Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

I still cannot believe that I lived 24 years of my life without fresh mushrooms. This perfection of nature was not widely available in Brazil when I lived there, so I was very excited to try it when I moved to the U.S.  I have not been able to stop eating it since the moment I took a first bite! 

This recipe I am sharing today is slightly adapted from a lovely Italian cookbook and it is one of the many ways I enjoy eating mushrooms. I love the fact that this Portabella caps are incredibly flavorful and that they are NOT filled with all kinds of mysterious ingredients, but simply with chopped button mushrooms, shallots, garlic, cheese, egg, bread crumbs and herbs. Simply delicious. I highly recommend it! 

This dish can be served hot or at room temperature. I recommend substituting the large Portabella mushrooms for Baby Bella mushrooms if you want to serve this at a cocktail party! 

Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms
Serves 2 


2 large Portabella mushrooms
3/4 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 button mushrooms
3/4 tablespoon of butter
1/2 shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tablespoon of white wine
1/4 cup of grated Parmesan Cheese
1/3 cup of fresh bread crumbs
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 tablespoons of heavy cream
1/2 tablespoon of fresh tarragon, finely chopped
1/2 tablespoon (and a little more for garnishing) of fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped


Preheat the oven to 350F. Wipe the Portablella with a damp cloth or paper towel, remove and discard the stems and rub the caps with a little lemon juice. Wipe the button mushrooms and chop them finely, then mix the remaining lemon juice.

On a small skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter, add the shallot and garlic and cook  until golden in color, about 4 minutes. Add chopped mushrooms and wine and cook until mushroom is tender (about 4 minutes). Remove the skillet from the heat and add Parmesan, bread crumbs, egg, cream, tarragon and parsley. Season with a few pinches of salt and freshly ground pepper (have a little bite of it so you can judge how much salt you need).

Lightly grease a baking sheet, or cover it with parchment paper. Lay the mushroom caps over the baking sheet and fill them with the filling. Bake for at least 20 minutes or until Portablella is tender.

Recipe slightly adapted from The Food of Italy cookbook.


To make the fresh bread crumbs I simply place some slices of white bread in a food processor and pulse it until you obtain crumbs. Set aside.

Clean Portabella mushrooms, remove steams, and rub caps with a little lemon juice:

Clean button mushroom, chop them finely and mix with remaining lemon juice:

Heat butter, add onion and garlic and cook until golden in color. Add button mushrooms and wine and continue to cook until mushroom is tender:

Remove pan from the heat and add cheese, bread crumbs, fresh herbs, cream and egg. Stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste:

Lightly grease a baking sheet or cover it with parchment paper. Place Portabella mushrooms on the baking sheet, add the filling and bring it into the over to cook until mushroom cap is tender (about 20 minutes or more).

Here is how they look after cooked:

Serve it hot or at room temperature. Garnish with the remaining parsley (or tarragon) and top with Parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Spinach, Radish, Blue Cheese, and Sugared Pecan Salad

Although I love eating fresh greens salads, during the Winter months I tend to gravitate towards cooked vegetables. But then I think of this salad -  velvety spinach, spicy radishes, rich blue cheese and sugared pecans- and suddenly I am all over fresh greens again! 

Could radish be any more gorgeous? Who would know it hides so much spiciness and warmth underneath its bright pink skin??

This salad is perfect for entertaining. The sugared pecans can be made up to a week in advance, and the vinaigrette can be made several hours ahead. You can also slice the radishes earlier, and when you are ready to serve the salad, just toss it all together!

Spinach, Radish, and Sugared Pecan Salad
serves 4


Sugared Pecans

1/2 cup of pecan halves*
1 teaspoon of granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon of dry mustard
pinch of cayenne pepper


1 shallot, finely chopped
1/3 cup of olive oil
2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 package of spinach (4oz)
8 radishes, thinly sliced
1/4 pound of blue cheese, crumbled


Preheat the oven to 350F. Place pecans in a sieve, rinse them and set the aside to drain. In a small bowl combine sugar, mustard and cayenne pepper. Add the pecans and toss them until evenly coated. Spread the pecan on a nonstick baking sheet and toast it in the oven until dark brown (about 10 minutes). Transfer pecans to plate and let cool. Pecans can be made up to 1 week in advance if you keep them in an airtight container at room temperature.

To make the vinaigrette simply whisk all the ingredients together. Let it stand at room temperature for 30 minutes or up to 4 hours. You can also make it the day before and keep it in the refrigerator until ready to serve the salad.

To serve, place spinach and radishes in a large bowl. Add the vinaigrette and toss until evenly coated. Top with blue cheese and the pecans.

*I used chopped pecans because that was all I had at home. But pecan halves look even better in this salad!

Recipe slightly adapted from Williams Sonoma Entertaining with the Seasons cookbook.


