Monday, November 22, 2010

Spinach and Cheddar Strata

I must admit, this recipe is very similar to another recipe I have for a baked chard dish. However, I liked this because it popped up in my inbox and dealt perfectly with the 5 oz of fresh spinach that was long overdue being eaten. It also made good use of a chunk of several day old white artisan bread that traveled from Houston to here upon my husband's return from a business training.

All but M enjoyed this. I think part of my favorite part of this dish was being able to make it in my small, red gratin dish that normally stays tucked away under my other casserole dishes. The fact that I used a shallow dish also meant that it baked faster.

As a side dish, this will serve 3 - 4. For a main dish, double the recipe to serve 4. If you use a deeper pan, you will need to increase the baking time.

Spinach and Chard Strata
from Martha Stewart Everyday Food

1 t olive oil
5 oz spinach
1 1/2 c day old bread, cut into 1" cubes
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 c whole milk
3/4 c grated cheddar

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the spinach and cook until wilted. Use a spoon or rubber spatula to press as much liquid out as possible (either in a colander or in the pan--I found tilting the pan worked just fine). Place the bread in a small (1 qt) gratin dish or a small casserole dish. Spread the spinach evenly over top. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, and 1/2 c cheddar cheese. Pour evenly over top the bread and spinach. Sprinkle remaining cheddar over top. Bake in a preheated 400 degrees oven for 20 - 25 minutes, or until set and golden brown on top.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Chicken and Mushroom Fricasee

The recipe as it was published turned out way too runny for me. I am making adaptations and posting my version here. To see the recipe in it's original form, click here.

I made this for company. I have decided that I absolutely love shitake mushrooms. They are meaty and have wonderful flavor (especially in comparison to white button mushrooms). Everyone enjoyed this and it is definitely a make again, company dish.

I ended up making way too much. I created a second dish (all by myself--without a recipe!!) to use up the leftovers.

This serves 4 - 5.

Chicken and Mushroom Fricasee
adapted from Food and Wine

1/3 lb chicken, cut into 8 pieces
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 T olive oil
1 lg onion, finely chopped
1/2 lb shitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
1 T fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 c dry white wine
1 c chicken stock or broth
1/3 c sour cream
1/3 c plain nonfat Greek yogurt (this is thicker than regular yogurt, if you can't find it, regular will do)
1/2 c celery leaves, optional

Arrange the chicken pieces, skin side up on a cookie sheet and season generously with salt and pepper. Roast in preheated 425 degrees oven for 45 minutes until chicken is cooked and skin is crisp.

While the chicken roasts, heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet. Add the onion and cook over medium heat until just softened, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms, increase the heat to high and cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are softened and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, bay leaves, and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the wine and cook until wine evaporates, scraping up any browned bits. Add the stock and simmer until reduced, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat (if the sauce seems to dry, add a little extra chicken stock). Stir in the sour cream and yogurt. Discard the bay leaves. Add the chicken to the sauce, leaving the skin out of the sauce (to keep it crispy). Simmer until heated through. Stir in celery leaves if using. Serve.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Chard with Olives and Pine Nuts

I got a new cookbook the other week. It's been quite a while since I've done that and when I saw table of cookbooks at Costco, I couldn't resist. I passed by Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table (new French cookbook) and another one (I can't remember) that was also on my possible cookbook list for Mark Bittman's Food Matters Cookbook.

I have a love/hate relationship with Mark Bittman. I love everything he's passionate about--good foods that are good for you. He's big into vegetables (he's the "vegan-before-6" guy). He uses meat as seasonings often. I like that. I like his writing for the New York Time's and his food blog. However, I am convinced by his cookbooks, and in retrospect, I am a little surprised I bought this one. I have his How to Cook Everything and have had mixed results with his recipes. I often feel crucial information is missing from his recipes (like the size of pan to use, when size does matter).

This is the second recipe from his Food Matters Cookbook that I made. The first recipe was a bit of a major fail. I contemplated returning the cookbook after that (I don't often have major fails that are due to a faulty recipe. Usually I take full responsibility because generally, I have lost the ability to read and comprehend. In this case, it was the recipe at fault and not me). However, I decided to give another recipe a try because I like Bittman and his food philosophy.

Success!! Both Curtis and I enjoyed this dish. I am pleased to have found a way to cook chard in a side dish that is easy and quick. The kids didn't like it, but I didn't expect them too, so nothing was lost.

This serves 2 - 4 as a side dish.

