Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Seafood Paella

One of the best Christmas presents Jason received (and I'm not just saying that because I gave it to him) was a paella pan!  We also gave our good friend with whom we cook quite a bit a paella pan and rice of her own.  So it was fitting that last week we had our inaugural paella making party.  Ironically, the evening we purchased the paella pan, we caught an episode of Avec Eric on Hulu where Eric Ripert prepared a simple seafood paella in his home.  We used his recipe as the primary inspiration for our own, with the omission of the fish filets and slightly less saffron (I think professional chefs have easier access to this exotic spice than us mere mortals!).

On a side note, I have become a great fan of Eric Ripert.  His show, Avec Eric, is a delight to watch as he visits chefs and friends in locations all over the world, gives us a glimpse into the inner workings of the kitchen at Le Bernardin, and then prepares a simple (for Eric Ripert) and always beautiful dish for us in his own kitchen.  Most of all, he seems like a lovely, thoughtful and creative person.  The show is on PBS, but we watch episodes on Hulu. 

The quantities listed in this recipe are perfect for a 12 inch paella pan.



SEAFOOD PAELLA

1 chorizo link, sliced into 1/4 inches
2/3 onion, diced
4 garlic cloves chopped
1 pinch saffron
2/3 tsp turmeric
2 cups short grain rice
5 cups chicken stock (approximately)
1 cup frozen green peas
12 large peeled and deveined shrimp
12 mussles
12 cockles
1 roasted red pepper sliced
1/4 cup parsley
lemon wedges

--Place the 12 inch paella pan on the stove on medium heat

--Add a little olive oil and cook the chorizo

--Add the onion, garlic, saffron and turmeric and cook until onions are just softened

--Add the rice and stir to coat the rice for about 3 minutes

--Add a cup or so of chicken stock to the rice and stir.  Continue cooking for about 15 minutes, adding stock as needed to get the rice cooked

--When the rice seems to be getting close stir in the peas then nestle the shrimp tail up in the rice and cook for about 5 minutes

--Place the mussels and cockels hinge side down in the rice so they can easily open and lay the pepper slices around the pan like spokes

--Cook for another 4 minutes or so until the mussels and cockles open

--Sprinkle with the parsley and serve with lemon wedges

Monday, December 27, 2010

Palak Tofu

Along with the Coconut Red Lentil Soup I decided to try out a tofu version of Palak Paneer.  Normally made with cheese "paneer" the dish consist of a spiced spinach and yogurt base which is pureed and dotted with the cheese cubes.  Here I substituted tofu for the cheese.  I would  have liked the dish a little sweeter and next time might actually add a dash of sugar to the spice mix.

PALAK TOFU

1/2 package of firm or extra firm tofu, sliced into 1 inch cubes
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large clove garlic
1 tsp ginger
1/2 Tbsp curry powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/3 cup fat free yogurt
3 Tbsp water

--In a pan saute the tofu in 1 Tbsp olive oil until it is browned and lightly crisp, then set aside

--In a second pan, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil and add the spices and water, stirring until the spices dissolve, then stir in the yogurt

--Add the spinach to the yogurt sauce and stir to cover until the spinach is wilted.

--Add the mixture to a food processor and process until smooth

--return the spinach mixture to a skillet and heat through with the tofu

Coconut Red Lentil Soup

I've been a little soup crazy and adapted yet another recipe from 101 Cookbooks.  I wanted to use much of what I had on hand which included red lentils, fresh ginger and golden raisins plus some of the staples including curry which I've been using much more of recently.  I thought the soup came out fantastically.  I would perhaps use a hotter curry or add a little chili pepper to add a dash more heat but we have been enjoying the soup for days.

COCONUT RED LENTIL SOUP

1 cup red lentils
1 cup green lentils (or yellow split peas)
7 cups water
1 carrot diced
2 Tbsp fresh peeled and minced ginger
2 Tbsp curry powder
2 Tbsp butter
8 green onions sliced thinly
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup tomato paste
1 14-oz can coconut milk
2 tsp salt
chopped cilantro

--Rinse the lentils

--Put lentils in a large stock pot, add the water and bring to a boil.

--Reduce to a simmer, add the carrot and 1/4 of the ginger and simmer until the green lentils are soft

--Meanwhile, in a small dry sauce pan, toast the curry powder lightly and set aside

--Heat butter in a pan over medium heat and add half the green onions, the ginger and raisins and cook for about 3 minutes while stirring

--Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for another 2 minutes

--Add the toasted curry powder to the lan, mix and add all of this to the soup along with the coconut milk and salt

--Simmer for another 20 minutes or so, until the flavors meld nicely

--Serve sprinkled with green onions and cilantro

Friday, December 24, 2010

Roasted Pork Loin with Pickled Raisins

Another recipe from the Food & Wine entire year of recipes 2006.  The original called for a veal loin but we didn't know how well that would go over with the group so instead we used 2 - 3lb pork loins.

ROASTED PORK LOIN

2 Tbsp rosemary leaves plus 3 sprigs broken into 3-inch pieces
2 Tbsp thyme leaves, plus 8 sprigs
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Two 3-pound pork loins
Salt and fresh ground pepper
6 Tbsp butter cut into 6 pieces
24 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

Serve with:  
   Pickled Golden Raisins
   Chestnut Stuffing with Fennel

--In a bowl, combine the rosemary leaves, thymes leaves and 2 Tbsp olive oil

--Put pork loins in a baking dish and rub all over with the herb oil.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

--Remove the pork from the fridge an hour before cooking

--Preheat the oven to 375

--Arrange the rosemary and thyme sprigs on the roast and scatter the garlic around the meat.

--Cook for about an hour until a meat thermometer inserted in the center registers 140-145

--Let rest at least 10 minutes then slice and arrange on a platter, spooning a bit of the juice over the meat.

Chestnut Stuffing with Fennel

While a little labor intensive this dressing was well worth it.  Chestnut, pancetta and fennel are three of my favorite winter flavors.  The recipe came from the  Food & Wine entire year of recipes 2006.

Any rustic or country bread will do, the less dense the bread (like ciabatta) the shorter the time to make the croutons.  Also, make sure to have a large bowl on hand for the crouton mixture.  My largest glass mixing bowl just barely was able to hold everything. 

CHESTNUT STUFFING WITH FENNEL

1 1/2 pounds day old bread, crusts removed, bread torn into 1 inch pieces (I used a few day old ciabatta loaves from the co-op)
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp fennel seeds
4 oz pancetta, sliced 1/8 thick and then diced (if you ask at the deli counter, they will cut the pancetta to the correct thickness)
1 small fresh rosemary sprig
1 dried arbol chili, or other red chili, stemmed and halved
1 small onion finely chopped
1 small fennel bulb finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
salt and fresh ground pepper
1 Tbsp lemon zest** note, if zesting always make sure you are using organic citrus
3/4 dry white wine
2 1/4 cups chicken stock**  homemade or low sodium
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 10-oz jar of chestnuts, coarsely crumbled**  I ended up buying, roasting and peeling my own chestnuts which was fine but took longer than I had expected
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 Tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley

--Preheat the oven to 400

--On a baking sheet toss the bread with 1/2cup olive oil, spread bread in a single layer and toast in oven for about 15 minutes, stirring once, until golden brown.  The ciabatta I used needed less than 15 minutes, a denser bread will require 15.

--Leave the oven on

--Let the croutons cool then transfer to a large bowl

--In a small skillet toast the fennel seeds over medium heat until fragrant and golden, about 2 minutes.  Transfer to a mortar or spice grinder and coarsely grind

--In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil. 
--Add the pancetta and cook over high heat until crisp, about 3 minutes. 
--Lower heat to medium and add rosemary and chili for 1 minute.
--Add the onion, fennel, fennel seeds and thyme and season with salt and pepper
--Cook stirring for about 8 minutes
--Discard the rosemary and chili
--Add the lemon zest

--Add the mixture to the bowl with the croutons

--Take the large skillet just used and heat over high.  Add the wine and bring to a boil to scrape up any browned bits left in the pan.  Boil about 4 minutes, or until reduced to 1/3 cup.
--Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil
--Pour the hot stock mixture over the croutons and toss

--Wipe out the skillet.  Add 3 Tbsp butter and the chestnuts and cook over medium-high heat, stirring until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.**  Since I roasted my own chestnuts I eliminated this step and just added the chestnuts straight into the dressing

--Add the chestnuts to the dressing, season with salt and pepper and let cool completely.

--Add the eggs and parsely and toss well.**  make sure the crouton mixture has cooled or you will scramble the eggs

--Transfer the stuffing to a 9-by-13 inch baking dish.  Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake for another 20 minutes or so, or until crips on top.

Pickled Golden Raisins

Serve these pickled golden raisins along side a roasted pork loin.  Or just snack on them on their own.  Delicious. 

