Archive for the ‘Intermediate’ Category

Tomato Braised White Beans OR White Beans in Dirt

November 1, 2018

I’ve been looking forward to this dish all week.  It just sounded like half comfort food and half elegant dinner.  That said, it’s a slightly strange combination of things and I couldn’t quite figure out the flavor profile.  I’m still not sure I know.  I’ll say it’s 1/4 the recipe and 3/4 the cook.  Let me explain.

I did all my chopping ahead of time.  Worked out the math.  Figured out my substitutions.  Ready to roll.  I’m pretty good about that with recipes I’m unfamiliar with.  Cook the sliced chorizo, got it.  Easy.  Remove the chorizo to a paper towel.  Yep.  Add tomato paste, cumin and paprika to the pot.  Cook “until the mixture is caramelized and dark gold.”  Wait, what?  How does a mixture that starts out red and brown turn into dark gold?  It definitely didn’t.

Instantly black as tar.  This is the point at which I should have started over.  I’m guessing the oil was too hot when I added the tomato paste, but I’ve never seen tomato paste do this.  I didn’t start over.  I soldiered on.

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I added the vegetables. Then stirred in the beans, tomatoes, water and herbs.  I tasted the broth at this point.  Tasted like dirt.  Not a good sign.  From here you boil, add the chorizo, and then simmer 20 minutes.  That means this is going to reduce and the flavors will concentrate.  Concentrated dirt?  Not promising.  Still, I pressed on.

I added the spinach.  Here’s my second mistake.  The recipe calls for sherry vinegar.  I added sherry, which in this pot of very strong flavors, did nothing.  Hello Google.  Yep, sherry and sherry vinegar are not the same.  I could have added 1 part sherry to 3 parts red vinegar except I didn’t have any.  I used balsamic vinegar instead and it made a big difference!  A drizzle of olive oil was also a welcome balance for the dark, dirt flavor of the tomato broth.

In the end this was edible.  I wasn’t even really tempted to pull pizza out of the freezer.  I was suspicious of the spinach, but that added a really nice light greenness.  The balsamic vinegar added a perfect sharpness and the olive oil a beautiful smoothness.  That said, I’m not convinced I’ll eat the leftovers.  All of those lovely flavors really just helped to cover up the fact that I burned the tomato paste in step 2.  But you can’t ever really cover that up completely.

Just a couple of notes for alternatives.  With a little extra smoked paprika I think you could leave out the chorizo and make this a vegan dish.  Or, I think you could also use pepperoni or turkey pepperoni just as well as an easy substitute for the chorizo.

If you decide to make this, I’m going to recommend that you consult this recipe. One, this is a slow cooker version, which is always nice, and two, it’s the right color!

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Pasta Friday: Fridge Leftovers and Fettuccine in Lemon Parmesan Sauce

August 24, 2018

Half Marathon training is starting in earnest tomorrow.  5 miles.  Not long, but not throwaway either.  Time to get my pasta Fridays started.  Settle in folks, we’ll be carb-ing on Fridays until November.  Since tonight is the first pasta Friday in a while I wasn’t really prepared.  I usually have some half bags, clamshells or baggies of veggies in the fridge though, so that’s a good start.  Tonight I also had a half a lemon, 1/4 C of cream and a single chicken breast to go with some spinach, carrots and a red onion.  Dinner!

I decided to try poaching the chicken.  Let me just say this isn’t easy and I didn’t do it well.  It takes patience.  I’m not always long on patience.  Poaching chicken is not boiling chicken in fancy water.  You’re supposed to start everything cold and simmer it really low until it’s just done.  All I can say is that I started with cold chicken stock; a clove of garlic; a slice of lemon; and a chicken breast that I’d already sliced to speed things up.  Mistake one.  I should have left it whole and sliced it when it was done.  I brought it to a very low simmer.  It didn’t look like it was enough so I turned up the heat just a little.  Mistake two.  While my attention was on the rest of dinner, the stock started to boil.  So, I had boiled chicken. I turned it down immediately, but it was too late.  Not terrible, but tougher than I would have liked.

