Tag Archive: onion


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

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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

corn_poster_ThanksgivingHappy Thanksgiving! Wait, did I miss it?! It’s been a little while since my last post so I thought I’d do something fantastical, something fresh and flavorful in this frigid month of November. Entrer: the roasted chicken.

Chicken, you say — what about Turkey? Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE, miss, dream about turkey, but a cook should not underestimate the goodness & divine simplicity of a roasted chicken. My reasons? First of all, it’s cheap, ahem–cheaper. Secondly, it’s smaller. I WISH I had the time, a big enough oven, and actual guests to make a 20 pound turkey, but I don’t πŸ˜€ Third, a chicken cooks much faster because yeah, it’s smaller, and I can’t even begin to point out the delicious possibilities that emerge with all that the leftover chicken. Roasted/rotisserie chicken makes the best sandwiches…assuming there are leftovers. After mulling over my Thanksgiving plans I decided yes, a roasted chicken is just what was needed for our little celebration.

My secret ingredient? The dry rub. Okay, so this is like 6 ingredients, but it’s pure magic. I saw this particular dry rub recipe in this month’s Bon Appetit (see the photo below, that’s what caught my attention FIRST). It’s probably one of the more colorful rubs I’ve ever seen (thank you pink peppercorns) — and emphasis on easy! One of my favorite spices in the world is coriander so any recipe that uses coriander seeds tends to seize One-Hour-Roasted-Chickenme by the taste buds πŸ˜› It takes only 7 hours to cure a chicken covered in dry rub (vs. 2-3 days to brine one), so I was sold from the start. The apartment still smells like roasting peppercorns and oranges..

Since posting just one Thanksgiving recipe seems absurd, I posted the menu that I ended up making on our rainy, foggy evening. It includes a tomato-basil risotto that has corn, white wine, and lots of garlic & onions. Mmm, so glad I found another excuse to make risotto! This risotto recipe is from Fine Cooking; coming across it, I initially thought “wow, all my favorite ingredients in one risotto recipe..” I took it as a sign πŸ™‚

Peppered Citrus Dry Rub

IngredientsPink_Peppercorns

1 whole chicken (or turkey, or duck..)

2 Tbs. black peppercorns

2 Tbs. pink peppercorns

2 Tbs. coriander seeds

1 tsp. white peppercorns

6 bay leaves

3 lemons, zested

1 orange, zesteddry-brine

1 dl (or 1/4 cup) coarse sea salt

2 Tbs. brown sugar

cooking twine

foil

(1) In a small saucepan, combine all of the peppercorns, coriander, and bay leaves. Toast on medium heat until fragrant, less than 5 minutes. Remove from heat & let cool. Put these spices in a spice grinder or blender (…or a plastic bag that you seal & beat with a rolling pin:-)) and grind until the peppercorns & seeds are coarsely broken up. Add the salt, lemon & orange zest, and brown sugar; mix. Tada! Dry rub. (2) Wash the bird and dry with paper towels. Place with the breast facing up on a large plate or dish. Cross & tie the legs together with kitchen twine. When the bird is dry, massage the dry rub into the skin and everywhere else it sticks until you’ve used all of the dry rub. Chill the chicken, uncovered in the fridge to brine, approx. 6 hours. (3) Preheat oven to 220 degrees Celsius (430 degrees Fahrenheit). Remove the chicken from fridge and drain any liquid. Rinse off the dry rub and pat dry. Transfer to an oven pan lined with foil and put on the top rack in oven. Let the skin crisp 10-15 minutes. (4) Turn the heat down to 180 degrees Celsius (360 degrees Fahrenheit) and cook the bird about 20 minutes per pound of poultry (or 1/2 kg). (5) Remove bird from oven and loosely cover with foil. Check temperature with a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh, should register at least 85 degrees Celsius (185 degrees Fahrenheit). Let sit 10 minutes before carving. Serve sliced or in pieces with warm buttered rolls.

