Monday, April 23, 2012

Oven-fried or roasted zucchini

Oven-fried zucchini and Adobo steak with cilantro sauce
As a side dish for my husband's steak dinner, I made oven-fried zucchini. My dad made these for me growing up, often along with steak, so this meal was definitely inspired by him.

These are really simple to make, more of a technique than a recipe:

Slice 1 lb zucchini 1/2 inch thick lengthwise into planks. This will make enough for two people. I often make twice as much even if it's just me and my husband because I love it so much.

Place zucchini in a food bag with about 2 T olive oil and 2 T balsamic vinegar, or enough to coat. Toss around until zucchini is evenly coated.

Then, in a separate food bag, add enough garlic and herb flavored breadcrumbs to coat the zucchini, about a cup. You can also "doctor up" the breadcrumbs with additional seasonings if you want to get fancy. I like to add Parmesan cheese, Adobo seasoning, and black pepper. Add the zucchini slices in batches, a few slices at a time, and shake to coat.

Lay coated zucchini slices onto a baking sheet sprayed with nonstick spray. My dad likes to arrange sliced pickled jalapenos on top of each slice before baking, like spicy ants on a log. Spray some nonstick spray on top of the zucchini slices as well. This will keep them from drying out and help them brown. Bake at 450 for approximately 30 minutes, until zucchini is tender and golden brown.

Update: For a low carb version, I just roast the zucchini without the breadcrumbs. So, as above, cut the zucchini into planks and toss in a food bag with balsamic and olive oil, but this time, also add seasonings of your choice to the bag. I like Adobo seasoning, Italian seasoning, Garlic and Herb seasoning, and of course, salt and black pepper. As above, lay them out on baking sheet. If you want to take them over the top and add a bit of a crust, sprinkle with Parmesan (optional), then bake.

Adobo steak with cilantro sauce

Adobo steak with cilantro sauce and oven-fried zucchini
My husband is pretty great. To reward him for this, I made him his favorite food, steak, topped with another one of his favorite foods, cilantro. The cilantro sauce is the same cilantro chutney that I make along with Indian Biryani, and adds the perfect hit of herbaceous freshness to cut through the richness of the steak. He claims this to be one of the top three steaks he's ever had. Rather than give you an exact recipes, I'll give you the jist of what I did so you can modify it to fit your preferences.

I bought thick-cut sirloins (about 1.75 inches) because they were on sale. Sirloin is one of my go-to cuts of steak--not too expensive, but very flavorful and pretty lean and tender. Then I coated it in Adobo seasoning, smoked paprika, and coarse ground pepper and let it "cure" in the fridge (1 day to 1 hour before is fine). I have written before about my love for Adobo seasoning (a Latin seasoning salt comprised of salt, garlic powder, and oregano, but so much more than the sum of its parts). Adobo alone is really all you need to make delicious meat, but smoked paprika and crushed red pepper are bonus. I always cook steak in my cast iron skillet. It's ideal for sustaining even heat and creating a great sear. Cooking times will vary according to the thickness of your steak, so I won't waste time going into specifics there. There are plenty of websites that describe how long to cook steak for your desired doneness. I endorse the "poke and wiggle" method to determine doneness. Poke the middle of the steak with your finger. If it is super soft and wiggly, it is probably undercooked. Steak that is a little soft and wiggly when you poke it is medium rare, which is perfect to me. If you want your steak more well done, wait until it is firm to the touch. Be sure to let your steak rest on a plate, covered in foil for about five minutes, to allow the juices to redistribute.

The cilantro sauce couldn't be simpler:

1 T lemon or lime juice
1 bunch cilantro, stems included, brown ends removed (cilantro stems are soft and flavorful, so waste not want not!)
pinch of salt
enough water to make a thin paste

Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Spoon on top of steak. Done.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Carrot Souffle

Every year for Glutenless Goddess' Easter dinner, I make Carrot Souffle. This is a recipe inspired by a restaurant in Louisiana, Piccadilly. It is billed as a side dish, but the way they make it, it should really only be considered dessert. It is essentially a sweet, buttery pureed carrot casserole, reminiscent of sweet potato casserole, but it lighter and fresher. When you order it at Piccadilly, it comes swimming in butter that oozes from within. Mine is a lighter, less cloying version, with just a bit of butter, and I often make it with Spenda instead of sugar, so you can feel better about getting your carrots in casserole form! It's perfect for Easter, bright and fresh tasting, or for a side dish or dessert any time of year.

Carrot Souffle
2 pounds carrots, chopped (I use frozen crinkle cut carrots to keep it easy, but fresh can be used as well)
3 eggs (two yolks removed if you'd like to reduce fat and cholesterol)
2 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup Splenda or sugar
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
dash of cinnamon

In a large saucepan of boiling water, cook the carrots until very tender, then drain water. Allow carrots to cool until just warm, but not hot, to the touch.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a blender or food processor, blend eggs until frothy, then add remaining ingredients. Puree until smooth. Transfer to a large casserole dish. Use a fork for create a spiral pattern on top, if desired. Bake 1 hour, or until top is slightly golden.