Tag Archive: bean


Duck Fried Rice (!?)

Duck fried rice. Yes, I made it up. I’m sure it exists but still – tada! It sounds more glamorous than it actually ischopsticks, but duck legs are relatively inexpensive here, especially when bought frozen (and somehow always on sale…) This was a sudden idea I had, finding myself with some leftover “Japanese dipping sauce” from a steak recipe that I really had to use for something other than marinating.

This recipe is 100% mine (I am original every once in a while πŸ˜‰ ) and it used different ingredients from our kitchen, but the emphasis is on the easy. Fried rice cooks up quickly in a wok or skillet and thank god for parboiled rice. Sometimes, it’s the little things that make dinner come together that much faster. I had the duck legs already cooked but I included steps for roasting duck legs in the recipe below just to make things even easier (and for next time!)Roast-Duck

My secret ingredient is the duck, er, the eggs, okay maybe both. Sometimes I think the best part of fried rice is the eggs because it’s just like scrambled eggs, in rice. It’s ingenious. Duck legs definitely elevate the dish because duck is flavorful enough that you don’t need a lot and it goes great with the salty soy, savory flavors already in fried rice. I’ll admit, if I could go back and do it again (which I will…) I would fry my rice a little bit more, “brown” it better, but no regrets as far as the results.

Have a wok in your kitchen? Use it! This dish is the perfect excuse and fried rice can be made with any number of veggies and different meats (or minus the meat altogether). There’s something special about chicken fried rice, and now? Duck fried rice! Could it get any better?!

Duck Fried Rice with Shitake Mushrooms and Garlicky Onions

Ingredientscooking-asian-wok

2 cups rice (parboiled, if possible)

4 onions, coarsely chopped

6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

2 carrots, thinly sliced

1 bag frozen vegetables of your choice (like bean threads, peas, or a wok mix)

1/2 cup dried shitake mushroomsFried-Rice

2 duck legs, trimmed

4 eggs

1/2 cup milk

3 Tbs. soy sauce

1/3 cup beer (or wine)

1 Tbs. fish sauce

1 Tbs. vinegar

salt & cracked pepper

vegetable or roasted sesame oil

(1) Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius (about 370 degrees Fahrenheit). Wash the duck legs and pat dry, season with salt & cracked pepper. Line an oven dish with foil and arrange the duck legs snugly in it. (2) When the oven is preheated, put duck legs on the middle rack and roast for 20 minutes. Turn the oven down to 170 Celsius (about 340 Fahrenheit) for 30 minutes. Carefully drain off any fat that collects in the bottom of the oven pan. Turn the oven up to 200 Celsius (390 Fahrenheit) for a final 10 minutes to crisp the skin. (3) Remove the duck from the oven and transfer to a plate, let them cool, covered in foil 10 – 15 minutes. Separate cooked duck meat from the bones, keeping the skin, and coarsely chop pieces on a cutting board, taking care to remove any bones or fibers. Set aside (duck can be cooked up to 3 days ahead and stored until ready). (4) Put dried shitake mushrooms in a bowl and add boiling water, cover, and let soak until soft 20 -25 minutes. Remove stems and cut shitakes into thin slices. (5) Cook the rice according to package instructions and set aside too, covered so it won’t dry out. Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbs. of oil in a large wok (or skillet) over medium-high heat. When hot, add the carrots, onions, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and translucent, 10-12 minutes. (6) In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, shitake mushrooms, and milk with some cracked pepper, set aside. (7) Add frozen veggies to the wok and, stirring often, cook another 5 – 7 minutes. (8) Next add the rice, duck meat, fish sauce, beer, and vinegar. Stir to combine and cook until liquid has cooked off, 5 minutes max. (9) Using a wooden spoon or spatula, push the veggie mixture to the side of the wok and pour the egg mixture on the bottom. Let it cook until browned and slightly sticking, another 4 – 5 minutes. Break up the eggs into chunks before stirring in with the rest of the veggies. (10) Remove the wok from the heat and stir in soy sauce, seasoning with salt & pepper. Serve immediately (leftovers can be reheated at 150 degrees Celsius for 7 minutes in the oven πŸ™‚ ).

Serves 4

My question: What is your favducorite ingredient to find in Asian dishes?

Mine is shitakes, no soy sauce, no bean sprouts, no…

Well, I kind of wish the fried rice had lasted longer! But I always end up saying that, don’t I? All the more excuse to try again. There’s something supremely wonderful about the salty, spicy flavors in Asian food. Anyways, the next challenge? How to make more comfort food (like fried rice) in less time because shopping and doing the dishes is about all I have the energy for these days πŸ˜‰

3.20.2014

Rise of the Nachos

chips_paintingI can’t believe it’s 2014 – already! I have no excuse for not having a recent post, other than my Master’s thesis being due very soon. Just imagine all the celebratory food cooking and related cacophony of posts I could do after THAT πŸ˜€ For now, I wanted to post this simple & sweet blurb on nachos. Ahh, cheese. Where would food be without you? One of my favorite foods is cheese. One of my other favorites? Salsa. I am also a carnivore by nature and can’t help but like eating meat from time to time too. Where do these three meet? Cue in – nachos. This undervalued dish isn’t necessarily unhealthy, just watch the cheese! Nachos are on the rise and if you’ve a bad or nonplussed experience of the dish before, it’s time to make new memories, I mean nachos. We are lucky to be in the era of limitless culinary diversity and the sheer amount of different things you can put on cheesy nachos is kind of mind-boggling.

From what I remember of my restaurant experience with nachos, it’s a little slimy, a little soggy, and kind of anticlimactic. But I do also remember from my bar-tending days that nachos was the one dish that people would NEVER finish. Why? Because there’s too much if it! Granted, there’s nothing better when you’re really hungry than a steaming pile of chips & cheese, but it’s important to transcend the baseline comfort elements in this recipe to reach something better. The 3 recipes or versions I have here I read in last year’s Cooking Light. So easy! So simple! So tasty! I should write ads for this magazine πŸ˜‰

When it comes to nachos, here’s 3 tips to remember: 1. It’s quality, not quantity. Gourmet ingredients cheese_nachosgive you some deluxe nachos and no matter what, you will be full by the time you’re done (and there will be some left). Spread a baking sheet onto the oven pan and one layer of chips, no need to make mountains – I know tortilla chips are cheap but please refrain, for the sake of your stomach 2. Don’t skimp on the cheese. Broiled chips aren’t very tasty by themselves, but add the right amount of cheese and viola, irresistible goodness. The best part? Broiling this dish takes 1-2 minutes MAX. You put it in and you’re eating moments later, it’s like magic πŸ™‚ 3. Be creative. Try making what you’d consider you’re “dream nachos.” Then m???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????ake a Greek version, a Caribbean version, and/or good ol’ Tex-Mex. Mix it up and have all-veggie nachos or use some crazy ingredients like toasted sesame seeds or capers.. No need to restrain yourself, this dish is messy and sloppy and will turn out del-ish once covered in warm, melted cheese. Have fun, because you have TIME for that when making dinner only takes 15 minutes!

