Thursday, February 25, 2010

Pumpkin Polenta with Chorizo and Black Beans

Tonight's meal used up the rest of the Chorizo from earlier in the week, and two items that have been dwelling in my pantry for a long time which I never thought I would use together:  a can of pumpkin and a tiny jar of pimientos.

When I was thinking about what to make this week, I randomly pulled out my most used Rachael Ray cookbook, 365: No Repeats, and turned to this recipe, which was dog-eared, so I guess at some point I wanted to make it.  I haven't made a Rachael Ray recipe in ages, but I have liked every single thing I've made out of this cookbook.  Whenever I am craving really hearty comfort food, this is a good cookbook to turn to.

By the way, if you are making a recipe that calls for instant polenta, and you have polenta but it's stored in a plain plastic tub and you can't remember if it's instant or not, but you just want to use it anyway, it will be ok!  When it's still grainy and uncooked after 2 minutes, don't freak out, just add a bit more liquid and let it cook longer.  Completely hypothetical situation, of course.  

Pumpkin Polenta with Chorizo and Black Beans
adapted from Rachael Ray's 365: No Repeats
Serves 4-6 (her portions are pretty big, so if you are a light eater, it will serve 5 or 6)

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3/4 pound Chorizo, casing removed, chopped (we used Spanish Chorizo, and I'm guessing either would be fine because she didn't specify which one)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 pimiento peppers or roasted red peppers, chopped (I had a 4 ounce can of diced pimientos so I figured that was good enough)
3 cups chicken stock or broth
2 tablespoons butter (I forgot to add this!  Oops!)
1 14-ounce can pumpkin puree
1 cup quick-cooking or instant polenta
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup shredded Manchego (Spanish sheep's milk cheese) or sharp or smoked Cheddar (we always have sharp cheddar so we used that)
1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped (I had the curly kind)

Get all your ingredients ready to go before you start because this recipe comes together fast.

In a medium nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the chorizo and cook for a couple of minutes.  Add the onion, cook 3-4 minutes more.  Add the black beans and pimientos and cook for another couple minutes to heat through.  Set aside (we thought this mixture was sitting in too much oil for our liking, so we used a slotted spoon and put the mixture into another bowl).

Add the chicken stock and butter to a large saucepan and bring to a boil.  Stir in the pumpkin.  Add the polenta and stir until it masses, about 2 minutes.  Off heat, add the thyme, salt, pepper, and cheese.  Taste and add more salt/pepper if needed.

To serve, spoon some polenta onto a plate or rimmed soup bowl, top with the Chorizo mixture, and garnish with parsley.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Stuffed Peppers with Herbs and Vegetables

This is the first recipe I've tried from The Cuisine at Home "Cuisine Lite" special edition magazine.  It's kind of refreshing to see them lighten up recipes by using less meat per serving, more veggies overall, and lower fat (or just using less of regular fat) dairy products.  The book as a whole is still very "meat centric", but I like the direction they are headed.  

How can you go wrong using all these vegetables??  

I used more eggplant than it called for because, well, that was the size of my eggplant and I knew if I didn't cook it tonight, it might go bad before I found a use for it.  As a result, we had extra filling, which I used to make burritos for our lunches tomorrow (I added some Yumm Sauce).

I think the peppers could have cooked longer.  The recipes says to bake them for 20 minutes, or until tender, and I forgot to actually check to see if they were tender after that amount of time, I just plated them up without thinking.   

Stuffed Peppers with Herbs and Vegetables
adapted from Cuisine at Home - Cuisine Lite 
Serves 2 as an entree or 4 as a side dish

1 large red bell pepper
1 large yellow or green bell pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups diced, peeled eggplant
1 cup diced onion
1 pound tomatoes, peeled (who does this, seriously?), seeded, and diced (2-3 tomatoes)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons sliced kalamata olives
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons minced fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons minded fresh basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup fresh whole-wheat bread crumbs (just throw a couple of stale slices into a food processor to make these, or stale it by baking it in the oven first)
1/2 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced parsley leaves
2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese

Preheat oven to 400.

Line a baking pan with foil and coat with cooking spray.  Cut the peppers in half lengthwise (through the stem).  Place in pan, sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Set aside. 

Heat 4 teaspoons oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Add the onion and eggplant.  Cook, stirring gently but often (you're not using much oil so don't let it burn!), for about 7 minutes or until tender.

Add the tomatoes and garlic to the pan.  Cook until the vegetable mixture has thickened and most of the liquid released by the tomatoes has evaporated, about 5 minutes.  Off heat, stir in the olives, pine nuts, mint, basil, pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  

Fill each pepper half with about 1/3-to 1/2 cup of the mixture.  Cover the pan with foil and bake for about 20 minutes, or until tender.

While the peppers are baking, toast the bread crumbs in a small skillet with 1/2 teaspoon oil over medium heat.  Stir in the parsley.

Sprinkle peppers with bread crumb mixture and feta cheese (try not to get frustrated when the cheese wants to just roll right off the peppers, you can scoop it up when you plate them).  Serve immediately.  