PICKLED GOLDEN RAISINS

2 tsp yellow mustard seeds
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
3 Tbsp champagne vinegar
1 dried arbol chili, or other dried red chili, stemmed and crumbled
1 bay leaf
1 1/3 cups golden raisins
3 thyme sprigs
1 small rosemary sprig
1 teaspoon kosher salt

--In a small sauce pan,toast the mustard seeds over medium heat, shaking the pan until the seeds just start to pop, about 2 minutes

--Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer until liquid has reduced by half, about 8 minutes

--Let the raisins cool completely and drain them before serving

Roasted Baby Beet and Blood Orange Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette

This recipe is adapted from the Girl & The Fig cookbook.  Jason and I and two good friends had an amazing lunch at the Girl & the Fig while vacationing in Sonoma last February, and the cookbook appeared in my easter basket!

This is a great winter salad, although instead of the watercress it calls for, which we simply couldn't get our hands on, we used arugula, and some gorgeous yellow beets.  It was a lovely start to the meal and Jason plated it beautifully.



ROASTED BABY BEET AND BLOOD ORANGE SALAD WITH CHAMPAGNE VINAIGRETTE

Makes 10 servings

6 large beets
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup champagne vinaigrette
3 blood oranges, segments only (supreme)
8 oz arugula (approximately)
salt and pepper
parmesan, thinly shaved

--Preheat oven to 350

--Place beets on top of tin foil, cover with the olive oil, fold the foil into packets and place on a baking sheet and bake for about 1 hour

--Cool enough to handle, then peel off the skins and slice the beets into thin slices

--Toss the arugula with the champagne vinaigrette

--On the plate, lay down 2-3 overlapping slices of beet with a pinch of salt and pepper

--Lay 3-4 blood orange segments along the top of the plate

--Top the beets with a mound of arugula and garnish with the shaved cheese

Champagne Vinaigrette

We served this vinaigrette with a beet, arugula and blood orange salad.

CHAMPAGNE VINAIGRETTE

2 1/2 Tbsp champagne vinegar
1 tsp minced shallots
1 tsp dijon mustard
2 tsp sugar
5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

--Combine the champagne vinegar, shallots, mustars and sugar in a bowl

--Slowly whisk in the olive oil

--Season with salt and pepper

Thursday, December 23, 2010

HAPPY HOLIDAYS

Wishing everyone a very happy and healthy holiday season!

Holiday cooking begins in earnest this afternoon and I can't wait until after the holidays to share our Christmas Eve feast.

Love, happiness and good food for all in 2011!!!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Favorite Food Books of 2010

Grist shared a list from the likes of Michael Pollan, Ruth Reichl and other foodie/activist/farmer types of their favorite food books of  2010.  You can check out the list here

I have The Dirty Life on hold through my library system and second on my list of to reads is Free for All: Fixing School Food in America a history of school lunches (unappetizing I'm sure).

On a slightly different bent but still talking about sustainability, I heard a great interview on NPR's World View today with John Vucetich with the Isle Royale wolf-moose research project  He discussed not only his research there but touched upon a host of issues revolving around environmental sustainability and ethics.  You can find a link to the podcast here.

Lima Bean Soup with Celery and Carraway

I came across another recipe I just had to try at 101 Cookbooks.  I made a couple of changes but think that it turned out great.  The caraway and celery is an incredible flavor combination.  We have a big batch of the soup to get us through the better part of the week.

LIMA BEAN STEW WITH CELERY AND CARRAWAY

3/4 lb frozen lima beans (substitute 3/4 lbs of any bean you would like)
Scant 2/3 cup olive oil
2 large heads celery, with leaves, trimmed and cut into 3/4 inch pieces
2 bunches scallions, green and white parts sliced
8 garlic cloves thinly sliced
2 tsp carraway seeds, lightly crushed
sea salt
28 oz chopped tomatoes, drained
celery salt (homemade, see previous post)
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 1/2 cups water
oil cured black olives, pitted and chopped
thin lemon slices

--Heat the scant 2/3 cup olive oil in a large pot on med-high

--Add the celery, stir to coat and cook for about 10 minutes

--Add the scallions, garlic, carraway and some salt.  Cook for another 15 minutes, until everything is softened

--Add the tomatoes and 2 tsp celery salt and cook for a few minutes

--Add the beans, water and stock

--Bring to a simmer, season to taste with salt

--Serve bowls topped with chopped olives and a squeeze of lemon

Celery Salt

I came across a recipe that called for making your own celery salt.  I thought it was a great idea, especially since I seem to be looking for celery salt while I'm cooking recently, never have it and always forget to buy some at the store.

--Preheat over to 250

--Pick the leaves off of a head of celery.  Dry the leaves if you have recently washed it, the leaves need to be as dry as possible

--Lay leaves out on a baking sheet and cook for 15 - 20 minutes, until the leaves are crispy

--Crumble leaves and combine with equal parts salt.  Discard any leaves that didn't crisp.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Borlotti Beans with Woody Herbs

Ever since he had borlotti beans in a restaurant for his birthday dinner with my parents at Anteprima my husband has been obsessed with borlotti beans and trying out this recipe for borlotti beans with woddy herbs from Tyler Florence.  He had a little trouble finding dried borlotti beans, and finally found them in the hispanic food section of our local chain grocery store (we didn't try the italian shops which probably would carry them as well).  Borlotti, or cranberry beans, are a beautiful mottled white and red when raw, turning brown with cooking and are a favorite in Tuscan cooking. 

This recipe was quite a hit served alongside roasted multi-colored baby carrots from the co-op and a fennel rubbed pork tenderloin.

BORLOTTI BEANS WITH WOODY HERBS

1 cup or so dried borlotti beans, soaked overnight
1 onion quartered
1 carrot cut into large chunks
1 celery stalk
3 garlic cloves
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 fresh thyme sprigs
2 fresh sage sprigs
1 small fresh rosemary sprig
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
2 cups chicken stock
salt and pepper

--Rinse and drain the soaked beans, cover again with water and cook until tender.  These beans took a much shorter time to cook than cannellini or garbanzos

--Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped

--Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a large pot (lecreuset dutch oven worked perfectly) over medium heat

--Add the herbs and cook for 2 minutes

--Add the chopped vegetables and red pepper and cook until vegetables are soft

--Add the beans, bay leaves, chicken stock and rest of olive oil

--Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook about 20 minutes

--Season with salt and pepper

--Discard bay leaves and any large herb stems before serving

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Curried Chicken Salad with Spiced Garbanzo Beans

I'm into spices right now.  I came across this recipe from Gourmet, August 2008 and had to try it.  I think this dish is one of my favorites of the year.  It is wonderfully complex yet simple to make, especially when using a rotisserie chicken.  I have issues with the rotisserie chicken.  I love it for its simplicity and cost-effectiveness!  However, I cannot get the same information on how and where the chicken was raised.  I'm doing my best to be as conscious an eater as possible, but I'm not perfect.  You could always buy a chicken from a trusted source and roast it yourself!

CURRIED CHICKEN SALAD WITH SPICED GARBANZO BEANS

For the Chicken Salad:
1 medium onion chopped
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp curry powder
1 Tsp ground cumin
1 cup chopped tomatoes (I used Pomi brand which were very good and did not come in a can)
1 cup plain, fat-free yogurt
2 Tbsp cilantro chopped
1 rotisserie chicken, most meat coarsely shredded
1 cup red grapes, halved
1 1/2 tsp salt

For Garbanzo Beans:
2 cups cooked garbanzo beans (I use dried beans, you can also use canned, just rinse them)
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp salt

Curried Chicken Salad:
--In a large pan, sautee the onions, garlic and ginger in the olive oil over med-high heat until softened, about 5 minutes

--Add the curry, cumin and salt and sautee another couple of minutes

--Add the tomatoes and cook over med-high heat until the sauce starts to thicken, about 5 minutes

--Transfer to a bowl and add the yogurt, cilantro and chicken.  Let cool to room temperature

(When I know I'm cooking for the week, I will cook in my dutch oven so instead of transfering to a separate bowl, I can finish the dish directly in the dutch oven and store it directly in the fridge)

Spiced Garbanzo Beans:

--Heat oil in pan over med-high heat

--Add the garbanzo beans and cook for about a minute, stirring to coat in the oil

--Add the cumin, turmeric, cayenne and salt and cook, about 2 minutes, until the pan is dry

--Cool to room temperature

To serve:  Add some grapes to a bowl, the garbanzo beans and the chicken salad

Monday, November 29, 2010

Tea for Colds

In addition to my soup, I'm sipping lots of spicy good tea.  Here's one I came up with:

3 cups water
2 in piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
1 Tbsp loose licorice root tea
1/2 organic lemon cut into quarters
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cayenne
a dash of cardamom
1 cinnamon stick broken in half

Simmer for about 10 minutes, strain and enjoy

Turkey Leftovers - Spicy Turkey Lentil Soup

I still seem to be fighting off a cold.  Nose running, achey, all the good stuff.  I wanted tomake a dish with all the healthy, immune enhacing, cold-fighting spices I could and came up with a great way to do so and use up the last of the leftover Thanksgiving turkey.  Ginger, garlic, turmeric, cayenne and curry powder wrapped up in a nice warm broth with lentils and turkey for protein sounded perfect. 