My star ingredient? Greek yogurt. Greek what?! You don’t need sour cream or creme fraiche, they’re merely nice condiments that should be used in moderation. But, you get some low-fat Greek yogurt and put a big dollop in the center of your nachos? It’s practically the same thing, only better (for your body, I mean). I love sour cream as much as the next American πŸ˜‰ but hey, there are alternatives to watch the calorie count and Greek yogurt is just as yummy. Below are 3 versions of simple nacho recipes you can make, enjoy and WARNING: you will need napkins πŸ˜€

Nachos – 3 Ways

(1) Pork & Bean Nachos with Tomatoes, Onions, and Fresh Herbs

Ingredients

1 bag of tortilla chips, unsalted

1 bag (or 2 cups) of shredded cheddar cheese

1 yellow onion, thinly slicednacho-combos

3 tomatoes, chopped

1 can black or red kidney beans, drained & rinsed

1 pork tenderloin, trimmed

1 bunch fresh cilantro, minced

1 bunch fresh basil (or mint)

1/2 bunch fresh parsley, minced

4-5 pickled or preserved jalapenos, for serving

1/2 cup low fat Greek yogurt, for serving

baking paper

vegetable oil

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Season the pork tenderloin generously with salt and pepper. Heat 1 Tbs. oil over medium-high heat in a skillet. When hot, brown the tenderloin on all sides, turning every 4 minutes or so and cook until tenderloin is firm, about 15 minutes total. Remove from heat, cover with foil, and let sit 10 minutes. When cool, slice the cooked pork into chunks and set aside. (2) Spread a piece of baking paper across the bottom of a large oven pan. Preheat your broiler. Spread tortilla chips in an even (or not so even layer) across the baking sheet and top with meat and cheese. (3) When the broiler is preheated, put the oven pan in and broil just until cheese is melted, 1 – 2 minutes. Remove from the oven and add beans, tomatoes, and onion. Top with minced herbs, pickled jalapenos, and a dollop of Greek yogurt. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

(2) Spicy Shrimp Nachos with Salsa, fresh Jalapenos, and Avocado

Ingredients

1 bag of tortilla chips, unsaltedfresh-salsa

1 bag (or 2 cups) of shredded mozzarella cheese

1 bag (around 1/2 kg) frozen small shrimp, peeled & de-veined

1 jalapeno, seeded & sliced

3 Tbs. coconut flakes

4 Tbs. seafood seasoning or market spice

2 ripe avocados, slicednachos_02

1 bunch fresh Cilantro, minced

1 cup salsa of your choice or pico de gallo, for serving

1/2 cup low fat Greek yogurt, for serving

vegetable oil

baking paper

(1) Defrost shrimp, drain, and rinse thoroughly. Place in a bowl with seafood seasoning and 1 Tbs. oil and stir until well-coated. Heat another Tablespoon of oil in a saute pan over medium heat. When oil is shimmering, add the shrimp and cook, 1 -2 minutes, or until shrimp is pink and can be easily cut in half with a fork. Put cooked shrimp in a bowl and set aside. (2) Spread a piece of baking paper across the bottom of a large oven pan. Preheat your broiler. Spread tortilla chips and coconut flakes in a layer across the baking sheet and top with shrimp and cheese. (3) When the broiler is preheated, put the oven pan in and broil just until cheese is melted, 1 – 2 minutes. Remove from the oven and add spoonfuls of salsa, slices of avocado, and jalapenos. Top with minced cilantro and a big dollop of Greek yogurt. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

(3) BBQ Chicken Nachos with Green Onions, Jack Cheese, and Honey-Mustard Coleslaw

Ingredients

1 bag of tortilla chips, unsaltedbbq-chix

1 bag (or 2 cups) of shredded Jack cheese

2 cups of cooked barbecued chicken, shredded or cubed

1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced

1/2 cup low fat Greek yogurt, for servingColeslaw

(for slawπŸ™‚

2 Tbs. honey

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

2 Tbs. mustard

1 tsp. paprika

sea salt & cracked pepper

1/2 head of red cabbage, thinly sliced

1 head of fennel, thinly sliced

2 carrots, peeled & grated

3 Tbs. fresh dill fronds

baking paper

(1) To make slaw, put honey, paprika, 1/4 cup Greek yogurt, and mustard in a jar or container with a tight-fitting lid. Seal the container and shake until ingredients have combined. Season dressing to taste with salt & pepper and chill at least 20 minutes for flavors to meld. Mix thinly sliced cabbage, fennel, and carrots in a large bowl and add dressing. Stir until combined and chill slaw until ready. (2) Spread a piece of baking paper across the bottom of a large oven pan. Preheat your broiler. Spread tortilla chips in a layer across the baking sheet and topnachos_painting with barbecued chicken pieces and Jack cheese. (3) When the broiler is preheated, put the oven pan in and broil just until cheese is melted, 1 – 2 minutes. Remove from oven and add green onions and spoonfuls of coleslaw. Top with a big dollop of Greek yogurt and serve immediately.

Serves 4

My question: what are the craziest (as in crazy delicious) things you can think of to put on nachos?

Come on, I’d love to hear what that could be – I want to make MORE of this cheesy deliciousness and I need some fresh ideas…

1.31.2014

Mussels 4 Ways

musselsAhh, mussels. It’s hard to describe precisely why I like these crusty, salty bivalves. Once in a while I get a little piece of shell as I’m eating, and I think to myself: why do I do this? Simply speaking: mussels are delicious. Labor-intensive, yes. Delicate and high maintenance, a little. Dirty and fishy, often enough. So what’s the big deal? Again, mussels are delicious – and good for you to boot. Plus, making mussels (avec le bouillon) is an art form that I have a lot of respect for – the art of broth-making.

There’s something salivating about a big pot of mussels on the table, filled with dark shells submerged in a broth that smells something of butter and wine. Furthermore, mussels are one of those magical foods that become heavenly when cooked with/in alcohol. The catch? You have to take care when making them, or at least pay some attention. I used to buy the poor creatures alive, keep them padded with damp paper towels in my fridge for 24 hours while I got my act together to go ahead and steam them for dinner. A quarter of the little guys would die as I was trying to de-beard them between the sink and the hot stove. I’ll agree, that’s way to much work… My solution? The seafood section at the grocery store is huge, have you checked it out? There’s all sorts of stuff there, including — mussels, in the shell, beautiful and ready to go. I buy a huge, flash-frozen batch for around $9.00 and keep it in the freezer until I’m ready. The best part? No defrosting, you get to concentrate on the broth and as soon as that’s ready you crank up the heat, add frozen mussels, and five minutes later (less, really) you’re ready to dig in.

strained-mussels-judy-mercer

Mussels seem like a poor man’s food but when you’re eating the poached and pinkened sea creatures between pieces of a baguette and some roasted garlic, it’s close to heaven πŸ˜‰ My advice is to make mussels in any form — and experiment a little with your favorite seafood spices and sauces. Get the mussels frozen and save them in your freezer for a rainy day. I’ve been playing around with mussel recipes and these particular 4 I made up from looking over the various versions in existence (and my own taste and favorite ingredients). Belonions1ow are what I think are the best ways to serve these sweet & salty little things. As always, when making a big pot of mussels, remember to serve them in bowls with big spoons; and other than the mussels + steaming broth, all you really need is a lot of bread and, oh yeah, napkins.

