I mentioned awhile back that I belong to a Cooking Light group. We meet every month or so for a relatively healthy meal, and everyone contributes a dish or wine. The hostess picks the theme, and for the most recent dinner I attended, Kara chose to go Italian. Usually I walk away with one or two recipes I'd make again, but with this menu, every recipe was a keeper. It was one of our best dinners ever..
The main course, Filet Mignon with Balsamic Syrup and Goat Cheese had the deliciously contrasting flavors of a sweet balsamic syrup and a tangy goat cheese. I've grown to like Brussels sprouts, and especially like the addition of smoky, crispy prosciutto in Brussels Sprouts with Crisp Prosciutto. The Baked Risotto with Asparagus, Spinach and Parmesan was great comfort food -- and baking the risotto makes it easier than traditional risotto. My rosemary bread recipe needed tweaking, but it came together in a flash in the food processor. And the Italian Cream Cake is one of my favorite cakes -- it's moist, buttery, nutty and not too sweet. The only thing I don't like about the recipe is that Cooking Light says it makes 20 servings. As Chrissy would say, yeah, right.
Filet Mignon with Balsamic Syrup and Goat Cheese (Kara)
Recipe from Giada De Laurentiis/Food Network (video is here)
1 1/2 cups balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter
6 (5 to 6-ounce) filet mignon steaks (each about 1-inch thick)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces soft fresh goat cheese
Boil the balsamic vinegar and sugar in a heavy small saucepan over medium-high heat until reduced to 1/3 cup, stirring occasionally, about 18 minutes. (Note: I made this after this post. This sauce was like caramel before it got to 1/3 cup, and her video sure shows more than 1/3 cup. I'd say you may want to reduce it by 1/3, to 1 cup.)
Meanwhile, preheat the broiler. Melt the butter in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the steaks with salt and pepper. Cook the steaks to desired doneness, about 3 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer the steaks to a baking sheet. Crumble the cheese over the steaks and broil just until the cheese melts, about 1 minute. Sprinkle with pepper.
Transfer the steaks to plates. Drizzle the balsamic sauce around the steaks and serve.
Brussels Sprouts with Crisp Prosciutto (Jodi)
From Cooking Light, December 2003
3 cups trimmed halved Brussels sprouts (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1/4 cup chopped prosciutto (about 1 1/2 ounces)
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Cook Brussels sprouts in boiling water 3 minutes or until crisp- tender; drain. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat; add prosciutto. Cook 6 minutes or until crisp, stirring occasionally. Remove from pan; set aside. Heat pan coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add Brussels sprouts; sauté 3 minutes or until lightly browned. Add butter, salt, and pepper, stirring until butter melts. Remove from heat; drizzle with juice. Add prosciutto; toss to combine.
Note: Pull off any limp outer leaves, and closely trim the stem end- don't cut too much off, or the Brussels sprouts may fall apart. Yield: 6 servings (serving size: about 3/4 cup)
Baked Risotto with Asparagus,Spinach and Parmesan (Nancy) Nancy doubled the recipe, and added another 1/2 cup of broth. She also added the cup of white wine before the spinach and broth, then let the liquid be absorbed before adding the next ingredients.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
8 cups spinach leaves (about 4 ounces)
2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided
1 1/2 cups (1-inch) diagonally sliced asparagus
Preheat oven to 400°.
Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion; cook 4 minutes or until tender. Add rice; stir well. Stir in spinach, broth, salt, and nutmeg. Bring to a simmer; cook 7 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup cheese.
Cover and bake at 400° for 15 minutes. Stir in asparagus; sprinkle with 1/4 cup cheese. Cover and bake an additional 15 minutes or until liquid is almost absorbed.
Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 cup)
This is supposedly a copycat Macaroni Grill bread recipe. It's quick but it needs some tweaking. My notes are indicated in the recipe
1 Tablespoon dry yeast (I used 2 1/4 teaspoons instant)
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Cup warm water (105 - 115 degrees)
2 1/4 - 2 1/2 Cup white flour (used half all-purpose and half white whole wheat)
1 teaspoon salt
2 T fresh rosemary, chopped (do not used dried)
1 Tablespoon canola oil, peanut oil or olive oil
nonstick cooking spray (or parchment)
1 T. butter (I don't think I'd use this again)
Place yeast, sugar and water in large bowl or food processor and allow mixture to become bubbly. Mix in 2 cups of flour and the salt. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of the fresh chopped rosemary. Knead for about 10 minutes by hand or in food processor about 30 seconds until smooth and elastic. Add 1/4 - 1/2 cup flour as necessary.
Oil a bowl, put dough in it and cover with a towel. Let dough rise in a warm place for one hour until doubled.
Punch down dough and divide in half. Let dough rest about 5 – 10 minutes.
Spray baking pan or cookie sheet with cooking spray (I used parchment). Shape the dough into two small rounded oval loaves. Melt butter. Brush over the top of the loaves. (I'm not sure I'd use butter again -- I think it made the dough brown too quickly. Maybe water?). Sprinkle remaining 1/2 Tablespoon of rosemary over the loaves and press lightly into the surface. Let loaves rise again until doubled, about 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Lightly sprinkle course salt over the loaves. (This didn't stick for me -- I think it should go on with the rosemary before the final rise).
Bake for 20 - 25 minutes, until lightly browned (mine were done in 15 minutes).
Italian Cream Cake
Vegetable cooking spray
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup light butter
2 egg yolks
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon butter extract
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 egg whites (at room temperature)
Prepare Cream Cheese Icing (below); cover and chill.
Coat bottoms of 3 (9-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray (do not coat sides of pans); line bottoms of pans with wax paper. Coat wax paper with cooking spray, and dust with flour; set aside.
Combine sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat at medium speed of a mixer until well-blended. Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine 2 cups flour and baking soda; stir well.
Add flour mixture to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in pecans and extracts.
Beat egg whites at high speed of a mixer until stiff peaks form (do not overbeat). Fold egg whites into batter; pour batter into prepared pans. Bake at 350° for 23 minutes. Let cool in pans 5 minutes on a wire rack. Loosen cake layers from sides of pans using a narrow metal spatula, and turn out onto wire racks. Peel off wax paper, and let cool completely.
Place 1 cake layer on a plate, and spread with 2/3 cup Cream Cheese Icing; top with another cake layer. Repeat with 2/3 cup icing and remaining layer, ending with cake. Spread remaining icing over cake.
Cream Cheese Icing
1 tablespoon light butter
1 (8-ounce) package Neufchâtel cheese
1 (1-pound) package powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cream butter and cheese at high speed of a mixer until fluffy. Add sugar; beat at low speed until well-blended. Add vanilla; beat well.