1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 onion, diced
2 celery stalks
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves minced
2 in piece of ginger, peeled and minced
1 Tbsp curry powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 cup chopped tomatoes
8 cups water
1 cup red lentils
any leftover turkey bones
chopped turkey meat
salt

-- In a large soup pot heat the oil, add the onions, carrots and celery with some salt and sautee about  5 minutes

--Add the garlic and ginger and sautee about 2 more minutes

--Add the curry, cumin, turmeric and cayenne and stir in about 2 minutes

--Add the chopped tomatoes and stir

--Add the 8 cups of water, the turkey bones and lentils and simmer for about 30-45 minutes.  The bones will come out, I'm just adding them here for extra flavor.  Instead of water you could use chicken or vegetable stock.  I only had chicken on hand and didn't want to mix my poultry

--Continue to taste and season as necessary.  At the end, pull out the turkey bones and add the chopped turkey meat to warm through.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Turkey Leftovers - Turkey, Cream Cheese and Cranberry Sandwiches

Turkey leftovers.  Lots of leftovers.  That's what happens when the moms decide to cook not 1, not 2, but 3 entire turkeys.  They wanted to make sure that there would be enough for leftovers.  I think they succeeded.

Luckily, I was able to enjoy my favorite post-thanksgiving turkey treat

Bread
Leftover Turkey
Cream cheese
Leftover cranberries

Make a sandwich, it's delicious.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Gluten Free Macaroni and Cheese

My sister-in-law had her baby last week!  A beautiful, healthy little boy.  They are home safe and sound and yesterday Jason and I went over to hang out and cook some food for the evening and into the rest of the week.

My sister-in-law is gluten-free and most of the time, especially when you cook a lot at home, a gluten-free diet can be adhered to without feeling like you are missing out!  However, when it comes to hearty comfort food, staying gluten-free is sometimes difficult.  She wanted something warm and filling, so Jason and I decided to adapt Tyler Florence's recipe for the Ultimate Mac and Cheese into a gluten-free, turkey bacon substituted version.  He called for just one type of cheese, but we ended up with a mix of four! 

And it was delicious.  The cheese blend was outstanding and the pea, onion, turkey bacon topping made the dish.  For those of you who eat pork, I might go with real bacon, but the substitution worked out great!  We made a giant double batch (2-3qt baking dishes worth), ate some last night, took some left overs home for us and left more than an entire pan for the new parents! 

A couple of notes,
1)  We bought the pre-shredded cheese from whole foods.  It is the only place I have ever seen shredded fondu cheese.  Feel free to subsitute whatever cheeses you would like.
2)  I like Ancient Grains Quinoa pasta.  It comes in a light blue box and can be found at Whole Foods, Dill Pickle Co-op and even stores like Strack and VanTil. 
3)  Bear in mind this makes 2 - 3qt. baking dishes of deliciousness.  I would recommend cutting the recipe in half or even in 1/4th.  It is very rich and a little bit goes along way.  One dish full of this is probably going to give 12 servings. 
GLUTEN FREE MACARONI AND CHEESE - Double Batch!

2 pounds gluten free elbow macaroni
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
4 cups shredded fondu cheese (gruyere and swiss)
4 cups shredded mild cheddar
6 Tbsp butter
3/4 cup rice flour
8 Tbsp corn starch
1/2 gallon 2% milk
1/2 cup chopped parsley
6 slices turkey bacon thinly sliced (substitute pork bacon if you like!)
1 onion diced
1/2 bag frozen peas
1-2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 garlic cloves minced
salt and pepper

--Preheat over to 400

--Bring water to a boil (we had to use two pots for all of this pasta), cook pasta as recommended and drain.  I find with gluten-free pastas you want to make sure they are quite al dente or they can fall apart.  This brand I use seems to hold up quite well.

--Mix all of the cheeses together in a large bowl (if you are using only 1 type of cheese you do not need to worry about this step)

--In a large sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat (you will be adding all of the milk and most of the cheese to this pan so make sure that it is large enough)

--Add the rice flour and cornstarch and whisk until the mixture begins to darken (you are essentially making a gluten-free roux)

--Add the milk and continue whisking until everything is dissolved and the sauce begins to thicken slightly

--Add 7 1/2 - 8 cups of the mixed cheeses to the pot and continue whisking until it becomes a lovely cheesey sauce.  Reserve the last 2 - 2 1/2 cups cheese for sprinkling at the end.

--Stir the chopped parsley into the cheese sauce and season with salt and pepper. 

--Fill both of the baking dishes about part way with pasta.  Begin spooning the cheese sauce over the pasta and mixing as you go.

--Continue adding pasta and sauce to the baking dishes until they are full.

--Sprinkle the leftover shredded cheese over the baking dishes

--Bake the pasta for about 30 minutes.  With two batches we had a dish on the top rack and one on the bottom.  Toward the end we switched them so that both were able to get nice and browned on the top.  Let sit to cool for a few minutes

--Meanwhile, sautee the turkey bacon in a pan

--Once crispy, remove, add a little oil to the pan and begin sauteeing the diced onion and garlic.  Strip the leaves off the thyme sprigs and add.  (turkey bacon doesn't give off any fat, if you are using real bacon you should not have to add any oil, in fact, you may want to pour off some of the bacon fat before adding the onion)

--Add a couple of cups of the thawed green peas to the onion sautee and mix until heated through.

--Once the onions are softened, return the bacon to the pan and remove from the heat.

--Serve a dollop of the macaroni and cheese sprinkled with some of the onion, bacon, pea mixture.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

FRENCH ONION SOUP

It spontaneously turned into Bistro Night at our house yesterday evening.  Braised chicken with carrots, onions and fennel and roasted fingerling potatoes served as the main course with a Pinot Gris.  The starter was my first attempt at homemade french onion soup.  I love french onion soup and am frankly surprised I have never tried it before.  The results were very good.  In retrospect there were a few changes I would have made and I have included them here.  One thing to bear in mind is that this recipe does take about an hour and a half to prepare.  My onions weren't browning and I just had to let them go for over an hour.



FRENCH ONION SOUP

4 Tbsp butter
6-7 (a bit over 2 lbs) sweet vidalia onions, sliced thinly into half moons
Fresh thyme
1/4 cup sherry
2 cups chicken stock
4 cups beef broth
salt and pepper
french baguette, cut into thick slices on the diagonal
grated gruyere cheese

--In a dutch over, or other heavy pan, melt the butter over medium heat

--Lower the heat to med-low and add the onions, the leaves of 1-2 sprigs fresh thyme and salt.
--Cook the onions until they start to brown.  This took me literally over an hour.  Be patient. 

--Once they have started to brown, add the sherry and cook until the sherry has evaporated

--Add the chicken stock and beef broth and simmer for about 30 minutes.  Continue tasting and adjusting with salt and pepper as necessary

--Turn on the broiler and place 1 baguette slice per soup bowl on a baking sheet

--Broil the bread for croutons about one minute

--Ladle the soup into over-safe bowls.  Place the baguette, toasted side down in the soup.  Top with the grated gruyere and place under the broiler for just under two minutes

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Spicy Thai Soup

I was feeling a little under the weather today.  When that happens I often crave soup.  And when my throat is a little sore, and my stomach a little funny, I want spicy, delicious soup!  Usually, that's a Tom Yum.  There is no Tom Yum that compares to the soup they serve at Spoon Thai, but I figured I would try something similar that I could make at home.

So while this isn't really an authentic Tom Yum, it is an amlagamation of a few recipes I found online along with a little inspiration.

SPICY THAI SOUP

6 cups chicken or vegetable stock (ideally homemade, preferably low-sodium and organic if not)
1 stalk lemongrass, tough outer leaves removed, sliced into 1/2 - 1 inch chunks on the bias
2 Tbsp fish sauce
1 large chunk ginger grated
2 tsp red chili sauce
1 cloved garlic crushed
zest of 1/2 a lime
juice of 1 lime
1/2 can straw mushrooms rinsed and halved
1 head baby bok choy chopped, stems and leaves separated
1 red bell pepper sliced thinly
1/2 small onion sliced very thinly
1/2 can coconut milk
cilantro

**optional - tofu
--In a large stock pot bring the stock to a boil

--Add the lemon grass, fish sauce, ginger, chili sauce and garlic and reduce to a simmer until all the flavors start to meld together

--Add the mushrooms, bok choy stems, pepper and onion slices and continue to simmer

--Add the coconut milk and bok choy greens, simmering for just a few more minutes

--Ladle into bowls and serve with fresh chopped cilantro on top

**throughout the process I was constantly tasting and adjusting seasonings.  The ratios listed above are approximately what I ended up using.  You may prefer more or less of any of the ingredients.  You may also want to add a dash of sugar to combat some of the spice.

Late Harvest Greens Pasta

I recently read a wonderful book, The Season's on Henry's Farm.  Literally, it is the story of a year in the life of a small, sustainable, family farm in Central Illinois.  Appropriately, the book starts in November and gives a glimpse into the day to day workings of a small producer, the story of the family themselves and their history, recipes and incredible insight into the life cycles of vegetables and herbs.

One of the most interesting tidbits I picked up from the book had to do with greens.  In my mind, I think of most greens as a spring and early summer delight, while knowing I will see kale and some of the hardier greens throughout the summer.  What I didn't consider is that greens can continue to be grown and harvested into the late fall.  The book discussed how the late fall greens are often an overlooked culinary delight.  Because of the lateness of the season and cool weather, the flavors of the greens are even more concentrated than in the spring.  I guess it makes sense.  We know that the most flavorful wine grapes are often grown in stressed conditions to concentrate their flavors, a kind of survival of the fittest. 

