Sunday, December 30, 2012

Travel Menu (late December)

Whew - will I ever get back to posting regularly here?

We were out of town part of last week for the holiday, so I did an (unusual for me) two-week menu plan. I hate coming home from a trip and having to eat out yet again because there's nothing edible in the house: this is my solution.

Su: simple pizza from the new Smitten Kitchen cookbook (still need to write this up) link here
M: my grandmother's beef stew (somehow, I've never posted this recipe, either)
T: left-over cannellini bean soup
W: dinner out
R - M: out of town
T: pasta with red sauce
W: goosh buns (my, but we get A LOT of ground beef from our meat CSA)
R: roasted sweet potatoes, sauteed kale, smoked brats (massive quantities of all, as we had guests)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Cranberry-Orange Buttermilk Rolls

I was just trying to find this recipe so I could make my shopping list for the week, and it looks like I somehow neglected to post it here. I made this last year for Thanksgiving, and actually ended up baking another big batch the next day to eat with our leftovers. It's a tweaked version of the raisin bread recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes.

orange-cranberry buttermilk rolls: 
The basic method is described here:

The recipe theoretically makes 3- 1 1/2lb loaves; I instead made plum-sized balls of dough and bunched them together in a pan.  You could do smaller batches in a brownie pan or pie plate.  If you don't use the dough all at once, it will keep for a week in the fridge in a lidded container.

Mix all the dry ingredients together.  Mix in the cranberries and orange zest.  Mix in the liquids; keep going until ALL the flour is incorporated.  Cover loosely and allow to rise until the dough rises and collapses (or at least flattens on top): 2-5 hours.  (It's much easier to use the dough when it's allowed to cool in the fridge overnight, but you can go on to the next step right away if you need to.)

Shape the dough, and put it in your greased baking pan.  Allow to rise for at least an hour (up to about 4 hours should be fine - 2 hours or so is ideal).  Twenty minutes before you're going to bake the rolls, preheat the oven to 375F.  Bake the rolls on a center rack for 30-45 minutes, until golden brown.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

still just barely finding time to cook, let alone post...

last week:
S: tomato & cinnamon chickpeas (Urban Pantry)
M: kale salad & bread
T: left-overs
W: pasta with mushroom sauce (a variation of this; sauce was actually a frozen left-over, too)
R: cauliflower florets roasted with bacon; bread; roasted garlic
F: out

two weeks ago:
S: wild mushroom ravioli (from How to Cook Without a Book; I need to write up this recipe sometime - very very good & easy)
M: ginger-caramel shrimp & rice
T: tuna noodle casserole with crispy leeks
W: miso tofu & garlicky kale; rice (leftover)
R: lamb shepard's pie (recipe from our meat csa)
F: leftovers

Sunday, October 21, 2012

menu, mid-September

Catching up on posting these:

M: Slow-Cooker Green Curry with Pork & Potatoes; rice
T: fried rice
W: Spinach & Chickpeas; whole-wheat couscous
R: Pork Cutlets with Pan-Roasted Tomatoes; roasted potatoes
F: Kale Salad

menu, week of October 14

Su: Curried Coconut Tomato Soup (Cook This Now); grilled smoked cheddar sandwiches
M: chicken & kale in simmer sauce; rice
T: Creamy Parsnip & Leek Soup (Cook This Now); whole-wheat bread (Artisan Bread in 5 Min)
W: fried rice
R: cauliflower and brussels sprouts, roasted with bacon
F: Goosh Buns

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Labor Day Weekend

Su: Leek, Chard, & Corn Flatbread
M (Labor Day potluck): Corn Salad
T: Spaghetti with fresh tomatoes and basil
W: Glazed Sausages with cabbage
R: out
F: Tomato & Cinnamon Chickpeas with couscous (Urban Pantry)
Sa: D & M's wedding!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Late Summer (in Minneapolis!)

Monday: out
Tuesday: pasta carbonara (V's own recipe)
Wednesday: chickpea curry & rice
Thursday: fried rice (V's recipe)
Friday: apricot and lamb tagine; whole wheat couscous
Saturday: red bean and sweet potato chili

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A dish for a cold spring day

This recipe - Victor's grandmother's - is one of the most beloved and oldest in my original orange binder. It's written on the back of a Dean's List letter from my college days and shows its pre-binder origins in the large grease stain that covers much of the writing. I'm not sure how many the casserole is supposed to serve, but it disappears with a speed that probably isn't terribly healthy. I did serve it with a green salad, though.