Monday, February 22, 2010

Fried Chickpeas with Chorizo and Spinach

One of my favorite food columns to read online is the one Mark Bittman writes for the New York Times called "The Minimalist".  I used to read this before I had any of his cookbooks; I love his method for using quality basic ingredients and turning them into something really special without a lot of work.

This recipe uses chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans), Spanish Chorizo (the hard smoked kind, not the softer mexican variety), and spinach.  This meal is a winner!  I munched on the chickpeas throughout the entire cooking process and I forgot how tasty they are!  They start out being soft and mealy, but toward the end the exterior becomes crunchy, yet they are still soft on the inside.  We bought dried chickpeas and started them soaking this morning, then simmered them for a bit when we got home from work until they were tender.  You can use either canned or dried for this recipe though.          

I was just reading today about how a lot of the nutrients in spinach (like Vitamins A, K, and E, some carotenoids, etc.) are fat soluble, so you need to make sure there is fat somewhere in your meal to go with the spinach so your body can absorb all those great nutrients.  This fact makes me feel a lot better about basically frying the chickpeas in oil and Chorizo fat and drizzling the whole dish with olive oil.  Even though I was just a teenager during the "Low Fat Craze" in the 90's (remember Snackwell's?), it still somehow managed to leave an impression on me, because to this day I feel a twinge of guilt when it comes to cooking with fat.  I have to remind myself that trying to cut too much fat out of your diet might actually be robbing your body of vital nutrients.  

Fried Chickpeas with Chorizo and Spinach
adapted from "The Minimalist" by Mark Bittman
Serves 4

1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 cups cooked or canned chickpeas, as dry as possible (rinse them first if using canned, then gently blot dry with paper towels or use a salad spinner.  If they are wet when you put them in to the oil they will spatter)
Salt and black pepper
4 ounces chorizo, diced
1/2 pound spinach (more or less is fine), roughly chopped
1/4 cup sherry
1 to 2 cups bread crumbs

Preheat the broiler.  

Put three tablespoons of the oil into a large oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat.  When hot, add the chickpeas and spread them out into a single layer (they won't brown well if the pan is too crowded).  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  

Reduce the heat a bit and cook, shaking the pan occasionally (you mostly just want to let them sit there and fry in the oil), until they begin to brown, about 10 minutes or so.  Add the chorizo, and cook for another 5-8 minutes, or until the chickpeas are crisp (taste a couple to make sure).  Use a slotted spoon to remove chickpeas and chorizo from the pan and set aside in a bowl.  

Add the last tablespoon of oil to the pan.  When hot, add the spinach, then pour the sherry over it.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cook over medium-low heat until the spinach is wilted and soft and the liquid has pretty much evaporated.  Add back the chickpeas and chorizo and toss gently to combine.  Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top and drizzle with a bit more olive oil.  Put the whole pan under the broiler to lightly brown the top.  

Serve hot or at room temperature.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Risotto with Winter Squash and Collard Greens

Not a weeknight meal, but well-worth the effort when you have more time. We had the time today, after spending a beautiful sunny weekend mowing the lawn, taking down the Christmas lights (don't judge me), and refilling my bird feeders.

Anyway, let's talk about risotto. Basically, it's an Italian rice dish that's cooked slowly on the stove. You stir it often and add stock or broth gradually so that the rice release their starches and the dish becomes very creamy as a result.

I got this recipe from the New York Times online, in the "Recipes for Health" section. Every week they have recipes that feature a pantry or produce item. We already had the squash, I bought some collard greens, and I also added some rainbow chard that we got in the CSA. I didn't blanch the chard with the collards though, because it's not as thick so it didn't need it.

We had a lot of extra broth leftover that we didn't end up needing. You have to have it on a simmer ready to go, so you can't just not open one of your quart packages and wait and see if you'll need it. So my suggestion is to freeze your leftover broth, or use their variation of 1 quart broth and 1 quart water, and then if you have leftovers you can boil it down to concentrate it (since you diluted it with the water), and then freeze it. Or just refrigerate it and plan to make something with it later in the week.

Risotto with Winter Squash and Collard Greens
adapted from NYTimes Recipes for Health
Serves 4-6  

1 1/2 pounds winter squash, such as butternut, banana or hubbard, peeled, seeded and cut in 1/2 inch dice (about 2 cups diced squash)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 bunch collard greens, about 1 pound, stemmed and washed
2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock, or 1 quart chicken or vegetable broth and 1 quart water
1 small or 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped (I'm guessing on "finely chopped", the recipe accidentally omitted how you are supposed to prep the onion)  
2 large garlic cloves, green shoots removed, minced
1 1/2 cups arborio or carnaroli rice
1/2 cup dry white wine, such as pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc
Pinch of saffron (optional)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (2 ounces)

3 to 4 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley   

Preheat oven to 425. On a baking sheet covered with foil, toss your diced squash with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread them out in an even layer. Roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so. When they are done with will be a little caramelized and very tender. Put them in a bowl and set aside. Try not to munch on too many of them. But do enjoy a few bites.

