Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Brussels sprouts with pecans and cranberries

When I was going through fertility treatments last year, I craved roasted brussels sprouts. Pans and pans of roasted brussels sprouts.
Turns out I just crave them when it's cold outside, and it really has nothing to do with injecting myself with hormones.
These are so, so good. I'm going to have to insist you make them right away.

from Alton Brown, who I adore

1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts, rinsed and trimmed
3 ounces coarsely chopped pecans
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 ounces coarsely chopped dried cranberries (I used dried cherries, because it's what I had in the house)

Slice the Brussels sprouts using the thinnest slicing disk of a food processor. If you do not have a food processor, you may slice thinly with a knife or a mandoline.
Set a 10-inch straight-sided saute pan over medium-high heat and add the pecans. Cook, stirring continually, until the pecans darken in color and begin to give off a toasted aroma, approximately 2 minutes. Add the butter to the pan and stir to combine. Once the butter has melted, add the Brussels sprouts, salt and pepper and cook, stirring continually, until the color brightens and the sprouts are just tender, approximately 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, add the cranberries, toss and serve.

Ranch style chicken

I've got bags of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, which cut down on the amount of work I have to do when I want to make chicken.
Unfortunately, I often run out of recipes. This one was really good, and I'm sure I'll be making it again. Ernie and I think it'd be just as good with just the marinated chicken, but he insists everything is made better by bacon.

from the Pioneer Woman
(my adaptations in bold)

Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts (I used boneless, skinless thighs. so everwhere she says breasts, think thighs)
Thick cut bacon
1/4 c. Bacon grease
1/2 c. Honey
1/2 c. Dijon Mustard
Lemon juice
1/2 tsp. Paprika
Crushed Red Pepper (optional)
Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1/4 c. Canola oil

To begin, mix together 1/2 cup Dijon or country/grainy mustard with 1/2 cup honey. Add juice of 1/2 lemon, 1/2 teaspoon paprika, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. And have some fun here! Sprinkle in some crushed red pepper flakes or cayenne if you like things a little spicy. (I left the spicy out, so Gaby would eat it)
Whisk it together until smooth.
Next, rinse the chicken breasts under cool water and pat them dry.
We’re going to pound the chicken breasts so they have a more uniform thickness, which means they’ll cook more evenly and won’t be dry around the edges.
Place one chicken breast between two sheets of waxed paper…Lightly pat the waxed paper so it adheres to the chicken.
With a mallet or a rolling pin (you can also use a heavy can!) lightly pound the chicken breast so that the thickness is uniform. By the time it all evens up, it’s usually around 1/2 to 3/4″ thick. (I skipped this step altogether, because the thighs weren't that thick)
Next, just add all the chicken to the bowl with the marinade. You’ll want to cover this with plastic wrap and let it marinate in the fridge for at least an hour. (I marinated mine for about 4 hours.)
While the chicken is marinating, go ahead and fry up some bacon. Next, and this is important, reserve 1/4 cup of the bacon grease, and go ahead and clean out the skillet. Otherwise, it’ll get too smoky.
When you’re ready to prepare the chicken, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Remove the chicken from the fridge and pour off excess marinade into the sink. Heat half of the reserved bacon grease with an equal quantity of Canola Oil in the clean skillet over medium-high to high heat. (We want to sear the chicken, not cook it completely.) When the grease is sufficiently heated, add a batch of chicken to the skillet. Don’t overcrowd the skillet—just 3 pieces is usually enough.
Each side should cook for a maximum of 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.
Repeat with all the chicken breasts, then set them on a large baking sheet.
Go ahead and throw the pan of chicken into the hot oven for about ten minutes to continue cooking. Then remove the pan from the oven, and lay a couple of bacon slices over each chicken breast.
Next, grab some grated sharp cheddar and sprinkle it over the top as generously as you’d like.
Just return the pan to the oven for an additional five minutes, or until cheese is melted and bacon is sizzling.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Black Bean & Sweet Potato Burritos

From Simply in Season, a More-with-Less cookbook

3 C sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 onion, chopped
1 T olive oil

Saute in large frypan in oil until tender. Add water or apple juice as needed to prevent sticking.

