CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It's the mid-week lull between Christmas and New Year's Eve. We've consumed the last of the holiday leftovers in some form or other, but company still lingers -- and they expect to be fed.
After a gluttonous week of comfort food, usually featuring ham and turkey, I'm ready to spice things up a bit with some ethnic flavors. Nothing difficult or time-consuming. Mexican food always sounds good -- how about chiles rellenos casserole? The flavors of Jamaican chicken stew seasoned with curry, allspice and red pepper offer a fragrant change of pace.
If there's any shrimp in the freezer, whip up Greek shrimp scampi. The rest of the ingredients are pantry staples.
Meatballs simmered in the chicken broth of Italian wedding soup make a simple supper with a green salad and artisan bread to soak up the broth remaining in the bottom of the soup bowl.
I read a great tip on how to speed up the labor-intensive tiny meatball-making process. Shape the meatball mixture into a rope-like shape, then cut off 3/4-inch segments. Roll the segments on the counter to form balls. The recipe says to cook the meatballs in the broth, but I baked them first in a 350-degree oven for about 20 minutes.
I also boiled the pasta separately according to package directions before adding it the soup just before serving.
This is not Julia Child's beef bourguignon, but it's a simplified version that tastes pretty close, especially if served the day after it's made. The stew flavors really blend and intensify after they've been chilled, then reheated. It's important not to crowd the beef when browning, so cook it in batches. This is not the step on which to take a shortcut.
To find some flavorful favorites for this column, I pulled out my battered recipe album, (I think it's supposed to be a photo album) into which I've inserted recipes I've clipped and tried through the years. The book holds family favorites, many of which have come from the pages of Cooking Light magazine, so several of today's recipes have the added advantage of being fairly light.
And who can't use a few light recipes after all the cookies and candies, Chex mix and endless creamy dips served at holiday gatherings?
Reach Julie Robinson at jul...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1230.
Chiles Rellenos Casserole
Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 1 (3 1/2-inch) square)
1/2 pound ground chicken or lean ground beef
1 cup chopped onion
1 3/4 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 (16-ounce) can fat-free refried beans
2 (4-ounce) cans whole green chiles, drained and cut lengthwise into quarters
1 cup (4 ounces) pre-shredded colby-Jack cheese
1 cup frozen whole kernel corn, thawed and drained
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups skim milk
1/8 teaspoon hot sauce
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 egg whites
COOK chicken or ground beef and onion in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until browned, stirring to crumble. Combine chicken/meat mixture, cumin, and next 5 ingredients in a bowl. Stir well, and set aside.
ARRANGE half of green chile strips in an 11- x 7-inch baking dish; top with half of cheese. Spoon mounds of bean mixture onto cheese, and spread gently, leaving a 1/4-inch border around edge of dish; top with corn. Arrange remaining chile strips over corn; top with remaining cheese. Set aside.
COMBINE flour and salt in a bowl; gradually add milk and hot sauce, stirring with a wire whisk until blended. Stir in eggs and egg whites; pour over casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 5 minutes or until set; let stand 5 minutes.
Nutritional information: Cal 292 (29% from fat); Fat 9.5g; Iron 3.7mg; Chol 118mg; Calc 242mg; Carb 29.3g; Sodium 640mg; Protein 23.3g; Fiber 5.2g
Source: Cooking Light
Jamaican Chicken Stew
Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 1/2 cups stew and 3/4 cup rice)
1 cup uncooked long-grain rice
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
1 pound skinned, boned chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/4 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons capers
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
PREPARE rice according to package directions, omitting salt and fat.
WHILE rice cooks, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté 3 minutes or until tender. Combine chicken and the next 5 ingredients (chicken through black pepper) in a bowl. Add chicken mixture to pan; sauté 4 minutes. Stir in wine, capers, beans and tomatoes. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until tender. Serve over rice.
Nutritional information: Cal 465; Fat 5g; Iron 6mg; Chol 66mg; Cal 101mg; Carb 66g; Sodium 799mg; Protein 38.5g; Fiber 5.9g
Source: Cooking Light, 2000