Meanwhile, get some water boiling in a large pot to blanch the collard greens. Once the water is boiling, add a good amount of salt and add the greens. Boil for about 4 minutes and submerge them in a large bowl of cold water and ice to stop the cooking process. Gently ring out the water and while you still have each leaf rolled up, chop them into ribbons. Set them aside for later.

While your squash is finishing roasting, start to bring the stock/broth to a simmer in a saucepan.

Ok, now you have completed all the preparatory steps, you can finally start putting it all together!

Heat the remaining oil in a large nonstick skillet/frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion, cook about 3 minutes, until the onion is softened. Add the garlic and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook about one minute more, then add the rice. Cook, stirring until the grains of rice separate, then add the wine and keep stirring constantly. The wine should bubble slowly. When it is just about absorbed, add the collard greens, about 1/3 of the squash, and the saffron, if using. Stir in a few ladlefuls of stock, just enough to cover the rice.

The stock should bubble slowly, turn the heat down a bit if it's cooking to fast. Stir often while it cooks, and when the liquid is just about absorbed, add another couple of ladelfuls of stock. Continue this process of stirring and adding stock for about 20-25 minutes, until the rice is tender all the way through but still chewy (is this similar to what they say with pasta, to cook until tender but it should still have a bite to it?).

Add the rest of the squash and another ladleful of stock. Stir in the Parmesan and parsley and take the pan off the heat. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve immediately.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Cycle of Delicious

I think we've gotten into a "delicious cycle" at our house.  After the Super Bowl, we found ourselves with a plethora of salsa and tortilla chips.  So we bought cheese and made nachos, tacos, and enchiladas over the next couple of weeks.  Well, now we have some crumbled queso fresco leftover, as well as the rest of the red mole from the enchiladas.  What else is there to do but purchase more tortilla chips?  Add to that a batch of our favorite refried beans and you get a lovely plate of nachos for dinner!

We've been making our refried beans this way for over a year now, and we've never gone back to canned, even on nights when we're feeling really lazy.  It doesn't take that much more time to make them this way, and the results are so much better!

The recipe calls for 3 cans of red kidney beans, but we usually do 2 cans of red kidney beans and 1 can of black beans.  That way we get the extra health benefits of black beans (which makes me happy), but they still look and taste like regular refried beans (which makes Joe happy).

Another reason we like making these beans so much is because all the ingredients are things we have on hand all the time -- except jalapenos.  We never have them around and I'm not the kind of person who will go all the way to the store just to buy a single jalapeno.  I don't remember when or how we thought of this, but we started using a chipotle, from the canned chipotles in adobo sauce.  It adds a nice smoky flavor to the beans, but it's not too overpowering.  Since we keep them in the freezer (see next paragraph) we just use those and never even try to buy a jalapeno anymore.    

Here is my favorite tip for canned chipotles: when you open a new can, take all the chipotles out and lay them on a cookie sheet, spooning some adobo sauce on top of each one.  Put the cookie sheet in the freezer for about a hour or so, then at that point you can gather them up and put them in a freezer bag and then will be there whenever you need them!  They are actually a lot easier to mince when frozen as well (a method we use when cutting up tissues in my lab actually!)      

Refried Beans
adapted from America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
Serves 4-6

3 (15.5 ounce) cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup water
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, minced
1 jalapeno chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro (optional; it's great if you have it, but we almost never do)
Tabasco (optional; Joe adds it to his portion, I don't care for it)

Put the beans and water in a food processor and process until smooth (about 30 seconds or so).

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  When hot, add the onion, jalapeno, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is softened.

Stir in the garlic and cumin, cook for about 15 seconds or until fragrant (oh, it will be fragrant!).

Add the pureed beans to the skillet and thoroughly mix together.  Lower the heat a bit and cook until the beans are thickened, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.  Stir in the cilantro, if using.  Taste and season with salt if necessary.  Add Tabasco if using.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Salmon Cakes with Cheesy Leeks

Joe picked the recipe for the salmon this week: Pan-fried Salmon Cakes from our well-loved America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.

I love this recipe because most of the ingredients are things you could conceivably have on hand (we only had to buy a lemon).  The cookbook is really great too - lots of good solid basic recipes with variations to keep things interesting.  It helped us to realize that you can make a lot of meals from scratch using really basic ingredients, rather than buying a packet or pre-made boxed mix.  It doesn't take that much longer, and it's healthier because you have total control over everything that goes in the dish.

To go with the salmon cakes I made a quick side dish with leeks, cream, and cheddar cheese.  Can't really go wrong with those ingredients!

Pan-fried Salmon Cakes
adapted from America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
Serves 4

1 1/2 pounds salmon fillets, skin removed
1 1/4 cups plain dried breadcrumbs (we needed more than this)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup grated onion
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Lemon wedges (for serving)

After removing the skin from the salmon, check for any pin bones by rubbing your  fingers over the fish.  Pat the fillets dry with paper towels, then cut into 1-inch chunks.  Put half the salmon into the food processor and pulse until just minced- be careful not to puree.  Repeat with the other half.

In a large bowl, add the salmon, mayo, onion, parsley, lemon juice, salt, and 1/4 cup of the breadcrumbs, and mix gently with a spatula.  Evenly divide the mixture so that you can form eight patties, each about 2 1/2 inches wide.  Lay them on a large plate lined with plastic wrap, and freeze until firm, about 15 minutes.

