Friday, March 29, 2013

Simple butternut squash soup

This really should be called Quick and long as you have a steamer (a rice steamer is best), you can intensify the flavors of your soup and turn it out in practically no time!

Simple Butternut Squash Soup

2 (20 oz) bags of frozen butternut squash
2 shallots, minced
6 c water and vegetable stock
1 t salt 1/2 c half and half
1 t brown sugar

 Steam the butternut squash until soft. Heat butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat, and saute shallots until softened. Add squash, in batches, and brown slightly. Add the water collected in the steamer tray plus enough water and vegetable stock to equal 6 c. Add the rest of the squash, and salt; boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes. Use an immersion blender off heat. Stir in the half and half, and the brown sugar.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Ahi Poke - a guest post by Tom Lee

Tom Lee is a business development associate for  the Santa Barbara Fish Market where you can support local fishermen and buy fresh seafood online or buy fresh fish online
As a college student that is health and budget conscience, I am always looking for something that meets these requirements. The best way to do so, is to make something yourself. One of my favorite dishes is Ahi Poke. Ahi Poke is a dish that is enjoyed by many, but made by few. It consists of fresh raw tuna mixed with a few seasonings.

Besides being so tasty for how simple it is, it also is very healthy. 4 ounces of tuna (Yellowfin tuna) itself yields about 27 grams of protein in just 123 calories. It’s a great source of lean protein. While the ingredients are simple, some people are a bit scared of handling raw fish, but it’s really no different then another other meat. In fact, most fishmongers at any fish market or fish department will clean the fish and hand you a perfect fillet that is ready to be used for a meal. The only real important requirement for this dish is to have the freshest tuna possible.

Ahi Poke 

8oz Fresh Tuna
1 Tablespoon Shallots
½ Tablespoon Green Onions
1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce
1/8 Teaspoon Sesame Oil
 ¼ Teaspoon Sesame Seeds
¼ Teaspoon Siracha Garlic Chili Sauce
¼ Whole Avocado
 ½ Whole Cucumber

1. Mix sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic chili sauce, shallots, and green onions into a small bowl
2. Take the ¼’d avocado and take the seed out and peel the skin off. Cut into to small ¼ inch pieces.
3. Cut the cucumber in slices. You want them thin, but still thick enough to carry the weight of the Ahi Poke that will be served on it.
4. Make sure to keep the tuna cold until being handled. Cut the tuna into ¼ inch cubes.
5. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and let sit for about 10-15 minutes. It can be served immediately, but a few extra minutes will let the sauce penetrate a bit better.
6. Top each cucumber slice with about a spoonful of Ahi Poke, serve, and enjoy!

What’s great about this recipe is that all the ingredients can be easily adjusted to taste. If you prefer a spicier sauce, just add more of the garlic chili sauce. Big fan of avocado? Add more! Cucumber is suggested hear as a lower-calorie alternative, but Ahi Poke is also great served on top of your favorite crackers or toasted bread.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Braised chicken thighs

Braised chicken thighs are one of the loveliest things about cold weather.  They almost make winter worth putting up with...almost!  They are so easy to do with root vegetables, but don't shy away from trying some more surprising accompaniments, like kumquats! 

Braised Chicken Thighs

Olive oil
4 skinless chicken thighs
Shallots, sliced thin
Root vegetables, very coarsely chopped
Kumquats, fresh cranberries (optional)
2 T orange juice
2 - 3 T cranberry mustard
1 T brown sugar

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven and brown the chicken thighs.  Remove and set aside.  Add the shallots and saute to golden brown.  Add the root vegetables and saute for a few minutes.  Add the orange juice and scrape up any browned bits.  Add the mustard and brown sugar and stir to mix.  Place chicken thighs on top of vegetables.

Cover the pot with foil and the lid.  Braise in oven at 300 for about 1 1/2 hours.  Dish out the chicken the chicken and vegetables; return pot with liquid to stove top.  Heat and stir; pour sauce over chicken. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Friday, March 22, 2013

Braised pork chops

Think that lean pork is dry and tough?  Think again...

Braised Pork Chops

Salt and water for brine
4 bone-in pork chops, not too thin
Vegetable oil
2 onions, halved and sliced thin
4 - 6 sprigs fresh thyme
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1/2 inch Fresh ginger, peeled minced
Dash of ground allspice
Root vegetables, chopped coarsely
3/4 c red wine
2 T plus 1 t red wine vinegar, divided
1/2 c chicken broth
1 T butter

Brine the chops in the refrigerator for 1 hour.  Brine mixture: 3 T salt to 1 1/2 quarts of water.

Trim pork fat and add to oil in a Dutch oven.  Heat over medium and brown the chops.  Remove from the pan.  Remove the fat and discard.  Add the onions and all the spices, stir till golden brown.  Add vegetables and saute lightly.  Add wine and 2 T vinegar; scrape up brown bits and bring to a soft boil.  Add chicken broth and boil for a few minutes.  Place the meat on top of the cut vegetables.