Nothing mysterious about the vegetables. A little olive oil heated until it shimmered and in go the carrots and onions.  Let them saute until they start to brown.  Don’t add any salt yet.  If you add salt now you’ll pull the water out of the vegetables and they’ll steam more than saute.  After 2-3 minutes add some minced garlic.  One clove is plenty.

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Now it’s time for the sauce.  This is a super light cream sauce and you can make it in the pan with the veggies.  Bonus points for not dirtying another pan!  Just push the vegetables to the side to give yourself a little room to work.  Here’s what you need, plus some of the poaching liquid or pasta water if you didn’t poach the chicken:

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Melt the butter and stir in about 1 T of flour.  Keep stirring it so it doesn’t burn.  Then add just a little cream.  Keep stirring. It will thicken quickly and you’ll have a paste.  That’s what’s supposed to happen.

Stir in some poaching liquid so now you have a sauce consistency.  It will be thinner than you’ll end up with.  Add the rest of the cream and bring the sauce to bubble.  It will thicken some.  Add a little more poaching liquid.  You’ll need it to cook the spinach.

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Stir the spinach in until it wilts.  Let the sauce bubble and thicken a little more.  Stir in about 1/2 C of grated parmesan.  Add in the cooked pasta.  It works best if you use tongs to mix everything together.  Grate about 1/8 t nutmeg over the top along with freshly ground black pepper.

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Remove from the heat and squeeze half a lemon over the pan.  Add in the cooked chicken.

Enjoy!

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Seafood Sunday Shrimp and Grits

August 12, 2018

For some reason Sunday has become seafood day here.  Maybe because I often have time to go to the good market and pick out something nice or something I can’t get in my regular grocery.  It’s just shrimp today, but feels special anyway.  Elegant comfort food.

There are as many ways to make shrimp and grits as there are people who make it.  Pro and con tomato.  Pro and con meat.  Pro and con cream.   Pro cheese grits, pro regular grits.  I tend toward pro meat, neutral tomato and con cream.  I love cheese grits, but not with shrimp.  I’m not a cheese and seafood person for the most part.

Tonight I had a recipe from The New York Times as inspiration – added some ham, removed some tomato paste, butter grits instead of cheese.  It’s not my favorite ever shrimp and grits, but the worst shrimp and grits I’ve ever made is still better than a lot of things I’ve made.  And on a very rainy Sunday with my basement taking on water, it was lovely to have.

A couple of comments before we get started.  One – make your grits first.  They’ll keep.  If you have both things going at once your grits will stick to the bottom or your shrimp will overcook or you’ll forget something.  Just get the grits done before you move on to the shrimp and sauce.  Second – do your prep work.  Get your shrimp peeled and deveined.  Get your chopping done. Put stuff in bowls so once you get started, you can just dump stuff in the pan.  It’s more dishes, but really worth it.

Step 1:  Make the grits

  • Follow the instructions on the package.  Use stock instead of water if you want.  Add cheese instead of butter at the end if you want.  I used half chicken stock and half water.

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  • NOTE:  Unless you’re sure you’re going to use all of the grits for this dish, don’t use your shrimp stock in the grits.  If you have leftover grits, and I always do, they’ll be a lot more versatile if they don’t taste like shrimp.

Step 2:  Make the shrimp mixture

Here’s what you need: (see, chopping already done)

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  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • ¾ cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup chopped bell pepper
  • 2 gloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2-3/4 C diced country ham
  • 1 cup diced ripe tomatoes with a little of their juice (chopped canned tomatoes are preferable to less-than-perfect fresh tomatoes)
  • ½ teaspoon dried Herbes de Provence
  • 1/2 tablespoon flour
  • 1 pound medium to large raw shrimp, shelled (reserve shells for stock)
  • ½ to 1 cup shrimp stock
  •  cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 dashes Tabasco

Here’s what you do:

  • For the shrimp, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat and sauté the onion, pepper, garlic and ham until softened, about 3 minutes.

