Sunday, December 27, 2009

Vegetable Couscous

One of the other things I like to eat while P is out of town is couscous. Again, it's simple to prepare, but more importantly, it's one of those things I don't eat often when P is here because he doesn't like Moroccan couscous. Anytime he's out of town I try to take advantage of the opportunity to load up on couscous. This is a simple meal to prepare, but also works very well when you just need a side dish (instead of a full meal, as I'm using it for). Hope you enjoy!

1/8 cup dried mushrooms (I used king oyster but you should use what you have)
1/8 cup dried rutabaga (optional)
3/4 cup boiling water
5-6 sun-dried tomatoes, diced
1 3/4 cups vegetable broth and reserved liquid (total; the vegetable broth should make up the difference lacking from the reserved liquid)
1/4 preserved lemon, diced
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
2 dried lime
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/3 cups couscous

Pour boiling water over mushrooms and rutabaga, then let sit for 20 minutes. Drain, reserving liquid. Dice mushrooms. Combine reserved liquid, vegetable broth, mushrooms, rutabaga, sun-dried tomatoes, preserved lemon, corn, dried limes, salt and pepper, then bring to a boil. Add couscous, cover and remove from heat. Let sit for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork. Drizzle with olive oil if desired. Serves 1-2 for a meal, or 2-4 as a side.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

No Food Waste Friday today, since it's Christmas. I'm out of town, and there wasn't any waste before I left.

I hope all of you have a wonderful Christmas and spend it sharing love and laughter with your friends and family.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mashed Potato Topping

Well, you guys may have noticed in previous posts that I eat a lot of random stuff when P is out of town and I'm on my own. One of the things I normally don't admit to eating copious amounts of when I'm by myself is potato flake mashed potatoes. I primarily because I never have fresh potatoes on hand (and I like to use canned potatoes for other things), but also I eat them because they're fast to make, can be made in single portions easily and because technically, dairy + potato = nutritionally complete meal. Sometimes I really like to top my potatoes with something (loads of mashed potatoes really can get boring sometimes), though, and today is one of those days. These toppings are convenient and easy to make, and I often make them out of scraps of produce that I need to use but simply haven't gotten around to yet. It's easily modified for whatever produce you have on hand, and of course it's great on "real" mashed potatoes as well. Hope you enjoy!

1/2 - 3/4 cup sliced onions
1/4 cup sliced celery
3 sliced cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Heat the pan over low-to-medium and add butter and oil. When butter is melted, double check to make sure you're not frying any butter wrapper, then add the celery, onions, garlic, salt and pepper. Fry for 5 minutes, then add the lemon and fry another 5 minutes. Serves 1.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Food Waste Friday

No picture this time either.

I lost:

2 slices havarti
1 slice toast
2 biscotti (can you imagine I let biscotti go to waste???)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Kamruddin

For ages, I have looked at packages of apricot paste when I go to Phoenicia with longing. Lots of longing. Ridiculous amounts of longing. Oh, how I wanted it. However, looking at a 500 gram package of what I equate with fruit roll-ups seemed maybe... not so good for the waistline. So I just looked, and occasionally touched the beautiful, bright orange packages, but never put one in my basket (which really is impressive, given the tiny amount of restraint I have when it comes to food). Then, one day, I was reading one of my favourite Syrian food blogs, Syrian Foodie in London, and I suddenly had a great excuse to buy this stuff. Kano posted a wonderful roundup of traditional Ramadan drinks, including one that contained this enticing paste. It seemed to me that drinking 300 of the 500 grams (and munching on the remaining 200) seemed okay, particularly given that I'd split it with P. Still not great for the waistline, but less damaging given that I wouldn't simply open the package and happily eat my way through the entire thing. I bought a package of the paste. It sat on my counter, and I stared at it over and over, but then an elliptical arrived at my house and I knew the time was right. So I give you Kano's recipe for this delightful drink, kamruddin. The link to Kano's blog takes you directly to the original recipe. This drink was everything I could have wanted, and more. It was sweet and tangy and floral. The only change I would make would be to make it thinner, as the thickness the original recipe has makes it more like a smoothie. I will definitely be making it again. If you see this paste, get it! Hope you enjoy!

300 grams apricot paste
500 mL water (in the future, I'll use a full litre of water)
couple spoonfuls of sugar
1 tablespoon orange blossom water

Cut the paste into one inch-ish pieces (I used a pizza cutter to do this) and put it in a container with the water and sugar. Let it soak for one hour, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a blender and blend well. Add the orange blossom water and blend briefly again. Chill in the fridge before drinking. Serves 2.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Carmelized Maple Pumpkin

I finally got around to cutting open one of the pumpkins that's hanging out in the pantry. Since then, we've enjoyed the seeds, and I made a batch of pumpkin butter to can. Yum. I still had half the pumpkin left after roasting, though, so I thought it might be good as a sweet addition to an overly savoury meal (sausage and kraut). Normally I might have mashed the pumpkin and then roasted it a second time with butter and sweetener, but I really just wanted cubes this time. Hope you enjoy!

1/2 sugar pumpkin, roasted then shelled and cut into cubes
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons brown sugar
pinch each: nutmeg, ginger, salt
2 tablespoons maple syrup

Melt butter and sugar together with spices in a medium skillet. Add pumpkin and cook lightly, evenly coating the pumpkin with the butter mixture. Let cook long enough that the butter mixture becomes sticky and caramelized on the pumpkin. Drizzle on maple syrup and cook another minute. Serves 2.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Food Waste Friday

So close. Again. But once again, no cigar. Despite the rampage I went on to eat up all leftovers in the fridge, I discovered a lone culprit who languished for God knows how long before I discovered it, covered in mold. What I didn't do, however, was keep track of the things on the counter. You'd think that having lived in Houston almost three years I'd be used to the humidity, but sometimes I forget (as I did this week) and as a result, some baked goods were lost. Hopefully next week I can have zero waste.

My waste this week is:

2-ish ounces cream cheese
6 dinner rolls
1/3 apple-pear cake



Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Fig and Walnut Biscotti

I was looking for the perfect cookie to make. Something spiced, and sweet but not too sweet. Something that you could taste and it would just make you smile. But not something I might normally label as "junk food," i.e., a treat that was a delicious dessert while still being "real food." Something I'd never had before. Something with figs. I poked around all my bookmarks, finding nothing that appealed. Then I poked around my favourite blogs (which really did take a considerable amount of time). I'm thankful I found something here, at Smitten Kitchen, because the next step was to start sorting through my hundreds of cookbooks in search for the one. I found The One. Fig and walnut biscotti.

These things are just delicious. I was actually too lazy to toast the walnuts, and they were still phenomenal. I took some of these to work so I could share (because really, who needs to eat 2 dozen cookies on their own?) and even the girl who lives on frozen pizza rolls (she is anxious to never ingest anything that could be considered real food) enjoyed them. I'm just cut and pasting the recipe directly from the link above, but I'm putting the changes I made in italics so you can decide for yourself how you want to do it. I hope you make them; they really are quite delicious!

"Makes approximately 24 biscotti

1 cup walnut pieces
1 cup dried Turkish or Calimyrna figs, quartered
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons or 3 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling (I didn't sprinkle any sugar)
6 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (plus another teaspoon of vanilla paste)
Grated zest of 1/2 a large orange (I used a clementine)(I used a valencia)
1 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (or 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons) unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon. ground nutmeg (I used 3/8 teaspoon)
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves (I used 1/4 teaspoon)
1 egg white, lightly beaten (I didn't bother with this at all)

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast for 5 to 7 minutes, or until golden brown and fragrant. Allow the walnuts to cool completely. (I skipped this step entirely)

2. Place the walnuts and dried figs in a food processor and process until they are finely chopped. (I chopped these with a knife, making them ring-fingernail sized)

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula occasionally. Beat in the vanilla and the orange zest.

4. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. Beat the dry ingredients into the butter mixture to form a somewhat firm dough. Add the walnuts and figs and beat until thoroughly combined. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic and chill 35 to 40 minutes or until completely firm. (I put it in Tupperware and left it overnight)

5. When the dough has chilled, lightly grease a baking sheet. On a floured board, use your palms to roll the piece of dough into a log the length of the baking sheet. Place the log on the baking sheet. (really, don't skimp on the flour)

6. In a small bowl, beat the egg white with a fork until frothy. With a pastry brush, glaze the log with some egg white and sprinkle it with granulated sugar. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes (this took longer in my oven, but everything seems to these days), or until the log is lightly golden brown, firm to the touch and just beginning to crack slightly. (I didn't do the egg and sugar. Also, I heated my oven to 350F, since that's my normal biscotti temperature and a temperature was only listed for toasting the nuts)

7. Allow the log to cool on the cookie sheet until cool to the touch, about 40 minutes. With a serrated knife, slice the biscotti, slightly on the bias, into 1/2-inch slices. Lay the slices on the cookie sheet in single layer (I always end up needing a second baking sheet in this step, as they have a lot more surface area); Return the biscotti to the oven and cook for 20 more minutes, or until the biscotti are toasted and crisp.

Store the biscotti in an airtight container. They will keep up to about 2 weeks."

Monday, December 07, 2009

Chickpeas and Israeli Couscous (Risotto Style)

Is it just me, or have I been posting a lot of things that are not related to recipes recently? Food waste updates (which are important, since I'm trying to consistently eliminate food waste from my life), product reviews (which admittedly, never make me sad to post because I LOVE LOVE LOVE trying new foods), and updates on my semester.

But no recipes.

Somehow, that just doesn't sit right with me. My last exam was Thursday, since I happily have no finals to take this semester, I was left with one 5th grade class left to teach on Friday and then lots of cooking to do. I've been baking a lot, which I rarely post since I rarely make my own recipes for baked goods. Perhaps I should start posting those things as well. It's a thought. It's fall, and during fall and winter I think we all get bitten a bit by the baking bug (say that five times fast!). So I believe I'll start posting the things I'm baking, with links back to the original site I got it from.

For today, however, we are combining a craving for chick peas with a need to use up some eggplant before it went bad. Initially I'd planned to make this with rice, but then I thought Israeli couscous would be so much better with it, not to mention a good way to use some more of the couscous which has been lingering on my shelves, asking me to stop ignoring it. In addition, switching to the couscous allowed me to participate in Presto Pasta Nights, hosted with month by Kevin at Closet Cooking. I've never participated in this event before, but it seemed fun. I really enjoyed this dish and plan to make it again. It's easy to make, filling, healthy and delicious - all in all a win in my book. Hope you enjoy!

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 carrots, finely diced
1/4 finely diced red onion
1 stalk finely diced celery
4 minced cloves garlic
1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup diced eggplant (peeled)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
handful kalamata olives, roughly chopped
1/2 preserved lemon, chopped
3/4 cup Israeli couscous
1 can chicken broth (or vegetable)
1 1/2 cups cooked chick peas (or one can, rinsed)

Heat a skillet and add olive oil. Once the oil is heated, add carrots, onion, celery, garlic, salt, pepper and pomegranate molasses and fry lightly, for about 5 minutes. Add eggplant, lemon juice, olives and preserved lemon and lightly fry for another 5 minutes. Remove veggies and add couscous. Toast for 1 minute, then add broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring continuously. After the third addition of broth, add veggies back in as well as the chickpeas. Finish cooking until couscous is soft and liquid is mostly absorbed. Serve with cheese. Serves 2-4.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Food Waste Friday

This week was better. We lost only 3-5 ounces of carne asada. Not perfect, but a definite improvement.

And, a recipe will be coming either tomorrow or Sunday. I'm done with all my exams now, so I actually have time to cook!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Food Waste Friday

I didn't take a picture this time, because the brunt of my waste I realised occurred in the very beginning of the week (and I didn't want to keep rotted food in my fridge). So, here's what was wasted:

1 tomato
6 brussels sprouts
1/2 cup spaghetti squash and sausage
1 dinner roll

In fairness, I think this was actually pretty good, particularly given that it's Thanksgiving week!

I hope you all had a great holiday!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving, and Mesquite

I hope you all are having a great Thanksgiving! Over here, we're having a great time. This year I declined to cook (!!!) and we ordered a lovely tenderloin package from Whole Foods. The food was great, and since it's just the two of us this year we have plenty to snack on through the weekend.

However, not doing the spread doesn't mean I ignored the kitchen completely. Instead of making dinner, I've spent the day baking various types of cookies to send to my mother for her holiday gift (we're doing only handmade gifts this year).

Which brings me to the mesquite. The people at Casa de Fruta (which is one of my favourite places in the world, primarily because of how wonderful their olives, dried apples and sheet apricots are! Plus they make some really delightful wines; I stop there anytime I'm in northern California) sent me a bag of their mesquite flour. It tastes kind of carob-like, and is flour made from the beans of the mesquite tree. Doesn't really get more American than that (like pumpkins, potatoes and corn!), which for me means Thanksgiving is the perfect day to start baking with it.

I added mesquite flour to molasses cookies, and I noted a difference in the depth of the flavour of the cookie. I also added some to the double chocolate biscotti, though in this recipe I think there was so much chocolate I couldn't really tell a difference. Additionally, when I made Francis some mini pumpkin muffins, I added some to that too. I tasted his muffins and the mesquite flour did represent the carob I deleted from the recipe.

I think if you're curious about amending your recipes to try a new product, or if you have people who require gluten-free food (which mesquite is), it's a good one to try out, and relatively inexpensive (given that you use just a bit at a time).

Many of my molasses cookies are malformed, but here's a pic:



Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Food Waste Friday

Oy vey. This week I did very, very poorly on controlling food waste. I think this is the most food I've wasted in quite some time, and I'm kind of embarrassed. What I find most odd about this week's waste, however, is that the brunt of it was bread related. That's weird to me because I obsess over bread and almost always eat any piece of bread that falls within my line of vision. That being said, I wasted:

3 slices of white bread (this is actually P's bread, but I should've finished the loaf)
just under 2 loaves of kaak
half a head of butter lettuce

Monday, November 16, 2009

Spaghetti Squash with Sausage

This is kind of an odd take on spaghetti with meatballs. It really bears no resemblance to spaghetti with meatballs, though that was the inspiration for this dish. It's relatively simple to make and only costs a couple dollars to feed two people. Since there's no real starch component to this meal, I served it alongside garlic-cheese bread. These bars were for dessert, and were the perfect close to the meal. Hope you enjoy!

1 spaghetti squash
1 can stewed tomatoes
1/3 pound fresh sausage, either crumbled into little "balls" or sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/3 cup vegetable broth

Cut the squash in half. Put the halves on a plate, cut side down, and microwave for 10-15 minutes. Let sit until cool enough to touch, then scrape the flesh into a saucepan. Add remaining ingredients and simmer over medium to medium-high heat until sausage is cooked through. Serves 2.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

POM Coffee

I have to say, the people at POM are really winning me over. They sent me some of their new iced coffees. These things go beyond addictive. They're delightful, rich in flavour, creamy in texture and just amazingly, sickeningly delicious. You probably already knew I love coffee (and tea!), but these are just wonderful. They're pretty high in calories, averaging about 190 for 10.5 fluid ounces, but I'm guessing those high calories are what make them taste so good. They also pack a large caffeine wallop, at 175 mg of caffeine per serving (which is one bottle). That's just over twice the amount of caffeine in a red bull, but without all the chemical after-taste. It's also slightly more caffeine than in a grande latte from Starbucks, but without the burned flavour (or maybe that's just my thing against Starbucks?). Anyway, they're really delicious, and if you're going to go for an energy-type drink, I recommend this one.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Food Waste Friday

I didn't think to take a picture, because it would've probably meant taking pictures on different days, but this week I wasted the following food:

2 tortillas
3 ounces baby spinach

Both of these somehow got lost in the fridge, and when I discovered them it was not pretty.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Baked Beans with Acorn Squash

Finally, I got around to making the acorn squash. One squash down, 5 to go! I've been wanting baked beans, and also have been wanting squash, so I thought it would make sense to combine the two. I actually baked this for 2 hours at 300F and about a half hour at 400F (because I was doing it differently than I would've made it if P wasn't in class while I was cooking) instead of how the directions will say to make it, but you can easily modify the temperature to fit your scheduling needs (including, I'm guessing, a slow cooker). I served this with jalapeño-cheddar bread. This recipe is also easily modified for vegans and vegetarians if you leave out the salt pork (though you'll want to add more salt). Hope you enjoy!