Make an assembly line of three plates, leading up to the pan you're going to fry the salmon cakes in.  The first plate is for the flour, the next one for the eggs, and the last one is for the rest of the breadcrumbs.  Dredge the cakes through each coating one at a time, pressing down on the breadcrumbs to make sure they stick.  Either do them as you go (which is what we did) or do as they suggest, which is to coat them all first and then start cooking them.

Regardless, heat your oil over med/high heat in a large nonstick skillet (oops, we didn't use nonstick - but they came out fine) until it shimmers.  Cook in batches or all at once depending on how large a skillet you have, until golden on both sides which takes about 4-6 minutes.  Have a plate lined with paper towels ready to put the finished cakes on to let them drain a little before serving.  Serve with the lemon wedges.

Cheesy Creamy Leeks
adapted from Best Ever Three and Four Ingredient Cookbook
Serves 4

4 large leeks
2/3 cup heavy cream
3 ounces sharp Cheddar or Monterey Jack, shredded (they also suggest Swiss or Gruyere for a milder flavor)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat your oven to broil.

Trim most of the green (tougher) parts off of the leeks and slice in half lengthwise.  Wash the dirt out of the outermost layers but keep them intact as much as possible.

Heat your oil in a large skillet.  Add the leeks, season with salt and pepper (but if you forget to season them at this time, like I did, never fear, you can do it later).  Cook, turning them and stirring occasionally, until they start to turn golden brown, about 4 minutes.  Most of them fell apart but that's ok.

Pour the cream into the pan and stir.  Let it simmer for a couple of minutes, then pour everything into a shallow baking dish.  Top with the cheese.  Broil 4-5 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling away and starting to turn golden.

Side note: while it might be more elegant to serve the leeks in long strips like they suggest, I found them to be a little impractical to eat -- they were difficult to cut with a regular table knife and fork.  If I were making this again I would slice them in half lengthwise like they say, but also crosswise into 2-inch pieces.  It might not be as impressive in the serving dish but it would be easier to eat I think.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Smoky Couscous, Chard with Tahini

Feeling very sleepy and in need of a bubble bath.  Therefore this blog is going to be short.  Here are a couple pictures of what we cooked tonight.  Whole wheat couscous with cauliflower, smoked paprika, and almonds (Mark Bittman).  I'm too lazy to go get the cookbook to see if that is the actual title of the recipe.  The smokiness of the paprika was awesome, but I think couscous is not my favorite grain.  It's just too small!  But the paprika sure made the dish pretty huh?

To go with that we made our stand-by of chard with tahini.  I LOVE it.  There are many variations of recipes for this.  I think we started with a Mark Bittman version (surprised?).  Basically start by sauteing some garlic in oil, then add a ton of chopped greens and about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of some kind of liquid (water, stock, etc).  Cook it down for about 5-10 minutes, then stir in some tahini so you get this kind of thick sauce.  Put it on the back burner with a lid on until the rest of your dinner is ready, then stir in a little lemon juice, salt and pepper.  

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sweet 'n' Sour Stir Fry

This year I received a gift subscription to Woman's Day Magazine and it has already proved useful!  This month's issue had a page with a basic stir fry method and three variations which (I decided) could be mix and matched.

I chose to make ours with tofu as the protein, sugar snap peas, red pepper, and scallions, for the vegetables, and sweet 'n' sour for the sauce.  I really liked the tangy sauce and I got to use some of Joe's mom's apricot preserves to make it!

If you wanted to try this using exactly the combinations they suggested, rather than mixing and matching, I listed them in order, so the first protein goes with the first vegetable, which goes with the first sauce, etc.

"Stir-Fry It" 
adapted from Women's Day Magazine, Feb 17, 2010 issue
Serves 4

Protein choices:
  • 1 pound boneless sirloin steak, cut into thin strips
  • 1 pound boneless chicken thighs, cut into 3/4 inch chunks
  • 14 ounces extra-firm tofu, cut into 1 inch pieces
Vegetable choices:
  • 1 red pepper cut into 1/2 inch strips, 8 ounces sugar snap peas
  • 2 peppers cut into bite size chunks, 4 scallions cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 3 cups small broccoli florets, 1 cup presliced mushrooms, 1 cup shredded carrots
Sauce choices:
  • Sesame: 1/3 cup stir fry sauce, 1/3 cup orange juice, 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • Sweet 'n' sour: 1/2 cup apricot preserves, 1/4 cup bottled barbecue sauce, 2 tablespoons cider vinegar, 1 can (8 ounces) pineapple tidbits or chunks, drained
  • Thai: 1 can (14 ounces) coconut milk, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 tablespoon red curry paste
Stir-Fry Method:

Heat 2 teaspoons vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Using a large bowl or a large plastic ziplock bag, combine your protein with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and mix thoroughly to coat.

Add protein to skillet, stir fry for 3-5 minutes or until browned and cooked-through.  Remove to a plate and set aside.