Serves 4

Tomato-Basil Risotto with White Wine, Sweet Corn, & Garlic

Ingredientsbasil

2 cups arborio rice

2 onions, peeled & chopped

7 garlic cloves, peeled & chopped

5-6 cups broth or reconstituted bullion

4 tomatoes, chopped

1 cup white wine (like chardonnay)

1 bunch of fresh Basil, chopped

1/2 cup (just over 1 dl) of shredded cheese, pref. Parmesan

3 Tbs. butterrisotto cooking

olive oil

sea salt

cracked pepper

(1) In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. When hot, add onions & garlic; let cook, stirring, until translucent, about 10 minutes. In a separate bowl, mix together tomatoes, basil, and 2 Tbs. olive oil. Set aside. (2) Add the rice to the pot and, stirring often, let it crisp slightly. Next add the wine and corn and cook until liquid has absorbed. (3) Continue cooking the risotto over medium heat, adding broth 1/2 cup at a time, and stirring often to prevent sticking, until liquid absorbs. This means you should be adding more wine/broth to the pot every 5-7 minutes or so. (4) Taste test the risotto after you’ve used up all the broth; cooked risotto rice should have slight texture to bite, but not be crunchy. (5) Add the tomato basil mixture and turn off heat. Let the risotto stand covered 3-4 minutes. Fold in the shredded cheese, season with salt and pepper, and serve.

Serves 4

chicken_horrorI know risotto is not the traditional dish to serve during this delicious holiday, but it beats trying to concoct stuffing without breadcrumbs, pecans, or cranberries 😦 My next post will be on the lighter side of things as I travel to Indonesia and get to try Bali cuisine. I have a feeling it’s going to blow my mind.. πŸ˜€

My question: What is one (non traditional) dish you’ve made for Thanksgiving and really loved?

11.29.13

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

Honey-Lacquered Duck

Ahhh, honey. Is there a spoonful of anything nicer? I don’t why I don’t use it more. They need to start selling honey in Ziploc-style packs you can cut the corner of and just squeeze; it’s silly trying to scrape it out of jars when all honey does is collect and coat everything it comes into duckcontact with sweetness. Really food marketers, simplify things when it comes to honey, seriously because what even is honey?! Oh yeah, bee drool…delicious, amazing bee drool (!) The earth is strangely tasty πŸ™‚

Oh yes and thank you (Cucina La Italiana) for using the awesome adjective “honey-lacquered” as I think it truly fits in the case of this recipe. I have always wanted (an excuse) to make duck and have never gotten the chance to roast a whole one of these bad boys in the oven. While on ferie (vacation) in Jylland, I decided to make this for a family get-together. Looking back on it, everything was perfect except for perhaps the fact that I really should have roasted 2 ducks πŸ˜€ Oh well, at least I’ll know for next time…

Roasting a whole bird is intense (sorry, I mean intensive) but it’s much easier with help (as in more than 1 person…) I put the duck atop a bed of halved shallots and baby potatoes (again, should have bought wayyyy more of those). For those of you imagining the ridiculousness of trying to get goopy honey off a goopy spoon onto a roasting bird, mix the honey with some water in a mug and microwave it for 15-20 seconds and viola, honey-syrup, perfect for basting! πŸ™‚

honeyhoneyThe star ingredient in this recipe, I imagine it’s pretty easy to tell: honey. It might have been obvious, but honey really is key in amping up the flavor aspect of just about any dish. My future mother-in-law (it sounds so official!) said her biggest complaint with duck when she’s had it before is that it’s always been dry (and chewy:( ), but not this duck! Thank you honey, really, I don’t know why MORE things (especially meat..) aren’t ‘lacquered’ in honey, I mean bee drool πŸ˜›

Roast Honey-Lacquered Duck with Shallots & Potatoes

Ingredientsshallot_potato

1 whole duck (3-4 kg/5-7 lbs). defrosted, giblets removed

1 1/4 cups honey (3 dl)

