Thursday, August 12, 2010

Pan-Roasted Pork Chops With Sage & Garlic; Red Quinoa

I wouldn't classify myself as a huge carnivore, but when I do eat meat, I like it to be good quality meat. I buy most of our meat at our local farmer's market which a) keeps us from eating too much meat due to the expense and b) makes me much more conscious of the meat's quality, how I cook it, etc. These pork chops come from Stillman's Farm, and they were, like everything I've ever purchased from Stillman's, absolutely amazing. So, when meat is fresh and of high quality, I tend to go for minimalist recipes that enhance the meat's own flavor (sometimes a challenge with pork). I had some fresh sage that I picked up at the Farmer's Market, and so a little googling brought me to Josh Friedland's wonderful blog, The Food Section.

Friedland summarized the recipe for the pork chops from Suzanne Dunaway's Rome at Home. I followed his directions with one tiny addition: white wine in addition to the lemon juice. I did need more liquid after the first lemon's worth of juice, so I used wine instead of another lemon. No regrets. :)

These pork chops were amazing (I said that already). Pan-roasting takes awhile, particularly for chops that have a decent amount of fat (which helps keep the chops moist), so be prepared to stand at the stove for awhile, if you have large cuts. But, as Friedland says, the sage is the key to this recipe. Infusing the oil with the sage and garlic, rather than cooking the chops IN the sage makes a huge difference.

I served it with leftover Mixed Bean Salad and Red Quinoa with Currants. I like red quinoa much more than plain---it is more aromatic and "nuttier." I followed the directions on the package, but used chicken broth instead of water and added currants and dash of black truffle oil right at the end of cooking (basically when the quinoa is done, but "sitting" in its own heat). That plumps up the currants nicely and the truffle oil helps bring out the nutty flavor of the quinoa.

Summer Salad Marathon: Mixed Bean Salad with Tomato Dressing


I currently have us on a "meat every-other-day" plan, but my low blood sugar requires protein in almost every meal. So...I am working very hard to find ways to incorporate beans into our diet. I'm not a big fan of beans (kidney, pinto, black-eyed, lima, you name it). I tend to tolerate them, and really only enjoy black beans in Mexican food. But in my quest for optimal health, it seems practical to find a way to eat them more often.

This recipe comes from one of my most-used and most-loved cookbooks, The Cook's Encyclopedia of Thirty Minute Cooking by Jenni Fleetwood. I don't really care about the "thirty minute" part (usually), but I love the variety and ease of the recipes.

In addition to blanched green beans (which I love), mixed canned beans (I used pintos and black beans), celery, onion (I used red), tomatoes, fresh parsley, I also tossed in a can of whole kernel corn....mostly for color, but I really liked the little bit of sweetness that it added.

The dressing calls for "tomato chutney" and that's not something I have on hand, so I just finely chopped a bunch of heirloom tomatoes and that did worked just fine:
  • 3 tbls olive oil
  • 2 tbls red wine vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove crushed
  • 1 tbls tomato chutney (?)
  • salt and ground black pepper

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Russ Parsons' White Bean Crostini & Book Review

If you haven't read How to Read a French Fry and Other Stories of Intriguing Kitchen Science by Russ Parsons, Food Editor for the Los Angeles Times, you really should. Understanding the science behind cooking is half the battle and makes it a lot easier to experiment when you have some inkling of what might happen when you cook with a certain oil at a certain temperature. Chemistry aside, Parsons also includes some VERY tasty recipes--including the White Bean crostini (p. 191).


Pasta pomodoro, heirloom tomato salad & white bean crostini

The white bean puree is incredibly easy, and the only "special" ingredient is white truffle oil. Parsons writes helpful hints, as in this caution about truffle oil: "Too much, and it smells like hair tonic."

I haven't finished reading the whole thing, but I've used several recipes from this book and recommend it! Parsons' writing is very accessible, "user-friendly" and humorous!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Meze: Saffron Risotto-stuffed baby squid

Saffron Risotto-stuffed Calamari with Tri-Colored Pepper & Zebra Tomato salad

I picked up this little bargain cookbook quite awhile ago, and let me just say now, for the record, I don't know how on earth Amazon sellers would justify asking $57.95, and no...wait for it.. $135.71 for a cheap, paperback 64 page Könemann cookbook. That's disgraceful. I think I paid $4 at most. At any rate, I digress.