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  • Add the tomatoes and juice and Herbes de Provence; bring to a simmer. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes.

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  • Sprinkle with flour and stir well.
  • Add the shrimp and stir constantly until they begin to turn pink, about 2 minutes.
  • Add 1/2 cup stock and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more.

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  • Add the cream, Worcestershire and Tabasco and more stock if needed to make a spoonable sauce that generously coats the shrimp.
  • Heat thoroughly, being careful not to let it come to a boil. Taste for salt.

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Palak Paneer

August 8, 2018

It’s turned out to be International Vegetarian Week in One Woman’s Kitchen!  And that’s not a bad thing.  I love it when I get to remind myself that there’s a whole world of yummy food out there.  And if it’s mostly plants, well, Michael Pollan would be proud.  I’m not giving up bacon any time soon, but this is the second of two fantastic dishes to come out of the kitchen this week! (See the Vegetarian Enchiladas for the first one.)

I’ve actually made a version of this before.  It’s a recipe from a Rasika cookbook.  Rasika is my favorite Indian restaurant in the US. If you’re ever in DC and you like Indian food, make it a destination!  Last time I made Malai Palak, so no paneer.  It’s not that hard, and nothing too unusual except for the fenugreek powder, which I leave out.  This time I wanted to add a protein and I choose paneer instead of chicken, which would work just as well if you’re not vegetarian.

If you’re not familiar with paneer, it’s a very firm cheese.  It tastes to me like cottage cheese might taste if it came in a block.  It doesn’t melt so it will hold its shape when you add it to boiling spinach.  It’s available in most large grocery stores, but if not, certainly in an Indian market.

One of my favorite things about this recipe is that there’s no need to stem the spinach.  I’m pretty OCD about removing the stems even from baby spinach. I think they’re ugly to look at and unpleasant to deal with as you eat.  This spinach is going in the food processor so it doesn’t matter!

The key to making this successfully is mis en place.  Translation:  get your act together before you start.  Blanch all the spinach.  Do all your chopping.  Get out your spices so you don’t have to hunt for them when you need them.  Once you get started, things move fairly quickly.  The second tip is when it says “stir constantly,” do it.  It’s a defensive move as much as a cooking instruction.  Keeping the mixture moving prevents a lot of cursing.  Because it prevents being splattered by boiling hot spinach, which HURTS.  Warning issued.

First things first.  Blanch the spinach (a pound of it).  All that means is put it in a pot of boiling water for a few seconds, until it wilts; and then pull it out of the pot and move it to a bowl of ice water.  That stops the cooking and keeps the bright green color.  Set it aside in a strainer and let it drain. Don’t worry too much about getting the water out.  You’re going to add water to it in a sec.  Add the spinach to a blender or food processor and some water, up to a cup.  Puree.

Beyond the spinach here’s what you need:

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  • 1/4 C vegetable oil
  • 2 T minced garlic
  • 1/2 t cumin seed
  • 2 1/2 C diced onion
  • 1 T minced fresh ginger
  • 1 t minced thai chili or jalapeno
  • 1/2 t turmeric
  • 1/4 C  heavy cream (optional, but good)
  • 1 C paneer cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1/2 t salt

Here’s what you do:

  • Heat the oil in a large pan.  When it shimmers add the cumin seeds and garlic. Brown the garlic.  30 seconds.
  • Add the onions.  Cook until the onions are brown. 5 minutes

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  • Add the ginger, jalapeno, and turmeric.  Stir 30 seconds.  Add the spinach. (Watch the splatter!)

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  • Stir constantly for 5 minutes.
    • You  know how two minutes talking to a friend is completely different than two minutes brushing your teeth?  This is a tooth brushing 5 minutes.  Watch the clock or set a timer.

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  • Reduce the heat.  Add cream, paneer, and salt.  Bring to a boil.  Stir another 5 minutes. Same rules apply about the splatter.

