Tag Archive: vegetable


Savory Breakfast Muffins

Cracked Egg by vicviciniI really need to make more time for blogging. Wait no, I just need more time, in general. More often then not, I’m left wondering “…where did all my time go?” but I already know. Such is life, where I barely have time to do anything anymore and it’s almost depressing (notice I say almost) but suddenly amidst all this – it’s Summer!! Can I get a hip, hip hooray? 😉 I’m not thinking “yay, it’s Summer,” I’m more like: “thank GOD it’s Summer,” and I’ll be thinking that all this week until the wow effect of this wonderful season wears off.

So what’s good about Summer? Everything you forgot about over Winter. Sunshine, popsicles, sidewalk chalk, iced tea, picnics, bubbles, watermelon, need I go on (because I have a tendency to do that…) I’m not exactly sure why I love Summer so much, I just know it’s not Winter, and how blessed that is.

I’ve had the wonderful pleasure of traveling lately and on my travels I also got to stay with family 🙂 It was on this last trip that I discovered The Gourmet Kitchen: Mushrooms, a semi-old South African illustrated cookbook sitting on a back shelf. After flipping through the first few pages, I thought I’d just write down the recipes that I wanted to make and get to it later, but I quickly realized that I wanted to make every single one! Don’t you hate it when that happens? So far I’ve made 7 recipes from this cookbook made for mushroom lovers: (1) mushroom omelet , (2) duck, mushroom & black bean stirfry, (3) savory mushroom & cheese muffins (these ones!), (4) spicy bean, mushroom, and chorizo stew, and (5) marinated mushrooms. Coming up next week: mixed mushroom tempura! Yessss.

So back to my issue with time. Now that I’ve returned from my travels, I find myself more often on the go than chillin’ in the crib. More than that, my day starts first thing in the morning, like everybody else who have kids 🙂 Introducing…the breakfast muffin!?! These aren’t your greasy calorie bombs you’ll find in Starbucks, I’m talking homemade, no guilt goodness of the best kind. I really can’t take sugar, or pastries (unfortunately), or super sweet things in the morning either so this is a godsend for me 😛 And when it comes to these muffins, thBellaere’s room for experimenting. I added the ham and chives to my recipe here, I also used more cheese and an extra egg on my second batch, just for fun 🙂 I don’t really find (or I guess look) for buttermilk anymore, so I ended up making my own instead (with milk & water, or milk & vinegar) to make the recipe.

The star ingredient in these superstar muffins? The mushrooms. It’s too easy of an answer, especially with all that talk about mushroom cookbooks, but the “proof is in the pudding,” as they say, or in this case it’s in the batter because mushrooms add a whole lot more than taste. For one, you don’t add any additional butter, just what you cook the mushrooms in so already, it’s a tad bit healthier 🙂 Secondly, mushrooms contribute moisture and pack a lot of taste for being as small as they shrink too after sizzling in butter for 5 minutes.

My advice? Substitute mushrooms in for the next ingredient you can’t seem to find in the grocery store. I throw thinly sliced mushrooms into soup, pickle them like cucumbers, and use them whole as dippers in broth & cheese fondue. There’s such a thing as mushroom pate, and if you’re fresh out of steak (or the cash required to get those hunks of meat), fry up some portobellos just like you would a filet. Like most things, mushrooms get better when they’re cooked in wine, sherry, or marsala. I do my portobello “steaks” with red wine sauce, as I pretend to be a pro at this whole vegetarian thing 😉

Breakfast Muffins with Mushrooms, Ham, and Fresh Chives

Ingredients

3 Tbs. butterSavoury Muffins

150g or 5oz of mushrooms, chopped

250g or 9 oz flour

2 1/2 tsp. baking powder

75g or 3oz grated parmesan or gran pardona cheese (or more, if you prefer)

