Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tuna, Artichoke and Olive Pasta

Some evenings, I just don't feel like cooking or eating what is on the menu for the evening. Often, I want something less complicated or less heavy than what I had planned. Those are the evenings I put a few words into epicurious,, or google (with the new recipe function!) and sees what pops up.

In this instance it was "Artichokes and Pasta." I had a can of artichoke hearts that had been languishing in my pantry forever and I thought it was probably time. Epicurious didn't let me down. I ended up with an easy pasta dish that used all pantry items and was quick. The kids liked bits and pieces of it--I'm fine with them picking out what they don't like. This was honestly a 30 - 45 minute meal from finding the recipe to sitting at the table.

This serves 6 people easily.

Tuna, Artichoke and Olive Pasta
adapted from epicurious

1 lb small pasta (I used little bowties)
1 (13.5 oz) can artichoke hearts, drained
1/4 c drained and rinsed capers (optional--I didn't use because M doesn't like)
1/2 c pitted and chopped black olives
juice and zest of 1 lemon
12 - 13 oz of tuna, preferably in olive oil, drained
1/2 c extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c parsley, chopped

Bring water to a boil in a large pot and add pasta. Cook until al dente. Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine remaining ingredients. When pasta is done cooking, reserve 1/2 c of pasta cooking water and drain remaining water. Put the pasta in a large serving bowl and pour reserved pasta cooking water over top. Add the artichoke mixture, toss and serve.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Malaysian Beef Curry

The hunt for slow cooker recipes continues! I liked this better than anyone else in our family. I loved it, so, here's the recipe! It's a nice switch from normal slow cooker recipe flavors. Curtis said he would like this better if it had more spice. However, spice is a no go in our family, with M and her sensitive palate. The boys ate this fine.

I used stew meat instead of chuck roast. The stew meat worked fine.

This makes 6 generous servings.

Malaysian Beef Curry
from Bon Appetit

Spice Paste
4 - 8 large dried New Mexico chiles
2 - 4 lemongrass talks
1/2 c onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled
2 t coriander
1 1 /2 t cumin
1/2 t ginger
3 T fish sauce
1 T brown sugar

3 lb boneless chuck roast or stew meat, trimmed, and cut into 1 1/2" cubes
1 (13.5-oz) can unsweetened coconut milk
zest from 1 lime
2 whole star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 T tamarind paste
chopped fresh cilantro
cooked rice

To make the spice paste: Cover the chiles with very hot water and soak until soft, about 45 minutes. Drain, stem, seed, and chop chiles. Cut off the bottom 4" from the lemongrass stalks. Chop and transfer to food processor (reserve tops of stalks for the stew). Add onions, garlic, coriander, cumin, ginger, 1 t black pepper and process until finely ground. Add 1/2 c water, chiles, fish sauce, and sugar. Process to paste.

To make the stew: Smash reserved lemongrass stalks with a rolling pan (fun job!). Bend in half and bundle with kitchen twine. Mix beef and spice paste in slow cooker. Stir in lemongrass bundles, coconut milk, lime zest, star anise, cinnamon, and tamarind. Press meat down completely to submerge. Cook stew on low heat until meat is very tender, 4 1/2 - 5 hours. Spoon excess far from surface of stew before serving. Remove lemongrass bundles, stir anise, and cinnamon stick.

Transfer to stew to bowl. Serve over top steamed rice and sprinkled with cilantro.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Marbled Pound Cake

Everyone needs a few go to cake recipes. This is one of my mine. It's easy to make to give with a dinner for a new baby or for company you invited over at the minute. It stores well and makes a good breakfast the next morning (always a plus!). It doesn't require a lot of sifting or separating or cake flour or other cake techniques. It's easy. It's good. It's a keeper.

Marbled Pound Cake
from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

2 c flour
1 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1/2 c unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 c sugar
4 large eggs
1 t vanilla
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar on high speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl, reduce speed to medium, and add eggs, one at a time, beating 1 minutes after each egg. Scrape down the sides of the bowl frequently. Mix in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture, mixing only until it is incorporated. Don't overmix.

