Monday, March 28, 2011

Paul Cooks!

I have the best husband!  I haven't been feeling well this past week, and haven't cooked much of anything (at least that I can blog about).  Yesterday Paul told me he was taking care of dinner -- nice!

We had a roast from Paul's two for one shopping extravaganza and he, unlike me, pulled it out of the freezer in plenty of time to defrost, and made Roast Pork with Gravy, Basmati Rice, and Mixed Green Salad with Balsamic/Garlic Dressing!  He found a recipe on E How Food -- it was delicious!  You can find the recipe here.

I'm hoping to get back on track this week -- cross your fingers!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Roasted Chicken with Root Vegetables

It's not often that I have a whole chicken in my freezer but several months back there was a killer sale (77 cents a pound!) so I bought a couple birds.  I roasted one of them in January following Jonathan Waxman's recipe (you can read about it here), and I defrosted the other one to prepare today.

Roasted Chicken with Root Vegetables from Recipes from the Root Cellar is your basic recipe, nothing new or exciting, but I wanted to try another roast chicken recipe to compare to my last experience.  Differences I've noticed so far?  Waxman's chicken was roasted at a much higher temperature (475 instead of 350), and also called to season the bird with salt, pepper and oil.  The recipe I'm following today just called for a few garlic cloves and 1 teaspoon of the rosemary to be put in the cavity of the chicken, but I couldn't help myself and I rubbed the outside with olive oil, salt and pepper.  The other major difference?  Smoke alarm didn't go off once!  So which one did I prefer?  I loved them both!

The chicken was so moist and tender that Paul barely had to use a knife to carve it -- the meat just fell off the bone.  For the veggies I used what I had on hand:  carrots, turnips, potatoes, onions, and I chopped up a couple celery for flavor.  I was afraid they might overcook (since they were in the oven with the chicken for almost two hours) but they were perfectly done, and so delicious I gobbled it up before I remembered the gravy!

Recipes from the Root Cellar: 270 Fresh Ways to Enjoy Winter VegetablesRoasted Chicken with Root Vegetables
Recipes from the Root Cellar
Yield:  Serves 4 to 6

1 whole roasting chicken (3 1/2 to 5 pounds), neck and giblets removed
1 whole garlic head, cloves separated and peeled
2 tsp crushed dried rosemary or sage
8 cups peeled and cubed mixed root vegetables (beets, carrots, celery root, parsnips, rutabagas, salsify, and/or turnips)
1 to 2 onions, cut into wedges
2 tbsp sunflower, canola, or extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups chicken broth
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tbsp water or dry white wine

Preheat the oven to 350.

     Rinse the chicken under cold running water and pat dry.  Set in a large roasting pan.  (The pan must be large enough to hold the vegetables in a single layer surrounding the chicken.)  Insert a few garlic cloves and 1 tsp of the rosemary in the cavity of the chicken.
     Combine the root vegetables and onions in a large bowl.  Add the remaining garlic cloves to the vegetables, along with the remaining 1 tsp rosemary.  Add the oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat.  Arrange the vegetables in a single layer around the chicken.
     Roast for 1 1/2 to 2 hours (20 to 25 minutes per pound), until the juices run clear from the chicken, a leg moves easily, and an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 165.  Stir the vegetables once or twice during the roasting to promote even cooking and to baste the vegetables.
     Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and keep warm under a tent of foil.  Spoon the vegetables into a serving bowl and cover to keep warm.
     To make a gravy, place the roasting pan over one or two burners on medium high heat.  Add the broth and stir to deglaze the pan, bringing the broth to a boil.  In a small bowl, combine the flour and water, mixing until completely smooth; stir into the boiling pan juices.  taste and add salt and pepper, if needed.
     Carve the chicken and serve with the gravy, passing the vegetables separately.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Meatless Monday: Black Beans and Rice with Fire Roasted Vegetables

Beans and Rice pretty boring, right?  Yup, that's what I thought before I tried Black Beans and Rice with Fire Roasted Vegetables from The Roasted Vegetable.  It's the roasted veggies that really make this dish.  Sweet, tender with a bit of a zip thanks to the chipotles in adobe sauce.  It's well known amongst my friends that I do not have much tolerance when it comes to chilies.  This meal had enough spice to keep my tongue tingling, and still add a little heat and zip for Paul and Kevin.