I've made several recipes from Anne Wilson's Meze: Mediterranean-Style Eating, and while many of the recipes are labor-intensive (and some are missing list ingredients, ahem), most everything I've made has turned out well, including my first try with dolmades.

So tonight I decided to try the Saffron Risotto-stuffed Baby Squid, given the presence of calamari in my freezer and my great love for risotto. I left out two of the main ingredients for the risotto (leeks and fennel) and substituted a few other ingredients:

Saffron risotto-stuffed calamari (adapted from Anne Wilson, Meze: p. 50)

INGREDIENTS
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 1/4 cup chicken broth (Wilson suggests vegetable stock)
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter (or just use 3 tablespoons olive oil)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • a pinch of ground saffron
  • freshly ground pepper and salt
  • 16 calamari hoods
  • 3 lemons, sliced
1. Combine wine and broth in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
2. Heat the oil and butter (or just oil) in a heavy-based saucepan or skillet, and add the garlic, cooking over medium heat for 4-5 minutes.
3. Add the rice, stirring for 1 minute, making sure to coat the grains with the oil. Gradually add the hot broth mixture, one ladle at a time, stirring frequently until all the liquid has been absorbed before adding more.
4. When rice is tender, add saffron and season well with salt and pepper. Spread the risotto onto a flat tray to cool slightly.

5. Preheat the oven to 350F. Stuff each squid hood with two teaspoons of the risotto. {It was messy, but easier to just use my hands}. Be careful not to overfill the squid or they may split during cooking. Secure the top of each squid with a cocktail pick.



6. Line a baking sheet with foil, add the lemon slices and top with the stuffed squid. Cover and bake for 20 minutes, turning once, or until the squid are cooked and tender. Don't spoon the sauce over the squid as it is too bitter. (She's right! I tasted it to be sure). Discard the lemon and juices after cooking and serve the squid whole or cut into slices.


This was really quite a lovely recipe and great for summer. I imagine you could even serve it chilled. I cut a few of the calamari into rings, but would probably only take the time to present all of it this way if I was making this for company (it is time consuming, as you have to keep the risotto in the ring). If you have just a little bit of patience for the risotto and the stuffing, this is really a rather easy recipe!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Summer Salad Marathon: Seared Ahi Grapefruit Watercress Salad

Tonight's installment of The Lady of Shallots "Summer Salad Marathon" was inspired by two recipes. The first was this "Grilled Mahi-Mahi with Grapefruit, Avocado, and Watercress Salad" from Real Simple (March 2008). The second was this recipe for Seared Ahi Tuna from SimplyRecipes.com.

I made only one minor adjustment to the tuna marinade, and that was that I used powdered ginger out of necessity. I marinated the tuna for two hours and it was terrific.

As for the salad, I obviously left out the mahi-mahi (and substituted the seared tuna), left out the avocado*, and added fresh chopped cucumber from my neighbor's garden (a gift, not stolen). I used the dressing as stated in the recipe.

This was a terrific and healthy meal for a very hot and humid summer evening. The sweetness of the grapefruit and the honey-lime dressing balances the slight bitterness of the watercress very effectively and is just gentle enough to support the tuna without overshadowing it. The marinade for the tuna, despite the soy sauce, is surprisingly subtle, so you don't want to overdress the salad. I made each plate individually: watercress, cucumber, grapefruit, tuna, then drizzled dressing.

*Heresy, I know, for a California girl, but I'm not a fan of avocado unless it is mashed up with spices and called guacamole or in small chunks in ceviche. Don't hate me.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Summer Salad Marathon: Chicken Pasta Salad



It is very hot here, and that means I like to keep as far away from the stove/oven as possible. So that means we've been eating a lot of salad. I find salad making very tedious and usually delegate that chore to my husband. However, when the main dish is a salad, I find ample opportunities for creativity and experimentation.

