Monday, February 28, 2011

Day 48: Pantry Pasta Arrabbiata, and Sweet Potato-Cheddar Biscuits

Tonight's meal come from The New Whole Grains Cookbook, Pantry Pasta Arrabbiata, and Sweet Potato-Cheddar Biscuits.  I know -- sounds like a odd combination, but I couldn't decided between the two, so why not make them both?

The pasta dish was really quick to prepare, and delicious!  I cooked the whole box of spaghetti (16 oz) instead of just the 8 oz and I'm glad I did.  I used almost all of the pasta in the dish.  I did have to add a bit of pasta water to loosen the sauce.  This recipe is a keeper!

The biscuits were a little bit of a let down.  For some reason the biscuit recipes I've tried from this book have a very odd texture -- almost like it's not cooked all the way (and yes, I've tried putting them back in the oven for a few minutes).  I'm not sure if I'll make the biscuits again.  Oh, and let me warn you -- do NOT put your hands into the dough to try and mix or knead.  After trying it their way and failing, I scraped off the dough, washed my hands, and used a spoon.  Oh, and forget about trying to use a biscuit cutter.  I just spooned up the dough, rolled it into a ball, plopped it on the baking sheet, and flattened the top just a bit.  

Pantry Pasta "Arrabbiata"
The New Whole Grains Cookbook
Yield:  Serves 4

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 tbsp chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste
One 16 ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained and coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
3 tbsp capers
8 ounces whole wheat spaghetti
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
4 sprigs basil for garnish

     Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil.  Add the garlic, onion, parsley, and red pepper flakes and saute over medium heat until very soft.  Add the roasted red peppers, salt, and black pepper and continue cooking for 3 to 4 minutes, until all is tender.  Puree the mixture in a food processor, then transfer it back to the pan.  Keep the sauce warm and add the capers.
     Cook the pasta in the boiling water according to the package directions and drain thoroughly.  Add to the sauce in the pan and heat, stirring, for 30 seconds.  Chop the basil leaves and add to the pasta, toss to combine, and serve, garnished with basil sprigs.

Sweet Potato-Cheddar Biscuits
The New Whole Grains Cookbook
Yield:  12 biscuits

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar or other granular sweetener
1 tbsp fresh herbs, such as marjoram, thyme, or parsley
5 tbsp cold butter
1/4 cup buttermilk, or more if needed
1 cup cooked, pureed sweet potato
2 to  ounces sharp cheddar cheese, diced

     Preheat the oven to 400.  Spray a nonstick baking sheet with vegetable oil spray.  In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar.  chop the fresh herbs and stir into the flour mixture.  Grate the butter into the flour mixture and work it in with your fingers until rice-size pieces remain.
     In a measuring cup, mix the buttermilk into the sweet potato.  Gently stir the wet ingredients into the flour mixture, using your hands to gently knead.  As it comes together, add the cheese and mix.  If the dough is too dry, mix in more buttermilk, a teaspoon at a time.
      Pat the dough out on a floured counter, about 3/4 inch thick, and cut in either rounds or squares.  Pat the scraps together to cut again.  Place the biscuits on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden and lightly browned.

Tomorrow:  Pork Tenderloin with Portobello Mushroom Sauce, and Warm Red Cabbage Salad.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Day 46: Pizza with Four Cheeses (less two)

It was a bit of a mad house in the kitchen yesterday.  I was going to a wine tasting potluck, and I wanted to find something I could make that would fit into my 50 day challenge.  Paul was staying home but I wanted to make sure he had something to eat besides the crackers he usually feasts on when I'm not there.  The answer?  Pizza!  I found this recipe for Pizza with Four Cheese in The Greens Cook Book, and it sounded delicious and so simple to make.  The only problem is I didn't have all the ingredients, and being the day before pay day I didn't have the money to go buy them either.  So I decided to make the Goat Cheese Pizza with Red Onions and Green Olives for the wine tasting potluck, and make the Pizza with Four Cheeses (moins deux) for Paul.  Unfortunately I didn't have time to take pictures of the pizza, but I think we can all imagine what it looked like, right?  Paul did snap a picture of the girls grabbing some pizza.

Once again I used the pizza dough recipe from A Great American Cook (found here), even though I promised to try The Greens recipe.  Hey, I was short on time, and when you're in a hurry why try a new recipe when you have a favorite that you've made before?  So I promise, really, next time I make pizza I'll try The Greens version which I've listed below this pizza recipe

I shredded some mozzarella (about 4-5 ounces) and the 1 ounce Parmesan for the pizza, and I loved the combination of just the cheese with the onion.  I did miss the tomato slices though -- it would have added a really nice acidic bite to cut through all that cheese.  Oh, and I used parsley in place of the marjoram.  

I'm going to make this pizza again as it's written, and one as I made it today (except adding the sliced tomato) so I can compare the two.  

We had a nice surprise visit from Anne and Lisa who were traveling from Portland to the Wintergrass Festival in Bellevue.  I grabbed a slice of the cheese pizza on my way out the door, and they stayed to dine with their Papa.

Pizza with Four Cheeses
The Greens Cook Book
Yield:  One 10 inch pizza

1 recipe Pizza Dough (see below)
2 tbsp Garlic Oil (see below)
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 ounce (1/3 cup) Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
2 1/2 ounces Fontina cheese
1 ounce Parmesan
1 medium tomato, thinly sliced
1 to 2 tsp fresh marjoram, finely chopped

     Prepare the pizza dough and set it in a warm place to rise.
     Preheat the oven to 500 and if using a pizza stone, warm it for 20 minutes.
     Shape the dough, and place it on a well-floured peel or on a pizza pan.  Brush it with the garlic oil, and top with the red onion.  Add the cheeses, then the tomato slices.  Season the tomato with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper.
     Bake the pizza in the upper third of the oven until the edges and bottom are nicely browned and the cheese are melted, about 8 to 12 minutes.  Remove it from the oven and sprinkle it with the fresh marjoram.  The cheeses will be quite runny, so let the pizza sit a minute or two before slicing. 

Pizza Dough
The Greens Cook Book
Yield:  One 10 inch pizza

3 tbsp hot water
3 tbsp milk
1/2 package (and 1 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
Pinch of sugar
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp rye flour
2 tbsp whole wheat flour
5/8 cup unbleached white flour

     Combine the water and the milk.  the mixture should not be much warmer than body temperature.  Add the yeast and the sugar, and stir to dissolve the yeast; then mix in the olive oil, salt, rye flour, and whole wheat flour.  Gradually add the white flour, stirring to make a soft, workable dough.  Add only enough flour to keep the dough from sticking -- the dough should be a little moist.  Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it for about 5 minutes.  Put the dough into an oiled bowl, and turn it once so the surface is coated with oil.  Cover the bowl and let the dough rise in a warm place until it has doubled in bulk, about 35 to 40 minutes. 
     Preheat the oven to 500 and warm the pizza stone, if using, for about 20 minutes.
     To shape the pizza, first form the dough into a ball, and then roll it out onto a floured surface.  Pick up the dough and stretch it, shaping it with your hands to form a circle, and roll out more, as necessary.  The 10 inch round will be about 1/8 inch thick, at most, and slightly thicker around the edge.  Set the dough on a pan or on a well-floured wooden peel, brush it with garlic oil, if desired, and cover it with the topping you have chosen. 
     Bake the pizza on its pan, or slide it from the peel onto the heated pizza stone. 

Garlic Oil
The Greens Cook Book

Cover finely minced garlic amply with olive oil, and use it to brush over the surface of pizza dough before adding the toppings if you like extra garlic.  In addition to the flavor, the garlic oil makes a kind of protective seal that keeps the crust crisp and dry.  

Tonight Paul is on his own again.  I'm off to an Academy Awards party downtown, but he has a couple pots of leftovers to choose from so I think he'll be okay.  

Friday, February 25, 2011

Day 45: Spicy Yellow Split Pea Quinoa Dal, and Quick Skillet Flatbreads

I'm not quite sure what to make of tonight's dinner.  There were things I liked, and things I didn't for both the soup and the flatbread.  I will try these recipes again, but play around with the seasonings.

