Monday, January 31, 2011

Day 21: Oh, dear, oh, dear!

First of all let me say that it's not my fault.  Okay, it is, but still my intentions were good which should count for something, right?

Yesterday I undertook the very ambitious (for me at least) undertaking of making my own pasta, lasagna, and inviting friends over for dinner.  We had so much fun, but needless to say I was too tired to take care of the dishes last night.  So I figured I would take care of them in the morning.

Well today I'll be at a seminar from noon until 7:00, so my plan was to bake a casserole this morning for the boys to reheat for dinner but first I had to do the dishes.  Which took more time that I thought it would.  So after doing dishes, cleaning the kitchen, getting myself some breakfast and a cup of tea I have just enough time to shower and get ready for my seminar.

Sounds like the boys are ordering in pizza tonight!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Day 20B: Spinach, Cheese, and Tomato Lasagna

As I said in the earlier post, there are a lot of steps to this dish!  Overall I thought everything came out great.   I'm pretty sure everyone else enjoyed it too --  I didn't hear any complaints at the table!  The sauce was good, but very light.  I think next time I'll use my own tomato sauce that's heavier on the seasoning, and a bit heartier.  If using canned tomatoes as I did, I would suggest straining off the juices.   I didn't, and my sauce was a bit runny.  Also, I don't own a food mill, so I used my submersible blender to process the tomatoes.  The recipe says it serves 6, and let me warn you they are very big servings!

Rick and Heather joined us for dinner

I forgot to take pictures before everyone was served.  Messy, but good!

Spinach, Cheese, and Tomato Lasagna
The Greens Cook Book
Yield:  Serves 6

2 recipes Egg Pasta
8 ounces mozzarella cheese, fresh, if possible
2 1/2 pounds tomatoes, fresh or canned, peeled, seeded, chopped.
3 tbsp virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp fresh marjoram or oregano, or 1/2 tsp dried
Salt and pepper
Sugar, if necessary
Red wine vinegar

     Prepare the pasta dough and set it aside to rest.  Grate or slice the cheese; then prepare the tomato sauce and spinach-cheese filling.
     Heat the oil in a wide skillet, add the onion, garlic, and marjoram or oregano, and saute until the onion is transparent and soft.  Season with salt; then add the tomatoes and the wine.  Cook slowly until the sauce is thickened.  If the tomatoes are overly tart, correct the acidity by adding a pinch or two of sugar.  Once they are cooked, pass them through a food mill; then season to taste with a few drops of vinegar, freshly ground black pepper, and more salt if needed.

The Spinach-Cheese Filling
3 small or 2 large bunches spinach
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Salt, pepper, and nutmeg
2 cups ricotta
2 eggs
1 cup Parmesan, freshly grated
3 tbsp parsley, chopped
1 tsp lemon peel, minced or grated

     Remove the stems from the spinach; discard any bruised or yellow leaves.  Wash the spinach well in two changes of water.  Roughly chop the leaves into small pieces about an inch square.  In a wide pan, heat the oil and saute the onion for several minutes; then add half the garlic, the spinach leaves, and a sprinkling of salt.  Cook until the spinach is wilted; then remove it to a bowl and combine with the ricotta, eggs, Parmesan, the remaining garlic, and the parsley and lemon peel.  Season to taste with salt, freshly ground pepper, and a scraping or two of nutmeg.

The Bechamel
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
1 cup milk
Salt, pepper, and nutmeg

     Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour, and cook over a low flame for 2 to 3 minute, stirring continuously.  Scald the milk in a separate pan; then pour it all at once into the flour-butter mixture, whisking as you do so.  Season with salt, pepper, and a scraping of nutmeg, and continue to cook the sauce for 15 minutes over low heat, giving it an occasional stir.

Assembling the Lasagna
     Roll out the pasta dough to the thinnest setting, and cut the final strips into pieces that will fit your baking pan.  Bring a pot of water to a boil and add salt.  Have ready a large bowl of cold water.  Cook several pieces of dough at a time.  Pull them out when they rise to the surface, and put them in the cold water to cool; then spread them on a kitchen towel.  Continue cooking until all are done.
     Preheat the oven to 350.  Butter a 9x13 baking dish and spread half the bechamel over the bottom.  Piece together several strips of the pasta so that they cover the bottom and hang over the edges of the baking dish.  (Later they will be folded over the top to make a package, effectively sealing in the fillings.)
     Spread half the tomato sauce over this first layer of pasta and cover it with half the mozzarella.  Put down another layer of pasta and cover these with half the spinach-cheese filling.  Continue the sequence with more pasta, tomato and mozzarella, pasta and spinach-cheese filling.  Finish by laying one or two strips of pasta down the center and folding the overhanging edges over the top.  Cover with the remaining bechamel sauce.
     Cover the lasagna with foil, and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove the foil and continue baking another 15 minutes, or until the top is puffed and browned.  Let the lasagna rest for a few minutes; then cut it into pieces and serve.  A chilled Beaujolais or a Vin Gris would go well with this.

Note:  Lasagna can also be made using commercial fresh pasta sheets, which will be thicker than those you make at home.  These commercial pasta sheets often come in pieces about 9x13 inches, each weighing about 4 ounces; 1 1/2 pounds should be more than enough.  Use 4 or 5 sheets and do not try to overlap the bottom layer as in the basic recipe.  Though fresh pasta makers often say the lasagna sheets need not be precooked, the lasagna will be lighter and moister if they are.

Oh, and a note for those who are keeping track:  I am counting this as a two recipe day so I am once again on track to complete 50 recipes in 50 days!

Day 20A: Spinach, Cheese and Tomato Lasagna

I rarely make lasagna -- so many steps, and I'm a bit of a lazy cook.  Tonight's lasagna recipe comes from The Greens Cook Book, and the directions are numerous but not difficult.  To add to the experience I also made my very first pasta dough today, and invited some friends over for dinner.  I was very happy I didn't stress out at all.  The dough came out beautifully, and I made sure to give myself plenty of time to complete all the steps.  Since the directions are quite long I've divided the recipe into two posts.  The first post will cover making the dough, and the second will be how to make the lasagna.

There is a chapter before the recipes that gives you in-depth pasta making information, and I'm glad I took the time to read it.  They stressed how important it was not to add too much water, and that was probably the most difficult thing about the task -- incorporating the water a little bit at a time. ( I'm estimating I used about 1/4 cup of water.  Next time I'll keep better track of how much water I used.)  It was well worth the effort.

Egg Pasta
The Greens Cook Book
Yield:  7 ounces pasta dough 

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
Good pinch salt
1 large egg
1 tsp olive oil
A few drops water, if necessary

Combine the flour and the salt in a bowl, make a well in the middle, and add the egg and the olive oil.  Using your fingers, lightly and gradually work the egg into the flour so that it is completely distributed throughout.  When it is well combined, press the mixture together to form a dough.  Turn it out onto a counter and begin to work it together.  If it is too dry, add drops of water, a few at a time, to moisten the dough and help it come together.  Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, until it feels smooth and supple.  Put it in a  plastic bag or wrap it in plastic, and set it aside to rest at least a half hour, preferable an hour, before rolling it out. 

   I used a food processor instead of mixing the egg and flour by hand. 

Process for about 10 seconds.  I should have added a little water at this stage to help the dough come together quicker.

Instead I just dumped the flour onto a board, and started squishing and adding water.

And squishing, and adding water until it finally formed a ball of dough.

Then I kneaded it by hand for about 10 minutes until the dough was smooth and shiny, wrapped it in cling wrap, and sat it on the counter for about an hour.  

Then I flattened the ball of dough into a disc shape, and cut the disc in half, and started rolling.

After the first pass I cut the strip in half lengthwise to make it easier to handle when feeding through the roller  After each pass through the roller I moved the knob down one number until I reached the next to the last setting.  Paul and I actually had a great system going.  One of us would just crank the roller while the other would feed the dough, and catch/remove the pasta from the other side.  