2 C cooked black beans
1 t ground cumin
3/4 t ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

Add to pan and heat mixture through.

flour tortillas
cheddar cheese, shredded
sour cream
salsa
cilantro

The recipe includes an instruction to fill and roll up the tortillas (8), lightly spray with olive oil and then cover and bake at 350 for 20 min. We skipped this and assembled individual burritos fajita style and it was great. I was skeptical that the sweet potato would cook without liquid and it totally did.

shout out

I am in love with two blogs.

Everybodylikessandwiches is my homie. She makes healthy, interesting food, I love her creativity and her writing, and I am completely convinced she'd fit right in to our group of friends. So much so, that I kind of fully expect this to happen one day.

Smittenkitchen is my interwebs mentor. Her enthusiastic commentary makes me believe in myself in the kitchen, and as a result, try things like baking bread and roasting whole chickens.

Whose food do you love?

Zuni Cafe’s Roasted Chicken

I really like that you roast this bird in a skillet in the oven. Kev liked the results, as evidenced by the shiny new meat thermometer he put in my stocking for Christmas. ha!

I actually didn't season the bird a day ahead and it was still quite lovely.


Adapted from the cookbook from the Zuni Cafe, San Francisco
copied and pasted here from smittenkitchen by hefk

The original recipe falls over three-plus pages in a small font and includes a fantastic amount of detail. It’s a great read. However, I prefer recipes that cut to the chase a bit more, so I have edited this down significantly, into the hopefully dish- and time-saving way I would approach it next time. It is typically served with the Bread Salad (recipe at http://smittenkitchen.com/2008/12/zuni-cafe-roast-chicken-bread-salad/) but I see no reason you can’t use any of your favorite side dishes instead. To me, the real genius is getting that bird so perfectly roasted all over with only a modicum of fuss.

Serves 2 to 4

One small chicken, 2-3/4 to 3-1/2-pounds
4 tender sprigs fresh thyme, marjoram, rosemary or sage, about 1/2 inch long
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 to 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
A little water

Season the chicken: [1 to 3 days before serving; give a 3 1/4 to 3 1/2-pound chicken at least 2 days]

Remove and discard the lump of fat inside the chicken. Rinse the chicken and pat very dry inside and out. Be thorough-a wet chicken will spend too much time steaming before it begins to turn golden brown.

Approaching from the edge of the cavity, slide a finger under the skin of each of the breasts, making 2 little pockets. Now use the tip of your finger to gently loosen a pocket of skin on the outside of the thickest section of each thigh. Using your finger, shove and herb sprig into each of the 4 pockets.

Season the chicken liberally all over with salt and pepper. Season the thick sections a little more heavily than the skinny ankles and wings. Sprinkle a little of the salt just inside the cavity, on the backbone, but don’t otherwise worry about seasoning the inside. Twist and tuck the wing tips behind the shoulders. Cover loosely and refrigerate.

Prepare your oven and pan: [Day of, total time is 45 minutes to 1 hour]

Preheat the oven to 475°F. Choose a shallow flameproof roasting pan or dish barely larger than the chicken, or use a 10-inch skillet with an all-metal handle (we used a 12-inch cast iron frying pan for a 3 1/2-pound chicken). Preheat the pan over medium heat. Wipe the chicken dry and set it breast side up in the pan. It should sizzle.

Roast the chicken: Place the chicken in the pan in the center of the oven and listen and watch for it to start browning within 20 minutes. If it doesn’t, raise the temperature progressively until it does. The skin should blister, but if the chicken begins to char, or the fat is smoking, reduce temperature by 25 degrees. After about 30 minutes, turn the bird over — drying the bird and preheating the pan should keep the skin from sticking. Roast for another 10 to 20 minutes, depending on size, then flip back over to recrisp the breast skin, another 5 to 10 minutes.