Eleanor's Bean Casserole
  • 1 can B&M beans
  • 1 can pork & beans
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained & rinsed
  • 1 can lima beans, drained & rinsed (if you can't find these, just use an extra can of butter beans)
  • 1 can butter beans, drained & rinsed
  • 1/2 lb bacon, either thinly sliced before cooking or crumbled afterward
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 C chopped onions
  • 1 tsp mustard (whether this should be "prepared" mustard or the ground mustard is a matter of much debate - the recipe tastes good with either)
  • 2/3 C packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp vinegar (I usually use apple cider or white)
  • 1/2 C ketchup
  • 1/3 C molasses

Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat. Brown the beef and onions in the bacon fat; drain off excess liquid. Mix the remaining ingredients with the beef, onions, and bacon in a large casserole dish. Cook, covered, in a 325 F oven for one hour; remove lid and cook an additional hour.  (If you save a tiny bit of the cooked bacon and crumble on top, it will be very very slightly fancier...)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Glazed Sausages

Made this recipe from the kitchn for glazed sausages with cabbage last night. I made it as written (though we used pork sausages), and it was delicious.

One note for the future: any extra glaze is delicious mixed into the cabbage. Oh, and I made it with mashed potatoes.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Saucy Lamb

This was rather a lot of work, but very very tasty. We had it over rice. (Also, I made it a month or two ago and somehow never hit "publish" on this post...)

Cashew Lamb with a Coconut Milk Sauce 
adapted from 660 Curries

  • 1/2 C raw cashews
  • 1/3 C water
  • 1 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 lb boneless leg of lam, trimmed, cut into 1" cubes
  • 2 Tbsp neutral-flavored oil (I used grapeseed)
  • 1 large red onion, cut into 1/4" pieces
  • 1 Tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom seeds (from white or green pods)
  • 6 cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • thumb-sized piece ginger, peeled and diced or finely grated
  • 6 garlic cloves, diced or finely grated
  • 1 C water
  • 1/2 C unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1/4 C distilled white vinegar
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, leaves and tender stems, finely chopped
Combine the cashews, water, and salt in a blender jar or mini-prep bowl. Puree to make a smooth marinade. Put the lamb in a gallon size ziploc bag, add the marinade, and stir or toss (with a sealed bag, of course!) to coat lamb with mixture. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (can also be done the day before).

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and fry until caramel brown, 8-10 min.

Meanwhile, combine the seeds and cloves in a spice grinder or a mini-prep and grind until the texture resembles that of ground pepper. Set aside.

Add the lamb and as much of the marinade as possible to the onions and cook over medium heat, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 8-10 min. The sauce should absorb into the meat.

Add the ground spices and the turmeric, ginger, and garlic. Cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes. Pour in the water and stir to deglaze. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until lamb is fork tender, 18-20 min.

Stir in the coconut milk, vinegar, and cayenne and simmer for an additional 2-4 minutes so the flavors can mingle a bit. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.
serves 4

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Banana-Coconut Muffins

I've been making banana bread the same way for over a decade. It's one of the first things I ever baked (which for me means college-age, not preschool....), and I've dallied with other banana bread recipes since, but I always come back. I've been making it a lot again recently, though in muffin form (I want to eat it over several days versus gobbling it up in a day or two, and I think muffins keep a bit better). I was inspired to add some coconut recently, and I think I've come up with a new favorite. It's on the sweet side - I think it would make a good cupcake with the addition of some cream cheese frosting - but that's how I roll. You could probably cut the brown sugar back to 1/2 C without changing the texture too much.

Banana-Coconut Muffins
loosely adapted from 1001 Low-Fat Vegetarian Recipes

  • 1/4 C coconut butter (aka creamed coconut)
  • 1/4 C applesauce
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 C shredded unsweetened coconut, soaked in 1/4 C skim milk (soak overnight if possible) - could use coconut milk here, too
  • 3/4 C packed light brown sugar
  • 1 C mashed banana (2-3 bananas)
  • 1 3/4 C AP flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin.

Put coconut oil, applesauce, eggs, soaked coconut mixture, and brown sugar in large mixer bowl and beat until smooth. Add banana and blend at low speed to combine; beat at high speed 1 to 2 minutes.

Combine remaining ingredients in small bowl; mix well. Mix into batter.

Pour batter into muffin tins (which will be pretty full). Bake until golden (the toothpick test is useful here), about 20-25 min.
makes 12 muffins

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Simple Ham-Bone Soup

We had a ham bone left after we ate our Easter dinner (I used this recipe for the ham, though with cider in place of the juice and my own homemade blackberry jam). It's been sitting unlabeled in our freezer, looking less and less like anything I'd ever want to eat. Today started out beautiful, but has turned cold and rainy, so what better time for an impromptu soup? I wasn't planning to make it, so it was all things scrounged from the pantry/fridge/freezer - finally, the ham bone has a chance to shine.

