Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Pasta with Garlic scapes, peas and Asiago cream sauce

Ever heard of a garlic scape? Wondering what the heck it is? Well, garlic and its relatives in the allium family, (leeks, chives, onions) grow underground, where the bulb begins its journey, soft and onion-like. As the bulb gets harder (and more like the garlic we know), a shoot pokes its way through the ground, its long and thin and very pliable and spins itself into a curled tendril. This stage of growth is the garlic scape. If the shoot is left attached to the bulb it will fade in color, becoming papery and whitish like we know garlic to be and it will stop the growth of the bulb below the surface. Farmers who want to keep the garlic growing snip off these scapes and sell them, a double whammy for the garlic farmer, sell the scapes and the bigger bulbs, win/win!

Yesterday the Husband suggested we take a trip to Whole Foods to see 'what looked good'. He's a smart man, that Husband! The Witch of course never turns down a trip to Whole Foods and was pretty darn jazzed about the whole idea.

Kitchen Witch: "Holy cow, garlic scapes! I thought I'd never see those here in Colorado!"
Husband: "What the hell are those?"
Kitchen Witch: "Garlic scapes, the shoot of the garlic plant. Its supposed to be lightly garlic flavored and delicious"
Husband: "So, you're getting them, right?"
Kitchen Witch: "Yes. However what I'll do with them is up for debate as I've never laid hands to them before, muchless cooked with them! Research is in order!!"

And it was then that I remembered that Yenta Mary, the Food Floozie, had just posted a delightful sounding recipe for Garlic Scapes, peas and pasta. It sounded amazing at the time and now that I had my own curled tendrils of garlic goodness in hand it was time to make it! Before I get on with the recipe let me take a moment to say that if you haven't checked out Yenta Mary's site yet, please do! She's a fabulous writer, awesome cook and filled with all sorts of interesting facts - as well as pronunciations of hard to say Yiddish words which will make us gentiles feel like we're kosher. Its a fun and informative site!

Back to the scapes! When I got home I realized I was out of peas. But I did have snow pea pods, so that's what I used. I also didn't have heavy cream and used half and half. The half & half did kinda curdle when it hit the white wine reduction, it wasn't pretty, but once the cheese was added it all came together in a cohesive sauce. However when making this again, and I will be making this again, I'll use heavy cream. Normally when making a cream sauce I'd use a fettuccine pasta but I was out, so fusilli filled in nicely. The spirals of the pasta helped trap some of the yummy garlic sauce in each bite.

Ok Witch, you've told us about how these scapes grow, how you got them and how you didn't have the correct ingredients but made due. Get on with the good part already: How did it taste?? Well my dear readers the taste was amazing! Garlic scapes are defiantly garlic flavored but its more mellow, not as sharp or hot as the garlic bulbs. The flavor of this dish was very reminiscent of chicken with 40 cloves, rich, mellow, carmalized and almost smoky. All that in 10 minutes. If you're lucky enough to run across garlic scapes GET THEM! Try this dish. I promise the garlic lover in your family will thank you!

Pasta with Garlic Scapes, Peas and Asiago cream sauce
Makes 2 servings
8 oz long pasta of your choice (fettuchini)
4 garlic scapes
about 20 snow pea pods OR 1/2 c fresh peas
1 T butter
1 T olive oil
1/4 c white wine
1/4 c cream
1 sprig fresh oregano
1/2 c fresh grated Asiago cheese (parmesen would be fine, too)
kosher salt

Slice garlic scapes into 1/2 inch pieces, trimming off any tough or woody ends. Slice snow pea pods into 1/4 inch slices. Rough chop the herbs.

Bring a pot of water to boil for pasta. Cook pasta according to instructions on box in well salted water. While pasta cooks prepare sauce.

Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Add butter and oil, once butter has melted add the garlic scapes. Toss to coat in fat and cook about 1 minute, until the scapes smell fragrent and are barely brown. Add the pea pods and cook 1 minute longer, garlic scapes will start to brown.

Add the wine and oregano and deglaze pan. Reduce wine by half. Add the cream, salt & pepper and Asiago cheese. Stir to melt and incorporate cheese into sauce. Add cooked and drained pasta, toss with sauce and serve.