1 can white beans
2 slices salt pork, cut into bits
2-3 tablespoons molasses (I didn't measure, but it was roughly this much)
1/2 cup BBQ sauce
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
1/4 cup minced onion
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 acorn squash
1 teaspoon each: salt, black pepper

Preheat oven to 350F. Drain the beans. Cut the salt pork into bits. Peel, deseed and cube the acorn squash. Mix together with all other ingredients and bake for one hour, or until squash is cooked through (stir once during the baking time). Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a side.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Eggplant Dolma

Oh, it's been a week again. Here I was, doing so well posting more than once every week or two, and then the upcoming vector analysis exam needed to be studied for. It's either going to be incredibly difficult, or shockingly easy. We'll see I guess.

Anyway, I'd intended to live in the realm of squash and beans and potatoes and cabbage, but a trip to the farmer's market (where we'd gone to get some of that amazing beef sausage) turned up some adorable little round eggplants, and I needed to have those too. Seeing as squash can last nearly the entire winter, I decided to put it off in favour of the eggplants. Typically we think of dolma as being stuffed grape leaves, but really the word just means "stuffed thing" and can apply to myriad stuffables. These little eggplants really just begged to be filled with yummies. Normally we get the beef sausage from the market, but they were out (which is what you get if you show up 30 minutes before closing time), so instead we picked a nice looking fresh pork polish sausage. I think for this recipe, any fresh sausage will do. I hope you enjoy!

6 ounces fresh sausage, crumbled
1 shallot, finely minced
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
2 garlic cloves, smashed into paste
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons bulgur wheat
1/2 teaspoon each: tumeric, aleppo pepper, marjoram
1/3 reserved eggplant innards, finely chopped
6 small eggplants

1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
pinch salt
1/2 cup vegetable broth
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2/3 reserved eggplant innards, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 375F. Make a thin slice on the bottom of each eggplant so it can stand upright. Slice off top, then use a melon baller to hollow them out, leaving some flesh inside each eggplant. Finely chop the eggplant flesh that's been removed from the eggplants, and set aside. Mix together (use your hands) the entire first group of ingredients except the whole eggplants. Stuff this mixture into the eggplants, packing it in tightly. Mix together tomato sauce, salt, remainder of broth and lemon juice. Pour into the bottom of your pan, then stand the eggplants in the pan. Put in the oven for one hour, or until the eggplants are soft and the filling is cooked through. Transfer to plates and spoon sauce over the eggplants. Serves 2.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Pumpkin-Rye Biscuits

You might've thought this was a treat for you, but it's really a treat for your best friend (dog). I got this recipe from the lovely Chile, but I didn't have mesquite or soy flour, and wasn't about to buy any. So we modified it from there to accommodate what I had on hand, and then I added pumpkin too. These smelled pretty good when they were baking, but I didn't try any. I thought it'd be rude to the dog. Hope your dog enjoys!

1 1/2 cups rye flour
1/3-ish cup whole wheat flour (it was probably a little closer to 1/2 cup, but just go w/ it)
2 egg shells, washed and dried then pounded into powder in a mortar (this was fun)
4 tablespoons pumpkin shell puree*, or pumpkin puree
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup + 1/2 tablespoon oil (I used soybean oil, but you could use anything you like)

Preheat oven to 350F. Pulse the dry ingredients together in the food processor. Add the pumpkin and run the processor while pouring in the water and oil. When fully combined, transfer the blob of dough to an ungreased baking sheet. Wet hands (it's very, very sticky) and smooth into a square or round of even thickness. Score with a pizza cutter. Bake until golden and firm (original recipe gives ~20 minutes; for me it took 40 I think), then remove from oven. Let cool 10 minutes, then cut with a pizza cutter and loosen from the baking sheet with a metal spatula. Once cut, you can let them cool immediately, or you can leave in the cooling oven to dry further. If they aren't crispy when cooled, cook them a little longer (but if you let them cool in the cooling oven, they will be for sure). Serves one dog.

* After processing a pumpkin, puree the shell and freeze it, in one tablespoon increments, in an ice cube tray. It's perfect for making dog treats, stirring into the dog's bowl of food, or even adding a touch of extra fibre to your pumpkin people products (say that 5 times fast).

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Grilled Cheese and Cabbage Sandwich

I used to eat grilled cheese sandwiches with cabbage in them a lot when I was a kid, and I always loved them. Now I almost never eat grilled cheese, but this week I started craving them. I wanted to make a slightly more "adult" version of the sandwich, so I upgraded the cheese from American to colby jack and havarti, and since I had no red cabbage on hand (the usual type, and honestly my favourite), I used napa this time. I really love the cabbage and pickles in a grilled cheese, because it adds a nice crunch to the sandwich, a little extra nutrition and a slight twist on the usual flavour. Hope you enjoy!

2 slices bread
handful of pickle slices (optional)
1 slice colby jack cheese
1 slice havarti cheese
1/4 - 1/3 cup sliced or shredded cabbage
thin layer of oil or butter

Heat pan or sandwich machine (I use a sandwich machine), or grill. Put a tiny layer of fat on the outside of each piece of bread. Put a slice of cheese on the bread, then top with pickle slices and cabbage. Add second slice of cheese, then second slice of bread. Grill, fry or cook in the usual manner you use at home. Serves 1.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pomegranate, Mango and Blueberry Smoothies


I found a bunch of frozen fruits on sale, so I snapped them up to make smoothies for P. When the POM juice came, of course I thought it'd be wonderful to use some of it for the smoothies as well. These are a wonderful addition to lunch; relatively low in calories and chock full of nutrients. If you add protein powder, it can even make for a quick meal replacement. Hope you enjoy!

8 ounce pomegranate juice
1 cup frozen mango
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1 cup ice
Up to 1 cup of water, as needed

Blend. Stream in water if needed while the blender runs. Serves 2.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Vanilla Bean Quince Paste

I love the humble quince. I don't care how it's prepared, I still love it. Quince jam, quince tarts, quince everything. But most of all, I love quince paste. Quince paste is like magic to me. Unbelievably delicious in an almost peaceful sort of way. It's sweet, but not to sweet. The rich pectin content of the quince gives it a silky yet gelatinous texture. It's the perfect snack. Good alone as dessert, as a midnight snack, or beautiful with cheese. It can be melted down to use as a glaze or incorporated into dressings. And yet, it's so satisfying that just one square is enough to make you happy.

Because of all this, anytime I see quince at the store I try to buy several so I can make enough paste to last me through the year (though I usually do this in more than one batch). Quince is back in the stores now, and it's a huge source of excitement for me. However, I decided this year to do something a little different with it. Enter vanilla bean. I always figure that vanilla makes nearly everything just a little better than it was on its own, so I thought I'd see if that rule held true for quince paste. For me, it did. This recipe is best made on a chilly, rainy evening when you have nothing else to do but get through a chapter of philosophy homework. I hope you enjoy!

