Sunday, September 9, 2012

Some things I made...

Cabbage soup
With a tablespoon of olive oil in the bottom of a stock pot, soften one large onion, chopped, then add two stalks celery and two large or four small carrots. Also four cloves chopped garlic, salt and pepper. One half of a napa cabbage then eight cups liquid and a can of fava beans. Serve with grated pecorino cheese.
Leftover Spanish rice, grilled peppers and onions (we had fajitas Sunday night) and leftover spinach salad with a clove of garlic and a teaspoon of acidified butter. Cooked into a fritata of three eggs topped with queso blanco.

A soup from a while back...

Mushroom-Barley Soup 
2-3 ounces of dried porcini mushrooms
A few tablespoons of olive oil 
3 medium onions
3 ribs of celery
4 medium carrots 
6 cloves of garlic 
kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
Handful of fresh parsley
2-3 tablespoons of tomato puree
8 cups of water or vegetable stock, or a combination
1 1/2 cups of barley - this was too much. I would probably cut this down to a cup, or even a tiny bit less, but I had exactly 1.5 cups, so in it went!
Fresh parsley and grated pecorino for garnish

We'll be moving soon, so I want to cook all the little bits and pieces that are in my fridge and cupboard so I don't need to move them!  I was digging around in the bottom shelf of my pantry today and found a bag of dried porcini mushrooms from one of E's favorite places, the Atlantic Spice Company.  I also had some  barley and soup veggies in the fridge, so I was set.

The last time I cooked barley, I made a red wine and mushroom risotto and it was a bit of a disgrace! Basically, I wasted a lot of food and no one wanted to eat it.  So I decided to do a bit of research and check out a few different recipes to find something truly lovely.  I wasn't disappointed!

First, I used about 2-3 ounces of dried porchini mushrooms.  This looked like about 1 cup of dried mushrooms, loosely packed.  I soaked them in 2 cups of boiling water. We will use this water later, so don't pour it away! Could have used a little more mushrooms, but we still had great flavor. E could have liked the mushrooms chopped a little larger so he could have had bites of 'shroom.

In a large stock pot, I heated a bit of olive oil and lightly sauteed 3 medium onions, 3 ribs of celery, 4 medium carrots, 6 cloves of garlic with a hefty pinch of kosher salt and black pepper.  I cooked it over a medium heat with the lid on till the veggies were slightly caramelized.  I added a handful of parsley, chopped and stirred, then moved the veggies to the sides of the pot and dumped about 2-3 T of tomato puree in, and let it cook a bit. This caramelizes the sugar in the tomato paste and gets great flavor out of it. Some people like E think they don't like tomato paste, but I believe it's because they don't cook it properly.  (TIP - when I open a can of paste, I store the remainder of the paste not needed for the recipe in the freezer. I make sure to portion it into small amounts, like 1.5T or so and either wrap it in saran wrap or like last time, simply plop the amount in different corners of a tupperware and tossed it in the freezer) Brought the heat up to medium high, and mixed all together and let it cook a few minutes.

After the mushrooms have soaked for about 30 minutes, pour off the liquid through a sieve. Maybe use a cheesecloth or paper towel, as gritty bits tend to come off.  Chop the mushrooms finely. E suggests not so finely, a matter of personal preference.

As the veggie and tomato paste mixture has been cooking a few minutes and getting super delicious, add the mushroom liquid.  Bring it to a boil and mix well. Use an immersion blender to puree all the bits and make it thick and delicious, then add the chopped mushrooms.  Add about 8 cups of water or stock.  I used water and a bit of stock concentrate, better than beef bullion, veggie style.  Add 1.5 cups of barley, bring to boil and cook at a low boil for 60-90 minutes, depending on how you like your barley.  Add salt to taste.
Serve with a sprinkle of chopped parsley and I grated a bit of pecorino romano cheese on top.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Unstuffed Turkish Eggplants for Dinner