10 shallots, peeled & halved

1/2 kg (β‰ˆ1 lb) baby potatoes, halved

fresh Thyme sprigs, coarsely chopped

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) 1-2 days before roasting; defrost the duck, making sure giblets are removed (you can roast the neck too, if desired). Make sure the skin is clean of stray feathers; if not, pluck with kitchen tweezers. Rinse and dry the duck and set on a plate, breast-side up. Rub all over the outside with 1/4 cup sea salt and let chill, uncovered in fridge overnight or up to 2 days. (2) Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius (450 degrees Fahrenheit). Bring a large pot of water to boil on the stove with 1/2 cup (β‰ˆ1 dl) of honey stirred in. Rinse sea salt off the duck. When the water is rapidly boiling, put the duck into the pot (timing precisely) and let boil no more than 5 minutes. (3) After 5 minutes, drain the duck and score the skin every 2 cm or so with a paring knife. In a large roasting pan, put the halved shallots and baby potatoes, seasoning lightly with salt and pepper. Place the duck on top of vegetables, breast-side up. Tie legs together with kitchen twin (optional). (4) When the oven is preheated, put the duck on the middle rack and let roast 30 minutes. Then turn the oven down to 160 degrees Celsius (325 degrees Fahrenheit) and let roast for another 1 hour and 45 minutes, basting when necessary. (5) Transfer duck to a cutting board, cover, and let rest 15 minutes, brushing with 2-3 spoonfuls of honey every 5 minutes. Keep the potatoes and shallots in the oven to stay warm. (6) When ready to serve, transfer roasted shallots and potatoes to a large serving dish and season with salt, pepper, and thyme sprigs. Carve the duck (removing the legs first, halving the breasts) and arrange pieces atop or aside the roasted veggies for serving πŸ™‚ Garnish with Thyme sprigs. Goes well with bread and/or a light salad.

guineafowlServes 6

So, I AM going to roast a whole duck again, and soon! No excuses, and now no hesitation as the whole process will be sweetly familiar to me πŸ™‚ My next big(/semi-ridiculous) idea? Roasting a whole bird on a grill…yeah, now that sounds like Summer!

My question: What is your favorite bird (poultry) to roast in the oven?

Ruling out roast chicken which a classic favorite of mine and turkey (god bless THAT bird, but it’s so big!) I’d have to say guinea fowl is my favorite because they are just cute (I mean leaner), little, and juicy – plus you don’t have to feel bad about eating a whole one all by yourself.. πŸ˜›

6.7.13

Revisiting Risotto

Champagne_PaintingAhh so yes, I am a fan of risotto. Way back when in bitching kitchen times, I even made coffee caper risotto and it was very good, despite the ridiculous combination. Now, I know risotto is fattening, alas…especially with all that wine and butter πŸ˜€ but frankly, the taste makes up for it! And you do have to baby it – stand there, stirring it, adding the perfect amount of liquid, constantly and vigilantly making sure it doesn’t stick too much, or harden in places, or god forbid burn 😦 Best be careful and very serious when making risotto to be sure, but remember that like any recipe, there IS room for modification, variation, and flexibility. And you don’t have to be a skilled chef to make it either, you just have to devote yourself to the task of making it. And leftovers? Nothing’s better than risotto the next day, still packed with flavor and just as cheesy as the night before. Cold pizza? Chewy and unappetizing. Cold risotto? Layered with flavors, filling, and subtly sophisticated.

After researching some of the more common risotto recipes, I settled on mushroom risotto because there’s something about the richness of mushrooms that goes very well in/with risotto. It’s been a while since I made this high-maintenance dish (yeah I said it) but I remembered: prepare accordingly. This particular recipe is from Food & Wine in a section entitled “Scratch Italian” πŸ™‚ simply ’cause, sometimes from scratch is best! Goat cheese is the main reason I chose this version because I was looking for that little something that would up the ante a bit on the normal mushroom risotto recipe. Goat cheese, when melted into something asdried_mushrooms rich and wonderful as risotto, adds a smooth quality and in no way overpowers the dish’s other flavors, which is what I was watching for. I substituted vermouth for the typical white wine because that’s what I had in my fridge and just like sherry, it compliments mushrooms unlike any of the other ingredients. I’ll admit it though, if I could have gotten my hands on some sherry, this would have been better, if not minutely 8) Next time..