With this idea in mind I came across a pasta dish using late fall greens on the website 101 Cookbooks that I had to try.  I played a bit with her original recipe and was really happy with the results.  As an added bonus I threw in some rotisserie chicken pieces for a more wholesome meal that both of us loved.  It was also a great way to use up some greens and cheese I had in the fridge. 

LATE HARVEST GREENS PASTA  

1/2 bunch kale
Equal amount arugula
2 cloves garlic peeledand sliced in half
2 shallots peeled and sliced in half
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup goat cheese
12 oz gluten free rotini (I used gluten free, feel free to substitute your favorite here)
salt and pepper
lemon juice
**optional - chicken

--Bring a large pot of salted water to boil

--Add the garlic and shallots and boil for 2-3 minutes

--Add the kale and cook for another 30 seconds

--Using a slotted spoon remove the garlic, shallots and kale and transfer to a food processor

--Add the oil and cheese and process until smooth.  Add a little bit of the pasta water if needed to thin out the sauce

--Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice and set aside

--While the water is still boiling, add the pasta and cook until al dente

--Drain and toss with the green sauce

**optionally, add in some chicken pieces.  We had a rotisserie chicken that we added to the dish on the second day that was delicious.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Savory Rosemary Parmesan Squares

We adapted this recipe from The Provence Cookbook.  It was written as a recipe for madeleines, but since we had no madeleine pan we tried it with a square muffin pan.  We brought them to a houswarming party and I think they were quite the hit!  Personally, I prefer the savory to the sweet, even when it comes to baked goods, so I plan on revisiting this recipe frequently.

SAVORY ROSEMARY PARMESAN SQUARES

1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup nonfat plain yogurt
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 Tbsp finely minced fresh rosemary leaves
Food Processor
12-Square muffin tin or 24 mini madeleine molds

--Preheat the oven to 425

--In a food processor, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, egg and yogurt and blend thoroughly

--Add the cheese and herbs and blend

--Spoon the batter into the muffin tins, filling only about 1/2 way

--Place the pan in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes, until firm and golden

--Remove from the oven and let the squares cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before turning them out and letting them cool further

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Savory Baking - Olive Oil and Fresh Rosemary Cake

Jason made this recipe for the first time a couple of weeks ago from Mario Batali's Babbo cookbook.  We are not traditionally bakers but this recipe has changed all of that.  I'm not much into sweets but the sweet savory nature of this cake is incredible.  Batali describes it as perfect for a late afternoon visit with a glass of vin santo.  I would agree

OLIVE OIL AND FRESH ROSEMARY CAKE

4 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
**1/2 tsp salt - the first time we made this recipe we felt it was a little salty, we cut back to slightly less than a scant tsp the second time

Preheat the over to 325.  Butter a 10 inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl crack the 4 eggs and beat with a hand mixer about 30 seconds. 

Add the sugar and continue to beat until the mixture is very foamy.

With beaters running slowely drizzle in the olive oil.

Gently fold rosemary into batter.

In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.  With the beaters on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture.

*Note - all of the above can be done with an electric mixing bowl if you have one

Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes.  Test doneness by inserting a toothpick to see if it comes out clean.

Let cake cool briefly in the pan then tip out onto a cake rack or just a plate if you don't own a rack.

This cake kept for over a week wrapped in tin foil.  We ate it for breakfast, for a snack and as a dessert with guests.  I think this will be a staple of the holiday season.

Spicy Squash and Lentil Salad

This dish is the black bean and pumpkin burrito of 2009, an instant hit.  I found this recipe on http://www.smittenkitchen.com/

SPICY BUTTERNUT SQUASH WITH LENTILS AND GOAT CHEESE

1 butternut squash peeled, seeded and cubed into about 1in. cubes
    **save the seeds for roasting
3/4 cup lentils
2 Tbsp plus 1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp hot smoked paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese (plus more for sprinkling if desired)
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar

Preheat oven to 400

Toss squash cubes with 2Tbsp oil, the cumin, paprika and salt. 

Line a baking sheet wth tin foil, arrange squash and roast for about 20 minutes.  Flip cubes and roast for another 15 minutes or so, until tender.

At the same time, soak lentils for about 10 minutes in a bowl of water and drain.

Cook lentils in boiling water until tender, but not too tender, about 30 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water.

Combine the squash, lentils, goat cheese, vinegar and 1 Tbsp olive oil.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Beet and Potato Soup

OK, so it's been months and months since I posted.  I regret that I didn't get to document and share all the wonderful cooking we did this summer, but sometimes that's how it goes.  I aspired to live every second to the fullest this summer and enjoy the outdoors to the best of my ability, and given the gorgeous summer, sitting at my laptop just never happened.

But fall has arrived full force, and grad school, so my inside time has increased dramatically.  And with grad school comes fiscal awareness and a renewed pledge to cook all our food, as easily and simply as possible (most days), to waste as little as possible, and still enjoy delicious meals.

This soup got us through more than a week, filling in meal gaps here and there.  The gift of a peck of beets I received made this a no-brainer.

ROASTED BEET AND POTATO SOUP

2 lbs beets - scrubbed, peeled and diced
1 lb potatoes - peeled and diced
2 shallots - chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
A few sprigs of thyme
Salt
Pepper
6 cups broth (vegetable or chicken, low-sodium)
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
Sour Cream (optional)

Preheat over to 400

Toss the beets, potatoes, thyme, olive oil, salt and pepper together

Line a baking sheet with tin foil and bake the mixture about 45 minutes, until the beets and potatoes are cooked through. 

Remove thyme and add vegetables to soup pot along with the broth and bring to a simmer.  Using an immersion blender, blend the mixture until desired consistency.

Stir in vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Striped Bass with Jalapeno Vinaigrette and Polenta

Once again, I have to apologize for not blogging!  The long summer nights, bike rides, socializing with friends and incredible summer heat have all conspired to keep me out of the house and off of the computer!

I have plenty to catch up on including homemade rhubarbeque sauces, smoked pork shoulder and homemade pickles just to name a few.  And I'll get to all of it (eventually)!

This past Friday evening after a long hot day of working out, biking, trying to get in some tanning at the pool and house cleaning J and I decided to take it easy, stay home and cook ourselves a great meal.  J has been checking out cookbooks from the library which is actually brilliant.  You can test drive the recipes without having to commit to purchasing and our neighborhood library seems to have a great selection on-hand.  The past couple of weeks we've had Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill Cookbook.  I have really come to enjoy Bobby Flay and his style of cooking and to appreciate the complicated and subtle combinations he is so good at.

The original recipe called for a poblano vinaigrette but as we couldn't get poblano peppers at the co-op and didn't realize we were out of honey we tweaked it a bit.  The recipe also called for a side of yellow pepper hominy which we adapted using instant polenta, fresh corn kernels and baby red peppers. 

The whole thing came out incredibly.  I would definitely put it up there with one of our best meals.  We did everything inside on the stove which was perhaps a mistake in a home with no central air during a heat wave but ended up being well worth it!

PAN SEARED STRIPED BASS WITH JALAPENO VINAIGRETTE AND PEPPER CORN POLENTA

For the jalapeno vinaigrette:
2 jalapeno peppers
3/4 Tbsp dark molasses
2 cloves garlic minced
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil

Roast the peppers, put in a sealed bowl to let the skins steam, remove skins, destem and seed and chop roughly

Add all ingredients to a small food processor and blend.  Set aside

For the striped bass:
***A note on fish, find yourself a fish monger you like and trust.  We love Dirk's Fish on Elston.  Dirk himself is always there smiling, chatting and handing out samples.  They are committed to sourcing from safe fishing practicers and let you know what's in season.  I never question the quality of what I'm getting and was thrilled to see fresh striped bass, head on and all, in the display case and watch it be filleted to order. 

2 fillets of striped bass (about 1/2 lb total)
salt and pepper

Season the fish with salt and pepper and fry up in a hot pan on the stove.  Here's the secret, just let the fish sit there for a few minutes to cook in peace before you flip it!

For the polenta:

1/2 cup instant polenta
2 spring onions, diced
4-5 mini bell peppers, chopped
2 ears corn, kernels cut off the cob
Approx. 3 oz grated white cheddar cheese
Butter
Olive oil
salt and pepper

Cook the polenta as directed.

In a pan, heat the oil and saute the onions with salt and pepper until starting to soften.  Add the garlic and peppers and continue to cook.  Add the corn and cook for another couple of minutes. 

Add the vegetables to the cooked polenta, stir in a little butter and grate in the cheese.

To Serve:

Drizzle a little of the vinaigrette on a plate.  Set down the fillets and top with the rest of the vinaigrette.  Add a side of the polenta.

We poured a slightly oaked chardonnay with hints of pineapple from Kali Hart.  Typically, this is not my favorite style of chardonnay, but the pineapple in the wine worked perfectly with the heat of the jalapeno.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Miso Dressing

1 Tbsp miso paste
3 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1/4 tsp sambal

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tuscan Club Sandwich

It's been awhile since I've posted!  The last month has been busy, flying by.  I'm working on slowing down time but it's been hard recently. 