100g or 4oz ham, cubed or sliced

1 bunch fresh chives, chopped

250ml or 8fl. oz buttermilk

salt & cracked pepper

1 egg

(1) Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius (400 Fahrenheit). In a large saute pan, melt the butter over medium heat. (2) When the pan is hot, add the sliced mushrooms and cook, stirring 0cassionally, until the moisture evaporates, 5-6 minutes total. Remove from heat and mix in the ham and fresh chives. Let cool uncovered. (3) Prepare a muffin pan or put 12 paper muffin liners on a baking tray. (4) In a large bowl, mix together the baking powder and half of the grated cheese. (5) In a smaller bowl, whisk the egg and buttermilk until well combined. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until the batter is just combined. It should be a little lumpy. (6) Scoop a generous spoonful of batter into each of the muffins liners, they should be about 3/4 full. Sprinkle the tops with remaining cheese and a dash of salt & cracked pepper. (7) Bake the muffins 24 – 25 minutes, or until the tops are browned and a fork comes out clean from the middle. Transfer to a wooden board to cool. Reheat muffins for breakfast or eat cold on a busy day!

Makes 12 muffins

chivesMy question: What’s your go-to breakfast dish?

I’m talking about the meal that lights your fire. For some, it’s dried fruit & muesli, for others it’s a classic omelet. I’m pretty predictable in that I don’t want to do much of anything in the morning, let alone eat so if there’s going to be breakfast, it better be hot.

I’m a sucker for the American classics and would choose bacon and eggs (and tomatoes, lots of tomatoes) over oatmeal, any day. The thing is I never have the time and if there’s somebody making breakfast, it’s unfortunately not me 😦

Is some of this sounding familiar? Try making these muffins the night before and you won’t have to stress, just nibble them on your way to work or in the middle of class, like I end up doing…

6.8.2015

 

 

Kale Ceasar Salad

salad-carol-scottSo it seems we find ourselves in the New Year (yay!) and yet in the depths of Winter…still. Oh but it’s not so bad, right? And there’s of course more than comfort food around to lift our spirits 🙂 I am happy to remember all those winter foods that weren’t in season and weren’t around, even a couple months ago. And somehow, I’m now hungrier – all the time! 😦 Mostly, I just end up wanting to make soup, but it’s good to diversify. And this brings me to my post.

So, is salad in season? No. But Kale is. I know what you’re thinking. Salad. Bor-ing. Ceasar, bleh – but no, I promise you this is worth the effort. Because, let’s just be honest here – caesar is awesome – emperor actually, and I’ll be the first to admit I don’t care for anchovies BUT then there’s CAESAR (I am trying to make my point, although I may just end up being redundant, but seriously) there are other perks to the wintertime salad. First, you cancaesar_salad scratch most fruit off that list because, darn, it’s just not ripe or even available and the first rule of any caesar is that it’s all about salty. In the absence of sweeter fillers, it’s good to add a go-to-protein or two to the salad that’ll contribute some texture and quantity. My choice: cubed cheddar cheese (instead of Parmesan) and ham, but the recipe I used suggested roasted chicken too. Remember, science (as reported by the Business Insider) just debunked 5 of the silly myths about meat that are out there so now we know that it is healthy, a great source of protein, our bodies can (and do) digest it well, and that it does not cause disease, or make you fat. Thank you, science.

Julius_Caesar_Coustou_LouvreThe secret ingredient here? Brown rice. I know I hate rice too, hate it. It’s the absence of something, I think, what’s it called? Oh yeah: flavor. But what’s the second rule about making a caesar salad? (I’m totally making this up, but still) It must have carbs. CARBS, say what, how can that be a rule?! Ask the Romans, they invented this. I’m only kidding, this dish is very American so I think it’s safe to assume that for it to be a caesar salad, there must be some carbohydrates in it. So the typical caesar has croutons and I try to avoid these tasty little treats full of empty calories (darn!) You know what packs a ton of (not empty) wholesome calories and can count itself as a good carb? That’s right, rice. Brown rice happens to be holier than thou when it comes to getting whole grains. Well thank god it’s good for something. I first came across this recipe in last September’s Cooking Light. Granted it called for quinoa, but brown rice is just as good.dressing