Rest the chicken: Remove the chicken from the oven and turn off the heat. Lift the chicken from the roasting pan and set on a plate. Carefully pour the clear fat from the roasting oven, leaving the lean drippings behind. Add about a tablespoon of water to the hot pan and swirl it.

Slash the stretched skin between the thighs and breasts of the chicken, then tilt the bird and plate over the roasting pan to drain the juice into the drippings. You can let it rest while your finish your side dishes (or Bread Salad, below).The meat will become more tender and uniformly succulent as it cools.

Serve the chicken: Set a platter in the oven to warm for a minute or two.

Tilt the roasting pan and skim the last of the fat. Place over medium-low heat, add any juice that has collected under the chicken, and bring to a simmer. Stir and scrape to soften any hard golden drippings. Taste-the juices will be extremely flavorful.

Cut the chicken into pieces, spread on the warm platter (on top of the Bread Salad, if using).

Capitalize on leftovers: Strain and save the drippings you don’t use, they are delicious tossed with spƤtzle or egg noodles, or stirred into beans or risotto. You can also use them, plus leftover scraps of roast chicken, for a chicken salad.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

clementine salsa

Yet another thing I love about my Vegetarian Times subscription (thanks, Kelly!) is that you can sign up to get a seasonal recipe from the archives once a week. This one came at just the right time -- when we have a lot of citrus sitting on our counter but not very many good tomatoes -- and it is excellent. I tipped the balance way toward the oranges and away from the tomatoes; in the recipe, it's the opposite.

3 clementines, peeled and chopped [I only had two sad lonely clementines, so I used two Honeybell oranges too]
2 cups (about 1 1/4 lb.) chopped very ripe tomatoes [I used one Roma]
1/4 cup chopped white onion [I used red]
6 Tbs. finely chopped cilantro
1 Tbs. freshly squeezed lime juice, or more to taste
1/4 tsp. salt, or more to taste

Combine all ingredients in bowl, and mix to blend. Taste for seasoning, adding more lime juice or salt if desired. This salsa is even better the next day. [I wouldn't know, because I ate 90% of it on a burrito for lunch.]

light wheat bread

Hefk and I both made this Smitten Kitchen recipe last weekend. I think she followed the directions properly, and hers came out delicious. I screwed it up in two different ways (1. using yeast that expired in November 2007; 2. foretting the powdered milk in the first step) but made random adjustments and it also turned out delicious. I immediately decided that this is the most forgiving, perfect bread in the world and it is amazing with honey and in sandwiches and I look forward to eating it as a snack when I get home from work and I am never ever buying supermarket bread again.

Of course, I tried it again today, and it is... not quite as delicious. It didn't rise enough and it's a little flattened, a little dense. I'm chalking this up to the expired yeast, though, which I didn't coddle quite as much as I did last week, and I'm going to venture a guess that this is still a forgiving, perfect bread recipe.

Makes one 2-lb. loaf

2 1/2 cups (11.25 oz) unbleached high-gluten or bread flour [I just used AP; would probably be better with the good stuff]
1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz.) whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 tablespoons (.75 oz.) granulated sugar or honey
1 1/2 teaspoons (.38 oz.) salt
3 tablespoons (1 oz.) powdered milk
1 1/2 teaspoons (.17 oz.) instant yeast [maybe some that didn't expire 14 months ago!]
2 tablespoons (1 oz.) shortening or unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups (10 oz.) water, at room temperature

1. Stir together the high-gluten flour, whole-wheat flour, sugar (if using), salt, powdered milk, and yeast in a 4-quart mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). Add the shortening, honey (if using), and water. Stir (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment) until the ingredients form a ball. If there is still flour in the bottom of the bowl, dribble in additional water. The dough should feel soft and supple. It is better for it to be a little too soft that to be too stiff and tough.