Memorial Day kicked off with visits from all my "Colorado Cousins" and their kids.  Super fun.  Followed immediately by my birthday weekend!  The husband threw me a lovely party with some lovely gifts and a shabby-chic antique china theme!  All the guests were asked to bring me a plate or place setting of antique china.  My dream!  Now that I have the beginnings of a beautiful collection, I need to find somewhere to store everything.  The dining room table isn't a long term solution.

J did all the cooking for my b-day party, and served the most fabulous new sandwich that he has dubbed the Tuscan Club.  Seriously delicious.

TUSCAN CLUB

chicken breasts marinated for an hour or two in yogurt, garlic, mustard and oregano
english muffins
prosciutto
pesto
arugula

Grill the chicken breasts and let cool.  Slice thinly.

Toast the english muffins.  Spread pesto on one half.  Top the english muffin with a few slices of chicken, a half (or full) slice of prosciutto and a handful of arugula.

I will admit I was somewhat skeptical of the english muffin sandwich.  I have no idea why since I absolutely adore english muffins, I guess in my mind they were relegated solely to breakfast food status. 

The sandwiches were a huge hit and a new go-to dish.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Asparagus and Mushroom Risotto

What better in spring than an asparagus risotto?  Very little.  A relatively simple risotto recipe using leftovers in the fridge that made for a delicious and simple dinner.  I added the pre-cooked vegetables to the risotto at the very end which preserved the freshness of their flavor.

ASPARAGUS AND MUSHROOM RISOTTO

1/2 large bunch of asparagus, cleaned and sliced on the diagonal
4 oz or so shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1/2 cup white wine
chicken stock (feel free to sub. vegetable or mushroom stock)
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 white onion
1 shallot
olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
salt
pepper
fresh grated parmesan
lemon zest
handful chopped parsley

In a small sauce pan, add the broth and heat over Low

Prepare a bowl with ice water.  In a larger sauce pan bring heavily salted water to a boil.  Add the asparagus and blanch until bright green (just a couple of minutes).  Submerge in the ice water to stop the cooking, drain and set aside.

In a sautee pan, heat a little olive oil and sautee mushrooms until their liquid is released and reabsorbed.  Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large stock pot heat oil and butter over Medium-High.  Add the onion and shallot, season with salt and pepper and cook until onions have softened. 

Add the arborio rice and sautee, stirring constantly, until rice becomes translucent.

Add white wine and cook, stirring constantly, until liquid is absorbed.

Add warmed stock one ladle at a time, stirring the whole time.  Once liquid is absorbed, add the next ladleful.  Continue stirring and occasionally tasting to test the texture of the rice.

When rice is almost done, stir in asparagus and mushrooms, continuing to stir.  Grate in some lemon zest and a healthy dose of parmesan.  Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed. 

Turn off heat and stir in fresh parsley.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

2010 Chicago in May


This is a picture of the last time I was on my bike (and yes, I realize I'm not really on the bike, but it's the only picture I have and I was transitioning from bike to run).  2003 Memphis in May Triathlon.  2003.

Fast forward 7 years, 2010 Chicago in May.  J and I got our bikes tuned up and we're ready to ride.  We've committed to making bike riding our primary mode of transportation outside of work.  We did our Saturday and Sunday errands and wine tastings all on bikes this weekend.  It's amazing how pleasant it is not sitting in traffic.  It's also amazing how much thinking biking in the city requires and how little thinking I must do when driving a motor vehicle. 

Two glorious days so far of riding.  I think it's going to be a good summer!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Perfect Spring Lunch

So today is a little chilly and overcast, but not so bad that you still can't have lunch out on the porch.


Sandwiches on pieces of a baguette from Cook Au Vin with a little prosciutto, soft pecorino and a big handful of arugula drizzled with a dash of olive oil and sprinkled with a little lemon juice.  A side of sauteed spinach and a few slices of fresh radish with a dash of salt.

J enjoyed a glass of Les Heretiques 2008 while I had a glass of sparkling lemon water.

Now off for a bike ride!

With a Little Help from My Friends...

I am proud that I have been able to incorporate exercise into my regular daily routine.  A lot of that has to do with being able to fit in workouts at lunchtime these days.  But having friends to support you and participate with you helps keep things going.  My co-worker and I hit the gym at lunch as many days of the week as we can.  A few weeks ago a friend and I ran an early morning 5k.  Friday night I was lucky enough to have a friend join me for a yoga class at the gym and then grab an early bite to eat.  This morning I caught up with an old friend over a jog through the neighborhood.

What a difference it makes.  Thanks to all of my running/lifting/yoga friends out there!  Summer's here, who's ready for a bike ride?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Fiddlehead Ferns (or why I should be accompanied when grocery shopping)

I love to grocery shop, I always have.  I hate shopping for clothes, accessories, makeup and all the other things women typically adore.  But roaming the aisles for food, I could do it for hours.  As you may have noted from my previous posts, I am in heaven since the opening of the Dill Pickle Food Co-op.  Everything my culinary heart desired under one roof just minutes from my house.

The co-op provides me a source for new and varied products, spices, fruits and vegetables.  This was the first year I've cooked with ramps and today I purchased something I don't think I've even seen in person, fiddlehead ferns.



A quick glance through my cookbooks proved that I do not have a single recipe for the strange looking spring vegetable.  I did find an entry for them in The Flavor Bible, as follows:

Season:  Spring
Taste:  Bitter
Weight:  Medium
Volume:  Moderate-Loud
Techniques/Tips:  Always serve cooked:  blanch, boil, sautee, steam

Sounds about right for a very strange looking spring vegetable that is not routinely seen in your run-of-the-mill grocery store.

The Flavor Bible actually provides quite a list of recommended flavor pairings.  The bolded or highly recommended flavor pairings include sweet butter, cheese: comte, goat, parmesan, onions, pasta, vinaigrettes and vinegar: balsamic and sherry.  The BOLDED CAPITALIZED (very highly recommended) pairing is wild mushrooms.

Luckily I also grabbed a handful of shiitake mushrooms and a leek.  I'm going to see what a bit of internet research combined with a bit of ingenuity help me come up with in the next couple of days...

***Editor's Note:  A day or two later I did find a recipe for fiddlehead ferns in From Asparagus to Zucchini put out by the Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition (MACSAC). 

Pineapple Strawberry Smoothie

I've been incorporating fruit smoothies into my breakfast routine this week.  I randomly bought a pineapple last week at the co-op and managed to acquire a bunch fo strawberries over the weekend.  Combined with Cascade Farms Low Fat Yogurt, flax seeds and bee pollen it makes for a great start to the day.

PINEAPPLE STRAWBERRY SMOOTHIE

1/2 cup yogurt
1/2 cup halved strawberries
1/2 - 3/4 cup chopped pineapple
1 Tbsp flax seeds
1 tsp bee pollen
filtered water

Add first 5 ingredients and desired amount of water to blender and process.  Add more or less water to achieve desired consistency.

Arugula

The other beautiful sign of spring, fresh, local arugula.

My husband and I both love arugula, and I will admit we sometimes succumb at off times of the year and pick up the pre-packaged arugula from the grocery store.  In the middle of winter it seems to satisfy, but eating my first local batch last week, I was reminded of the futility of arugula at any other time of year.

The co-op was selling arugula from City Farm in Chicago.  A simple salad of arugula dressed with a dash of oil, lemon and salt was all I needed.  I felt like I had never tasted anything so fresh. 

The only way we'll eat even more locally is when we harvest the arugula I have sprouting on the dining room window sill!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ramps Done Two Ways

In the past several weeks I have been experimenting with that harbinger of spring, the ramp.  The co-op is selling foraged ramps from Wisconsin and I can't stop buying them.  I've also seen them in Whole Foods.  I've tried to versions, sauteed and pickled.  Here are the simple recipes for both!

SAUTEED RAMPS

Clean ramps.  Slice bulbs and stems.  Chop greens roughly.

Add oil to a sautee pan.  Add bulbs, stirring.  When softening add the stems.  When both are softened add the greens until wilted.  Delicious. 

You can also just sautee the greens which I did with the leftovers after making my pickled ramps.  I don't think I even added any salt and pepper!

PICKLED RAMPS  (makes 1 qt. jar) - from Michael Symon's great cookbook, Live to Cook

3-4 bunches (3-4 ramps each) ramps
2 cups white vinegar
salt
2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 bay leaf
1 jalapeno pepper (alternately, the first time I tried this recipe I used 2 dried ancho chilis sliced instead of jalapeno since I was out of jalapeno)

In a sauce pan bring the vinegar, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, bay leaf and jalapeno (or other hot pepper) to a boil and let simmer about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool.

Clean the ramps and remove the greens, leaving the bulbs and stems intact.  If you need to separate the bulb and stem so they fit in the jar go ahead.  Set the greens aside and use later as a sauteed green.

Meanwhile in a larger sauce pan bring several cups of heavily salted water to a boil.  Add the ramps and cook for about 2 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

Clean and sterilize your jar.  Pack the ramps in the jar and fill with the vinegar mixture.  You want to make sure the vinegar mixture has cooled to room temperature before adding to the jar.  Conversely, I have also kept the jar soaking in hot water.  However you do it, you want to minimize the temperature differential between the vinegar solution and the jar to prevent the glass from cracking.