I laid the dough on a baking sheet between sheets of waxed paper until I was ready to cook, about 10 minutes.  If it'll be longer than 10/15 minutes then the pasta should be covered with cling wrap, and placed in the refrigerator until you're ready to cook them.  I'll list those directions on the next post.  

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Day 19: Kitchen Pantry Essentials

Okay, I know, last night I made up the last of my recipe make-up nights, and here I go skipping out on my cooking duties again.  What can I say?  My husband asked me out on a date, and it would have been rude to say no, right?  So instead of telling you all about the dinner I should have cooked (but didn't) I'll talk a bit about my pantry.  Most of the cookbooks I own have a section that talks about what to stock in the pantry, and they all stock pretty much the same items.  Still it's interesting for me to read, kind of like looking through their medicine cabinets but with their permission, if you know what I mean.  I particularly enjoy when the writers share which brands they use, so I thought I'd share with you some of my favorites.

Beans, canned:   I like Fred Meyer's Private Selection Organic canned beans.  They only have 120 mg sodium per serving, and still tastes good.
Beef Stock, boxed:  Kitchen Basics Original Beef Stock.  I think it tastes better, and it's worth the extra money.  It costs about $1.00 a box more than other brands.
Capers:  Whatever is on sale -- usually the store brand.  I haven't noticed any difference in the quality between store and name brand.
Chicken Stock, boxed:  I don't use chicken stock -- don't like the taste.  I substitute with vegetable stock.  Okay, that's not 100% accurate.  When I make chicken soup I boil a whole chicken with some veggies in water, and I do use the broth in the soup.  But let's face it -- homemade chicken stock doesn't taste anything like the boxed stock.
Flour, White:  I like King Arthur, or Eagle Mills
Flour, Wheat:  Bob's Red Mill
Honey:  I save the local organic honey for eating (toast, biscuits, etc.).  For baking I use whatever brand that comes in a container the shape of a bear, just 'cause I like to squeeze his belly.
Horseradish:  Beaver Prepared Horseradish.  It's good, and they're fairly local (Oregon).
Hot Sauce:  Tabasco, Sriracha, and Cholula Chili Lime.  Of course these are for Paul and Kevin.  I don't use hot sauce.
Maple Syrup:  Log Cabin Original.  I can't afford real maple syrup, and this one has the best taste and consistency.  It also doesn't have any high fructose corn syrup.  It's made of corn syrup, but there's no high fructose corn syrup in the syrup, and that is proudly proclaimed on the front label.  Come on, am I the only one that finds this humorous?
Mayonnaise:  Best Foods Real Mayonnaise.  Not light mayonnaise, and definitely not Miracle Whip.
Mustard:  I like Natural Directions Organic Dijon Mustard.  Tastes good, and they're fairly local (Oregon). Paul likes French's Classic Yellow Mustard.
Pasta, Dried:  I use mostly Barilla, or De Cecco when I can find it.  I don't think you need to pay more than $1.00 on a box of pasta so I stock up when it's on sale. 
Pickles:  Farman's Genuine Dill.  Baby Dills are my favorite, but usually I just buy a small jar so the pickles are small.
Soy Sauce:  Kikoman
Tomatoes, Canned:  S&W for all my canned tomato products:  diced, sauce, paste, whole, etc.
Tomatoes, Sun-Dried:  Mezzetta Sun-Dried Tomatoes, packed in oil of course.
Vanilla Extract:  Kirkland Signature Pure Vanilla Extract
Vegetable Stock, boxed:  I like Wolfgang Puck's vegetable stock.  It's a nice rich color, and very tasty.  Sometimes when my stomach is upset I heat up a cup of the stock to sip.  There are two kinds, All Natural and Organic.  I usually buy the All Natural because the sodium is just a touch lower (660 mg compared to 720 mg in the organic).
Worcestershire Sauce:  Lea & Perrins.  Come on, is there any other choice?

Oh, and tuna.  I love tuna salad sandwiches, tuna and pickle sandwiches (but never tried tuna and peanut butter) so I always have canned tuna on hand, and the brand I like best is Chicken of the Sea, packed in oil.

Okay, tomorrow for dinner I'm going all out!  I'm making Spinach Cheese Lasagna, and I'll be making my own noodles!

And now if you'll excuse me I have a date to get ready for!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Day 18: Pizzoccheri and Cucumber-Feta Salad with Red Onions and Mint

I prepared two recipes tonight to complete my last recipe make-up day:  Pizzoccheri, which is described in The New Whole Grains Cookbook as an Italian Buckwheat noodle casserole, and a Cucumber-Feta Salad from The Greens Cook Book.

I've never eaten Pizzoccheri, and I was looking forward to giving it a try.  The cookbook recommended using buckwheat soba noodles, which I thought I had on hand, but oops!  They also suggested using whole wheat spaghetti as an alternative, and since I had some of on hand that's what I used.  I couldn't find any fontina cheese so I used mozzarella since I couldn't think of a better substitute.  Paul really liked the casserole.  I thought it was good, but I think I would have enjoyed it more if I served the pasta with some butter, cheese, and herbs, and the veggies served as a side dish.

I love cucumbers so I was looking forward to trying the cucumber salad, especially one that wasn't drenched in mayonnaise or sour cream.  This salad was so good -- light and refreshing.  I used my favorite feta cheese, Mt. Vikos (you can find it at Met Market).  It's an imported feta from Greece.  It's a nice, firm cheese that's not too salty, and it really worked well in this salad.

The New Whole Grains Cookbook
Yield:  Serves 6

1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
14 ounces savoy cabbage, thinly sliced (6 cups)
4 ounces thin French beans or green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp chopped fresh sage
One 8 ounce package soba noodles
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
Freshly cracked black pepper
6 ounces aged fontina cheese shredded

Preheat the oven to 400.

     Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Melt the butter with the olive oil in a large saute pan and cook the cabbage and French beans over medium heat.  (French beans will cook more quickly than green beans.)  When tender and golden, about 5 minutes, add the garlic and sage, and cook for a few more minutes.  Take the pan off the heat.  Cook the soba in the boiling water according to the package directions, drain, then mix the cabbage in the pan, adding the salt and pepper to taste.
     Lightly oil a shallow 1 1/2 quart baking dish, and put half of the noodle mixture in the bottom.  Top with half of the cheese, then the remaining noodles, and finally the remaining cheese.  Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until melted and golden.  You can also make this a day ahead, refrigerate, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

Cucumber-Feta Salad with Red Onions and Mint
The Greens Cook Book
Yield:  Serves 4 to 6

2 pounds cucumbers, such as Armenian, English, Japanese
1 small onion; a red onion, or torpedo onion, or one of ht every sweet varieties, such as the Walla Walla
White pepper
8 ounces feta cheese (preferably Bulgarian, which is less salty), thinly sliced or crumbled
3 tbsp mixed herbs:  mint, parsley, marjoram, and chives, finely chopped
2 tsp Champagne vinegar or rice wine vinegar
Whole mint leaves, for garnish

     Peel the cucumbers if the skins have been waxed or have a bitter taste.  Otherwise, leave them on, or peel most of the skins away, leaving a few narrow strips which will make the slices pretty.  Peel Armenian cucumbers only if the skins are tough.  Slice the cucumbers thinly (if they are very mature with large seeds, halve them lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and thinly slice the halves).  Put the slices in a bowl' cover and refrigerate for at least /2 hour.
     Peel the onion, keeping it whole, and slice it into rounds as thinly as possible.  Cover with cold water and refrigerate, also for 1/2 hour.
     Just before serving, remove the cucumbers and the onion from the refrigerator.  Drain the onion and shake off the excess water.  Layer the cucumber and onion slices informally on a platter or in a large shallow bowl.  Season with a little salt and freshly ground white pepper, and scatter the cheese and herbs on top.  Whisk together the vinegar and oil with a fork, and pour it over the salad.  Garnish with the mint leaves and serve.