I started with this recipe from Real Simple (August 2008), Chicken Salad with Potatoes & Arugula, but found that I was without arugula and just simply not in the mood for potatoes, so I lifted the dressing and the rotisserie chicken, substituted dried tarragon for fresh, and turned it into
Chicken Pasta Salad with Hearts of Palm

INGREDIENTS:
  • 1 package fresh or dried pasta (I like rotini or some other shape that will capture the goodies)
  • 1 rotisserie chicken (or chicken leftovers)--you'll probably only need half a chicken's worth
  • 2-3 large hearts of palm, sliced
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (optional)
  • 1/4 cup EVOO
  • 1-2 tablespoons champagne white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • salt and pepper
DIRECTIONS:
  • Cook pasta (approx 2 min. for fresh, longer for dried (see package directions) and strain in a colander. Run cool water over the pasta and let drain.
  • Shred half of the meat of the rotisserie chicken into a bowl and mix in the hearts of palm. Add cooled pasta and place in the fridge.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the evoo, vinegar, mustard, tarragon and salt & pepper.
  • When ready to serve, add dressing and walnuts to the pasta, tossing well.*
*You may wish to dress the salad and then refrigerate it. This is fine, but may need a fresh bit of olive oil right before serving (or let it stand at room temp before serving).

I liked the walnuts because they added texture and helped cut the vinegar/mustard/hearts of palm brine. It is a unique context for chicken salad, so I wouldn't try it on the unadventurous who like their chicken salad traditionally prepared. I think I'd add some red onion next time, for the sake of COLOR :)

I served this salad with Green Beans with Shiitake Mushrooms that Bon Appétit either ripped off from IGDA (mushroom company) or the other way around. I used the recipe that came with a package of dried shiitake mushrooms from IGDA, but I used fresh shiitakes since I happened to pick them up at the store. If you use dried, you'll need to soak them in a bowl of warm water for 20-30 minutes, rinsing thoroughly.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Palmiers and Pork Chops

I've been away on vacation/visiting family so I haven't posted in awhile. When I returned from my trip, however, I had a burst of great cooking experiences. Due to copyright issues, I won't post the recipes that are not otherwise available online (in which case I've linked to them), but I do have some pictures to share.

First, I made Ina Garten's "Savory Palmiers" (or see Back to Basics, 43) for a social event. I approached this with some fear as every time I open a package of puff pastry I hear this in my head. This is since my last attempt to make baked brie, which came out more like an exploding puff pastry volcano of brie.

However, much to my surprise, they came out pretty darn well! My favorite part of the recipe was making the homemade pesto. All pesto is NOT alike, and Garten's recipe (or see Back to Basics, 44) is by far the best I've ever tasted! Can you really go too wrong with homemade pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese, and pine nuts? The only real change I made was using green garlic in the pesto as opposed to mature garlic.
I apologize that the only photo I have of the finished product I took with my phone...
Meanwhile, while on vacation in Philadelphia, I bought The City Tavern Cookbook: Recipes from the Birthplace of American Cuisine. Using the recipe for Baked Veal Chops (p. 153) and substituting pork, we had a scrumptious and relatively healthy meal with whole wheat couscous and salad.
Tonight's dinner: Lamb kofta, Mark Bittman's Radish Salsa, and fettucine with leftover pesto (from Ina Garten).

Monday, June 14, 2010

Variations on a Theme: Scapes & Asparagus, Part Deux

In my attempt to use up what I enthusiastically purchase from the Farmers' Market (not always recognizing that I am cooking for two--not a small army), I have started to devise multiple recipes that are "variations on a theme." Here the theme would be scapes and asparagus (asparagi?). For the second week in a row, I've come home with scapes and asparagus. Why?
  • Scapes have a very short season and they are good.
  • It is Spring and I can get local organic asparagus as opposed to asparagus that has been shipped from Peru (FAIL!)
  • scapes and asparagi have similar textures/consistencies so they cook well together

So, you may remember the Sautéed Asparagus and Garlic Scapes from my last blog post. This installment of Variations on a Theme brings you:

Chilled Asparagus & Scape Salad
  • one bunch fresh asparagus, with stalk ends trimmed
  • 1/8 - 1/4 lbs. garlic scapes, cut into one to two inch pieces
  • 3 tbls. olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • white pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup white cooking wine
  • 5 large fresh mint leaves, minced
  • 1 small shallot, minced
Cooking Tools: large skillet/frying pan with cover; colander; glass container with lid

1. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. While it is heating throw some salt and pepper into the oil itself. When the oil is hot, add the asparagus and scapes.
2. Sautée the asparagus and scapes until they begin to turn bright green, making sure to coat them with the oil. Once they begin to turn bright green, add the wine, lower the heat to simmer, and cover, cooking for 5 more minutes.
3. Once the asparagus and shallots are uniformly bright green and just tender to the bite, transfer them to a colander and run them under cold water in the sink to stop the cooking process. (Overcooked asparagus is one of the biggest culinary travesties ever to befall the planet).
4. In a glass container with a cover (or use a large bowl), toss the asparagus with the mint, shallots and a dressing of your choice---I recommend:
  • Überminimalist: lemon juice/lime juice and olive oil
  • Traditionalist: balsamic vinegar and olive oil
  • More fun and what I use: Orange Muscat Champagne vinegar and Olive oil (with additional salt and pepper)
5. Chill for an hour or more in the refrigerator and serve!

