Archive for the ‘Sides’ Category

Pearled Barley Salad with Tomatoes, Feta and Chicken

April 18, 2013

The April book club meeting provided a little interruption in taco week.  Tacos don’t travel that well so I opted for a salad instead.  I needed a main dish salad so something with protein and substance to it.  I bought some pearled barley ages ago and never got around to making the barley and mushroom soup for which it was intended so it became my salad.  And it’s a pretty good salad.

Pearled Barley Salad

Of course I made a few changes to the recipe.  I added some rotisserie chicken to give it a little bulk.  I left out the basil because fresh basil and feta don’t excite me when you put them together.  I made the dressing mostly as instructed, but with slightly less oil.  Next time I’d probably replace the feta with mozzarella.  The tang of the feta kind of fights with the honey vinegar dressing.  This would be good too without the chicken, but with a bunch of summer vegetables added in – peppers, squash, snow peas.  A little extra sweetness and crunch would be a nice addition.

An important note if you decide to make this.  Read the recipe all the way to the end.  It comes together really quickly and easily, but if you’ve never made pearled barley before you might not know how much time to allow for that.  You have to soak it an hour before you start to cook it.  And then it cooks about 20 minutes.  And then it has to cool to room temperature.  It’s a process.  I’d do that part the day before if you can.  Another note – you’ll almost never hear me say this, but use commercial stock.  You cook barley like pasta in that once it’s done you drain it.  Don’t use stock that you’d hate to pour down the sink.

Book club did a fine job making their way through this. I had enough leftover for a good lunch today.  This is a salad with a lot of possibilities.  The barley is chewy and nutty and good.  The dressing is light and sweet and tangy.  The tomatoes add a nice fresh flavor and the green onions add a little sharpness.  I have a feeling that some variation on this theme will be making an appearance at summer cookouts this year!

Good? Good.
Easy? Easy. But a little long.
Good for company? Worked for book club!
Special shopping? Nope.

Pearled Barley Salad with Tomatoes, Feta and Chicken

Ingredients

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
1/3 cup olive oil

4 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups barley
2 C diced rotisserie chicken
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
1 7-ounce package feta cheese, crumbled (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 cup chopped green onions

Directions

Rinse barley, and place in a small bowl. Cover with water by about two inches, and let soak for about an hour. Drain.

Whisk vinegar, lemon juice, and honey in small bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Season vinaigrette with salt and pepper. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill.)

Bring broth and 1/2 cup water to a boil in a large heavy saucepan. Stir in barley, reduce heat, cover, and boil until tender but still firm to bite, about 20 minutes. Drain. Transfer to large wide bowl, tossing frequently until cool.

Mix tomatoes, chicken, feta, and green onions into barley. Add vinaigrette; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.) Serve at room temperature.

Pesto Pasta Frittata

April 7, 2013

Welcome Spring!  Today was the first real Spring day in Central Virginia.  I spent most of it knee deep in Spring chores:  dealing with the storm windows, cleaning the ceiling fans; tilling and weeding the garden.  No energy left for a trip to the grocery store.  So tonight’s dinner was kind of a “smoke ’em if ya’ got ’em” affair.  Pretty much everything is on the menu because I had it –  leftover, already thawed or on its last decent day.  And you know what?  It was a very good dinner.  I got to use the grill and everything!

The feature for tonight is the frittata.  I grilled a London Broil and sauteed some spinach to round things out.  I made the London Broil plain to make it as versatile as possible.  You’ll be seeing it for the rest of the week so stay tuned!

Pesto Pasta Frittata P1010125

A few days ago I made some whole wheat spaghetti with pesto sauce from my Summer 2011 garden.  If I was going to avoid tossing it in the trash I had to do something with it.  And I had some mascarpone and mozzarella leftover from the pizza triumph of last night.  When I looked in the vegetable drawer I discovered some forgotten parsley too.  This recipe let me use all of the above plus a bunch of eggs and some of my quart of milk that I too often end up dumping down the sink.  In case it hasn’t dawned on you yet what we’re really talking about here is little quiche muffins with pasta instead of crust. 