3 quince, peeled and cored, then cut into chunks
1 cup water
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped (I reserve the pod for homemade vanilla extract)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
sugar equal to the volume of the cooked quince

Place the quince in a baking dish and place in the oven. Set the oven to 350 and set the timer for an hour. The quince should be soft at this point. Remove from oven and puree with the cup of water. Measure this mixture, then pour into a saucepan. Add an equal volume of sugar, the lemon juice and the vanilla seeds. Cook over the lowest heat setting on your stove, stirring every 10 or so minutes, until it seems like it's setting up (this will take a couple hours). Heat the oven to 170F or the lowest available setting you have. Grease a pan (or two little ones, like I like to) and pour the paste into the pan(s). Smooth the top, then put it/them in the oven for a couple hours to dry a bit. When it's dried and completely set, you can either leave it in the pan and take out slices as you want them (this is what I do), or you can unmold and cut them into pieces, then wrap with wax paper.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sweet Potato Pasta with Pesto

Today has been a big cooking day for me. Instead of doing homework, like I should be, I've spent the entirety of the day in the kitchen. I made pasta salad for us to snack on during the week, pumpkin bars that I'll likely take most of to school, and the lengthy process of starting meat sauce. I'd also intended to make quince paste, but I just didn't get around to that yet. I suppose I can read my philosophy and make quince paste tomorrow at the same time (since you have to sit there stirring for so very, very long).

In light of how much is going on in the kitchen, I wanted something simple for dinner, but still relatively healthful. I had a sweet potato lying about that really did need to be eaten, and I'd purchased a jar of pesto recently in the middle of a craving (okay, I was craving fried plantains dipped in pesto, but I forgot to get the plantains) that I was having. I know... most of you are probably purists in the sense that you don't buy your pesto pre-made, but since I know I am too lazy to make pesto the right way, I'm okay with buying one that's made with decent quality.

I thought the flavours would mesh well together while acting as a nice deviation from either sage (which goes so well with sweet potatoes and squash) or sweetened, dessert-like sweet potatoes. We both really enjoyed this dinner, and happily ate up seconds of it (accompanied by asparagus which I'd sauteed simply in olive oil with salt and pepper). I hope you enjoy!

1 large sweet potato
8 ounces penne
3/4 cup pesto sauce

Wash your sweet potato, and stick it in the oven. Turn the oven on to 400F. When the oven is heated, set timer for approximately 30 minutes and let the sweet potato keep baking. Poke the sweet potato with a fork to see if it's done, and if it is, remove it from the oven and slip the skin off (I love poking up a flap of skin with a knife then peeling it off the whole potato). Slice it in half lengthwise, then cut into roughly 1" cubes. Prepare the penne according to package directions, drain and return to the pot. Add the sweet potato cubes to the penne, then toss with pesto and keep on the burner long enough to heat through. Serves 2-4.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Mom's Roasted Potatoes

Well, sort of. My mom always made these when she was baking a chicken, so they're a little different today than how she normally made them. I always remember when she made these potatoes, that I was more interested in them than anything else that was on my plate. I could probably spend days eating bowl after bowl of her potatoes.

So, after the second day in a row that we went to the butcher seeking bones for Francis that they were out of dog bones (apparently the K9 unit snaked them all), we decided to have a treat and get some nice ribeyes. Yum. For a side, I'd originally planned to use up some of the frozen cauliflower and brussels sprouts, but P wanted potatoes. Just so happened I'd found a 5 pound bag on sale recently and hadn't used them all for potato salad (though I did make a lot of potato salad). I'd mentioned just making baked potatoes, but P thought they take too long to make so he suggested I cut them up and roast them.

Immediately, I remembered mom's potatoes. No chicken, but I figured I could make a rough approximation. I got really excited for potatoes then! If you want to make them more like mom's, ditch the celery salt and put a chicken on top of them to roast. Anyway, I hope you enjoy them.

2 russet potatoes, cut lengthwise into eighths
drizzle of vegetable oil
1 teaspoons each: lemon pepper, seasoned salt
pinch each: celery salt, paprika

Preheat oven to 450F. Cut the potatoes and put them in a baking dish. Drizzle on the oil, then sprinkle on all the spices. Bake 45 minutes or until crispy on the outside and soft on the inside (pierce with a fork to check). Serves 2.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Pomegranate Braised Vegetables

My goodness, the gaps between posts are just getting longer and longer, aren't they? I'm telling you, this semester is going to kill me. Thankfully, the lovely people at POM Wonderful offered to send me some of their juice, which I accepted. This rekindled my desire to be a little more creative with food and to focus slightly less on comforting stand-bys (which means a post, at long last!). They generously sent me a full gallon of the juice, which is good because P has been drinking it faster than you'd believe. He advised me to hide some of it if I intended to cook with it, so I hid some. Good thing, too since we're almost out of the juice that wasn't hidden! Anyway, if you haven't tried the juice, thus far it's been lovely to cook with (and for drinking as well). They didn't send me any of their teas, but I've tried them on my own and recommend them as well.

Onward. When I started thinking about pomegranate, and pomegranate juice, the first thing I thought of, of course, was red (maybe it's a rebellion against all the Descartes I've been reading?). Then I remembered I had a beet in the fridge I'd been saving for... well, I don't remember what it was for (though I'm glad root vegetables last a while without going bad). It seemed like it'd be really nice to cook the beet in the pomegranate juice, and then I thought I might have other produce that'd be good as well in it. I love how pomegranates are sweet but still a little tart. Turned out I had a little more produce I'd forgotten than I want to admit to (this seems to be a common theme with me these days), so I made the whole thing as one dish instead of just the beets and served it over rice. Oh, initially I'd intended also to boil down any remaining liquid after it all cooked to make kind of a glaze, but I ended up deciding the juices would be even better on the rice. Hope you enjoy!

1 beet, peeled and cut into cubes
1 red onion, cut into large chunks
5 large button mushrooms, quartered (these were supposed to be stuffed, but...)
1 cup yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
3 carrots, cut into 1" or so pieces
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
8 ounces POM pomegranate juice
1/8 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup broth (I used a mix of beef and chicken, you use what you like)

Preheat oven to 300F. Mix all the ingredients together in a roasting pan and put in the oven for 30 minutes. Get really impatient that your food is taking too long, and stir the veggies, crank the oven up to 400F and cook it another hour, stirring half way through. Serve over rice (which I made using chicken broth and a bay leaf). Serves 2-4.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mediterranean Chopped Salad - No Croutons Required



We have an overwhelming amount of produce in the fridge right now (oh, the joys of a new Costco membership), and since I'm really trying to eliminate food waste, I thought I'd put together a lot of the produce that's left to make a salad we can munch on while studying (which really, I need to get to soon). This is, as an aside, awesome with leftover pizza. It worked out well that I had this going on at the same time as the No Croutons Required challenge was specifically for a Mediterranean soup or salad. So, here's my submission. Hope you enjoy!

2 English cucumbers, sliced into half moons
1 pint yellow cherry tomatoes, cut in half (you can use red if you like)
3/4 cup celery, sliced paper thin
1/4 large red onion, sliced paper thin
1 1/5 cup snap peas, cut into 1" pieces
1/4 - 1/2 pound feta, crumbled (I had 1/4 lb, but I wish I'd had a half)
1 cup kalamata olives, which you can pit if you feel like it (I didn't)

Dressing:

juice of 2 limes
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon each: pomegranate molasses, honey, oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 - 1/2 cup good quality olive oil (I just drizzled until it was how I wanted it)

Fold together vegetables, feta and olives. Whisk together lime juice, vinegar, pomegranate molasses, honey, oregano, salt and pepper. Slowly drizzle in olive oil while whisking until it reaches the desired consistency. Fold into the salad. Chill before serving. Makes.. a lot.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Grated Beet and Anise Slaw

It feels like it's been forever since I've posted. I've been insanely busy, mostly with physics, though my other homework has been fitting in somehow. I have never had so much homework in my life before. As a result, I've been living off quick foods and take-out. Finally tonight I had a chance to cook.

