Stella’s Garlic Cashew Dressing

garliccashewdressing

This stuff is addictive. You will be tempted to eat it with a spoon. Or pour it straight out of the jar into your mouth.

And it’s okay if you do, because it’s super healthy and packed full of good stuff, like turmeric–a powerful anti-inflammatory, packed with antioxidants, that’s good for digestive and liver problems, as well as skin diseases. Garlic, in addition to being one of the tastiest foodstuffs in existence, is also very healthy. Cashews, like all nuts, are packed with protein, and they’re also rich in iron and zinc. The FDA calls them “brainpower boosters.” Their rich, sweet flavor makes a great base for sauces and soups. I think cashews are my favorite nut (sorry, pecans!).

1 cup cashews
2 Tbsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
sea salt, to taste
water

1. In a small electric mixer or blender, mix cashews, garlic, turmeric, and half the olive oil. Stop mixing; use a spoon to scrape down any chunks from the sides of the bowl/blender. Continue mixing. Drizzle remaining olive oil slowly into the mixer.

2. Add a pinch of salt and blend some more. Taste; add more salt if desired. Mix again.

3. Add water as needed to achieve desired consistency.*

4. Pour into an air-tight container and store in the fridge.

Twists: add fresh herbs like basil or cilantro, or some curry powder for an even richer, more complex flavor.

 

*I usually use about a half cup of water per cup of nuts, but you might add more for a thinner dressing. A thicker sauce can be used as a dip for raw vegetables–mmm! I also like to leave it just the tiniest bit crunchy (see the photo below), but if you blend it a bit longer, you can make it nice and creamy-smooth.

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Buttered Sage Butternut Squash Mash

How’s that for a mouthful?

How about this, then?

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1 large butternut squash
2 Tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, chopped
handful fresh sage
~1 Tbsp heavy cream
salt, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400° F. Wash the squash well and place it on a cookie sheet or baking tray in the oven. Bake for about 45 minutes. No need to poke with a fork.

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2. Remove squash from oven. Let cool for about 10-15 minutes, then slice with a large knife. I quarter mine for easy scooping. Spoon out the seeds and guts and toss. Peel away skin (it should be bubbled and loose) and toss.

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3. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add garlic and sage and fry for about 3 minutes, until the garlic is golden and fragrant, but not burned, and the sage is just crispy. Reduce heat to low; add squash. Continue to cook until squash is warm throughout, just a couple of minutes. Add cream and stir.

4. Scrape the entire contents of the pan into a food processor, being careful to get any and all bits of garlic and sage. Purée. Return to pan and stir gently over low heat for another couple of minutes, then serve immediately.

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SO easy, rich, and delicious! You get all the flavor of butternut squash without the hassle; I enjoy this with simple, pan-fried pork sausage, sautéed in a splash of red wine.

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Serves 2.

Just scale up for more servings. I suggest making two at a time.

Habanero-Infused Olive Oil

Habanero-Infused Olive Oil

Check out this habanero-infused olive oil we threw together after our recent, massive chile harvest. Spicy! I’m hooked!

~2 cups extra virgin olive oil
4-6 fresh habanero chiles, washed

1. Wear latex gloves.

2. Choose a cutting board that is not super-absorbent (such as glass), or, even better, have a dedicated chile-cutting board. You could also line your cutting board with a plastic bag, being careful not to pierce the bag when cutting. Slice habaneros as desired and set cutting board aside.

3. Fill a glass container (Mason jar, recycled and washed olive oil or salad dressing bottle) half full (or so) with olive oil. Add the peppers to the olive oil, leaving some room for air at the top.

4. Wrap a paper towel or cheesecloth around the mouth of the jar and secure with twine (don’t use a rubber band!). Microwave the oil on high for a few seconds, watching closely, or until it comes just to a near-boil—just bubbling. Do not let the olive oil boil, or you will have a huge mess on your hands.

5. If you used a paper towel for the cover, remove it and replace with a fresh one. Turn the bottle or jar upside down and drain the oil into another container (any material will do—I used a Martha Steward plastic fridge containers!). Place in the refrigerator upside-down and allow the oil to cool until it’s solid. Discard chile hulls and seeds; we use ours for compost.

6. Remove the container and pour off any water that has separated. Allow the olive oil to return to liquid form at room temperature. Pour the infused oil back into the glass container and put the lid on. Eccola! Habanero-infused olive oil!

Mmm.

Habanero-Infused Olive Oil

I added a couple more slices to this, for extra kick and pretty presentation!

Lemon Garlic Pasta with Grilled Chicken

Lemon Garlic Pasta with Grilled Chicken

We’ve been watching a lot of Giada De Laurentiis lately, thanks to the giant flat screen TV my mother bought us for Christmas, along with the new DVR we’re paying way too much for. I’ve been a fan of my fellow five-foot foodie for a while, but she’s really been on a lemon kick lately. I recently bought a whole bag of lemons at Central Market (mainly with cocktails in mind), so all that sharp footage of lemon sauces, lemon parfaits, lemon chicken, and lemon cookies inspired me to create this simple recipe.