Fasten the lid finger tight and set out the jar cools to room temperature.  Store in the fridge for up to a month.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mexican Black Bean Salad

I served this salad alongside my Turkey Tacos.  Delicious and healthy.  You can also serve it over romaine lettuce

MEXICAN BLACK BEAN SALAD

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 can petite diced tomatoes with zesty jalapeno (in tomato season, use fresh tomato, but I wouldn't risk it now)
4-5 radishes
1 large orange bell pepper diced
1 cucumber diced
1 jalapeno diced
juice of 1/2 lime
cumin
coriander
cayenne pepper

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.  Let sit for awhile to let the flavors meld.  Serve alongside Turkey Tacos!

Turkey Tacos for Cinco de Mayo

For over a week I have been craving Mexican food, Cinco de Mayo working on my subconscious!  I had some frozen ground turkey meet in the fridge and figured a great way to use it up would be to make some turkey tacos.  A quick trip to the co-op for a variety of vegetables, a delicious Cascade Farms sour cream and a stop by Strack & VanTil for the tortillas and shredded cheese and I was in business.  Turkey tacos with sauteed zucchini and bell peppers, a variety of toppings and a side of black bean salad.

Over the years I had developed a disdain of turkey meat.  Thanksgiving is my least favorite holiday from a culinary standpoint and I let that color my feelings toward eating the bird at any time of year.  But my experimentation with the turkey burger and mini turkey meatloaf muffins has been quite successful so I am starting to change my ways. 

The most labor intensive part of this meal was chopping up everything for the bean salad and taco toppings.  My next step is to develop my own taco seasoning mix.  The pre-packaged mix I had stashed in my cupboard is delicious, but after the list of spices there are a significant number of ingredients I don't recognize. 

TURKEY TACOS

1 lb ground turkey meat
1 package taco seasoning
Corn tortillas

Heat a skillet over medium heat.  Add the turkey meat and stir in taco seasoning.  Cook until meat is nice and browned.

Heat oven to 200 and throw a few tortillas on a sheet to warm.

SAUTEED VEGETABLES

1 zucchini sliced
1 large orange bell pepper cut into slices
salt
cumin
cayenne
chili pepper

Heat oil over medium heat in a sautee pan.  Add zucchini and bell pepper slices.  Season liberally with salt, cumin, cayenne and chili pepper (at this point I had run out of coriander while making the bean salad or I would have added that as well).  Cook thoroughly, until all veggies are softened.

TURKEY TACO TOPPINGS

Chopped green onion
1 roasted poblano pepper, cut into strips (roast the poblano just like you would a red pepper)
Chopped cilantro
Shredded taco cheese
Sour cream (I recently tasted the Cascade Farms brand and love it)
1/2 avocado sliced
lime wedges

Take your tortilla, top with turkey meat and whatever vegetables and toppings your heart desires, serve with a side of black bean salad and enjoy!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Ramps, the Sweet Scent of Spring

Spring has become my favorite season of the year.  It used to be summer, when everything was already green and lush and bountiful.  However, over the last couple of years I have come to appreciate the anticipation of summer, the first small signs that winter is ending.  The first of the local produce that starts popping up elates me and with the co-op I'm getting the freshest and localest produce around. 

And what I've been doing this spring is going crazy for ramps.  This is the first year I have ever bought and prepared my own ramps.  They are a funny creature, kind of a blend between a green onion and garlic with a good measure of earthy funk thrown in. 

They stink when they're raw.  I highly suggest buying them immediately before consuming.  I can't imagine what they would do if left in your refrigerator overnight.  They stunk up the car with just a 20 minute side trip.

But cooked they are amazing.  I've been sauteeing both the bulbs and the greens and mixing them into an isaeli couscous as well as having them bulked up with some sauteed spinach greens.  And I just finished my first ramp pickling (just a refrigerator pickle, I haven't delved into the hot water canning yet). 

Maybe it's because Chicago really seems to be giving us a spring this year.  Maybe it's my 4 day work week.  Maybe it's that my condo is really at its best during these in between seasons, not too hot, not too cold, but front and back porches open with a slight breeze blowing through.  But I've been happier the last month than I've been in a long time.  It has a lot to do with taking pleasure from even the smallest things.  Like ramps.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Israeli Couscous with Ramps, Asparagus and Mushrooms

J is planning a spring wine dinner in a couple of weekends and we had been discussing an israeli couscous salad to serve with the main course.  As a result, I had israeli couscous on the brain and luckily it is sold in the bulk section of the co-op (aside: can you tell I love my co-op?  Love it.)  Sticking to a nice seasonal theme, a strong desire to buy some ramps and some leftover mushrooms from the mushroom pate I made for bookclub we came up with this side dish.

The dish was delicious.  I could eat it every day.  Unfortunately, I can only get ramps and decent asparagus for a short part of the year, so I'll eat my fill now and look forward to next spring.

ISRAELI COUSCOUS WITH RAMPS, ASPARAGUS AND MUSHROOMS

1 cup israeli couscous
1 bunch asparagus, cut on the diagonal into 1 - 1 1/2 inch slices
4-5 large white mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1 bunch ramps (about 4-5) bulbs separated from the stems
olive oil
lemon juice
champagne vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

In a sauce pan combine israeli couscous and 1 1/2cups water.  Bring to a boil and then simmer until the liqiud is absorbed, slightly more than 10 minutes.

Slice the ramp bulbs and stems like you would a green onion.  Coarsely chop the greens and set aside.

In a sautee pan heat 1-2 tbsp olive oil.  Add the sliced ramp bulbs and stems and sautee for a couple of minutes, add a little salt and pepper.  Add the asparagus and mushrooms and continue to sautee, again adding a little salt and pepper.  Once softened, add the ramps greens and cook until they start to wilt.  Squeeze about a half of a lemon into the pan and add a splash of champange vinegar and continue cooking until the sharpness and acidity of the lemon and vinegar has mainly cooked off.

Mix the sauteed vegetables with the couscous and serve.

Asparagus Soup with Garbanzo Beans

I found this recipe through some internet searching on About.Com: Local Foods.  Kind of a strange place for me to be pulling recipes from but it was really good.  The chickpeas give it a creaminess without any actual cream or dairy.  And I happened to have hydrated some dried garbanzo beans earlier in the week and had leftovers that needed to be used.  I tweaked a couple of the ingredients slightly and added tabasco to my leftover portions for a little extra kick.

ASPARAGUS SOUP WITH GARBANZO BEANS
1 bunch asparagus
2 cloves garlic, minced and separated
4 cups homemade chicken stock (or a low sodium, organic prepared vegetable or chicken stock)
7 oz (about half a can) of garbanzo beans
salt
1/2 cup parsley
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp lemon zest
fresh ground black pepper

Rinse the asparagus, snap off any tough ends and separate the tips and stalks

In a stock pot bring the chicken stock to a boil. 

Add the asparagus stalks, 1 clove minced garlic, the chickpeas, salt and simmer until asparagus is very tender, about 5-8 minutes and let cool for a couple of minutes

Meanwhile, mince the parsley and combine with the remaining garlic clove, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, black pepper and salt.  Set aside.

When the asparagus it tender, using an immersion blender, process the soup until smooth (if you don't have an immersion blender, process in a regular blender in batches and return to pot).  Return soup to a simmer, add the tips and cook about 3 minutes until the tips are tender.

Ladle into individual bowls and serve topped with the parlsey gremolata

Spring Menu: Asparagus Soup, Israeli Couscous and Grilled Chicken

A leisurely Saturday with no plans often results in a delicious home cooked meal for J and I.  Tonight I was craving a nice seasonal spring menu.  And since it was to be our activity for the evening, I wanted to make a few different dishes.  I had some leftover hydrated garbanzo beans that needed to be used, and some California asparagus (I couldn't resist).  After some discussion and a little research we came up with:

Asparagus Soup with Garbanzo Beans

Israeli Couscous with Ramps, Asparagus and Mushrooms

Grilled Chicken with a Shallot and Mustard Sauce

It was delicious, the israeli couscous a particular hit, with leftovers for the next day or two.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tuna Salad with Garbanzo Beans and Vegetables

Variations on this dish are one of my favorite springtime dishes.  All winter the food I eat needs to be warm, but with the warmer weather my body and mind can finally handle some cool salads.  For this recipe I always use my only brand of tuna, Genova.  It's pricey but well worth it.

Dried garbanzo beans, soaked overnight, drained, rinsed and cooked until tender, about 1 1/2 hours (I soaked more than I needed for this dish, and then used leftovers for hummus)
1 3oz can Genova tuna (or other tuna packed in oil)
1 red bell pepper, diced
1-2 stalks celery diced
1-2 radishes diced
1-2 tsp capers
lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste (not much salt since the tuna I use is a little salty)
fresh parsley

Mix in a large bowl and enjoy!

Linguine with Spring Vegetables and Cream

Sunday J came up with a creative new dish with some ingredients we had around the house.  Although the title involves cream, it is a very, very light cream sauce, barely a coating.  We had it for a main course but it could also be served as a side dish to a larger meal.  The dish was really delicious and lovely for a leisurely lunch served with a glass of Roussette de Savoie called Altesse from Domaine Giachino.