Split Pea Soup
adapted from Charleston Receipts

  • a meaty ham bone (ours was frozen, and I just chucked it in without defrosting it)
  • 1 package green or yellow split peas (presumably this is supposed to be a 1-pound package; I just added the split peas I had in a jar - a little shy of 2 C of yellow ones)
  • 3 quarts water
  • 1/2 C chopped celery
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
Add all ingredients other than salt and pepper to large pot. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to simmer. Cook slowly, stirring occasionally until peas have disintegrated (2-3 hours; time depends on freshness of peas and whether you've pre-soaked them). Add salt and pepper.
serves 8

Monday, March 19, 2012

healthier, simple "pasta alla vodka"

Not really at all like pasta alla vodka in ingredients or method, this nonetheless is reminiscent of it. Victor made this up the other day when we didn't have much food in the house; it's amazingly creamy even though it has no cream. Wholesome and decadent? Sign me right up.

Linguine Cacio e Pepe, with Tomato
adapted from Smitten Kitchen by Victor

I made the sauce while my pasta cooked. It fits right into that amount of time (8-12 minutes, depending on your pasta), and you get to serve both the pasta and sauce immediately after they've finished cooking.

Pasta Ingredients:

1/2 pound spaghetti or linguini
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
3 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese
1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper

Sauce Ingredients:

1/2 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 twelve-ounce can diced, fire-roasted tomato (I used Muir Glen)

Pasta Directions:

Cook pasta in well-salted water to your al dente tastes in a large pot.  Drain pasta, reserving 3/4 cup of the cooking water.

Dry out your pot, then heat the olive oil over high heat until almost smoking. Carefully add drained pasta and 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water.
Add butter, cheese, and ground pepper, and toss together with tongs. Add more pasta water, cheese, pepper or salt to taste.

Sauce Directions:

Open the canned tomatoes now. You'll need them in a minute or two.

Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is up to temperature, add the diced garlic. Push the garlic around in the oil until it all pulls together into a little clump. There should be just enough oil there to keep all the little bits of garlic floating, basically shallow-frying in a little puddle.

When the garlic begins to brown visibly, add the entire can of diced tomatoes. There's a bunch of liquid in there, so it may splatter a bit. Stir the tomatoes and garlic together, then spread the mixture evenly across the skillet. Lower the heat to medium. I used a splatter guard, but it wasn't really necessary after the first big sizzle was over.

Let the tomato mixture cook until all of the visible pools of liquid have cooked off, 8-10 minutes. If the skillet begins to show through while there's still liquid in the pan, stir and spread the mixture again. When most of the liquid is gone, you'll have something that looks a bit like chunky tomato jam (it's not jam, though, because there's no sugar in there).


Serve pasta, sprinkling with reserved cheese and an extra grind or two of black pepper. Add a generous ladle of the tomato sauce on the side.

When I made this recipe, we both ended up mixing the pasta and sauce together. The result was a pinkish and creamy sauce that was remarkably like a vodka sauce. That makes some sense, because it's got a similar list of ingredients (cheese, fat, tomato). But, there's no alcohol and much less fat here. What are the vodka and cream really for, then? The cream is obvious - rich and sweet. The vodka is supposed to develop tomato flavor. We got a similarly deep, sweet sauce by using canned fire-roasted tomatoes and cooking them down in their own liquid. Take that, fattening restaurant food! It's like Cook's Illustrated up in here! Except that I got this result by accident, and I've only done it once, so it's possible that it was a total fluke.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

"The Simplest Potato & Leek Braise"

Our cookbook club (see here for an excellent description of what a cookbook club is and how to start one) met for the second time this month. We had two books this time, both by Molly Stevens: All About Braising and All About Roasting. I only have the braising book, so that's where I chose my recipe from.

It was great - comforting and tasty; it would be fabulous served alongside a ham, I think, although it certainly went well with the wild assortment of braised and roasted foods everyone brought to the potluck. (There were two different roasted chickens, a roasted goat leg, braised white beans, roasted broccoli, a pasta salad made with roasted tomatoes, and roasted brown-sugar pineapple. Plus probably some other things that I've forgotten. It was all very tasty.)