We bought a good amount of produce before P went camping for Labour Day. I saved most of it for when he got home so we could enjoy it together (plus, when he's gone I seem to live on matzot brei, scones, salads, makdous and hummus). He came home with some steaks, so I figured I'd make those, plus some of that parmesan crusted eggplant. However, I wanted to have a beet and fennel salad. Normally I roast my beets before doing anything with them, but I really do enjoy them raw as well (turns out Francis also likes raw beets), so I thought I'd just make a slaw out of them. Hope you enjoy!

1 large beet, peeled and grated
1 anise/fennel bulb, grated then pressed between the hands to eliminate excess moisture

1/8 cup sherry vinegar
large pinch salt
pinch nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon dijon or stone ground mustard
1/4 cup olive oil

Fold together the beets and fennel. Whisk together the dressing's ingredients, then fold into the vegetable mixture. Chill until cold. Serve. Makes about 3 cups.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Corn and Black Bean Spring Rolls

I think I've been a little out of control with the black beans lately. I'm eating them all the time, and excepting the latest eggplant, it's been a while since I last posted a recipe that didn't contain them. All that being said, I still had a 1-cup portion defrosted in the fridge. Originally I'd planned to make a simple black bean and corn salad, but then I thought about how lovely it'd be to have spring rolls and I decided to make spring rolls using the beans instead. I cooked up a huge batch of white beans so, despite still having plenty of black beans in the freezer, I should be able to lay off them a bit so we don't all tire of the beans. Enjoy!

1 cup cooked black beans
water or bean cooking liquid
8 ounces cooked corn (I used one of those mini cans of yellow corn and had a tablespoon or two of corn leftover at the end)

2/3 cup grated carrot
generous pinch each: salt, sugar
2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
5 ounces rice vermicelli (or whatever sticks you use for spring rolls)
8 rice or tapioca sheets

Puree black beans, using enough water or cooking liquid to get them to a nice paste consistency. Combine the carrots, salt, sugar and 2 tablespoons vinegar and allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before draining. Boil water and add noodles to it. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes (give or take, based on your preference and the type of vermicelli you bought). Rinse with cold water, then add remaining rice vinegar (1 teaspoon) and sesame oil to the noodles. Soak each tapioca sheet in hot water for about 10 seconds, or until soft. Spread a line of bean paste along the middle, then add corn, carrot pickle and noodles. Don't be like me. Resist the urge to overfill them, otherwise you'll break the paper and have to roll your broken spring roll into a second sheet. Roll like a burrito. I put them on a plate that's been lined with a damp paper towel. Makes 8. Serve with sauce.

Sauce:

2 tablespoons peanut butter
1 teaspoon each: hoisin, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/8 teaspoon each (or to taste): fish sauce, sriracha

Whisk together. Thin with water until it reaches the desired consistency.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Potato and Cheese Crusted Eggplant

This one is not my recipe. I saw it on livejournal and thought it sounded amazing (though I wanted to put quantities to the ingredients). I had just purchased an eggplant when I saw this recipe, and though I'd originally intended to do an eggplant and black bean (of course!) stir fry, this seemed like an exciting new thing to try. Hope you enjoy!

1 globe eggplant
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
6 tablespoons butter (I used salted because I have some and want to save my unsalted for baking)
1 cup each: dried potato flakes, grates parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400F. While oven is heating, put butter in a baking dish and melt the butter in the heating oven. Peel the eggplant and slice it into 1/2" rounds. Feel free to cut the larger rounds in half. Whisk together egg, salt and pepper. Combine potato flakes and cheese in another bowl/plate. Dip eggplant into egg mixture, then coat in the potato/cheese mixture. Place rounds in preheated pan. Bake 10 minutes, then flip the eggplants and bake another 10 minutes. Serves 2.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Chicken and Black Beans - In the Bag

This month's "In the Bag" run by Julia of A Slice of Cherry Pie and Scott of Real Epicurean lists the ingredients chicken, red chile and garlic. I'm not going to the grocery store this week, so I used the remainder of my salsa, plus a dried chile in place of the fresh chile. It was a relatively quick meal to make (one that could be shortened by a more attentive cook) and I enjoyed eating it. Hope you enjoy!

1 cup rice
1 3/4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
2 dried lemons (omani)
1 chile arbol

2 tablespoons each: butter, olive oil
1 small white onion, sliced into half moons
salt and pepper to taste

4 cloves minced garlic
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
salt and pepper to taste

1 chicken breast, cut into 1"-ish cubes
2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

1 1/2 - 2 cups black beans (or 1 can)
3/4 cup salsa

Combine first group of ingredients and bring to a boil. Boil one minute, then cover and let cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Let rest, undisturbed, 15 minutes. Open cover and remove limes and chile. Set aside.

Melt butter into oil over medium heat, then add onion, salt and pepper. Let cook 10 minutes. Add garlic, celery, carrot and seasonings, then cook another 10 minutes. Add chicken, seasonings and lemon juice then cook until chicken is mostly done (5-7 minutes). Add in beans and salsa, then cook through 10 more minutes. Serve over rice. Serves 2-4.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Spelt and Black Bean Salad

I wanted to have a nutritionally dense salad to eat with my makdous and olives while I study over the weekend. With the semester wrapping up next week, I have a lot of work ahead of me. Hope you enjoy!

1 cup spelt
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon orange blossom water (you can use rose water, but I prefer orange)
1 small dried chile arbol
water

1 can black beans (drained and rinsed; or 1 1/2 - 2 cups home cooked beans)
1 can artichoke hearts, roughly chopped if you feel like it
1 1/2 cups celery, including leaves
3 thinly sliced carrots

Dressing:

2 teaspoons each: double strength tomato paste, pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon za'atar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup each: lemon juice, olive oil

Combine first group of ingredients in a small saucepan and simmer over medium heat for about an hour, or until wheat is soft but still has some tooth to it. Drain well, then fold into second group of ingredients. Whisk together ingredients for the dressing, then fold into the salad. Makes about 7 or 8 cups of salad.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Baked Porcupine Balls (Meatballs)

I feel like I owe all of you an apology. I have made this recipe more than a dozen times since I've actively kept this blog up and not once have I posted it, despite it being the recipe I use for potluck events, treats for P and I, depression food (meaning, "I'm sad today so I will eat meatballs"), and really every other event I can think of. I never posted it because I always thought I had posted it already. I figured there was no way I hadn't posted one of my most loved comfort foods. But there it is - I hadn't posted it. So today I am doing so.

I started making this dish somewhere between 7th and 9th grade, and over the years it evolved from a much less flavourful, not-quite-cooked-through-rice thing to a more complicated, but far better staple dish. It has some exotic ingredients, but it's not necessary to keep them in there if you don't have them, don't like them, don't want them, or just find them too expensive. Anyway, I really hope you enjoy this!

Sauce:


24 ounces tomato sauce
15-ounce can stewed tomatoes
1 small can chopped olives
large pinch ground bay leaf, or 1 small bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon roasted garlic granules or one mashed clove roasted garlic
1/2 teaspoon each: dried thyme, ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon each: dried basil, salt
2 tablespoons dried onions, or dried chives (I couldn't find the chives, which is what I normally use)
pinch sugar
generous pinch truffle powder (optional)
1/4 - 1/2 cup truffle-infused vodka* (or just water or regular vodka)

Combine and simmer 1-2 hours.

*To make this, get some Oregon truffles (they're much, much cheaper) and a jug of vodka. Slice the truffles thinly and stuff inside the bottle (after you've already made yourself a drink, of course). Leave in a dark place for a few months to infuse. This stuff lasts FOREVER and can add a little truffle flavour to things when you don't want to buy the stupidly expensive fungi for other applications.