Add another 2 teaspoons of oil to the skillet.  When heated add the vegetables and stir-fry for 3-5 minutes or until they are crisp-tender.

Add the sauce to the vegetables in the skillet and stir to coat evenly while the sauce comes to a simmer.  Add the protein back to the skillet, stir to combine.

Serve over rice.  Yummy toppings could include things like toasted peanuts, sesame and/or flax seed, and cilantro.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Squash Enchiladas with Red Mole

Joe and I decided that for Valentine's Day all we really wanted was to spend time together cooking something really awesome (though we try to do this all the time)  We went all out today - squash enchiladas with a homemade red mole sauce, rice, and sweet corn bread (at some Mexican restaurants they put a small scoop of this on your plate or it may be served as a dessert.  I made it from a packet and can of creamed corn).  We also made honey spice cake with a mocha glaze for dessert!

I've never made mole, and quite honestly I'm not sure I've ever had it in a Mexican restaurant either.  I thought it would be more liquidy, but ours was so thick a spoon could practically stand up in it.  Regardless of how it is supposed to be, it was delicious, in my ignorant opinion (after thinking it over, I think maybe we should have used two cans of diced tomatoes rather than just one, and included some of the liquid in the can as well).

The normal recipe for this uses Monterey Jack cheese for the filling (two tablespoons for each tortilla).  We made the variation for squash.

Squash Enchiladas with Red Mole
adapted from Mark Bittman - How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
Serves 8-10

12 to 15 mild to medium dried chilies, like New Mexico, mulatto, pasilla, guajillo, ancho, (or a combination.  Our Co-Op had New Mexicos and we had a few anchos in the pantry)
2 cups assorted nuts, like peanuts, almonds, pecans, walnuts, pine nuts, and hazel nuts (here's your chance to use up small amounts of random nuts you may have lying around in your pantry, that's what we did!)
1/4 cup tahini or sesame seeds
1/4 cup cocoa powder or chopped unsweetened chocolate
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1 head garlic, peeled
4 plum tomatoes, cored (canned are fine)
2 thick slices white bread (stale is fine)
1 quart vegetable stock, or water, plus more as needed
1/4 cup neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, plus more for frying
3 or 4 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground allspice
2 teaspoons anise seeds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Brown sugar as needed (optional)
24 small corn tortillas, plus more if they break
4 cups cooked, mashed, and seasoned winter squash (can use pretty much any winter squash -except spaghetti might be weird- so choose pumpkin, acorn, butternut, delicata, etc.  I used two acorn and one large delicata)
1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco for garnish
1/2 cup chopped red onion or scallion for garnish
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro for garnish
Lime wedges for garnish

Preheat the oven to broil.  Lay the chilies on a cookie sheet and toast them in the oven for a minute or two (it won't take long, don't walk away!).  Then put them in a large bowl of hot water to soak (they will float, so we put another large bowl over the top to help submerge them).  After about 15-20 minutes they should be soft and pliable.  Holding the peppers over the bowl, pull off the tops and swish them around to remove the seeds.  Tear them open and pull off the veins and remove any remaining seeds.

Put the chilies, nuts, tahini, cocoa, onion, garlic, tomatoes, and bread in a blender or food processor with just enough stock to get the machine going (we had to do two batches).  I think the mixture would have been smoother if we had ground the nuts separately in our spice grinder and then mixed them in.  

Put 1/4 cup of oil into a large deep pot over medium heat.  Add the pureed mixture and all the spices, down to salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring frequently, until it becomes fragrant and starts to color, about 3-5 minutes (I didn't really notice it color that much personally).  Turn the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until it becomes deeply colored and looks very dry, about 15-25 minutes.

Turn the heat back up to medium-high and slowly add the rest of your stock.  We added a little water too.  Bring it up to a boil, then lower the heat way down so it barely bubbles.  Cook for about an hour, stirring every so often, adding more liquid as needed, until the sauce is thick and smooth (ours was VERY thick, but I don't know what it is supposed to look like).  Taste and add more salt if necessary, and add a tablespoon or two of brown sugar if you want.  Remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaves and keep warm (you can make the sauce up to three days ahead of time to this point.  Cool, and refrigerate, then gently reheat on the stove when you're ready to use it).

Preheat oven to 350.  Spread a thin layer of the mole into the bottom of a 9x12 (or 9x13) inch baking dish.

Pour about 1/2 inch of oil into a large deep skillet over medium-high heat.  When hot but not smoking (we used a candy thermometer and waited until it was about 325 degrees), fry the tortillas, one at a time, for about 10 seconds each, until they are softened and pliable.  Add more oil to the pan if needed.  Drain on paper towels (my grandma uses paper bags, but we didn't have any).

To fill the tortillas, put about two tablespoons of the mashed squash into the center of each tortilla, roll very tightly, and put into the pan seam side down.  The rolls should be packed snugly against each other (I could not fit all the tortillas into the pan; I had about 3 left over and I ran out of squash filling anyway.)  Cover the top with a good layer of mole and bake for about 25 minutes.

