Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Oregano Tomato Sauce

Flowerful Lunch, originally uploaded by essgee51.
An embarrassment of riches led to this delicious, simple thing: we let our herbs flower for too long. Though we will have to get new seedlings, at least our meals in the near future will be flavorful and pretty. This makes enough sauce for two hearty servings of pasta (about 1/2 box of whole wheat).
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1/2 c onion,minced (1/2 onion)
  • 1 T garlic, minced (about 3 cloves)
  • 1/8-1/4 t red pepper flakes
  • 1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 T minced oregano, plus 1-2T blossoms (or just more leaves)
Put oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onions, then cook till softening, about 2-3 minutes.

Add garlic and red pepper flakes; saute till fragrant (1-2 min).

Add tomatoes and liquid from can; bring to a healthy simmer and cook till the mixture reaches desired, saucy consistency (anywhere from 10-25 minutes, depending on your tastes - I tend to like some body left in the tomatoes). Add salt and pepper.

Add herbs, then cook a minute or two more. Serve over pasta with additional herbs for garnish and some oil/pasta water if needed for extra body.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Dandelion Greens with Warm Bacon Viniagrette

Dandelion Greens, originally uploaded by essgee51.
Simple, tangy and delicious. We had it with Annie's whole wheat mac and cheese - the earthy cheesiness went well with the bitter-tinged, bacony richness. Base recipe here.
  • 1/4-1/2 lb. bacon (used bacon ends from the market)
  • 1 bunch dandelion greens (about 1 lb. from Peapod), chopped into 1-2 in. pieces
  • 1 large shallot, minced (about 2-3 T)
  • 2 t Dijon mustard
  • 2-3 T cider vinegar
  • pepper to taste
Slice the bacon thinly and put it in a pan with a tablespoon or so of water over medium heat. Render the bacon fat; once the bacon's crisp, scoop it out and place it on a paper towel. Keep the oil warm (there should be about 1-2 T).

In a bowl large enough to hold the greens, whisk together the shallots, mustard and vinegar. Add the oil, then the greens. Mix well. Top with the bacon bits.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Side Dish: Mushrooms and Tomatoes

Sausage, Mushrooms and Tomatoes, originally uploaded by essgee51.
Partially inspired by watching The Fellowship of the Ring the previous night, this dish is luxurious and yet soft enough for someone recovering from dental surgery. Served here with duck sausage from Canales.
  • 1-2 T butter
  • 1 large shallot (2-3 T)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8-10 oz. mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 large tomato (about 1 cup), sliced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • parsley for garnish
Heat butter till foam's dissipated. Saute shallot and garlic till soft, 2-3 minutes.

Add mushroom and tomato; season with salt and pepper, then cook till desired texture is reached (5-10 minutes for soft mushrooms and tomatoes with a bit of body to them - ymmv).

Adjust seasoning and serve.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Catching Up: Slow-Cooker Navy Bean Stew II

Dinner, originally uploaded by essgee51.
Though we made this last weekend, the rest of this rich, savory stew also served well as soft food for this weekend's recuperation from dental surgery. Based on this variant, but still further simplified - we discovered that we could skip even the fast boil of the beans if we cooked on high for a few hours.
  • 1 lb. navy beans
  • 1 ham hock, scored
  • 1 lb. kielbasa sausage, cut in 1 in. pieces
  • 1-2 c carrots, cut in 1-2 in. pieces
  • 1-2 c celery, cut in 1 in. slices
  • 8 oz. mushrooms, stems removed and cut, if large
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 5-8 cloves garlic, smashed
  • bouquet garni (parsley, thyme, bay leaf)
  • 6 c liquid (all water, this time)
  • salt and pepper to taste
Put everything in the slow cooker (see below).

Cook on high for 3-4 hours, till hock meat is falling off the bone and beans are tender. Adjust seasoning and enjoy.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Salad Nicoise

Salad Nicoise, originally uploaded by essgee51.
Though we still have plenty of delicious navy bean stew in the slow cooker (more recipe backlog for me to catch up on), I was in the mood for a cold, composed salad. This will definitely become a summer staple - filling without being heavy, flavorful without being overly rich, and easy to prepare. Next time, though, I may arrange in individual portions - John and I had a bit of a fun but messy time transferring the food to our plates.