Meatballs:

2 pounds ground beef (I always use the full-fat stuff)
1 1/2 - 2 cups cooked white rice
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
Salt and pepper to taste
1 medium onion, diced
1 teaspoon garlic powder
splash lemon juice
2 eggs

Mozzarella or other cheeses you prefer (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F. In a small pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil and butter together. When the butter is melted, put in the onion and a little salt and let it cook over low heat until your house smells like hash browns (15-20 minutes). Put the onions in a huge bowl and add the rice. Mix together, then add salt, pepper, poppy seeds, garlic powder and lemon juice. Mix well and add meat, plus a little more salt and pepper. Mix well again, then add the eggs and once again, mix well. Using the remaining olive oil, oil the bottom of a 12X9 pan (you can use a smaller pan if you want and just smoosh the meatballs all together, which is what I normally do but today I wanted to use the big pan because it's pretty new so I'm still excited about it). Make little meat balls, just smaller than golf balls, and put them in the pan. Pour the sauce on top and bake for one hour, covered loosely in foil. Remove the foil and cover the top with cheese, then bake another 15 minutes or until the cheese is nicely browned. Serves around 8 people.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Stewed Eggplant and Appaloosa Beans

I have really been on an eggplant kick lately, but today I wanted to have some beans also. Hope you enjoy!

1 globe eggplant, cut into 1" dice
1-ish teaspoon kosher salt
5 coffee filters
vegetable oil spray

1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon pomegranate molasses
juice of 1 lime
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 diced carrot
1 diced stalk celery
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed

1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 cups appaloosa beans
1/3 cup water

1 cup white rice
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups water

Arrange coffee filters on a plate and spray lightly with oil spray. Toss salt and eggplant then spread onto plate. Microwave 10 minutes. Set aside

Combine oil, onion and pomegranate molasses in a saucepan. Cook over low-ish heat until onions are soft (10-15 minutes). Add lime juice, garlic, carrot, celery and coriander, then cook until carrot and celery are soft. Add in crushed tomatoes, beans, eggplant and water, then simmer for 15 minutes while you make the rice.

Combine rice, tumeric, salt and water, then bring to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes, then let rest 10 minutes. Serves 4-6.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Turkey Soup

I initially was planning to just make a quick stock, but life got in the way, so this became a slow cooking stock, then soup. It can easily be modified for any kind of fowl carcass you've got laying about, and for any size crock pot. I hope you enjoy!

1 turkey carcass, bones plus and attached meat/skin
water to cover
3 bay leaves
2 large slices dried galangal or ginger
4 whole dried lemons/limes, barely crushed
1/4 navel orange
1/2 cup each: celery, carrot, onion

any remaining meat/bones you have laying about from cooking the bird that didn't make its way to sandwiches
1 tablespoon salt

1 large onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 cup celery, diced
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
1 cup sliced sun dried tomatoes (I don't buy mine in oil)
1 can sliced potatoes, drained
1 preserved lemon, rinsed and chopped

Put the all of the first group of ingredients in your crock pot with enough water to cover everything. Set to high heat, cover and go about your business. Come back before you go to bed and turn the crock pot down to low, then sleep. In the morning, go to school or work, then come back to the crock pot. Take off the lid and think, "Huh. That looks really delicious. Guess I should've just stuck the wings in yesterday. And maybe salted it." Grab a pair of tongs and remove the galangal slices, the dried lemons and the half orange, plus any of the more obvious bones. Then stick the second group of ingredients in, with a bit more water and go about your business (just leave it on low this time) because you're too busy with vectors and quiche and "when am I going to finish making those cookies". The next day, come by and turn the crock pot off, then let it cool to room temperature. Then refrigerate it to let the fat congeal on the top. Make sure you forget all about this for a day while you go about your business, then come to the fridge later for a snack and think, "Oh yeah! I was making soup!" This step is important. Take the fat off, then strain it, reserving the liquid, then pick through all the bits to remove bones, spices and bits of fruit or veggies that might be in there. Shred the meat and put it and the stock into a medium saucepan, and add in all of the last group of ingredients. Cook one more hour-ish, uncovered, then serve. I like this over white rice. Makes around 6 servings.

Asparagus and Bacon Quiche

We bought some lovely asparagus the other day, which ordinarily I would either saute or roast. I've really been craving a quiche, however, so I thought I'd make one really quickly. The lovely thing about quiche is that even though it seems fancy, it's quite easy to make (especially if you cheat and use prepared pie crust). This time, I am setting apart the base so you can see the general pattern for making a quiche: make the base, cook the fillings and add them to the pie shell, pour the base over and bake. Any filling can be used, but I generally feel all filling materials should be pre-cooked. If you prefer a stronger cheese in your quiche, substitute the one you prefer for the mozzarella. Sometimes I like to put a layer of cheese on top of the crust before I add in the fillings too. Either way, it's very flexible, and inexpensive to make a great meal for up to 8 people per pie. I hope you enjoy!

Quiche base:

1 prepared pie crust (I'm not convinced it matters whether you buy this or make it)
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk (or 1 large can evaporated milk)
1 cup shredded mozzarella
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

Filling:

1 bunch asparagus
water
3 pieces bacon
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper as needed

Preheat oven to 450F. Line a pie plate with crust and set aside. Steam the asparagus in an inch of water (approximately 3-5 minutes), then shock in ice water before cutting into bite sized pieces. Cut the bacon into bite sized pieces, then fry. Sweat the onion in the bacon fat until translucent, then add the garlic, salt and pepper and continue to cook until the onions are caramelised. Combine bacon, onion and garlic mixture with asparagus and spread evenly over pie shell.

Whisk together eggs, milk, nutmeg, salt and pepper, then stir in cheese. Pour over filling in pie shell. Bake at 450F for 10 minutes, then reduce to 325F and bake another 55 minutes (normally I don't cook quiche that long, but this one was quite moist so it needed longer). Remove quiche from oven and let rest 10-20 minutes before serving. Serves 8.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Brined Turkey

I like to have a turkey around the holidays, as well as one in the summer. I'm not really sure why I want one in the summer when it's already so hot outside, but I always do. I think from now on, since I'm currently only feeding two (as opposed to previously, when I never knew how many people would be sitting at my table on any given night), I'll probably just buy a small breast for myself and a couple legs for P. Which should give us a few days of turkey without getting tired of it. Anyway, this is the first time I've brined one. I looked at several recipes until I kind of got the gist of how brining works. This is what I wound up deciding on. Hope you enjoy!

Brine:

10 bay leaves
1 1/4 cup kosher salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 large slices dried galangal
5 dried lemons/limes (omani)
2 tablespoons each: black peppercorns, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, coriander seeds
1 dried chile pod (I used chile arbol, but you should use whatever you have on hand)
4 litres water, divided

Combine all the spices and 2 litres of water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir until sugar and salt are dissolved. Add remaining water and simmer 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to come up to room temperature before refrigerating. Chill.

Turkey in Brine:

Once your turkey is thawed (or, whenever your brine is done cooling if you have a fresh turkey), wash the inside and outside of the turkey, removing and necks and bits that may be in there (I save the neck for stock but cook the rest for Francis*). Put it, breast side down in a 5-gallon bucket (some people recommend using those enormous Ziplock bags, but I'm using a bucket) or other large container. Pour in brine, and then continue to add ice water until the turkey is completely submerged. Cover or otherwise close your container. If you have room in your fridge, stuff it in there for approximately 1 hour per pound of turkey weight. If you don't have the ability to put it in your fridge (I don't), put the bucket/container in a cooler, and fill the cooler with ice. Half-way through the brining time (my turkey is a 16 pounder, so it'll be in there a while), turn the turkey over. Refill ice in cooler as needed.

Roasting Turkey:

For this time, I'm trying the Alton Brown method, but will repeat his instructions here for those of you who don't want to click the link.

"Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Remove the bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine.

Place the bird on roasting rack inside a half sheet pan and pat dry with paper towels."

Stuff the turkey with whatever you like. I'm a huge orange cut into eighths.

"Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil.

Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes. Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Set the thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees F**. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil or a large mixing bowl for 15 minutes before carving."