The star ingredient in this dish was of course the dried mushrooms because: A) they don’t go bad like, ever B) they pack a lot of flavor and smell really nice; and C) mushrooms go so well with alcohol, it’s not even funny. To be sure, I won’t be cooking this every night, but it was the night of my birthday when I chose to make it so I guess it was sort of a tribute to myself, or at the very least, a tribute to what I think my tastes are πŸ˜‰ This type of food is so awesome it can be served by itself, no meat or other main course necessary. A good friend was telling me how silly it is that risotto is often served as an appetizer and yeah, that is pretty silly – because risotto’s got some mad main dish skills πŸ˜€

Earthy Mushroom Risotto with Goat Cheese and Vermouth

Ingredients

2 cups arborio ricecheese_goat

1 cup dried mushrooms, mixed

1 large onion, chopped

8 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 cups chicken broth

1 1/2 cups dry vermouth

3 Tbs. buttermushroom_risotto_0

1/4 cup milk

3 oz goat cheese, crumbled

rapeseed oil

salt & cracked pepper

(1) Put the dried mushrooms into a bowl. Boil some water and pour over the mushrooms. Let sit and soak for 20 minutes or until mushrooms are soft. Remove mushrooms from the water and chop. (2) In a large pot, heat 3 Tbs. oil over medium-low heat until hot; add the chopped garlic, onions, and a pinch of salt and cook until soft and translucent, 5-7 minutes. (3) In a separate saucepan, heat the broth over low heat and keep covered; add what’s left of the mushroom water to it (but not the thick stuff sitting at the bottom). Oh and take the bottle of vermouth out of the fridge and let it sit on the counter. Have a glass with ice and some club soda while you cook too. (4) Add the rice and mushrooms to the big pot and cook, stirring often, until the rice turns opaque, 3-4 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of broth and 1/2 cup of vermouth and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is absorbed. Keep up this process, adding 1/2 cup of broth and cooking about 5 minutes (until absorbed) and then adding 1/2 cup of vermouth and cooking 5 minutes or so, until liquid is absorbed into the risotto. When you’ve added a total of 1 1/2 cups vermouth, then continue this process using what’s left of the broth. You may need more or less, depending on the risotto, but it will be done when it stops absorbing most of the liquid and is soft in texture upon tastimushroom_sketchng (versus sticky or slightly crunchy), cooking about 35-40 minutes total. (5) Remove the pot from heat, cover, and let rest 5 minutes. When ready to serve, stir in butter, milk, and goat cheese until melted and combined; season risotto to taste with salt and pepper.

Serves 4

I wonder how many different risottos exist, that is – how many kinds there are. I wonder how long it would take me to cook them all :9 Might be worth a try sometime, as long as I proceed with caution πŸ˜‰

My question: What is your favorite risotto?

Mine is a toss-up between red wine risotto and champagne risotto. Yes, it’s a theme with me πŸ˜€

4.27.13

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

Herbivorous HΓΈstfest

In Danish, hΓΈstfest literally means “harvest party” which is the perfect word for this season with Fall having made an entrance and the air already a bit chillier. As a species that was probably once accustomed to hibernation :D, like most mammals, I suppose an increased appetite can be expected. As for me, the sooner it gets colder I’m craving more filling meals. I’ve always loved eating meat, probably because I am a carnivore by nature πŸ™‚ but after some reflection, I’ve noticed that most of my posts have meat in them. Having noticed this perhaps natural popularity of meat dishes, it’s true that vegetarian food is just as good and often healthier, so I decided to devote this post to vegetarian food everywhere. Here are three of my latest recipes that happen to be completely meat-free.

The melon-cucumber salad is a recipe idea of mine, including the honey mustard vinaigrette, which turned out to be the best part πŸ™‚ The roasted tomato and pepper soup recipe is from the legendary Soup Bible (which can be found on Amazon) and is full of brilliant, if not slightly time-consuming, soup ideas πŸ˜‰ The bulgur recipe is also a creation of mine and makes use of pretty much exactly what was left in our fridge and cupboards after a week or so of kitchen chaos. The fruity/peppery and honey/salty combinations of flavors seemed to get better after every bite, or maybe that was just me πŸ™‚

The star ingredient in all of these recipes is the miso, which I was finally able to procure at the Chinese grocer. Miso is basically fermented soybeans and as unappetizing as that may sound, it comes in a few different colors and has a pleasant salty taste. It’s a Japanese staple that is full of protein and high in vitamins and minerals. I was able to do some experimentation with the saltish stuff, which helps when you have a chunk since they only sell it in bulk πŸ˜€ I think it adds a rich and almost roasted flavor to all sorts of things, including dressings. If you can’t find miso, no worries there, just season as wisely as you wish with salt.