Since our house is mostly fixed up and we accomplished Project Get Married, I've hosted people for Friday night dinner two weeks in a row! Last week was roast duck and rice with dried fruits, apples and butternut squash (recipe to come). This week, my friend Karol and her husband Shai were coming over. I originally was going to just serve snacks, but everything I wanted to make for snacks was nitpicky and I wanted something I stopped by a lovely Lebanese store after a meeting with a client on Friday and picked up a few pastries with spinach and cheese or meat, little containers of eggplant salad, yogurt with cucumbers, hummus, lovely olives and fresh baked pita. I put those out on the counter for people to nibble on with wine while I put up the Turkish Eggplant dish, unstuffed with a meat and rice mixture (I love having an open kitchen, where people can comfortably hand out with me while I cook!). It's much easier than the longish recipe seems, and the only sort of fussy step is initially cooking the eggplants on the stove top, but it is necessary. I call the eggplants unstuffed because I couldn't be bothered to stuff them before cooking, but they do end up looking stuffed when you serve them. 
Either or both the eggplant preparation and the unstuffing preparation can be done well ahead of time, and the whole thing can be assembled ahead of time as well and refrigerated until you want to cook it or just cook the whole thing the day before and heat it up in a low oven. The small amount of leftovers was delicious today!

Turkish Eggplants
4 -6 small Italian eggplants, peeled but with the top “cap” remaining, with a slit down the long side, soaked in very well salted water at least 20 minutes
4-6 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 lbs ground beef or lamb
Tablespoon tomato paste
¾ cup basmati rice, cooked in 3 cups of water until par boiled, about 10 minutes
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon Allepo pepper
Pinch of red pepper flakes
¼ cup of dried currants
½ cup each of chopped dill and flat parsley
Dried mint for garnish
Full fat plain (I suggest Greek) yogurt for serving
Handful of fresh pomegranate seeds for garnish (optional)
First, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and set the rice to cook in a small pot by bringing to a boil then turning down to a simmer. We are not cooking the rice to donenesss, nor are we trying to cook out all the water. Cook about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium sized dutch oven with a lid, saute the onion and garlic in olive oil until softened but not browned. After a few minutes, add the tomato paste and stir, then add the ground beef or lamb. Allow to cook until no longer red, then adding the parboiled rice along with the liquid remaining in the pot. Add salt, peppers, dill, parsley and currants. Cook for about 20 minutes on a low simmer. If there isn’t enough liquid that it’s a little soupy, add some more water or chicken stock, make sure it doesn’t dry out!
While the meat cooks, after soaking the eggplants in salted water for at least 20 minutes, pat them dry and pan fry in olive oil until browned and slightly softened. Put aside.
After the meat and rice mixture has simmered for about 20 minutes, lay the pan fried eggplants on top of the mixture and spoon some of it over them, so the eggplants are sort of submerged inside the mixture, but don’t worry about getting them completely covered. Put the lid on and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. At that point, make sure that the eggplants are completely cooked; if they are a little hard, cook an extra 15 minutes, but if you softened them during the pan saute step, this shouldn’t be an issue.
To plate, place an eggplant in a small bowl open it up (I inserted tongs into the slit I made when I peeled the eggplants) and spoon in the meat and rice mixture. Overflow the eggplant with the mixture and sprinkle with dried mint and a few pomegranate seeds if you have them around. Serve with yogurt on the side if you wish; I did not.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Musings on Macaroni

I like Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. But I add extra salt. I think I like fancy macaroni and cheese as well, but it is rarely as good as I hope it will be. I don't eat it if it has pork in it, which is often in restaurants. My friend Marina made a really good one for her kids with leftover cheese from a New Years Eve party that was pretty damn good.

I think I like the idea of crumbs on top, of something crunchy. It should have black pepper. Shouldn't have mushy pasta...I will continue to muse on this topic. Any suggestions are welcome...