2. Sprinkle high-gluten or whole-wheat flour on the counter, and transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mix on medium speed with the dough hook). Add more flour if needed to make a firm, supple dough that is slightly tacky but not sticky. Kneading should take about 10 minutes (6 minutes by machine). The dough should pass the “>windowpane test and registers 77 to 81 degrees F. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

3. Ferment at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

4. Remove the dough from the bowl and press it by hand into a rectangle about 3/4 inch thick, 6 inches wide, and 8 to 10 inches long. Form it into a loaf by working from the short side of the dough, rolling up the length of the dough one section at a time, pinching the crease with each rotation to strengthen the surface tension. It will spread wider as you roll it. Pinch the final seam closed with the back edge of your hand or with your thumbs. Place the loaf in a lightly oiled 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch bread pan; the ends of the loaf should touch the ends of the pan to ensure an even rise. Mist the top with spray oil and loosely cover with plastic wrap.

5. Proof at room temperature for approximately 60 to 90 minutes (as in, original recipe says 90 minutes, I walked into the kitchen at 60 and said “whoa!” as it had almost risen too much; clearly final rising times vary), or until the dough crests above the lip of the pan.

6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F with the oven rack on the middle shelf.

7. Place the bread pan on a sheet pan and bake for 30 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees for even baking and continue baking for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the oven. The finished loaf should register 190 degrees F in the center, be golden brown on the top and the sides, and sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.

8. When the bread is finished baking, remove it immediately from the loaf pan and cool it on a rack for at least 1 hour, preferably 2 hours (yeah, good luck with that), before slicing or serving.

Parmesan Ciabatta Bread

Bread! Made with yeast!
Gwen is probably thinking "geez, took her long enough."
All I know is that I'm on a good baking streak right now. And I think I'll be making lots of bread. With yeast!
This bread was super easy to make and tastes really good. I made with with Parmesan this time, but I think I'll try it with Asiago cheese the next time, because I really love Asiago. And everything's better with cheese.

from Annie's Eats

For the biga (starter):
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat, pumpernickel or rye flour
1 cup warm water
1/8 tsp. instant yeast

For the dough:
all of the starter
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup warm water
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. instant yeast
4-5 oz. Parmesan (or other) cheese, cut into 1/4-inch dice, plus extra for grating over the top

To make the biga, combine all of the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and mix until well blended. Cover the bowl, and leave it at cool room temperature (68-70 degrees F) for 12-20 hours, until the biga is very bubbly.
To make the dough, mix the biga and the remaining dough ingredients except the cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed just until a dough begins to form. Switch to the dough hook and continue kneading on low speed for 6-8 minutes, until the dough is soft and slightly sticky. Add additional water or flour as necessary, a tablespoon at a time. Mix in the cheese; don’t worry if some pieces pop out. Transfer to a lightly greased bowl and allow the dough to rise for 1-2 hours, until very puffy.
Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and shape it into two long loaves, about 12 x 4 inches each. Place the loaves onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover the loaves with well-greased plastic wrap and allow them to rise for 45 minutes or until they are very puffy. Sprinkle with additional grated cheese.
Bake in an oven preheated to 450 degrees F for 22-26 minutes, until the tops of the loaves are golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Basic pot roast

I usually make my pot roast in the slow cooker, but this was really, really good.

adapted from "How to Cook Everything" by Mark Bittman

1 clove garlic
1 piece chuck or rump roast
1 bay leaf
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. olive or peanut oil
2 c. chopped onions
1 c. peeled and chopped carrots
1/2 c. red wine
1 c. beef broth