The soup was good, but the seasonings were a bit strong.  I'm not a fan of turmeric -- it's a little to bitter for me.  Next time I think I'll the measurement down to 1/2 tsp, and for that matter I'll reduce the cumin and coriander to 2 tsp and 1 tsp respectively (that's what I use when I make lentil soup).

Unfortunately I didn't have any split peas, yellow or otherwise, so I substituted lentils.  I love lentils, and I think they worked well with the quinoa.  Now grains are a great addition to soup, but they do tend to "takeover" the pot, if you know what I mean.  I liked the combination of quinoa and lentils, but I think I'll cut the quinoa to 1/2 cup next time.  And I liked the book's suggestion to add cauliflower and red bell pepper to the soup.  Maybe I'll throw them in the soup, too, next time.  

The flatbreads were interesting.  I was kind of expecting them to be crisp for some reason, but they weren't -- and that's not a bad thing.  They were moist and tender, almost like crepes.  That gave us a great idea:  tomorrow we're going to warm them up in a pan, pour some syrup over them, and eat them for breakfast!  

Now I didn't have yogurt to put in the flatbread but I did have sour cream.  Since yogurt is a substitute for sour cream, shouldn't the reverse be true?  Well, that's what I used anyway, and I don't think it hurt a thing (except the calorie count).

The cooking instructions for the flatbreads seemed unnecessarily complicated.  I ended up cooking them like pancakes, pouring the batter and tilting the pan to spread it out, and then flipping them when the edges appeared dry.  They were easy to make -- the hardest part was waiting on the pan to get hot!

Spicy Yellow Split Pea Quinoa Dal
The New Whole Grains Cookbook
Yield:  8 cups, or 6 servings

1 tbsp ghee or oil
1 large onion, diced (about 2 cups)
1 tbsp black mustard seeds
2 tbsp minced ginger
Minced jalapeno to taste
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 1/2 cups yellow split peas, picked over and rinsed
3/4 cup quinoa, rinsed
About 8 cups water, divided
2 carrots, chopped
1 tbsp raw sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice, or to taste
Cayenne (optional)
1 tsp salt

     In a 4 quart soup pot, heat the ghee.  Add the onion and saute over medium heat until softened and golden.  Add the mustard seeds and saute until fragrant, about a minute.  Add the ginger, jalapeno, cumin, turmeric, and coriander and stir for another minutes.  Add the split peas, quinoa, and 6 cups of the water and bring to a boil.
     When the peas come to a boil, add the carrots to the pot.  When it boils again reduce the heat to a simmer and cover, stirring every 10 minutes and adding more water as needed, until the peas are falling apart, just under an hour.
     Season the Dal with the raw sugar, lemon juice, cayenne to taste (if using) and salt.  Puree if you want a smooth texture.  Serve with flat hotbreads.

Quick Skillet Flatbreads
The New Whole Grains Cookbook
Yield:  Makes six 8" flatbreads

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup oat, millet, teff, or amaranth flour
1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt, to taste
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup plain yogurt, any type
1 cup plus 2 tbsp water, plus more if needed.

     In a large bowl, combine the flours, salt, and baking soda.  In a cup, whisk the yogurt and water together, then stir into the dry mixture.  Add additional water, if needed, to make a batter with the consistency of heavy cream.  Cover and let stand for half an hour.
     Heat a nonstick, 10 inch saute pan over high heat, and use a paper towel to smear just a bit of oil in the pan.  Use a scant 1/2 cup measure to scoop batter into the hot pan, then tilt and swirl the pan to spread it out to a round about 8 inches across.  If the first one is too thick, thin the batter a bit with water.  Cover and reduce the heat to medium-low.  Cook for 1 minute, flip the bread, cover, and cook for 1 minute more.  Flip the bread, and cook for 1 minute uncovered, then flip once more, and cook for 1 minute uncovered.  Slide it out onto a plate and continue with the rest of the batter.
     Serve the breads warm with soup, or topped with cheese, or rolled with fillings.

Tomorrow night:  Pizza with 4 Cheeses.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Day 44: Pantry Pasta Arrabbiata...or not.

Tonight I planned on making an Arrabbiata from The New Whole Grains Cookbook.  It's a spicy pasta dish that features roasted red peppers.  It was a perfect recipe since it uses ingredients that I keep in my pantry (hence the name apparently), and it could be prepared in the time it took to boil some pasta!  As I was starting to prepare dinner, however, I noticed one small little problem:  the jar that I thought held roasted red peppers actually had sun-dried tomatoes!  Hey, I saw a jar that had red things in it -- an honest mistake!

Wonderful!  It was 6 o'clock.  Paul would be home in half an hour so I had to think of something quick to prepare so I decided to make pasta with Alfredo sauce.  I like this one that I found on, which I've tweaked just a little bit.  If you're wondering why you can't see the sauce in the picture -- it's thin at first, but then thickens as it cools.  Just give it a good stir when you're serving.  

Penne with Alfredo Sauce
adapted from

4 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 box (8 ounces) Penne
1 cup bread crumbs
2 tbsp butter, melted
1/4 cup parsley, chopped

     Prepare pasta as directed on the box.
     Melt butter in a medium sauce pan over medium low heat.  Add cream and smashed garlic cloves, and simmer for 5 minutes.  Whisk in cheese, and pour over pasta.
     Combine bread crumbs and melted butter, and toast in a saute pan.  Add parsley and sprinkle on top of pasta.

Tomorrow night:  Spicy Yellow Split Pea Quinoa Dal

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Day 43: White Bean and Fresh Tomato Soup with Parsley Sauce, and Fast and Flexible Whole Grain Rolls

White Bean and Tomato Soup -- yes, you've seen it before.  I made it on Day 27 (you can read about it here) and if you remember I didn't care for it.  How did I like The Greens Cook Book version?  Well, it wasn't as bad as the recipe in Healthy Cooking for Two, but I still didn't like the soup.  I guess it's the soup I don't like and not the recipe!

I used the broth from cooking the beans but perhaps I should have used vegetable stock.  Once again I found the soup to be really watery (although not as bad as this one), and I wasn't a fan of the parsley sauce -- the fresh garlic in the sauce was really strong and overpowered the soup.  The cheese is what really saved the day.  I mean how can you go wrong when adding Parmesan cheese to any dish?

So would I make this soup again?  I might -- but I'd make changes like use less stock, add more beans, and saute all the garlic with the onions, forget about the sauce, and add a sprinkling of parsley and cheese before serving.

I'm not sure about the rolls either.  They were very dense, mushy more than moist, and had a strong olive oil taste, but for some reason I kind of liked them.  Maybe it's the honey.  Would I make the rolls again?  No, probably not.

And now what you really want to know:  What did Paul think of tonight's meal?  Well, he thought the soup by itself didn't have a lot of taste to it, but when you added the parsley sauce it was really good.  And he liked the rolls.  He thought they were kind of sweet, and had a cakeyness (is there such a word?) to it that he enjoyed.  He said he'd like to have both the soup and rolls again.

White Bean and Fresh Tomato Soup with Parsley Sauce
The Greens Cook Book
Yield:  Serves 4 to 6

The Stock
Use the broth from the beans alone or in combination with the Summer Vegetable Stock

The Soup
3/4 cup dry navy beans
10 cups water
10 fresh sage leaves or 1 tsp dried sage
4 cloves garlic
3 bay leaves
6 thyme branches or 1/4 tsp dried thyme
3 tbsp virgin olive oil
1 medium red or yellow onion, finely chopped
1 pound ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
Parsley Sauce (see below)

     Sort through the beans and remove any small stones and chaff.  Rinse them well, cover them generously with water, and set them aside to soak overnight.
     Next day, pour off the soaking water and cover the beans with 10 cups fresh water.  Add half the sage, 3 of the garlic cloves (peeled and left whole), 2 of the bay leaves, the thyme, and 1 tbsp of the olive oil.  Bring to a boil, add 1 tsp salt, lower the heat, and cook the beans at a simmer or slow boil until they are tender but not mushy, about 1 hour.  Remove them from the heat and strain, reserving the broth.
     Slowly warm the rest of the oil in a soup pot with the remaining sage, garlic (roughly chopped), and bay leaf for 1 or 2 minutes; then add the onion and cook until it is soft, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Stir in the tomatoes; then add 6 yo 7 cups of the bean broth and 1/2 tsp salt.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes.  Add the beans and cook another 10  minutes.
     Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  The soup may be served immediately or set aside for later.  Just before serving, prepare the sauce.  Reheat the soup and garnish each bowl with a generous spoonful of sauce.