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I served mine over rice so it felt like a full meal. Feel free to serve it as a side or with naan.  Frankly it’s also amazing over eggs.  This is a food I could eat 3 times a day.  The paneer adds a nice texture.  The bad news is that it won’t take me long to get through this batch.  The good news is that it’s not that hard to make more!

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Gingered Collards with Rice Noodles and Vegetables

June 11, 2018

I know what my Southern friends are thinking – Gingered Collards??  I never heard of such a thing!  For, the non-collard eating folks out there, just pretend I said lacinato kale.  It sounds fancier.  But I hope you’re all intrigued enough to read on!

I am frequently on the hunt for something to do with collards (or kale) besides cook them to death with smoked meat.  I do love them that way, but one cannot cook with ham hock alone.  Of course my new chef BFF Vivian Howard worked it out for me.  And then I threw in a bunch of other stuff and made a whole meal out of them.

Let’s start with the collards.  Forget about half of what I’ve told you about chopping collards.  Do remove the stems and stack the leaves on top of each other.  Don’t roll and slice them.  You’re going to cut them into 1-2 inch squares instead.  So we’re already in unfamiliar territory with these greens.  And then you’re going to cook them in oil and butter and ginger until they caramelize.  Now we’re fully in a foreign land.  And it’s a wonderful place!

A few tips before you start.  Mis en place is a good thing.  It’s not huge here since you don’t have to move too fast, but since I was making this up it helped to feel prepared.  So do all your chopping and measuring and putting your noodles in to soak, or your water on to boil, before you start heating any oil or butter.  You’re going to make the collards all the way through and set them aside. That way your large cast iron skillet will be free make the sauce and to do the other vegetables.

Here’s what you need:

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For the collards:

  • 1 t canola oil
  • 2 t butter
  • 1 bunch collards chopped into 1-2 inch squares
  • 2 T finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 T finely chopped fresh garlic
  • 1/4 t crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 C orange juice
  • 1/2 C water
  • 1 T brown sugar

Here’s what you do:

  • Heat the oil and butter in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat until the butter foams
  • Add the ginger
  • Add the collards, spread them into an even layer
  • Add the garlic and red pepper
  • Leave them be for 3 minutes (Seriously, no stirring or shaking the pan)
    • This is a LOT harder than you think.  I had to set the kitchen timer and walk away from the stove to resist the urge to stir!
  • Now you can stir!
  • Spread the collards back into an even layer and them sit another 3 minutes
  • They’ll start to brown and carmelize
  • Add the water, juice and sugar
  • Cook until the liquid cooks away
  • Remove the collards from the pan and set aside

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If the collards get as done as you want them before the liquid cooks away just remove them and leave the liquid in the pan.  It will help with the sauce.

For the noodles:

You’ve got a couple of options.  Either fill a pot with HOT tap water and soak the noodles 25-30 minutes.  Or fill a pot with water and bring it to a boil.  Cook the noodles as you would pasta. Drain, rinse, and return to the pot.  Stir in the collards and a little bit a sesame oil to make sure the noodles stay separated.

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For the sauce:

  • 2 T finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 T finely chopped fresh garlic
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 1 T maple syrup
  • 3 T orange juice
  • 1 T sesame oil
  • 1/4 t crushed red pepper

Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl and then add to the cast iron skillet.  Bring to a boil and stir until it reduced and thickens.  Stay close by.  The sugar will burn if you’re not paying attention!

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Pour the finished sauce into a bowl and set aside.

For the vegetables:

  • 1 T sesame oil
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced thin
  • 1 C matchstick carrots
  • 1-2 spring onions, sliced, whites and greens divided
  • 8 oz sliced shiitake mushrooms

Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel.  Heat the oil until it shimmers.  Add the peppers, carrots and onion whites.  Saute 2-3 minutes.  Add the mushrooms.  Cook down 3-5 minutes.

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You’re almost done!  Add the vegetables to the noodles.  Stir in the sauce.  Top with the onion greens.  Enjoy!

