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While I have a healthy obsession with spinach and cheese, palak paneer tends to be a dish that often looks better on the menu than it tastes on most restaurants’ plates. I found myself sloshing through the murky and over-pureed sauce to pick out the few cubes of paneer cheese oh so generously bestowed by the chef. I fixed these problems at home and found a way to make a palak paneer with a vibrant green sauce that still says “spinach.” The amped up flavor will excite your palate. And most of all, you won’t be searching for the cheese… well, at least not until you’ve finished it all.

Ingredients

  • 1 large yellow onion, diced Salt
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala (Indian spice mix)
  • 1-2 dashes of cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ginger paste
  • 11 ounces baby spinach
  • 1 tablespoon goat cheese spread/ plain yogurt (optional)
  • 3 ounces of heavy cream
  • 5 ounces low-sodium paneer, cubed

Directions

In a medium-sized pot over medium-high heat, sauté the onion in enough butter to coat the bottom of the pot and a drizzle of olive oil. Add a sizeable pinch of salt and cook until the onions are translucent.

Add the garlic, the garam masala, a shake or two of cinnamon and the ginger paste. Continue to cook while you make the spinach.

Heat a large sauté pan on high and coat with some water. Add the spinach and salt to taste. Cook down until the spinach is soft yet still bright green. In a blender or food processor, purée half the spinach from your pot. Add the purée to the onions.

Incorporate the goat cheese spread/yogurt (optional) and the cream until you are happy with the consistency and richness. It should be thick but not too chunky. Cook with paneer and salt to taste.

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Photo Credit: Scott Figatner 

Originally published in The GW Hatchet

A fall-themed potluck is always fulfilling. Perhaps, it’s the anticipation of brisk air, amber leaves, cups of tea and pajama pants. Most of all, it’s the beauty of preparing a meal with your friends, eating and drinking until you wonder why your jeans always shrink so erratically. I made pappardelle, thick pasta ribbons, with a rich sauce of butternut squash and sage, topped with dollops of ricotta cheese and candied pecans. Warm and hearty, it’s the perfect dish to fuel yourself during the fall… or at the very least until dessert.

 

Ingredients: 

  • 1 medium-size butternut squash
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 3-4 tablespoons butter
  • Sage leaves, chopped
  • Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
  • Apple juice or water
  • Honey
  • Pappardelle pasta
  • Pecans
  • Sugar
  • Ricotta cheese

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 400°

2. Peel the squash, cut it in half and remove the pulp and seeds with a spoon. Wash and dry the seeds and reserve. Chop the squash into 1-inch pieces. Coat lightly in olive oil, sprinkle with salt and spread evenly on a foil-lined baking sheet. Cook for 20-30 minutes, turning once, or until fork tender.

3. In a blender or food processor, purée the squash with a drizzle of olive oil until smooth. In a pan, sauté the garlic and shallots in butter and add the purée. Add the sage, the parmesan cheese and salt, thinning it out to the desired consistency with either apple juice or water. Add a drizzle of honey until it’s just a tad sweet.

4. Put a liberally-salted pot of water up to boil. Lightly coat the seeds with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt. Roast until browned and audibly crunchy (cooks excuse to taste one).

5. When the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook for 6-8 minutes or until al dente. Strain and add to the sauce, readjusting sauce consistency.

6. For the candied pecans, simply pan cook them with butter, salt and loads of sugar. They do burn easily. Cool and reserve outside the pan.

7. Top the pasta with the candied pecans, toasted squash seeds, clumps of ricotta cheese and more sage.

 

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Photo credit: Jordan Emont

Taken from The GW Hatchet by Scott Figatner

It’s hardly summer in Spain until people are drinking tinto de verano outside. Tinto de verano is a popular drink where wine is mixed with lemon-lime soda. I wanted to combine the fruity flavor of Sangria, but also the light effervescence of tinto de verano. I made mine with strawberries— inspired by sangria I had in Seville—and also added kiwi, a popular fruit in my home stay. Blood orange soda, instead of lemon-lime, is a great and refreshing way to expand a bottle of wine.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle of a red wine you like (I used Evodia Calatayud red wine ’10)
  • 1 package of strawberries
  • 3 kiwis
  • 1 bottle of Lorina sparkling Italian blood orange juice

Directions:

  1. Quarter the strawberries and peel and slice the kiwis.
  2. Marinate the fruit in the red wine, refrigerating for 24-48 hours.
  3. Pour in the blood orange soda and serve with a strawberry or kiwi garnish.

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Ceviche is a popular dish in Central and South America and is gaining popularity in The United States. It is certainly one of my favorite dishes. In a ceviche, cubes of fresh, raw fish are marinated in citrus juice, which denatures the surface proteins as cooking would. I designed my recipe based on my dad’s nostalgic description of the dish he had in Costa Rica. My ceviche has a subtle sweetness from a bit of sugar and a splash of gingerale, which balances the tart lime. Avacados and corn are classic pairings, but I also added juicy  costa rican pineapple, cherry tomatoes, and edamame.