*For Francis, I cook the gizzard, heart and liver like this: In a small non-stick pan, fry lightly to sear the outside. Then add water to almost cover and 2-3 cubes of chicken collagen (you can skip this if you're not the type to save these random things) and simmer until the water is mostly gone. Serve on top of or mixed in with your normal puppy chow.

** Cook it longer than this. I promise you, it's really annoying to have to put it back in the oven once you started carving it because it's not cooked through. Really, really annoying. So annoying it makes me think that maybe I should just make turkeys the way I always have before. However, it was so moist and delicious I'll just cook it longer from now on, instead of taking it out at that time.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Fried Polenta Cubes

I buy my polenta from Anson Mills, who just makes some of the loveliest corn products ever. Because their products tend to be heartier than the stuff I can get at the store, I follow their directions for how to make the polenta, grits, etc. So the first part (the basic "make the polenta" part of this recipe is basically theirs - if you buy a different brand, make it the way you're used to). Enjoy!

1 cup polenta
4 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 teaspoons finely grated colby-jack cheese

"Brush or spray an 8-inch square baking dish with oil and set aside. Place the polenta and water in a heavy-bottomed 2 1/2-quart saucepan (preferably one with fluted sides), and stir to combine. Set the pan over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the first starch takes hold, 5 to 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, until the grains are soft and hold their shape on a spoon, about an hour. Whisk in salt, pepper, butter, and Parmesan. Turn the polenta into the prepared pan and smooth the surface with a greased offset spatula or a spoon. Cover and refrigerate until completely cold." Or, just make your polenta however you normally make your polenta.

Once it's completely cold, cut it into 16 squares. Heat a cast iron pan for 10 minutes over medium heat. Add in the olive oil and your polenta squares. Cook 4 minutes, then turn. Cook another 4 minutes. Turn again, sprinkle each piece with half a teaspoon of cheese, then cover and cook another 2 minutes. Serves 4 as a side dish, or 2 as a main course.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Beef Sausage Ragout

I remembered there was some beef sausage in the freezer, and I thought it'd be nice to cook it with red bell pepper and onion. Originally I'd planned to serve it over rice, but ultimately I ended up deciding on pasta as the better match. My intention was to make something simple, hearty and rustic. I'd gotten the sausage at the farmer's market a while back and remembered how amazing its flavour was, so ideally, the sausage would be the star of this dish, the other ingredients simply complementing it. This ragout turned out so much better than I expected it to; it's something I'll definitely seek out amazing sausages for to make over and over. When Francis is done with his obedience school (which is at the same time as the farmer's market is open), we'll be back to get more sausage (and other things, of course). Hope you enjoy!

6 ounces beef sausage
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 cup each, chopped: red onion, celery
1 tablespoon lemon juice
pinch salt
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
pinch red pepper flakes
1 pound pasta, cooked according to package directions

Heat a pan over medium flame and add half the olive oil. Crumble in sausage and cook. Remove sausage from pan and add in remaining olive oil, celery, onion, salt and lemon juice. Cook ten minutes, then add bell pepper and cook another ten minutes. Return sausage to pan and add tomato sauce and red pepper flakes. Simmer for 30 minutes while you cook your pasta (I started heating the water for the pasta after these last things were added to the sauce). Serves 4.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Refrigerator Cleaning Tomato Sauce

We've been knee deep in leftovers and comfort foods (matzo brei, corned beef hash, pasta with meat sauce, etc) recently, so I haven't been doing much cooking outside the norm. Okay, in fairness, I did make some granola bars, and I also made some marshmallows, both with small modifications. But nothing really original to write home about. I looked in the fridge today and realised I had a pile of vegetables that truly were ready to be used up, as well as some beef broth remaining from the beef barley soup (which I will be putting into my regular comfort food rotation). P has been expressing more interest in meatless sauces recently (even going so far as to make a delicious, spicy marinara of his own while I was at work!), so I thought this would be a good way for me to use up the produce. It's easily modified to fit whatever produce you're looking to use up, so please have fun with it! Additionally, I wanted to make a lot of it so I could can some for lazy days. Here it is. I hope you enjoy!

1 cup celery (with leaves), cut into chunks
1 1/2 cup zucchini, cut into chunks
2 cups peeled eggplant, cut into chunks
1 cup carrots, cut into chunks
1 1/2 cup red bell pepper, cut into chunks
2 cups anise, cut into chunks
2 1/2 cups red onion, cut into chunks
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, rinsed to remove some of the salt
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 3/4 cup beef broth (use veggie broth to make this vegan)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 14-ounce can each: diced tomatoes, stewed tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon each: dried oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary
1 bay leaf
3/4 cup red wine (I used a cab)
1/2 - 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1/4 - 1/3 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 400F. After cutting up all the veggies, combine all ingredients in a 13x9" pan (I know, it's a lot to fit in one pan) and braise for about 2 hours, or until all the veggies are soft. Stir periodically while it braises. Remove bay leaf and puree. Adjust seasonings (this is where I add in the red pepper flakes) and simmer for 30 minutes, adding water if needed.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Dave's Beef and Barley Soup

My friend Dave makes awesome beef barley soup. Like, really awesome. He gave me the recipe, so I made some yesterday and have been really enjoying it. Dave also says I can share the recipe with y'all, so I hope you enjoy it too! Aside from the carrots and celery, my own quantities are put in here - I make a lot less of it than Dave does, so I kept track of how much I used of each thing. Feel free to adjust quantities to your own liking, or to increase or decrease the size of the recipe.

1 - 1 1/4 pound beef shank bones
1 quart beef broth or stock
1 quart water (you can use stock here too, if you like)
1 onion, sliced or chopped to your preferred size
1 bay leaf (optional; I added this)

2 large carrots, chopped
2 large stalks of celery, chopped
1 potato, diced (optional; I was out of potatoes so I didn't add this)
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon pepper
1 1/4 cup barley
water as needed
1 cup sliced mushrooms (optional - I forgot to put these in even though they were on the counter)

Combine first group of ingredients. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the meat is falling off the bones (this can take 90 minutes or more). Add more water/stock if needed. Remove beef and shred or chop the meat. Return to the pot, with the second group of ingredients (except mushrooms - only add those 10 minutes before serving). If you like your veggies more cooked, add the barley later - you want to time the barley so it's done cooking around the time the veggies are done to your liking. Makes about 10 cups of soup. When reheating, you may need to add more stock or water; I bought an extra box of beef broth for this purpose.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Heart of Excess (Steak)

I've kind of been in a funk lately, mostly due to my summer break being shockingly more stressful than I expected. P decided that what we really needed to feel rejuvenated was a treat - something excessive and luxurious. So we went to the butcher and had them cut us a 2" thick porterhouse steak. It weighed 2.9 pounds and was utterly delicious. We also learned that Francis is allergic to something I used in the marinade. We ate it with a simple potato salad.

Marinade:

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/8 cup red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon each: coriander seed, thyme

Let the steak marinate for two hours (mine was in a bowl, so I flipped it after one hour). Grill. Serves ... well, this steak served 4 plus dog.

Before grill:



After grill (kind of a dark picture):

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Peach-Raspberry Smoothie

P is really into smoothies. Often, he gets cravings and it's a mad dash to a Jamba Juice or Smoothie King. Today, he said he wanted a smoothie and I figured I'd just go make one really quickly, as I don't want him to fill up on smoothies before we have steak for dinner. I rummaged around the freezer to see what kind of frozen fruit was lurking in there, and found peaches. The people at Simply Orange decided to make full sized bottles of their amazing raspberry lemonade, so we picked up a couple bottles earlier today. Seemed like a good combination. It was beyond simple to make, and P now wears a perfectly contented look on his face. Hope you enjoy!