The Simplest Potato & Leek Braise
from Molly Stevens, All About Braising

  • about 1 1/2 pounds leeks
  • 1 1/2 lb yellow-fleshed potatoes
  • 1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • pinch of freshly-grated nutmeg
  • coarse salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/4 C chicken stock, heated to near boiling
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/4 C heavy cream
Heat the oven to 325F. Butter a shallow baking or gratin dish.

Trim the leeks of their leathery green top parts. Clean them, and cut the tender green and white parts into 3/4" sections. Peel and chop the potatoes.

Mix leeks, potatoes, thyme, nutmeg, salt, and pepper in the baking dish. Spread the potatoes out into a relatively even layer and pour the hot stock over them. Dot the top with butter.

Cover tightly with foil and braise (without disturbing) for about 45 minutes until the leeks and potatoes are almost tender. Remove the foil and gently stir with a rubber spatula. If there's not much liquid left, re-cover with the foil. If there's liquid halfway up the sides of the dish (or more), leave the foil off. Continue to braise until completely tender (another 20-25 min).

Remove the dish from the oven, and increase the oven temp to 425F. Remove the foil if you haven't already and pour the cream over the potatoes. Return to the oven, uncovered, and bake until the top is browned and bubbly, another 25-30 min. Let rest at least 5 min and serve directly from the baking dish.
serves 6 as a side dish

Monday, February 27, 2012

crispy leeks - the return!

In an effort to bring more crispy leeks into our lives, I've been googling around for other recipes that use 'em (because we're not going to eat steak every week nor am I going to eat fried leeks for lunch, tempting though those ideas are).

I tried this egg salad Saturday; it was good, but not great, and definitely not the best use of the salty deliciousness of the leeks. I wish I'd fried some up to top the mac & cheese earlier in the week - I think they'd have been a yummy addition. Also, Victor made hamburgers the other day - next time we have those, I'm definitely going to try topping the burgers with fried leeks. They're a great pairing for beef, and could top most casseroles. Or maybe I'll just give in to temptation and make some as a snack.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Friendship & Herby Bread

A friend brought this amazing dill-y bread to a potluck we hosted many years ago. I basically couldn't stop eating it, even though conceptually it sounded a little strange: dill, honey, and yogurt bread? It was delicious; when I asked, it turned out to be from Molly Katzen's Enchanted Broccoli Forest. Later (I think after hearing me pine away after the cookbook, mostly because I wanted to make this recipe), another friend got me the book as a gift. I generally make this bread when I have some leftover dill, and every time I do, I think about my friends and feel very loved. It is supremely comforting.

Yogurt & Herb Bread
from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest

  • butter, oil, or oil+flour spray for the pan
  • 1 C white flour
  • 1 C whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 C firm yogurt
  • 5 Tbs butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 C sugar, honey, or agave nectar
  • 2 Tbsp fresh dill, minced (or 2 tsp dry)
  • 1 - 3 tsp dried herbs (oregano, thyme, marjoram, and basil are all good bets)
Grease a medium-sized loaf pan. Preheat oven to 350F.

Sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large mixing bowl. Put the butter in a medium bowl and melt it in the microwave (on high, stirring after every 15 sec). Beat the yogurt and sweetener into the melted butter. Beat in the eggs. Mix in the herbs.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet mixture into it. Mix until completely blended.

Spread into the prepared pan and bake for 40-45 minutes, until a knife inserted all the way into the center comes out clean. Let it sit for about 5 minutes, then remove and cool on a rack for at least 20 min before slicing.
yield: 1 medium-sized loaf

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Not-Entirely-Unhealthy Mac & Cheese

I came across this recipe recently and immediately bookmarked it. I don't have a favorite mac & cheese recipe, mostly because I haven't found anything that's relatively healthy but still tastes good. (I recently picked up a box of Kraft Mac-n-Cheese and it was frakkin' delicious... but not at all something I can justify eating on a regular basis.) This caught my eye because it wasn't crazy complicated, it used whole wheat pasta, AND it wasn't full of butter or cream.

We had some excellent whole wheat elbow pasta I'd been meaning to use in something, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity. I ended up doctoring the recipe pretty substantially, and I'm still not sure that it was quite right, but it's a keeper nonetheless. (Also, Victor LOVED it.) I think it would be good topped with fried or caramelized alliums (leeks and onions would both definitely work, and maybe garlic).