Variation:  The addition of finely chopped green chilies will make this a salad with both cool and hot tastes.

Tomorrow night:  Winter Squash Gratin

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Day 17: Honest Meat Loaf and Mashed Potatoes

I love meatloaf!  My mom would layer ketchup on the top, and put little surprises inside like whole hard boiled eggs and it looked so pretty on your plate.  I mean come on people!  That's some good eating!  Sometimes mom would experiment, and put a pocket of sauteed onions and mushrooms in the middle of the meatloaf.  That was a bit of a let down since I was a kid, and my love of onions had not yet blossomed.  Oh, and the mushrooms -- now I loved fresh  mushrooms then, and I love them now.  My mom used canned mushrooms which I definitely didn't like.  Of course this was the 70s after all, I mean didn't they use canned everything?  My mom considers me to be a bit of a snob when it comes to canned goods since I won't use canned peas, corn, beans, get the pictures.  I would think she would change her mind since I use canned tomatoes, beets, and artichokes but sadly, no, it has not.  But I digress.

I love meatloaf, and meatloaf  and mashed potatoes, well, is there a more perfect combination?  I sort of used the mashed potato recipe listed with the roast chicken recipe found here, but I just couldn't bring myself to put 6 tablespoons of butter and 1/4 cup of olive oil in my mashed potatoes.  I used 3 tablespoons of butter, and believe me that was more than enough for us!

I've made meatloaf in the past without much success, probably because I was too stubborn to use a recipe.  I mean who needs a recipe?  A pound of hamburger, an egg, some bread crumbs, salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder, and it's meatloaf, right?  Well, not in my case -- my meatloaf was always dry, crumbly, and rather tasteless.

I loved the recipe for Honest Meat Loaf in Healthy Cooking for Two.  Delicious and moist, it was so good!  Now if only it called for a hard boiled egg in the middle it would have ranked right up there with my mom's.

Honest Meat Loaf
Healthy Cooking for Two (or just you)
Yield:  4 servings

1 pound extra-lean ground beef
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 egg
1 tsp dried basil or oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
4 sprigs fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to 350

     In a medium mixing bowl, combine the beef, bread crumbs, egg white (or whole egg), basil or oregano, salt and pepper.
     In a blender, combine the ketchup, lemon juice, onions, garlic and parsley; process until the onions and parsley are coarsely pureed.  Add the  mixture to the ingredients in the mixing bowl.  Knead the mixture lightly by hand until blended.
     Form and pat into a loaf shape in a shallow baking pan.  Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the loaf is browned on top and cooked throughout.  Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

Tomorrow night:  Pizzoccheri and Cucumber, Feta with Red Onion and Mint Salad.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Day 16: Corn, Bean, and Pumpkin Stew with Potato Bread

I confess.  I forgot to put the beans to soak last night (or this morning), and didn't realize my mistake until 5:00 when I started getting dinner ready.  Luckily I was able to do the quick soak method, but that meant that dinner wasn't ready until 8:00 which is almost Paul's bedtime (since his alarm goes off at 3:00 in the morning).   Paul was happy to have leftover orzo with some of the potato bread I baked, and was nice enough to taste a bit of the stew before he went to bed.

I have another confession.  I don't think I like cinnamon in a savory dish, or at least I really didn't like the taste in this stew.  If I make it again it will be without the cinnamon.  Of course then it would be just like the Acorn Stew I made on Day 1.  Paul said it was good (shocker!), but admitted he didn't care for the cinnamon either (not a surprise), and that he doesn't care for squash (big surprise).  He said he thinks he used to like squash when he was a kid, but that it was always served covered with brown sugar.  Maybe it was just the brown sugar he liked.

Tonight was another recipe make-up day (only one more to go!), so I baked some Potato Bread which was also from The Greens Cook Book.  I thought it would be good to sop up the broth with.  I forgot to apply the egg wash so the bread didn't have that nice shiny coat, but it was delicious!  Nice body and flavor -- can't wait to make some toast tomorrow!

Corn, Bean, and Pumpkin Stew
The Greens Cook Book
Yield:  Serves 4 to 6

1 cup pinto beans, soaked overnight and drained
1 pound tomatoes, fresh or canned, peeled, seeded, and chopped; juice reserved
3 ears corn (about 1 1/2 cups kernels)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp oregano
1-inch piece cinnamon stick
3 cloves
4 tbsp corn oil, light sesame oil, or light olive oil
1 large onion, cut into a medium dice
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp paprika
2 cups bean broth or Stock for Curried Soups and Dishes (page 67)
3 cups pumpkin or winter squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 Serrano chilies, seeded and finely chopped
Cilantro or parsley, chopped, for garnish

     If you have not pre-soaked the beans, clean them, rinse them well, cover them with boiling water, and let them soak for one hour.  Drain them, cover them with fresh water, and bring to a boil.  Add 1/2 tsp salt and cook about 1 1/2 hours, or until the beans are tender.  Drain the beans, and reserve the cooking liquid.
     Warm a small heavy skillet and toast the cumin seeds until their fragrance emerges; then add the oregano, stir for 5 seconds, and quickly transfer the spices to a plate or bowl so they don't burn.  Combine them with the cinnamon and the cloves, and grind to a powder in an electric spice mill.
     Heat the oil in a wide skillet and saute the onion briskly over high heat for 1 minute; then lower the heat to medium.  Add the garlic, the spices, the paprika, and 1 tsp salt.  Stir well to combine; then add 1/2 cup reserved bean broth or stock and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft.  Next add the tomatoes and cook 5 minutes.  Then add the pumpkin or winter squash along with another cup of bean broth or stock. After 20 to 30 minutes, or when the pumpkin is about half-cooked (soft but still too firm to eat) add the corn, the beans, and the fresh chilies.  thin with the reserved tomato juice, adding more broth or stock as necessary.  Cook until the pumpkin is tender.  Check the seasoning, and add more salt if necessary.  Serve garnished with the chopped cilantro or parsley.
     Even though there is corn in the stew, corn bread or tortillas make a good accompaniment.

Potato Bread
The Greens Cook Book
Yield:  Makes two loaves

1 cup warm whole milk
1 cup warm water
1 1/2 packages active dry yeast (3 1/2 tsp)
2 tbsp honey or sugar
6 to 7 cups unbleached white flour
1/2 pound small red potatoes
3 tbsp corn or safflower oil
1 tbsp salt
1 egg plus 1 tbsp milk or water, beaten, for egg wash

     Combine the milk and water in a large bowl, stir in the yeast, and let it dissolve; than add the honey or sugar and 3 cups of the flour.  Beat vigorously with a spoon to form a thick, smooth batter.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
     While the dough is rising, boil or steam the potatoes, leaving the skins on if you like.  Mash the cooked potatoes with a fork, and set them aside to cool.  Once the dough has risen, add the potatoes, oil, and salt, and mix well.
     Fold in about 2 more cups flour, 1/2 cup at a time, turning the bowl a quarter turn between folds to approximate the action of kneading.  When the dough becomes too thick to handle in this way, turn it out onto a floured surface, and begin kneading.  Knead the dough until the surface is smooth and satiny, 5 to 8 minutes, adding only enough flour to keep it from sticking.
     Place the dough in an oiled bowl, turn it over so the top is coated, then cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.  Punch it down, and let it rise again, 35 to 40 minutes.
     Shape the dough into two loaves, place them in oiled pans, and let them rise until doubled, about 25 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 350.  Brush the tops with the egg wash.  Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until golden brown on all sides.  Remove the loaves from the oven and turn them out onto a rack to cool.