My star ingredient? The onion family. In every one of these mussel recipes, one of the onion family is used; and thank god it’s a big family. Cooking the onions/garlic is how this dish begins and the finished product would not taste the same without this aromatic group of ingredients. The super hero ingredient? Vegetable bullion allows you to make broth with some hot water in seconds, and it can sit in your spice drawer until needed for months. Just be aware it packs a salty taste. But broth is what makes mussels such a sensational dish, so be sure NOT to water down the both any more than is needed, or maybe just water it down with wine instead πŸ˜€

Mussels – 4 Ways (!)

(1) American – Beer Mussels with Bacon, Red Beans, Roasted Garlic, & Fresh Thyme

2 lbs. frozen musselsbeer_mussels

Broth: 1 bottle (light) beer, 5 pieces of bacon, 5 shallots (sliced), 3 Tbs. butter, 3 cups vegetable broth, 1 can kidney beans (drained & rinsed),

Season with: fresh Thyme (minced)

Serve with: whole wheat baguette (sliced), 4 heads of garlic (roasted), & aged Parmesan (shredded)

(1) To roast garlic: preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius (375 Fahrenheit). Cut the top off 4 heads of garlic with a serrated knife. Season lightly with oil, salt, & pepper and wrap OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAtightly in foil. Bake for 60-65 minutes until cloves are golden and sweet. Let cool and remove from foil before serving. (2) Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add shallots and cook about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. (3) Add bacon sliced and cook until fat had rendered and the pieces have browned slightly, 4-5 minutes more. Remove bacon from pot and chop (or chop in the pot with a pair of scissors). (4) Return bacon to the pot. Add broth, beans, and a Tablespoon of fresh Thyme. Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat; simmer, covered until reduced by 1/3, 10-15 minutes. (5) Return heat to high and add frozen mussels and beer. Cook covered, stirring occasionally until mussels are pink and fragrant, 5 -6 minutes. (6) Season the broth to taste with salt, pepper, and fresh Thyme. Serve immediately in bowls accompanied by bread, roasted garlic, & cheese.

Serves 4

(2) Asian – Spicy Mussels with Saki, Thai Chilies, Mushrooms, & Sesame Seeds

2 lbs. frozen musselsmussels_asian

Broth: 1 cup saki, 1 bunch green onions (sliced), 3 Tbs. butter, 2 cups mushrooms (sliced), 1 small can bamboo shoots (drained & rinsed), 1 small can water chestnuts (drained, rinsed, & sliced), 3 cups vegetable broth, 2 Thai chilies (sliced), 1 piece fresh ginger (peeled & sliced), 1/2 Tbs. soy sauce.

Season with: sesame seeds (toasted) & chili flakes

Serve with: garlic bread or steamed rice

(1) Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add green onions and cook about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. (2) Add mushrooms and 1/2 Tbs. sesame seeds, stirring occasionally until slightly browned.Β  (3) Add ginger, bamboo shoots, chili-flakesand Thai chilies, stirring often until fragrant, another 5-6 minutes. (4) Add the broth, soy sauce, and water chestnuts. Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat; simmer, covered until reduced by 1/3, 10-15 minutes. (5) Return heat to high and add frozen mussels and saki. Cook covered, stirring occasionally until mussels are pink and fragrant, 5 -6 minutes. (6) Season the broth to taste with salt, chili flakes, and sesame seeds. Serve immediately in bowls accompanied by rice and/or bread.

Serves 4

(3) French – Provencal Mussels with White Wine, White Beans, Dill, & Fresh Tomatoes

2 lbs. frozen musselsMUSSELS-PROVENCAL

Broth: 1 cup white wine, 2 red onions (sliced), 3 Tbs. butter, 2 tomatoes (chopped), 1 can white beans (drained & rinsed), 1 celery stalk (sliced), 3 cups vegetable broth, 1 can artichoke hearts (drained, rinsed & chopped), 1 Tbs. dried Dill, 2 garlic cloves (sliced).

Season with: sea salt, cracked pepper, & lemon juice

Serve with: buttered bread & dollops of Greek yogurtwhite_beans

(1) Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add red onions, celery, and garlic. Cook about 3-4 minutes until softened, stirring occasionally. (2)Β  Add tomato, dried dill, and artichoke hearts, stirring often until fragrant, another 5 minutes. (4) Add the broth, and white beans. Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat; simmer, covered until reduced by 1/3, 10-15 minutes. (5) Return heat to high and add frozen mussels and white wine. Cook covered, stirring occasionally until mussels are pink and fragrant, 5 -6 minutes. (6) Season the broth to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Serve immediately accompanied with buttered bread & dollops of Greek yogurt πŸ™‚

Serves 4

(4) Indian – Curry Mussels with Chickpeas, Red Wine, Leeks, & Cashews

2 lbs. frozen musselsCurry-Mussels

Broth: 1 cup red wine (sub Indian beer), 1 bunch leeks (washed & sliced), 3 Tbs. butter, 2 celery stalks (chopped), 2 carrots (peeled & chopped), 3 Tbs. curry powder (any), 1 can chickpeas (drained & rinsed), 3 cups vegetable broth, 1/2 cup cashews (salted), 1/2 cup milk (or cream), 3 garlic cloves (sliced).

Season with: roasted paprika & fresh cilantro (minced)

Serve with: garlic naan & seared veggies

(1) Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add leeks, celery, carrot, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand garlic. Cook about 10-12 minutes until softened, stirring occasionally. (2)Β  Add cashews, curry powder, and chickpeas, stirring often until fragrant, another 5 minutes. (4) Add the broth and bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat; simmer, covered until reduced by 1/3, 10-15 minutes. (5) Return heat to high and add frozen mussels and red wine. Cook covered, stirring occasionally until mussels are pink and fragrant, 5 -6 minutes. (6) Season the broth to taste with milk (adding more if needed), salt, roasted paprika, and fresh cilantro. Serve immediately accompanied with buttered naan or seared veggies of your choice.

Serves 4

painting_musselMy “trick,” if you will, is that I only add the wine/saki/beer to the pot of broth when I throw the mussels in, that way the little critters basically poach in alcohol, versus it just burning off in all the boiling… Steaming hot and wreaking of herbs and butter, it’s hard not to get a little messy devouring dishes like these πŸ˜›

My question: what is your all-time favorite seafood dish to eat ? – something you wouldn’t make for yourself, but might treat yourself to? Mine would still have to be lobster tail, mmm… πŸ™‚

9.4.13

Killer Vodka Sauce }:)

Ahh, where has all my time gone? Once it was Fall and then that was gone, then it was the holidays and that was over before I knew it…now we’re in 2013 and I find myself asking, where has all the time gone?! It has been FAR too long since my last poster_pastapost but I can’t recall when I’ve been busier. For any fellow culinarians who actually reads this blog from time to time, I apologize for my absence, but I have been cooking in the meantime!