Peel the garlic clove and cut it into tiny slivers; insert the slivers into several spots around the roast, poking holes with a thin-bladed knife. Rub meat with salt and pepper.
Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven. Brown meat on all sides, taking your time. Adjust the heat so the meat browns but the fat does not burn. Remove the meat to a platter and add the vegetables to the Dutch oven. Cook over medium-high heat until softened, about 10 minutes.
Add the red wine and cook, scraping the bottom, until the wine has just about evaporated. Add about half the stock and the bay leaf, return the roast to the pot, and turn the heat down to very low.
Turn the meat every 15 minutes and cook until it is tender == about 1.5 to 2.5 hours. Add a little more stock if the roast appears to be drying out, an unlikely possibility and a sign that your heat is too high.
Remove the meat from the pot and keep it warm. Skim the fat from the surface of the remaining juice. Turn the heat to high and cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot, until the liquid is thick and almost evaporated. Slice the meat and serve with the pan juices.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Roast pork shoulder, Puerto Rican Style

I bought a big pork roast the other day without the slightest clue how I wanted to cook it. So I turned to Mark Bittman, because he's never steered me wrong.

from How to Cook Everything

4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 medium onion, quartered
2 Tbsp. fresh oregano, or 1 Tbsp. dried
1 Tbsp. salt
2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp. peanut oil (preferred) or any other oil
2 Tbsp. wine or cider vinegar
1 (4-7 lb) pork shoulder or fresh ham

Mix the first five ingredients together in a food processor, adding the oil in a drizzle and scraping the sides as necessary. Blend in the vinegar.
Rub this mixture well into the pork, getting into every nook and cranny you can find. Set meat on a rack and let sit, uncovered, for 1 to 24 hours. Refrigerate if time is greater than 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350. Roast the pork for about 3 hours, turning every 30 minutes, until it is well done and very tender. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes before cutting it up.

Monday, January 19, 2009

shepherd's pie, the Rachael Ray way

I know Becky recently posted a recipe for shepherd's pie, but I had these leftover parsnips that I didn't know what to do with -- and I don't think I'd actually ever eaten shepherd's pie before this, let alone made it, so I wasn't brave enough to start experimenting. And this recipe was REALLY good... both J. and I kept exclaiming about how savory and delicious and warm it was.

2 pounds small yellow-fleshed potatoes, halved
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
10 ounces cremini mushroom slices
2 carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 parsnips, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 onion, chopped
1 pound 93-percent lean ground beef [I used turkey, but Kel, you might be able to get away with soy crumble... maybe...]
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cups beef broth [I used vegetable]
1/2 cup canned crushed tomatoes
Salt and pepper
3/4 cup 2-percent milk
1 1/2 pounds baby spinach

1. In a large saucepan, combine the potatoes and enough salted water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and return to the pot; cover.

2. In a large, deep skillet, heat 1/2 tablespoon olive oil over high heat, add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until browned, about 5 minutes. Arrange in a greased 9-by- 13-inch baking dish in an even layer.

3. In the same skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over mediumhigh heat. Add the carrots, parsnips and onion and cook, stirring, until crisp-tender, 6 to 7 minutes. Add the beef and cook, breaking it up, until no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Stir in the flour. Add the beef broth and tomatoes and simmer, stirring, until thickened, about 5 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Ladle the meat mixture over the mushrooms. Reserve the skillet.

4. Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 400°. Add the milk to the potatoes and mash. Season with salt and pepper.

5. In the reserved skillet, bring 1 cup water to a boil. Add the spinach and cook, turning, until wilted, about 2 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a colander; press to extract any liquid.

6. Arrange the spinach over the meat mixture, then spoon the potatoes on top. Drizzle with the remaining 1/2 tablespoon olive oil. Bake until golden, about 25 minutes.

Cheddar Cheese Risotto

Courtesy of Nigella Express. I've been meaning to try this recipe since my birthday when my MIL gave me this cookbook...pity it took so long to make because it's quite yummy.