Roasted Pepper & Tomato Soup with Tortellini

Ingredients

8 – 10 tomatoes, on the vine

3 bell peppers, any color

3 sweet peppers, any color

1 Thai chili

3 yellow onions

4 cups vegetable broth

1 box of dried tortellini (with cheese and/or veggie filling)

1 tsp. sugar

1 Tbs. garlic powder

1 Tbs. red or yellow miso (optional)

sea salt & cracked pepper

sunflower oil

(1) Preheat the oven to 230 degrees Celsius (or 450 Fahrenheit). Line a large oven pan with baking paper. Half the onions, tomatoes, and all of the peppers, removing the seeds from the peppers (but not the tomatoes!) (2) Add 2 Tbs. of oil to the pan and then all of the halved veggies, stirring to coat. (3) When the oven is preheated, put the pan on the top rack and let roast until the skins of the peppers have browned and are beginning to peel, about 40-50 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. (4) In a large pot, stir together the sugar, miso, garlic powder, and broth, warming over medium heat. (5) Remove the peels from the onions and the browned skins from the peppers (it’s okay to leave the tomato skins on). Using a blender, puree the roasted vegetables before adding to the soup pot. (6) Bring the soup to a boil and add tortellini, cooking until pasta is al dente, 10-15 minutes. Serve topped with a dollop of creme fraiche, dried herbs, or scrambled eggs πŸ™‚

Serves 6

Spiced Bulgur with Mango, Miso & PickledΒ  Ginger

Ingredients

(for bulgur)

2 cups bulgur wheat (coarse or finely ground)

4 cups onion (or vegetable) broth

1/2 cup pickled ginger, chopped

1/2 cucumber, peeled & chopped

1 bunch green onions, finely chopped

1/2 cup dried green mango, chopped

1 green bell pepper, seeded & sliced

1 red bell pepper, seeded & sliced

(for dressing)

3 Tbs. yellow miso

2 Tbs. rice vinegar

2 Tbs. olive oil

2 Tbs. apricot jam (or other jam)

3 Tbs. lemon juice

2 – 3 dried chilies (like Pequin or African Bird’s Eye), crushed

1 Tbs. brown sugar

1 Tbs. soy sauce

1 tsp. garlic powder

salt & cracked pepper

(1) Cook bulgur uncovered in salted broth according to package instructions; this usually involves 1 part bulgur to 2 parts broth, for 10-14 minutes or until all liquid has been absorbed. Fluff with fork. (2) In a small bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the dressing, miso through garlic powder and stir well; set aside. (3) Next add all of the peppers, green onions, mango, cucumber, and ginger to the bulgur and mix. (4) When ready to serve, add the dressing and stir until blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Can be served warm or cold.

Serves 4

Melon-Cucumber SaladΒ  with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

Ingredients

(for salad)

1 small honeydew melon, skinned, seeded & cut into chunks

1 cucumber, cut into chunks

6 cups mixed greens (like baby spinach, arugula, & red-leaf)

4 sweet peppers, seeded & thinly sliced

1 red onion, peeled & thinly sliced

(for vinaigrette)

1/4 cup white wine

1/4 cup olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

1 Tbs. paprika

1 Tbs. yellow miso

3 Tbs. honey

3 Tbs. Dijon mustard

2 Tbs. milk (or cream)

1/2 Tbs. mustard seeds

1/2 Tbs. onion powder

1/2 Tbs. ground black pepper

1 lemon, juiced

(1) Make sure all the greens are washed and dried before tossing with the peppers, onion, melon, and cucumber. Cover and chill until ready to serve. (2) To make the honey mustard, combine all of the ingredients – white wine through lemon juice- in a sealable jar or tupperwareΒ and shake until blended. Can be kept chilled in the fridge for up to 2 months πŸ™‚ (3) When ready to eat, toss the salad again with the dressing and serve immediately.

Serves 4

So those are my offerings to the harvest gods and vegetarians everywhere πŸ™‚

It’s amazing how the earth just grows all sorts of differently delicious plants and countless other things for us to eat. I think being human has never been better πŸ˜›

My question:

What is your favorite vegetarian dish to eat?