I’ve (somehow) managed to finish off this semester on the 10th of January and now I am preparing for a big move with my little family to Copenhagen! Yes, things are looking up, moving forward, and at a pace that is almost too fast for me to keep up but hey, I’ll keep trying πŸ™‚

In anticipation of moving to a new city, I have taken up the task of liquidating my pantry, which is just as complicated as it sounds πŸ˜‰ ah…the things you find in the freezer! In addition to making meals out of few (and fewer) ingredients, I have discovered that if you’re ever lacking in flavor, there are 2 things that will make up for it, no matter what: alcohol and cheese. Does it matter what alcohol, or what cheese? No, because as soon as you add it to any meal it suddenly goes up a notch in quality, taste, and appeal – but that may just be me πŸ˜›

I’m also on a whole-wheat kick I guess you could say, because it makes me feel a bit better about all the pasta I’m eating. Sure, it doesn’t taste the same but there’s (often empty) carbohydrate calories and then there’s whole grain carbohydrate calories!! Seriously do yourself a favor, if you don’t like whole-wheat stuff, get over it. I get it with bread because there’s a serious taste difference there but you’d be amazed what other whole wheat products you can substitute for your normal carbohdrate needs–tortillas, crackers, pasta, cereal, flour, rice–we were meant to be eating this stuff!vodka-shot

So, the star ingredient in this recipe, any guesses? Yes, it’s the vodka. And what better way to use hard liquor you have no desire of drinking yourself? I think in general, vodka sauce has been underrated and under-appreciated for quite some time. Now I love tomatoes, no doubt, but sometimes tomato sauce just needs a little something, something more than basil or cream πŸ˜€ If I were ever to make/write/publish a cookbook, some version of vodka sauce would be included because it’s just that awesome.

This recipe is as simple as it gets: pasta, tomato, onion, milk, butter, vodka – tadaa! Dinner is served. I looked the vodka sauce up online under the search criteria “easy vodka sauce” because I simply don’t have the time to mess around with different styles between packing boxes and making sure my baby doesn’t eat any more cardboard or masking tape.. I also ended up embellishing the pasta dish itself with some of my favorite veggies because we all need protein! So yes, vegetarian Italian cuisine begets me this week and what a splendid surprise it was to make and to taste. I will definitely cook this again, probably with more vodka next time πŸ˜‰

Whole-Wheat Chickpea & Artichoke Pasta with Homemade Vodka Sauce

Ingredients

(for the pasta)pasta_wholewheat

whole-wheat fusilli (or any other curly pasta)

1 can chickpeas, drained

1 can artichoke hearts, drained & chopped

1 cup grated Parmesan (or other aged cheese)

3-4 green onions, minced

(for the sauce)

1 can chopped/diced tomatoes (in juice)

1 onion, chopped

3 Tbs. butter

1 tsp. sugar

1/2 cup milk (or cream)

salt & cracked peppersauce_vodka

(1) Fill a large pot with salted water, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. (2) While waiting on the water, begin the sauce. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the butter & onion. Cook, stirring often until the onion has softened, about 4-5 minutes. (3) Add the tomatoes, sugar, and vodka. Lower the heat slightly and simmer everything until the sauce has thickened and been slightly reduced, about 10-15 minutes. (4) When the pasta water is boiling, add pasta and cook according to package instructions until al dente. Drain. (5) When the vodka sauce has thickened somewhat, add the milk and lower the heat so the sauce is no longer boiling. Let cook another 5 minutes or so until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Season to taste with salt and cracked pepper. (6) Return the cooked pasta to the pot and add chickpeas, minced green onions, and artichoke hearts, mixing until combined. (7) When ready to eat, pour all of the vodka sauce over the pasta. Stir. Add Parmesan, reserving some for serving. Can be garnished with fresh parsley or more cracked pepper, if desired.

Serves 4copenhagen_poster

Eating warm Italian food almost makes me forget how cooold it is outside πŸ˜€

My next task, and most likely my next post, will be even more “economical” as I’ll be working with an even smaller budget and limited ingredients. Luckily I see this as a challenge so wish me luck!

Let’s see how fast I can become sick of canned tomatoes πŸ˜‰

My question: what is the yummiest sauce on pasta, in your opinion?

It can be hot or cold, and pesto totally counts..

1.20.2013

Menu for A Cool Summer Day

Hello and happy summer πŸ™‚ The sun has proven worth waiting all these months and as I’m getting to enjoy the cool summer breezes I’ve also been making lots of different dishes too numerous to post. I have however, combined three of my latest edibles into a summertime menu with plenty of homemade flair and the sublime simplicity of fresh summer produce.

The crunchy, briny pickles are from a recipe I found in last month’s Cooking Network magazine and are a genius idea because first, it’s so easy to make, second, the veggies stay crispy and fresh without sitting in boiling water for forty minutes, and third, they last 3 months in the fridge and only become more marinated with time. Pickles are a pretty versatile ingredient too, I recommend having them with cheese & crackers for breakfast, with garlic bread for Lunch, or coarsely chopped and served as a salad alongside grilled meat πŸ˜€ The peppercorns and other seeds soften significantly enough to be chewable, granted you love the robust flavors involved in the pickling brine.

The Quinoa Recipe is from an old Cooking Light and well worth the 15 minutes it takes to cook the grain to fluffy completion. There are different types of quinoa and while we ordinarily eat the white, quinoa also can be black and red; I used the red version here which was a much warmer color among the sticky peach pieces. The sandwiches are very Danish (at least that’s what I’m going to claim;)) with a savory spread, and both crunchy and smooth veggies. This particular recipe I saw in Gourmet, adding some of my own embellishments in the form of full flavors. Everything in this menu can be served chilled (and only gets better with the cold). I think the sandwiches make for a perfect picnic dish, if the weather is sunny enough πŸ˜€

The star ingredient in this menu is black pepper. Now I may be an overzealous fan of this spicy staple, but it’s cheap, potent, and in every kitchen πŸ™‚ Pepper goes with sweet and salty tastes alike and is apparently full of anti-oxidant vitamins and minerals. At one point in time I’d assumed pepper was a seed like coriander or cumin, but it’s actually the fruit of a tropical evergreen tree, which is far more interesting. Cracked pepper will remain the unsung hero in most of my dishes, partly due to the fact that I often double (or okay, triple..) my pepper seasoning – which seems to bestow the right degree of tasteful spiciness every time.

Carrot-Cucumber-Cauliflower Pickles with Fennel, Mustard Seeds, & Coriander

Ingredients

4 carrots, peeled & thickly sliced

3 red onions, thickly sliced

1/2 head cauliflower, divided into florets

10 green beans, trimmed

5 small cucumbers, quartered

1 bunch fresh Dill

2 Tbs. coriander seeds

2 Tbs. fennel seeds

1 Tbs. mustard seeds

1 Tbs. black peppercorns

1/2 Tbs. salt

2 cups white wine vinegar

4 cups water

5 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

5-6 glass jars with seal-able lids

(1) Put 2-3 dill sprigs in each jar and pack (as tightly as possible) a mixture among all the jars. Stir together the peppercorns, fennel, coriander, and mustard seeds and divide evenly among the jars, spooning atop the veggies. (2) Put the water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the vinegar, garlic, and salt; reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. (3) Carefully pour the hot brine into each of the jars, filling to the top. Seal the jars tightly with lids and let cool before refrigerating. Keeps chilled 3 months, ready to eat 3 hours after refrigerating.