Put half of the batter in a separate bowl. Gently stir in melted chocolate. Alternate large spoonfuls of the light and dark batters in a greased 9 x 5" loaf pan. Very gently, run a knife through the mixture to marble it. Be careful not to stir vigorously, which would just turn the whole thing into a chocolate pound cake (unless that's what you're after!). Bake in a preheated 325 degrees oven for 70 - 75 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted in the center comes out clean. After the first 45 minutes, check the cake to be sure it isn't getting too browned. If it is, cover loosely with a foil tent.

Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 30 minutes. Then, transfer to a rack (out of the pan) and allow to finish cooling.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cherry-Orange Scones

Over the past couple of years of blogging, I've complained about not being able to make scones or biscuits. They've always tasted fine, but have not risen like I would like them to.

That complaining is over. All over.

I did it. I made perfect scones. I found a method that works and discovered that all I really need is for all of my children to be immersed in a PBSKids TV show. I then can give my undivided attention to the task at hand--making perfect scones.

I am so proud.

Cherry-Orange Scones
adapted from The Williams-Sonoma Baking Book

3 c flour
3 T sugar
2 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
zest of 1 orange
10 T unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 c cold buttermilk or sour milk
1/2 c dried tart cherries (or cranberries)
1/2 c dried apricots, chopped

In a food processor, pulse flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and orange zest a few times. Add the butter. Pulse until butter is in coarse, pea-sized chunks. Transfer mixture to a bowl and stir in buttermilk all at once, until a sticky dough forms. Stir in apricots and cherries. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently knead the dough, just until it holds together nicely. The dough will be very soft. Press the dough into a rectangle about 1 1/2" thick Fold like a business letter (in thirds), overlapping the short sides in the middle. Pat out dough into a thick rectangle and divide in half. Using a rolling pin, roll each half into a round 3/4" thick, 8" diameter circle. Cut each circle into 8 pieces.

Place wedges on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 425 oven until the scones are golden brown, 16 - 18 minutes. Transfer to wire racks, cool, and eat.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Hello, Salad!

I am learning that some of the best dishes can be the simplest. Warm chocolate pudding, asparagus with a poached egg, tomatoes just picked and warm from the sun still, freshly picked strawberries with a little whipped cream. Something doesn't have to be fancy to be good. There doesn't need to be an ingredient list that has 21 things on it which entails trips to 3 stores to find everything (I know, I do have some recipes like that on this site).

This recipe is one of those simple, but good ones. I foresee this being a repeat performer as the lettuce comes on full force in the next weeks/months (including the one red leaf lettuce in my card that survived our Big Chill in February!). This is one kinda fancy, non-pantry staple in here--hazelnut oil. Buy one bottle and enjoy this salad all spring (and summer if you are fortunate enough to have lettuce all summer).

The amount of dressing is double what the original recipe called for. I thought with the given proportions, the lettuce was a bit dry. Add half of the dressing, taste, and add more as you desire.

This serves 2- 4.

Hello, Salad
from In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite by Melissa Clark

2 t white wine vinegar
1/4 t salt
3 T hazelnut oil
6 c salad greens (to be honest, I have no idea how many greens I used, it doesn't really matter, just add and adjust other ingredients to your own preferences based on the amount of greens you have)
handful of basil, mint, parsley, or cilantro, coarsely chopped
1/4 c hazelnuts

Toast the hazelnuts in a 325 degrees oven for 10 - 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. The hazelnuts are toasted with they smell very fragrant (but not burnt). To loosen husks, roll between a folded kitchen towel. Some husks will remain, which is just fine, just get the loose ones off. Cool and chop.