Could start with this from Gourmet (may he rest in peace) magazine:

Macaroni and Cheese

  • Active time:35 min
  • Start to fnish:1 1/4 hr
August 2007
The toasted crumbs on top have a cheesy crispness, and the pasta beneath is creamy and rich. Kids will appreciate the individual servings, but the recipe makes plenty, so why not pour the extra into a baking dish to feed the ravenous parents?

For topping

  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
  • 2 cups panko (coarse Japanese bread crumbs) or 3 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs (from 6 slices firm white sandwich bread)
  • 1/4 lb coarsely grated extra-sharp Cheddar (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

For macaroni and sauce

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 5 cups whole milk
  • 1 lb coarsely grated extra-sharp Cheddar (6 cups)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 lb elbow macaroni

Make topping:

  • Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle.
  • Melt butter, then stir together with panko and topping cheeses in a bowl until combined well.

Make sauce:

  • Melt butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat and stir in flour. Cook roux, stirring, 3 minutes, then whisk in milk. Bring sauce to a boil, whisking constantly, then simmer, whisking occasionally, 3 minutes. Stir in cheeses, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper until smooth. Remove from heat and cover surface of sauce with wax paper.

Make Macaroni:

  • Cook macaroni in a pasta pot of boiling salted water (2 tablespoons salt for 4 quarts water) until al dente. Reserve 1 cup cooking water and drain macaroni in a colander. Stir together macaroni, reserved cooking water, and sauce in a large bowl. Transfer to 2 buttered 2-quart shallow baking dishes.
  • Sprinkle topping evenly over macaroni and bake until golden and bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes.
Cooks’ notes: Topping can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered.
Half of dish can be baked in 10 (6- to 8-ounce) ramekins for children (with remaining half baked in a 2-quart baking dish for adults).
Recipe by Gina Marie Miraglia Eriquez

Friday, December 10, 2010

Indian Autumn Soup

I continued my summer CSA habit with the monthly CSA last pick up was three weeks ago, and I wanted to make use of some of the longer lasting veggies before they passed the peak of perfection.

I rough chopped three small onions and caramelized them over medium high heat with some kosher salt. Then I added three chopped cloves of garlic, one peeled and chopped celeriac root, and three ribs of celery. Mixed it all up. Added 6 CSA carrots, chopped large and about 2/3 of a butternut squash, unpeeled. Covered it all with liquid - you can use any or all of veggie/chicken stock (I don't use chicken if I plan to eat with yogurt) and water, some more salt and a lot of black pepper.

Now what made it Indian? Well, the spices, of course!

I usually add a mix of Indian spices that I bought at Patel Bros. Supermarket in Jackson Heights (a large Indian grocery) for a ridiculously low price, but I hope to be moving house soon, so I surveyed my spice rack and found some old mix of curry spice that was very nice but a few years old. I heated about two teaspoons of oil in a small pan and added about three tablespoons of the curry mix - I figured it was older, so it wasn't as potent, then added it into the soup. Cooking spices in hot oil is key to release their flavors and develop them as well. What I should have done is add them in to the onions and garlic before I added the other veggies, but I forgot...whoops! Also, I added about 1/4 teaspoon of fresh ginger powder.

Simmered for 30 minutes, then pureed with an immersion blender and continued cooking on very low for another hour, but probably not necesssary. Serve with yogurt and cilantro chutney from the Indian grocery.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Beef Short Ribs, Potato Latkes and Chunky Apple Sauce

Beef Short Ribs

The first time that I made short ribs, I think I spent over $100...I invited friends over to my parents' house, used two bottles of quite good wine in the braise, spent about $40 on the actual ribs...they were good, and that was fine, but it was an ordeal.

I also made a lavender infused pumpkin flan, and I have not idea where the recipe is, although I've been actively looking.

I've made them a few other times, and I think I've refined the recipe to be simpler, less expensive, less fatty, and quite delicious.