Serves 6-8

Red Quinoa with Peaches, Black Pepper, & Honey

Ingredients

1 bag of red quinoa, rinsed

8 peaches, thickly sliced

4 lemons, juiced

6 Tbs. honey

2 Tbs. olive oil

2 Tbs. cracked pepper

(1) Cook the quinoa according to package instructions (usually 1 part water to 3 parts quinoa), until the grain has absorbed all water and can be fluffed with a fork. Uncover and set aside, letting cool 10 minutes. (2) Stir in the honey, cracked pepper, and lemon juice. Serve at room temperature or chilled, as dessert or side dish.

Serves 4

Bacon, Avocado, & Sprout Sandwiches with Dill-Chive Spread

Ingredients

(for sandwiches)

3 ripe avocados, thinly sliced

1 loaf of sourdough bread, sliced

8 bacon strips

1 cup fresh bean sprouts

3-5 slices of Havarti cheese

(for spread)

3 Tbs. mayonnaise

4 Tbs. yogurt

1 orange, juiced

4 Tbs. fresh Dill, minced

4 Tbs. fresh Chives, minced

salt & cracked pepper

(1) To make the spread, combine all ingredients from the mayonnaise through fresh chives in a small tupperware. Season to taste with salt and cracked pepper. Can be chilled up to a week ahead. (2) Sprinkle cracked pepper over the bacon before cooking in a skillet at medium-high heat. Remove when crispy but not burnt, 6-8 minutes and let cool. (3) Layer both sides of bread thickly with the herb spread. On one piece put the bacon and then sliced avocado. On the other, layer sprouts and cheese, putting atop the bottom layer. Cut in half before serving. Best with light beer or chilled white wine πŸ˜€

Serves 4

So as the weather continues to warm up a bit I’ll probably keep thinking of cold food in all its refreshing versions. Salsa, salad, sandwiches, sangria – it sure seems like I have a lot of options – if only Summer was forever πŸ˜‰

My question: What spice do you think is underrated in the kitchen?

6.30.12

A Mother of a Salad

Ahh, with Summer weather on the way, it keeps getting lovelier by the day πŸ™‚ And looking at all these flowers and budding greenery has only increased my appetite for fresh dishes (what a surprise, right?) These days it’s easier to create colorfully crisp meals because so many vegetables and fruits are now in season and I find myself making excuses to go to the market to get more πŸ˜‰

I based this dish off a recipe from Cooking Light that had an aromatic herb salad, and while my version is not nearly as ‘aromatic’, it has lots of other tasty points, and both salty and sweet elements to balance off the already capacious list of ingredients. In making this I was trying to create a dish that had it all — greens, fresh veggies, cheese, protein — the works basically, with a sweet summery dressing to top it all off. What I ended up concocting was a massively fresh and filling salad worth devoting a post to based on the fact that it’s probably one of the most delicious salads I’ve had to eat in a looong time.

Making a salad is easy – just incorporate the elements; the greens and the vegetables are the things you buy fresh, the dressing can be made from what is already in your cupboards. When putting together a salad, just combine ingredients that make sense to you, and ones you already like to eat on their own: peppers, onions, some sort of cheese, tomato, dried fruit, etc. and pick whatever greens look the crispest at the market. The good thing about salads (or at least one of the good things..) is that they’re easy to assemble and you can always feel good about eating them, providing one doesn’t overdo it on the dressing :/ And even though it gets just a tad bit soggy, I always save the leftover salad for snacking the next morning because there’s something refreshing about cold greens for breakfast!

The star ingredient in this recipe is hard-boiled eggs because they add some class to the dish (in addition to fat and protein) and look pretty awesome atop the stack of greens when serving. Eggs also add a creaminess to everything that upgrades this from a side dish to more of a meal. I prefer my eggs boiled until barely set so the yoke tastes buttery. As for the dressing, anything would work with this; I chose to make a sweeter version because I still had plenty of jam (from my last post) at my disposal, but a salty vinaigrette would work just as well, or simply oil & vinegar. In honor of the season and the simplicity of the meal, I’ve shared my recipe for this salad in hopes of inspiring others to come up with some amazingly creative tasty salad dishes too πŸ˜€

Baby Spinach, Red Cabbage, & Mint Salad with White Beans, Hard-Boiled Eggs, and Dried Apricots

Ingredients

(for salad)

1 bag of baby spinach

1/2 head of red cabbage

1 bunch of fresh mint

1/2 block Gorgonzola cheese, cubed

1 red onion, thinly sliced

1 can of white beans, drained & rinsed

1/2 cup dried apricots, halved

1/4 cup shelled pumpkin seeds

4 hard-boiled eggs

(for vinaigrette)

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup sherry vinegar

3 Tbs. strawberry jam

1 tsp. mustard

1/4 tsp. vanilla powder

Juice of 1 lemon

salt & cracked pepper

(1) Rinse and dry all the greens; stem the red cabbage and slice into ribbons. Toss the baby spinach, cabbage, and mint leaves together in a large bowl. (2) To make the vinaigrette, combine all ingredients – olive oil through lemon juice – and stir until well blended. Season to taste with salt & cracked pepper. Can be refrigerated up to a week ahead of time. (3) Add the dried apricots, white beans, red onion, pumpkin seeds, and Gorgonzola cheese to the salad and mix. (4) When ready to serve, toss salad with the vinaigrette and slice hard-boiled eggs lengthwise. Serve the salad in bowls, topped with egg slices and cracked pepper.

Serves 4

I can’t believe there was a time in my life when I hated salad, really – I hated it – it had something to do with lettuce, which just seemed like bunny food to me πŸ˜‰ Well not anymore, now I want a salad with every meal! I believe it’s a wonderfully fresh way to eat all these daily servings of veggies we’re supposed to be consuming, and salads just have a touch of class to them, I’m not sure why…

My question: What is one unusual secret ingredient to make a great salad?

It’s amazing how almost anything can go in a salad, fruits, vegetables, nuts, cheese, meat, legumes…so many choices πŸ™‚

6.10.12

Menu for a Spring Celebration

Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of throwing a baby shower at our little apartment. This post comprises the menu. Everyone brought plenty of soda and juice, and one of my friends even made some delicious Spanish food, which disappeared mighty quick. It was a beautiful day, with wonderful company, good food (if I might say so myself), and turned out to be one lively celebration. I thought it only best to share some of the delectable deliciousness that accompanied everything πŸ™‚

The menu is organized in basically the order in which it was served, with the first course or starter being homemade jam (I mean, marmalade), then the main course, ending with a very simple dessert. I first read this jam recipe in Bon Appetit but after glancing at the picture (bleh..) I decided to make my own version and ended up winging it with the rest of the recipe. My other friend, a very talented individual in ways of baking, was nice enough to make fresh rolls with raisins for the shower and her boyfriend brought along a tasty loaf of bread so the jam ended up being a good way to start off everything. I served both the bread and the jam alongside a soft cheese (something crème), but butter would work just as well..