Tomorrow night:  Meatloaf and mashed potatoes!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Day 15: Orzo with Peas and Lemon-Herb Sauce

I'll be anxious to hear Paul's review of tonight's dinner.  I have a hair appointment at 3:30, and yesterday I found out that my friend Charan  would be presenting his thoughts on Social Media Marketing in the Arts which I can't miss, so I'm feeling rather guilty that I'm making Paul cook after another long day at work (he leaves at 5:00 a.m. and if I'm lucky gets home by 6:30 p.m.).  Orzo with Peas and Lemon-Herb Sauce from The Complete Vegan Cookbook is on the menu tonight, so all he'll have to do is boil the pasta, and toss it with the sauce that I've prepared.  Even though the author planned this dish to be served as a main course I'll be using it as a side dish to my oven baked "fried chicken".  I normally use regular bread crumbs when making fried chicken (baked or otherwise) but today I'll be trying Panko breading -- fingers crossed!

Update:  Paul and Kevin loved the orzo, and so did I!  Luckily all of us love garlic because I used two huge cloves!  The only thing I would change would be to add some kind of chopped nuts.  I just think it would have been better with something that goes crunch.  Or maybe I could add some diced celery, or sliced radish...hmm.  The breading on the chicken didn't brown as much as I'd like but it sure tasted good, and had a great crunch.

Orzo with Peas and Lemon-Herb Sauce
The Complete Vegan Cookbook
Yield: 4 main dish servings

2 cups chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup vegetable stock
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp dried red chili flakes
1 1/8 cups fresh or frozen shelled peas (see NOTE)
2 cups dried orzo (about 1 pound)

     Bring several quarts of water to a rapid boil in a large stockpot.
     Meanwhile, in a food processor or blender, combine the parsley with the mint, garlic, stock, oil, lemon juice, fennel seeds, salt, and chili flakes.  Blend until fairly smooth and set aside in a large serving bowl.
     When the water comes to a rolling boil, add the peas.  Bring the water back to a boil, then remove the peas immediately if using the frozen variety, or cook for 1 minute if using fresh peas.  Remove the peas from the water with a wire strainer, or slotted spoon, and bring the water back to a boil.  drain the peas well, then add them to the sauce in the bowl.
     Add the orzo to the boiling water and stir.  Bring the pot back to a boil and cook until the orzo is al dente, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
     When the pasta is ready, transfer it to a large fine mesh strainer and drain it well.  Add it to the peas and sauce, and toss until everything is well combined.  Serve immediately.

NOTE:  If using frozen peas, place them in a colander and rinse briefly under warm water to melt off any ice crystals before adding them to the dish.

Oven Baked "Fried" Chicken
From Ann's Brain
Yield:  Serves 4

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup of Panko breading

Preheat oven to 400

Rinse chicken breasts, pat dry, and place into bowl, and add buttermilk.  Chicken breasts should be just covered -- add more buttermilk if needed.  Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate (here's where the cookbooks say refrigerate over night, but I'm never that organized.  I usually refrigerate anywhere from 4 to 8 hours.
Prepare 2 plates:  One empty to hold chicken after removing from buttermilk.  Spread Panko breading evenly onto the second plate.  Remove chicken from bowl, and place on first plate.  Season one side of chicken with salt and pepper, and then place seasoned side down on second plate.  Season remaining side with salt and pepper. and turn breast, ensuring both sides are well coated with the Panko breading.  Place on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with non-stick spray.  Lightly spray top of chicken breast with non-stick spray, and bake 30-35 minutes.  Chicken is done when browned and cooked through (pierce meat to check if juices run clear).

Tomorrow night:  Corn, Bean, and Pumpkin Stew!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Day 14: Lima Bean and Winter Vegetable Soup

My mom used to make Lima Bean soup when I was a kid.  A nice thick soup with bits of salty pork -- it was one of my favorites.  But it was a bit bland.  Okay, it was really bland.  We'd pour ketchup on top, and stir it in for more flavor, I thought it was great.  Of course when I was a kid I loved Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup, Kraft Mac N Cheese, and Chef Boyardee's pizza.  Okay, I admit -- I still like all of those things (except the pizza in a box) and eat them from time to time.

The ingredients for Lima Bean and Winter Vegetable Soup in The Greens Cook Book sounded so good.  I think just the vegetables would make a fantastic soup all on their own.  For the stock I used the bean cooking liquid, adding 1 cup of vegetable stock (I use Wolfgang Puck's) to make the 6 1/2 cups of stock.  The directions promised the soup would taste better after a day or two.  I made  the soup this morning hoping to give it some time for the flavors to develop, and it was delicious.  Full of texture and flavor -- this was definitely not my mom's Lima Bean soup.

Lima Bean and Winter Vegetable Soup
The Greens Cook Book
Yield:  4 to 6 servings

The Stock:
Use the cooking liquid from the beans combined with extra water if necessary.  Or make the Winter Vegetable Stock (page 65), using a cup of the cabbage leaves, sliced and stewed, 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, and the stems from the mushrooms.

The Soup:
1 cup dry Lima beans
8 cups water
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp butter
1 large yellow onion, cut into 1/4 inch squares
2 tsp nutritional yeast (optional)
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 small head savoy cabbage, shredded
1 small fennel bulb, diced into 1/4 inch pieces
One 4 ounce turnip or rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch squares
4 ounces mushrooms, stems removed, caps roughly chopped
6 1/2 cups stock or bean broth
Fresh Herbs: marjoram, thyme, fennel greens, parsley, or a mixture, finely chopped, for garnish
Parmesan (optional)

     Rinse the beans well, cover them generously with water, and let them soak 6 hours or overnight; or cover them with boiling water and soak 1 hour.  Pour off the soaking water and put the beans in a pot with the 8 cups water, the bay leaf, and 1 tbsp of the olive oil.  Bring to a boil, add 1 tsp salt, lower the heat, and simmer slowly until the beans are nearly tender.  (They will continue cooking in the soup.)  Remove any of the skins that have become detached and have floated to the surface.  Drain the beans and set them aside.  Save the broth to use in the soup, or for another purpose.
     Use a large soup pot with a heavy bottom, melt the butter and the remaining 1 tbsp oil, and add the onion.  Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally at first, and more frequently later, until the onion is a rich, dark brown, 15 to 20 minutes.  Add 1/2 tsp salt, the nutritional yeast, if using, and the dried herbs and garlic, and cook together for a minute.  Pour in the wine, reduce by half, then add all the vegetables and 1/2 cup stock or bean broth.  Cover, and stew slowly for 10 minutes; then add 6 more cups liquid.  Simmer 15 minutes, add the beans, and cook another 15 minutes.
     Taste the soup and season with additional salt, if needed, and freshly ground black pepper.  Serve with a garnish of fresh herbs and, if desired, grated Parmesan.
     This soup will taste even better a day or two after its made, when the flavors have more thoroughly developed and merged.  Served with an honest piece of bread, it makes a wholesome meal.

The soup was really delicious.  I didn't have to ask Paul what he thought -- he scarfed down three bowls!

Tomorrow night it's Orzo and Peas with Lemon-Herb Sauce

Update:  The book did not lie!  I had soup for the next two lunches, and let me tell you it DID get better with age.  I just finished the last of the soup (with a sprinkle of Parmesan on top, and a toasted cheese sandwich on some potato bread I made), and it was fabulous!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Day 13: Perfect Roast Chicken with Mashed Potatoes and Spinach, and Millet-Cauliflower "Mashed Potatoes"

How can you resist a recipe that has the word "perfect" in the title?  Now, I've tried making a roast chicken a few times over the years, and they never seem to come out right -- it's either dry, or tasteless.  So I had hoped that Jonathan Waxman could show me what I'm doing wrong as I followed his recipe for Perfect Roast Chicken with Mashed Potatoes and Spinach.  I loved how his recipe makes a complete dinner since he added instructions on a starch and veggie dish too.  Unfortunately I had to deviate from the starch.  As much as I love mashed potatoes (and his recipe sounded delicious), I had a little catch-up to do in the recipe department, and so I cooked my first make-up recipe today:  Millet-Cauliflower "Mashed Potatoes" from The New Whole Grains Cookbook.  I've typed the recipe for the chicken dinner as shown in A Great American Cook but I'll only be cooking the chicken and spinach portion.