Make sure you allow yourself enough time to prepare this dish -- it took close to two hours to prepare.  If you're pressed for time the book says you can substitute of a 19 ounce can of black beans for the dried ones, rinse well and drain, and season with ground cumin.

The Roasted VegetableBlack Beans and Rice with Fire-Roasted Vegetables
The Roasted Vegetable
Yield:  Serves 4

1 cup dried black beans, rinsed, picked over, and soaked overnight in water to cover
4 cups water
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt

1 medium size red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
1 medium size green bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
1 small to medium size zucchini, cut into matchsticks
1 medium size onion, halved and slivered
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 to 2 tsp minced chipotles in adobo sauce
1 tsp ground cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup homemade or store-bought salsa, or more to taste
Hot cooked white or brown rice (I used brown cooked in vegetable stock)
Sour cream

     Drain the beans.  In a medium size saucepan, combine the beans, water, cumin, and salt.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the beans are tender, about 1 hour.
     While the beans cook, preheat the oven to 425.  Lightly oil a large shallow roasting pan or half sheet pan.
     To make the vegetables, in a large bowl combine the bell peppers, zucchini, onion, and corn.  In a small bowl combine the oil, chipotles, and cumin.  Pour over the vegetables and toss to coat.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Arrange in a single layer in the pan.
     Roast for about 35 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and lightly browned, stirring or shaking the pan occasionally for even cooking.
     When the beans are tender, drain off the excess water.  Combine the beans and the salsa.  taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt, pepper, or salsa as needed.
     To serve, transfer the hot rice to a large serving platter or individual plates.  Spoon the beans over the rice.  Top with the roasted vegetables.  Pass the sour cream at the table.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Fast Fresh Friday: Crisp-Tender Broccoflower with Lemon-Dijon Pan Sauce and Toasted Parmigiano Bread Crumbs over Angel Hair Pasta

The recipes in Fast, Fresh & Green really live up to the name.  Tonight I made Crisp-Tender Broccoflower with Lemon-Dijon Pan Sauce, and took Susie's suggestion to serve it over angel hair pasta tossed in brown butter.  Aren't you just drooling?

Seriously, this dish took me maybe 35 minutes to put together, which was great since Paul and I had an event to attend tonight.  My longest wait was for the pasta water to boil!

Unfortunately, I couldn't find any broccoflower so I substituted with cauliflower.  It was good, but not as pretty as the broccoflower I'm sure.  This was really a lovely dish.  Simple, tasty, and enjoyed by everyone.  I look forward to making it again!

Fast, Fresh & GreenCrisp-Tender Broccoflower with Lemon-Dijon Pan Sauce with Toasted Parmigiano Bread Crumbs
Fast, Fresh & Green
Yield:  4 servings

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
10 oz Broccoflower florets (or 12 oz Cauliflower florets)
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/3 cup low sodium chicken broth (I used vegetable broth)
1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp chopped fresh parsley
Toasted Parmigiano Bread Crumbs (see below)

In a 10 inch saute pan with a lid, heat the olive oil and 1 tbsp of the butter over medium high heat.  When the butter has melted and is starting to foam, add the broccoflower and salt and toss with tongs to coat.  Arrange the broccoflower with one cut side down and cook without stirring until the bottoms are browned, 3 to 4 minutes.  (The browning will be spotty but will be a fairly dark brown color.)  Turn the florets onto another side and cook again without stirring until that side is lightly browned in spots, about 2 minutes.  Carefully pour the broth into the pan (it will sputter), cover, and cook until all but 1 or 2 tbsp of the liquid has evaporated (uncover once or twice and swirl the liquid to distribute if necessary), 2 to 3 minutes.
     Remove the pan from the heat, uncover, and add the lemon juice, mustard, and the remaining 1/2 tbsp butter.  Stir well with a silicone spatula as the butter melts and the sauce becomes creamy.  Toss in the parsley, stir, and transfer the vegetables and sauce to a serving platter or dinner plates.  Garnish with the Toasted Parmigiano Bread Crumbs, if desired.  (You may not need all of them.  Add them immediately before serving to keep them crisp.)

Toasted Parmigiano Bread Crumbs

1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
Kosher salt
1 tbsp finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1 tsp chopped fresh parsley

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Winter-Vegetable Beef Stew

The wind is fierce, and it's rainy and cold.  Seems like a perfect day to make stew!  So tonight I'm making Winter-Vegetable Beef Stew from Recipes from the Root Cellar, and Peasant Loaf from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  Tonight I'll be meeting with my book club, so I'll have to wait until tomorrow to hear Paul's opinion.  Judging from the smells coming from the kitchen I think he's going to enjoy tonight's meal.

