kale.

Top with the rest of the sliced bread and add the egg custard. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for about an hour.

Since I've been making strata's all winter, I've been reading up on the "setting-up in the fridge" time of this lovely dish, and I am of the belief that 1 -2 hours is all you need. Some say overnight. Sorry- I don't have time for that, and also...I don't think it bakes as well. Yeah, I'm a rebel. But try it my way, I think you'll be happy. So put this little dish of deliciousness in a 325 degree oven and bake for 50-55 minutes. Oh, you can also add a bit more cheese to the top. It is a farewell to winter right? Take a look. Imagine how good it tastes.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Tex-Mex Orzo

Who doesn't love a side dish of flavorful Southwestern infused spices with black beans, corn, jalapenos, onions and orzo? Orzo, you ask? Well, I didn't have any rice but had an abundance of orzo (rice shaped pasta) and decided it would do the trick. This is quick and a perfect side with anything you're serving. And the good news? After you've put together your spice mix and chop your onions, this dish comes together in less than 20 minutes. Tempting? Let's give this recipe some star treatment.

Tex-Mex Orzo
Inspired by a very bare pantry

You won't use all this, but you certainly can for a bit more punch

1 tsp ground chili powder
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper

1 T unsalted butter
1 T olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
1 can reduced sodium (15 oz) black beans rinsed and drained
1 can diced green chilis (4 oz)
1 cup uncooked orzo
1-3/4 cups water (you can use chicken broth)
1 cup frozen corn defrosted
1 tsp kosher salt
1-2 T Franks hot sauce

Let's cook! Mix together the spices.

On stovetop, in medium size sauce pan on low heat, melt the butter and olive oil. Now add the chopped onions and a teaspoon of spice mix and sweat for 4 to 5 minutes. I cover my pot and make sure the onions don't brown.

Looking and smelling goods far. Now add the orzo and another teaspoon of spice mix and toast the orzo for about 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the beans, chilis, and water. And one more teaspoon of spice mix and stir to incorporate.

Increase heat until water begins to simmer. Stir in another teaspoon of salt, lower heat, cover and gently simmer for 12 minutes. After 12 minutes, your orzo is almost done. Add in the corn and stir. Now turn off the heat, cover with a paper towel, then your pot lid, and let sit for about 5 minutes until all liquid is absorbed.

Uncover and add in your hot sauce and stir. Tex-Mex Orzo is ready.

For the spice lovers in your group, serve some extra hot sauce on the side. It will be much appreciated. And by the way, this is not too spicy to serve the kids. It packs a little bite at the back of your mouth, but it's a very pleasant bite. Hope you enjoy, and feel free to re-mix this recipe to your liking. Add some tomatoes, red peppers, and even some healthy spinach. Oh, and don't forget to top with some cheese. I'm looking forward to a stocked pantry by the weekend when we might even have a weather forecast without snow or sleet!