Not-Entirely-Unhealthy Mac & Cheese
inspired by this recipe

  • 2 pieces hearty whole wheat bread
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 1/2 C whole wheat pasta
  • 3 C whole milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1-2 C water (if needed)
  • 1 C shredded cheddar (I used Dubliner)
  • 1 C frozen peas
  • 1/4 C grated Parmesan, optional
Make bread crumbs: toast the bread, then tear into pieces and pulse in a mini-prep until broken into small crumbs. Melt the butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat, add the crumbs and 1/2 tsp salt. Toast, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and fragrant. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Add the pasta, milk, 1 1/2 tsp salt, and mustard to an oven-safe medium sauce pan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the pasta is tender. If the milk thickens too much before the pasta is cooked, add some water. When the pasta is tender but still slightly al dente (for whole wheat pasta, I find that this point is where it still tastes slightly bitter but has softened - it will finish cooking in the oven), remove from heat and stir in the cheddar.

After the cheddar has melted, stir in the peas. Top with the bread crumbs and the Parmesan, if using. Bake (uncovered) for 10 minutes.
serves 4

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Bittman's Pad Thai

I've never made a homemade pad thai that made me as happy as a truly good restaurant one, so every time I make it, I "audition" a different recipe. I started out with this recipe from Serious Eats, but the amount of liquid in the sauce gave me pause. A quick look at the comments confirmed that something was off there, and suggested the pad thai recipe on Bittman's own site instead. I loved the idea of the shredded cabbage from the first one, so I constructed a mash-up of the two, basically following Bittman's original recipe but adding the shredded cabbage from the Serious Eats one in step three (with the bean sprouts... which I had forgotten to buy). I also omitted the proteins, because I wasn't in the mood for tofu and didn't have any shrimp. Pad thai's all about the noodles for me, anyway.

It was... okay. Better than a made-with-ketchup restaurant version by far, but also far short of awesomeness. I think part of the problem was that, at basically the last minute after everything was done cooking, I panicked about the lack of any "sour" flavor and threw in some lime juice. The extra liquid + cooking time may have been a mistake - after all, I *could* just have added a squirt or two of lime juice at the table. Even after the lime juice, I ended up adding some rice vinegar while I was eating, because it just didn't have the right "tang". Victor and I both thought it needed more sweetness as well. In general, I felt like it was missing that perfect balance of sweet-sour-salty that pretty much defines Thai food for me.

The search continues.

Monday, February 20, 2012

multi-ethnic stew in search of a good home

On Serious Eats, this dish is listed as a braise, but when I was making it I didn't feel like it actually was braised at all. It ended up thick and curry-like, though with sun-dried tomatoes, coconut milk, and cilantro, I'm not quite sure what kind of curry it would be. The original recipe also called for spinach, but our farmer's market just has kale this time of year. No matter - it was delicious and hearty, and we love kale!

Chickpea & Kale Coconut Curry
adapted from Serious Eats
  • 2 teaspoons oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger, from a 3-inch piece
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 large lemon, zested and juiced (about 2 tablespoons juice)
  • 1 dried hot red pepper or dash of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 large bunch kale, cleaned, center ribs either removed or diced
  • 1 14-ounce can coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • dash of lime juice (optional)
  • Cilantro leaves, to garnish
  • Toasted unsweetened coconut, to garnish

In a large sauce pan, heat the oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until soft and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, tomatoes, lemon zest, and red pepper, if using. Cook until the garlic is fragrant, 1-2 minutes. (Don't worry if some of the spice mixture sticks to the bottom of the pan!)

Turn the heat to high and add the chickpeas, toasting for 3-4 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent burning.

Add the kale, lemon juice, coconut milk, salt, and ground ginger. Stir vigorously to deglaze the pan. Turn down the heat to low and simmer until the kale is very soft and the chickpeas are tender, 10-15 minutes. Season to taste with more salt and lime juice as needed (the lime juice will "brighten" the dish if necessary).
serves two very generously

Sunday, February 19, 2012

"Startlingly Good"

No idea when I made this, but Victor's review was that it was a "startlingly good" combination:
Fettuccine with Brussels Sprouts, Cranberries, and Caramelized Onions

Valentine's Day 2012

We don't usually do anything especially elaborate for Valentine's Day, but often we make a slightly more elegant dinner for ourselves. For some reason, Kahlua-Cinnamon Brownies have become part of that tradition (looking back at the orange binder, I see we first made them for Valentine's Day in 2003!).

This year, we made steaks following this technique and topped with crispy baby leeks. We also had a potato-and-parsnip mash.

We followed the above recipes as written; for the leeks, Victor cleaned and cut them into 2" segments. After browning the steaks, I tossed in the leeks and sprinkled them with salt (use more than seems strictly necessary - they should taste "salty" at the end, since they're the only additional seasoning for the steaks). I stirred them just enough to keep them from blackening (although they did get blistered) and kept going 'til they were crispy. Then remove from heat and set aside while the steaks cook.