The original recipe calls for prosciutto (didn’t have any), cream (didn’t have any) and grated Asiago (used parmigiano instead).  I also cut the eggs from 7 to 6.  Seven eggs just seemed excessive.  The frittata muffins set up just fine so no loss there.  The original recipe called for plain pasta,  but the pesto more than made up for the absent prosciutto.  Good news for the vegetarians out there!

These are really easy.  The recipe makes a dozen.  Good for any meal.  My plan is to have them for breakfast all week.  Hard to beat them for protein, a few carbs, easy to heat and eat.  You can put pretty much anything in them.  I do recommend keeping the amounts of the basic ingredients the same so you’ll be confident that they’ll set up like they’re supposed to.  Other than that have fun with them!  Add some chicken and broccoli to leftover fettuccine alfredo.  Add some peppers and onions to leftover pasta marinara.  Add a little ham or bacon to leftover macaroni and cheese.  Yum!

Good? Really good.
Easy? Really easy.
Good for company? A terrific brunch option.
Special shopping? Definitely not.

Pesto Pasta Frittata

Ingredients

Cooked spaghetti cut into 2-3 inch segments, enough to measure 3 C
Pesto sauce to taste
6 eggs
1/3 C mascarpone cheese
1 C diced mozzarella
1/4 C grated parmigiana cheese
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 T chopped parsley
3/4 t salt
3/4 t pepper
1/8 t freshly grated nutmeg (optional)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease the muffin tin.

In a blender combine the eggs, milk, cream, and mascarpone cheese. Blend until well combined. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Mix the hot pasta with the pesto sauce. Add the cut pasta, mozzarella cheese, Parmigiana cheese, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir until the ingredients are combined.

Using a 1/3 cup measure, fill each of the muffin cups until both the pasta and liquid are at the top. Bake until firm and cooked through, about 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool for 3 minutes before removing from the tin.

Zesty Honey-Lemon Dressing

March 10, 2013

March potluck this weekend.  Since potluck was Friday night and I had a feeling that work might get a little hairy I signed up to make salad.  I made it as easy as possible without completely bailing on making something.  I make most of my salad dressings from scratch and I decided that counted as “making something.”

The main dish for potluck this month was a pasta dish so I did a green salad with tomatoes, artichoke hearts and olives.  That’s a lot of briny goodness so I needed a dressing with something sweet to balance it out.  This is a good one.  The honey and lemon come out really nicely.  The zesty is a little more subtle.  If you want more zest just add more dijon.  I left out the fresh parsley because I didn’t have any.  Probably a nice addition, but not critical.  I made it with the immersion blender because I’m too lazy to whisk enough to get a good emulsion.  Most of the time when I whisk by hand the dressing separates and has to be shaken before serving.  If I use the stick blender I don’t have that issue.  A regular blender will do too.

Not much else to say about this one.  It’s a keeper.  I’ll be using it throughout the Spring on early vegetables and greens.  Yum!

Good? Good.
Easy? Easy.
Good for company? Sure.
Special shopping? Nope.

Zesty Honey-Lemon Dressing

Ingredients

3 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon lemon zest
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, pressed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup olive oil

Directions

Blend all ingredients until completely combined. Keeps up to 5 days in the refrigerator.

Sweet and Tangy Brussels Sprouts and Sweet Potatoes

February 10, 2013

Ok, I know this sounds kind of weird.  Maybe it is. I’m getting down to the end of items in my fridge and that always breeds some unique combinations.  This one really worked out though.  If you struggle a little with brussels sprouts you might find that adding the sweet potatoes will get you over the hump.  That said, I’m not a proponent of wasting your time, energy and calories eating things you hate.  (I’ve given up making salmon at home for this very reason).  Feel free to use just the sweet potatoes or just the sprouts.  Your call.  I like the mix.

Sweet and Tangy Sprouts and Potatoes

There’s not really a recipe for this.  I steamed some sprouts on the stove top while I roasted some diced sweet potato in the oven.  I threw everything in a cast iron skillet with some bacon grease.  Often you’ll see recipes that include one or the other of these vegetables with bacon or pancetta or some such so that’s where the bacon grease thing came from.  Feel free to use olive or canola oil or butter if you prefer.  Stir them around in the hot oil until you get a little browning on everything then turn the heat off.  Cast iron will hold heat a long time so don’t worry about things getting cold.