The title was no empty promise, let me tell you.  The chicken was moist, and so delicious.  The only problems were every time I opened the oven to baste the chicken the smoke made my eyes water, and set off the smoke alarm.  Also the instructions said to cook until the thickest part of the thigh registers 165.  I'm a little nervous about undercooked chicken, but this guy is a famous chef so he should know, right?  Anyway, the last time I checked the temp the gauge registered 175 so I pulled it out of the oven, and guess what?  Underdone chicken!  The white meat was fine, but the red meat was still...well it was still red, so Paul cut off the thighs and drumsticks, and I put it in the oven for another 15 minutes, and it was perfect.  

The millet-cauliflower "mashed potatoes" were not so perfect.  They came out soupy, and tasted more like pureed oatmeal than mashed potatoes -- or cauliflower for that matter.  I even roasted some garlic to add but that didn't help.  Suffice it to say that between me, Paul, Kevin and Celeste all the serving plates on the table were emptied...except the "mashed potatoes".

Perfect Roast Chicken with Mashed Potatoes and Spinach
A Great American Cook
Yield:  Serves 4
One 3 1/2 to 4 pound free-range, corn-fed, or naturally raised chicken
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for the chicken
8 medium Yellow Finn potatoes
8 garlic cloves
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Two 6 ounce bags spinach) or 3/4 pound bulk spinach

Heat the oven to 475

     Remove the gizzards and any extraneous fat from the chicken.  Rinse and pat it dry.  Salt and pepper the outside and inside well, and rub the chicken with olive oil.  Place the bird in a large roasting pan and roast, basting every 5 minutes with the pan juices, for 35 to 40 minutes (about 10 minutes per pound), or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees.
     Meanwhile, scrub the potatoes (do not peel) and cut into pieces.  Place in a large saucepan of cold water, add six of the garlic cloves and salt to taste, and bring to boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 25 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.  Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.  Return the potatoes and garlic to the pot.  Add 6 tbsp of the butter, the 1/4 cup olive oil, and the reserved potato cooking water.  Mash well, using a potato masher.  Taste and season with pepper, adding more salt if needed.  Cover and keep warm.
     Washing the spinach and cut of any large stems.  Heat the remaining 2 tbsp butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat.  Add the remaining 2 garlic cloves and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes.  Discard the garlic, add the spinach to the skillet, and cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes, or until wilted.  Add a good amount of salt and pepper, turn off the heat, and cover to keep warm.
     When the chicken is done, remove it from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes.
     Reheat the potatoes and spinach over low heat if necessary.  Carve the chicken and serve with the potatoes and spinach. 

Millet-Cauliflower "Mashed Potatoes"
The New Whole Grains Cookbook
Yield:  Serves 5

1/2 cup millet
2 1/2 cups water
4 ounces sliced cauliflower stems and florets (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 tsp salt
Butter, roasted garlic, wasabi, horseradish, and/or sour cream to taste (optional)

     Wash and drain the millet, then put it in a 1 quart saucepan with a lid.  Add the water, cauliflower, and salt.  Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to the lowest simmer.  Cover and cook for 35 minutes, checking and giving it a stir after 30 minutes.  The millet will break open and thicken the liquid in the pot.  When the millet is very soft and thick, take it off the heat and let stand for 5 minutes.
     Use a blender for the smoothest puree, but a food processor will work almost as well.  Puree until the mixture is as smooth as you can get it.  Add the butter or other flavorings, if desired, and serve in place of mashed potatoes.

Tomorrow night it's Lima Bean Soup.  Which reminds me -- I better put the beans into some water to soak!

Update:  I originally added this in the comment section, but maybe it would be better to put it in the actual post.

You know, now that I think about it, in the notes Waxman said he not to truss the chicken, but the legs were flopping all over the place, so I just tied the "ankles" together. And he said to put the bird in a big roaster, but nothing about a roasting rack (I just assumed I should use one). Maybe if I put the bird directly on the pan, and didn't bind the ankles the red meat would not have needed extra time? I'll have to try that next time.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Day 12: Goat Cheese Pizza with Red Onions and Green Olives

Ahem.  You've probably noticed that there was no entry for Friday.  That's because I was sick, and did not make dinner.  In case you're wondering, I am still planning on making 50 recipes in 50 days.  I'll just have to double up on the recipes until I work off the days I missed.

Okay, I've put the Orzo recipe on the back burner because I had scheduled to make pizza today, and I didn't want to miss out on pizza.  Tonight's dinner comes from The Greens Cook Book.  I made Goat Cheese Pizza with Red Onions and Green Olives.  I had originally planned on using the second ball of pizza dough I made for last Saturday's dinner, but since my son and his girlfriend were joining us I decided to go ahead and make a  two pizza batch of dough.

I used the first ball of dough for the Goat Cheese Pizza.  With the second ball of pizza dough I tried to reinvent a potato and spinach pizza I tried at The Harmon Tap Room , and it turned out pretty well.  Maybe after this 50 in 50 challenge I'll try making it again, and post the recipe then.

Goat Cheese Pizza with Red Onion and Green Olives
The Greens Cook Book
Yield:  one 12 inch pizza

1/2 recipe Pizza Dough (one ball of dough)
3 tbsp virgin olive oil
2 small red onions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 ounces mozzarella cheese, grated or thinly sliced
4 ounces goat cheese
12 to 18 Nicoise or California green olives, pitted and halved
2 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, cut into narrow strips
Fresh herbs: mostly parsley and thyme with some rosemary, finely chopped

Place pizza stone in oven (if using) and preheat oven to 500

     Prepare the pizza dough and set it aside to rise in a warm place.
     Heat 2 tbsp of the olive oil in a wide skillet and saute the onions for 3 minutes, or until they turn translucent.  Add the garlic, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, lower the heat, and continue to cook for another 3 minutes.  Check the seasoning and set the onions aside.
     Shape the dough, and place it on a well-floured peel or pizza pan.  Brush it with olive oil, and cover it with the sauteed onions and the mozzarella cheese.  Distribute the lumps of the soft goat cheese, the olives, and the sun-dried tomatoes over the pizza.
     Slide the pizza onto the stone or bake it on it's pan in the upper third of the oven for about 8 to 12 minutes, or until the edges and bottoms are well browned.  Remove it from the oven and sprinkle it with fresh herbs.

Variation:  Rather than sprinkling the pizza with herbs after baking, finish with Pesto.

What's for dinner tomorrow?  Perfect Roast Chicken with Mashed Potatoes and Spinach.  Although in order to catch up a bit on my missed days I'll be substituting the mashed potatoes with Millet-Cauliflower "Mashed Potatoes" from The New Whole Grains Cookbook.  I used the word "substituting", but I guess I could have typed "replacing" instead.

Speaking of substituting, a friend of mine called me on the carpet for my seeming inability to use all of the ingredients as listed in the recipe.  She felt that if my goal was to try 50 recipes in 50 days that I should use the exact ingredients called for in the recipe.  Being a good friend I listened to her criticism, thought about it for a bit, and then decided that she was...WRONG!  My substitutions were either sanctioned by the recipe itself, or a minor substitution of, say, a dried herb instead of a fresh herb, but I do appreciate her input.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Oh, no! Not again!

Shame on me!  Shame, shame, shame on me!  I did not make any dinner tonight, and even though I have a very good excuse I am ashamed.  Very, very ashamed.

Okay, I'm over it.  Listen, today was Thursday, and on Thursday I do things with Heather.  So we went to the Asian Art Museum in Seattle today, had a very delicious lunch, and then traveled back to Tacoma for a few drinkie-poos at Ben Dew's Clubhouse Grill.  Also, today was Third Thursday, and that means Art Walk.  I was in a show that had an artist's reception, so I had to make an appearance there, so needless to say no dinner was cook tonight.  No problem though.  I will make tonight's dinner tomorrow night.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Day 9: Pecan and Wild Rice Stuffed Squash

Up until a month ago I'd only eaten Acorn Squash after it was roasted and drowned in butter and brown sugar -- yuk!  Then one day I stopped off at Rick and Heather's to drop something off (or pick something up I don't know which) and Rick had made stuffed squash for dinner.  Heather offered me a bite, and it was delicious!  Ever since I've been thinking I should try making stuffed squash, so I was happy to discover this recipe in The New Whole Grains Cookbook.  There were a lot of steps to the dish, but nothing too challenging.  I cooked the full "stuffing" recipe, but baked only one squash (or two halves).  The stuffing is pretty tasty on it's own so I thought I'd eat it for lunch this week.