10.8.12

Mambo Italiano

Is Summer really almost over? It seems like it with all this raaaaain 😦 In celebration of summertime simplicity, I’ve been making easy recipes involving fresh ingredients that can be assembled into a meal, cooked, and ready in minutes. My latest obsession? Carbohydrates (what a surprise..) particularly pasta and pizza. I’ve posted this recipe in dedication of the Italian approach to cooking, which always seems to involve fresh, tasty ingredients in out-of-this world dishes. As is the case with Italian wine, Italian food just screams simple AND delicious πŸ™‚
This recipe is from one of my favorite magazines, Cucina La Italiana and was made to honor the tastes of the creator’s mother, who had an affection for lemons. In case it’s not too obvious, the star ingredient on this pizza is definitely the lemons. The second most important ingredient is the olive oil, which serves as a much better base than runny tomato sauce.. but then again, perhaps I’m craving purity in dishes already natural and uncomplicated. Lemons you say, on pizza?! At first, it did seem a bit odd but I amped up the vegetarian version with bacon (yeah, I couldn’t help it) and green onions. The result? A pizza that’s both savory and citrusy (whoa) with rich and light flavors satisfying enough to please any pizza lover.

Now, while making dough from scratch could prove to be an interesting experience, it’s also incredibly time-consuming so I opted for pre-made refrigerated pizza dough. Any access to specialty cheeses (like aged Gouda, smoked mozzarella, pesto Asiago, etc.) would amp up the exotic factor. I prefer my pizza browned on top (if not black in a couple of places!) with bubbling cheese and wilted greens – it makes for the best dinner after one of those long summer days πŸ˜€

Sorretina Pizza with Peppered Bacon, Lemon, and Fresh Basil

Ingredients

2Β  packages of refrigerated pizza dough

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 bunch of fresh Basil, cut into ribbons

1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese

2 lemons, peeled, seeded, & segemented

1 packet of bacon

1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced

chili flakes

baking paper

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Preheat the oven to 205 degrees Celsius (or 4oo degrees Fahrenheit). Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat and cook the bacon until slightly crispy, turning once, and cracking pepper generously over the top. When cooked, transfer to a cutting board and coarsely chop the bacon, setting aside. (2) Spread the pre-made dough out on an oven pan covered with baking paper. Cover generously with half of the olive oil. (3) When ready to bake, layer the first pizza with half of the cooked bacon, chopped green onions, fresh basil, and shredded cheese; top with 1 of the segmented lemons and sprinkle chili flakes across the top. (4) Cook in the oven until the top is nicely browned and the cheese is melted and bubbling, 12-15 minutes. (5) Follow the same order with the remainder of the toppings for the second pizza; cook in the oven while eating the first pizza. Goes well with lager beer or chilled white wine πŸ™‚

Serves 6

Experimenting with pizza always seems worthwhile, I guess that’s because almost anything goes well on warm bread with a little olive oil and bacon πŸ˜› What surprises me is this particular version of Neapolitan pizza still being limited to the region in Italy..

My question:

What is one of the more unusual pizza ingredients you like to use when making pizza from scratch?

9.5.12

The Best of the Season

Now that we’re in the full swing of Summer, there’s plenty of tasty things in season – apples, apricots, avocados, basil, bell peppers, berries, melon, carrots, cherries, chilies, cilantro, eggplant, fennel, figs, grapes, garlic, green beans, green onions, lettuce, limes – veggies that are relatively inexpensive and arriving at the local markets in abundance. The last two weeks I’ve had my best friend here from the U.S. I cooked up a storm, really couldn’t help myself and we probably ate 90% of what’s on that in-season list. Granted we drank a lot of Sangria too, so I think it’s all a balance πŸ™‚

In this post I’ve sketched out a complete day’s menu. I tried to make it a colorful, tasty spread with a good mix of both rich and fresh, spicy and sweet flavors. The menu is divided into the day’s meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. If I had to categorize it, I’d call the breakfast Danish, the lunch Hawaiian, and the dinner just plain European…I’d be lying if I said the dessert wasn’t Italian πŸ˜€

Probably one of this menu’s more bombastic contributions, the breakfast pΓ’tΓ© I found in last month’sΒ Bon AppΓ©tit. I just happened to have frozen pΓ’tΓ© in my freezer, made in the last month of my pregnancy. A container of frozen pΓ’tΓ© is one of the best things I’ve ‘lost’ and found again in my freezer. The steak, carrot, and chicken salad recipes I read in Cooking Light a couple years ago (and pineapple dressing for salad – genius!) The dessert is from Cucina La Italiana, still one of my favorite cooking magazines πŸ˜€ (nope..no endorsement yet, but a girl can dream).