Nutrition Factsprovided by SparkPeople recipe calculator
Amount Per Serving
Calories 703.7
Total Fat 43.0 g
Saturated Fat 23.8 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.0 g
Monounsaturated Fat 8.6 g
Cholesterol 87.9 mg
Sodium 1,043.0 mg
Potassium 124.0 mg
Total Carbohydrate 47.8 g
Dietary Fiber 2.6 g
Sugars 2.1 g
Protein 29.5 g

Friday, June 24, 2011

Java Chip Frappe

Have you tried the Starbucks VIA line of instant coffees? The Witch has, and LOVES them! They are make the perfect afternoon mug of coffee and are fabulous for baking. Anytime a recipe calls for instant espresso powder I throw in a packet of VIA, usually Italian roast, in its place. VIA is a lot easier to find and the price is a lot better than espresso powder.

One of my favorite treats from Starbucks is a Java Chip Frappucchino: coffee blended with milk, chocolate chips, mocha flavoring, topped with whipped cream and a chocolate drizzle, its fabulous! It also will run you about $4.50 for a grande, and that grande (16 oz) beverage will cost you 440 calories. But its worth it, or so I thought until I made my own.

Tribute was Starbucks 30th anniversary special blend. It was available for a limited time only and was delicious!

This frosty beverage was super simple, used ingredients I have on hand all the time and took about 2 minutes to prepare. And best of all, its around 200 calories! Into the carafe of my blender I added a packet of VIA instant coffee, milk, a touch of half and half, sugar, chocolate and ice. Now granted, my version didn't have a whipped cream and a chocolate drizzle, but, it was an amazing frappe and I saved myself $4.50 and 240 calories! Now that's witchcraft! Who needs Starbucks when you've got a Witch around?

Java Chip Frappe
makes 1 serving
1 c ice cubes
1/2 c 2% milk
Packet VIA instant coffee
1.5t cocoa powder
1.5t sugar
2T chocolate chips
2T half and half

Combine all ingredients in the carafe of a blender. Pulse to break up ice then blend until smooth and frothy, about 1 minute. Serve and enjoy!

Nutrition Facts provided by SparkPeople recipe calculator
Amount Per Serving
Calories 201.9
Total Fat 11.1 g
Saturated Fat 6.7 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.2 g
Monounsaturated Fat 1.7 g
Cholesterol 20.9 mg
Sodium 62.3 mg
Potassium 39.1 mg
Total Carbohydrate 24.8 g
Dietary Fiber 1.0 g
Sugars 20.0 g
Protein 6.4 g

Monday, June 20, 2011

Gyros with Tzatiziki sauce

Gyros is one of my all time favorite foods, ever. When I was pregnant with the Little Witch we had to pass 2 gyros places weekly on our way to Lamaze class. Needless to say we had gyros for dinner at least once a week! I love love love it!!!!

While the Witch has a well stocked and equipped kitchen, I do not have a spit or a rotisserie, which would make making gyros hard. After all its a cone shaped loaf of meat, with a large skewer through the middle that is grilled on a vertical rotisserie. Not exactly standard home kitchen equipment. So what does a Kitchen Witch do when she wants to make gyros but has no gyros rotisserie?

I decided to make the gyros meat into a loaf, much like a meatloaf, seasoned gyros style. That means lots and lots of garlic, Mediterranean herbs and spices and a blend of beef and lamb. I used a 50/50 mix of ground beef and ground lamb for cost savings as the lamb is expensive, and most gyros is a lamb/beef blend. Because it is a meatloaf I added some basic binders, 1 egg and a bit of cracker crumbs, to help hold it all together. The Witch then chucked all the ingredients into the food processor and let it all blend together well, which helps it to bind and form a cohesive loaf that won't fall apart when sliced.