The labor intensive part of any salad is in the processing or chopping of all the raw veggies. The bad news? Caesar dressing from the store is over-rated and has waaaay too much sodium in it. The good news? You can make your own in about 24 seconds if you have handy some of the classic ingredients like a couple anchovies (yes, those slippery little suckers), olive oil, light milk or creme fraiche, and lemon. For me, the key to saving time in making this recipe lies in using a blender to puree everything – but this can just as easily be hand-chopped and mixed well.

I’ve included a quick & easy infographic from Women’s Health that breaks down all kinds of salad dressings you can make in 3 minutes, like a boss. Talk about easy, so you aren’t required to make creamy, salty dressing if you don’t want to; Greek, Honey Mustard, and Asian Dressing would all go just as well here 🙂

salad dressings

Kale Caesar Salad with Brown Rice, Bell Peppers, and Ham

Ingredients

(for the salad)Brown-Rice

4.7 dl (about 2 cups) brown rice

1 bunch of kale (any color)

1 block of sharp cheddar, cubed

3 bell peppers, seeded & sliced

2 red onions, thinly slicedkale

500g (or 2 cups) cubed ham

5 tomatoes, coarsely chopped

(for the dressing)

2 anchovies, packed in oil

2 Tbs. hot water

1 lemon, juiced

1 dl (1/2 cup) creme fraiche or light milk

1/2 dl (or 1/4 cup) olive oil

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 Tbs. English (or Worcestershire) sauce

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Cook the brown rice according to package instructions and let cool completely. (2) Wash the kale and remove the stems, chopping the leaves and putting all greens into a large salad bowl. (3) Add all the other chopped salad ingredients including the brown rice, cheddar cheese, onions, peppers, ham, and tomatoes. (4) To make the dressing, combine the anchovies, hot water, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, creme fraiche, and Worcestershire sauce in a blender. Pulse until the dressing is creamy and smooth. Season to taste with plenty of salt & cracked pepper (5) When ready to serve, toss the salad with the dressing and heap into bowls, no bread needed, garnished with more cracked pepper and a wedge of lemon. 🙂

Serves 4

cheeseYou’d be amazed just how much I made of this and just how fast it all “disappeared.” I really planned for leftovers but caesar is another one of those things that gets really good by just chillin’ in the fridge. Amazing.

My challenge for the new year: go-to-snacks that I can assemble in less than 10 minutes. Got any ideas for me? Please share! I guess healthy is a priority but emphasis on the easy/quick to assemble part.

Question for this post & its readers: what is your favorite salad dressing ever?!

1.6.2015

Ladies Luncheon

farmers-market-nancy-pahlNo but really, how long has it been? Too long. The days stretch into weeks and while Summer zips by I find myself enjoying it often enough away from the kitchen X) It’s no surprise (or excuse for not posting, that’s my fault entirely:( ) but it does leave more time for strolling, shopping, and exploring. Grocery shopping is among the best parts of Summer. I still can’t seem to understand how everyone ends up hating grocery shopping so much. I mean, it’s still shopping…right? And while it may be crowded, bright, and dirty at least there’s fresh food to be found there…better than hunting and foraging for our food I like to think 😀 So, why do I like grocery shopping so much? Well, I don’t have a good reason, just that it is a reason. I don’t mind navigating the tight & narrow aisles for unique and tasty treasures. I rather enjoy the process of finding, comparing, and deciding on things to buy and eventually, devour 😉 Most of the time (and probably to the annoyed dismay of others) I end up taking my time, getting lost, and often standing in the way of the bustling shoppers as I try to decide what “light” coconut milk means in the Asian aisle. Sure it’s depressing because you can’t buy everything in front of you 😉 (and because, oh yeah you have to carry it all home on your back), but that’s not the point. I used to like shopping a whole of a lot less simply because (a) it had become a chore; and (b) it required strict budgeting. But ah, such is life.