Rinse pecans and drain :

Combine sugar, mustard and cayenne pepper and toss pecans until evenly coated:

Toast it on a 350F oven for about 10 minutes until pecans look dark brow. Make sure to check on them often to make sure you don't burn the nuts:

Trim radishes and slice them thinly:

Whisk all the vinaigrette ingredients together: 

Place spinach and radishes in a large bowl. Drizzle vinaigrette and toss to coat:

Top with crumbled blue cheese and the sugared pecans: 

Serve it!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Almond-Chocolate Swirl Pound Cake

I absolutely love hazelnut spreads, such as Nutella. I try not to keep them around the house otherwise I would weight considerably more that what I do now.

I had been thinking about using Nutella to make a swirl cake for a long time but somehow I always manage to eat at least half of the jar of Nutella before I am ready to bake the cake. It is a vicious cycle in my life. 

Well, the other day I decided to buy a jar of Chocolate Almond spread instead of the hazelnut one. I was curious about how it tasted. Guess what? I don't think it is nearly as good as Nutella. Not even close. But in that disappointment I found my chance to finally bake that chocolate spread swirl cake I had been thinking about for so long! And although I won't be eating chocolate almond spread with a spoon anytime soon, I have to tell you that it worked great in this cake! It was actually fantastic! 

This cake recipe is a keeper! I am already looking forward to baking it again! I keep on day dreaming about its crusty outside, amazing buttery texture inside, and the delicious chocolaty swirls! Keep in mind that this cake tastes better and better as it sits. Mine last 3 days and the final crumbles were better than the first slice. 

Will will notice that I have don't have the step-by-step photos for this recipe. Well, somehow (don't ask me how!) I managed to delete almost all those photos from my camera. I am sorry!!

Chocolate-Almond Spread Swirl Pound Cake
(Makes one 9-by-5-inch loaf)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
One 13-ounce jar Chocolate-Almond Spread
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 325F.

Lightly grease and flour a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, tapping out any excess flour.

In a small bowl lightly beat the eggs with the vanilla. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt together.
Using a handheld mixer or a stand mixer, beat the butter with the sugar at medium-high speed until fluffy. With the mixer at medium-low speed, gradually beat in the egg mixture until fully incorporated. Add the flour mixture in 3 batches, until just incorporated. Continue to beat for 30 seconds longer.
Spread one-third of the batter in the prepared pan, then spread half of the chocolate-almond on top. Repeat with another third of the batter and the remaining chocolate-almond spread. Top with the remaining batter. Lightly swirl the chocolate-almond spread into the batter with a butter knife. Do not overmix.
Bake the cake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Invert the cake onto a wire rack, turn it right side up and let cool completely, about 2 hours. Cut the cake into slices and serve.
Make Ahead: The pound cake can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. This cake was even more delicious on the second and third day after baking!
Adapted from Food&Wine MagazineOriginal recipe is from “Cake Keeper Cakes” by Lauren Chattman

Layering the cake batter and chocolate almond spread:

cake batter
chocolate almond spread
cake batter
chocolate almond spread
cake batter

swirl it all with a butter knife and bake!

There aren't many things better than waking up on a Sunday knowing that you have a delicious pound cake to eat with your morning coffee. That was when I took the following picture. I can still taste it!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Childhood Chicken Stroganoff Reinvented

Stroganoff seems to be one of those dishes that are popular all around the world. Growing up in Brazil my mom used to cook it all the time. It was a meal that made the kids and adults in our family very happy!

Although there are several versions of Stroganoff, most of them consist of sauteed chicken or beef, onions, and mushrooms cooked in a mustard-sour cream sauce. Some people also add tomato sauce or ketchup to it. The Brazilian version also includes sweet corn, which I recommend adding in case your family likes it.

I made up this version with the intention of adding a more elegant flavor to this dish while keeping it simple and easy to make. I used some white wine, skipped the tomato sauce, and added equal parts of sour cream and mascarpone cheese which added a more delicate, sweet and luscious characteristic to the stroganoff. 

I loved how it turned out! And although I was nervous about serving if to my kids, they ended up loving it too! I highly recommend this for a family weeknight dinner along with some rice, noodles, mashed potatoes or polenta, and a side of salad!

A few tips:
1- Since my husband was not going to be home for dinner I used only 2 chicken fillets on this recipe. My 2 kids and I ate and I still had a little bit of left overs which my son had for lunch the next day (it was still delicious!). I would recommend that you double the recipe if you are serving 2 adults plus kids.
2- I also advise using a cast iron or other heavy bottomed skillet. 
3- When cooking mushrooms and chicken, use very high heat and don't overcrowd the pan - you want them to sear quickly and lock all their juices inside.
4- Interested in substituting the parsley for a different herb? Fresh thyme would be delicious on this dish. Add it when cooking the mushrooms or right after adding the wine and chicken broth.
5- I love eating Stroganoff with rice! Here is a recipe for the white rice you see on the photos: Brazilian Style White Rice

Childhood Chicken Stroganoff Reinvented
Serves 2 to 3
Prep time: 20 minutes  Cooking time: 25 minutes


2 chicken breast fillets, pat dry and cut into strips or cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of prepared coarse ground mustard
1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar
2 cups baby bella mushroom, sliced
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/4 cup of white wine
3/4 cup of low sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup of light sour cream
1/4 cup of mascarpone cheese
3/4 tablespoon of fresh parsley, finely chopped


Use a couple of paper towels to pat the chicken fillets dry. Cut fillets into strips or small cubes. Season it with 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper, the mustard and the vinegar (use your hands to make sure the all the chicken strips are coated with the seasoning).