The sauce is a combination of maple syrup, stone ground mustard, dijon mustard, Worchestershire sauce and balsamic vinegar.  Sweet and tangy.  Just stir it together and add a little more of this or that until it tastes good to you.

Enjoy!

Spaghetti Squash with Lemon and Capers

December 31, 2012

The holiday season is finally wrapping up so I’m looking for ways to, without suffering too much, rid myself of the few pounds I gained.  I’ll be turning to soups and vegetables over the next few weeks to help with that.  I started with a spaghetti squash.  I’m not a huge fan of spaghetti squash, particularly not as a substitute for actual spaghetti.  I did have one serving of this with spaghetti sauce on it, reminding me what a poor substitute it is for pasta.  Had to find something else to do with the rest.  And there was a lot of “the rest.”  Fortunately I was invited for an impromptu pot luck with a couple of friends so I had a chance to try this out on them without risking a lot of leftovers.

Spaghetti squash

Turns out leftovers were not a worry.  This is really good.  Well, of course it’s really good.  It’s a brown butter sauce.  Not so much a health food, but I maintain that butter sauce on spaghetti squash is still better for you than butter sauce on most other things.  Really I think this is more of a summer dish.  It calls for a little zucchini and a little chopped tomato.  It’s December and those things just don’t taste good so far out of season so I left them out.  To be completely honest I was going to include a few diced canned tomatoes, to the point that a friend went to pick them up for me and dropped them by the house (thank you!!), and then I forgot them.  I think that was fine, maybe even better.  I halved the spaghetti squash and most of the other ingredients, but kept full amounts, plus a little, of the red bell pepper and parsley.

There’s only one thing that makes this the tiniest bit tricky – browning the butter.  You have to watch it every second.  If you don’t it will burn and you’ll have to start over.  There’s no saving burned butter.  Swirl it around the pan occasionally as it browns.  Keep the heat relatively low.  Be patient.  There’s no rushing browned butter.  It’s worth it though.  It has a much richer flavor than just melted butter.  I used salted butter, as I do with everything, which is fine. I still added a touch of salt. You need it for balance.

The flavors in this are fantastic.  You get citrus and brine from the lemon and capers.  You get sweetness from the squash and red bell pepper.  You get a pop of fresh green flavor from the parsley.  A little salt and a little fresh cracked black pepper.  Done.  And awesome.  And pretty.  And a little bit sophisticated.  This definitely goes in the list of things to serve to guests.

Good? So much better than I dared hope.  Really good.
Easy? Yep, just watch the butter.
Good for company? It sure went fast at dinner, so yes.
Special shopping? Nope. Capers will be on the aisle with the pickles in any grocery store.

Spaghetti Squash with Lemon and Capers

Ingredients

1 large spaghetti squash
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons sweet butter
1 tablespoons capers, drained
1/3 cup diced red bell pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 C chopped parsley leaves
Salt and pepper

Directions

Cut squash in 1/2 lengthwise and scoop out all seeds. Place the squash cut side down on a sheet pan or cookie sheet and cover with foil. Place in the oven and cook until the rind is slightly soft or gives with a little pressure, about 20 minutes. When it’s done, scrape the meat out with a fork and reserve, keeping warm.

In a hot skillet, melt the butter, add the olive oil and continue to cook until dark brown. Add the capers and bell pepper to stop the butter from cooking any further, and cook, stirring, until tender. Stir in the lemon juice and parsley and season with salt and pepper.

In a large mixing bowl mix the squash and butter sauce and serve.

Vegetarian Black Beans and Collards

December 17, 2012

It’s vegan night!  I thought I was having company for dinner and my planned guest is a vegan, at least temporarily.  By the time I found out he wasn’t able to make it dinner was mostly done.  After yesterday’s pork fest (ribs at football and pulled pork at dinner) I can definitely use something on the lighter side.  I usually put a little meat in my black beans and in my collards so this is new for me.  Good for me!  And just plain good.