Paul and I love the big crusty loaves of artisan bread, but hate the high cost.  Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day seemed promising, so I ordered the book.  I've mostly made the Boule (French for ball, it's a round white bread), and European Peasant Bread (a round whole grain country style loaf) but there are  lots of recipes for other types of bread as well as pizzas, and pastries.  The recipes are easily halved or doubled, and it's wonderful to be able to grab a bit of dough and in 35 minutes have a nice crusty, warm, and tasty piece of bread.  I think this is the perfect bread to dunk in a thick soup or stew.

I don't use the pizza peel or the baking stone.  I just can't seem to get the bread dough from the peel to the stone, so I would have to pick up the dough and quickly toss it on the stone.  It's easier just to use my Air Bake pizza pan.  I dust the pan with a little cornmeal, mold the dough, set it on the pan, and 40 minutes later it's in the oven to bake!

For the meat in the stew I used chuck, a preference I'm sure I picked up from my dad.  He loved chuck steak -- thought it was the tastiest meat on the cow.

Now I know when cooking with wine you're supposed to use the wine you prefer to drink, but I like to use those mini bottles of wine.  Bella Sera is the brand I prefer, and for the stew I used their Merlot.

Halfway through cooking the onions I stirred in the herbs and garlic  I like to saute herbs and garlic for a few minutes before I add liquids to the dish.  I think it helps bring out the oils in the herbs, and sweetens the garlic flavor.  

Recipes from the Root Cellar: 270 Fresh Ways to Enjoy Winter VegetablesWinter-Vegetable Beef Stew
Recipes from the Root Cellar
Yield:  Serves 6

2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds stew beef (chuck or round), cut into bite-size pieces
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups beef broth
2 cups diced tomatoes with juice, or one 15 oz can
1 cup red wine
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 pounds thin-skinned potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 pound parsnips, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 pound rutabagas or turnips, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes

     Combine the flour, 1 tsp of the thyme, and the oregano in a shallow bowl.  Season generously with salt and pepper.  Add the beef and toss to coat.
     Heat 3 tbsp of the oil over medium heat in a large saucepan or Dutch oven.  Lift the beef pieces out of the flour, shaking off the excess, and add a single layer of meat to the pan.  Do not crowd the pan.  Cook, turning as needed, until browned, about 5 minutes.  Remove the meat as it browns and set aside.  Continue browning the remaining meat.
     Add the remaining 1 tbsp oil and the onion to the pan and saute until the onion is soft, about 3 minutes.  Add the broth, tomatoes, wine, and garlic, and the remaining 2 tsp of thyme.  Stir to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a slow simmer.  Return the meat to the pan.  Partially cover the pan and simmer until the meat is tender, about 2 hours.
     Add the potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and rutabagas to the pan and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 1 hour.
     Taste and season with salt and pepper.  Serve hot.

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home BakingPeasant Loaf Bread
Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day
Yield:  4 One Pound Loaves

3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tbsp granulated yeast (2 packets)
1 1/2 tbsp Kosher salt
1/2 cup rye flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
5 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Cornmeal for the pizza peel.

     Mixing and storing the door:  Mix the yeast and salt with the water in a 5-quart bowl, or a lidded (not airtight) food container.
     Mix in the remaining dry ingredients without kneading, using a spoon, a 14 cup capacity food process (with dough attachment), or a heavy duty stand mixer (with dough hook).  If you're not using a machine, you may need to use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour.
     Cover (not airtight), and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours.
     The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold.  Refrigerate in a lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next 14 days.
     On baking day, dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit size) piece.  Dust with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter turn as you go.  Allow to rest and rise on a cornmeal-covered pizza peal for 40  minutes.
     Twenty minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 450, with a baking stone (if using) placed on the middle rack.  Place an empty broiler tray on any other shelf that won't interfere with the rising bread.
     Sprinkle the loaf liberally with flour and slash a cross, "scallop", or tic-tac-toe pattern into the top, using a serrated bread knife.  Leave the flour in place for baking; tap some of it off before slicing.
     Slide the loaf directly onto the hot stone.  Pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler tray, and quickly close the oven door.  Bake for about 35 minutes, or until the top crust is deeply browned and very firm.  Smaller or larger loaves will require adjustments in baking time.
     Allow to cool before slicing or eating.