Parsley Sauce:

1 cup Italian parsley leaves, loosely packed
2 cloves garlic
1/4 tsp salt, preferably coarse sea salt
3 tbsp virgin olive oil
3 tbsp Parmesan, grated
Red wine vinegar to taste

     Chop the parsley fairly fine.  Pound the garlic with the slat in a mortar until it is broken into a smooth paste.  Add a tbsp or so of the parsley and work it vigorously into the garlic; then stir in the olive oil, cheese, and remaining parsley.  Add the vinegar to taste, and season with salt if necessary.

Fast and Flexible Whole Grain Rolls
The New Whole Grains Cookbook
Yield:  12 to 14 rolls

2 cups water, divided, for Bulgar (or 1 1/2 cups water for cooked grain)
1/2 cup Bulgar (or 1 cup cooked grain)
1/4 cup honey (not raw honey; it may kill the yeast)
1/2 cup olive oil or nut oil
1/2 tsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp quick rise yeast
5 cups whole wheat bread flour, divided
2 tsp salt

Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a small saucepan.  Add the Bulgar and return to a full, rolling boil.  Cover, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes, then let stand for 5 minutes.  Add 1/2 cup cool water to bring the temperature down.  (If using cooked grain, bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil, add the cooked grain, and remove from the heat.)
     Stir the honey, oil, and vinegar into the hot grain mixture.  Take the temperature of the mixture, and follow the yeast package recommendations, letting it cool if necessary.  In a stand mixer or large bowl, mix 4 cups of the flour with the yeast and salt.  Using the dough hook, stir in the grain mixture.  Knead to mix.  When the flour is mixed in, knead in the remaining cup to make a soft dough.  the dough will seem sticky in the bowl, but you should be able to handle it without it sticking to your hands.  Oil a large mixing bowl and scrape the dough into the bowl.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for at least 45 minutes, and up to 3 hours.
     Oil a heavy sheet pan.  Preheat the oven to 375.  The dough should be bigger than it was.  Tear off small handfuls of dough, about three-fourths of the size you would like the rolls to be.  Roll each piece into a ball, and place on the oiled pan.  Lightly cover with a sheet of plastic wrap.  Let rise in a warm spot for at least 30 minutes.
     Bake for 15 minutes.  Slide the rolls off the pan onto a rack to cool.

     Variations:  Add herbs, nuts, or cheese to the dough.  You can make it sweeter by doubling the honey, and use it for cinnamon rolls.
     After the first rising, pat the dough out to a large rectangle and cover with a filling (see list below), then roll up into a cylinder.  Slice the roll in 1 inch thick rounds, and place on the pan.  bake as directed in the main recipe.
     Suggested Fillings:  Cinnamon-sugar and raisins, shredded cheese and nuts or sauteed onions, pesto and grated Parmesan, spinach and feta, garlic and sun-dried tomatoes.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Day 42: Millet Bread

I am seriously falling behind in preparing 50 new recipes in 50 days, so it's catch-up time.  This morning I made Millet Bread from The Greens Cook Book to serve with our dinner tonight.

Bread dough with egg wash ready for the oven.

I was very curious to see how this bread would turn out.  The millet is supposed to give the bread a crunchy texture and a grainy sweetness.  You could really smell the millet after I removed the loaves from the oven.   I was surprised at the light brown color.  I was expecting a darker color since there was 5 cups of whole wheat flour in the dough.  

The millet gave the bread a nice crunchy texture.

The bread had a really nice texture that was firm, but not too dry.  The bread was dense, and had a crackling crunch to the bite that took me a minute to get used to.  (It reminded me of toasted rice on a Thai salad.)

I love the bread recipes from The Greens Cook Book, but for some reason the loaves do not get that nice dome top after the final rise.  The recipe calls for the sponge to rise, then the dough to rise, then a punch down and rise again, then forming the loaves and a final rise before baking.  I think next time I make the bread I'll form the loaves and put them in the pans after I punch down the dough, and then let it rise in the pans and bake, skipping the final rise called for in the book.

Millet Bread
The Greens Cook Book
Yield:  2 loaves

2 cups whole millet
1 1/4 cups hot water for soaking millet
3 packages dry yeast (2 tbsp)
2 cups warm water
2 tbsp honey
1 cup unbleached white flour
6 to 7 cups whole wheat flour
3 tbsp corn oil
1 tbsp salt
1 egg plus 1 tbsp milk or water, beaten, for egg wash

     Start the millet soaking in the hot water.  Use very hot tap water, but not boiling water, which will make the millet too soft.
     Dissolve the yeast in the warm water in a large bowl; then stir in the honey, white flour, and 1 1/2 cups of the whole wheat flour.  Beat vigorously with a spoon to form a smooth, thin batter.  Cover and set aside to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 40 minutes.
     Stir in the corn oil, salt, and millet, including any of the water that has not been absorbed.  Then fold in about 3 cups whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup at a time, turning the bowl a quarter turn between folds to approximate the action of kneading.  When the dough is too thick to fold in any more flour, turn it out onto a floured work surface, and knead, adding only enough flour to keep it from sticking.
     When the dough is smooth and elastic, after 5 to 8 minutes of kneading, place it in a clean, oiled bowl, and turn it over so the top is coated with oil.  Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.  Punch the dough down, and let it rise again, about 35 minutes.
     Shape the dough into loaves and place them in oiled bread pans.  Let them rise until they have doubled in size, about 25 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 350.  Brush the tops of the loaves with the egg wash.  Bake until nicely browned on the top and sides, about 50 to 60 minutes.

Day 42: Chickpea and Swiss Chard Soup

According to The Best Soups in the World this soup is called potaje de Carteya, or "soup from Nueva Carteya", which is a small town in Spain's southern region.  Evidently Swiss chard and chickpeas are favorites of this region.

This dish reminded me more of a stew than a soup.  It was full of vegetables and legumes with very little broth.  The broth was subtle but very flavorful with the addition of the Sherry vinegar, and I'm crazy about spinach and Swiss chard in soups.  I wasn't crazy about the sauteed-bread-in-the-soup part though -- it was pretty mushy, and didn't really do much to enhance the soup either in taste or bulk   Perhaps it would have been better to use day old bread instead of fresh.  The chickpeas were tender with a mild nutty taste that really complemented the greens. I think we'll make this one again.  Paul and I really enjoyed it.

Chickpea and Swiss Chard Soup
The Best Soups in the World
Yield:  5 to 6 servings

Two 15 ounce cans cooked chickpeas (3 cups) with its liquid
1 pound Swiss chard, heaviest part of the stem removed and washed well
3/4 pound spinach, heavy stems removed and well washed
4 large garlic cloves, 3 finely chopped, 1 sliced
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 pound white part of Italian or French bread, cut into small cubes
1 long mild green chile (such as peperoncino or Anaheim chile) seeded and finely chopped
1 tsp sweet paprika
Salt to taste
3 tbsp good quality sherry vinegar

     In a pot, cook the chickpeas in a cup of salted water and their own liquid over medium heat until softened, 20 to 30 minutes.  Keep warm.
     In another pot, place the Swiss chard and spinach with only the water from their last rinsing, cover, and turn the heat to high.  Once the water is bubbling and the greens are a little wilted, cook for 2 minutes.  Drain the greens, chop coarsely, mix with the sliced garlic, and set aside.
     In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat, then add the chopped garlic, bread, chile, and paprika and cook, stirring, until the bread is golden.  About 20 minutes.  Season with salt and pour in the vinegar.  Once the vinegar has evaporated, mix the chickpeas, greens, and cooked bread together and serve.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Day 39: Pork Shoulder with Mole Sauce

I usually save the more complicated recipes for Sunday, because Sundays are our take it easy, stay at home day so I have lots of time to cook.  This weekend my brother and his family are visiting from Sequim, and we're all getting together for lunch tomorrow so I decided to make my "big" meal today.