Now I am not a fan of wild rice.  They look like little bugs infesting my food, and I'm not wild about the texture.  The recipe suggested substituting the rice with buckwheat or quinoa, and I chose quinoa.  (You know the drill:  rinse well, 1 part quinoa to 2 parts liquid, cover and bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer, cook for 15 minutes, take off heat for 5 minutes, fluff with fork.)

Also, I didn't have fresh sage so I substituted 1 tsp of ground sage, and I wasn't happy with the result.  Next time I'll be sure and use fresh sage.  I think I'll cut the pepper down to 1/2 tsp, too.  The combination of all that black pepper and the ground sage left a really strong, rather unpleasant aftertaste.  And I still don't have any dried marjoram (I guess I'll have to break down and buy some) so I used dried thyme instead.

The recipe called for the pecans to be ground into powder.  Now why would I want to do that?  I chopped them pretty fine, leaving some chunkier pieces.  They added a nice crunchy texture to the dish.

Ha!  I just realized I misread the recipe!  I mixed two line of ingredients together, and thought I was supposed to use 3 cups of fresh parsley!  Luckily, I only had about 2 cups, which I finely chopped and mixed in the stuffing.  It added a nice freshness, so I think I'll make that a permanent recipe change.

I served the squash with...wait for it...waaaait for it...a mixed green salad on the side (I know!  Who would have guessed?).  Paul said the squash was good, and that he liked it.  Not loved it, liked it.  AND that he would eat it if I made it again, but not with gusto.  Folks, that is about as close as my husband will ever get to actually saying he didn't like something -- and you heard it here first!  I on the other hand liked it (didn't love it -- liked it), but would like to make it again just to see if I can tweak it a bit.  So next time Paul is in the doghouse, guess what's for dinner!

Pecan and Wild Rice Stuffed Squash
The New Whole Grains Cookbook
Yield:  4 servings

2 small Sweet Dumpling Squash or Acorn Squash, 6 inches or less in diameter
1/2 cup wild rice
1 1/2 cups water
3 tablespoons fresh sage
1/2 cup fresh parsley
1 tbsp olive oil
2 stalks celery, minced
1 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup pecan halves

     Preheat the oven to 400.  Oil two baking sheets.  Cut each squash in half from the stem to the tip.  Scoop out the seeds and place cut-side down on the baking sheets.  Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until easily pierced with a paring knife.  Let cool.  Reduce the oven heat to 375.
     In a medium saucepan, cook the wild rice in the water, simmering until it is tender and starting to split.  If there is any excess water, drain the rice in a strainer.  Finely chop the sage and parsley.  In a small saute pan, heat the olive oil and saute the celery, onion, and sage over medium heat until just softened.  Stir in the parsley, marjoram, pepper, nutmeg, and salt, and take the pan off the heat.
     When the squash halves are cool, use a spoon to scoop out the flesh, leaving a bit behind to keep the skins from tearing.  In a large bowl, mash the flesh coarsely and reserve.  Select 16 intact pecans halves for garnish, then use a food processor to grind the remaining pecans to powder.  Add the ground pecans, the sauteed mixture, and the wild rice to the squash in the bowl and mix thoroughly.  Stuff the mixture into the squash shells and top with the reserved pecan halves.  Place in a casserole or baking dish large enough to hold all the squash halves.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until the tops feel firm to the touch.

Tomorrow is going to be a busy day!  It's Thursday!  Correction -- it's Third Thursday!  So, I'll be going to the Asian Art Museum in Seattle with Heather during the day, and then that night there's an artist's reception for a show that I'm in.  I'm hoping I'll have time and energy to make tomorrow's dinner:  Orzo with Peas and Lemon-Herb Sauce.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Day 8: Filet Mignon and Barley Stew with Spinach

Tonight was particularly challenging for me.  It's the third Tuesday of the month, and that's the night when my book club meets.  We do a potluck, and this month it was my turn to make dessert.  Paul said it was okay for me to slide a night on the 50 in 50 challenge, but I've already skipped one night -- I don't want to make a habit of that. So I decided tonight to cook Filet Mignon and Barley Stew with Spinach.  I also got Paul a dinner date, and invited our friend Heather over.  The stew was served with some biscuits out of a can (sorry, I ran out of time), and I left a couple apple crisps that I made for the book club.

Paul said dinner was great (what a shock!).  I'll have to find out tomorrow what Heather thought.  I have to admit it sure looked good!

And because I simply seem to be unable to follow directions exactly:  I didn't use Filet Mignon.  The recipe said you could substitute with another tender steak.  I think I used a New York Strip -- don't remember now.  I didn't have fresh thyme so I used 1 tsp dried, and I didn't bother chopping the spinach since I used baby spinach. Also I used Kitchen Basics beef stock which has 4 cups of stock in the box, so I added 1 cup of water to make the 5 cups.

Filet Mignon and Barley Stew with Spinach
The New Whole Grains Cookbook
Yield:  Serves 4

1 pound beef tenderloin or other tender steak.
3 tbsp whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped (1 1/2 cups)
1 medium carrot, chopped
3 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup hulled barley, soaked overnight
5 cups beef stock
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
4 cups coarsely chopped spinach

     Cut the beef into 1 inch bite-size pieces.  Combine the flour, salt, and cracked pepper on a plate, and roll half of the beef in this seasoned flour.  In a large Dutch oven or soup pot heat the olive oil.  Add the unfloured half of the beef, and cook over medium-high heat until the beef is browned but still rare in the center.  Scrape the beef into a bowl, drain the fat back into the pan, and cook the floured beef.  Transfer that beef to the bowl also.  Quickly add the onion and carrot to the hot pan, and scrape up the browned bits.  As soon as the onion is golden, add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly for 2 to 3 minutes until it is a shade darker.  Add the barley, stock, and thyme and bring to a boil.  Cover, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for 30 to 40 minutes.
     When the barley is tender, add the beef to the pan and reheat.  Stir in the spinach.  Serve as soon as the spinach is just wilted and the beef is hot.

Oh, and the apple crisp?   I used the recipe from the Food Network website.  I guess Paul and Heather were too full to have dessert, but it was a big hit with my book club.

Tomorrow night I'm cooking again from The New Whole Grains Cookbook:  Pecan and Wild Rice-Stuffed Squash!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Day 7: Broccoli with Roasted Peppers, Capers, and Olives

It's day five of my 50 recipes in 50 days challenge, and I'm not enjoying this experiment as much as I thought I would.  I guess I'm not crazy about all the meal planning.  Usually I just cook what sounds good to me at the time, and what's in the fridge.  Speaking of what's in the fridge -- I'm facing a bit of a dilemma.  The ingredients leftover from some of the last five recipes are starting to pile up.  Luckily, not all of the 50 in 50 recipes I chose are main dishes, so tonight's dinner will feature a side dish from The Greens Cook Book, and a frittata so I can use up some of the leftovers.

Bacon and Green Pepper Frittata, and Broccoli with Roasted Peppers, Capers, and Olives is what's on the menu tonight.   The cookbook suggested this salad accompany creamy-textured foods, such as tarts and timbales.  The frittata may not be as creamy but it's a nice egg dish, and is a great dish to use up leftovers.  I've been using an uncured thick cut bacon, and it's delicious.  Unfortunately I can't remember the name, but you can get it at Fred Meyers.  It doesn't render a lot of fat, so I actually had to add some olive oil to the skillet.