When they are finished baking, sprinkle the top with the queso fresco, scallions, and cilantro.  Have some slices of lime available and extra mole to pass around at the table.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Vegetable Pancakes

Last summer I made a lot of zucchini pancakes, and tonight I tried a similar method with sweet potatoes, frozen corn, and cilantro.  I love sweet potatoes so of course I thought they tasted awesome!  

You can use a wide variety of vegetables for this, and it actually only calls for 2-3 cups of veggies, so it's a really good way to stretch your produce when you have just one or two of something and want to get the most out of it. 

I looked at two of Mark Bittman's recipes for this, one in his book How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, and the other on his website.  They are slightly different in some amounts of ingredients but it all comes out the same in the end I guess.

It says it serves four, but ours only served three, because I didn't use enough butter and so a couple of them stuck and got destroyed while trying to flip them, and we just HAD to sample one before we were even done cooking (Quality Control, you know).

A little darker than ideal, but still really good!

Vegetable Pancakes
adapted from Mark Bittman - How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
Serves 3-4

About 1 pound vegetables (2 cups packed).  Common choices include root vegetables (turnips, carrots, beets, etc), corn, sweet potatoes, zucchini, winter squash, alone or in combination.  
1/2 onion, grated
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup flour, more or less
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Milk, half-n-half, or cream as needed
2 tablespoons melted butter or extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan

Preheat the oven to 275.  Place a wire cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet and put it in the oven.  You'll probably be working in batches so this is where you will put your finished pancakes to keep warm until they are all made.

Grate your vegetables (by hand, or use a food processor).  If using raw vegetables that have a high water content (like zucchini), wrap them in a towel and squeeze out some of the water otherwise you will have soggy pancakes.  

Put the grated veggies, onion, egg, and flour in a large bowl and mix together.  Add a tablespoon of fresh herbs if you want (Bittman says cilantro is good for sweet potatoes and corn, so I used that).  Season with salt and pepper.  Add just enough milk so that the vegetables are moist enough to hold together, but not super liquidy.  I ended up using about 1/3 cup of milk.  Stir in two tablespoons of melted butter or olive oil.  

In a large nonstick skillet or griddle over medium heat, add a good sized pat of butter or a couple tablespoons of olive oil (don't be stingy or the pancakes will stick).  When melted/hot, drop in spoonfuls of batter (about 1/2 cup; I found if I made them much larger than that they were too hard to flip) and use the spoon or a fork to press them down so they are fairly flat and even.  Cook, turning once, until they are nice and browned on both sides, about 12-15 minutes.  

Serve hot or at room temperature.  We served ours on a bed of salad mix with a side of Yumm sauce.  

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Chicken Tacos with Rice and Beans

I don't feel like anything we made tonight could qualify as a "recipe", yet I was really happy with the end result.  

When I was home for lunch today, I put two chicken breasts in the slow cooker, along with about 16 ounces of salsa.  I put it on low and went back to work (My mom told me about this method for cooking chicken, by the way).  When I got home, I shredded the chicken with two forks right in the slow cooker and then stirred it all up.  

Next, I put a tiny pat of butter in a pan, then added about a cup of frozen corn and cooked that for a bit, and added some salt.  Then I threw in some leftover black beans (about half a cup).  Then I decided it needed a little something extra so I added a good sprinkling of chili powder and cumin and cooked for another minute or two. 

I scooped the beans and corn into a bowl, then added a tiny bit more butter to the same pan.  I sprinkled a heaping teaspoon of tumeric over the melted butter and stirred it around for about 30 seconds, then added about a cup of leftover white rice and kept stirring until the color was evenly distributed and the rice was warmed through.  I loved the yellow hue of the rice and the butter and tumeric added a nice flavor.  It satisfied my urge to have a "special looking" rice side dish but also my desire to not work very hard for that result.

By the way, I was really not trying to be fancy with the plating of the meal here; it is easier to fill the tacos if you first put rice and beans on either side to hold them up!  

All in all, a good meal to bid farewell to the last of my pack of Foster Farms chicken.  It was cheap, but I can't buy that kind of chicken anymore with a clear conscious, darn it.  Luckily, since that chicken lasted us about 6 months, it shows that we really don't cook with it that much anyway.  Most things we usually would use chicken for anyway (burritos, tacos, enchiladas, salads, etc)  can easily be modified to use beans, tempeh, or tofu instead (case in point: while in college I once ordered a pasta dish for dinner at our dining hall and I was about halfway through eating it when I realized that what I thought were pieces of chicken were actually pieces of tofu, so apparently it makes no difference to me).  

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow Pea, Scallion, and Radish Salad

I was so excited to have radishes leftover from the super bowl because it meant that I had an excuse to try this salad!  It was very tedious to prepare for how few ingredients there were but it was crunchy and tangy and lovely and thus, to me, totally worth the effort.  Ellie Krieger rocks.

We also had salmon fillets (just from Costco, but they were wild, not farmed, at least) topped with peach and mango salsa, and a tiny bit of kale from the CSA that we sauteed with some garlic and oil and stirred in tahini and lemon juice near the end.