On Memorial Day, we made her Lemon-Cumin Chicken on the grill out by the pool, so we had some of that left over. You could use plain baked chicken breasts, pan-fried chicken, or shredded roast chicken for this recipe; whatever you prefer or have on hand. The added flavor of the grilled crust, marinated in cumin and lemon juice, really added something special to the final dish, though. Try it sometime.

This simple, bright recipe is a good pasta dish for summer; it’s creamy comfort food without being too heavy, and pairs well with chicken, shrimp, salmon, or grilled portobello mushrooms.

4 grilled chicken breasts, sliced
1 lb. capelli d’angelo pasta (angel hair)
olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or minced
zest of two lemons
juice of two lemons
1 cup heavy cream (or sour cream)
1 heaping Tbsp flour
salt, to taste
1 tsp black pepper, or to taste
grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, to taste

1. Fill a large stock pot with water, salt liberally, and add a splash of olive oil (about 1 teaspoon). Bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook for approximately five minutes, or until al dente. Test a strand to see if it’s done; if not, boil for an additional minute.

2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt butter and add sliced chicken, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat for about five minutes, until chicken is warmed through and garlic is fragrant but not burned. Add the lemon zest and juice, and cook for about two additional minutes, stirring constantly. Drizzle in cream, stirring while doing so, then add flour. Mix in with a light hand until flour is well absorbed into the sauce, and a thicker consistency begins to form. Reduce heat to low. Taste and re-season as needed.

3. Drain pasta and return to pan. Lightly toss with a little olive oil (about 1 tablespoon). Using a slotted pasta fork, plate the pasta. Pour the chicken and lemon garlic sauce out over each helping, and serve immediately.
Lemon Garic Pasta with Grilled Chicken

These pictures don’t really do justice to this dish; it’s way tastier than they make it look! I also went a bit nuts with the pasta portions sizes. Anyway, try it, and let me know what you think! If you like lemon infused savory dishes, I bet you’ll love it, too!

Fried Polenta with Creamy Mushrooms

polenta

For the polenta
1 cup polenta
2 cups water
1 tsp salt
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
olive oil

For the creamy mushrooms
2 cups cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 heaping tsp white flour
1/3 cup rosé wine
1/2 cup heavy cream

To garnish8712933926_6e65cedecf_b
balsamic vinegar (optional)
4 Tbsp finely grated parmesan
2 Tbsp pine nuts
1 handful fresh basil, shredded

Equipment
Large saucepan
Whisk
Rectangular baking dish
Large skillet
Medium skillet
Large knife

1. In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add salt. Slowly add polenta and whisk to combine. Reduce heat to low, cover, and allow to simmer for about ten minutes, stirring frequently, until water is fully absorbed. Remove from heat. Stir in one tablespoon of butter. Pour into a rectangular dish. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes on the counter top, then place in refrigerator. Cool for at least four hours, until polenta has set. To speed the process, you can cool it in the freezer for 30 to 45 minutes instead.

2. Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium-high heat (about five minutes; watch carefully and don’t let them burn!). Set aside.

3. To make the polenta sticks, turn the dish upside down on a plate or cutting board. The polenta should be fairly loose and slide out easily. If it doesn’t, gently loosen it from the sides of the dish with a splatula. Make sure it is completely cooled through. Using a large knife, cut the polenta loaf into half-inch-wide strips, then half again horizontally, so that you are left with nice polenta sticks (see picture).

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sliced

4. Melt remaining butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil. Place polenta sticks in the skillet and fry on each side until just browned, about ten minutes per side. Flip carefully with a spatula. Each piece of polenta should be ever-so-slightly crispy and golden brown.

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frying

5. Meanwhile, in a smaller pan, melt half the butter for the mushrooms over medium heat. Add mushrooms, salt, and pepper. Sauté for about five minutes, until mushrooms are just cooked. Deglaze pan with the wine, and continue stirring, allowing the mushrooms to absorb the flavor as the alcohol evaporates. Add the other half of the butter and the flour and stir continuously until a roux is formed. Reduce heat to low. Add cream and stir thoroughly for an additional two or three minutes, until cream is heated through and well mixed. You will now have a very flavorful, creamy mushroom sauce. For a thicker sauce, add flour; for thinner, add water.

6. To serve, splash some balsamic vinegar on each plate (if desired), then add the fried polenta strips, using a slotted spatula to remove them from the pan while draining off most of the grease. Top with a dusting of parmesan, then spoon the creamy mushrooms over the top. Add a sprinkling of toasted pine nuts and the shredded basil, and serve immediately.

Serves 4.

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