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.