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How’d it turn out?

I had two bowls, so that tells you something.  It’s warm and noodle-y and has a great kick to it.  I’m super pleased to have happened upon these gingered collards.  They’ll be great as a side for a pork roast.  And it’s nice to have a way to serve collards that’s not so winter-y.  This also meets my requirements for flexibility!  You could use this to clean out the vegetable drawer for sure.  Bok choy, cabbage, radishes.  No rice noodles, no problem.  Udon, soba, spaghetti, rice – whatever you want.  Chill everything and serve over lettuce and cucumbers.  Vegetarian not your thing or need some extra protein?  Double the sauce and use it to marinate a flank steak.  Serve thinly sliced beef on top of your vegetables.  Not into spicy?  You can leave out the red pepper.  The fresh ginger will give you a gentler kick in the pants.

I’ve marked this as intermediate only because it’s a fair number of components in a specific order.  Don’t let that scare you!  It’s just noodles and veggies with a yummy sauce!

Leftover Greens Twice Baked Potatoes

June 3, 2018

It’s the end of my vacation week and I’m off on a business trip in the morning.  The last dinner before travel is often a very strange assortment of odds and ends from the week.  I didn’t have a lot leftover this week except some greens.  I decided to make myself a nice meal to close out my vacation, and still use up the fridge odds and ends.  I have to say this is a darn good use of greens that were leaning toward the wilty side.

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Here’s what I had left:  6-7 leaves of lacinato kale; 1/3 of a large container of baby spinach; 1 spring onion; and part of a bunch of parsley.  I also had the last of a buttermilk parmesan dressing that I served with charred vegetables earlier in the week and a little cheddar.

You can use whatever you have.  Leek tops, chard, beet greens, turnip greens.  You’ll need a little liquid – milk or cream or stock.  And a little cheese or plain yogurt never hurt a stuffed potato!

Here’s what you do:

  • Preheat the oven to 400
  • Bake the potato, unwrapped, on the oven rack
  • Chop all the greens
  • Boil a small pot of water, add salt
  • Add the heaviest greens first, then the more fragile ones
  • Drain the greens into a colander and squeeze out any excess water
  • When a fork goes through easily the potato is done – an hour plus, so plan ahead
  • Slice the potato longways
  • Use a spoon to scoop the potato into a bowl
  • Mash the potato and add the greens
  • Add 3-4 T of liquid
  • Stir the mixture to incorporate ingredients evenly, adding more liquid as needed   (I ended up using about 1/4 C)
  • Stir in the cheese
  • Spoon the potato mixture back into the potato skins
  • Bake another 10-15 minutes

Here’s how it turned out:

Hard to go wrong with a twice baked potato! This is a nice upgrade from the sour cream, bacon and cheese version.  This is a way to get some greens in for folks who aren’t big fans.  If you want to hide them a little further, put the greens and a little liquid into a food processor and chop until smooth before adding them back to the potatoes.  You’ll end up with fun, green potatoes!

This would make a entree easily.  I had mine alongside a little steak and some of the spinach sauteed with garlic.

Farewell vacation!  It has been wonderful to sew and cook and bake and run and hang out with the pups.  Next, we’re back to easy weeknight recipes with leftovers!

Strawberry Shortcake

May 27, 2018

It’s Spring in Virginia!  And that means strawberries!  I can’t resist them at the farmers’ market.  The season is all too short so you have to take advantage when you can.  I’m constantly looking for recipes.  I’ve also had baking on the brain for a couple of days.  I like to bake, but I don’t do it very often.  Trying to protect myself from eating a whole cake or tray of cupcakes!  Alice Waters to the rescue again.

The shortcakes that we have in the grocery store are bright yellow sponge cakes with a divot in the middle for the strawberries.  It’s kind of a strawberry Twinkie.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’ve eaten my fair share of Twinkies over the years.  But they aren’t shortcakes.  So, I set out to find a good recipe.  Didn’t take long to make my way back to The Art of Simple Food.