The recipe calls for a boneless pork roast to be cut into 1" pieces, and then marinated for at least eight hours so at 7:00 this morning I went to grab the roast out of the refrigerator wasn't there.  It was still in the freezer.  I forgot to defrost it!  Paul graciously agreed to an emergency run to the store but they didn't have a boneless pork shoulder roast, so he had to buy one bone-in.  Well actually he got two roasts.  Seems that Safeway was running a buy one, get one free deal (yay?).

Anyway, I was an hour behind schedule but I wasn't worried -- we'd just eat at 7:00 instead of 6:00.  I lost another half hour cutting the roast into small pieces (took longer than I thought to cut around the bone) and making the marinade but, okay, we'll eat at 7:30 instead of 7:00.  

So now it's 7 1/2 hours later, and I start chopping the veggies.  Paul was a big help roasting the peppers (there's 2 pasilla, 2 serrano, and 1 habanero chile in this stew!).  As the veggies were cooking I went to remove the pork from the marinade.  Now the recipe said to chop cilantro stems for the marinade so I did.  I chopped them into about 1/2" pieces, and so now I had 1" pork bits covered with a zillion 1/2" cilantro stems.  Took about 20 minutes to clean them all off.  (Next time I'll just chopping the stems in half!)  Okay, so maybe dinner will be at 8:00 instead of 7:30.  

So, 8:30 rolls around, and we are finally sitting down to eat.  The pork is tender and delicious, and the sauce is good -- not too spicy.  I like it best with the rice, pork and mole sauce wrapped in a flour tortilla.  My only complaint is the sauce is a little too chocolate-y.  It was definitely worth all the time and effort, and I'll make this again but maybe next time I'll only use half the amount of chocolate.

Pork Shoulder with Mole Sauce
A Great American Cook
Yield:  6 to 8 servings

4 pounds boneless pork shoulder
12 garlic cloves
1 bunch fresh cilantro
2 cups sake
2 dried pasilla chiles
2 serrano chiles
1 habanero chile
2 medium onions
1/4 pound thick-cut bacon
4 ripe tomatoes or drained canned plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
Kosher Salt
3-4 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup basmati rice
Freshly ground black pepper

For finishing the stew:
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup all purpose flour

Warmed corn tortillas or corn bread for serving.

At least 8 hours or the day before, marinate the pork.
     Cut the pork into 1 inch cubes and place in a large bowl.  Smash 2 of the garlic cloves.  Remove the leaves from the cilantro and reserve them for garnish.  Chop the cilantro stems and add them to the pork, along with the smashed garlic.  Pour in the sake and stir well.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, or overnight, turning the pork occasionally.

Make the stew:
     Soak the pasilla chiles in warm water until soft, about an hour.  Stem, seed, and finely chop them.
     Meanwhile, roast the serrano and habanero chiles over medium high heat on the stove top or under a hot broiler, turning occasionally, until blackened and blistered all over.  Place the chiles in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let steam for 15 minutes.
     Peel the roasted chiles with your fingers (do not rinse); stem, seed, and finely chop them.  Mix all the chiles together.
     Chop the onions.  Mince the remaining 10 garlic cloves.  Cut the bacon into 1x1/4 inch strips.  Core, seed, and chop the fresh tomatoes, or seed and chop the canned tomatoes.
     Place a large enameled cast iron casserole or Dutch oven over medium heat and cook the bacon until it renders some of its fat, about 5 minutes.  Add the onions, garlic, half the chiles, and the tomatoes and saute until the onions are tender, 8 to 10 minutes.  Transfer the bacon and vegetables to a bowl and set aside.  Wipe out the pot.
     Remove the pork from the marinade (reserving the marinade) and pat it dry with paper towels.  Season it with salt and pepper.  Melt 2 tbsp of the butter in the pot and brown the pork, in batches, over medium high heat using 1 more tbsp butter if needed.  Transfer the pork to a plate as it is browned.
     Strain the marinade and deglaze the casserole with the marinade and chicken broth, stirring to scrape up the browned bits.  Return the pork and bacon mixture to the casserole and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a quiet simmer and cook, covered, for 2 hours, or until the pork is very tender.
     Meanwhile, about 20 minuets before the pork is cooked, rinse the rice three times and place it in a medium saucepan with 2 cups cold water, the remaining 1 tbsp butter, and salt and pepper to taste.  Bring the mixture to a boil, cover the pan, reduce the heat to low, and cook the rice for 20 minutes, or until it is tender.  Remove from the heat and keep warm.

Finish the stew:
     Chop the chocolate.  Mix the 2 tbsp butter with the flour in a small bowl, blending it well with your fingers, then mix in the reserved chiles.  Whisk the butter mixture into the stew.  Add the chocolate, increase the heat to medium, and cook, stirring, for 10 minutes.
     Spoon the rice onto six to eight plates, top with the stew, and garnish with the reserved cilantro leaves.  Serve with warmed tortillas or corn bread. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Day 38: Skirt Steak marinated in Soy, Ginger, and Lime with Red Onion Toasts, and Potatoes and Garlic Baked in Parchment

I love skirt (or hanger) steak.  ( Asado's in Tacoma makes a great hanger steak.)  I've never cooked it, and it's probably because I couldn't find it in any store (I went to four).  So I improvised, and picked up some thin cut beef that had a sticker that said, great for marinating.  Can't remember what kind of steak it was though.  This is a very quick meal to put together -- the sauce was the hardest thing to make!

I'm behind a couple recipes so I decided to also make New Potatoes and Garlic Baked in Parchment.  Except I didn't have any parchment paper so I used aluminum foil.  And I didn't have any new potatoes, so I used red potatoes and diced them.  And I thought baking the garlic with their skins on seemed weird so I peeled them.  Otherwise I followed the recipe exactly!

The meal was a big hit, except now we all have a severe case of garlic breath!

Skirt Steak marinated in Soy, Ginger, and Lime with Red Onion Toasts
A Great American Cook
Yield:  Serves 4

2 lbs skirt or hanger steak
One 2 inch piece fresh ginger
1 lime
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 garlic cloves
1 cup dry red wine
3 shallots
2 tbsp unsalted butter
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 red onion
4 slices sourdough bread

     Pat the steak dry with paper towels and place it in a nonreactive baking pan.
     Peel and grate the ginger.  Juice the lime.  In a small bowl, mix the ginger with the lime juice and soy sauce.  Smash 2 of the garlic cloves and add them to the marinade.  Pour the  mixture over the steak, cover, and marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
     Remove the steak from the marinade and place on a platter.  Discard the garlic and ginger and reserve the marinade.
     Bring the red wine to a boil in a small saucepan over medium high heat.  Chop the shallots and add them to the wine.  Boil to reduce the wine to 1/4 cup.  Stir in the butter and salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside.
     Meanwhile, heat the broiler.  Slice the onion into 1/4 inch thick rounds and place on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle with the reserved marinade and broil the onion until tender and dark brown, about 10 minutes.  Be careful not to burn it.  Transfer to a plate and set aside.  Leave the broiler on.
     Place the steak on the broiler pan and broil, turning once, just until medium rare, about 4 minutes per side.  Transfer to a cutting board and cover loosely to keep warm.
     Toast the bread on both sides under the broiler.  Meanwhile, reheat the sauce over low heat.
     Split the remaining garlic clove in half and rub the slices of toast with the garlic.  Place a slice of toast on each plate.  Divide the onion among the toasts.  Slice the steak and place on the plates.  Top the steak with the red wine sauce and serve.

New Potatoes and Garlic Baked in Parchment
The Greens Cook Book
Yield:  Makes one packet; serves one.