Add foil and lid to the top of the pot and place into a 275 oven.  Braise for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.  Remove from oven and let it rest, covered for 10 minutes.  Dish out chops and vegetables, and return pot with liquid to stove top.  Add 1 t red wine vinegar and 1 T butter.  Heat and stir; pour sauce over chops. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Artichoke soup

This is the best...hands down...Artichoke Soup we've ever had.  Even though it's a bit fussy, it's worth it.  The flavors are beyond compare.

You know that I often will give you a link to a Cook's Illustrated recipe online, and I understand why you're frustrated since they actually charge money for that information.  Sorry, but that's their right.  While I'm not going to deliberately violate their copyright by printing their recipe here, I've decided that I'll share a link with you where someone else did not have a problem with doing that.  So here it is: Artichoke Soup 

Monday, March 18, 2013

A New Year's resolution for Cook's Illustrated?

I would be so happy if Cook's Illustrated came to their senses and made their amazing recipes available online without requiring a credit card.  So many other people are posting them anyway that it is usually pretty easy to find them online somewhere.  And really, I'm not going to stop my subscription just because I might read it online...I love having the magazine in my hands and on my counter top while I cook!!

In progress...

So here is a double winner from CI: Garlicky Roasted Shrimp and Citrus Salad.  In fact, they are back to back in the issue.  You know that I won't violate their copyright, but I'll tell you that both have been posted elsewhere if you want to look them up. 

I made slight amendments to the salad, using only blood oranges and no grapefruit. And I totally grossed out Mikey by eating the shrimp shells and tails!  Loved the two recipes together...we're doing this again. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

New England boiled dinner

 Gray corned beef - much lighter in color and not pickled, just brined

I was not aware until just recently that what we call gray corned beef is not available much outside of New England and New York!  I also wasn't sure what the difference was between the gray and the red corned beef, other than I like the gray better.  Turns out that the Worcester Telegram and Gazette had the answer for me!  For the record, I like the gray better, but it's harder to find, even in New England except around St Patrick's Day!

Since you never know how long a newspaper will keep its articles on file, I'll reprint the important paragraphs here, with special thanks to Linda Bock of the Telegram staff.

Red or gray?

At Tatnuck Meat Market, 1100 Pleasant St., Worcester, Harvey Slarskey sells hundreds and hundreds of pounds of both red corned beef and gray corned beef throughout the year, but he sells even more in March for traditional St. Patrick’s Day dinners.

Most people outside of New England have never tasted, much less heard of, gray corned beef. But here in New England, butchers have been working nonstop for weeks to keep up with the demand for the beef for St. Patrick’s Day.

“I sell equal amounts of red and gray corned beef throughout the year,” Mr. Slarskey said. He has owned and operated his meat market for 35 years. “Throughout the year, red is prevalent, but during this time of year — it’s gray.”

Old-fashioned corned beef is brined in salt and water in barrels for up to a week, and is salty and grayish-pink. For red corned beef, potassium nitrate is added to a brine with pickling spices. The meat is less salty and is rosy red.

Since the gray corned beef is not pickled, I end up putting more spices into the cooking broth.  My recipe for that is at the link.  After the vegetables have boiled and softened, I fish out the cabbage and let it drain, and then saute it in butter with the sliced onion.  Delicious!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Chicken paprikash

Oh how I love this stuff!  Like most good Hungarian stews, it relies on good quality paprika and sour cream for the punch.  But you can do a lot more to make it really amazing, like braise it for awhile after its stint on the stove top.  My favorite recipe for Chicken Paprikash comes from Cook's Illustrated

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Happy Pi Day!!

Apple Pies are a gooooood choice...

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Matzo balls instead of dumplings

If you remember a little while back, I was complaining about how I got seduced by a dumpling recipe that we ended up hating.  Well, it occurred to me that if I wanted to substitute matzo balls for dumplings, it would actually be pretty easy.  The most seductive thing about dumplings is that you can often steam and cook them right in the pot of soup/stew.  With matzo balls, that might be a bit harder.

But what if you were to cook the matzo balls in the soup liquid separately before adding the stock to the main pot?  I reserved 4 or 5 cups of chicken stock and boiled up the matzo balls about 20 minutes before I wanted to serve the soup.  As soon as they were finished, in they went to the main pot, along with the stock.  So even though the soup was a variant of Chicken Paprikash, the matzo balls will look right.