Snow Pea, Scallion, and Radish Salad
adapted from Ellie Krieger - The Food You Crave
Serves 4

2 cups (about 8 ounces) snow peas, trimmed
1 tablespoon water
2 scallions (white and green parts), thinly sliced
4 radishes, trimmed and cut into thin strips (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon walnut or canola oil

Put the snow peas and water into a glass bowl (or other microwave-safe container), cover, and microwave for 1 minute.  Drain, and cool while you prep the other vegetables.  Cut the snow peas on a bias into 1/2 inch pieces, discarding the ends.

In your serving bowl, combine the radishes, scallions, and snow peas.  Whisk together the vinegar, sugar, and oil in a small bowl until the sugar dissolves, then pour over the salad.  Mix together, admire, and serve.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Clean out the Fridge Night: Homemade "Yumm" Bowl

This is something we have for dinner (and lunch) quite often.  Cafe Yumm is one of our favorite places to eat, and we buy their Yumm Sauce by the huge one liter bottles so we can make our own versions of their fabulous Yumm Bowls at home.  (Side note: It also makes a great salad dressing!)

Tonight's version was composed of basmati rice, black beans, stir fried veggies (leftover crudities from our Super Bowl party: carrots, celery, radishes, kohlrabi, and broccoli), Yumm sauce, a little salsa, and some toasted flax and sesame seeds.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Super Bowl Chili!

For me, the Super Bowl is all about the food.  We had my parents and sister over to watch the game, and Joe and I made our favorite chili and cornbread.  Our version is adapted from Emeril's Chili recipe, and over the years we've increased the amounts of a few things, and added some cool ingredients, like unsweetened chocolate and beer.   

Also worth noting; this chili is even better the next day, so for this occasion we actually made it the day before and just reheated it on the stove while we baked the cornbread.  

Joe's Chili 
Inspired by Emeril Lagasse
Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
Salt, to taste
Cayenne pepper, to taste
2 pounds stew meat, cut into 3/4 to 1 inch pieces (we like chuck shoulder, or precut stew meat works too.  The precut meat should still be cut into smaller pieces)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
Crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 anaheim pepper, diced (seeded to reduce heat, if desired)
1 jalepeno pepper, diced (seeded to reduce heat, if desired, and for the love of god, use gloves when handling this!)
2 tablespoons (about 6 cloves) garlic, chopped
1 bottle of beer (this time we used a lager, but pale ale is good as well)
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate (either a brick or powder will work)
1 -28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 cups beef stock or broth
2 -14 ounce cans of beans (such as dark red kidney beans)
2 tablespoons masa flour
4 tablespoons water
Tortilla chips, grated Monterey Jack cheese, sliced green onions, and sour cream (optional, for garnish)

In a large pot, heat the oil.  Add the onions and cook until they look transparent and wilted.  Season with salt and cayenne pepper.  Add the meat, chili powder, cumin, crushed red pepper, oregano, and the peppers.  

Cook the meat for about 5-6 minutes, basically until it's browned all over.  Pour in half the beer and stir.  Add the chocolate, garlic, tomato paste, beef stock, and beans, and the crushed tomatoes.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  

This next part is essential: stand over the pot of chili and inhale deeply, taking in the marvelous aroma.  Drink the rest of the beer while the chili simmers for an hour, stirring occasionally.  

Mix the masa flour and water together in a small bowl.  Slowly stir the masa goop into the chili and mix well.  Add more if you want it thicker.  Let the chili simmer for about 30 minutes more.  Season again with salt and cayenne to taste.  

Place some of the chips in the bottom of each bowl, then spoon chili on top of it.  Add the grated cheese, green onions, and a dollop of sour cream if you'd like, then add a few more chips around the bowl to make it look totally sweet.  

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Curried Chicken Salad

We got a large bag of salad mix in our CSA today so I wanted dinner to be a filling salad of some sort.  I had most of the things we needed for Ellie Krieger's Curried Chicken Salad so I made that to go on top of the greens.  I didn't have grapes so I used an apple instead.

The only thing that took a little while was defrosting, then cooking, then dicing the chicken, because I didn't decide I was going to make it until after I got home from work.  Other than that it was really easy.  I don't like traditional chicken salads (too much mayo--YUCK!) but I LOVED the yogurt-mayo-curry combo in this version!

Curried Chicken Salad
adapted from "So Easy" by Ellie Krieger
Serves 4

1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon curry powder
2 1/2 cups cubed cooked chicken breasts (about 1 1/4 pounds)
1 cup halved red grapes (I didn't have grapes, but I had an apple, which was good too)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
5 ounces mixed salad greens (about 5 cups lightly packed)
4 lemon wedges (this would have been a nice touch; we didn't have any)
4 ounces pita chips (we didn't have any of these either)

Mix together the yogurt, mayo, and curry powder in a large bowl.  With a spatula, fold in the chicken, grapes, and cilantro and season with salt and pepper.

Make a bed of salad on a plate.  Top with a scoop of the chicken salad.  Sprinkle with almonds and squeeze a lemon slice over it just before serving.  Serve with pita chips.