Vegetarian Black Beans and Collards

I didn’t have a ton of time for cooking today and I didn’t plan ahead so I used canned black beans instead of soaking my own.  I have no problem with that.  Canned beans are perfectly acceptable.  It’s what you do with them that counts.  I cooked mine with bell pepper, onion, garlic, poblano pepper, vegetable stock and Goya seasoning.  Super yum.  The collards I did do from scratch, but with a very different pot liquor than my usual ham hock/smoked turkey variety.  I used olive oil, vegetable stock, garlic powder, salt and Tabasco.  Again, yum.

I served these side by side over rice, but by then end of the meal I just mixed everything together and added a little extra Tabasco for some kick.  I gotta say, this was a really good dinner.  And my arteries thank me!

Good? So good.
Easy? Absolutely.
Good for company? Definitely. It’s just as easy to make a lot as a little.
Special shopping? Nope. You’ll find the Goya seasoning in the int’l section of most grocery stores.

Vegetarian Black Beans and Collards

Ingredients

6 T olive oil, divided
3 C vegetable stock, divided
1 large onion, diced, divided
2 bunches collards, stemmed and chopped
1 t garlic powder
1 T Tabasco
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 poblano or jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2 packets Goya seasoning

Directions

Add 3 T oil, 2 C stock, 1/2 of the chopped onions, garlic powder and Tabasco to a large stock pot. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Add the chopped collards and simmer, covered, 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Heat remaining 3 T oil in a large saute pan. When the oil begins to shimmer add bell pepper, poblano, remaining chopped onion and garlic. Saute 5-7 minutes, until vegetables soften. Add black beans, remaining cup of stock and Goya seasoning. Simmer uncovered 30 minutes.

Serve everything over rice, white or brown. Top with Tabasco to taste.

Cranberry Sauce

December 9, 2012

Ok, so I’m a little late on the Cranberry Sauce.  Fresh cranberries are all over the place so I keep looking for ways to use them.  Yesterday I found a recipe for an Autumn Cranberry Beef Stew.  It called for whole berry cranberry sauce so I decided to make my own.  Good call.

This is an Alton Brown recipe. You may have noticed that you don’t see a lot of those on here. I just find him annoying. And yes, that does influence the recipe choices I make. But I wanted to give this a shot because it’s sweetened with honey instead of sugar. That means my nephew could have some if he wanted. So, you may be seeing this again at Christmas. Well, you won’t, but my family might.

Cranberry Sauce

This is good stuff.  And wicked easy.  Just berries, fruit juice and honey.  They key, if you want it to set up like regular cranberry sauce, is to follow the directions.  Think of it like candy making, only easier.  You make the syrup, add the berries and wait for the magic to happen.  Cranberries have enough pectin in them that if you do it right they’ll gel on their own.  Just be sure you don’t overcook it.  If you do the pectin breaks down and the sauce won’t set up.  It’ll still taste good so don’t throw it out, but if you want to be able to slice it be sure you watch the clock.

Not much else to say except that this is better than any cranberry sauce you’ll buy.  Of course it won’t have those ridges on the side of the cranberry sauce like the log that comes out of the can.  If that’s important to you just put it in a can to set up!

Good? You bet.
Easy? Much easier than I thought.
Good for company? Sure. Or just to keep around. Or for gifts.
Special shopping? Fresh cranberries are only available for a short while so just be sure the mood to make it strikes you at the right time.

Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients

1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup 100 percent cranberry juice, not cocktail
1 cup honey
1 pound fresh cranberries, approximately 4 cups

Directions

Wash the cranberries and discard any soft or wrinkled ones.

Combine the orange juice, cranberry juice and honey in a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the cranberries and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries burst and the mixture thickens. Do not cook for more than 15 minutes as the pectin will start to break down and the sauce will not set as well. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Carefully spoon the cranberry sauce into a 3 cup mold. Place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours and up to overnight.

Remove from the refrigerator, overturn the mold and slide out the sauce. Slice and serve.