I always have a list (“the list”) when I go grocery shopping because it keeps me on track, what I’ve discovered is that it’s important to plan (and yes, budget) some spontaneity into the task of shopping. What do I mean? I allot my spontaneity a certain amount on my weekly grocery list so that while I still get all those things needed for making meals, there’s also room for something random, or daring, or sugar-coated – whatever I may or may not stumble across. Believe me, it has a tendency to be surprising 😉 Sometimes it’s dried fruit or other snacks for my toddler (my first thought “oh thank god, something new. Let’s see if he likes this“), other times it’s a block on cheese that was on sale, or caramelized almonds, or a basket of cherries . Whatever “tickles your fancy” while your out & about on the drudgery of adult life and modern food-gathering is worth your notice and consideration – just be aware that: 1. you do and will always have to shop for food, right? Because 2. you have to eat and eat healthy, and 3. that it’s hugely important and necessary. It is okay to try and enjoy the uncertainty and variety that comes with the modern and the everyday. Sometimes it’s focusing on how little you have to go out and get that makes you overlook the facSnyders_Frans_Fish_Markett that it requires so little to feed and please your family and yourself 🙂 That being said, it’s nice to give voice to my secret delight at the present food-gathering process, hope I don’t upset the haters. I try to appreciate and believe me, that doesn’t always come easy but there are the finer things in life and shopping for food I consider to be one of them.

To pick up at my point, an example would be this luncheon that I prepared for a friend, which necessitated me visiting 3 different stores to properly acquire all the “necessary” ingredients, and even then there were some substitutions. The original recipe was from a “Fresh & Quick” edition of Fine Cooking. Some things just feel special when you go out and get them – fresh seafood (i.e. scallops) included. I remember when I first saw the slippery suckers 😉 I thought: …what even are those? Delicious is what they are. I liked the simplicity of this recipe and was only slightly daunted by the sheer amount of steps in completing the “quick & easy” -ness of it all. Note to self for next time: double the amount of scallops you make because seriously, it won’t be enough…

Before I jump into this recipe, I want to say that the star ingredient would be truly, simply – butter. Where would seared scallops be without Butter-Meltingbutter? I’ll tell you: a little dry and not nearly salty enough. Butter plays a key role in this recipe and is essential for plenty of other amazingly delicious things that only exist because of it (like biscuits, and frosting!) I’ll give credit where credit’s due – butter is the best, and I thank it for existing. I’ve come across a recipe for using a Lemon-Dill beurre blanc sauce to spoon over steamed clams with crusty bread. Mmm…more butter may be needed 😀

 

Seared Sea Scallops with White-Wine Pea Puree, Peppered Bacon, and Lemony Gremolata

Ingredientsscallops

(for the scallops)

6 – 8 fresh or defrosted jumbo scallops

1 package of bacon, coarsely chopped

2 Tbs. butter

(for the puree)

1 package of frozen peas, defrosted

6 shallots, peeled & coarsely chopped

3 garlic cloves, peeled & chopped

3 Tbs. butterFood52

5 Tbs. white wine

5 Tbs. chicken broth

4 Tbs. milk or cream

(for the gremolata))