Combine the vinegar, salt, and oil in a little glass jar. Shake well to emulsify the oil (or you can use whatever method you prefer for making dressing). Place greens, herbs, and hazelnuts in a salad bowl and toss. Drizzle half of vinaigrette over top, toss. Taste and add more vinaigrette and salt as you desire.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pasta with Chard and Dried Fruit

I had planned on making a heavier dish with my chard this week. However, when Sunday evening rolled around, I was wanting something lighter after a weekend of eating cheese and dairy filled meals. I still wanted to use the chard and I thought pasta would be good, too. So, I searched. I thankfully didn't have to search long before I found this recipe.

The kids didn't love this. I think if M would have been hungrier, she would have eaten more. J ate it pretty well, but little I didn't eat much. We are still working on eating green leafy things consistently. Curtis and I really enjoyed it.

I didn't end up having enough chard, so I used a combination of spinach and chard. That worked just fine--I couldn't really tell the difference between the two in the dish.

This serves 4 - 6.

Pasta with Chard and Dried Fruit
adapted from Food and Wine

3 T pine nuts, toasted
5 T olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 bunches chard, large stems removed and leaves chopped into 2" pieces (or spinach or a combo)
1 1/2 t salt
3/4 t black pepper
1/4 c sliced dried apricots
1/4 c raisins
1/4 c red wine (optional, you can also use water)
small pinch of cinnamon
3/4 lb long pasta, such as fettuccine or linguine
1/4 c grated Parmesan

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until done. While the water heats for the pasta, put the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, or until fragrant and golden. Add the chard and a 1/2 t of salt and pepper. Cook until the chard is wilted. Add the dried fruit, wine, and cinnamon. Simmer until the mixture is almost dry. Remove from heat.

Drain the pasta when it is al dente. Toss it with the chard. If the pasta looks a little dry, drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over top. Sprinkle with pine nuts and parmesan and season with remaining salt and pepper.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Asparagus with Poached Eggs

Supper tonight was enough to motivate me to post again. It tasted like spring in our house this evening---asparagus with poached eggs, chard and dried fruit linguini, and oatmeal raisins cookies. It really doesn't get much better than this.

This dish was the show stopper. Yes, it was just a side, but that didn't matter. I found this recipe in Food and Wine Magazine on Wednesday and envisioned it again on Saturday as I walked through the Farmers Market on Saturday. I went straight to the guy with the asparagus and knew that this week, asparagus was getting a makeover.

I used about 4 oz of asparagus. I had bought 8 oz, but my kids love asparagus. Seriously, J and M fight over it. It worked out perfectly because it meant Curtis and I both had our own asparagus, which the kids wouldn't touch and they had theirs.

Asparagus. Sigh. It will be a glorious spring with asparagus to eat every week.

To make this use 2 oz(4 oz if main dish) of asparagus per person/serving and 1 egg. Multiply as needed. This can also be a brunch/breakfast dish. Serve with toast in that case.

The recipe in these proportions will serve 2.

Asparagus with Poached Eggs
from a Gwyneth Paltrow recipe in Food and Wine

4 oz thick asparagus trimmed
1/2 T butter
salt and pepper
2 T freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 T white wine vinegar
2 eggs

Preheat the broiler. (My broiler has a hi and lo setting--it confuses me. For the record, I preheated my broiler to hi and set the rack in the top 1/3 of the oven--about 6 inches from the heat source.) Blanch the asparagus in a large pot---a large deep skillet will also work--of boiling, salted water until crisp-tender. Watch carefully, especially if using Farmers Market/homegrown asparagus, which will cook more quickly than grocery store asparagus. Meanwhile, cut the butter into pieces and put in a long, shallow, broiler-safe dish. Transfer hot asparagus with a slotted spoon to dish with butter. Roll the asparagus in the butter until butter has melted and coats the asparagus. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with cheese. Broil until golden.