Wednesday and Thursday Paul and I will be eating out.  My next blog will be for Fast Fresh Friday:  Crisp-Tender Broccoflower with Lemon-Dijon Pan Sauce and Toasted Parmigiano Bread Crumbs over Angel Hair Pasta. Whew!  That was a long title!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Meatless Monday: Mujdhara

Muja-what?  Come on...I know you were scratching your head on this one!

Mujdhara (according to Recipes from the Root Cellar) is a Syrian rice and lentil classic dish that has as many variations as it has spellings including:  mjudra, mujadra, and mejadra.  Among Jewish communities in the Middle East, the dish is sometimes nicknamed "Esau's Favorite", after the Biblical story in which Esau sold his birthright for a "mess of pottage".  It is that good.

Maybe in Biblical times it was "that good", but today if Esau told me he sold his birthright for some of this Mujdhara I would have asked him if he lost his mind.  The dish is just bland.  Bland, bland, bland!  I cooked the onions longer than 10 minutes so they would be soft and sweet, and they supplied the only taste to the "pottage".  There is a nice creamy, nutty, lingering on the tongue after you've eaten a bite but even that is not enough to save the dish.  If you think I'm being a bit harsh let me add that even Paul didn't like it!  He said it was really bland, and went to put some salt on it.  When I asked if he liked it better after adding salt he said, yes.  Then he looked a little sheepish, and confessed that he actually put soy sauce on it.

I just figured out what it reminds me of.  When I was a child and my stomach was upset my mom would make me very soft soupy rice (almost a porridge).  As an adult I can't stand the stuff, but as a child I thought it was wonderful.  Maybe that's the appeal of this dish?  Sort of a childhood dish you have a nice memory of?  I don't know.  I'm just happy I decided to halve the recipe since it's only Paul and I for dinner tonight.

Recipes from the Root Cellar
Yield:  Serves 4

1 cup dried green or brown lentils, rinsed
1 tsp salt, plus more as needed
1 1/2 cups brown rice
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 large onions, halved and thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
Freshly ground black pepper

     In a medium saucepan, cover the lentils with water by about 3 inches and add 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and boil gently, partially covered, until the lentils are tneder but still hold their shpae, about 25 minutes.  Drain and rinse the lentiles with hot water.
     Meanwhile, combine the rice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 3 1/4 cups water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the rice is tender and the water absorbed, about 30 minutes.
     While the rice and lentils cook, heat the oil over medium-low heat in a large saucepan.  Add the onions, and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until golden, about 10 minutes.
     Add the cooked lentils and rice to the onions.  Add the buttermilk to moisten and bind the mixture.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Variation:  For an interesting variation, substitute cooked wheat berries for the rice.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Cooks from Books...and the Internet!

The internet is a wonderful cooking tool.  If I'm stuck for something to make for dinner all I have to do is Google some ingredients, and ta-dah!  Recipes!  

One day I was trying to use up some sausage, and I found this recipe on Southern Food which I've modified over time, but you can find the original recipe here.  Unfortunately, I didn't have any tomatoes on-hand so I omitted them, which I would strongly advise against.  The tomatoes add a wonderful acid component to this very rich, cheesy dish.

I like to make the cheese sauce in my 5 quart enameled cast iron Dutch Oven.  If you don't have one then use a large saucepan, and combine the finished cheese sauce with the cooked macaroni, and pour into a greased 3 quart casserole dish for baking.

Also, I like to heat the milk before adding to the pot.  I put it in my microwave for about 5 minutes at half power -- just long enough to warm the milk (be careful not to boil the milk).  This really helps speed up the sauce making process.  

My friend, Jennevieve, told me about Di Martino Fusillata, an imported dried pasta she found at Metropolitan Market (an upscale grocery store in our area) which sells for almost $2.50 a pound.  Now usually I wait until pasta goes on sale for $1/package, but she said this was the best pasta -- how could I not try it?  Jennevieve was right.  This pasta is worth the extra money.  It has a firm texture that stands up to a pretty thick and chunky sauce.  I think it will be my go-to pasta for my baked pasta dishes.  