Potato, Turnip, and Black Kale Baeckeoffe

October 5, 2012

It’s Fall! (In spite of this week’s fairly Summer-like temps in central VA).  And it’s October so we’ll say that this recipe is in honor of Oktoberfest.  It’s also in honor of the fact that I’m home and actually had time to cook.  Good thing – this takes a long time.  Here’s the ‘baeckeoffe’ explanation from Cookinglight.com for those of you who are a little rusty on your Germanic Alsatian dialects.  “Translated from the Germanic Alsatian dialect, baeckeoffe means “baker’s oven,” as it was traditionally a dish that was brought to the local baker to cook in his oven. Classic versions are loaded with meat, but our vegetarian riff is equally hearty and rich.”  I’ve never had a version loaded with meat, but I’d be willing to give that a shot.

Let’s start with the substitutions.  I try not to make many subs on dishes that are new to me and generally unfamiliar as a combination of ingredients.  The original recipe called for spinach. That seemed a little wimpy with the potatoes and turnips.  I bought some lacinato kale at the farmers’ market last weekend that I still needed to use.  That seemed like a good fit.  I also didn’t have any heavy cream.  Seemed silly to buy an 8 ounce container when I only needed 2.  I substituted 2% milk with just a little low fat cream cheese melted in.  I think both substitutions were fine, but with the kale I probably could have used more of the milk mixture.  It was just a little tough even after an hour in the oven.

Flavor wise this dish is a tiny bit on the bitter side.  Kale, turnips and Gruyere are all on the sharp side.  Clearly the idea is that they will balance with the potato, mushrooms and carmelized onions.  Not quite.  I didn’t have nearly enough mushrooms and onions.  They represent the creamy and sweet parts of this dish, respectively.  I made about 1/2 a recipe of this dish, but only had 1/4 of the mushrooms I needed.  I won’t make that mistake again.  And given how much onions cook down when they carmelize I would have been happier had I used the amount called for in the full recipe.  Ditto the milk mixture.  Of course the other way to cut down on the bitterness would be to use 2 layers of potatoes instead of one potato layer and one turnip layer.

One note about managing the time it takes to do this.  First, note that it bakes for an hour after it’s all put together so account for that before you start.  I’d guess you could put the whole thing together a day before you bake it. Also, while the recipe calls for you to do the mushrooms, wipe the pan and then start the onions.  That’s silly.  Use two pans and do them simultaneously.    Definitely you could make the onions and the mushrooms ahead of time – a day or two.  That will reduce your prep time a lot.  You’ll just want to warm the mushrooms before you try to spread them in the dish.

Overall this dish is a lot of trouble to make.  I knew that going in which is why I waited until a Friday.  Still, I’m not convinced that the trouble you have to go to is made up for by the enjoyment of the dish.  I’m not quite ready to write it off, but I’ll admit to some disappointment.  The reviews just raved about it.  No rave from me.  Just an “ok with potential.”  Maybe I’ll try to find one of those recipes with some meat in it to add a new dimension to the flavor.  That said, I’d make the mushrooms over and over again.  They’d be amazing in little gratin dishes.  You could mix them into cooked pasta.  You could stuff chicken with them.  That’s worth taking away from this even if you never try the whole thing.

Good? Ok, but has potential
Easy? Not so much
Good for company? As a side, maybe
Special shopping? Nothing exotic here

Potato, Turnip, and Black Kale Baeckeoffe

Ingredients

1 tablespoon butter, divided
8 oz sliced mushroom caps
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 cup white wine
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 tsp thyme 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
2 tablespoons 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, divided
2 cups vertically sliced onion (about 2 medium onions)
1 small Yukon gold potato, peeled and cut into (1/4-inch-thick) slices
2 cups black kale, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1 small turnip, peeled and cut into (1/8-inch-thick) slices
1/4 cup milk
1 t neufchatel cheese
1/4 cup shredded Gruyère cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°.

Melt 1/2 T of butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms to pan, and sauté 2 minutes or until lightly browned. Stir in garlic; sauté 30 seconds. Add wine; cook 2 minutes. Add parsley, thyme, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Uncover and cook 6 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates. Remove from heat. Add 1 T cream cheese, stirring until cheese melts. Set aside.