When you order a gyros sandwich they shave the meat off the spit so each piece of meat is browned. Its so good, and something I didn't want to forgo in my homemade version. After the loaf cooked I removed it from the oven and allowed it to rest for about 20 minutes. I then sliced the loaf into thin (1/8 inch thick) slices and pan fried them in a bit of olive oil. The meat slices browned up nicely and got crusty and browned on the edges, just like a good gyros should be. Pile the meat onto a hot pita bread, top with tzatiziki sauce, lettuce, tomato and feta and feast!! The final browning step is optional but I'd not forgo it, the seared edges really helped transform the gyro loaf from a meatloaf to a gyro sandwich.

makes 8 servings
1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground lamb
6 cloves garlic minced
1 medium onion minced
1.5 t kosher salt
1/8 t pepper
1 sprig fresh rosemary minced
3 sprigs fresh oregano minced
1/2 t cumin, ground
1/8 t coriander seed, ground
1 egg
2 T milk
6 saltine crackers OR 1/4 c bread crumbs
3 T olive oil

Pita bread (click here for a homemade version)
Tzaiziki sauce
shredded lettuce
feta cheese
diced tomatoes

makes 8 servings, 2 T each
1 cup greek yogurt plain (Greek Gods Traditional Greek Yogurt is what the Witch used and recommends)
1/2 cucumber, grated and squeezed dry
1/2 t dried dill weed
about 6 leaves each mint and oregano, chiffonade
1 clove garlic minced
1/4 t kosher salt
1/8 t ground pepper

Combine everything into a bowl and stir well. Allow to sit for at least 1 hour before eating so the flavors can blend.

Preheat oven to 375F

Finely mince the herbs and press garlic thru a garlic press (or finely mince, your choice). Combine everything BUT the olive oil into the work bowl of a food processor. Run for 30 seconds or until the mixture forms a ball and is throughly mixed.

Form the meat into a long rectangle, (about 8 inches wide and 2 inches tall, 14 inches long) making it slightly thinner in the middle. Drizzle 1 T olive oil over the top of the loaf and bake for 35-45 minutes or until it reads 160F internally. Remove from oven and allow to rest before slicing.

OPTIONAL: Slice meat into thin (1/8 in) slices. Heat a skillet over medium high heat and add 1 T of olive oil. Once oil is hot fry the slices of gyros until they are golden browned. Flip and brown on 2nd side. Remove from pan and allow grease to drain off.

Assemble the gyros sandwiches with 3-4 slices of gyro meat, lettuce, tomato, feta cheese and tzatizki sauce wrapped in a warmed pita bread. Enjoy!

Nutrition Facts provided by SparkPeople recipe Calculator
Gyro meat ONLY
8 Servings
Amount Per Serving
Calories 371.8
Total Fat 30.3 g
Saturated Fat 11.4 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2.1 g
Monounsaturated Fat 14.2 g
Cholesterol 107.4 mg
Sodium 467.7 mg
Potassium 295.1 mg
Total Carbohydrate 2.6 g
Dietary Fiber 0.1 g
Sugars 0.2 g
Protein 20.7 g

Nutrition Facts provided by SparkPeople recipe calculator
Tzatiziki sauce ONLY

8 Servings
Amount Per Serving
Calories 35.2
Total Fat 2.8 g
Saturated Fat 1.8 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.0 g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 7.5 mg
Sodium 77.9 mg
Potassium 25.3 mg
Total Carbohydrate 1.8 g
Dietary Fiber 0.1 g
Sugars 1.5 g
Protein 1.1 g

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


My first experience with spanakopita was with my Aunt Katina. She's from Greece and these were always one of her specialties. I remember small triangles of some awesome flaky pastry with cheese and something green in them and that they were amazingly good. My mom always heated them up in our toaster oven - they were a perfect little snack! Little did I know that 'those triangle things that Aunt Katina makes' had a real name and that you could actually get them from other places than Aunt Katina! Who knew?

This recipe might not be an authentic Greek version, I don't know if they use cream cheese or Asiago cheese, my guess would be not. The Kitchen Witch uses these cheeses because, well, they're delicious and work well with the spinach. Something both versions do have in common is the use of feta cheese, its salty sharp tang is what makes this spinach pie delicious. Well, that and the filo dough, and the butter. Mmm...butter...