Macaroni and Cheese with Sausage
adapted from Southern Food
Yield:  Serves 6 to 8

1 pound macaroni (I like to use Cavatappi)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 Hillshire Farms Beef Polska Kielbasa, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups milk (I use 2%)
2 cups (8 oz) medium cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup (4 oz) sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
salt to taste
8 ounces grape tomatoes, halved or quartered lengthwise
1/2 cup fine soft bread crumbs
1 tbsp melted butter

Cook macaroni in boiling salted water following package directions.  Preheat the oven to 350. 

Meanwhile, in an enameled cast iron Dutch Oven heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the kielbasa and onions, and cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the bell peppers, garlic, black pepper, red pepper flakes, and cook until peppers are soft, about 5 minutes. 

Stir in the flour until blended.  Gradually stir in the milk, and continue to cooking stirring constantly until thickened.  Remove from heat, and stir in the cheese and salt to taste.  Fold in the drained macaroni and tomatoes until blended.  Combine the bread crumbs with melted butter and sprinkle over the casserole.  Bake for 25 minutes.  Increase heat to 400, and bake for 5 to 10 minutes longer until crumb topping is lightly browned.  

Friday, March 11, 2011

Fast Fresh Friday: Mini-Potato Gratin

Happy Friday, and welcome to my very first Fast Fresh Friday!  I bought Fast, Fresh & Green a few months ago (right in the middle of my 50 in 50 challenge), and have been looking forward to preparing everything in the book!  Since I'm trying to cook more in season I decided to make the Mini-Potato Gratin.

What is it about food, or anything for that matter, that's presented in miniature?  Petit Fours, cupcakes, mini-bread loaves, and those single serving ramekins.  I just love them, but the real benefit for me is portion control.  Yes, I do find it easier to stop after eating one cute little gratin than if I had a big casserole in front of me that I could just keeping nibbling on.

I loved this dish!  Creamy, cheesy, and the bread topping adding a nice crunchy texture.  I did substitute some of the ingredients.  Try as I might, I could not find any Yukon Gold potatoes so I used Russet which worked fine, but I think I should have used red potatoes instead.  I used vegetable broth instead of the chicken (I'm not a fan of commercial chicken stock), and I forgot to buy fresh thyme so I used a teeny bit of fresh rosemary.  The rosemary was a little strong, but didn't overpower the dish.  Perhaps I should have used dried thyme.

I served the gratin with a side of sauteed spinach with bacon but maybe next time I'll serve the gratin with a mixed green salad.  It was a bit too rich serving the gratin and the spinach together -- I should have added a squeeze of lemon or balsamic vinegar to the spinach to help cut through all the oils in this meal.

I really appreciate the instructions given in the cookbook.  They are thorough, but not confusing, and really help you prepare a perfect dish.

Mini-Potato Gratin
Fast, Fresh & Green
Yield:  Serves 1 or 2

1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil, and more for rubbing the dish
1 Yukon gold potato (8 oz), peeled
Scant 1/2 tsp kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated Gruyere (use the large holes on a box grater)
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp low sodium chicken broth

     Preheat the oven to 350.  Rub a 2 cup shallow gratin dish with a little olive oil.  In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs with the 1 tsp olive oil and set aside.
     Cut the potato in half lengthwise and turn both halves cut side down on a cutting board.  With a sharp knife, slice the halves across as thinly as you can so that you have thin half-moon pieces.  Put the potatoes in a mixing bowl.  Add the salt, several grinds of fresh pepper, the Gruyere, thyme leaves, heavy cream, and broth.  Mix well.  Using your hands, lift the potatoes out of the bowl and transfer them to the gratin dish, arranging them as snugly as possible.  Pour and scrape the liquids and any remaining herbs into the gratin dish and distribute them evenly.  Press down on the potatoes and adjust them again so that the liquid surrounds them as much as possible.  It won't cover the potatoes completely.  Cover the top evenly with the bread crumb mixture.
     Bake until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork (check the middle of the dish as well as the sides), the bread crumbs are brown, and the juices around the edges of the gratin are quite browned, 50 to 55 minutes.  Let cool for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

Sauteed Spinach
from Ann's Brain
Yield:  2 servings

10 ounce bag of baby spinach, washed and drained.
2 slices thick cut bacon, chopped into 1 inch pieces
2 smashed cloves of garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
Squeeze of lemon juice, or splash of balsamic (or red wine) vinegar to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Brown bacon bits in a large skillet over medium heat.  Remove bacon onto a paper towel to drain, and pour off most of the bacon fat (leave about 1-2 tsp).  Add the olive oil, and when add the garlic to saute for a few minutes, being careful to brown and not burn the garlic.  Add the baby spinach (with whatever water is clinging to the leaves) and saute until spinach is wilted.  Pour spinach into serving dish and toss with lemon juice or vinegar, add bacon bits, and serve.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ziti with Roasted Onions

I'm very impressed with The Roasted Vegetable.  Two nights, two recipes, two keepers!  Unfortunately I used all of my onions so tomorrow I'll have to go shopping!