As you start the mushrooms, heat pan over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 T of butter, melt. Add onion; saute for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium; continue cooking for 25-30 minutes or until deep golden brown, stirring frequently. Set aside.

Heat milk and remaining tablespoon of cream cheese. Whisk until smooth. Keep warm.

Coat a lidded baking dish with cooking spray. Arrange potato slices in dish, and top with kale. Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper evenly over kale. Spoon the mushroom mixture over black pepper, and arrange turnip slices over mushroom mixture. Top with caramelized onions; sprinkle with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Pour milk mixture over onions and sprinkle evenly with Gruyère cheese. Cover and bake at 350° for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender and cheese begins to brown.

Hoppin’ John – Not Just for New Year’s Anymore

October 1, 2012

Recently a friend inquired about my “death row meal.”  I didn’t list Hoppin’ John, but I might have to add it to the list.  This has everything going for it today.  It’s cool and gloomy out so this is a perfect comfort food.  Black-eyed peas are in season so I got them fresh at the farmers’ market on Saturday when I got the turnips.  Of course when you get turnips at the farmers’ market they come with the greens still attached – bonus!  The pepper plants around here are still producing – another check mark for South of the James market.  Dinner scores high on the “buy local” scale.  It’s mostly veggies and rice so it scores high on the cheap scale too.  I used smoked turkey instead of ham hock so it’s not bad on the healthy scale either.  Hoppin’ John is a good luck food for New Year’s, but maybe it will bring a little luck to the beginning of October too.

If you take a look at my New Year’s version of this dish you’ll note that it takes a couple of hours to put together.  This is a Monday and not a holiday so I didn’t have 2 hours.  It’s hard to rush the pot liquor, but I decided that 45 minutes was long enough.  In that time I was able to get all of the stemming and chopping of the greens and the chopping of the peppers and onions done.  A few things worked in my favor too.  The black eyed peas were very fresh – just a few days out of the field.  The fresher they are the faster they cook.  And the turnip greens were a little wilty so they cooked quickly also.  I used white rice instead of brown so that’s half time there too.  I cooked the rice in the black eyed pea water so it was almost boiling when I started.  I know, now I’m reaching, but I was hungry!

One note about this.  If you’re going to bother to make the pot liquor and stem and chop greens do lots of them.  You can always freeze the leftovers or eat them plain at another meal.  Ditto with the black eyed peas if you’re using fresh ones.  Go ahead and cook them all.  Mash the leftovers for black eyed pea cakes or serve them as a side dish.

My only complaint about Hoppin’ John is that my kitchen is a disaster. It takes four pots to put this together:  one for the greens, one for the rice, one for the peas and one for the peppers and onions.  You can use that last one to combine everything at the end.  It’s a great combination of flavors (earthy, green, smoky, sweet and salty) and textures.  Serve it with a little sweet cornbread and plenty of butter on the side.  And, of course, a big pitcher of tea.

Good? This is a favorite food of mine so it’s much better than good.
Easy? Not exactly. There are lots of things happening simultaneously.
Good for company? Absolutely. Who doesn’t need a little extra luck?
Special shopping? Nope, if you’re lucky you’ll hit the farmers’ market jackpot like I did.

Hoppin’ John

Ingredients

1-1 1/2 gallons of water
1 smoked turkey wing
2 T salt
1/4 t cayenne
greens from one bunch of turnips, stemmed and chopped
2 T butter
1 C fresh black eyed peas
1 T olive oil
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 onion, diced
2 garlic gloves, minced
1/2 C cooked rice

Directions

In a large pot heat the water and turkey wing to a boil. Add 2 T salt and cayenne. Simmer 45 minutes. Add chopped greens and 2 T butter. Simmer until greens are soft. Remove the turkey wing and pull the meat from the bone. Chop the meat finely. Discard the skin and bone.

In a small pot cover black eyed peas with water and bring to a boil. Simmer until peas are tender, but not mushy. Keep warm.

In a medium stock pot heat olive oil until it shimmers. Add peppers, onions and garlic. Saute until tender, but still crunchy.