1 T butter
1 T veg oil (I used all butter)
2 baby leeks or 2 fat scallions, finely sliced (I had neither and used a bit of yellow onion, minced)
1.5 C arborio rice
1/2 C white wine (I used a sauvignon blanc)
1 t dijon mustard (I probably put in more than that)
4 C hot veg stock
1 C grated cheddar (use sharp cheddar if you have it)
2 T chopped chives (I didn't have any so I used parsley)

Melt butter and oil in a heavy-bottomed pot. I like to use my dutch oven for this. Cook the onions until soft. Add the rice and stir for a minute or so. Add wine and mustard and stir until wine is absorbed. Add a ladleful of hot stock at a time and allow it to absorb. Stir rice before adding the next ladleful of stock. When rice is al dente (about 20 min or so), add cheese and stir until it melts. Serve immediately and sprinkle chives over top. I sprinkled a bit of S&P on as well and served with a mixed green salad. Delish.

Peanut Butter Fudge Treats

Also from Joy the Baker.

So, I tweaked this recipe a bit and instead of using a layer of peanut butter fudge and a layer of chocolate fudge I combined them together and used my mom's recipe for 2 minute fudge with peanut butter. Either way it turned out tasty and delicious. So delicious that I had to send the dish of treats to Michael's office or I would have been tempted to eat half a pan.

Make one batch of Rice Krispy treats according to pkg directions. Spread into an even layer in a 9x13 pan. Set aside and make fudge.

2 Minute Fudge
1 lb 10X sugar
1 C cocoa (I used Hershey's)
1 stick butter
1 t vanilla
1/2 C milk
1 C peanut butter

Sift sugar and cocoa into a microwave safe bowl. Add all remaining ingredients except milk and peanut butter. Microwave on high for 2 minutes or until butter is melted (our current microwave requires 2.5 min). Pour in milk and stir vigorously. When all igredients are combined and smooth add peanut butter and stir to incorporate. You may find that you need to reheat a bit and/or add an extra splash of milk. It kind of depends on your microwave and the kind of peanut butter you use. Spread fudge over treats and refrigerate. We ate some when they were still a bit warm which was quite yummy. Let's face it, it's hard to wait.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Oatmeal Blueberry Applesauce Muffins

From Joy the Baker. Alissa shared this blog with me and now I'm addicted to reading it regularly.

Makes 12-15 muffins

  • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 cups oats
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper cases or spray with nonstick cooking spray. I used a 9x9 pyrex dish (I can't find my bread pan and my muffin tin sucks...durr...)

In a large bowl combine flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In a medium bowl combine applesauce, buttermilk, sugar, oil and egg. Make a well in dry ingredients and add applesauce mixture. Stir until just moist. Fold in blueberries. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full.

Bake for 16-18 minutes for muffins and if you do it in a baking dish expect to bake for about 30 minutes or so. I served mine with yogurt dotted with sliced bananas, toasted walnuts and a drizzle of maple syrup. Very yummy.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

white chicken chili

A good recipe for a snowy Thursday night. I added zucchini and blended part of it with the immersion blender. I also didn't have any white beans and used black instead, which tastes fine but looks, I suspect, a bit worse than the original would.

From cooks.com:

3 1/2 c. water
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 1/2 lb. boneless, skinned chicken breasts
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 lg. onion, chopped (1 c.)
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
(I also added 1 lg. zucchini, chopped)
1 1/2 c. frozen white corn kernels, thawed
1 can (15 1/2 oz.) Great Northern beans, undrained
3 cans (4 oz. each) chopped green chilies, undrained (I omitted and chopped up part of a poblano instead)
3 tbsp. lime juice
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground white pepper
1/3 c. reduced-fat sour cream
2 tbsp. cilantro, fresh, chopped

Combine the water and cumin seeds in a large saucepan. Bring to boiling. Add chicken. Lower the heat; cover the saucepan and simmer 20 minutes or until chicken is fork-tender. Drain. Cut chicken into 3/4 inch cubes.

In the same saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add the onion; saute 5 minutes. Add garlic; saute 1 minute. (Add zucchini! Cook it.)