1 sheet baking parchment, approximately 11 by 16
4 to 5 small new potatoes (about 5 ounces total)
4 to 5 large cloves garlic, unpeeled
Small branch of rosemary or several thyme branches
1 tbsp virgin olive oil
     If the potatoes are really small, an inch across or less, keep them whole; otherwise cut them into pieces that are more or less the same size, slightly smaller than an inch square.  Leave the skins on if the potatoes are fresh.
     Preheat the oven to 400.  Fold the paper in half to make a crease; then open and lay the potatoes on the lower half.  Tuck in the garlic cloves and the rosemary or pepper.  Bring the top side of the paper back down; then roll tightly along the edges to form a pouch, giving a firm final twist at the end to hold the package closed.
     Bake the packages for 30 minutes, and serve immediately, while they are hot and inflated.  Instead of individual packages, you can also make a single large one, from which people can help themselves.

Tomorrow night:  Pork Shoulder with Mole Sauce!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Day 37: Soupe Au Pistou, and Cottage Cheese Bread

Soupe au pistou (according to The Best Soups in the World) is a famous soup from Provence that means literally "soup with pesto", and is the French version of a Genoese style minestrone.  I was a little nervous about this soup after last night's fiasco since this recipe made a huge pot of soup, and I didn't want to waste another bunch of perfectly good vegetables.  I needn't have worried -- the soup was delicious.  The pesto is what really makes the soup.  (I used a canned pesto but didn't add the mashed small tomato.)

I was a little worried over the amount of salt and pepper called for in the recipe.  I decided to use half of what the amount and add more if needed --which it wasn't.  Oh, and I substituted a 14 ounce can of diced tomatoes for the fresh.

The bread sounded so strange I had to make it.  It's my favorite bread I've made from The Greens Cook Book.  It has a strange combination of ingredients:  dill, cottage cheese, and sauteed onions.  And it went great with the soup.

Soupe Au Pistou
The Best Soups in the World
Yield:  Serves 8

1 cup dried small white beans, soaked in water to cover for 6 hours, drained
6 quarts water
2 tbsp salt and more as needed
1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch thick pieces
3/4 pound tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped coarsely
1/2 pound boiling potatoes (such as Yukon Gold), peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
1/2 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch dice
1/2 pound zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 leeks, white and light green part only, split lengthwise, washed well, and thinly sliced
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cut ditali or any small tubular soup macaroni
1 recipe Pesto, or 1 1/2 cups store bought pesto with the addition of 1 peeled, seeded, and mashed small tomato.

     Place the white beans in a pot and cover with 3 quarts of the water.  Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to medium, salt the water a bit, and cook until tender, 1 to 1 1/4 hours.  Drain and set the beans aside.
     Meanwhile, in a large stockpot, bring the remaining 3 quarts of water to a boil over high heat, then add the green beans, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, zucchini, leeks, thyme, and bay leaf.  Reduce the heat to medium low, then stir in the 2 tbsp salt, the pepper, and olive oil, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 15 minutes.  Add the pasta and reserved beans and continue cooking until the pasta is soft, too, about 15 minutes more.  Serve hot with the pesto passed at the table, as everyone likes to put in his or her own quantity of pesto.

Cottage Cheese-Dill Bread
The Greens Cook Book
Yield:  Makes two loaves

1 1/2 packages active dry yeast (3 1/2 tsp)
1 3/4 cups warm water
2 tbsp honey or sugar
6 1/2 to 7 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
4 tbsp corn oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely diced
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup cottage cheese
1/4 cup dry dill weed
1 tbsp salt
1 egg plus 1 tbsp milk or water, beaten, for egg wash

     Dissolve the yeast in the warm water in a large bowl; then sir in the honey or sugar and 2 1/2 cups of the flour.  Beat vigorously with a spoon to form a smooth, thick batter.  Cover and set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.
     While the dough is rising, heat 1 tbsp of the oil, and saute the onion until it softens; then set aside to cool.  Once the dough has risen, stir in the onion, eggs, cottage cheese, dill weed, salt, and the remaining 3 tbsp oil. Mix well.  Fold in 3 cups flour, 1/2 cup at a time, turning the bowl a quarter turn between folds, which will approximate the action of kneading.  When the dough is too thick to fold in any more flour, turn it out onto a floured surface.
     Knead the dough until the surface is smooth and satiny, about 5 to 8 minutes, adding only enough flour to keep it from sticking.  Put the dough into an oiled bowl, turn it over so that the top is coated with oil, cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 40 minutes.  Punch it down, and let it rise again, about 30 minutes.
     Shape the dough into two loaves, place them in oiled pans, and let them rise to the tops of the pans, about 20 to 25 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 350.  Brush the tops with the egg wash.  Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until nicely browned.  Remove the loaves from the oven and turn them out onto racks until cool.

Tomorrow night:  Skirt Steak marinated in soy, ginger, and lime with red onion toasts!

Day 36: Late Autumn Vegetable Casserole

It's been such a busy week.  Monday was Valentine's Day, Tuesday my book club met, and tonight I'm going to a surprise birthday party.  I skipped making dinner Tuesday, so I wanted to make sure to leave the boys something to eat tonight.

Late Autumn Vegetable Casserole from A Great American Cook looked like a tasty, fairly quick dinner to make.  Unfortunately I had to leave before Paul came home, and he was already in bed by the time I got back so I haven't had a chance to ask him how he liked it.  It sure smelled good!

The vegetables totally filled the pot as it was cooking, and even though they cooked down in the oven there was still a big pot of food for us to eat!  I'm going to warm some up for lunch today.

Update:   Paul called this morning, and I asked how he liked the casserole (expecting him to say it was good like he always does), and he said, well...I liked everything else you've made from this book, and I managed to eat a whole bowl, but I didn't like it.  After heating some up for breakfast I have to say I totally agree with my husband, AND I commend him on eating a whole bowl of this stuff -- I barely managed three spoonfuls!  Hopefully I make it up to him with tonight's dinner!

Late-Autumn Vegetable Casserole
A Great American Cook
Yield:  6 to 8 hearty side dish, or 4 to 6 main dish servings

3 pounds Hubbard or butternut squash
3 tbsp olive oil, plus additional for rubbing the squash
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound white button mushrooms
2 medium onions
6 garlic cloves
4 large leeks
2 small celery roots
1 cup assorted fresh herb leaves, such as sage, flat leaf parsley, rosemary, chives, and basil
3 drained canned plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

     Heat the oven to 325 degrees.
     Split the squash lengthwise in half and remove the strings and seeds.  Rub the flesh with a bit of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Place the squash on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until tender.  Set aside to cool slightly.  Reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees.
     Meanwhile, clean and chop the mushrooms.  Chop the onions.  Smash the garlic.  Trim the leeks, split lengthwise, and wash them well, then chop.  Peel and chop the celery root.  Chop the tomatoes.  Chop the herbs.
    Heat the 3tbsp olive oil in a large enameled cast-iron casserole or Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the onions, garlic, leeks, and celery root and cook, stirring, for 10 minutes, or until tender.  Add the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes.  Scoop out the squash in tablespoon sized chunks and add to the casserole.  Add the tomatoes and herbs and season with salt and pepper.
     Sprinkle with the bread crumbs and cheese.  Bake for 20 minutes, or until deep golden brown on top and bubbly.  Serve.

Tonight:  Soupe Au Pistou, and Cottage Cheese Bread!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Day 34: Happy Valentine's Day

Today I took a day off from cooking from books, and made a Valentine's Day dinner for my honey.  I had a lot of fun cooking with my son, who had invited his girlfriend over for dinner.  So I guess we had a double date!  I made meatloaf and a chocolate cake for dessert.  Kevin made macaroni and cheese (his girlfriend's favorite).

This meatloaf has quickly become a family favorite.  It's the recipe I made here, from Healthy Cooking for Two (or just you) with just one small change -- I shaped it into a heart!  Funny, and delicious.

The macaroni and cheese was also a big hit.  It's a recipe I've come up with after trying several different recipes.

Macaroni and Cheese
From Ann's Brain
Yield:  6 servings

1 box dried elbow macaroni
3 cups milk
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
1 tsp dry mustard
1 small onion, diced
8 ounces medium cheddar cheese, shredded
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup panko breading
1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 350.
     Melt butter in stock pot, over medium heat.  Add onions and cook until translucent.  Meanwhile heat milk in microwave until hot, but not boiling.  Whisk in flour and dry mustard into onions and butter, and cook for a few minutes.  Slowly add hot milk, whisking to combine.  Cook over medium heat until sauce is thickened, stirring frequently.  When desired thickness achieved remove from heat and stir in cheese.
     Cook pasta as directed on package, drain, and add to cheese sauce.
     Combine panko breading, parsley, and olive oil, and sprinkle over macaroni.  Bake in oven for 15 - 20 minutes or until breading is browned.
     Variations:  Add browned bacon bits, or chili flakes.