1 lemon

1 bunch of fresh parsley, stemmed & chopped

1 shallot, peeled & minced

sea salt & cracked peppergremolata

(1) Rinse the scallops under cold water and pat dry, season with salt & pepper and chill until it’s time to cook. (2) To make the puree, melt 3 Tbs. butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic and let cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the peas, chicken broth, and white wine and let cook uncovered until the mixture is soft & fragrant, about 5 more minutes. Remove from heat and let cool briefly, 5 minutes. (3) Transfer the pea mixture to a blender and blend until smooth, adding the milk or cream and seasoning to taste with salt & pepper. Once pureed, return to the saucepan, cover, and keep warm over very low heat until ready to serve. (4) Heat a a medium skillet or frying pan on medium high-heat. When hot, add bacon pieces and cook, stirring occasionally until bacon is brown and crunchy, 5 – 6 minutes total. Transfer to a plate lined with paper-towels, season with cracked pepper, and cover until ready to serve. (5) Wipe the skillet clean before returning to medium-high heat. Melt 2 Tbs. of butter. When piping hot, add the scallops and do not stir. Let sear 3 minutes per side, turning carefully to brown the bottom & top sides of scallops until they are firm to the touch. Transfer cooked scallops to a plate and cover with foil. (6) In a small bowl, combine the minced shallot and fresh parsley. Zest the lemon and then juice it, adding it to the mixture and stir until combined. Season generously with salt & pepper, adding more lemon juice, if needed. (7) When ready to serve, scoop a spoonful of puree onto each plate, season with peppered bacon, and set seared scallops in the puree. Garnish with spoonfuls of the lemony gremolata. Goes great when paired with either/or garlic bread and champagne 🙂

Serves 2 – wish it made more, double it if you plan on being really hungry

Phew! That was a lot of steps but trust me, it’s worth it. These days as the rain (and wind…and hail…) begins to pop up during the week, I find the salty, fresh air contributing to my recent craving for seafood. My next seafood cooking extravaganza is going to be mussels in Riesling lemon broth with – yes – more garlic bread. I’ll have to make a “luncheon” out of that because what is a good dish without good company? Hope the rest of July provscallop-shellses to be as thrilling as scallops for lunch 😛

My question: What was served with the last plate of scallops you ate?

I ask this because the combinations of pairings with scallops kind of blows my minds sometimes and you never know what will be the perfect side – like a chickpea puree or roasted hazelnuts, or even brown “nori butter” like I read in a Bon Appetit from earlier this year. I will make more scallops this month just to satisfy my new fondness of searing things grill-style in our kitchen’s new skillet. Scallops are a somewhat of a blank canvas and I’d like to make a different version before I get tired of seeing them on the dinner menu 😉

7.13.2014

Spaghetti with ShrimpIt’s finally Spring, at least, I think. With the sudden rush of sunshine and warm weather, I find myself feeling like something fresh and flavorful. Spring is my favorite season by far and I always almost forget how wonderful it is – every year, until it happens again 🙂 This season is proving to be warmer by the day, and perhaps even more delightful is the fact that a lot of fruit and veggies seem to be in season suddenly as well. Ahh Spring, how did I forget you? And how I remember you now that you’re actually here.

I find people underrating seafood these days, so it’s only fitting this post involve the fresh, salty cuisine. Other than being devastatingly delicious, shrimp tend to pack enough flavor that you don’t need a huge amount. I found this recipe in a “quick & easy”-themed Fine Cooking magazine. Quick? Shrimp cooks in like 3 minutes, so check. Easy? Definitely. Other than some chopping at the beginning and a lot of stirring in between, this was easy enough. I did up the veggie content and mix a few things up recipe-wise, but here’s my version. The best part? The cream sauce. The recipe was titled ‘shrimp & pasta with a “light” curry cream sauce’ so I took this to mean light in content, but rich in taste; I accomplished this by quadrupling the amount of curry I added (I’m pretty sure moCreamst people do this too…)

Okay, I’ll admit it. I have a problem. My problem is with cream. Seriously, WHY did we make the stuff? Oh yeah because it’s amazing, because it takes things like sauce, dip, dessert, or a cup of iced coffee and makes it simply spectacular, I’d go so far as to say divine. I love to hate cream because it keeps adding to the comfortable layer already around my waist 😉 but thank god they make low-fat versions of the sinful stuff and sell it in little itty bitty containers, otherwise I might be a little rounder about now. My secret ingredient? That’s right, the cream. No lie. Because what IS sauce without it? I’ll tell you: it’s runny , it’s grim, it’s lacking in texture and depth – but WITH cream? Ahh, then we’ve hit culinary nirvana, again. Remember that a little goes a long way and for this sauce, it’s more than enough.

