Sunday, March 21, 2010

From the Garden: Pasta with Wild Onions and Chives

So simple and yet so good. Cut a fat handful of wild onions from the garden, added 10-12 chive stalks from John's plant (raw materials pictured here), sauteed them in butter, added some leftover pasta, then seasoned with salt and pepper. Next time, I'll saute them more - till they're meltingly tender versus a bit al dente. Nonetheless, the dish made a yummy and satisfying afternoon snack for two.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Split Pea Soup

Time has leaped forward and spring is sproinging, but I was in the mood for split pea soup nonetheless. On the advice of one of the Canales butchers, I made sure to procure smoked ham hocks for it - and I think that's made a delicious difference, at least compared to the soup mixes I used to settle for. My recipe's mostly based on this one, albeit with less oil, less water and more aromatics; it also took far longer to cook on my finicky stove (I regret losing the bones for the last half hour, for example). It's a good, solidly-flavored soup, with a lovely smoky depth from the hock (though I only used water, not stock); next time I'll probably add some garlic, keep the bones in the entire time, and start experimenting with spices.
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil (could probably make do with less)
  • 1-1/2 c. onion, diced (one huge one)
  • 3/4 c. celery, diced (about 3 thinnish stalks)
  • 3/4 c. carrot, diced (about 1-1/2 medium ones)
  • 1-1/2 lb. smoked ham hock
  • 1 lb. split peas, rinsed and picked over
  • 6-8 cups water or broth (used 6)
  • salt and pepper to taste
Put the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Saute the onion till beginning to soften, about 2-5 minutes. Add the celery and carrot; saute till they grow aromatic - another 2-5 minutes.

Add the ham hock (recipe says to score it but I'm not sure why, except perhaps for ease of meat removal later - and it didn't seem to make that much of a difference, convenience-wise), peas and water. Bring to a boil then simmer, uncovered, till peas are almost but not quite disintegrated - recipe says about an hour, took nearly two on my stove.

(Note: Some like to puree some or all of the soup; I prefer as-is slight chunkiness.) Remove the ham hock and let it cool. Season the soup to your liking. Remove the meat from the ham hock, shred it, and use it as garnish for the soup.

NOTE (20 March): The above picture was taken maybe 30 minutes-1 hour before the soup was actually done the way I like it - almost thick enough to be a stew.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Mackerel Simmered in Soy Sauce

Another first - cooking with mackerel, which is one of my favorite fishes (especially in sushi). Bittman's recipe was simple, easy and flavorful - perfect over white rice with a side dish of butter-sauteed enoki and a bottle of Jennifer's Jamabalaya. Recipe, with a couple of tweaks, reproduced below.

UPDATE, 8 Jan 2010: Doubled this recipe, skipping the water and using mirin instead of the sake and sugar. Also tasted wonderful.
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup sake
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 8-9 thin slices ginger, peeled
  • zest of 1 lemon, grated (about 1 loose, heaping tbsp.)
  • 5 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 4 skin-on mackerel fillets, 1-1.5 lbs.
  • 1-2 scallions, chopped
 In a skillet large enough to hold all the fish fillets in one layer, mix the soy sauce, sake, sugar, rice vinegar, water, ginger, lemon and garlic. Bring to a boil and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.

Put the fish in the skillet, skin-side down. Simmer till done (when the fish is opaque, about 7-10 minutes).

Serve on a plate with white rice and some of the sauce, garnished with scallions.

Getting to Know You: Enoki

The corner store recently revamped and expanded its veggie section. Though I have yet to visit, John brought me proof of the change in the shape of a 7 oz. bag of enoki (which, surprisingly, comes bagged with its roots intact). While most of the recipes produced by a quick Google search used them raw in salads or as soup garnishes, I thought I'd give them the standard mushroom treatment first: saute with butter and shallots. They turned out well, crunchy and flavorful, like umami-filled bean sprouts, with a sweet richness from the other ingredients. With a bit of salt and black pepper, they were a very good side dish for the soy-braised mackerel and rice we had for dinner.
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 medium shallot, diced (about 3 tbsp.)
  • 7.05 oz. enoki, trimmed about 2 in. above the root and separated
Heat butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and saute till soft, about 3-5 minutes.

Add enoki. Sprinkle lightly with salt and cook, stirring often, till slightly softened but still crunchy (about 5 minutes on my stove). Season to taste and serve hot or warm.

Butter-Braised Leeks

A quick but hearty post-gym dinner. Followed this Bittman-based recipe, substituting 1/2 cup of water for the tomatoes and reducing the resultant liquid quite a bit. Delicious with buttery couscous and tangy-sweet tomatoes - also reminded me why leeks are one of my favorite things.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Leek, Potato and Mushroom Soup

The soup that keeps on giving - just finished the last bit today, but it's featured in two other packed lunches this week and a few meals at home besides. The recipe is courtesy of the talented Flit, who I encountered via the Mr. Bento Flickr pool; my halved and tweaked version is below. My first attempt turned out extremely tasty, though a bit watery, partially because I had more stock than expected. Next time, I'll lessen the amount of liquid (and probably reduce what I do use a bit more beforehand); I'll probably also keep the increased leek and carrot proportions and cut down the dairy a bit.
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 3 large leeks, white and pale green parts, sliced (about 4 cups)
  • 2 medium-sized carrots, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 8 oz. mushrooms
  • 2 russet potatoes, diced (about 2. cups)
  • 5-6 cups chicken stock (homemade this time - next time I'll use less and reduce what I do use)
  • 1 tsp. dry dill
  • 1 tsp. dry thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half (will try less, maybe 1/2 cup next time)
Over medium or medium-low heat, sprinkle the leeks and carrots with salt and sweat in the butter till soft, but not colored (around 5-10 min.).

Add mushrooms, potatoes, black pepper, dill, thyme and bay leaf; then add enough broth to cover by 1-2 inches. Simmer till potatoes are tender (around 20-30 min.).

Remove from heat. Stir in half-and-half.

If possible, let sit a few hours/overnight, then reheat before eating.