Note: If you want to skip steps 1-3 and blanch the asparagus instead, be my guest. It takes about the same amount of time to boil the water and prepare an ice bath, so I'd suggest the sautée method instead as it gives the asparagus far more flavor (and it picks up the garlickyness from the scapes). I've also never tried to blanch scapes, so you'll have to let me know how that goes. :)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Farmers Market Challenge 1: Scapes, Parsley, Asparagus




One of the great joys of summer here in Somerville is the Farmers' Market in Union Square. Yesterday was the first market of the season and I made sure to get there as early as possible in order to have the best selection and avoid the afternoon rush. I'm a planner, so it is rare that I like to shop without an idea of what I'm cooking, but the Farmers' Market is a great motivator. I just picked up whatever looked good and figured I'd be creative when I got home. Yesterday's purchases included: fresh brioche, strawberries, garlic scapes, asparagus, fresh parsley, kale, and hot Italian lamb sausage from Stillman's Farm. Since the kale will keep for a bit (and I'll probably just make crisps anyway), I prioritized the scapes, asparagus, parsley and sausage. The results are the following three recipes! Enjoy!

Linguine with Hot Italian Lamb Sausage & Parsley
Serving: 2 generous portions
  • 3-4 links hot italian lamb sausage, sliced
  • 2 tbls. olive oil
  • 3 tbls. white whine
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (yes, you can use fresh---but I had no tomatoes on hand--I don't recommend using more than one can, however)
  • 1 cup fresh parsley leaves (whole)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1/4 lb -1/2 lb. linguine
  • black truffle oil (optional)
1. Brown the sausage in the oil for five minutes over medium heat. Then add the wine, allowing the sausage to "poach" in the wine, oil and its own fat.
2. When sausage is browned and somewhat cooked, add the tomatoes and the parsley leaves. Season with garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste.
3. Meanwhile, start the boiling water for the pasta. Simmer the sausage mixture for as long as it takes the water to boil.
4. When water is boiling, turn sausage mixture down to the lowest setting (to keep it warm), and cook the linguine until al dente.
5. Drain pasta and return to pot. Add sausage mixture. Toss with some black truffle oil for additional flavor and serve!

Sautéed Asparagus and Garlic Scapes
  • 1 bunch of fresh asparagus
  • 1/4 lb. garlic scapes
  • 2 tbls. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. white pepper
  • salt to taste
  • white truffle oil (for tossing)
1. Cut asparagus and scapes in short 1-2 in. pieces. Sautée in olive oil, pepper and salt over medium heat until they become bright green and the asparagus is tender to the bite, but not mushy.
2. Toss in white truffle oil and serve.

And, assuming you've got some leftover scapes and parsley, you may want to make a jar of this wonderful summery and unique pesto:
Parsley Lime Pesto with Garlic Scapes
  • 1 cup grated fresh parmesan cheese
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/8 lb. scapes
  • 1 1/2 cups Italian flat leaf parsley leaves (whole)--do NOT use cilantro.
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (possibly more depending on your desired texture)
  • 2 tbls. pine nuts
  • salt and pepper
Combine all ingredients in a food processor--starting with the pine nuts, and adding each ingredient one at a time. Mix oil in gradually until you've achieved your desired consistency. This has a more subtle flavor than pesto with basil and garlic cloves, but works really well as a spread for hors d'oeuvres or even for a pasta salad in the summer.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Pancetta Basil Scramble


I don't make breakfasts worth blogging about very often, mostly due to the fact that my low blood sugar makes breakfast more of a necessity than a pleasure. That said, sometimes on the weekend I do get a bit creative. This was QUITE good and very easy. If you know how to scramble eggs, this recipe is more detailed than you'll need.