Tomorrow I have to review the recipes I've selected, and plan the week's menu.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Day 33: Cranberry Bean Minestrone with Sage and Marjoram

I was going to make the minestrone and a warm cabbage salad, but after re-reading the recipe for the soup I had to make a change to the menu.  When I think of minestrone I think of a nice chunky soup full of vegetables, pasta, and greens like spinach or kale (maybe some sausage).  This recipe was a little different, so I decided to hold an experiment.  I would make the soup as directed, but offer on the side some Ditalini pasta, a sprinkling of Parmesan, and spinach sauteed with garlic and sausage.  I used 1/2 cup uncooked pasta, about a pound of spinach, and the leftover kielbasa from Wednesday's dinner.  I figured whatever wasn't used in the soup could be eaten as a side dish.

First off I have to say whoever wrote the recipe for the soup needs to take another look at the cooking direction for the beans.  I followed the recipe exactly, and at the end of the cooking time they weren't done.  I ended up covering the pot, turning the heat up, and cooking for another 15 minutes, and the beans were still firm (but edible).   I substituted pinto beans for the cranberry beans, 1/2 tsp dried thyme for the marjoram, and a can of diced tomatoes for the whole pear tomatoes.

After trying the original and revised versions of the soup it was unanimous -- we all preferred the revised soup.

Cranberry Bean Minestrone with Sage and Marjoam
The Complete Vegan Cookbook
Yield:  4 main dish servings

1 cup dried cranberry beans
4 cups vegetable stock
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
One 14 1/2 ounces whole pear tomatoes
2 tbsp minced fresh sage
1 tbsp minced fresh marjoram leaves
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt

     Sort the beans, discarding any pebbles or other foreign objects you may find.  Rinse the beans and place them in a large pan.  Cover the beans with plenty of water, cover the pan, and soak for several hours or overnight.  Drain in a colander and set aside.
     Place the stock over medium high heat in a large stockpot and add the beans.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer with the lid ajar for about 45 minutes, until the beans are almost tender.
     Meanwhile, place the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions, celery, and garlic, and saute for about 5 minutes, until the onion is translucent.  Chop the tomatoes in a bowl or use your hands to break them up, then add them with their juice to the cooked beans.  Stir in the onion mixture, sage, marjoram, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.  Cook over medium low heat, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Serve immediately.
A few grinds of pepper.

Tomorrow night is Valentines Day so I'm taking a day off from the 50 day challenge.  Kevin and I are making dinner for Paul and Celeste.  Don't worry -- I'll post some pictures.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Day 32: Winter Vegetable Stew

Today I made Winter Vegetable Stew.  It's another multi-step recipe from The Greens Cook Book, that took me several hours today to complete.  It was worth the effort, let me tell you.  Rich, delicious, nice chunky pieces of veggies -- it's warm, filling, and good.  I thought Paul was going to lick the bowl!

First I made the Wild Mushroom Stock.  I've posted the recipe here.   

Next I made the sauce for the stew.  Lots of steps, but again, not a lot of time.  Honestly I could have sat down and ate the sauce just by itself -- it's that good. 

And now it's time to confess what I was supposed to use, but didn't:  I didn't have any brussel sprouts or celery root (couldn't find them at the store) so they were missing from the stew.  I didn't use the dried shiitake mushrooms.  I hate dried mushrooms.  It's fine if it's used like the dried porcini mushrooms to make the mushroom broth, but I don't want to eat them -- I can't stand the texture.  My mom used to make a beef dish when I was young that consisted of dried shiitake mushrooms and sliced beef in gravy that she served over rice.  (You can't see it, but right now I'm shuddering thinking about it.)  Boiling onions?  Nope -- just cut one yellow onion into 8 wedges, and they worked just fine.  Oh, and I added a diced celery stalk, and some diced turnips. 

To round out the meal I made some buttermilk biscuits.  It's a recipe that I found online here.  They are delicious, and so easy to make. 

Winter Vegetable Stew
The Greens Cook Book
Yield:  Serves 6

The Sauce:
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1/2-inch squares
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried tarragon
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp salt
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup red wine
3 tbsp flour
3 cups Wild Mushroom Stock, heated
2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped

     Heat the butter and the oil in a wide soup pot with a heavy bottom.  Add the onion, dried herbs, bay leaf, and salt, and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the onion is nicely browned all over, about 15 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and the wine, and reduce by half.  Add the flour and cook for 2 minutes; then whisk in the stock.  Bring to a boil; then simmer slowly, partially covered, for 25 minutes.  Add the parsley and check the seasoning.  There will be about 2 2/3 cups.  

The Stew:
4 to 6 dried shiitake mushrooms
10 ounces boiling onions
4 medium carrots (about 10 ounces)
1 celery root
3 to 4 parsnips (about 10 ounces)
6 ounces mushrooms, wiped clean (I used crimini)
1 small cauliflower, broken into large florets
5 ounces brussels sprouts
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Fresh herbs: parsley, thyme, tarragon, finely chopped

    Cover the dried mushrooms with a cup of hot water, and set them aside to soak for 20 minutes.  Run your fingers over them to loosen any dirt or sand; then remove the caps and cut them inot quarters.  Strain the soaking water and set aside to use in the stew.
     Peel the boiling onions.  Leave then whole if they are small, and half the larger ones, keeping the root end intact.  Peel the carrots; then cut them into pieces about 1 1/2 inches long; halve or quarter the thicker ones so that all the pieces are a similar size.
     Cut away the gnarly skin of the celery root, cut into large cubes, and put it in a bowl of water with a little lemon juice until needed.  Peel and quarter the parsnips, cut out the cores, and slice them into wide sections.  If the mushrooms are small, leave them whole; otherwise cut them into wide, uneven pieces.
     Bring a pot of water to a boil, add salt, blanch the cauliflower for 30 seconds, and remove.  Parboil the brussels sprouts for 1 minutes and remove.  Rinse both vegetables with cold water to stop their cooking.
     Melt half the butter and a tbsp of the olive oil in a large skillet or casserole.  Add the onions and carrots, and cook over a medium heat about 3 or 4 minutes, until they begin to get a little color.  Then add 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 cup mushroom soaking water, Wild Mushroom Stock, or water.  Lower the heat, cover the pan, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes.
     In a second pan, heat the remaining butter and oil and add the fresh mushrooms.  Cook them briskly over high heat until they begin to brown; then add a little salt, a few tablespoons of soaking water or mushroom stock, and the garlic.  Cook another 2 minutes; then add them to the casserole along with the dried mushrooms, celery root, and parsnips.  Cook over low heat, covered, for another 3 minutes; then add the sauce, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and fresh herbs.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
     If the stew is to be baked further in the oven, as a shepherd's pie or under a pastry crust, remove it from the heat, transfer it to a suitable casserole, cover it as desired, and bake for 40 minutes at 375.  Otherwise, continue cooking the stew on top of the stove, slowly, until all the vegetables are tender, 10 to 20 minutes; then serve, garnished with additional fresh herbs.  This is a hearty, full-flavored dish that could be served with a zinfandel or a California pinot noir.

Tomorrow night:  Cranberry Bean Minestrone, and Warm Red Cabbage Salad

Day 31: Wild Mushroom Stock

I made this Wild Mushroom Stock from The Greens Cook Book to use in tonight's Winter Vegetable Stew, but the book recommends the stock also for vegetable ragouts, mushroom pastas, and pilafs, or used in place of milk or cream in a sauce.  I only needed 3 cups for the stew so I'll freeze the rest to use in another dish.  It's hard to make stock look pretty or interesting.  Here's my best attempt.