Beef short ribs - I bought three pieces from my butcher. I asked him to cut 'em up, and each of them produced three pieces of meat on the bone. It was about 4 lbs, cost $17, and will serve at least   people.
Onion - I used one large one. Or two medium ones. Large dice
Carrots - 2 - large dice
Celery - 2 ribs, large dice
tomato paste - half a small can
thyme - 1 teaspoon, dried
rosemary - .5 teaspoon, dried
red wine - 2 cups
water or broth

Step one - wash the meat, dry it and cover it with way too much kosher salt and pepper. Get a large and heavy pan, and heat it up. Place the pieces of meat in the pan and brown it very well, on all sides. DON'T crowd the pan. A lot of fat will release, and you should pour it off. I got over half a cup of fat! Take the meat out and place it in a dutch oven. (You could do all the cooking in the dutch oven, but I needed the extra space of the large pan to brown the meat.)
In the same pan, start cooking the onions, then add the carrots and celery. Add some salt and pepper. Add the tomato paste and cook it a bit, mixing it well with the veggies.
Add some wine and mix well, so all the yummy brown comes off the pan. Pour it over the meat in the dutch oven. Add more wine and water/stock/broth to cover the meat. Cover with the lid and cook it at 300 degrees for three hours. You can cook it faster at 375 for two hours, or longer at a lower temperature.

IMPORTANT STEP!!! Take the meat out of the liquid and cover both the liquid and the meat and store them in the fridge. After a few hours, remove the AMAZING amount of fat on top of the liquid. You can then leave the veggies whole or puree them with an immersion blender. Add the meat back in and heat it on the stove.

You could serve it over mashed potatoes or just as a stew. I served them with potato latkes. Recipe:

2 large potatoes, grated. Use the large holes on a box grater.
2 medium onions, i whirred them in my mini food chopper, that comes with the immersion blender.
1 egg
black pepper
2 heaping teaspoons of flour
olive oil

Mix it all up and let it sit for 5-10 minutes. Heat up the oil to medium high, drop small tablespoons of mixture avoiding some of the liquid that the mixture has given off. Cook a few minutes on each side until nicely browned. Serve with apple sauce and short ribs.

Mama makes this apple sauce - peel, core and quarter two lbs of apples. Place it in a heavy pot. Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, small pinch of salt, two cinnamon sticks and a teaspoon of vanilla. Cook it over medium heat until it starts breaking down but it still chunky.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Orange and Mint...

Not oranges, but orange colored veggies. Pumpkin or sweet potato with mint is one of my favorite flavor combos. I first tried it in a little Afghani restaurant in Arlington, friend and I ended up ordering an extra order of lamb chops for dessert...and they had a pumpkin dish served with yogurt and dried mint leaves...loved it!
Yesterday my friend Hashem mentioned his mom bakes samosas, instead of frying them. And when I got up this morning, I evaluated the kitchen contents and found two sweet potatoes...I looked up recipes in my Jewish vegitarian cookbook...and then I figured out what I was going to make:

Sweet Potatoes, Feta and Mint Pies
I used a recipe for Sephardic Oil Pastry Dough, which was .5 c of oil, .5 c of lukewarm water, 1.5 tsp kosher salt, and 2.75 c of flour. Mix oil, water and salt, then add one c of flour. Stir to combine, then add in more flour until it forms a dough. Wrap in plastic and hold for 30 minutes - 2 hours. Super easy. Comes together in about 2 minutes from beginning to end.
I used muffin pans, lightly greased. I took little balls about the size of a walnut and rolled out circles between two pieces of saran wrap. I fitted the dough into the muffin cups and then filled them with:

2 sweet potatoes, steamed in the microwave until tender, mashed with some feta, Parmesan cheese, no salt, black pepper, some minced fresh mint from my window box and a big teaspoon of dried spearmint.

Added a little flat disk of dough on top, and baked about 35 minutes at 375.