As my husband remarked, this recipe probably "collides with most of the American Heart Association guidelines." Not for every day consumption. :)

PANCETTA BASIL SCRAMBLE
Serves 2 (serve with toast)
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons milk
6-8 slices pancetta
6 large leaves fresh basil, shredded
2 tablespoons soft cream cheese (diced from a bar)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
freshly ground black pepper

  • Pan fry pancetta in skillet then set aside on a plate covered in a paper towel. Absorb the extra grease with paper towels. Reserve any brown bits and grease in the skillet. When pancetta has cooled, chop it.
  • Whisk together the eggs and the milk, adding black pepper to taste.
  • Melt the butter in the skillet over medium heat (yes, with the pancetta drippings).
  • Once the butter begins to bubble slightly, pour in the egg mixture and start scrambling it around with a wooden spatula.
  • When mixture is half cooked (50% resembles scrambled eggs, 50% resembles runny eggs), add the pancetta, basil, and cream cheese.
  • Finish cooking to your desired firmness (note: the cream cheese will make the eggs look moister (runnier) than they actually are) and serve!
NOTES: If the pancetta drippings had been enough to cook the eggs in, I would have left out the butter. I definitely recommend using unsalted butter and adding NO SALT to the eggs--the pancetta does this for you....quite well. :) Do not add the basil too early because it will overcook and turn black.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Curried Carrot Slaw


Curried Carrot Slaw with Wild Rice Pilaf-Stuffed Chicken Thighs


CURRIED CARROT SLAW
This is a hit at every summer potluck/bbq, super easy to make, and extremely versatile as a side dish. It is my mother's recipe which I've doctored up just a tiny bit.

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 bag of whole carrots, peeled and shredded (tip: use the food processor!)*
  • 1/4 cup t0 1/2 cup raisins
  • 3-4 tablespoons shredded coconut (optional)
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise (you may wish to use less depending on your taste)
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 2-3 teaspoons curry powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well! Chill for at least an hour.

A few notes:
  • you can make this up ahead of time, but do know that the spices and salt will draw a fair amount of liquid out of the carrots. For this reason, you may want to adjust the amount of mayonnaise you use.
  • If I want it to have more kick, I use more curry powder. If I want a sweeter slaw, I include more shredded coconut.
  • You can buy "shredded carrots" but they tend to be thicker in texture and will not absorb the flavors as well. On the other hand, they retain their own moisture better and will stay crunchy, whereas the hand-shredded carrots get a little "soggy" (hence the raisins for texture and flavor).
  • Add slivered almonds or sliced macadamia nuts for more texture.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Jacqueline F.'s Pasta Carbonara


At long last, I find myself back in the kitchen! For roughly a month, we have been dependent upon my husband's culinary talents, our local restaurants and take-out. It is amazing just how often a "granola bar" can actually constitute a "meal."

So, tonight I cooked Jacqueline F.'s Pasta Carbonara! I went to junior high with Jacqueline's sister (Monique) and through the wonders of Facebook, have been able to keep in touch with her. Knowing that I like to cook, Monique shared Jacqueline's blog with me and I'm VERY glad she did. I love how Jacqueline writes and the recipes strike me as pretty no-nonsense--major plusses for a food blog! I've been subjected to pasta carbonara in a heavy cream sauce before, so I was happy to hear that cream shouldn't even enter the picture (according to Jacqueline). I will admit that I felt a compulsion to add white wine--I didn't--but I wanted to. Perhaps it is some subconscious belief that wine will cut the fat from the lardons? ;-)

I will tell you that this recipe is super tasty and SUPER EASY. I'm all for simple, basic ingredients. I didn't have any red pepper flakes, so I subsituted a little bit of cayenne and chili powder. I'm sure it would have been even more wonderful with red pepper flakes. But what I love most about a good carobonara (and this was no exception), is the way the bacon/pancetta infuses the sauce with its flavor. I served it with steamed carrots and a green salad, and a lovely Grüner Veltliner. :)

Making this dish also came with a dose of unexpected nostalgia. Monique and I worked on the literary magazine together all those many years ago. She was a very gifted writer and someone for whom I had a great deal of respect (not something I could say about all my friends in junior high). While we were not close then, it has been really wonderful to find out how much we have in common---especially when it comes to musical and artistic taste. I'm absolutely thrilled to be a enthusiastic reader of her sister's blog (Rocket Lunch) now, and I look forward to trying more of Jacqueline's recipes--especially the No-Knead Bread!

I look forward to cooking and posting more regularly! If you have a recipe you'd like me to try, drop me a line and let me know!