The antipasti dish I also found in Bon Appetit, accompanied by much better picture this time so I added a couple of things I thought it needed to make the main course dish. Namely, I served the salad with a strip of peppered ham, more slices of mozzarella, baby tomatoes (because it’s a baby shower:-) and plenty of garlic in the raw form, because the store-bought pesto just wasn’t cutting it. Olives I marinated in a spicy-salty brine from the week before I added to the plates as a finishing touch, which turned out to be some of the more flavorful aspects of the meal. It is by request(s) that I include the olive recipe below because frankly, it’s easy to make and the olives turn out so much tastier than they’d normally be just sitting in your fridge. I really hope someone makes their own version of these marinated olives and let me know how it tastes!

The dessert proved to be the simplest dish to prepare out of this menu, which is always good at the end of any event and it included the essentials — fruit, nuts, cheese (yes, again) and honey. I got the idea from last April’s Cooking Network magazine but the nuts were a welcome inspiration on my part. I think the key thing here is to get quality fresh fruit, because pears can be pretty disappointing if unripe. Blue cheese may be a reluctant choice to some but say just yes to the moldy dairy because everything is delicious when sprinkled with honey πŸ˜€

The star ingredient in this menu is: cheese! I included cheese in every course (because I can, and so I will) and all different kinds of it too, mild and fluffy with the main course (god bless the mozzarella), light and creamy with the starter, and mottled with flavor for the dessert. Remember, cheese is pure protein (okay, and a little fat) but I maintain the believe it more flavor than calories, so no restraint should be necessary πŸ˜‰ The Danes love cheese just as much as I do so I didn’t really need an excuse. By the end of the day, we were all so full I feel I may have overdone it just a little. Oh well!

Fig-Thyme Jam

Ingredients

1/2 kilo ( or just over 1 lb.) dried figs

1/2 cup of sugar

1 bunch of fresh Thyme

1 lemon

3 Tbs. honey

(1) Boil a kettle of water. In a bowl, place the dried figs and cover with the boiling hot water. Let soften 10 minutes, then drain, stem, and coarsely chop all of the figs. (2) In a medium saucepan, put the figs and sugar, adding enough water to just cover all contents in the pot. Make sure the thyme is washed thoroughly and secured in a bunch with string then put into the saucepan as everything heats up. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. (3) Meanwhile, zest and juice the lemon and set aside. When the jam mixture is bubbling, lower the heat to medium. (4) Stirring often, cook until all of the liquid evaporates and jam starts to stick to the bottom of the saucepan, 20-30 minutes. (5) Mix in the lemon zest and juice and cook everything a minute more. Remove from heat, discard the thyme bunch, and let the jam cool. (6) Stir in the honey and remove any visible thyme stems (but not the little leaves:-) Chill jam in the fridge 1 hour before serving (keeps chilled up to 3 weeks). Serve with bread or toast and butter or a mild cheese.

Serves 6

Citrus, Coriander, and Chili Marinated Olives

Ingredients

2 cups mixed olives (like green, black, or kalamata)

1 lemon, seeded & sliced

1/2 cup of olive oil

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 fresh Thai chiles, halved (or 4 dried)

1 Tbs. crushed Coriander seeds

1 tsp. crushed fennel seeds

1 tsp. crushed black peppercorns

1 Tbs. sherry vinegar

3 bay leaves

sea salt

(1) In a medium tight-sealing container, mix the olives and lemon pieces. (2) In a saucepan, bring the olive oil, sliced garlic, chilies, and all of the spices slowly up to a simmer over low heat. Let bubble until fragrant and the garlic begins to brown, 20-30 minutes. (3) Remove the pan from heat and add vinegar. Cover and let the brine steep for 1 hour. (4) When cool, pour the oil mixture over the olives and mix well, letting everything marinate at room temperature for up to 2 hours (can be stored in the fridge for 2-3 weeks). Serve the olives at room temperature.

Serves 6

Pesto Antipasti with blanched Beans, Baby Tomatoes, and fresh Mozzarella

Ingredients

1/4 kilo fresh green beans (0r 1/2 lb)

1/4 kilo fresh flat beans (or wax beans)

1 bunch baby tomatoes, stemmed & halved

1 can white beans, drained

1 bunch green onions, coarsely chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 lemon, juiced

1/4 cup store-bought (or homemade) basil pesto

300 g fresh buffalo mozzarella (or just over 10 oz), thickly sliced

1 cup mixed olives (from the marinated olive recipe above)

1 packet thinly sliced meat, for serving (like ham or prosciutto)

2 Tbs. olive oil

salt & cracked pepper

(1) Top and tail all of the fresh beans, cutting into 2-cm pieces. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Once at a rolling boil, throw in all of the fresh beans and blanch for about 1 minute until bright green. Drain the beans and immediately rinse with ice cold water. (2) In a large mixing bowl, combine the white beans, baby tomatoes, green onions, minced garlic, and all of freshly blanched beans. Add pesto, 2 Tablespoons of olive oil, and lemon juice, mixing well. Season the salad to taste with salt & pepper (or more minced garlic:-) (3) When ready to serve, arrange 3 slices of the fresh mozzarella, 1 piece of meat, and a generous cup of the salad on each small plate. Add 3 or 4 marinated olives on the side.

Serves 6

Pear Slices with Blue Cheese, Walnuts, & Honey

Ingredients

3 ripe yellow pears, cored & sliced

1 wedge of soft blue cheese

1/2 cup of walnuts, shelled

3-5 Tbs. honey

On small dessert plates, arrange 3-4 pear slices alongside 3 walnuts. Spread a thin (but not too thin:P) layer of blue cheese over the pear slices and drizzle the plates with honey. Serve immediately.

Serves 6

Well, that was my baby shower menu. I’m so happy everyone came, had a good time, and left with full bellies. I enjoyed everything about that day and have so many baby things now, I dare say the little guy is taking over my closet πŸ˜‰ Hopefully one day he’ll like cheese as much as I do!

My question: What is the best cheese to serve as or with dessert? I’d love some new ideas..

3.3.2012

Tiny, Tasty Tapas

For my Baby Shower, I wanted to make Spanish Tapas, just a couple of simple, incredibly tasty dishes with offshore attitude. Since I’m off to Spain next month with my brother I feel inspired and a desire to cook up some Spanish food of my own. I chose major protein groups of course — meat, beans, and eggs (see, I’m getting good at this;) but it’s not as boring as it initially sounds.

I have included a mini menu of the tapas I served at the shower, which does not begin to subsume the effusion of appetizers that were brought to the party. These recipes are from A Passion for Tapas, a wonderful book filled with these Spanish-style eats. The most difficult (no, let’s say time-consuming) recipe was by far the deviled eggs — so many steps, so little time — so while I still recommend making this, anytime for any reason, I would also advise at least boiling the eggs and making the filling the night before an event, if anything it just intensifies the flavor while chilling πŸ™‚

The star ingredient in all these dishes was lemons. Granted, I have been craving lemons and limes like none other since my arrival back in snowy Colorado so my bias in inherent from the start. Although all three of these recipes contain similar simple ingredients — garlic, fresh Parsley, and olive oil (god bless olive oil:-) and all of them contain this sour ingredient in some form or the other, be the zest pulp, or juice of lemons. I think this citrus fruit adds the right amount of acidity to each dish that compliments all other fresh flavors involved. The festivities were great and it’s so nice be home and cooking for friends and (with) family again, a part of why the holidays are especially nice.