LINGUINE WITH SPRING VEGETABLES AND CREAM

1/2 lb linguine
1 Tbsp butter

dash olive oil (so butter doesn't burn, less than a Tbsp)
6 stalks asparagus chopped
1/4 red bell pepper diced
3 leftover grilled baby portabella mushrooms, diced
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp rosemary garlic rub (rosemary, garlic powder, salt)
scant 1/4 cup half and half
1/4 cup white wine
handful of shredded parmesan cheese

In a large pot of boiling water cook the linguine until al dente

In a sautee pan, heat oil and butter.  Sautee over high heat the asparagus, mushrooms and peppers and season with black pepper, red pepper flakes and rosemary garlic rub.

Add the wine and cook until alcohol is gone (you can smell this) but some liquid remains.

Reduce the heat and add the half and half and parmesan cheese. Stir vigorously and remove immediately from the heat.

Add the pasta to the sautee pan and toss together.

Steamed Vegetables, Brown Rice and Miso Dressing

A dish I've now made twice in the course of the last couple of weeks.  One cup brown rice, 1 1/2 cups water, bring to a boil then lower to a simmer for 20 minutes.  In the meantime chop up vegetables of your choice (I used carrots, red bell peppers, some adorable little baby bok choy they had at the co-op last week) and steam them, adding the toughest vegetables first, the carrots, then the bell peppers and bok choy stems, then finally the bok choy leaves.  I also had half of a red onion which I sauteed and added to the mix.

So really, a simple rice and veggies dish.  But, the best part is a new miso dressing I made.  Delicious and perfect for a nice simple meal like this one.

MISO DRESSING:

1 Tbsp miso paste
3 Tbsp lite soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1/4 tsp red chili paste

whisk together and serve over you rice and veggies.  Leftover dressing will keep in the fridge for a few days.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

How Much Ham Can One Woman Take?

Through a strange (and perhaps cruel) twist of fate, I found myself this week in possession of an 8 lb ham.  This, after eating ham on Easter and bringing home leftovers that we just finished.

However, I cannot bear to waste food and so last night I baked the ham, maple glaze and all.  I have a wedding to attend this weekend and am concerned about how bloated I will be after the consumption of this much pork and sodium.  I plan to bring a good portion of the ham to work to share!

Earlier in the day I had come across a recipe for Tabasco Quinoa on 101 cookbooks.  I figured a healthy dose of quinoa and veggies might help counteract the pork overdose.  The idea of adding butter to my nice healthy dish turned me off, so I adjusted the recipe a bit, using very little tabasco butter but ramping up the straight tabasco and adding roasted red peppers in with the asparagus.  The smokey flavor of the roasted peppers is a really nice compliment to the pork and helps add a new dimension to the quinoa itself!

TABASCO, ASPARAGUS AND ROASTED RED PEPPER QUINOA

4 Tbsp butter room temperature
Tabasco (start with 15 drops and move up from there)
1 tsp lemon juice
2-3 tsp dijon mustard
1 cup quinoa
1/2 lb asparagus cut into 1-2 in slices
2 red peppers
salt and pepper

For the Tabasco Butter:

Cut the butter into slices and blend in a food processor.  Add tabasco, the lemon juice and mustard and continue to blend.  Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.  Set aside.

Rinse the quinoa.  Combine the cup of quinoa with 2 cups of water and bring to a boil.  Lower to a simmer and cook until all the water has been absorbed, 15-20 minutes.

Set up a bowl with water and ice.  Steam the asparagus for just a minute or two, until the asparagus turns a beautiful, bright green.  Shock in the cold water bath to stop it from cooking.  Drain.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Turn the broiler on High and roast the two bell peppers, turning until the peppers are charred on every side.  Put the peppers into a covered bowl to steam which helps loosen the skin from the peppers.  Once they are cool enough to handle, peel off the skins and remove the seeds.  Chop the peppers into thin slices approximately the same length as the asparagus.

Add a tablespoon of the tabasco butter, the asparagus, red peppers, salt and pepper to the quinoa and mix well.

Spring Bounty

The Co-op gets deliveries on Tuesdays and Fridays and I've quickly learned that those are the best days to shop, especially when looking for produce.

After months of pathetic looking veggies, my shopping experience yesterday was heartening!

There was rutabaga, skinny asparagus, that while not local, was at least grown in the USA, enormous shallots and greens that were not limp.

And so while today it might not exactly feel like spring (a high of 50 after being in the 70s???) it's only going to keep getting better.  After a long winter of roasted, sauteed or baked vegetables, I was able to buy some lettuce mix.  I'm craving a nice, raw salad.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Spring has Sprouted!

It's spring and lots of things are sprouting around my house.  First of all, I am starting mixed lettuces, arugula, basil, oregano and thyme all from seeds!



The arugula and lettuces are going crazy, the herbs are taking a little longer to start.

I have also sprouted lentils!  I have been wanting to try sprouting different legumes.  The lentils sounded easy and seemed like they would make a tasty snack.   To sprout, take your lentils, pick out any dead beans, and rinse well.  Put the lentils in a Ball jar and add water to cover the beans by about an inch.  Take a piece of cheese cloth, or honestly I just used a paper towel and screw the lid ring over it.  Place the lentils in a cabinet overnight.

The next day, pour off the liquid, rinse the beans a few times and then put back in the jar for another overnight in the cabinet.  After about a day or two you'll start to see sprouts starting.  Continue to rinse every day until eventually your sprouts are an inch or so long.  Then they're ready to eat!


I tossed some with a little salt and pepper as a snack.  They were even better added to a salad and are full of vitamins and minerals.

Easter Sunday 2010

We had a very nice, uncharacteristically mellow Easter Sunday!  J and I offered to help and created a delicious easter menu.

BAKED HAM

RISOTTO WITH MIXED MUSHROOMS, LEEKS AND PEAS

ASPARAGUS WITH GOAT CHEESE AND ARUGULA SAUCE

Recipes to follow soon!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Farro Risotto

J has been talking for weeks about wanting to make a risotto using farro instead of the usual arborio rice.  The dish has been tasted by him, me, my mother and one of my co-workers and everyone gave it rave reviews!

The farro is nutty and earthy, and yet consistency-wise the dish comes off much lighter than the typical risotto.  The shiitake mushrooms went perfectly with the farro and this was a great way to use the Upton's Naturals Italian Sausage-Style Seitan we picked up at the co-op. 

FARRO RISOTTO

1 1/4 cups farro
32 oz homemade chicken stock (or vegetable stock for an entirely vegetarian dish)
1 - 2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 large spanish onion diced
6 oz shiitake mushrooms sliced
2 garlic cloves minced
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 tsp dried herbs de provence
pinch (abt 1/2 tsp) crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 package (4 oz) Upton's Naturals Italian Style Sausage-Seitan
1 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup grated pecorino romano
large handful chopped parsley
salt and pepper
squeeze fresh lemon

In a small sauce pan, warm the stock over low heat.

In a large pan, heat oil over medium/medium-high heat.  Add onions, salt and pepper lightly and sautee until translucent.

Add shiitake mushrooms and garlic, stirring while sauteeing for about 3 more minutes or until the mushrooms start to wilt.

Add farro and continue cooking for about 4 minutes.  Add white wine and cook until wine almost entirely evaporates.

One ladleful at a time, add the stock to the farro mixture and stir until liquid is almost absorbed.  Continue adding stock 1 ladle at a time, allowing the farro to absorb most of the liquid until the farro puffs up and breaks the husk, taste for consistency.  For this recipe we used all but almost 1 ladleful of the 32 oz.

Midway through adding the stock, add the red pepper flakes and herbs de provence.

Near the end, in a separate sautee pan, brown the italian sausage-style seitan.

When farro is desired consistency, remove from heat, stir in the cheese, parsley, 1 Tbsp butter and seitan.

Salt and pepper to taste and add a squeeze of lemon!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Free Therapy

OK, I'm getting there.  After a frustrating Monday instead of going home and feeling sorry for myself I got home, lounged for a few minutes and then went for a run.  Outside.  In 46 degree weather. 

It felt great, it made me smile.  Halfway back on my route down Logan I really had the feeling that no matter how bad things get, at least I could always run.

Not that things are that bad, or really barely even worth mentioning in the grand scheme of things, but I think I'm getting hooked after all these years of trying.  Or it's just spring fever, but I'll take it!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Wild Rice Pilaf

A lovely accompaniment to our turkey quinoa muffins!

WILD RICE PILAF

2 carrots peeled and diced
1/2 small red onion diced
1 large celery rib diced
1-2 small cloves garlic
olive oil
1 cup wild rice
3 cups water
handful cilantro chopped
salt and pepper

In a sauce pan combine the wild rice and 3 cups of water.  Bring to a boil and simmer covered for about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a sauce pan heat 1-2 Tbsp olive oil.  Add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic, season with salt and pepper and sautee until the vegetables are softened.

When the rice is done cooking combine the rice with the vegetables and stir in the cilantro.