We steamed the potato and parsnip chunks and Victor mashed them once they were very tender (and added some cream, butter, and salt/pepper).

Neither of us is particularly skilled with making steaks; I think this recipe will be our go-to one from now on. They were perfectly cooked (to about 135F) in 40 minutes.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Chicken and Fennel Potpie

I hinted at this recipe once before; I'm not sure why I waited so long to make it again, as it is delicious.

Although the original recipe has a specific crust, it's pretty similar to the one we learned in our pie-making class a few years ago. Since we're both comfortable making that recipe, that's what we used (although we used bacon drippings in place of lard, both because it's what we had and because, well, why the hell not?). (Kate's basic recipe can be found many places on the web; she discusses both the recipe and a bit of the technique here.)

Basically any kind of poultry could work here; although it's nice to have the ham, too, it's definitely not necessary. Leftovers make sense, but when I made this last I didn't have leftover chicken, so I poached a large breast in a mix of broth and white wine and used that. The amounts are very much approximate, too.

Chicken & Fennel Pot Pie
adapted from As American As Apple Pie
  • pie dough (enough for one crust - probably half a recipe, since most make enough for both a top & bottom crust, and this pie just has the top crust)
  • 1 potato, peeled and chopped
  • 1 fennel, cut into small cubes
  • 1 carrot, cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 C peas (optional)
  • 1 1/4 C chicken stock (approximately)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 tsp anise seeds
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour (I always use Wondra for making gravies/sauces)
  • 1 C cream or half-and-half
  • 1 Tbsp Pernod (optional)
  • 3/4 C ham, cut into small cubes
  • 1 1/2 C cooked chicken or turkey, cut or shredded into bite-sized pieces
  • dash of Tabasco
  • salt & freshly-ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 Tbsp milk
Preheat the oven to 400F.

Heat a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Melt the butter and add the onion and anise; cook 5 min. Whisk in the flour. Cook, stirring constantly, about 2 min. Whisk in the 1 C warm broth and keep whisking until smooth. Heat to boiling; simmer 4 minutes. Whisk in the cream and continue cooking until thickened, 5-6 min longer. Remove from heat; stir in Pernod if using. Allow to cool, stirring occasionally, about 10 min.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, add potatoes, and cook until tender (about 8 min). Drain and stir into gravy.

Combine fennel and broth in a medium saucepan and heat to boiling. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until tender (about 4 min). Drain, but reserve the broth. (Add more broth, if needed, to make 1 C.) Stir into gravy.

Stir in the chicken and ham and add a dash of Tabasco and a little salt & pepper, to taste. Transfer to a large buttered pie plate (9" or 10").

Roll out the dough and transfer it to cover the pie. Trim and flute the edges. Brush with the milk. Cut a vent (or vents) in the center of the pie.

Bake until golden brown, about 25 min. Let stand a few minutes before serving.
serves 6

Friday, February 17, 2012

Creamy Parsnip & Leek Soup

The last couple of weeks have really kicked my ass. Nothing terrible, just a lot of little things that added up to a whole lot of stress and not much cooking. I had the best intentions, cooking-wise, but often didn't feel up to making much of anything. Nonetheless, there were a couple of pretty wonderful meals in there, and this week has been MUCH better (though slow with the posting).

I continue to like Cook This Now, enough so that I bought a copy (I had it on loan from the library).

When I made this soup, I had a little jar with the pan juices from roasting a chicken - I used the (thick) layer of schmaltz that had solidified on top instead of the butter in the recipe and poured the rest into the soup with the chicken stock (... which was otherwise just water with "Better than Bouillon"). This isn't something I expect most people to just have sitting around in their fridges (I don't usually have chicken drippings, either), but it speaks to the kind of kitchen economy I try to practice: I didn't know what I'd do with the drippings, but since we ended up not wanting to make gravy with them, I also knew I didn't want to just toss them. And the next day, when I made this soup, I was grateful that I hadn't.