I've never used dried porcini mushrooms but it was easy enough  -- just poured boiling water over the mushrooms and let it sit for a while.  I was a little taken aback when I poured the water over the mushrooms to find it had a strong beefy smell, and I found it kind of unpleasant.  (Okay, I confess, the smell actually made me think of canned dog food.)  For the optional ingredients:  I didn't add the fresh mushrooms, but I did add the leek greens.  I also followed the variation suggestion to caramelize the onions.

This was the quickest stock I've ever made -- took just under an hour to complete.

Wild Mushroom Stock
The Greens Cook Book
Yield:  6 to 8 cups

1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
4 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced or chopped (optional)
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 medium onion, chopped into 1/2 inch squares
1/2 cup leek greens, roughly chopped into 1 inch pieces (optional)
4 to 6 thyme branches or 1/4 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
6 branches parsley, roughly chopped
3 sage leaves or large pinch dried sage
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp salt

     Cover the dried mushrooms with 1 cup hot water and set them aside.  Heat the olive oil in a soup pot, add the vegetables, herbs, garlic, salt, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes.  Next add the dried mushrooms and their soaking liquid plus the 9 cups cold water, and bring to a boil; then simmer for 45 minutes.  Strain the stock through a fine meshed sieve.  Use it as is or return it to the stove and reduce it further to intensify the flavor as much as desired.  Generally it takes about 15 minutes at a slow boil to reduce the volume or liquid by 1 cup.
     Variation:  For a darker-colored stock, caramelize the onion separately first.  Heat the oil, add the onion , and cook it until it has turned a very dark brown, stirring occasionally at first, then more frequently as it gets darker.  Add the remaining ingredients plus the water, bring to a boil, cook as above, and strain.
9 cups cold water

Friday, February 11, 2011

Day 31: Winter Squash Ravioli

Tonight I'm making Winter Squash Ravioli with a cream and brown butter sauce garnish with Romano cheese and toasted walnuts -- sounds yummy!  I broke the prep work for tonight's meal into three steps.  You can read about there here, here, and here.

Update:  The ravioli was a breeze to cook, and had a nice firm texture.  I really love this pasta.  The filling was good, and it was surprising sweet from the butternut squash.  The sauce was a bit of a disappointment.    Actually it never really came together as a sauce -- just tasted like warm cream and butter, and it was really thin.  I served the ravioli on a bed of spinach.  Overall everything tasted really good, and I can't wait to make ravioli again -- maybe next time I'll make a more traditional ricotta and cheese ravioli with red sauce.

Winter Squash Ravioli
The Greens Cook Book
Yield:  About 30 ravioli; served 4 to 6.

2 recipes Egg Pasta
1 butternut squash weighing at least 1 1/2 pounds
2 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
4 to 5 sage leaves, chopped
about 1/2 cup dry jack or Romano cheese, grated
1 tbsp parsley, chopped
1 1/2 cups light cream
4 tbsp clarified butter
Few drops balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup walnuts or hazelnuts, shelled

     Prepare the pasta dough and set it aside to rest.
     Preheat the oven to 375.  Cut the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and brush the surface with some of the olive oil.  Season it with salt and pepper and bake, cut side down, until it is completely soft. Scoop out the meat, and pass it through a food mill.  Cook briefly to dry it out:  Warm the rest of the oil in a skillet with the garlic and the sage leaves until they are aromatic, taking care not to brown the garlic.  Add the squash and cook, stirring frequently, until it is fairly dry, 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the type of squash used.  Remove it from the heat and season it with several tablespoons of the cheese, salt and pepper, and half the parsley.  Make sure the filling is cool or at room temperature before forming the ravioli.
     When the dough has rested and you are ready to make the ravioli, have at hand a spray bottle of water, or a bowl of water and a pastry brush, as well as a ravioli cutter.  Roll the pasta to the thinnest setting on your machine and cut the final pieces into lengths that are easy to handle, about 12 to 18 inches long.
     Lightly dust each strip of pasta with flour, and set the strips on top of one another  Work with one strip at a time, and cover the others with a kitchen towel.  Lay the pasta on a lightly floured surface, fold to make a line, then open it up.  Using the line as a guide, place rounded tablespoons of the squash filling just below the line, leaving at least 2 inches between each spoonful.  Spray a fine mist over the pasta or paint a strip of water around the edges and between each spoonful of filling.  Roll the top half of the pasta over the filling.  Press between each ravioli to form a seal, forcing out the air as you do so; then press around the bottom and sides of the strip.  Use a ravioli cutter to finally seal and separate each ravioli; then set the finished squares onto a floured baking sheet.  If they are not to be cooked right away, cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.  If the filling is not too wet, they should keep well this way for several hours.
     Roast the nuts in a 350 oven for 5 to 8 minutes, and then chop them finely.
     When you are ready to cook the ravioli, bring a large pot of water to a boil, and while it is heating, make the sauce.  Combine the cream and the clarified butter in a wide skillet, bring to a boil, and reduce until slightly thickened.  Stir in the remaining parsley, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and add a few drops of the vinegar.  salt the pasta water and add the ravioli.  Cook them at a gentle boil until they are done, about 2 to 4 minutes (sample a corner of one); then scoop them out and add them to the pan with the cream.  Slide the pan back and forth a few times to coat them with the sauce.  Serve garnished with additional cheese, freshly milled pepper, and the roasted nuts.  For wine, consider a medium-bodied zinfandel or a Cotes-du-Rhone.

Day 31: Winter Squash Ravioli Prep Work. Step 1: Clarified Butter

Friday, finally!  It's been a long stressful week for Paul so I want to make something special for dinner -- sort of a welcome to a relaxing weekend meal.  I decided on the Winter Squash Ravioli from The Greens Cook Book. I love this cookbook.  I feel very accomplished after cooking one of the recipes.   Everything is from scratch, and sometimes the steps are a bit complicated, but I'm learning so much -- it's a lot of fun.  I decided to break the prep for tonight's dinner into three steps spread throughout the day so I don't get too stressed trying to do everything at once.  So when Paul comes home, a cold beer for him, a glass of wine for me, and a little talk while I cook the pasta!

Step 1:  Clarified butter.  I've cooked recipes that called for clarified butter, but I never really knew what it was so I would just use regular butter.  Luckily for me The Greens Cook Book has a section on sauces, relishes, and butters, and on page 325 are (yup, you guessed it!) the instruction on how to make clarified butter.  

Clarified Butter
The Greens Cook Book
Yield:  1 1/2 cups

Clarified butter is butter from which the milk solids have been removed through heating and straining.  AND once the milk solids have been removed, the butter will not burn when heated!  One pound of butter will yield about 1 1/2 cups of clarified butter.  The cream sauce I'll make for tonight's pasta dish will use 4 tablespoons, so I'll cover and refrigerate the rest.

Cut unsalted butter into small pieces, and melt it slowly in a heavy saucepan over low heat.

Once the butter has melted, raise the heat to medium.  A white foam will rise and cover the surface. 

Skim off the foam with a fine sieve (I used a metal table spoon) but don't worry about removing all of it.  Cook the butter slowly for 10 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the butter cool to tepid. 

The milk solids will settle to the bottom.  Pour the butter through a fine-meshed strainer or a strainer lined with cheese cloth. 

I first poured the butter through a sieve into my "fat separator", and let it cool a little more before pouring in though the sieve again into a dish.  

Let it cool completely and then cover and refrigerate (or not, as you prefer).  

Day 31: Winter Squash Ravioli, Prep Work. Step 2: Roast Squash and Make Pasta Dough

Okay, I decided Step 2 would be to prepare the pasta dough, and roast the squash.  I'm using the same egg dough pasta that I used in the Spinach Lasagna.  You can find the recipe here.  I forgot to measure how much water I used, but I did remember to add some water to the dough while it was spinning in the food processor.  That made a huge difference in the time I had to spend fussing with the dough to make it come together into a ball, and then kneading it.

I'm going to use Butternut Squash for the filling.  I have to say it's the oddest looking one I've ever seen -- straight, and no bulb at the bottom.  Oh, well -- that is what the grocery store had, so it's what I bought!

You probably know the drill for roasting squash.  Cut in half lengthwise.  Cut each half in half.  Scoop out the seeds.  Oil the baking sheet (I lined mine with foil first).  Salt and pepper the squash, and place cut side down on the baking sheet.  Cook at 375 until tender (about 45- 60 minutes depending on the size of the squash).