As few ingredients as possible.  That’s what we’ve got here.  And totally versatile. I reduced the optional sugar in the dough so I can use half of these for shortcakes, with a little added sugar on top, and half for breakfast, with a little bacon on top!

Here’s the key to shortbreads, biscuits, pie crusts and the like:  cold butter that stays cold.  That means work quickly and handle the dough as little as possible.  Your hands are hot.  They melt the butter.  You want the butter to stay cold in the making so it can melt in the baking.

Just a few ingredients.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 1/2 C flour
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 4 t sugar (less or none if you want)
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 6 T cold butter cut into little pieces
  • 3/4 C heavy cream

Here’s what you do:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
  • Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl
  • Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or a knife and fork

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  • When the butter is the size of small peas stir in cream
  • Blend lightly with a form until the dough just starts to form

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  • Dump it on a lightly floured board
  • Knead just until you can roll it out
  • When it’s 3/4 inch thick, cut into shapes
  • Put the biscuits on a baking sheet and brush with a little more cream

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  • Bake 17 minutes, golden brown

Here’s how it went:

I am not fabulous at shortbreads and biscuits.  I don’t make them often enough to get good at it and I don’t have a very light hand in the kitchen. I tend to work these doughs a little hard.  Don’t do that.  It makes the biscuits tough.

I did well with this dough.  Almost.  I read the recipe wrong so I rolled it to a little thicker than 1/4 inch.  Oops.  You can’t mush it all back together and rework it because you’ll get tough biscuits.  So, I cut them all out and then mushed two biscuits together.  To avoid handling them too much I scored the top of one and the bottom of another to help the two pieces stick together.  It worked!

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Of course they would be better if I’d done it right the first time, but this was a very good save.  And since I’m pulling them apart to serve them it works pretty well.

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I will say that my new oven is a dream come true.  The biscuits have a crisp on the bottom and are fluffy in the middle.  They baked evenly and for exactly 17 minutes.  I couldn’t be happier with it!

I sliced some strawberries earlier today and mixed them with a little sugar.  Then I whipped some heavy cream with vanilla and sugar.  Voila!  Cream biscuits become strawberry shortcake.  Beautiful!

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Linguine with Greens and Sausage

May 27, 2018

It’s Memorial Day Weekend!  For me, it’s the start to a whole week of staycation.  A time  for me to catch up on things, get the house in order, and exercise my creative brain – cooking, baking, gardening, sewing – heaven.  Often that means spending my evenings reading cookbooks.  Fortunately for me, more and more cookbooks these days have lovely stories as well as wonderful recipes.

I did a lot a running today:  running with dogs, running to the farmer’s market, running errands, making a grocery run.  So, I was pretty tired come dinner time.  I needed easy food.  Enter The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters.  What I love about this cookbook is that it’s an introduction to ways of cooking, basic sauces, kitchen equipment, and how to put foods and flavors together.  Not fancy, but hasn’t failed me yet.

I had some lacinato kale left in the fridge that was holding up really well for being in the drawer for a week.  I had half an onion in the fridge.  I had sausage in the freezer.  (I always have sausage in the freezer).  Simple food.  Good food.  Really good food.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1/2 bunch of lacinato kale, stemmed and chopped (or whatever hardy green you have leftover)
  • 4 oz sausage cut into rounds, or crumbled (I used Della Nonna by Sausage Craft – it has cheese in it – yum!)
  • 1/2 onion sliced thin
  • 3-4 oz linguine (or whatever pasta you like; the recipe calls for fusili)
  • crushed red pepper

Here’s what you do:

  • Boil some water in a pasta pot; salt the water
  • Add the chopped kale, cook 6-8 minutes until the greens are tender
  • Drain into a bowl, reserving the water to cook the pasta in

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  • In a heavy bottomed pan, cook the sausage, set aside
  • Drain all but 1 t of the fat

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  • Add the onions and red pepper, cook until caramelized

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  • Deglaze the pan with a little white wine or water

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  • Simmer until slightly reduced
  • Cook the pasta in the greens water until al dente
  • Toss everything together

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Here’s how it turned out:

Food, more or less just heated up. I gave it an Intermediate rating just because it’s a bunch of cooking and setting aside and some pot swapping so not as straightforward as a lot of pasta dishes.  Tastes better than a lot of pasta dishes too!