Quinoa Turkey Muffins with Wild Rice Pilaf

I had seen a recipe for quinoa turkey burgers that I've been wanting to try, especially since the success of my last turkey burgers.  We decided to try making little quinoa turkey muffins to have for the week.  I had a bag of wild rice that I've been waiting to do something with, and along with some carrots, mushroom, onions and celery it made a delicious pilaf!

QUINOA TURKEY MUFFINS

Makes 12 muffins
1/2 cup dry quinoa
1 cup water
1 lb ground turkey
1 egg
1 packet dried onion soup mix
worcesteshire sauce
black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375

For the quinoa:
Rinse the quinoa.

Put the quinoa and water into a sauce pan and bring to a boil.

Cover and simmer until all the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes

For the muffins:
In a large bowl mix the turkey with about 2/3 of the quinoa (I felt like cooked, all of the quinoa was going to be too much)

Whisk an egg and add it to the bowl with the turkey along with the packet of soup mix, a few shakes of worcestershire and some black pepper.

Scoop the mixture into the 12 muffin tin.

Bake for 25-30 minutes

Friday, March 19, 2010

Breakfast Fruit Smoothies

I have never really been a fruit eater.  It's not my style.  But last summer, at the peak of blueberry season I froze a bunch to use throughout winter.  Well, it's March and I never made that mid-winter blueberry betty I was talking about and I figured I should probably use up these berries before it's blueberry season again (I have hoarding tendecies, I know).

In the interest of health and gluten-free breakfast alternatives, I have decided to explore the smoothie.

I also don't eat bananas.  They literally make me gag.  I can't do it.  But, I discovered that a frozen banana in a smoothie is definitely palatable!  I wasn't sure how it would go so I bought a single banana for this experiment.  I also bought some containers of greek yogurt to use as well.

BANANA BERRY SMOOTHIE

1 frozen banana
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 cup frozen blackberries
1/2 cup frozen raspberries
1 Tbsp flax seeds
1 Tbsp vanilla agave

The berry proportions are approximate.  Combine it all in a blender and enjoy!

YOGURT BERRY SMOOTHIE

1 small container greek yogurt (I used a vanilla flavored yogurt because that's all they had that day at the co-op, in general I'm not really a big vanilla fan)
1/2 cup frozen blueberries

1/2 cup frozen blackberries
1/2 cup frozen raspberries
1 Tbsp flax seeds
Water to thin

Friday, March 12, 2010

Something to Consider

Why a Big Mac Costs Less than a Salad:

Interesting piece in the NYTimes that I pulled from the EWG.org site. 

Slightly off topic, and slighty on a rant, as a society, those who can need to start making food choices based on considerations outside of cost only.  It takes a committment and, more money, but it can be done.  Change the way you eat and shop.  In my household we've made a big shift toward eating primarily locally sourced, grass-fed, free-range etc. etc. meats.  In other words, expensive meat.  And as a result we just eat less of it, just as the food pyramid and pretty much any other reasonable diet guidelines recommend.  Which doesn't make fresh fruits and vegetables less expensive.  But you know what, locally sourced (when possible) and organic, fresh produce tastes better.  It does.  And if you live in a major metropolis like Chicago you can get your hands on it without going too far out of your way.  Take a note from the Europeans, buy in small quantities and shop more frequently.  You'll get to know the people selling you your food and you'll end up with less veggies rotting in the fridge.

http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/09/why-a-big-mac-costs-less-than-a-salad/

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Chickpea Stew with Spinach and Chorizo

With plans to have dinner with our good friends Kristie and Aitor on Saturday, we browsed the cookbooks for meal ideas.  With some inspiration in mind, we walked over to the co-op to see which recipe we would be able to pull off from the selection of meats and veggies they had available.  Our co-op has a great bulk section and I couldn't resist buying several cups of dried garbanzo beans.  We also found some lamb chorizo from Mint Creek Farm in Stelle, IL which specializes in grass fed lamb.  We became big fans of Mint Creek as a vendor at our farmer's market in the summer and are so happy to see them supplying meats to the co-op!

And thus, we settled on the chickpea stew with spinach and chorizo from the book, Food & Wine 2006, an Entire Year of Recipes.  Right now I'm definitely on a Food & Wine kick.  I think their recipes are simple, healthy and really delicious and am happy both to follow them verbatim as well as use them as inspiration for new dishes.

The lamb chorizo was a really interesting meat.  I found it slightly less unctious then regular chorizo, which can be a little much for me.  And I am so glad that I have started cooking with dried instead of canned beans, I can really taste the difference in the flavor. 

The dinner was wonderful.  Our hosts made a warm salad of mixed greens served tossed with a vinaigrette and topped with sauteed mushrooms and a sprinkling of roquefort cheese and walnuts.  A perfect start to the meal.  The sauteed mushrooms in the salad is a something I've come to attribute solely to eating at our friends' home and it is always delicious, why don't I ever do it in my home?!?   We enjoyed the Washington State Kung Fu Girl Reisling before dinner and with the salad.  The name might be goofy but we all really enjoy this wine!

The stew was a lovely, hearty main which we served with a Volpaia Chianti Classico which we purchased in Volpaia, Italy this past summer.  It was a special wine that really worked with the meal.

Dessert consisted of an assortment of beautiful Whole Foods pastries.

Our host Aitor is from San Sebastian (Donostia) in the Basque Country of Spain.  Finally, we are planning a trip with them to his home town this August and we began making preliminary plans!  His parents are in the center of town and we hope to stay near the old center.  Beaches, mountains, rioja, and a land with an incredible culinary history.  Not to mention a ridiculous number of Michelin Star rated restaurants in such a small area.  I have a feeling that this will be a culinary adventure like no other, capped off by going to one of two of the best restaurants in the world.  Arzak or Mugaritz, how do you decide?

CHICKPEA STEW WITH SPINACH AND CHORIZO 

2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and drained
Extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion diced
1 1/2 tsp minced dried rosemary
1 bay leaf
One 28 ounce can chopped italian tomatoes, drained, reserving the liquid
3/4 pound lamb chorizo, sliced and cooked
1/2 lb spinach
1/2 lb arugula
salt and pepper

In a sauce pan, cover the chickpeas with a couple of inches of water and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook about 1 1/2 - 2 hours, adding more water as necessary.

Drain beans, saving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

In a dutch oven, heat  a couple of tablespoons olive oil.  Add garlic, onion, rosemary and bay leaf and cook over medium heat until the onion is softened.

Add the drained chopped tomatoes and cook over medium-high heat until sizzling.

Add the sliced chorizo, the chickpeas, the cup of reserved cooking water and the juices from the tomatoes and bring to a simmer.

Stir in the spinach and cook until wilted.

Stir in the arugula and simmer the entire stew for 10-15 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper and serve.

**This dish made more than enough stew for 4 adults.  Jason and I both had leftovers for lunch on Sunday and each are taking some, along with some leftover roasted cauliflower from a few days ago for lunch tomorrow.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Mustard and Black Peppercorn Crusted Pork Tenderloin

The cooking of meat falls to my husband.  I'll relate here as best I can what  he did!

MUSTARD AND BLACK PEPPERCORN CRUSTED PORK TENDERLOIN

2 - 1lb pork tenderloins, trimmed
1 - 2 Tbsp whole black peppercorns
Whole grain mustards (preferably Spartan Mustard from the National Mustard Museum!)

Preheat the oven to 375

Trim the fat from the pork tenderloins.

With a mortar and pestle crush the peppercorns.

Rub the tenderloins all over with the mustard and then some of the peppercorns.

On the stove top in a pan, brown the tenderloins on all sides over medium high heat.  This helps get a nice crust on the meat.

Put tenderloins in a baking dish and roast in the oven until desired doneness.  Ours was done medium, so to about 140-145 with the meat thermometer.

Let rest and slice thinly.

Note:  one of these days I will have my husband discus the art of cooking meat perfectly.  I know it takes years of practice but he seems to have mastered the skill.  It seems to involve cooking by sense of touch just as much as anything!

Lentils with Red Wine and Herbs

I took this recipe from this month's Food & Wine.  It somes from Sophie Dahl who happens to be Roald Dahl's granddaughter. 

I have started using lentils much more frequently in my cooking over the last year.  The recipe made sense to me except for the addition of cilantro.  The lentils, red wine, parsley and spinach all melded easily in my mind but I couldn't figure out how the cilantro flavor fit.  Turns out, it was a great addition.  It completely brightened up what can be an almost muddy flavor of the lentils.  I can't wait to make this again when the herbs and greens are in season and fresh!

LENTILS WITH RED WINE AND HERBS

1 1/2 cups lentils
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion chopped finely
1 garlic clove minced
1/4 cup red wine (I used the 2005 Chateau Poitevin Medoc we then drank with the meal)
1 cup packed baby spinach
1/2 cup vegetable stock
4 cups lightly packed arugula
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf italian parsley
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
dash fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper

In a sauce pan, cover the lentils with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil.  Simmer over medium-low heat until tender, about 40 minutes.  Drain the lentils

Heat the olive oil in a deep skillet.  Add the onion and cook over medium heat, stirring, until softened.

Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the lentils and the wine and cook for about 5 minutes.

Add the spinach and stock and cook until the spinach is wilted.

Add the arugula, parsely and cilantro and cook until just barely wilted, about 2 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper and squeeze just a dash of lemon juice.