On a random side note, I have switched from using olive oil to sunflower oil in all of my recipes that involve cooking at high temperatures. I recently read in an email sent from a very helpful friend of mine that when you cook certain oils (most oils, actually) to a certain high temperature, they burn and consequently go rancid. Rancid oils are carcinogenic, which are bad no matter what form they come in. So – as delicious as olive oil is – I guess it’s best to be served with dishes that aren’t cooked. Perhaps I should have known this but hey, I thought olive oil was delicious in any form I used it.

The star ingredient in this menu is citrus, I used mostly oranges but lemons and limes too. I’ve made the case for this fruit time and time again and I never seem to tire of it. I have a tupperware full of citrus slices sitting in the fridge for my water, juice, wine, etc. and I throw orange peels into stir-fries, zest copious amounts of lemons for batches of strawberry lemonade, and am making lime simple syrup for what I think might be the perfect mohito. This family of fruits can sit in the fruit bowl on the counter long after all other fruits there have molded and bruised, all the while giving off verbena aromas in the kitchen. I put unripe fruit in a bag with oranges or other citrus for a day to make them soft and ready to eat. Since I get a lot of my citrus from Spain, I’ve now gotten into the habit of scrubbing the outer rinds with soap and warm water before I zest or peel for cooking. At first what I thought was a pregnancy craving, turns out to be a lifelong addiction to Vitamin C, perhaps? Or maybe I’m just wanting some extra energy πŸ˜‰ Either way, there’s something wonderfully refreshing about these sweet and sour fruits. If I had to pick a favorite – and it would be hard – I would have to say lemons. When life gives you lemons, you can make just about a million things to eat..

Breakfast

Liver PΓ’tΓ© Crostini with Savory Berry Salad

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups chilled liver pΓ’tΓ© (can be chicken, duck, or beef)

1 baguette, sliced

(for the salad)

1 container of fresh blackberries

1 container of fresh blueberries

1 Tbs. olive oil

2 Tbs. fresh chives, minced

2 Tbs. fresh Parsley, minced

1 lemon, juiced

salt & cracked pepper

(1) To make the salad, combine all ingredients – blackberries through lemon juice – in a sealable container. Season with salt & pepper and chill until ready to serve. Turn the oven on to a low broil. (2) In a large metal or glass oven pan, lay out the baguette slices and season both sides lightly with olive oil and pepper. (3) Put pan into the oven about 10 cm from the top and broil, turning once, until both sides are browned, 3-4 minutes total. (4) Serve each of the toasted bread slices with a layer of chilledΒ pΓ’tΓ© and a spoonful of the berry salad on individual plates, or set it all in the center of the table and let everyone make their own.

Serves 4

Lunch

Blackened Chicken Spinach Salad with Spicy Pineapple Dressing

Ingredients

(for the chicken)

1 lb. (or 1/2 kg) chicken breasts

1 Tbs. ground coriander

1 tsp. chili flakes

1 Tbs. garam masala

1/2 Tbs. curry powder

1 /2 Tbs. ground black pepper

1 Tbs. cajun seasoning

1 Tbs. paprika

sunflower oil

(for the salad)

1 bag of baby spinach, washed & stemmed

1 package of baby bean sprouts, washed

1 red bell pepper, seeded & thinly sliced

1 yellow bell pepper, seeded & thinly sliced

2 red onions, peeled & thinly sliced

3 carrots, peeled & cut into matchsticks

1/2 of a ripe pineapple, peeled & cubed

(for the vinaigrette)