Ingredients:

  • Fresh Marlin and Tilapia, cubed
  • Ripe Avocado, chopped
  • Pineapple, diced
  • Frozen Peas, thawed
  • Cherry Tomatoes, halved
  • Corn (frozen or fresh)
  • Red Onion, diced
  • Canned Chickpeas

Marinade:

  • Lime Juice, be generous
  • Ginger Ale, a splash
  • Fresh Garlic, minced
  • Jalopeño, minced
  • Salt and Pepper, don’t skimp
  • GOYA Cilantro Cooking Base
  • Sugar, a hint

Directions:

  1. Prepare marinade and pour over ingredients in a shallow dish. There needs to be enough liquid to almost cover the fish. Refrigerate covered for about 1 hour, carefully folding every 15 minutes. Serve alone or with tortilla chips.

Tips:

  1. The fresher the fish, the safer and tastier the ceviche.
  2. Be sure to use enough lime juice than you think or you’ll be eating sashimi, not ceviche
  3. Cut your ceviche pieces all the same size.
  4. Ripe avocados should be tender to the touch. Next, break off the stubby stem. If it’s green, it’s fresh.
  5. Slice lengthwise all around the avocado and twist to open. Take a careful wack with the chef’s knife and twist to dislodge the pit.

 

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The hideous organ on my cutting board hardly looked like dinner. However, trimmed, stewed and sliced, tongue can be delicious. In the oven, I stewed the tongue in a pot with canned plum tomatoes, carrots onions, cilantro, thyme, garlic and water. I seasoned the sauce with spices like cumin, chili powder, Spanish paprika, Adobo seasoning and oregano and finished it with brown sugar and a sauce made from tamarind and vinegar from Costa Rica. Finally, I pureed everything to add body. I smothered the tongue in the tangy, brick-colored sauce, piled it over white rice, garnished with diced red onion, chopped tomatoes, roasted corn and cilantro.

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On a hot, summer day a mango salsa is the perfect refreshing snack. The tanginess of the tomatillos makes a good backdrop behind the sweet mangos while the char from the grill adds a welcomed complexity. Honey and lime round out the flavors, while tempering the heat of the jalapeño—which I tend not to go easy on.

Directions:

  • Peel two mangos, remove the pits, chop and mix with diced red onion. Add a generous amount of lime juice. Grill one ear of corn, half a jalapeño and the tomatillos (with the husks on), turning them until they are charred and soft. Remove the husks and stems and pulse in the blender with a drizzle of olive oil, one chopped garlic clove and jalapeño to taste (remove the seeds and membranes for a gentler heat).
  • When it has cooled, mix with the mangos and add salt, more lime and a healthy drizzle of honey. Remove the corn kernels and mix in. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips. My favorite brand is Xochitl totopos de maíz sold in a large paper bag. Chopped scallions make a pretty garnish.

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My parents recently transformed their diets into something much healthier. They reduced the quantity of red meat and started cooking lighter food. We used to bake fatty salmon with mayo, lemon and dill. I used a leaner salmon steak and seared it for as a low-fat preparation. We all know that salmon is healthy because of its protein content and good fats, but did you know that a 4 oz serving of wild salmon provides a full day’s requirement of vitamin D? A honey mustard sauce is high in flavor, yet low in fat. Quinoa is one of the healthiest grains available and I boosted the nutrition with some spinach. I sauteed mushrooms and peas in white wine and marsala wine to add flavor without unnecessary salt or fat. Finally, sweet potatoes are the healthiest item in the produce department, so roasting them alongside seemed like a no-brainer.

Ingredients:

Spinach Quinoa:

  • half a package of quinoa
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine
  • chicken stock (follow quinoa package directions)
  • 1 bag of Spinach
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • salt and fresh black pepper to taste
Mushrooms:
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • 1 cup of frozen peas
  • fresh thyme, de-stemmed
  • Splash of white wine of choice
  • Splash of marsala wine
  • light brown sugar to taste
  • Dash of worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic and onion powder
  • Salt and fresh black pepper to taste
Salmon and sauce:
  • Thick salmon steaks (1 per person)
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons mustard
  • 1 tablesoon tamari

Directions:

Spinach Quinoa:

Over medium heat, toast quinoa grains in a drizzle of sesame oil for 5 minutes and then add a splash of rice wine. Follow the directions on the package to cook, replacing the water with chicken stock. Sauté spinach in olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. When the quinoa is tender and the moisture is absorbed, add the spinach.

Mushrooms:

Over medium-high heat, sauté the onion in 3 tablespoons of olive oil with two cloves of garlic and salt. Wash and slice the mushrooms and add to the pan. Add fresh thyme leaves and a splash of white and marsala wine. Add some light brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper.

Salmon:

1. Heat a pan on high and sear the salmon steaks with 1 tablespoon of olive oil for about 4 minutes on each side. Both sides should be well browned and peek inside the flesh to determine doneness. The center should be bright pink, yet still flaky. To make the sauce, combine honey and your favorite mustard. I like either Dijon or something grainy. The last component is tamari, which is thicker, richer, more complex and a little less harsh and salty than soy sauce.

2. Plate the salmon steak over the quinoa and mushrooms and drizzle the sauce over the salmon. I served the dish with roasted sweet potatoes, which can be made by rubbing the skins with olive oil, salt and pepper, poking them with a fork, wrapping them in aluminum foil and roasting in a 350° oven until fork tender all the way through.

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