Use a slotted spoon to dish 1/2 of the greens into the peppers and onions. Repeat with 1/2 or more of the black eyed peas. Add the rice and chopped smoked turkey. Toss gently to mix. Serve with Tabasco.

Butternut Squash Risotto with Mushrooms

August 26, 2012

I know that a lot of folks are trying to eat vegetarian at least one night a week.  Here’s a vegan contribution from my kitchen to yours.  There aren’t many vegan dishes that come out of this kitchen.  I’m a big believer in an “all things in moderation and sometimes a splurge” approach to eating.  This nice thing about this dish is that it almost feels like a splurge.  Risotto always feels just a little decadent with its rich creaminess and this one is finished with truffle salt to put it over the top.  No meat, no cheese, but all kinds of good.

I spent a fair amount of time this evening trying to come up with a risotto that would use up the other half of the butternut squash from yesterday along with the vegetable broth I made yesterday, a bunch of lacinato kale and a bunch of baby bella mushrooms.  Absolutely I could have used all those things, but then I found a different use for the kale so you’ll see that tomorrow.  I settled for three out of four.  I made this as easy on myself as possible.  I cooked the squash in the microwave and just used the pulp instead of making a real puree.  I quartered the mushrooms instead of slicing them.  It was faster and gave the mushrooms a little more presence in the dish.  Half an onion and one clove of garlic, both diced, and a little olive oil.  That’s it.

A lot of folks are intimidated by risotto.  I certainly didn’t grown up eating it.  It’s not difficult.  It just takes a little love and care.  Generally speaking when you make risotto you make the creamy rice first and then starting adding the extras.   That means that you stay by the stove stirring and adding liquid a little at a time for 40-50 minutes.  It’s perfect for those nights when what you really need is a chance to be by yourself and drink a glass of wine.  Also perfect for those nights when everyone is gathered in the kitchen talking.  You can stir while you get caught up on the day.

This risotto is very mild and smooth.  Elegant is a good word for it.  The squash is a little sweet, but not too.  The mushrooms add a dark taste and meaty texture.  The fresh parsley is much more than a garnish here.  It adds a bright green punch to the flavor.  I just needed a little richness to round out the flavors.  Fortunately some friends brought me some truffle salt for my birthday.  It was the perfect finishing touch.  A little salty, a little pungent.  A little goes a long way.  And it’s wonderful.  With the truffle salt I didn’t need to add the usually parmesan for finishing.  Definitely worth a try if this is a new flavor for you.

I’m not looking to convert anyone to vegetarianism, or veganism, but since most of us are watching our pennies and our waistlines this is a yummy way to do both.

Good? Very good.
Easy? Yes, just time consuming.
Good for company? Absolutely.
Special shopping? The truffle salt came from a specialty food store. You can get it from Dean & Deluca or order from Amazon.com.

Butternut Squash Risotto with Mushrooms

Ingredients

Pulp from 1/2 butternut squash
1 t olive oil
4-5 oz baby bella mushrooms, quartered
3 C vegetable stock, warmed
1 T olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped fine
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 C arborio rice
1/3 C white wine
3 T chopped fresh parsley
1/8 t truffle salt

Directions

Place butternut squash half, free of seeds, cut side down in a microwaveable dish. Add enough water to cover the bottom of the dish about 1/4 inch. Microwave on high 4-5 minutes, or until squash is soft enough to be scooped out with a spoon. Set aside.
Heat 1 t olive oil in a skillet. Add the mushrooms and saute until they are tender and brown on all sides.
Heat vegetable stock in a small pot and keep hot.
Add olive oil to a small stock pot and heat until it shimmers. Add onion and garlic. Saute 1-2 minutes.
Add arborio rice and stir to coat. Add 1/3 C white wine and stir until the liquid is almost absorbed. Add warm stock to rice 1/2 C at a time. Stir constantly between each stock addition until the liquid is almost absorbed. Continue until the rice is nearly al dente.
Stir in squash pulp, mushrooms and 1/4 C of remaining stock. Cook until rice is al dente.
Remove from heat and stir in parsley. Stir in truffle salt.