This was not a saucy pasta dish.  The pasta was nicely coated from the oil and butter used to roast the onions.  I had saved some of the pasta water in case the dish became too dry, but I didn't have to use any of it.  The cheese added a nice salty, creamy element, and the roasted onions were so tender and sweet -- yummy.  I would make only one change to this recipe:  the fresh rosemary is a little overpowering if it's not cooked (in my opinion) so I think I'll add the rosemary with the white wine and let it cook for a bit.

For the white wine I used Pinot Grigio.  I'm not a white wine drinker so I like to buy those little bottles of wine that come four to a package.  I like the Pinot Grigio from Bella Sera (Cavit Collection) that's imported from Italy.

This morning I found the container that held the leftovers from last night's dinner (my son is a late night snacker).  I have a feeling that tomorrow I'll find the container holding the leftovers from tonight's dinner empty too.

Ziti with Roasted Onions
The Roasted Vegetable
Yield:  Serves 4 to 6

6 cups thinly sliced onions (1 1/2 pounds)
2 tbsp butter, melted
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ziti, penne, or other tubular pasta
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 425.  Lightly oil a large shallow roasting or half sheet pan.

In a large bowl, combine the onions, butter, and oil.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Toss to mix well. Arrange in a shallow layer in the pan.

Roast for about 30 minutes, until the onions are golden and meltingly tender, stirring occasionally for even cooking.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water until al dente.  Drain well.

When the onions are tender, stir in the wine and return to the oven for another 5 minutes, until the wine is mostly evaporated.

Transfer the pasta to a large serving bowl.  Add the onions, parsley, rosemary, and cheese and toss well. Taste and adjust the seasonings, being especially generous with the pepper.  Serve hot.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Baked Orzo with Roasted Fennel and Red Peppers

What is not to love about this dish?  Pasta, roasted vegetables, cheese, and olives -- sounds like a delicious combination to me!  Baked Orzo with Roasted Fennel and Red Peppers from The Roasted Vegetable is a really easy dinner to prepare.  It took a little over 30 minutes to prep the veggies, roast them, and cook the pasta, and then another 30 minutes in the oven to finish the dish.

I love orzo, but I have to confess that I find it difficult to cook.  It's so easy to overcook (well at least for me it is).  Luckily for me I timed it just right tonight!  When I tossed all the ingredients together the smell was just amazing!  I was tempted to eat it right then, but I'm glad I waited.  

This dish was delicious and rich.  The feta was salty and creamy, and the olives and capers added a nice bite to the pasta.  I've never had roasted fennel, and it was so tasty -- sweet with just a touch of licorice flavor!  I can't wait to make this dish again, but as good as it was I can't help but think of ways to modify it.  Maybe add roasted artichokes?  Or chicken?  How about I skip the baking part, add some lemon juice, and serve as a pasta salad -- yum!

Baked Orzo with Roasted Fennel and Red Peppers
The Roasted Vegetable
Yield:  4 to 6 servings

1 medium size fennel bulb, cut into matchsticks, stalks discarded, and feather leaves chopped
1 medium size red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound orzo
2 medium size ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup chopped brine-cured black olives, such as Kalamata
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 tbsp capers, drained

Preheat the oven to 425

     Combine the fennel bulb, bell pepper, shallot, and garlic in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.  Add 2 tbsp of the oil and toss to coat.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Arrange in a shallow layer.
     Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until the vegetables are lightly browned and tender, stirring once or twice for even cooking.  Remove from the oven and reduce the temperature to 350.
     Meanwhile, cook the orzo in boiling salted water until al dente.  Drain well.
     Add the orzo and remaining 1 tbsp oil to the baking dish and toss to coat.  Add the tomatoes, cheese, olives, parsley, capers, and 1 tbsp of the chopped fennel leaves.  Toss together.  Taste and adjust the seasonings.  Cover tightly with aluminum foil.
     Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until cheese is melted.  Serve hot.