Chard with Olives and Pine Nuts
adapted slightly from the Food Matters Cookbook

3/4 lb chard
2 T pine nuts
1 T olive oil
6 garlic cloves, sliced
3 T black olives (preferably, oil cured and wrinkly--like bulk olives at Whole Foods or Central Market, etc)
1/4 c water
salt and black pepper, to taste
feta cheese, crumbled, to taste

Cut leaves from stems of chard. Cut the leaves into wide ribbons and slice the stems about 1/4 - 1/2" thick. Keep the leaves and stems separate.

Put the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Heat for 1 minute. Add the garlic and cook, stirring until soft, golden, and fragrant, 5 - 10 minutes. Turn the heat up to medium and add the chard stems and black olives. Cook until the stems begin to soften, just a minute or 2. Add the chard leaves, water, and a little salt and pepper. Raise the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring until chard leaves are wilted and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. While the chard cooks, toast the pine nuts in small pan over medium-low heat, until they are fragrant and golden. Stir the pine nuts into the cooked chard. Adjust seasonings as necessary. Sprinkle with a little feta and serve, hot or at room temperature

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Gomoku Soba

When it is hot, I crave Mediterranean dishes---ones heavy on fresh tomatoes and eggplant. Dishes that started with olive oil and garlic. As the weather cools, I find myself moving halfway across the world. Noodles still come into play, but noodles known by udon, soba, and rice sticks. Asian foods emerge as the temperatures drop. Stir fries loaded with broccoli and carrots and hot, rich soups with noodles, cabbage, and scallions floating in them.

Part of my journey to Asian food this fall was the arrival of this in our CSA box. This is a Napa or Chinese Cabbage. As usual, I consulted my go to international cookbook, Sundays at Moosewood. This very rarely lets me down when it comes to the non-typical vegetables that show up in our box.
This recipe takes a couple of non-typical ingredients. The first is kombu. Kombu is a flat, green, dried seaweed. I find it in a blue bag at Central Market (I am sure Whole Foods and an Asian market would have it, too). It looks a little expensive, but you only use a little of it at a time. The other non-typical ingredient is dried shitake mushrooms. I buy these in bulk at Central Market as well (again, I suspect Whole Foods or an Asian market would have these too). The price on the container kinda freaked me out (it's like over $60 per pound). However, the mushrooms for this recipe cost $1.60, not too bad.

Unfortunately, my children love this. That makes me sad, less for me. I made the broths ahead of time and then would cut the vegetables and cook the noodles for individual servings.

This recipe serves 4.

Gomoku Soba
or Noodles and Vegetables in a Flavorful Broth
from Sundays at Moosewood

1/2 oz dried konbu (I just estimated)
8 c water
8 dried shitake mushrooms
2 c hot water
5 T soy sauce
1/2 c sake or mirin
1/2 c lg carrot, sliced into thin rounds
8 scallions, cut into 2 1/2" lengths
2 c sliced Chinese cabbage, 1/2" thick
1/2 lb soba noodles

4 hard boiled eggs, peeled and halved (optional, I skipped this)
chopped scallions (optional)

Bring the kombu and 8 c of water to a boil. Turn the heat down, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the kombu (pour through a strainer if you need to). This broth is called kombu dashi. While the kombu simmers, soak the shitake in 2 c of boiling water for 20 - 30 minutes. Remove the shitake mushrooms, reserving the liquid. This broth is called shitake dashi. Trim off and discard the stems of the shitake. Thinly slice the caps into strips. Combine 1 1/2 c of the shitake dashi (this should be all or nearly all of it) and 3 1/2 c of the kombu dashi (save the leftover kombu dashi for another batch of soup. It will last 4 - 5 days). Add soy sauce, sake, and sliced shitake. Simmer.

One at a time, cook each vegetable in the broth (I typically put the vegetables on a slotted spoon and dip into the broth. This makes it easier to fish out the blanched vegetables). Cook until each is just barely cooked. I cook carrots first, then scallions, than the cabbage. Remove the cook vegetables from the stock and set aside. As the take turns cooking, cook the soba in a separate pot of bowling water, according to pkg directions (about 3 minutes). Drain. Divide the soba between the individual bowls (one for each person eating). Arrange on top of the soba the vegetables and two halves of the hard boiled eggs. Pour the very hot broth over top. Garnish with chopped scallions, if desired.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Thai Red Curry Squash Soup

I love pureed soups. They are one of my favorite things about cold weather. I make a batch of a pureed soup, have it for supper and then enjoy it for lunches for several days afterwards. My husband, unfortunately, doesn't see it that way. Pureed soups are appetizers for him.