Lemony Lamb Skewers with Pickled Onions

Ingredients

(for the marinade)

5 garlic cloves, minced

3 lemons

1 onion, coarsely chopped

1 bunch fresh thyme

2 Tbs. ground coriander

1 Tbs. ground cumin

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup cold water

(for lamb)

10 wooden kebab sticks

2 lbs. leg of lamb, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes

1 jar pickled pearl onions, drained

ground coriander, for garnish

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Combine ingredients for the marinade, garlic, olive oil, onion, spices, vinegar, thyme, and cold water in a large seal-able bag; zest all of the lemons and juice them, combining both in marinade. Add cubed lamb pieces to the marinade, seal bag and refrigerate 3-4 hours (or overnight). (2) Next, soak the wooden skewers in water for 15 minutes. Remove lamb pieces and reserve 1 cup of the marinade for basting. Put 3 pieces of lamb on each skewer, separated by pickled onions; season skewers generously with ground coriander. (3) Preheat the grill over high heat and cook skewers, turning once, and basting with leftover marinade for about 10 minutes. Remove from grill and cover with foil, letting stand another 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 6

Chickpeas and Chorizo with Pimentos, Parsley, & Sherry

Ingredients

1 lb. Chorizo sausage, sliced

2 cans chickpeas, drained

1 can butter beans, drained

1/2 bunch fresh parsley, minced

1 jar sliced pimentos, drained

1 lemon

1 bunch green onions, sliced

4 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup cooking sherry

olive oil

1 baguette, sliced

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Brush the bread pieces lightly with olive oil and toast in the broiler over medium-high heat until both sides are browned; put all baguette pieces in a cloth-lined basket and cover until ready to serve. (2) Heat 2 Tbs. of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add chorizo pieces, stirring occasionally until the slices are browned, 5-7 minutes. (3) Add garlic, green onions, and a little more olive oil, cooking until tender another 3-4 minutes. Lower the heat to medium-low and add sherry, all beans, pimentos, and minced parsley, stirring occasionally until most of the liquid is absorbed and the dish is heated throughout, 5 minutes. (4) Remove from heat, juice all of the lemon over the mixture and season with salt and pepper. Serve with a large spoon and toasted baguette pieces, garnishing with sprigs of fresh Parsley.

Serves 6

Deviled Eggs with Fresh Chives, Cayenne, and Green Olives

Ingredients

1 dozen eggs

4 Tbs. olive oil mayo

2 Tbs. paprika

1 Tbs. ground cayenne pepper

1 bunch fresh chives, minced

2 Tbs. Dijon mustard

1/4 cup dill pickles, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tsp. Tabasco

2 Tbs. lemon juice

1/4 cup green olives, halved

thinly sliced pimentos, for garnish

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Put eggs in a pot and cover with cold water, bringing to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes. Drain the cooked eggs and fill the pot back up with very cold water; let eggs chill 20 minutes. (2) Gently tap eggs with a knife to crack the shells, carefully removing shell from all eggs before rinsing with water. Next, halve the eggs and with a spoon, carefully remove cooked yolks, putting them all into a medium bowl. (3) Mash yolks with a fork, adding the mayo, mustard, hot sauce, chopped pickles, chives, garlic, and cayenne pepper. Season the mixture to taste with salt & pepper then cover and chill in the fridge for about an hour (or overnight). (4) Arrange the hollowed egg whites on a platter and fill (generously) until all of the yolk filling has been used. Garnish each deviled egg with a sliced pimento and half of a green olive, sprinkling paprika over everything. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Serves 6

So while this may not be a very ‘Christmasy’ post, I do think it is celebratory and the recipes all got the good stuff: flavor, spice, and filling. I enjoyed making the tapas and can’t wait to try some of these authentic Spanish dishes on the upcoming trip. In the meantime, I will be enjoying the holidays and am already thinking about the recipe to make for New Years. I’m thinking two main things: pork ribs and coca-cola }:-)

My question: What is the best ingredient in deviled eggs? (And don’t say the eggs, because that’s just too obvious..)

Merry Christmas (and to All a Good Night — and Day)!

12.25.11

Spicy Chocolately Chili

Finally, Winter is here! (Never thought I’d be excited about that πŸ˜‰ and now that it’s oh so cold outside, I have renewed interest as well as every reason to be cooking rich, hearty meals that can simmer on the stove (ahem, hotplate) until tender and flavorful enough. I decided to make chili because for one, it is obvious I am missing American food and second, this mouth-watering recipe contains all of nourishingly good stuff I like, fat and sugar, veggies and salt, protein and carbs (and just enough…) But I must emphasize here, this is no ordinary chili.

I got this recipe from Food & Wine and while I’m wondering what this ‘Texas-style’ phrasing is indicative of, there is no doubt that this chili is blissfully tasty. With spicy flavors like chili powder and canned chipotles, herbaceous flavors like fresh Thyme and crushed Coriander, sugary flavors like coffee and dark chocolate, and other wonderfully wholesome ingredients like beef and beer (see what I’m saying?!!) I highly–emphatically, joyfully, exuberantly–recommend making this recipe for yourself, and you will see, I mean smell & taste, what I mean!

The image I include in this post is a rather poor visual representation of the final product because in actuality, the chili was this very deep, dark color, probably owing a lot to the coffee and chocolate, and the sauce very thickened, a process that is perfected by allowing this to cook (or simmer…) for the allotted amount of time needed on the stove. Patience here is the key, but in the process of this ‘stewing’, the kitchen (or very small apartment) will be filled with the delicious aromas of spicy goodness πŸ™‚

The star ingredient in this recipe would have to be the dark chocolate–not that the chipotles, thyme, or beer were lacking in any respect–but simply because it gives the chili this rich (and yes, chocolately) flavor that was interesting, undeniable, and worked in delicious conjunction with the other savory aspects of this meal. When served, zesty fresh flavors of minced red onion and melted cheddar cheese on top combine in an exceptional feast πŸ™‚ Just writing this post has made me want to cook this chili all over again, mmm….