Creamy Parsnip and Leek Soup
adapted from Cook This Now

  • 4 Tbsp butter or what-have-you (I would have used bacon drippings here if I hadn't had the schmaltz; no reason not to use oil if you'd like to keep the recipe vegan)
  • 4 large leeks, trimmed of tough/dark green parts, carefully cleaned and sliced (the tough leaves are great to save for stock, though!)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt, more or less
  • freshly ground black peper, to taste
  • 4 large celery stalks, sliced, with leaves if possible (keep the leaves separate)
  • 4 thyme sprigs
  • bay leaf
  • parsley stems (totally optional)
  • generous 1 lb parsnips, peeled and sliced
  • 1 lb potatoes, peeled and chunked
  • 1 qt chicken or veggie stock
  • 2 C water
  • a bit of fresh lemon juice (if needed for brightness)
Melt fat in your soup pot over medium heat. Saute leeks with salt & a little pepper until soft, about 5 min. Add celery and saute another 5 min or so until leeks are getting golden and celery is shiny.

Tie thyme, bay leaf, celery leaves and parsley stems (whichever combination of these things you have) together and add to the pot with the broth, water, parsnips, and potatoes. Bring to a boil and then turn heat down to a simmer. Cook until veggies are nice and soft (20-45 min).

Discard the herb bundle and puree the soup, adding water if it's too thick, lemon juice if the flavor is flat, and more salt and/or pepper to taste.
serves 6

We had the soup with garlicky croutons as (more or less) per the recipe's suggestion:
  • thick slices hearty bread (we used whole wheat)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • drizzle of olive oil
Toast the bread. Meanwhile, cut a little cap off the end of the garlic. When the bread is toasted, rub it vigorously with the cut end of the garlic (which will kind of shred into the bread). Drizzle with a bit of olive oil.

Bubbie's Sponge Cake

Direct quote of my grandmother's email to me:

Bubbie's Sponge Cake  (Bubbie is Yiddish for grandma):  6 eggs separated    1/2 cup cold water   1 1/2 C sugar   1 tsp vanilla  1 1/2 C Cake flour ( 1 C of cake flour=7/8 C all purpose flour sifted)   1/4 t salt   1 t baking powder   3/4 t cream of tartar

         Separate eggs. Beat yolks 10 minutes or until thick and lemon colored.  Add water slowly and continue beating then add vanilla and sugar slowly while beating.  By hand fold in dry ingredients  (except Cream of Tartar) into yolk mixture.  Beat egg whites with cream of tartar until stiff but not dry.  Fold into yolk mixture. Bake at 325 1 hour in an ungreased angel cake pan.  Test with a toothpick.  Cake should be nicely tan and the toothpick dry.  Invert pan on the neck of a empty wine or soda bottle.   Carefully remove cake when the pan is cool to the touch.  Use a table knife to very gently loosen  around the perimeter and around the center cone.  If your pan comes in 2 sections loosen around the perimeter and separate the pan from the interior section.  Use the table knife to loosen the bottom of the cake and around the cone. It should slide out. Let me know how it comes out.  Bake your cake when there are no guests in the house. Banging a door or the oven door can cause a cake to collapse.  I seldom baked this cake when the kids were little because they just did not understand the dynamics.  Have fun.  Much love,  Grandma  (Bubbie)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Menu for Week of 1/29/12

Creamy Parsnip & Leek Soup
Braised White Beans
Kale Salad
Chicken & Fennel Potpie

Saturday supper

Saturday: roast chicken; roasted sweet potatoes; napa cabbage with balsamic vinaigrette

Just our usual Zuni chicken dinner, with the addition of the salad. We've both been really craving uncooked greens recently, and fortunately Victor likes his salads just as unadorned as I do. So, nappa cabbage sliced as for slaw and tossed with this dressing. I made the dressing with Rockridge Orchard's "Rocksalmic" faux balsamic vinegar - it was delicious but came out tasting like honey-mustard dressing. I don't know if that was because of the vinegar, or the particular (strong dijon) mustard I used, or what.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

where crispy = caramelized

Friday: Fragrant Lentil Rice Soup with "Crispy" Onions; fresh-baked bread

(Originally planned for Thursday; foiled by my own tiredness and desire for take-out.)

A lovely soup, even though it turned out that I didn't have any greens to stir in near the end. I don't know why she calls the onions crispy, as they're clearly caramelized (and she calls them that in the head notes). But whatever - it is indeed fragrant, and we both enjoyed it.

Fragrant Lentil Rice Soup with (optional) Spinach & "Crispy" Onions (adapted from Cook This Now)

For the caramelized onions:
  • 3 medium onions, halved from root to stem & thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • pinch kosher salt
  • pinch sugar
Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Melt the butter and heat the oil, then toss in the onions with the salt. Cook until they release their juices (5 min), then sprinkle with sugar, raise the heat to medium-high, and cook until golden (7 more minutes). Turn heat to high, and cook, stirring only a few times, until they are deeply caramelized (5-10 more minutes). If you're me, you won't be able to resist adding a few tablespoons of water and deglazing the pan at this point. Either way, set aside the finished onions.