I scooped out the flesh, and mashed it best I could with a spoon.  One of these days I'll have to get a food mill, or ricer.  I left the squash out to cool while I went to my afternoon appointment.

When I got back I prepared the filling, and then had a little rest before moving onto Step 3:  Prepare Raviolis!

Day 31: Winter Squash Ravioli, Prep Work. Step 3: Assemble Ravioli

I've never made ravioli, so I was pretty excited to get started.  Unfortunately the dough was pretty dry.  I have to confess I thought I should have added more water and kneaded a little longer, but after making bread a couple times this week my wrists were sore so I didn't work the dough as long as I should have.  I cut the dough into four portions, and once I got the dough rolling it went pretty smoothly.  You can look here if you want more information on making and rolling out the dough.

After each quarter was rolled out, I went ahead and filled, formed, and cut the raviolis.  I have two sided biscuit cutters, and I used the fluted end.  I'm sorry I didn't take many any pictures, but it was a little overwhelming rolling, filling and cutting, and quite frankly I forgot to take some shots!

I can't wait for Paul to get home!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Day 30: Persian Spiced Rice with Crispy Potato Crust

Growing up I had to eat a lot of rice, and I admit I don't really care for it, much to the dismay of my mom who is Japanese.  I love potatoes -- maybe because of my German heritage (or at least that's what I tell my mom).  This dish is a wonderful combination of both, kind of like me!  Sorry, couldn't help myself.

Tonight Paul will be sampling Persian Spiced Rice with Crispy Potato Crust from The New Whole Grains Cookbook.  Unfortunately he'll have to do it without me --  I'll be at a chocolate tasting with Heather.

This is what it was supposed to look like. 

The recipe called for two things I don't have:  a 1 quart covered rounded glass baking dish, and saffron.  The smallest glass baking dish I have is square and has a 2 quart capacity so that's what I used.  I decided not to double the recipe (although I'm not sure that's what went wrong with the dish).  I'm too cheap to buy saffron, and I don't know what it tastes like.  I just add a bit of turmeric (just a shake of the jar, less than 1/4 tsp) to help give the dish a yellow tint.

It was easy-peasy putting the dish together.  I popped it into the oven, set the timer for 1/2 hour and waited.  After 30 minutes the crust didn't look browned, so I left it in for another 5 minutes.  I dutifully flipped it over onto a plate and, well you can see from the picture what happened.  The potato crust never browned, but the rice was pretty dry.  Honestly the onions were the best part of the dish -- sweet and spicy, a nice compliment to the rice.

Not quite the Ta-Dah moment I was hoping for.

Overall I think the dish was almost good.  Perhaps I should invest in a round glass baking dish before trying this recipe again.

Persian Spiced Rice with Crispy Potato Crust
The New Whole Grains Cookbook
Yield:  4 Servings

1 cup medium-grain brown rice, washed and rinsed
1/2 cup sour cream
1 large egg (optional)
1/4 tsp paprika
1 large pinch saffron, crumbled
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
2 new potatoes, or 1/2 small sweet potato, thinly sliced
1/2 cup thinly sliced onion

Preheat the oven to 400.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add the washed rice.  Boil the rice for 25 minutes, then drain.  In a large bowl, mix the sour cream, egg (if using), paprika, saffron, cumin, and salt.  Shake the rice in the strainer to release all the water, then mix the rice into the sour cream mixture.
     Drizzle the olive oil over the bottom of a rounded glass 1 quart baking dish with a lid.  Place the potatoes and the onion in a single layer in the oil, and up the sides a bit.  Put the dish in the oven for 5 minutes, then scatter the rice mixture over the potatoes, pressing it into the bottom of the dish.  Cover and bake for 30 minutes.  When the rice is cooked through and a brown crust is visible through the sides of the pan, use a knife or narrow spatula to loosen the edges.  Place a platter or plate over the baking dish and invert the two, so that the crusty part will be on top.  (Do this over a sink; some oil may drip.)  Serve immediately, when the crust is crisp.

Tomorrow Night:  Winter Squash Ravioli

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Day 29: Kale and Potato Soup with Red Chili...and Sausage

It has been a tremendous honor to cook the recipes of The Greens Cook Book.  I regret the harm that my actions may have caused my family, my friends, and my readers.  I deeply and sincerely apologize to them all.  I have made profound changes to this soup, and I promise to work as hard as I can to seek their forgiveness...Whoa, sorry -- channeling Congressman Lee a bit there.

I planned on making Portuguese Potato Kale Soup from Healthy Cooking for Two tonight.  It has Kielbasa in it (which I love) but the seasonings seemed so bland, and after my disappointment in the last soup I made from that cookbook I decided to make something else.  Then I remembered The Greens Cook Book had a recipe for Kale and Potato Soup with Red Chili.  Now that sounded delicious!  But it's a vegetarian cookbook, and I was really looking forward to having some Kielbasa tonight, so...I did it!  I altered the recipe by adding about 4 ounces of Kielbasa which I sliced and cooked with the onions.  For the stock I used 3 cups water, and 4 cups vegetable stock.  I also used the optional nutritional yeast.

This soup is so good.  I added a dollop of sour cream to my soup, and it added a nice creamy texture.  Paul did not add the sour cream, and it was still delicious and creamy from the potatoes.  I don't regret adding the Kielbasa either -- it added a nice smoky flavor to the stock.  The chili flakes added a subtle heat to the soup that went really well with the kale and Kielbasa.

I listed both recipes below.  You can try one, try both or just add the Kielbasa like I did.  My conscience is clear.  I'll sleep well tonight, and my belly will be full of delicious soup!

Kale and Potato Soup with Red Chili
The Greens Cook Book
Yield:  Serves 4 to 6

The Stock 
The ingredients of this soup supply plenty of flavor, so use water to prepare a simple stock using the stems of the kale.

The Soup
1 bunch kale
3 tbsp virgin olive oil
1 medium red or yellow onion, diced into 1/2 inch squares
6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 small dried red chili, seeded and chopped, or 1/2 tsp chili flakes
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt
4 medium red potatoes (about 1 pound), scrubbed and diced into 1/2 inch cubes
2 tsp nutritional yeast (optional)
7 cups water or stock
Creme Fraiche or sour cream (optional)

     Using a sharp knife, cut the ruffled kale leaves off their stems, which are very tough and take a long time to cook.  Cut the leaves into pieces roughly 2 inches square, wash them well, and set them aside.
     Heat the olive oil in a soup pot, add the onion, garlic, chili, bay leaf, and salt, and cook over medium high heat for 3 or 4 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add the potatoes and the yeast, if using, plus a cup of the water or stock.  Stir together, cover, and cook slowly for 5 minutes.
     Add the kale, cover, and steam until it is wilted, stirring occasionally.  Pour in the rest of the water or stock, bring to a boil, then simmer slowly, covered, until the potatoes are quite soft, 30 to 40 minutes.
     Use the back of a wooden spoon to break up the potatoes by pressing them against the sides of the pot, or puree a cup or two of the soup in a blender and return it to the pot.  This will make a unifying background for the other elements.
     Taste the soup for salt and add a generous grinding of black pepper.  If possible, let the soup sit for an hour or so before serving to allow the flavors to further develop.  Serve the soup hot without any garnish, or with a spoonful of creme fraiche or sour cream if desired.

Portuguese Potato-Kale Soup
Healthy Cooking for Two (or just you)
Yield:  Serves 4

1 pound kale, washed
2 cups cubed boiling potatoes, 1/2 inch cubes
4 cups water
4 ounces smoked kielbasa or chorizo, sliced
2 tbsp hot-pepper vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

     Trim the thick stems from the greens, stack and roll several leaves at a time and cut them into strips about 1/2 inch wide.
     Place the greens in a heavy 2 quart (or 3 quart) saucepan with the potatoes, water and kielbasa or chorizo.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Cover and cook the soup over low heat for 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.
     Stir in the vinegar.  Then taste the soup and add the salt and pepper to taste.  Serve hot.

Tomorrow night:  Persian Spiced Rice.