Recipe variant notes: I'm glad I didn't skip the potatoes - they added a new bit of texture and soaked up the dressing well. Alas, John couldn't find any green beans nearby, but we'll definitely add them in next time. Our version (fed two very heartily, and could probably feed one more below):
  • 1 head Boston lettuce, leaves separated, washed and dried
  • 1 pound green beans, cooked and refreshed (skipped but definitely happening next time)
  • 2-3 T minced shallots 
  • 1 large ripe red tomato, cut into wedges 
  • 2 potatoes, sliced and cooked 
  • 1 5 oz. can chunk tuna, preferably oil-packed 
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved (all we had)
  • 1 freshly opened can of flat anchovy fillets 
  • 1/3 cup small black Niçoise-type olives 
  • 2 T capers 
  • 3 T minced fresh parsley
  • 1/3-1/2 c vinaigrette (see below)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3-1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 t Dijon mustard 
  • 1/4 t salt 
  • 2-3 t freshly squeezed lemon juice 
  • 1-2 T red wine vinegar 
  • 1/2 T minced shallots 
  • freshly-ground pepper to taste
Arrange the lettuce leaves in a large, shallow bowl or platter. Toss the green beans with a few spoonfuls of dressing, then arrange on platter.

Add tomatoes and potatoes, drizzling with more dressing.

Arrange the rest of the ingredients in desired position, draping a half- or full fillet of anchovy over each egg.

Season to taste. Garnish, add more dressing, then serve with extra dressing on the side.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Thai Pig's Ear Salad

Thai Pig's Ear Salad, originally uploaded by essgee51.
As part of the run-up to attempting sisig, I picked a couple of pig's ear recipes to try. This first one, from Gourmet, is a cold salad. While John didn't like the texture (I loved it - succulent with a slight crunch from the cartilage), we both loved the fresh, bright, very Thai flavor. It also gave me an opportunity to avail myself of cilantro and mint from our garden.
  • 1 lb pigs’ ears
  • 8 c water
  • 1/4 c soy sauce
  • 1/4 c distilled white vinegar
  • 1/4 c sliced ginger
  • 2 T sugar
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 3 cilantro sprigs
  • 1 fresh Thai chile, halved lengthwise (used a jalapeno)
  • 1/4 c fresh lime juice
  • 2-3 T fish sauce
  • 1 T minced fresh lemongrass (from a trimmed stalk with outer leaves discarded)
  • 1/2 t sugar
  • 1 to 2 Thai chiles, minced, including seeds (used one jalapeno, seeded and with pith removed)
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 c chopped cilantro
  • 1/3 c chopped mint
  • 2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 scallions, chopped
Remove any remaining hair from pig ears with a razor, then cut ears into two-inch pieces. Put in a pot with the water, soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, sugar, garlic, sprigs of cilantro and chile. Bring to a boil and simmer till ears are tender/at desired consistency (I like them a bit on the crunchy side), 2-3 hours.

Remove ears, and drain, reserving liquid for another use. Chop ears.

In a bowl, mix lime juice, fish sauce, lemongrass, sugar, chiles, and garlic. Add ears, cilantro, mint, scallions and shallots. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Navy Bean Stew with Chicken and Sausage

From our trusty copy of Slow Cooker Revolution. I used dried beans instead of canned and made a couple of other tweaks. Though I was worried about the adjustments to liquid level and cooking time, the tweaks worked out fairly well; in the interests of boosting flavor, I increase the stock-to-water ratio or decrease the liquid altogether, as well as adjust the levels of  spices and aromatics. The recipe itself is a bit fussy, but as far as I can tell, all steps are worth it.
  • 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 T vegetable oil
  • 1 lb. Italian sausages, sliced 1 in. thick
  • 2 onions, minced
  • 1 fennel bulb, tops discarded; bulb halved, cored and sliced thin
  • 6 plump garlic cloves, minced (about 3 T)
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • 1 T fresh thyme, minced (halve for dried)
  • 1/8 t red pepper flakes (may increase this in the future)
  • 1/3 c all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 4 c chicken stock
  • 3 c hot water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 lb. dried navy beans 
  • 6 oz. baby spinach
  • grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
Dry chicken with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown half the chicken lightly on both sides, working in batches if necessary (5-8 min.), then transfer to a bowl. Add 1 more tablespoon of oil and repeat with the rest of the chicken; move to bowl.