The chicken salad will keep for up to three days in the fridge, and you could easily pack it up and bring it to work for lunch.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Clean out the fridge night: Fried Rice

Tonight we made Mark Bittman's Fried Rice recipe using all kinds of odds and ends we had leftover from our CSA box and other leftovers from the week. I love that he gives a recipe for basic fried rice, then says "the list of things you can add to fried rice is longer than the list of things you cannot". That really gives me confidence to play around with it ad use what I have on hand to create something unique.

We had one small kohlrabi about one cup of cauliflower florets from our CSA. Add to that about 3/4 cup of diced ham leftover from when we made the pea soup, and of course all that rice from the stuffed baby squash.

We also had half a head of cabbage from the CSA and the leafy tops of the kohlrabi. I didn't think those would go all that well in the fried rice so I sauteed those separately in a little oil and added some chopped almonds and sesame seeds at the end.

Fried Rice with Shrimp and Pork
Serves 4

1 cup fresh or frozen peas
3 tablespoons peanut or neutral oil (I used vegetable oil)
1 medium onion (he says to roughly chop it, but I like smaller onion pieces so I did more of a small dice so mine were about the size of the peas)
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and roughly chopped (instead of this we used the kohlrabi and cauliflower, and it was more like 1 1/2 cups)
8 ounces small shrimp, peeled (optional: we didn't do this because we didn't have any)
8 ounces diced roast pork, Chinese sausage, or other cooked meat (optional, we used ham)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger (we used the stuff in the jar)
3 to 4 cups cooked any long-grain rice (start with about 1 1/2 cups raw), preferably basmati or jasmine and preferably chilled (i.e., leftover rice)
2 eggs, lightly beaten (optional)
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar, sherry, dry white wine, stock, or water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil (we used toasted sesame oil, not dark)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped scallion or fresh cilantro

For this recipe, it's best to have everything prepped before you start, because once you get going things move pretty fast.

If you are using frozen peas, put them in a bowl of cold water so they defrost. Give them a stir after a few minutes in case any remain stuck together.

Meanwhile, put 1 tablespoon of the oil into a large skillet over high heat. Once heated, add the onion and bell pepper. Cook about 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they soften and start to brown. If the mixture starts to stick and looks like it's starting to burn, lower the heat a bit. Transfer the mixture to a bowl with a slotted spoon.

(I had to add a bit more oil at this point) Add the shrimp, if using, and cook over a high heat until they turn pink. Add the pork (or other meat) and cook until it browns slightly, about 2-3 minutes. Add it to the bowl with the vegetables.

Drain the peas if you had to defrost them, and add them to the skillet. Shake the skillet while they cook for about a minute, then add them to the bowl with everything else.

Put the remaining oil in the skillet, then add the garlic and ginger. Cook for just 15 seconds, then start adding the rice, a little at a time, breaking up the clumps with your fingers and stirring it into the oil. After all the rice is added, push the rice away from the center of the pan to make a well to add the eggs (if using). Stir them until they start to scramble, then mix them into the rest of the rice.

Add your bowl of meat and veggies back to the pan and stir everything together gently. Add the rice wine vinegar, stir and cook for about a minute. Add the soy sauce and sesame oil. Taste and add salt and pepper, if necessary (ours didn't need any). Off the heat, stir in the scallion and/or cilantro, and serve.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Stuffed Baby Squash

Amy, this recipe made me think of all those squash on your windowsill, just waiting to be devoured. :-)

I was so excited to make this! We've been getting different varieties of squash every week in the CSA, and sometimes it's challenging to find new and exciting ways to cook them. This is from the "Best Ever Three and Four Ingredient Cookbook" that we bought on a whim from Borders a few years ago because it had a big read $3.99 sticker on it. It turned out to be quite a find, because everything we've made out of it has been awesome!

We planned on making extra rice for meals later in the week, but after preparing the rice, we realized we forgot that we were going to cut the recipe in half, since we only had two squash, so that just means we have ALOT of extra rice now.

The recipe calls for chili and garlic oil. Normally, we would never have this kind of thing on hand, but we did happen to have small bottles of both garlic oil and chili oil (stocking stuffers), so we mixed the two. But if we didn't have these, I bet you could add some minced garlic and red pepper flakes to the oil in the pan and cook for a minute or so and then strain them out and you would get a similar flavor.

Stuffed Baby Squash
serves 4

4 small squash, each about 12 oz
1 cup uncooked mixed wild and basmati rice
1 1/4 cups grated Gruyere cheese
4 tablespoons chili and garlic oil
Salt and ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375.

Poke a hole in each squash with the tip of a knife. Bake until tender, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the rice in salted, boiling water until tender, about 12 minutes, and drain (Joe just cooked the rice until all the water was absorbed, so we didn't have to drain it).

Let the squash sit until cool enough to handle, or if you are impatient like me, wear an oven mitt on one hand and proceed with slicing a lid of the top off each squash and scooping out and discarding the seeds and stringy stuff. Next, scoop out the flesh and roughly chop it.

Heat your oil in a nonstick pan and cook the chopped squash for about 5 minutes. Reserve 4 tablespoons of the cheese, and add the rest, along with the rice, to the pan and mix it all together. Add a little salt too.

Divide the mixture evenly among the squash shells. Sprinkle with the reserved cheese and bake for about 20 minutes.
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