And now for the substitution portion for tonight's blog:  I couldn't find any Nicoise or Gaeta olives, so I substituted with Kalamata.  Since they're so big, I only used five coarsely chopped olives.  Also, I didn't have any fresh marjoram, or yellow bell peppers, so I just left them out.

Broccoli with Roasted Peppers, Capers, and Olives
The Greens Cook Book
Yield:  Serves four to six

1 red and 1 yellow bell pepper
Light olive oil for the peppers
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
4 tbsp virgin olive oil
1 tbsp small capers
12 Nicoise or Gaeta olives, pits removed
3 scallions, white parts with some green finely sliced
1 tbsp parsley, chopped
1 tsp marjoram, chopped
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
Balsamic vinegar to taste
Salt and pepper
1 bunch broccoli (about 1 1/2 to 2 pounds)

Preheat oven to 400

     Halve the peppers lengthwise, remove the veins and seeds, and brush both sides with the light olive oil.  Set them on a baking tray skin side up and bake them until the skins are wrinkled and lightly colored.  When cool enough to handle, scrape off the skins.  Slice the peppers into strips 1/4 to 1/2 inch wide, and mix them with the garlic, virgin olive oil, capers, olives, scallions, parsley, marjoram, red pepper flakes, and the balsamic vinegar to taste.  Season with salt.
     Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil.  While it is heating, divide the broccoli into florets of equal size.  Trim the stalks by cutting off the tough, dried ends and removing the thick fibrous skins with a paring knife.  Slice the stalks diagonally into pieces about 1/4 inch wide.  When the water is boiling, add a tablespoon of salt, and cook the broccoli in two or three separate batches for about 30 seconds.  Scoop out each batch and set in a colander or on a tea towel to drain.
     Combine the broccoli with the rest of the ingredients and toss them together.  Taste for salt, add more oil or vinegar, if needed, and a grinding of black pepper.  If you don't plan to serve the salad right away, wait to add the final vinegar until just before serving to prevent the colors from fading.

Variations:  Use lemon juice and finely slivered lemon peel instead of vinegar.  Sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced into strips, may also be added to this salad.

Bacon, Green Pepper, and Onion Frittata
From Ann's Brain
Yield:  Serves four

2 slices thick cut bacon, diced
1/4 green pepper, diced
1/2 small yellow onion, diced
6 large eggs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, divided
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to broil

     In a non-stick skillet cook bacon until almost crisp over medium heat.  Remove bacon and drain on paper towel lined plate.  Drain all but 1 tbsp of bacon grease, and add onion, sauteing until soft and translucent.  Add green pepper and continue cooking until vegetables are soft.  Return bacon to the skillet.
     Beat the eggs in a bowl, and whisk.  Add 1/4 cup Parmesan, salt, pepper, and stir.
     Add the egg mixture to skillet, carefully stirring to distribute the bacon and veggies in the eggs.  Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook eggs until almost set, about 10 - 15 minutes.
     Sprinkle top with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan, and put skillet under broiler for approximately 2 - 3 minutes, until eggs are set, and cheese has browned.
     Flip frittata onto plate, cut into eight slices, and serve immediately.

Tomorrow night:  Filet Mignon Stew!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Day 6: Tamale Pie topped with Spoon Bread

When I was a kid beef was expensive, and chicken was not.  Seems like we had chicken three or four days a week, and so it was a real treat when my mom cooked anything with beef.  Tamale Pie was one of my favorites.  My mom would decorate the top of the cornbread with sliced olives -- so pretty it was almost a shame to spoon it out!  I was excited when I saw a recipe for Tamale Pie in Healthy Cooking for Two.  While it's not my mom's recipe I enjoyed it very much.  It will definitely have a place on my comfort food list.

I've typed the recipe as written in the book, so the instructions are to bake it as a casserole.  I baked mine in four single serving ramekins since I have a tendency to eat too much (eating when I'm no longer hungry just because the food tastes so good).  I've been working on my portion control by cooking casseroles in single serving ramekins.  It's been working great!

Okay, and now for the changes!  12 ounces of ground beef?  No way!  I went all out and cooked a whole pound! (and also added a little salt and pepper when cooking the hamburger.)  I used a 14 oz. can of diced tomatoes instead of chopping whole canned tomatoes and measuring out a cup.  I minced the garlic instead of just smashing it, and I added the optional (sharp) cheddar cheese, and served the tamale Pie with a green salad.  Delicious!

I have some leftovers to use up, so tomorrow it's bacon, pepper, and onion frittata with broccoli with roasted peppers, capers, and olives -- yum!

Tamale Pie topped with Spoon Bread
Healthy Cooking for Two (or just you)
Yield:  Serves 4

12 ounces ground beef
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/4 cup green peppers, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 cup chopped canned tomatoes (with juice)
2 tsp chili powder
5 tbsp cornmeal
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350

     In a heavy 10" nonstick skillet over medium heat, brown the beef, breaking it apart with a spoon, until no trace of pink remains.  Transfer the meat to a paper towel-lined strainer over a bowl to drain off the fat.
     To the skillet add the onions and peppers.  Cook for 3 minutes, or until the vegetables begin to brown.  Add the beef, garlic, tomatoes (with juice), corn, chili powder and 1 tbsp of the cornmeal.  Bring the mixture to a simmer.
     Transfer the mixture to a 1 1/2 quart oven proof casserole.  Set aside.
     Place the salt and remaining cornmeal in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened.
     In a small bowl, beat the egg.  Gradually beat in the hot cornmeal, then the cheddar.  Pour over the beef mixture and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the topping is slightly puffed and brown.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Day 5: Pizza with Bacon, Scallions, Parmesan, and Tomato

Pizza and bacon -- doesn't get any better, folks.   I was excited to try this pizza, and it did not disappoint.  The dough makes two pizzas, and since it was just Paul and I tonight I decided to experiment by freezing one of the balls of dough.  And, obviously, I cut the amount of the toppings in half.  I meant to use canned diced tomatoes, but forgot to add them to the pizza.  I did add minced garlic, because as far as I'm concerned it ain't pizza if there ain't garlic.  I think the next time I'll add some shredded mozzarella.   I have a pizza stone and a pizza peel, but I'm not very good at getting the pizza off of the peel onto the stone so I used my Air Bake pizza sheet.  I served the pizza with a mixed green salad and homemade ranch dressing.  The ranch dressing recipe comes from one of Tyler's Ultimate shows.  I made it from memory since I never wrote it down, and I can't find the recipe online.  I substituted half of the mayo with Greek yogurt.

Pizza with Bacon, Scallions, Parmesan, and Tomato
A Great American Cook
Yield:  Two 12" pizzas

4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, preferably organic, plus extra for rolling
1 tbsp honey
1/4 cup olive oil
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast (or one 1/4 ounce pkg)
Sea salt
1/4 pound thick-cut bacon
1 bunch scallions
4 medium ripe tomatoes (see note)
1/4 cup freshly grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano
Freshly ground black pepper

     In a large bowl, combine 1 cup of the flour, the honey, 2 cups warm water, 2 tbsp of the olive oil, and the yeast. Mix well.  Let this sponge sit in a warm, draft-free spot for 1 hour, or until doubled. 
     With a wooden spoon, stir the remaining 3 cups flour and 2 tsp salt into the sponge.  Knead for 10 minutes in the bowl or transfer to the counter and knead, adding a little more warm water if necessary; the dough should be moist, not dry.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until doubled in size.
     Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 450 degrees.  If you have a pizza stone, place it on the oven rack to preheat for 30 minutes.  If not using a stone, lightly oil two pizza pans or baking sheets. 
     Dice the bacon.  Slice the scallions.  Core and dice the tomatoes. 
     Divide the dough in half.  Roll out one piece of dough on a lightly floured surface to a 12-inch round.  If using a pizza stone, dust a baker's peel (or a rimless baking sheet) with flour and place the dough on it.  Sprinkle with half the bacon, half the scallions, half the tomatoes, and 2 tbsp of the Parmesan.  Drizzle with a tbsp of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and slide the dough onto the hot stone.  Or, place the dough on one of the oiled pizza pans or baking sheets, add the toppings, and place the pan in the oven. 
      Bake until the crust is golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes.  Meanwhile, assemble the remaining pizza.  Cut the baked pizza into wedges and serve hot.  Bake the remaining pizza and serve. 