All the pieces taste like themselves.  And together – magical.  It looks nice too.  Nothing fancy, but absolutely fit for guests, or not.  I’m looking forward to leftovers!

 

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Greens and Gruyere Tart

May 6, 2018

It’s been a heck of a busy weekend here.  It’s the first full weekend I’ve been at home since March!  So, yesterday I put in most of the garden.  Not quite warm enough yet for beans and cowpeas.  You’ll be hearing plenty about the garden in the coming months.  Yesterday was outside, so today had to be inside.  Many hours of cleaning. SO tired.  I might have punted and had wine with cheese and crackers for dinner, but I’ve been planning for this tart for a while.

I had odds and ends of greens from last week – chard, leeks, green onions.  And for some time now I’ve been in a quest to find a use for the green tops of leeks.  It just kills me that most recipes only call for the whites.  I’ve been throwing away 2/3 of the leeks for years.  I hate that!  No more.  Now I know I can saute and eat them like other greens.  Win!  I also had some leek whites leftover so that was my starting place.

Honestly, when you search recipe sites for leeks, this is about the first thing that comes up on most of them.  Let me warn you.  It takes a long time from the time you start to the time you eat, even with a store bought crust, so plan accordingly.  Fortunately it’s not difficult and since it sits for 30 minutes after it’s cooked, it’s perfect for having people over.

I’ll do a separate post about cleaning leeks.  And you do have to clean them.  They’re filthy.  I mean actual mud in between the layers.  So be diligent about the cleaning.  No one likes a gritty meal.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 pie crust – store bought or make your own
  • Assortment of chopped greens – shard, leek tops – about 4 cups
  • 1 leek and 2 green onions, whites and light greens only, chopped
  • 3 T fat/oil (bacon grease, olive oil, butter – or a combination)
  • 1 T flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 C half and half
  • 1 C grated gruyere, divided
  • 1/4 t grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 t pepper

Here’s what you do:

For the crust:

  • Preheat oven to 450
  • Place crust in pie pan
  • Prick crust with a fork
  • Line the bottom with parchment
  • Top with pie weights or dried beans
  • Bake 10 minutes
  • Remove weights and parchment
  • Prick crust again, bake another 5-7 minutes, until crust is done

For the filling (while the crust bakes)

  • Preheat oven to 375
  • Grate gruyere, set aside
  • In a large, heavy pan, heat 2 T fat
  • Add leek tops and saute 7-8 minutes, until fairly soft
  • Add chard (or other soft greens) and saute another 3 minutes
  • Remove the greens from the pan and set aside to cool
  • Add 1 T fat and heat to a shimmer
  • Add leeks and green onions, saute 8-10 minutes

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  • Add 1 T flour, stir 1-2 minutes

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  • Remove from heat and set aside, mixing with greens
  • In a large bowl, beat 2 eggs
  • Add half and half, nutmeg, salt, and pepper
  • Whisk together

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  • Stir in greens and leeks

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  • Layer 1/2 the gruyere on the bottom of the crust

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  • Pour in filling, spread evenly

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  • Top with remaining cheese

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  • Bake at 375 30-35 minutes until center is set

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  • Remove from the oven and let sit another 20-30 minutes before serving

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Here’s how it turned out:

So good I ate two pieces!  Granted, this looks a lot more like brunch than a dinner after a weekend of killing yourself around the house and yard.  I’m shocked at how filling it is.  Only 2 eggs in the whole thing!  I threw together a little salad to have on the side.  A perfect brunch for guests to be sure, but I’ll be eating this for breakfast, lunch or dinner this week!