Stir in the corn, beans, chilies, lime juice, cumin, coriander and white pepper. (I also added some water.) Bring to boiling. (I removed from heat and blended with and immersion blender.) Add the chicken. Lower heat. Cook just until heated through. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Stir in sour cream and cilantro.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

banana cookies

From Simply Recipes. These are very light and not too sweet -- I made them for New Year's Eve and they were gone within 24 hours.

1/2 cup of unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup of sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 cup of mashed bananas (about 2 ½ large bananas) (I might increase this slightly next time for a more banana-y taste)
1 teaspoon of baking soda
2 cups of flour
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of ground mace or nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
1 cup of pecans (walnuts and chocolate chips are fine alternatives) (I used chocolate chips. no shock there.)

1 Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and continue to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.

2 In a bowl, mix the mashed bananas and baking soda. Let sit for 2 minutes. The baking soda will react with the acid in the bananas which in turn will give the cookies their lift and rise.

3 Mix the banana mixture into the butter mixture. Mix together the flour, salt, and spices and sift into the butter and banana mixture and mix until just combined.

4 Fold into the batter the pecans or chocolate chips if using. Drop in dollops onto parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake for 11-13 minutes or until nicely golden brown. Let cool on wire racks.

Makes about 30 cookies.

baked spinach ravioli

These sound very very similar to the recipe Alissa posted below, just with wonton wrappers instead of puff pastry. From the Nasoya Web site:

1 pkg of Nasoya® Won Ton wraps
1 (14-oz) pkg of Nasoya® Organic Firm tofu (I omitted)
10 ounces fresh spinach (I doubled this)
15 ounces ricotta cheese
3/4 c grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
(I added pinches of parsley, cayenne and nutmeg)

Cook spinach with 2 tbsp of water in the microwave or on the stovetop for 5 minutes or until just wilted. Let cool and drain excess water.

Place tofu in a food processor and pulse until it is pureed. Add the ricotta cheese, pulse until combined, then add spinach and grated cheese (and parsley and other spices) and process until smooth, about 30 seconds. Season with salt and pepper.

Line baking sheet with parchment paper, or spray sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Take a wrap and place approximately 2 tbsp of mixture in the center of each wrap. Do not place filling near the edge (and do not try to get more filling in, which will cause in-oven leakage).

Use a pastry brush dipped in water (or just your fingers) and brush edges of wrap. Place a second wrap on top, then crimp edges together tightly with your
fingers or the tines of a fork. Brush ravioli lightly with olive oil and bake in 375°(F) oven for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned.

Serve ravioli with your favorite marinara

Friday, January 02, 2009

Vanilla creme brulee

Easy as can be. And so, so tasty.

From Food Network

1 quart heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 cup vanilla sugar, divided
6 large egg yolks
2 quarts hot water

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Place the cream, vanilla bean and its pulp into a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean and reserve for another use.
In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup sugar and the egg yolks until well blended and it just starts to lighten in color. Add the cream a little at a time, stirring continually. Pour the liquid into 6 (7 to 8-ounce) ramekins. Place the ramekins into a large cake pan or roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake just until the creme brulee is set, but still trembling in the center, approximately 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.
Remove the creme brulee from the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes prior to browning the sugar on top. Divide the remaining 1/2 cup vanilla sugar equally among the 6 dishes and spread evenly on top. Using a torch, melt the sugar and form a crispy top. Allow the creme brulee to sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Jiaozi (/dumplings/potstickers)

Pia taught me to make these in our California apartment back in 2000, and Kev and I made them around or on New Year's Eve in 2003, 2005, 2006 and now 2008. It takes some time, but it's fun to assemble these while watching a movie or chatting with willing helpers. I haven't figured out a good veg version. That's the next project.
The directions as she gave them to me are in regular font, my notes are in italics.