For the soup:
  • 2 Tbsp oliv oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped*
  • 2" piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped*
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped*
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3/4 tsp ground cumin
  • pinch ground allspice
  • a bay leaf
  • 6 C stock (chicken or veggie)
  • 3 C water
  • 1/2 C brown long-grain rice
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt more to taste
  • 1 1/2 C red lentils
  • 5 C baby spinach leaves (~ 4 C) or equivalent amount chard or kale (just be sure to cook less-tender greens a bit longer)
  • lime (or lime juice), optional
Heat a large pot over medium heat; warm the oil in it. Add the aromatics (if you didn't puree them together, add the onion first; just add the ginger & garlic with the other spices) and saute until they begin to smell cooked - about 4-5 minutes. Add the spices and cook until very fragrant, about another minute. Add the stock, water, rice, and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in the red lentils and cook until the rice is done and the lentils are meltingly soft, about 30 more minutes. Stir in the greens (if using) and let them completely wilt. Tast, and add more salt if necessary. If the dish tastes flat, add a little lime juice.

To serve, spoon into bowls and top with a bunch of caramelized onions, a bit of flaky salt, and maybe a tiny squeeze of lime.
serves 6

* I cut the aromatics into chunks and pureed them in a mini-food processor.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

all greens, all the time

I'd planned to make a bit more for dinner, but Monday night's nosh ended up being very light: just this kale salad. I didn't really measure any of the ingredients, but it came out very well. V kept saying "This is DELICIOUS" in an incredulous voice - I don't think he'd had very high hopes for a raw kale salad (truth be told, I was a little dubious too). We ate most of it last night; I had the rest for breakfast.

Monday, January 23, 2012

well, that worked out pretty well

Sunday: Braised White Beans; sauteed greens; bread. Apple Sharlotka for dessert.

I made all the recipes pretty much as-written.

For the braised beans: It took about 45 minutes on medium-high before I was satisfied with the beans' caramelization. They smelled amazing - the finished recipe was good, but wasn't quite able to live up to their initial aroma. I added about 1.5 Tbsp strong Dijon mustard, lots of salt, a bit of better-than-bouillon (chicken flavor), and a bunch of pepper. I ended up simmering the beans for just under two hours (I started with the saddest looking bag of discount beans from the grocery store, but then soaked them for two days. YMMV.)

The greens were a bunch of semi-random greenery that had been floating around the fridge - a half-bag of Trader Joe's prewashed greens that I picked up in a moment of panic on Christmas Day and a bag of greens from last week's farmer's market excursion. I cut up a single strip of bacon, fried it 'til crispy, and then cooked two garlic cloves a bit before adding the greens, some smoked paprika, and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes. I added some water to steam, and kept cooking 'til we were ready to eat.

Because we decided (somewhat last minute) to have someone over for dinner, I made Smitten Kitchen's Apple Sharlotka as well. I LOVE this recipe, and I don't even know if I cooked it enough. Was it really supposed to be creamy in the center and crisp around the edges? Does it matter? It was delicious, and I'll definitely be making this again. But for the time it takes to cut up the apples, it's very low-effort, and the ingredients are minimal.

I can't speak for my dinner companions, but for me, this meal was a total success.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Menu for week of 1/22/2012


Sweet Potato Noodle Kugel

I originally clipped this recipe from a magazine many years ago, and I've been making it ever since. Sadly, I don't think it would ever be kosher for our seder table (I've never found kosher-for-Passover egg noodles; more importantly, we eat meat at that meal, so the sour cream & butter make this dish a no-go). I sometimes make it with peach jam, since often I make more of that than apricot; it's good either way.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

snowed in

We're having a cozy few days as we wait for the roads to clear. Fortunately, I had planned a couple of fairly elaborate meals, so we've been eating well *and* keeping ourselves entertained.

First, a pair of recipes from the always-awesome Smitten Kitchen: carrot soup with miso and scallion meatballs with soy-ginger glaze. These were both wonderful and pretty dang easy to make. The glaze was so good that V kept trying to think of new uses for it (he tried it on ice cream, but unfortunately he said it made the ice cream taste "like blood").

Last night we made chicken stew with sweet potato biscuits. I couldn't quite bring myself to use all the butter called for in the chicken stew recipe, but made it with a single stick of butter instead. Also definitely a recipe I'll be making again (though hopefully in a situation where we won't be required to eat it all ourselves....).