Try it with different greens or bacon or another hard, sharp cheese.  Serve it with grits or potatoes or fruit, in addition to a small salad.  Good warm and at room temperature.  Enjoy!

Umamen! Ramen Take 2

April 29, 2018

I spent my morning standing out in the cold and wind waiting to start an 8K.  Just one part of a very busy weekend.  Comfort food needed.  If possible, comfort food not full of fat.  I know, you’re thinking, um, ramen?  Ramen noodles have plenty of fat.  Thus, the Umamen.  These are udon noodles!  And rich miso and mushroom broth.  And lots of vegetables.  Comfort food.

This is kind of a combination of two recipes, with my own twists thrown in.  Check out the originals here and here.  The first is a vegetarian ramen recipe from umamigirl.com and the second is a buckwheat bowl from Cooking Light.  My version is partly “what I had left in the vegetable drawer” and partly “what looked good at the grocery store.”  I wanted to use bok choy, but it looked awful.  This may be the first ramen with swiss chard in it.  No idea why I picked up the leeks, but here they are.  I had a box of shiitake mushrooms and some carrots left from last week.  I had some udon noodles left from God knows when.  Throw in some green onions and soft boiled eggs and there you have it.  Vegetarian comfort food.  (A little Hardywood Gingerbread Stout added some comfort too).

Honestly, this isn’t easy.  It has a lot of parts and needs a fair amount of tending.  There’s a lot of “bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer.”  The eggs are a little fragile so peeling them takes some care.  You have to pay pretty careful attention to the order in which you add things or you’ll have mushy things or under-cooked things.  Not something to make while you’re doing laundry or packing lunches or talking on the phone.  So, pour yourself a beverage and settle in when you start this.  Of course you can do your chopping ahead of time.

Here’s what you need for the broth: 

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  • 1 T sesame oil
  • 1 C diced onion
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, minced
  • 2 T red miso paste
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 C vegetable stock (stock, not broth – if you use broth use 8 C broth and no water)
  • 4 C water
  • 1/2 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1/4 C soy sauce
  • 2-4 eggs

Here’s what you do:

  • Heat the sesame oil in a soup pot
  • Saute the onions, ginger and miso until the onions are soft
  • Add the ginger.  Saute 1-2 minutes,
  • Add stock, water dried mushrooms and soy sauce to taste
  • Bring to a boil
  • Add eggs in shell
  • Reduce broth to a simmer.  Cook 7 minutes.

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  • Remove eggs to an ice water bath.
  • Peel eggs and set aside.

Here’s what you need for the umamen: (use whatever you have or like)

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TIP:  Add vegetables in decreasing order of cooking time.  Hardest vegetables first and soft ones at the end.

  • 1 C sliced carrots
  • 1 large leek, cleaned and sliced
  • 2 cups chopped swiss chard
  • 8 oz sliced shiitake mushrooms
  • 1/2 C sliced green onions
  • 2 bundles udon noodles

Here’s what you do next:

  • Bring the broth to a boil.  Add leeks and carrots.

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  • Reduce heat to a simmer.  Simmer 10-12 minutes.
  • Bring the broth to a boil.  Add chard, mushroom and noodles.

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  • Reduce heat slightly.  Cook until the noodles are done.
  • Serve with a soft boiled egg and top with green onions.  Add more soy sauce to taste.

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Here’s how it turned out:

Rich and comforting.  I honestly wouldn’t have said that a vegetable stock could be this rich and creamy, but it absolutely is. The starch from the udon noodles thickens the broth just enough that this dish feels hearty and a little light all at the same time.  The miso and mushroom broth has lots of depth and complexity.  You could use a variety of vegetables here.  Bok choy or napa cabbage instead of chard.  Red bell pepper instead of, or in addition to, carrots.  Maybe a drizzle of sesame oil on the top.  Definitely more ginger.  Maybe some rice wine vinegar.

Take out the egg to make it vegan.  Add some beef or tofu or edamame to bring up the protein.  The options are endless. Umamen!