Now I know I said I was only going to cook three to four days out of the week from cookbooks, but I couldn't help but notice the recipe on the facing page:  Ziti with Roasted Onions.  Okay, I have to try that, so tomorrow we're having pasta again!

Tomorrow Night:  Ziti with Roasted Onions

My Next Challenge? Meatless Mondays, Seasonal cooking, and Fast Fresh Fridays!

I feel rested after my few days off from cooking and blogging, and ready for my next adventure.  The most important thing I learned from the 50 in 50 challenge?  Cooking new recipes every day is pretty taxing (and it gets kind of boring).  So this time around I will try new recipes three (maybe four) times a week, and then I'll be able to cook whatever I want the other days.

I'm not putting a time limit on myself this time, and actually I'll just continue to cook under these three sections:  Meatless Mondays, Seasonal Cooking, and Fast Fresh Fridays.  As time goes on I'll add new cookbooks, and maybe even add a section or two.  But for now I'll be using these books:

The Roasted Vegetable.  How to roast Everything from Artichokes to Zucchini for Big, Bold Flavors in Pasta, Pizza, Risotto, Side Dishes, Couscous, Salsa, Dips, Sandwiches, and Salads.  Andrea Chessman

Serving Up the Harvest.  175 Simple Recipes Celebrating the Goodness of Fresh Vegetables.  Andrea Chessman

Recipes from the Root Cellar.  270 Fresh Ways to Enjoy Winter Vegetables.  Andrea Chessman

Fast, Fresh & Green.  More than 90 Delicious Recipes for Veggie Lovers.  Susie Middleton.  (She also has a blog that I really enjoy.) 

I can't believe I bought three cookbooks at the same time from the same author! (Believe it or not I didn't realize it until just now when I was typing the titles and authors!)  Amazingly enough I didn't notice many duplicate recipes as I looked through the book for recipes to try.  

I'll start it off tonight with a selection from The Roasted Vegetable:  Baked Orzo with Roasted Fennel and Red Pepper!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Day 50: Project Wrap Up

Note: I meant to post this yesterday (on Day 50) but spent most of the day in bed trying to get rid of a vicious headache.

I did it!  Believe me, there times when I thought this project would never end but it was a lot of fun.  I thought I'd end by giving a short report on what I thought of the recipe books I used.  They are listed 1 to 5, favorite to least.

1.  The Greens Cook Book:  I loved this cookbook.  It has it all, salads, soups, pastas, main dishes, side dishes, breads, and desserts.  Our favorites were the Winter Vegetable Stew, and the recipe for pasta.  The instructions are stellar -- precise and easy to follow.  At the beginning of each chapter is a page of two of information about the type of food to be featured (i.e. salads, tarts, pasta, side dishes, etc.), and additional information, specific to the dish, at the beginning of each recipe.  There is also some great information on variations, and even what wine to serve with the meal.

2.  A Great American Cook:  There aren't a lot of recipes in this book, and honestly some of them I'll never even attempt to make, but the pictures were beautiful, and the beginning of each chapter was a little "chat" from Jonathan Waxman that gave some insight into his style of cooking.  I loved the recipes I made from this book (with the exception of the Late-Autumn Vegetable Casserole).  Kevin has already requested I make the pork tenderloin for his birthday dinner, and the bacon pizza is almost a Friday night staple.  Waxman's style of cooking is what I like to eat, delicious, not too fancy or fussy -- I'll call it rustic-chic.
3.  Healthy Cooking for Two (or just you):  The recipes in here were like a walk through my childhood.  I particularly liked the meatloaf recipe, and the tamale pie.  This would be a great cookbook to give to a beginner cook.

4.  The Complete Vegan Cookbook:  I like vegan cookbooks.  I figure since all they can eat are vegetables there should be some interesting and tasty recipes to try, right?  Well, I'm not too sure about this book, of course to be fair I only tried four recipes.  I really liked the orzo salad, and the cranberry minestrone (after I added some ingredients).  The salad and side dish chapters look pretty interesting.  I'll probably feature them this summer.