Pasta + veggies = boring … Pasta + veggies + shrimp? Mmm … pasta + veggies + shrimp … + cream sauce? Now we’re talking 😀

Spiced Shrimp with Soy Beans, Basil, and Mushrooms in a Light Curry Cream Sauce

Ingredients

(for pasta)

1 package spaghetti or linguinicurry-powder

1 package frozen & shelled edamame (soybeans), defrosted

1 package mushrooms (any), stemmed & sliced

1 package frozen mixed veggies (like peppers, or a wok mix with corn, carrots, snap peas, etc.)

4 garlic cloves, sliced

1 package large shrimp, peeled & deveinedChiffonade-Basil

2 Tbs. sesame seeds

1 Tbs. chili flakes

olive oil

coarse sea salt

(for sauce)

1/3 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup dry vermouth (or white wine)

1 cup creamEdamame

4 Tbs. yellow curry powder (sub any other curry powder)

1 lime

cooking oil

sea salt & chili flakes

fresh Basil leaves for serving, chiffonade

(1) Fill a large pot with water. Add a pinch of salt and a spoonful of olive oil. Cover and set over medium-high heat until at a rolling boil. (2) In a large saute pan or skillet, heat 2 Tbs. cooking oil over medium-high heat. When hot (and oil is shimmering), add the garlic and mushrooms, stirring occasionally until browned, about 8 minutes. (3) In a medium bowl, season shrimp with the sesame seeds, sea salt, and chili flakes. (4) Add the frozen veggie mix and endamame to the skillet and cook another 3 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, push the veggie ingredients to the side of the skillet and add shrimp and cook, stirring often until semi-pink but not completely cooked through (3 minutes max). (5) Add broth and vermouth, lowering the heat to maintain a simmer and, stirring occasionally, let the liquid reduce by half. (6) Once the large pot of water is boiling, add pasta and cook according to package instructions until al dente. Drain and return to the pot. Juice the lime over the pasta and stir until moistened. Cover to keep warm and set aside (7) Add the curry powder and cream to the skillet, mixing well, and let the mixture bubble another 2-3 minutes, until sauce is thickened. (8) Pour curry sauce with shrimp and veggies over thShrimpe pasta and stir to combine. Season to taste with sea salt and chili flakes. Serve steamin’ in bowl garnished with a generous pile of fresh Basil leaves.

Serves 4

Well, it looks so time-consuming here when I spell it out step-by-step, but just re-thinking making this recipe gives me this strange desire to cook similar things… involving seafood + cream… hmm like seared scallops with creamy pea puree, or something like that (!)

My question: What is your favorite dish with cream in it?

Seriously, I want to know.

Yes, ice cream counts.

5.6.2014

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 😉 ) 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 🙂 ).

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 😉

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 😀 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 😉

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 🙂 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 😉 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 😀

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 slaw🙂

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 😀 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 😛 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 🙂

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.. 😀

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

11.29.13

Seaweed Saladizzle

mermaid_seaweedI was going to do a post on chestnuts since I’d ‘forraged’ some (a lot, actually) from the urban wilderness. I’m not even going to talk about how THAT turned out, other than to say don’t bother trying it and save yourself some energy. Instead, I am going to talk about one awesome salad that doesn’t get enough credence in the buzz and hubbub of the salad world. It’s called wakame, sound familiar? Mmhmm, seaweed salad. Introducing the first delicate pile of greens that won’t wilt or get soggy, even after chilling for a couple days in the fridge – is it real? YES. I buy seaweed salad frozen and defrost, then add my own ingredients. Below are two versions of seaweed salad I think are worth trying – it’s not as slimy as you think! 😉