If you've never worked with filo don't fear it! It's not as hard as it looks. You'll find filo (or phyllo) dough in the frozen section of your grocery, where pie shells are. One box has 2 sleeves of dough in it, and you'll use less than 1/2 of one sleeve for this recipe. Allow the dough to thaw completely before using it, if its even a little frozen it will rip and tear. Been there, done that. Unroll the filo dough and cover it with a damp towel. Have your butter melted and the pan that the dough is going into ready to go. Work quickly as the thin sheets of pastry like to dry out but do not be alarmed if the dough tears. Its very thin and this is to be expected. Honestly, after its all baked no one will ever know if your pastry is pieced together because it kept ripping or if it stayed in one nice sheet. Again, I've had both happen, they both ended up fine.

Spanakopita can be made in a large pie form as I've done here, or you can make smaller appetizer sized ones by folding a bit of filling into strips of buttered filo dough and folding into triangles. Both versions can be frozen with great success. Enjoy this Greek delight!

makes 8 wedges
12 oz bag frozen cut leaf spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
4 green onions sliced very thin
4 oz cream cheese
1 cup feta cheese
1/4 c asiago cheese, grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t dill weed, dried (if using fresh double the amount)
a few gratings of fresh nutmeg or a pinch ground nutmeg
1 t kosher salt
1/8 t white pepper
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter, melted
7 sheets filo dough

Combine everything BUT the butter and the filo dough sheets. Mix well.

Preheat oven to 400F

Using an 8x8 pan butter the bottom and sides liberaly with melted butter. Lay 1 sheet of filo dough over the pan, making one edge flush to the sheet of dough and the other overhanging. Press into place and up the side. Brush that sheet of dough with melted butter. Place another sheet of filo over the 1st one, leaving another edge hanging off. Repeat 2 more times so each side of the pan has a piece of overlapping filo dough.

Spread the spinach and cheese mixture evenly into the pan.

Bring the overhanging sides up and over the cheese mixture, buttering each layer before folding the next over top.

Butter 2 full sheets of filo dough, fold in half and lay on top. Press into place. Butter top layer.

Using a sharp knife cut the pie into wedges or squares before baking.

Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Nutrition Facts provided by SparkPeople recipe calculator
Amount Per Serving
Calories 212.9
Total Fat 16.1 g
Saturated Fat 10.2 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.6 g
Monounsaturated Fat 3.9 g
Cholesterol 50.3 mg
Sodium 600.9 mg
Potassium 174.3 mg
Total Carbohydrate 11.1 g
Dietary Fiber 1.6 g
Sugars 0.5 g
Protein 7.2 g

Monday, June 13, 2011


This recipe came to me courtesy of my cooking buddy Eric. He said that kapoma, a Greek chicken stew, was a family favorite when he was growing up. I say we never had deliciousness like this when I was a kid, but I am very glad to know about it now!

This dish couldn't be more simple or delicious. Its got 7 ingredients in it, and that includes salt & pepper! I bet you have most everything in your pantry right now!

Chicken pieces are dredged in cinnamon and braised in tomato and lemon juice. It sounds odd I know, but believe the Witch, its delicious! The cinnamon is not at all dessert like, you won't think that someone somehow mixed up a cinnamon roll with your chicken dinner. The cinnamon mellows a lot while cooking, the acidity of the tomato and lemon also help take it in a new direction far away from the cinnamon in desserts that we all know and love. The sauce that results is amazing, so rich, flavorful and delicately scented with cinnamon.

I do hope you'll try this dish soon. Its become a family favorite here as well - the 4 yr old Little Witch loves it and requests it often. I'd call that a success any day!

makes 4 servings
6 chicken thighs OR 4 chicken breasts, your choice (I used boneless skinless thighs but have done it with boneless skinless breasts too. I'm sure you could use bone in meat, it would probably have more flavor in the finished dish as most bone in meat tends to be more flavorful. If using bone in adjust cooking time to 1 hr)
3 T cinnamon
1 t kosher salt
1/8 t pepper
2 T butter
29 oz can tomato sauce
juice of 1 lemon
about 1/2 c water

Mix the salt, pepper and cinnamon together. Dredge chicken pieces until thoroughly coated in cinnamon mixture.

Heat butter in a large non reactive skillet with a lid. Once butter stops foaming add the chicken pieces and sautee until browned, about 2 minutes. Flip and brown 2nd side.