5.  The Best Soups In the World:  In all honesty I should not have bought this book.  I'm not a huge fan of soups, and I was hoping this book would help me expand my recipe collection.  I could only find three recipes that I wanted to try, and really it's not the book's fault.  Let's see...I don't like cream based soups, I don't care for pureed soups, clear soups are boring, cold soups are just weird, I'm not a fan of cheese soups, I'm not crazy about chowders -- see what I mean?  Really the only soups I like are chicken noodle, beef vegetable, lentil, and minestrone.  The poor book didn't stand a chance.  I won't be holding onto this cookbook so it's available to anyone interested in exploring the world of soup.

Okay, so I'm going to take some time off from blogging (about a week).  I have some new cookbooks to looks through and select new recipes to try.  I think for this next segment I might try a new recipe a couple times during the week instead of every day.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Day 49: Pork Tenderloin with Portobello Mushroom Sauce

I've counted it three times, and I come up with the same number every time -- today is Day 49, but tonight's dinner is the 50th recipe!  Woo-hoo!  I finished one day early!

I picked a wonderful recipe for my last meal (so to speak):  Pork Tenderloin with Portobello Mushroom Sauce from A Great American Cook.  I had originally planned on making Warm Cabbage Salad but I'm glad I didn't -- this recipe made more than enough food for us to eat. There were a lot of steps to this dish that kept me quite busy for a couple hours.

I don't know where this guy shops, but the smallest package of pork tenderloin had two pieces of meat, and weighed 4 pounds total.  I was afraid the larger size of the meat might make a difference in the cooking time, but sure enough after 20 minutes I put in the thermometer, and it read 145!  I purchased Crimini mushrooms instead of the Portobello, which were looking a bit, oh, let's say they looked tired.

The pork was so tender you could cut it with your fork.  The vegetables were tasty too, but my favorite part was the sauce.  I put several spoonfuls on my plate.

No question about it -- this recipe is at the top of my favorites list, but I won't be making it too often.  There's 10 tablespoons of butter in this recipe!

Pork Tenderloin with Portobello Mushroom Sauce
A Great American Cook
Yield:  Serves 4

2 pounds pork tenderloin (2-3 tenderloins)
1 small onion
1 garlic clove
A handful of parsley stems
1 cup Merlot
4 new potatoes or other small potatoes
2 medium parsnips
2 medium turnips
1 rutabaga
2 fennel bulbs
1/2 pound portobello mushrooms
3 shallots
6 tbsp olive oil
10 tbsp (1 stick plus 2 tbsp) unsalted butter
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chicken broth or veal broth

     Remove any silverskin (tough sinew) from the pork.  Slice the onion and put it in a large bowl.  Smash the garlic.  Add the garlic, parsley stems, and Merlot to the bowl and stir well.  Add the pork, turning it in the marinade.  Cover and marinate, refrigerated, for 1 to 2 hours, turning the pork occasionally.
     Heat the oven to 450.
     Peel the potatoes, parsnips, turnips, and rutabaga and cut them into bite-sized pieces.  Put them in a bowl of cold water.  Trim the fennel, cut lengthwise in half, and remove the cores.
     Stem the mushrooms and place them gill side up on a baking sheet.  Mince the shallots and mix with 2 tbsp of the olive oil.  Spoon the shallot mixture onto the mushroom caps.
     Roast the mushrooms for 5 to 8 minutes, or until hot, so they absorb the flavors of the shallots.  Remove the mushrooms, dice them, and transfer to a medium saucepan.  (Leave the oven on.)
     Melt 6 tbsp of the butter in a small saucepan.  Drain the root vegetables and put them and the fennel in a large bowl.  Toss with the melted butter, 2 tbsp of the olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.  Transfer to a large baking pan, add 1/2 cup water, and roast for 40 minutes, turning the vegetables occasionally.
     Meanwhile, remove the pork from the marinade and strain the marinade into the saucepan with the mushrooms.  Add the broth, bring to a simmer on low heat, and simmer for 20 minutes, until slightly thickened.  Remove from the heat.
     Pat the pork dry with paper towels.  Salt and pepper it, brush it with the remaining 2 tbsp oil, and place on a small rimmed baking sheet.  When the vegetables have roasted for 10 minutes, place the pork in the oven and roast for 20 minutes, turning once, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 145.  Transfer the pork to a carving board and let rest for 10 minutes.
     When the pork rests, bring the mushroom mixture back to a simmer.  Stir in the remaining 4 tbsp butter and season with salt and pepper to taste.
     Carve the pork into 1/4 inch thick slices.  Place the pork on a platter, cover with the roasted vegetables, and spoon over the portobello sauce.  Serve.