I haven't shared this particular recipe for Chicken Paprikash, because I don't yet have it to my liking.  Later!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Tabbouleh with toasted quinoa and pistachios

I love classic tabbouleh, but recently I tried a variant that was surprisingly good.  Substitute quinoa that you've toasted in a skillet first for the bulgar.  Use everything else you normally would (olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, scallions, cherry tomatoes, parsley, and mint), but add some pistachios and golden raisins too!  I also added some English cucumber to the dish shown above, and served it on mixed dark greens. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Muhammara - roasted red pepper dip

There are so many variants of muhammara that you are free to experiment with the balance of ingredients to suit yourself.  Here's what suits me:

Muhammara (Roasted Red Pepper Dip)

2 red peppers, roasted
1 c walnuts, toasted
Dash of ground cayenne pepper
1/4 c cracked wheat cracker crumbs
3 T fresh lemon juice
1 T molasses (authentic recipes call for Pomegranate Molasses)
1 t honey
1/2 t cumin seeds
1 t salt
2 T olive oil

Slice the peppers into slabs and place on foil under broiler until completely charred.  Set aside to cool.  Strip off blackened skin.

While peppers cook, toast the walnuts on the stove top until fragrant.  Let cool.  Process the walnuts in food processor until well ground.  Add all the rest of the ingredients and process in bursts until mixture has the texture you want.  Cover with plastic wrap and cool in fridge for at least 30 minutes.  Serve with pita or other chips, or whole wheat crackers.   

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Chicken Marsala

Yeah, I know there are a lot of opinions on what makes the best Chicken Marsala, but I'll just say one word...mine!

Chicken Marsala

Salt and water for brine
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 c flour
Vegetable oil
3 slices of pancetta (or bacon in a pinch)
2 c (8 oz) sliced white mushrooms
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 T tomato paste
1 1/2 c Sweet Marsala Fine
1 1/2 T lemon juice
2 - 3 T butter
Parsley or other garnish if desired

Brine the chicken breasts first: 3 T salt in 1 1/2 quarts of water for 1 hour in the fridge.
Place oven rack in lower middle, and preheat to 300.  Drain, rinse, and dry the chicken.  Place the flour in a plastic bag and coat the breasts one at a time.  Heat some oil in a Dutch oven and brown the breasts on both sides over medium high heat.  Use a tiny bit of Marsala to loosen the fond.  Cover the pot with both foil and the lid, and braise at 300 for 1 1/2 hours.

About 15 minutes before serving, heat a large non-stick skillet and cook the pancetta.  Remove to drain and pour off any excessive oil.  Saute the mushrooms for about 8 minutes, until released juices evaporate.  Add garlic, tomato paste, and cooked pancetta.  Heat and stir for a minute.  Add the Marsala and raise the heat to simmer vigorously, scraping up browned bits.  Cook for about 5 minutes until sauce thickens slightly.  Off heat, add lemon juice, the juices from the chicken, and the butter.  Whisk in the butter until smooth.  Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve immediately.  Garnish if desired.   

Monday, March 4, 2013


Truffles - lighter color are mint chocolate and darker are plain

Last year I started experimenting in earnest with making truffles.  While there are lots of different methods and ingredient lists to match, I was looking for the smoothest and creamiest ganache along with the easiest and least messy procedure.

The simplest ganache is a mixture of just chocolate and cream, but I found that I liked the slightly more complicated mixture that Cook's Illustrated came up with.  But I wasn't sold completely on their method.  By the time the ganache had chilled completely, it was too hard to form into balls without making an unbelievable mess.  I did it this way several times anyway, but then I stumbled upon a suggestion to shorten up the chilling time and to scrape up balls of ganache with a spoon instead of cutting the chilled ganache into squares.  Well, duh!  Less manipulation means less melted chocolate on your hands.  So here's where we are now, with the ingredient list from CI and a hybrid method that I much prefer:

Chocolate Truffles

12 oz bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
1/2 c heavy cream
2 T light corn syrup
1/2 t vanilla
1/2 t salt
2 T butter, cut into small pieces, softened

2 parts cocoa powder
1 part powdered sugar

Make a parchment sling to line an 8 inch square glass baking pan.

In a medium bowl, microwave the chocolate at 50% power, stirring occasionally, until almost completely melted, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Set aside.  Microwave the heavy cream in a glass measuring cup until just warm to the touch, about 30 seconds.  Stir in the corn syrup, vanilla, and salt, and pour the mixture over the chocolate.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit for 3 minutes.  Stir gently with spatula to combine.  Stir in the butter, one piece at a time.

Pour and scrape all of the ganache into the prepared pan and let sit at room temperature for 2 hours.  Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.  Prepare the coating and place it in a non-stick round cake pan.  Use a small spoon to scrape up the ganache into rough balls, placing them on plastic wrap.  Dip your fingers into the coating and form the balls up a bit.  Place 6 to 8 of them in the cake pan and shake to cover them  Roll them briefly in your hands to finish shaping and repowder them as needed.  Store in the refrigerator, but let them sit out briefly before eating. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Bunny rolls

How cute are these?

Here are the instructions that came with the image (via email from a friend):
A perfect idea for Easter! Use any sort of frozen or homemade bread dough, form your rolls, snip and lift/shape the ears during rising and carve the eyes once baked.

I wish I knew where these actually originated.  If you know, please share so I can give proper credit!  Blogger Cindy deRosier thinks it might be from Gourmet Magazine, now defunct, but hers are a little bit different.