Pour the tomato sauce over chicken. Add the water to the can to rinse it out and pour into the skillet as well. Add lemon juice. Bring up to a boil then reduce heat to a low simmer. Cover and simmer on low heat for 45 min to an hour.

Serve chicken with sauce over rice or orzo pasta.

Nutrition Facts provided by SparkPeople recipe calculator
4 Servings
Amount Per Serving
Calories 258.3
Total Fat 10.5 g
Saturated Fat 4.7 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.4 g
Monounsaturated Fat 3.0 g
Cholesterol 101.5 mg
Sodium 1,611.8 mg
Potassium 946.5 mg
Total Carbohydrate 21.1
Dietary Fiber 6.7 g
Sugars 8.9 g
Protein 23.3 g

Friday, June 10, 2011

Technique: Grilled Steaks

Grilling steaks seems like a relatively simple concept: hot coals meets slab o' beef, let it cook and voila, a perfectly medium cooked steak, just like your favorite steak house, right? Well how many times has it worked out for you? If you're like the Witch, that answer is not nearly enough! Usually the outside is beautifully seared, the milliard reaction done to perfection and yet the inside is raw, beyond rare OR cooked so well done that a shoe could be made from your steak. Neither of these is acceptable. Nothing is more frustrating than spending a lot of hard earned money on steaks just to mess them up in the cooking process.

Recently the Kitchen Witch purchased some beautiful thick cut top sirloin steaks. These babies were THICK, 1.5 inches or so!! Honestly I've never cooked a slab of beef this large, except in a braise, so the idea of throwing it onto hot coals and hoping for the best wasn't too appealing to me. By the time the internal temp was up to 130F (med rare) the outside would be charcoal. Not what I wanted for my beautiful thick cut top sirloins! Whats a Witch to do?

That's when I remembered a technique for cooking steaks that I heard about from America's Test Kitchen. For cuts of beef that should never be cooked beyond medium, which is pretty much everything except commercially ground beef, they suggest starting the meat out in a slow oven (250F) until the internal temperature is with in 20 degrees of your final desired temperature. So if your target temp is 135F then pull the meat out of the oven at 115F. Then you take the meat out of the oven and sear the exterior for the crusty browned deliciousness you'd expect from a good steak.

The gentle heat of the oven does a few things for your meat.

1. The internal temperature of the meat is slowly brought with in 20 degrees of finished product target temp, so when you put on the grill all you're really doing is searing the outside and getting lots of color and flavor. The heat from the grilling will bring the meat up to the proper temp, awesome sear on the outside, keeping it tender and juicy inside, since the bulk of the cooking has been done in the oven.

2. The relatively low temp of the oven also helps desiccate the meat, which may sound counter productive but, believe the Witch, it works. When you evaporate some of the surface moisture you are able to get a good sear and brown color on the exterior. Desiccating the meat also acts as slow aging process in fast forward. Removing some of the moisture concentrates the beefs flavor and jump starts the enzymes that break down the beef tissues resulting in tender and flavorful meat, much like your favorite steak house.

This technique works best on thicker cuts of meat. If your steak is less than 1 inch thick then you should be fine just grilling it directly because there is less mass to heat through. This is also a great technique to use on London Broil, a relatively inexpensive cut (it goes on sale for $2 a lb often here) and needs to be cooked to med rare/medium at the most.

Technique: Grilled Steaks
thick cut steaks (1.5 inches thick)
kosher salt
cooling rack that will fit into a sheet pan

Pat the steaks dry with paper towel. Remove as much surface moisture as possible.

Sprinkle liberally with kosher salt and pepper and allow steaks to rest at room temperature for an hour.

Place steaks on the cooling rack set inside a sheet pan and place into a preheated 250F oven. Allow meat to cook until internal temperature is 110-115F (time depends on the thickness of the meat, how long it sat at room temp, etc). Remove from oven and place immediately onto a heated grill or skillet to sear.

Cook meat until the outside is browned and the internal temperature is 135F for medium. Remove from heat and allow to rest for 5 minutes so the juices can redistribute themselves with in the meat.

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