Add the last tablespoon of oil to the skillet. Brown the sausage well (3-5 min.); transfer to a bowl with the chicken.

Pour off all but 1-2 tablespoons of oil. Add onions, fennel, garlic, tomato paste, thyme and red pepper flakes. Cook over medium-high heat till vegetables are soft and lightly browned (8-12 min.).

Stir in flour and cook for 1-2 minutes. Whisk in wine; scrape up any browned bits and smooth out any lumps (whisk in a cup of the broth if necessary). Transfer the vegetables and liquid to the slow cooker.

Stir the remaining liquid and bay leaves into the slow cooker. Add the beans (skipped the initial soaking, but they seemed fine) and the meat (as well as any accumulated juices) to the slow cooker as well.

Cover and cook till beans are done and chicken is tender. I had success with 3 hours on low and 2 hours on high.

Let stew settle, then remove fat from surface using large spoon (skipped this step). Remove chicken, shred and return to the pot, if you like (I left it whole, as it was falling-apart soft later).

Stir in spinach, cover, and cook on high till heated through, about 10 minutes. Adjust seasoning and serve with grated Parmesan.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Sauteed Summer Squash

Sauteed Summer Squash, originally uploaded by essgee51.
Still working my way through the previous weeks' market bounty. I got home pretty late last night and treated myself to a bubble bath after the gym, but also wanted to cook something quick and yummy. Solution? Saute squash in rich farmer's market butter with garlic and lots of salt and pepper. Hooray!
  • 3-4 T butter
  • 4 summer squash, sliced into 1/4-1/2 in. rounds
  • 2 T garlic, chopped
  • lots of salt and pepper
  • 1-2 T lemon juice
  • 1-2 T parsley, chopped, for garnish
Melt butter in a pan over medium heat. Add garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes, till fragrant.

Add squash. Season with salt and pepper, and cook till squash reaches desired consistency, 5-10 minutes, turning now and then. (I covered the pan for a few minutes to get the steaming process underway and shrink everything more quickly.)

Remove from heat. Adjust seasoning. Pour lemon juice over squash and garnish with parsley before serving.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic 2: Nigella-Style

Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic, originally uploaded by essgee51.
While I'm quite happy with Bittman's parsley- and allspice-laden take on this recipe, Nigella's version tempted me with its reliance on two of my favorite things: scallions and thyme. Though the browning step didn't go very well (left lots of skin sticking to the base of the pot for some reason, which led to a charred bottom and far less liquid than I wanted at the end stage), the chicken was still tasty: falling-off-the-bone and flavorful. Will definitely try this one again. Original here, and my very slightly tweaked version below.
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 8 chicken thighs (around 3 lbs.)
  • 1 bunch scallions (8-10), finely chopped
  • 10-12 sprigs thyme, half stripped from the stem
  • 40 cloves garlic, unpeeled but with excess papery covering removed
  • 2 T white wine or dry vermouth
  • salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350.

Heat olive oil in a a wide, shallow Duch oven over high heat. Briefly sear chicken thighs, skin-side down, working in batches if necessary. Place thighs in bowl and set aside.

Briefly stir-fry scallions and thyme leaves from about half the sprigs.

Place half the garlic in the bottom of the pan. Put chicken on top. Spread remaining garlic and thyme sprigs around chicken. Add salt and pepper.

Stir white wine or vermouth into chicken juices left in bowl. Add liquid to pot. Cover, place in oven and cook at 350 for 1-1/2 hours.

Uncover and let rest briefly. Serve.