You will eventually need about 2 packages of wonton skins/wrappers.

combine in one very large bowl:
2 pkg/2.5lb of ground pork (about 1 K)
2 T soy sauce (more)
2 t salt
2 t black pepper (more)
1 t white pepper (more)
1 t toasted sesame oil
1 T cooking sherry or other aromatic alcohol
1 t Chinese five spice

Stir these ingredients in one direction to keep the meat fibers sticking to one another so the jiaozi don't fall apart when cooking. I use my hands to mix this part.

Cover and refrigerate.

All of the remaining veg need to be finely minced so the meatball sticks together and doesn't fall apart. I've done the chopping by hand (hi Pia!) in the past, but now I use a food processor which greatly improves efficiency. The zen of chopping obviously suffers when electricity is employed. You decide what you need more at the time you are making these - a snack or enlightenment. It may vary year to year.

1 inch ginger
3-4 green onions
2 small handfuls of cilantro
1 bunch chives
Either: 8-10 stalks of celery
Or: 1 small head of Chinese/napa cabbage
(I like to mix half and half - 4 stalks of celery and 3/4 head of napa cabbage)
Optional: 2-3 carrots (yes)
Optional: 3-4 shiitake mushrooms (yes)
Optional: one fried egg (I've never tried this)

This year, after I processed the vegetable ingredients, I placed the mound of shredded veg in cheese cloth and squeezed most but not all of the excess liquid out. I wish I had thought ahead to reserve the liquid for a kickin' miso soup. Duh. Kelly would have remembered to do that...

Stir veggies gradually in to the meat mixture, keeping an eye on the moisture content.
It should stick together very easily. If it falls apart, it could be because a) the mix is too dry in which case add more veggies or oil, b/ because it's too moist in which case add a little more meat. Test scent. It should be very aromatic. If it's not yet, add a little more brandy, sesame oil or onion. Test consistency. Fry a teaspoon or so of the mix. This step is very important for seasoning adjustments and you also get to EAT! Eat fried bit and test flavor. Your entire tongue should get a little bit of life. If necessary, add a few spices to supplement. Fiddle until you're happy.

Clear a flat horizontal space in your freezer large enough to fit a cookie sheet.

On a large work surface, lay out:
Bowl of meat/veg filling
wonton wrappers
2 cookie sheets
a spoon for each helper
little ramekins of water for each helper
a small saucer for each helper

To roll:
Take about 1 T filling (less is more) and place into the center of wrapper. Bring one half up to meet the the other half. Seal thoroughly. This usually means creating pleats in on half and gluing with water brushed on with your finger. If they are not sealed, they fall apart when cooking and that's gross.
Kev won the design competition this year. I let go of my need to make little "package" shaped nuggets with rolled edges when I realized that his streamlined design made the wrapper cling nicely to the meatball once they were boiled and it tasted great that way too. Mine looked like a trapezoid and his looked like a mailing envelope. This year, I liked the mailing envelope version.
Once you've filled a cookie sheet of dumplings arranged in rows, but not touching, place sheet flat in the freezer. In the time that it takes to assemble enough to fill a second sheet, the first batch will be frozen enough that you can slide them gently in to ziploc bags to store frozen. Of course you will also want to cook some right away and have a snack!

To cook:
Bring about 3 inches of water to boil in a large pot. Add enough jiaozi to cover the base of the pot. When the water comes back to boil, add 1 C of cold water. Repeat this step a second time with another cup of cold water and wait until the water comes to a third boil. Note: If you stop before the third boil, the meat will not be cooked through. Also, if you don't add cold water each time, the jiaozi will fill with air and explode.
You can also fry them once they are boiled.

To serve:
They are typically eaten with a sauce constructed of soy, vinegar and sugar. (about 1/4 C SS + 1/4 C vinegar + 1 t sugar). They are also good with plain malt vinegar. To ensure that the sugar has dissolved completely, heat briefly. For more flavour, add a little sesame oil, hot oil, maggi (available in most chinese stores) and/or chili pepper as you wish. We served with plain old soy sauce.