Texas-Style Beef Short Rib Chili with Chocolate, Coriander, and Chipotles

Ingredients

2 lbs. beef short ribs

3 medium red onions

2 Anaheim or Pasilla chile peppers

2 Poblano chile peppers

1 red bell pepper

3 canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce

5 garlic cloves, minced

1 bunch fresh thyme

1 can white beans, drained

1/2 lb. cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced

4 cups chicken broth

1 bottle of pilsner beer (your choice:-)

3 Tbs. ground Coriander

2 Tbs. ground Cumin seeds

2 Tbs. Ancho Chili powder

1 bar of dark chocolate, broken into pieces

1 1/2 cups fresh-brewed coffee

flour

olive oil

salt & cracked pepper

pita bread/tortillas, for serving

shredded cheddar cheese, for serving

(1) Heat a skillet or frying pan over a medium-high temperature on the stove. Add fresh peppers and roast, uncovered, turning occasionally until skins are charred, 6 to 8 minutes. Put peppers in a bowl and cover with boiling water, letting sit 20 minutes or so until softened. (2) Meanwhile, chop 2 of the red onions coarsely for the chili and finely chop the remaining onion for serving. Cover the minced onion to be used for garnishing in a small dish and refrigerate until ready to serve. Separate fresh thyme leaves from their stems and put coarsely chopped onions, minced garlic, sliced mushrooms, and fresh thyme all in one large bowl; set aside. (3) Drain the peppers, de-stem, and seed them. Add roasted peppers, chipotle peppers with adobo sauce, and fresh-brewed coffee to a blender, pulsing until smooth (or if you don’t have a blender like me, just mince the peppers in a mug with scissors, before mixing the three together in a bowl). (4) Trim any large strips of fat from short ribs and cut into 1/2-inch or small 1-inch cubes. Season meat generously all over with salt and pepper. Heat 2 Tbs. of olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. (5) When the pot is hot, add short rib cubes and cook, stirring to prevent sticking, until pieces are browned all over, about 8 to 10 minutes. (6) Lower heat to medium and all of add the onion-mushroom mixture, stirring often, and cooking until veggies are slightly softened, another 4 minutes. Add the Coriander, Cumin, and Chili powder, mixing well until fragrant, another 2 minutes. (7) Next, stir in the blended peppers and coffee, chicken broth, white beans, and bottle of beer. Lower the heat, partially cover, and let chili simmer until meat is tender and the sauce is reduced, about 2 hours. (8) Ladle 2 cups of sauce into a bowl and stir in 2 Tbs. of flour with a fork, whisking until well blended; return sauce to the pot and cook until chili has thickened, another 10 minutes. Mix in the dark chocolate pieces until melted and remove from heat. (9) Dish up chili in bowls with warm or toasted pita bread on the side. Sprinkle finely chopped red onion and grated cheddar cheese across top of chili and serve.

Serves 4

So that comprises my experimenting in the art of slow cooking flavorful food. I will be returning home to the snowy mountains of Colorado this weekend and shall once again have access to a fully-functioning kitchen (and the wonderful guidance of my mother, the culinary expert) so who knows what wonderfulness is in store for me and my ever-expanding belly πŸ™‚

My question: what is the best (and reasonably priced) cut of meat to slow cook in chili and/or stews?

12.9.12

Simply Lamb

Well, having access to the large and bustling foreign supermarket (it’s called the bazaar, now that’s cool…) has inspired me to make this meal and includes the one ingredient I’ve been craving for weeks–lamb!! This post comprises the menu I served for dinner, two very simple recipes of a salad and meat entrΓ©e. The tabbouleh is a pretty standard dish in Middle Eastern cuisine and is often served in or alongside pita bread (it works real good for lunch, too). I had to do a little bit of research on how to cook lamb properly on the stove but I must emphasize that this turned out to be a very simple, incredibly easy, and amazingly delicious operation. I would recommend searing lamb to anyone, it’s far faster than having to watch it roast for hours on end and it still fills the house (ahem, apartment) with the mouth-watering aroma of this preciously delectable meat πŸ™‚

The tabbouleh recipe is very green with plenty of fresh parsley and mint to call it “herbed”. I supplemented the salad with chickpeas, another one of my favorites, and petit peas (you know, because it wasn’t green enough) to ante up on the protein. My version includes using tomato juice to moisten the salad, but more olive oil, vinegar, or lemon juice would work just as well. For the grain, I used coarse bulgur which is just another form of wheat and the cheapest I found at the market; this dish is very versatile and grains are simple enough that you can easily substitute bulgur with quinoa, couscous, or brown rice. Tabbouleh salad is so popular for a reason, it lasts long, it’s healthy, and can come in various forms so I encourage anyone replicating this to have fun and substitute where you like at will, it’s hard to mess up with simple herbs, vegetables, and grains!

As for the lamb, I procured two fillets at the butchers, not your usual cut but thick and lean enough to satisfy me in all respects. Fillets also prove to be very juicy when cooked, which is where the whole process of “searing” really comes in handy because it seals in all the moisture, allowing for maximum flavor (heh, don’t I sound like a chef…) The star ingredient, simply speaking, is none other than the lamb. I was impressed with just how well this turned out and how easy! Lamb has this amazing effect of turning any dish into something special and it’s simple to prepare, especially when your using only four ingredients to cook it, two of them being salt and pepper :] As far as searing goes, my recommendations would be to use plenty of butter to avoid sticking and don’t be surprised at how quickly the meat cooks, the stove top gets dinner done.

Seared Lamb Fillet and Chilled Tabbouleh with Mint, Cucumber, and Chickpeas

Ingredients

(for the lamb)

1 lb. lamb fillet

1 Tbs. dried oregano

sea salt & cracked pepper

1 Tbs. butter

(for the salad)

1 lb. coarse bulgur (sub quinoa, couscous)

1 medium cucumber, chopped

1 bunch fresh mint, minced

1 bunch fresh Parsley, minced

2 tomatoes, chopped

1 bunch green onions, chopped

1 large can chickpeas, drained

2 cups petit peas

5 cloves of garlic, minced

3 Tbs. olive oil

3 Tbs. lemon juice

3 Tbs. red wine vinegar

3 Tbs. tomato juice

2 chicken bouillon cubes

butter

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a pot over medium-high heat. When melted, add the bulgur and stir for about 3 minutes until grains are lightly toasted. Next, add the required amount of water, usually about 1 1/2 liters (if using chicken broth, it’s probably about 6 cups) along with the two chicken bouillon cubes. Let everything come to a boil and then immediately lower the heat, cover, and let simmer until the bulgur is soft, about 20 minutes, adding more liquid if necessary along the way. *Bulgur should cool on the side for twenty minutes and then chill in the fridge for an hour before assembling the salad. (2) In a large bowl, combine all the chopped vegetables and herbs, everything from cucumber through garlic along with the cooked bulgur. Moisten the salad with olive oil, vinegar, lemon and tomato juice, stirring well. Let the salad chill in the fridge until ready to eat. (3) Allow the lamb to come to room temperature before searing, halving the fillets for easier cooking. Sprinkle all sides generously with sea salt, cracked pepper, and dried oregano. In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat until hot and add the lamb pieces. Sear both sides of the fillets for 3 minutes until browned and medium-rare. Let the lamb rest, covered, for another 3 minutes before slicing. (4) Serve each plate with one heaping spoonful of the tabbouleh and a warm lamb piece, garnishing with mint sprigs or dollops of mango chutney if desired.

Serves 4

As I often reflect after cooking lamb, the effort’s always worth it and there is something supremely satisfying about the way lamb tastes πŸ™‚ Don’t get me wrong, the salad’s tasty too, and it definitely lasts longer! As the cold, foggy weather sets in here I’ll have to come up with other hot food recipes to bolster my spirit πŸ˜‰ Not that I’m complaining though, I know it’s not getting any better outside and I’m starting to like being fixed to this new kitchen of mine…

My question: What is your favorite cut of lamb?

I’m looking for ideas (shoulder chops? maybe shanks?) and even some simple recipes too…

10.5.11