Tag Archives: Cook’s Illustrated

Wilted Spinach Salad with Bacon Dressing

I LOVED this salad! I was worried that the spinach would wilt super slimy, but it doesn’t at all.

I took this recipe from Cook’s Illustrated “The New Best Recipe”.

Make sure you use baby spinach since it holds up better to a hot dressing. The cookbook also states that the thick-cut bacon offers more presence and textural interest than thin-cut.

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6 ounces baby spinach (about 8 cups)
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
pinch salt
10 ounces (about 8 slices) thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 medium red onion, chopped medium (about 1/2 cup)
1 small garlic clove, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1/2 teaspoon)
3 hard boiled eggs, peeled and quartered lengthwise

1. Place the spinach in a large bowl. Stir the vinegar, sugar, pepper, and salt together in a small bowl until the sugar dissolves; set aside.
2. Fry the bacon in a medium skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Pour the bacon fat into a heatproof bowl, then return 3 tablespoons bacon fat to the skillet. Add the onion to the skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add the vinegar mixture, then remove the skillet from the heat. Working quickly, scrape the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon to loosen the browned bits. Pour the hot dressing over the spinach, add the bacon, and toss gently with tongs until the spinach is slightly wilted. Divide the salad among individual plates, arrange the egg quarters over each, and serve immediately.
SERVES 4 to 6

Sesame Noodle Salad with Shredded Chicken

I loved the sesame flavour in this recipe. I used the 12 ounces of dried spaghetti since I could not find fresh Chinese egg noodles.  This recipe is taken from Cook’s Illustrated “The New Best Recipe” cookbook.

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1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup chunky peanut butter
2 medium garlic coves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
5 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (I used Tabasco sauce)
2 tablespoons lightly packed light brown sugar
Hot water
1 tablespoon salt
1 pound fresh Chinese egg noodles or 12 ounces dried spaghetti
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken halves (1 1/2 pounds), trimmed of excess fat
4 scallions, sliced thin on the diagonal
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated on the large hoes of a box grater (about 2/3 cup)

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1. Toast the sesame seeds in a medium skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently until golden and fragrant, 7 to 10 minutes. Reserve 1 tablespoon sesame seeds in a small bowl. In a blender or food processor, purée the remaining 3 tablespoons sesame seeds, the peanut butter, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, hot pepper sauce, and brown sugar until smooth, about 30 seconds. With the machine running, add hot water 1 tablespoon at a time until the sauce has the consistency of heavy cream, about 5 tablespoons; set the mixture aside (it can be left in the blender jar or food processor workbowl).

2. Bring 6 quarts water to a boil in a stockpot. Add the salt and noodles to the boiling water; boil the noodles until tender, about 4 minutes for fresh and 10 minutes for dried. Drain, then rinse under cold running water until cool to the touch; drain again. In a large bowl, toss the noodles with the sesame oil until evenly coated. Set aside.

3. Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to 6 inches from the broiler element; heat the broiler. Spray the broiler pan top with vegetable cooking spray; place the chicken breasts on top and broil until lightly browned, 4 to 8 minutes. Using tongs, flip the chicken over and continue to broil until the thickest part is no longer pink when cut into and registers about 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest 5 minutes. Using 2 forks, shred the chicken into bite-size pieces. Add the shredded chicken, scallions, carrot, and sauce to the prepared noodles; toss to combine. Divide among individual bowls, sprinkle each bowl with some of the reserved sesame seeds, and serve.

Zucchini Stuffed with Corn and Basil

I loved this recipe! It is taken from Cook’s Illustrated “The Best Light Recipe”. A great tip taken from this cookbook suggests to buy firm zucchini with tiny prickly hairs around the stem end as the hairs indicate freshness.  If possible, try to pick zucchini that are all the same size, with smooth bright green skin.

This recipe does take a bit of time, but it’s worth it. Leftovers are great heated up the next day too.

4 medium zucchini (about 6 ounces each), stem end removed
Salt and ground black pepper
Vegetable oil spray
1/2 cup panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs)
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 tablespoons)
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
1 medium onion, minced
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
3/4 cup frozen corn, thawed
1/4 cup minced fresh basil leaves

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position, place a rimmed baking sheet on the rack, and heat the oven to 450 degrees. Slice the zucchini in half lengthwise, then use a spoon to scoop out the sides and inner flesh of the zucchini until the thickness of the zucchini measures 1/4 inch.
2. Season the cut sides of the zucchini with salt and pepper and spray with vegetable oil spray. Lay the zucchini halves, cut-side down, on the baking sheet. Roast the zucchini until slightly softened and the skins are wrinkled, about 10 minutes. Remove the zucchini from the oven and flip cut-side up on the baking sheet; set aside. When cool enough to handle, dice 2 of the roasted zucchini halves into 1/4-inch pieces.
3. Meanwhile, combine the bread crumbs and 1 teaspoon of the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet and toast over medium heat, stirring often, until golden, about 10 minutes. Stir in 1 teaspoon of the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer the bread crumbs to a small bowl and let cool slightly; when cool, stir in 6 tablespoons of the Parmesan.
4. Add the onion and 1 teaspoon more oil to the skillet. Cover, return to medium heat, and cook until the onion is softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the remaining 5 teaspoons garlic and the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes, increase the heat to medium-high, and simmer, uncovered, until the tomato juices have evaporated, about 5 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
5. Stir the corn, diced zucchini, 2 tablespoons of the toasted bread crumbs, remaining 2 teaspoons oil, basil, and remaining 10 tablespoons Parmesan into the cooked tomato mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide the mixture evenly between the 6 squash halves on the baking sheet, and pack the filling lightly. Sprinkle evenly with the remaining toasted bread crumbs. Bake until the zucchini halves are heated through and the topping is crisp, 6 to 10 minutes. Serve hot.

PER SERVING: Cal 150; Fat 6g; Sat fat 2g; Chol 5mg; Carb 18g; Protein 8g; Fiber 3g; Sodium 480mg