Place a medium to large heavy bottomed skillet over high heat and add 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil. When oil is sizzling hot, add the mushroom and cook until they are seared (don't stir them around too much). Transfer cooked mushrooms to a plate, sprinkle it with a pinch of salt and set them aside. 

Bring the pan back to high heat, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and cook the chicken in two batches until cooked through and golden brown. Transfer chicken to a plate and set it aside.

Return pan to medium-high heat, add onion and garlic and cook until golden in color. Add wine and broth to the pot and with the help of a wooden spoon scrape all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan while the liquid boils (5 minutes). At this point add chicken and stir in the sour cream and mascarpone cheese until combined. Add mushrooms to the pot, cover it with a lid and allow it to boil over medium heat for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until sauce has thicken slightly. Try a bite and adjust salt and pepper, if necessary.


Pat chicken dry, slice it, season it and set aside:

Saute mushrooms and set aside:

Cook chicken in two batches and set aside:

Cook onions and garlic until golden brown. Add wine and chicken broth. With a wooden spoon loosen brown bits from the bottom of the pan:

Bring chicken back to the pot. Add sour cream and mascarpone, and finally add the mushrooms. Stir to combine. Cover with a lid and allow it to cook for about 8 to 10 minutes or until sauce has slightly reduced and thickened:

Turn off the heat, add the parsley and serve:

Serve it over white or brown rice, with noodles, mashed potatoes, or polenta. Make a nice salad, and dinner is done!

Want to serve your Stroganoff over white rice? Here is a recipe: Brazilian Style White Rice

Monday, February 20, 2012

Brazilian Style White Rice (Arroz Branco Soltinho)

If you walk into a Brazilian home today at lunch time, I assure you there will be rice on the table. If you go back to the same house tomorrow, I assure you there will be rice on the table again. If you happen to knock on their neighbor's door, they will be eating rice too! White rice is stapled to our plates! 

Today I am sharing all the secrets to the perfect Brazilian rice. If you follow all the steps below you will have loose, moist, and flavorful rice every time. 

Just like when you make Risotto or sticky Japanese rice, using the right type of grain is essential. I have tried to make this recipe with several of them, and I can tell you that I got the best results using Basmati rice. I hope you enjoy!

Aside from using the right rice, here are other important tips:
- using a non-stick pan is very helpful
- rinse rice thoroughly 
- after rinsing the rice, wait until it dries before you start cooking it
- use hot or boiling water
- do not stir the rice more than once or twice after you add water. Stirring makes for sticky rice, and we don't want that!
- use medium-high heat for the first half of cooking time, and than lower the heat to a simmer until rice is cooked
- only cover the pot completely shut with a lid during the second half of cooking time (when using low heat/simmer)

All those tips are better explained bellow:

Brazilian Style White Rice (Arroz Branco Soltinho)
yields 3 cups of cooked rice
Prep time: 10 minutes   Cooking time: 20 minutes


1 cup of Basmati rice, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 tablespoons of canola oil 
2 cups of boiling or hot water
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon of salt


1- Rinse rice until water runs clear. Drain it well and set it aside to dry.

2- Meanwhile boil 2 cups of water.

3- When rice is dry and water has boiled you can start the cooking process. Place a small non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil. When oil is hot add the crushed garlic and stir it around while it cooks. When the garlic starts to turn golden in color add the rice and salt to the pan.  Stir rice making sure all grains are coated with oil. Cook it for 6 minutes and then add all the hot water. Place a lid over the pot leaving some room for the steam to come out. Cook the rice for 8 minutes (still at medium-high heat). After the 8 minutes have passed turn the heat to low, give the rice one good stir, and close the pot all the way. Cook rice for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until rice is tender and all liquid evaporated. 
note: if your rice is still hard when all the water is evaporated, add a little more water until rice is tender.


Rinse rice very well and set it aside to dry:

Meanwhile bring water to a boil:

When rice is dry and water is hot, start cooking. Heat the oil over medium-high heat and cook garlic until golden in color:

When garlic is golden in color, add rice and salt. Stir it around and cook for about 6 minutes:

Add hot water (all at once):

Place a lid over the pan but don't close it all the way (leave room for steam to escape):

Cook rice over medium-high heat for 8 minutes. Then turn the heat to low, stir rice around (just once) and cover the pot completely:

Cook it for another 10-15 minutes or until all liquid has evaporated and rice is tender. Rice should be loose and look slightly moist:

Serve as a side just like you do with potatoes, pasta, polenta, etc.