Ranch Dressing
Tyler's Ultimate

1/2 mayonnaise
1/3 cup buttermilk
3 scallions rough chopped
2 garlic cloves rough chopped

Place ingredients in food processor and blend.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Tomorrow?  A favorite from my childhood -- Tamale Pie!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Cook's Day off

It's been a long day.  I left the house at 10:00 this morning to take my mom to Sequim, and just got back.  It's 4:30, and I'm too tired to cook.  I could make myself make dinner, but last night proved that's not a very good idea.  So, I'm off tonight, but tomorrow I promise -- Bacon and Scallion Pizza!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

50 in 50, Day 3: Lentil-Spinach Soup

Note to self:  Never try a new recipe after a long day out.  And find a new title to use -- I'm tired of typing 50 in 50, Day whatever.

I'm a little cranky tonight.  I probably should have ordered takeout.  Heather and I went to Seattle to see the Picasso exhibit at SAM, and I am one tired puppy!  We left around 11:00 this morning, and didn't get home until 5:30.  I made so many mistakes putting the soup together I'm surprised it made it to the table.

Paul loved it (what a surprise).  I thought it was okay.  Sprinkling grated Parmesan on top helped a lot.  I'll try it again, but next time I'm using vegetable stock.  Using plain water made the stock taste, well...watery!

Lentil-Spinach Soup
The Greens Cook Book
Yield:  Serves four to six.

The Stock
Use water plus any juice reserved from the tomatoes called for in The Soup ingredients

The Soup
1 cup green or brown lentils, cleaned and rinsed
1 bay leaf
1 celery stalk, diced into 1/4 inch squares
7 cups water
3 tbsp olive oil
1 large red onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp parsley, chopped
3 medium tomatoes, fresh or canned, peeled, seeded, and chopped; juice reserved
1 bunch spinach (about 1 pound), stems removed and leaves washed
Red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar to taste
Asagio or Parmesan cheese, grated, or creme fraiche

     Put the lentils, bay leaf, and celery in a soup pot with the water, the reserved juice from the tomatoes, and 1/2 tsp salt.  Bring to a boil and scoop off any foam that forms on the surface; then lower the heat to a slow boil.  While the lentils are cooking, heat the oil in a skillet and add the onion and 1/2 tsp salt; cook briskly for a few minutes, lower the heat, and stir in the garlic and parsley.  Continue cooking until the onion is soft.  Add the tomatoes and cook for five minutes; then combine with the cooking lentils.
    Cut the spinach leaves into 1/2 inch strips, there should be about 4 cups.  When the lentils are sot, stir in the spinach by the handfuls.  Once it has cooked down, thin the soup, if necessary, by adding more water, and taste for salt.
     Simmer the soup 5 minutes; then add vinegar to taste, to brighten the flavors.  Serve with freshly ground black pepper and Asagio or Parmesan cheese, or a spoonful of creme fraiche.

This soup would be nicely complimented by a chardonnay.

50 in 50, Day 2: Fast Creamy Chicken Stew with Parsleyed Dumplings

Day 2 of my challenge brought an attempt at Fast Creamy Chicken Stew, and a couple of challenges.  Challenge number one was the package of chicken thighs which were not defrosted so dinner would be chicken stew without the chicken. Challenge number two? The dumplings. I've never made dumplings, and truth be told I don't really like them but the recipe sounded so good, and the dish looked so yummy in the picture I had to give it a try.

The dish went together really easily although I did end up adding a cup of broth after adding the dumplings. The dumplings were tasty but dry in the center (which I would attribute more to my inexperience in making dumplings than the recipe). Since I had to forgo using chicken, I added another carrot and 1/2 cup of corn to bulk up the stew. I also substitued milk for the cream, oregano for the majoram (does anyone really use marjoram?), and veggie stock for the chicken stock (for the record I never use chicken stock -- don't care for the taste).

Paul loved the stew. Paul loving the food is probably something you'll see on every one of my posts. I'm very lucky -- I don't think there has been a dish in the last 12 years I've cooked that he didn't like. I served the stew with a loaf of homemade bread which you can read about here. My thoughts on the stew? It was okay, but if I make this recipe again I think I'll put the stew in separate ramekins, bake a cheddar biscuit on top, and serve it as a chicken pot pie.

Fast Creamy Chicken Stew with Parsleyed Dumplings
The New Whole Grains Cookbook
Yield: Serves 4

3 tsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 large onion, chopped (1 cup)
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
8 ounces boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into large chunks
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup frozen peas or edamame
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup minced fresh parsley
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg
6 tbsp yogurt or buttermilk, or more as needed

     In a large soup pot heat 2 tsp of the oil and saute the onion, celery, and carrot over medium heat until softened. Scrape them to one side, add the remaining tsp of oil to the open space, and add the chicken. Sear the chicken, undisturbed, over medium-high heat for a minute, and then stir. When the chicken is browned all over, add the stock, thyme, marjoram, and cream. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the stew is the desired thickness. Add the peas, salt, and pepper. Keep simmering on low heat.
     For the dumplings, in a large bowl mix the flour, parsley, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir in the egg and yogurt, and quickly mix. It should be a soft dough (if it is stiff add more yogurt). Drop the dough by heaping tablespoons onto the simmering soup. Turn the heat up to medium-high, cover, and cook for 5 to 7 minutes. Uncover and cut one of the last dumplings you added in half. It should be cooked through. If it is still doughy in the center cover and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes more.

Serve immediately.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

50 in 50, Day 1: Fresh Bean Stew with Corn and Acorn Squash

Last night marked the beginning of my quest to cook 50 new recipes in 50 days, and I made Fresh Bean Stew with Corn and Acorn Squash. I had to substitute a few items (canned black-eyed peas for dry, and flat leaf parsley for the cilantro) but I don't think it hurt the dish too much. The stew was tasty, and had a nice smoky base from the chili powder, and a bit of a kick from the cayenne. My only complaint (and a very picky one at that) was the dish wasn't very...pretty. The corn and flecks of parsley added a bit of contrast to the brown stew, but I was hoping for a bit of color from the acorn squash. I know you're thinking what is she talking about? The stew looks fine. Which is what Paul said so I'll let the matter go, and not bring up that I used a flash which lightened things up, etc. Speaking of Paul, I will definitely try this again since he really liked it.

Fresh Bean Stew with Corn and Acorn Squash
The Complete Vegan Cookbook
Yield: 4 main-dish servings

2 cups shelled fresh cranberry beans or black-eyed beans
2 cups peeled and diced acorn squash
4 cups vegetable stock
1 tbsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large which onion, diced
1/2 cup dry red wine
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen kernels (see note)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

   In a stockpot combine the beans with the acorn squash, stock, chili powder, oregano, and thyme. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes.
   Meanwhile heat the oil in a small skillet and saute the onion over medium heat until nicely browned, about 10 minutes, then stir into the beans. At the end of the 20 minutes simmering time, add the wine, garlic, salt, cayenne, and 3/4 cup of the corn kernels. Return to a simmer and cook 20 minutes.
   Place the remaining 3/4 cup corn kernels in the blender with the cilantro and 1/3 cup of water. Puree the mixture, then add to the beans and cook an additional 15 minutes, until the beans are tender and the liquid has reduced to a thick consistency. Serve hot.

Note: If using frozen corn kernels, place them in a colander and rinse briefly under warm water to melt off any ice crystals before adding them to the dish. If using fresh corn you will need about three medium ears to yield the 1 1/2 cups of kernels.