1/2 - 3/4 cup frozen peaches
1/2 - 3/4 cup ice cubes
approximately 1 cup raspberry lemonade

Put the ice and peaches in a blender. Adding a little bit of juice at a time, blend until it's the right consistency. Serves 1-2.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Plum and Strawberry Tart

I have an unending fascination with plums. I'm not sure if it's because they turn into delicious, endlessly sweet prunes or because with plums, you get a pretty good mix of shockingly sweet and slightly sour fruits. Either way, I love them and it warms my heart when I see them working their way into all the markets. We've been munching on plums for the last couple weeks, but really, I just wanted to make a tart out of them. I think I like the lines of tarts more than I like how pies look. Or maybe I'm just prejudiced against pies. Not sure. Intellectually I realise they're the same thing but I just like tarts better. For this one, I wanted to sweeten the fruit just slightly, and I wanted to incorporate a bit of citrus and vanilla into them. This is the conglomeration of all those varied desires. Hope you enjoy!

1 4"x1" strip orange rind (peel only, no pith)
seeds from 1 vanilla bean (you can add the pod too, but I tossed it in w/ the vanilla extract I'm making; if you want to lower cost, add a tablespoon of extract after the mixture comes off the heat instead)
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup water
small pinch salt

pie crust for a 9" tart shell
2 tablespoons cornstarch
6 plums
6-7 large strawberries

Preheat oven to 400F. Combine first group of ingredients in a small saucepan. On the lowest heat setting, let simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat,stir and cool. While the honey mixture is cooling, line a 9" tart pan with pie crust. Deseed plums and slice. Hull and slice strawberries. Sprinkle cornstarch over the bottom of the pie crust evenly. Line crust with plum slices. On top of plum slices, intersperse strawberry slices with the remaining slices of plum. While straining, pour honey mixture over the fruit and bake 50 minutes or until done. Cool. Serves 8.

Edited to add: I think this would be slightly better if a 1/4 teaspoon of cracked peppercorns were put into the honey mixture while it's cooking.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Roast Vegetables with Forbidden Rice

I'd been snacking on leblebi all day, when I discovered some veggies in the fridge that needed to be used. Normally I'd put these with pasta, but I've been trying to remember that I have a pile of forbidden rice that we never eat. So here it is. Hope you enjoy!

Veggies:

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed then cut in half
3/4 cup radish slices
6 brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half
1 leek, trimmed and cut into 1" half moons
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground galangal or ginger

Rice:

1 cup forbidden rice
1 1/4 cups water
pinch salt

Preheat oven to 400F. Combine all the ingredients in the veggies section and stir well to combine. Turn onto a sheet pan (I cover mine with foil to make clean up faster) and roast for 30 minutes to an hour; until done. Combine rice, water and salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil then cover, reduce heat to low and cook 10 minutes. Do not uncover and let sit another 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork (if you have a bit of extra liquid, just drain it off). Serves 2-3.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Camping Food

It occurred to me you guys might've wondered what we ate while we were camping. So I thought I'd post it today.

Thursday:

Seared scallops in a butter/white wine/lemon/caper sauce; grilled lemon halves were served on the side
Shallot and Chanterelle risotto (similar to this, but with white wine as well, way more shallots and only chanterelles)

Friday:

Bacon and scrambled eggs for breakfast
Sandwiches for lunch (I was making a huge lunch for 50 other people, recipe posted below)
Steaks, potatoes simmered with onion and rosemary in butter, Sarah's grilled onion soup (the onion soup I will be making again soon; it was so simple and amazingly delicious, so I'll post the recipe at that time)

Saturday:

Bacon and Matzot Brei (I'll post my recipe for this at some point too, if someone will remind me) for lunch (we woke up late)
Hebrew National hotdogs with lemon onions (recipe follows) for dinner

Sunday:

Pasta and meat sauce for lunch
Seared beef salad with lemon vinaigrette for dinner (recipe follows)

Recipes, with no pictures (camping is not always optimal for photo ops):

Lemon Onions

1 large red onion, sliced into half moons
pinch salt
1 tablespoon olive oil or butter
juice of three lemons

Heat fat in a pan over medium heat. Add remaining ingredients and simmer until the juice of the lemons is gone and the onions and almost creamy. Serves 4 as an accompaniment to another food.

Seared Beef Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

1 1/2 pound beef tenderloin
1/4 cup each: olive oil, lemon juice
3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 teaspoon salt

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed then cut in half
pinch salt
1/4 cup olive oil

1 cup sugar snap peas
1 tomato, sliced into half moons
1-2 bags mixed salad greens

Slice the tenderloin into 3/8" slices. Put in a zip top bag with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pomegranate molasses, then marinate 15-30 minutes. Put asparagus in another bag with salt and olive oil. Mix well, then grill over medium heat. Remove from grill and set aside. Sear both sides over medium high heat on a grill (you can do this in a pan, but I got a spiffy new travel propane grill that I cooked them on). On plates, load up greens, tomato and peas, then equally distribute meat and asparagus. Top with dressing. Serves 6.

Lemon Vinaigrette

1 tablespoon dried marjoram
2 tablespoons stone ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
5 lemons
1/2 - 1 cup good quality olive oil

Cut lemons in half. Grill until the cut side is lightly caramelised. Combine juice from these lemons, marjoram, mustard, salt and pepper in a shaker bottle. Shake well. Add olive oil.

Note: This recipe makes way more dressing than you need for the salad, though I used it as an additional condiment for the large meal I made.

Grilled Vegetable Pita Wraps (okay, seriously? This is an insane amount of food. Really)

10 globe eggplants, peeled, sliced in half, then sliced crosswise
10-15 each: zucchini, yellow squash, sliced in half, then length-wise into planks
15 onions, sliced into rings
15 bell peppers: green, red, yellow (5 each), sliced
10 potatoes, sliced thinly
10-15 tomatoes, sliced
2 tablespoon each, per bag: marjoram, basil, sumac, aleppo pepper
1/2 cup each, per bag: lemon juice and olive oil

4 cups julienned cucumbers
4 cups lettuce

After all the veggies of the first group are cut up, put them in gallon zip top bags (I put only one kind of veggie per bag). Add seasonings, lemon and oil to each bag. Zip up bags and massage to evenly distribute seasonings. Grill (yes, this takes freaking forever; I was at it for 5 hours). Serve with pita and the following condiments on the side: tzatziki, hummus, harissa, lemon vinaigrette, tahini, julienned cucumbers and lettuce. Serves about 50.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Hot Pasta Salad

Okay, I lied. This isn't really a pasta salad. I just couldn't think of another name. It seems I kind of spaced bringing two bags of salad, some radishes, a pound of feta (!!!!) and a few other things to our camping trip. Oops. Sadly, I also forgot some asparagus which died in the fridge while we were gone. That part really bummed me out, as I looked forward to eating it. Life goes on though. We ate so well on our camping trip that it reminded me how much I miss eating home cooked food. As evidenced by the definitive lack of posts, I haven't been cooking a ton. Tonight though, I'm dealing with a house full of camping gear strewn about and don't want to spend tons of time on a meal. Plus, we ate meat literally twice per day for four days straight, so I really needed a bit of a break from it (though in fairness, who gets tired of bacon?). Which means we're having yet another pasta. Are you tired of these? Shockingly, I'm actually not. I thawed some frozen beans in the microwave, and the rest is history. Hope you enjoy!

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
pinch salt
1 cup sliced onions (I've been slicing and freezing mine)
1 cup sliced radishes
1 package field greens
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup key lime pickle, rinsed and chopped (this is made just like preserved lemons, but with key limes; they don't look as pretty as lemons, so you know)
8 ounces fettuccini, cooked according to package directions
2 cups cooked pinto beans
4 thick slices of feta

In a large saucepan over very low heat, melt butter into oil, then add onion, radish and salt and sweat until onions are lightly browned. Add lettuce, nutmeg, pickle and lemon juice and cook until the greens are wilted. Toss with pasta and beans then heat through. Garnish with cheese. Serves 4.