The first recipe here is from Food & Wine and was the inspiration for me making my own seaweed salad in the first place. It just looks so… good… and I love the stuff but have never seaweed_saladseen it in stores to make it myself. Way back in the day, I came across this honey-miso version, and I filed it away for one day… That day came. Seaweed salad, including the first version I made of this amazing dish, is especially flavorful (and healthy!), with or without the honey. Last week, I made seaweed salad again, only this time it was “my version,” with a little more vinegar, onions, and other smelly herbaceous stuff 😀 ‘Twas de-licious.

My star ingredient? Miso. What even is this stuff?! Fermented… what… now it kinda sounds gross. Not gross, SUPER healthy. Also super salty, what could be better? The miso I got is black as sh%$ , I mean night, and it looks like sticky dirt. Does NOT taste like dirt though. I’ll admit, I find myself sampling a small spoonful nmiso-paste_chartow and again with toast or cheese. That’s breakfast, right? I don’t like adding salt to anything I cook, so to have the super smooth saltiness of miso to use comes in handy in my kitchen. I think it’s going to take a lot more dishes like these to get me through this whole packet of miso though, I’ve got oodles 🙂

Seaweed Salad with Honey, Miso, & Lime

Ingredients

1 package frozen seaweed, or wakameseaweed-salad

1 cucumber, thinly sliced

1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced

1 Tbs. rice vinegar

1 Tbs. sesame seeds

1 Tbs. miso paste (any)

1 Tbs. honey

1 Tbs. fresh ginger, peeled & sliced

1 tsp. roasted sesame oil

1/2 a lime, juiced

(1) Defrost the seaweed overnight in the fridge or 2 hours at room temperature. In a small bowl, mix together rice vinegar through lime juice, stirring until well blended. (2) Drain any excess liquid from the seaweed before putting in a bowl. Combine the seaweed and vinaigrette and toss. Chill until ready to serve. Goes great with pork or poached eggs 🙂

Serves 4

Spicy Seaweed Salad with Red Onion, Cucumber, & Kimchi

Ingredientssliced-red-onions

1 package frozen seaweed, or wakame

1 cucumber, thinly sliced

2 red onions, peeled & thinly sliced

2 Tbs. rice vinegar

1/2 Tbs. chili flakes

2 Tbs. sesame seeds

2 Tbs. lager beer

1 tsp. roasted sesame oilkimchi

1 Tbs. miso paste (any)

1 can fermented veggies (like ginger, water chesnuts, or carrots), drained & chopped

1 can kimchi, drained & chopped (spicy Korean fermented cabbage)

(1) Defrost the seaweed overnight in the fridge or 2 hours at room temperature. In a small bowl, mix together rice vinegar through kimchi, mixing until blended. (2) Drain any excess liquid from seaweed before putting into a bowl. Combine the seaweed and vinaigrette, tossing, and chill until ready to serve. Goes great with chicken (I served it with shitake-crusted chicken breasts), or fried eggs.

Serves 4Dong_Yuan_Mountain_Hall

Well, no matter how long the intervals between my posts, I am still here and cookin’ up a storm in the hours my day usually allows me 😉 I will try to post more material these days about my culinary musings (maybe even something on chestnuts too, sigh…). I’m doing a lot of my shopping at the Asian markets these days, so expect more spicy-themed dishes with fermented goodness and powerful flavors.

My question: When you go out to eat at a Asian place, what is your favorite dish to order?

…Maybe this is something you wouldn’t think of cooking up on your own? I’d love some ideas!

10.14.2013

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 😉 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 😀

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.  (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)  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 🙂

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)  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 😛

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… 🙂

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 🙂

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 😀 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! 🙂

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 😛

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 (≈1 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 (≈1 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 🙂 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 🙂 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.. 😛

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