1/4 cup beer

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup cubed pineapple

2 Thai chilies, coarsely chopped

1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, stemmed & chopped

1/2 bunch of fresh chives, chopped

2 oranges, juiced

3 Tbs. honey

3 Tbs. yogurt

1 Tbs. rice vinegar

3 garlic cloves, chopped

(1) First, make the vinaigrette: combine all ingredients (beer through garlic) in a blender and puree until smooth. Season to taste with honey and cracked pepper, cover, and chill in the fridge. (2) Second, for the salad, make sure all veggies are washed and the greens are dry. In a large bowl, toss all veggies for the salad together, spinach through pineapple pieces. Cover with a damp paper towel and refrigerate until ready to eat. (3) Third, make the chicken: combine all spices for the chicken- coriander through paprika – in a small bowl. Wash and trim chicken breasts, dry, and then rub with 1 Tbs. sunflower oil. Rub the spice mix on both sides of chicken. (4) Heat 2 Tbs. of sunflower oil over medium-high heat in a skillet. When hot, add the chicken and cook, turning once until both sides are browned and the meat is cooked through, 10-12 minutes. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and cover with foil; let rest 5 minutes. (5) When ready to serve, lightly toss salad with the chilled vinaigrette. Slice blackened chicken lengthwise and top each salad bowl with 4-5 pieces. To make the salad as a weekly snack, keep vinaigrette on the side and separate salad into sealable containers, covering with damp paper towels; close and seal the containers and refrigerate until needed, adding the vinaigrette just before eating. Salad goes well with garlic bread or toasted pita triangles πŸ™‚

Serves 4

Dinner

Beef Tenderloin Steaks with Pomegranate-Pinot Noir Sauce

Ingredients

4 beef tenderloin steaks

1 1/2 cups Pinot Noir (or Cabernet-Merlot blend)

4 shallots, peeled & minced

2 oranges, juiced

2 pomegranates, seeded

1 cup of beef broth

2 Tbs. butter

sunflower oil

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Season both sides of steak with salt and pepper. Let meat stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking. (2) Heat 2 Tbs. of oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the steaks and cook 3 minutes per side, untilΒ  seared on the outside and medium-rare when cut into. Remove steaks from the skillet and cover with foil. (3) Pour 1 Tbs. of oil into the skillet, add shallots and cook about 3 minutes until slightly golden. Add all of the red wine, beef broth, and orange juice next, bringing the sauce to a boil. (4) Stirring occasionally, cook until the liquid has been reduced by half. Lower heat and stir in the butter; season to taste with salt & pepper. (5) Serve the steaks with a generous spoonful of red wine sauce and 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds per plate, cracking black pepper across the top.

Serves 4

Steamed Carrots with Garlic-Ginger Butter

Ingredients

1 lb. (or 1/2 kg) carrots, peeled & quartered

4 cloves of garlic

5 Tbs. fresh grated ginger

3 Tbs. butter

5 limes, zested & juiced

sunflower oil

Sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Mince all of the garlic and mix with the fresh ginger and lime zest; set aside. Fill the bottom of a large pot with 3 cm of salted water; cover and bring to a boil over high heat. (2) Put the carrots in a colander and then into the pot; cover and steam veggies until tender and easily pierced with a fork, 10-15 minutes. (3) In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbs. sunflower oil and add the garlic-ginger mixture, cooking 1 minute or until fragrant. (4) Lower the heat to medium and add carrots and lime juice, mixing well. Cover the skillet and cook, stirring often, until carrots have absorbed liquid, about 4-5 minutes. (5) Stir in the butter until melted and serve immediately with cracked pepper.
Serves 4

and Dessert..

Honey-Citrus Gelatin with Cream & Cracked Pepper

Ingredients

1 packet unflavored gelatin

3 oranges

1 lemon

4 Tbs. honey

2 Tbs. brown sugar

1/2 cup cream

cracked pepper

(1) Zest and juice all 3 oranges. In a medium saucepan, add orange juice, zest, honey, and brown sugar; bring to a boil over medium heat and simmer until thickened and reduced by half. (2) Juice the lemon and add to saucepan, add the gelatin powder and cook for 1 minute more. (3) Remove from heat and cover, letting stand a minimum of 30 minutes. Once cool, put in the fridge (keeps 3 weeks chilled). (4) When ready to serve, put spoonfuls of the warm (or chilled) gelatin into small bowls and pour cream over the top, garnishing with 1/2 tsp. cracked pepper.

Serves 4

So, my Summer menu has turned out to be both long and filling. Det er bΓ₯de lang og godt fyldende πŸ™‚

My question: What is the best sauce to serve with a steak?

Red wine sauce is still one of my reigning favorites…

8.1.12