Meanwhile, add the vinegar to the asparagus blanching liquid and return to a simmer. Crack the eggs into a small cup and then gently pour into simmering water, one at a time. If the whites kinda run away, use a spoon to gently bring them back to the yolk. Poach until the whites are set, but the yolks are runny, about 3 minutes or so. Using a slotted spoon, carefully remove each egg from the water. Set on the asparagus. (If your egg looks less than beautiful, try gently flipping it over. The bottom often looks better.) Sprinkle eggs with a little salt and pepper and serve.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Cowboy Cookie Bars

When my new Food and Wine magazine came, I was immediately drawn to the Chocolate Chip-Pecan Cookie Bars. It took exactly when day between when the magazine darkened my door to when the bars came out of the oven. I transformed them though, into my favorite kind of chocolate chip cookies--Cowboy Cookies.

These have the taste of cookies, but the ease of bar cookies---just one pan to bake and then cut. Simple. Do I need to tell you that everyone loved these and M was thrilled to get these in her lunch?

Cowboy Cookie Bars
adapted from Food and Wine

1 c pecans
4 T butter, at room temperautre
2 T oil
1/4 c plus 2 T sugar
1/4 c plus 2 T brown sugar
1 egg
1 t vanilla
3/4 c whole wheat flour
3/4 c oatmeal
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 c chocolate chips (I like bittersweet, but you can use whatever is your favorite)

Spread the pecans on a sheet pan and toast in a 350 degrees oven for 8 minutes, or until fragrant and golden. Cool and then chop.

Beat the sugar and oil until creamy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. In a separate, small bowl, whisk together the flour, oatmeal, baking soda and salt. Add to the sugar mixture and combine at low speed, just until the dry ingredients are incorporated. Add the chocolate chips and pecans and mix by hand until the mixture is blended.

Press dough into an even layer in a 9 x 13" pan that has been lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil (I used foil). Bake in preheated 350 degrees oven for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned and nearly set in the center. Let cool, then remove from pan and cut into squares.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja

As my children get older, our schedule gets fuller. We are still trying to keep the extras minimal--soccer in the fall, swimming in the spring/early summer. With spring here (yep, we live in Texas, spring comes early!), swim lessons have started in preparation for swim team in May. We generally get home from swim lessons around 5:20 and we eat at 6:00--no small task for me. Even if I had a 30 minute meal to make, having 30 minutes in that time frame which didn't involve care for the boys (they're the younger two), is a stretch.

Thus, I am becoming re-acquainted with my slow cooker again. We also have taken a CSA break this month to get the cabbage and turnips that have multiplied in my fridge cleaned out.
I am also in the process of cleaning last years quarter cow out of the freezer--mostly stew meat and round cutlets left. I am dreaming of a new quarter in April/May, so I need to get rid of the old one first. Stew meat lends itself perfectly to slow-cooker. Round cutlets lends itself perfectly to absolutely nothing, I've found. That doesn't prevent me from trying to use my cutlets.

The goal: To consume round cutlets in the most pleasing, make ahead way possible.
The plan: Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja
Analysis: Awesome slow cooker meal which doesn't taste like a bland slow-cooker meal. Round cutlets don't lend themselves well to ropa vieja either, but with the overall taste of the dish, the round cutlets can be ignored, if not entirely forgiven.

Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja
adapted slightly from Food and Wine

1 2-lb flank steak, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 4 pieces
28 oz diced tomatoes, with juice
2 medium (1 large) bell pepper, thinly sliced--a variety of colors is nice if possible
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 t oregano
1/2 t cumin
1 bay leaf
1/2 c green olives
2 T capers, drained
3 T cilantro, coarsely chopped

Season the flank steak with salt and pepper. Set aside. In the slow cooker, combine tomatoes and juice, pepper, onion, garlic, oregano, cumin, and bay leaf. Add the steak and cover. Cook on high for 5 hours or until the meat is very tender.

Transfer meat to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes (to seal the juices). While the meat rests, stir in the olives, capers, and cilantro. Use shred meat, using 2 forks is the easiest way. Return the meat to the sauce. Season as needed with salt and pepper. Serve over rice and sprinkle with additional cilantro, if desired.