We don't do appetizers in our house. If I make something, it's supper, not an appetizer. However, with this soup, Curtis got lucky. I knew this soup would be spicy, so I knew I couldn't give it to the kids for supper. Sigh. So, I made this and I made a main dish as well. All were happy. I enjoyed my pureed soup, Curtis enjoyed his appetizer and main course, and the kids enjoyed the main course.

An ingredient note: Red curry paste comes in a large quantity. I have a container of it stashed in the back of my fridge. The stuff is SPICY!! Most recipes call for 1 T of it at a time. If you buy it, find a container that you can reseal and store in the back of your fridge until you make this or another red curry recipe again.

This serves 6 people easily.

Thai Red Curry Squash Soup
adapted slightly from Food and Wine

2 T butter
1/2 lg onion, thinly sliced
2 T thinly sliced fresh ginger (or 2 t ginger spice)
1 T Thai red curry paste (see ingredient note above)
1 1/2 lbs orange winter squash, kabocha, kuri or buttercup is preferred, but butternut will do, peeled, seeded, and cut into 2" chunks
2 1/2 c water
1 (13.5-oz) can unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 t lime zest (or 1 keifer lime leaf)
1/2 stalk of lemongrass (to get half, cut in half vertically), smashed and cut into 2" lengths (don't use long green ends, use the lighter colored bottom 1/4 - 1/3")
1 T sugar
1 T fresh lime juice
salt, to taste

In a large, heavy pot, melt the butter. Add the onion and sliced ginger, if using, and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, about 7 minutes. Add the curry paste and ginger powder (if using) and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the squash and water and bring to a boil. Cover partially and simmer until squash is soft, about 25 minutes. Add the coconut milk, lime zest, and lemongrass, cover partially, and simmer an additional 30 minutes. Discard the lemongrass (and lime leaf, if using). Working in batches, puree the soup in a food processor or blender (or just use an immersion blender in the pot). Return to the pot and stir in the lime juice and sugar. Season as desired with salt.

Serve hot.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Twice-Fried Green Beans and Cashews

Just for the record, vegetarian food isn't always healthier. Granted this meal would have been even unhealthier if I had used meat, but even without the meat, it had a bit of fat in it. I guess that's what happens when you deep fry green beans.

I know, deep-fried green beans? I was a little hesitant, but I was wanting a green bean stir fry for supper and this recipe looked the best of what I found in my little search. Turns out, it is really, really good. The green beans were incredible (but according to Curtis, most foods are incredible when fried--I would disagree with him there). The seasonings were minimal, but did the trick. My only problem was frying the cashews--I briefly forgot about them and they ended up a little too fried. We ate most of them anyway.

This will serve 4 - 6 people.

Twice Fried Green Beans with Cashews
adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

neutral oil like grapeseed, corn or canola for frying
1 1/2 lbs green beans (or however much you have--I didn't measure mine, I just used what I had), trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 - 2 inch lengths
1/2 c cashews
1 lb tofu, drained and cut into 1/2" cubes
1 - 2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c mild onion or scallions, chopped
1 t fresh chile (Jalapeno or Thai), optional (we didn't use it, but I suspect many would like this)
1 T sugar
2 T soy sauce
cooked rice or thin noodles (Udon, rice noodles, etc--I like the rice though since the green beans are kinda long)

Heat a enough of a neutral oil (I used canola) to be about 1 - 2 inches deep in a heavy black skillet or deep fryer (I probably used only about 1 - 1 1/2 inches of oil). Bring to 350 degrees (you can measure this with a candy thermometer--a meat thermometer won't get hot enough). Add the beans all at once and cook, stirring occasionally until they begin to brown, 5 - 10 minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towels, and sprinkle with salt. Add the cashews to the hot oil and fry until golden brown. Watch carefully to prevent the cashews from burning. Drain and sprinkle with salt. Set aside.

Let the oil cool a few minutes then pour off oil to containers to either reuse or dispose of in the trashcan (my husband's a plumber, he'd like for you to put in down the drain so you can give your friendly plumber some work). Keep 2 T of oil in the pan (or a separate pan, which I used because I didn't have enough patience to let the oil cool). Turn the heat up to high, and stir fry the tofu until it is golden brown. Add the garlic and onion and stir fry for a few minutes, until the onion softens (you can also use scallions, in which case only stir fry for about 30 seconds). Add the green beans and cook for 2 minutes. Add the sugar and soy sauce, stir, and remove from heat.

Serve over rice or noodles. Top with fried cashews.