Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Macaroni, Peas, and Cheese

This is not macaroni and cheese. Don't sell it to whoever you are serving it as mac and cheese. They'll form a mutiny. It is not macaroni and cheese.

What it is is a light spring (or anytime) pasta dish full of flavor that makes you feel good about yourself (unlike mac and cheese). Well, it makes you feel good about yourself if you ignore the little bit of bacon and heavy cream you added to the pot.

As you may be able to tell, I learned from my mistakes. M didn't eat it for supper because it wasn't mac and cheese. The boys both loved it. I'll definitely make it again and not sell it as mac and cheese and I suspect she'll eat it just fine.

Macaroni, Peas, and Cheese
from in The Kitchen with a Good Appetite by Melissa Clark

8 oz elbows or other cute small pasta
1 T butter*
1 t olive oil*
2 oz bacon (2 strips store bought, 1 strip farmer's market), diced (optional)
1 1/2 c frozen peas
3 T heavy cream
2 T fresh basil or mint, chopped
2 t lemon juice
1/2 c Parmesan cheese, grated

*If not using bacon, you need, otherwise the bacon creates enough grease.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain well. If you are not using bacon, melt the butter and oil together in a large skillet. If you are using bacon, cook bacon in a large skillet until crispy. Stir in the peas and cook for a minute to defrost. Add the heavy cream and herbs. Cook, stirring constantly, until bubbly, 2 - 3 minutes. Add the pasta and drizzle with lemon juice. Stir in the cheese until the past is completely coated and the mixture is creamy. Serve.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Roasted Shrimp and Broccoli

Curtis is not a shellfish fan. I can't quite understand that, but regardless of my understanding, he's not a fan. The rest of us are. So when Curtis went out of town for work for a few days, I jumped on the opportunity to try a new shrimp recipe that I thought looked good.

And good it was! The kids and I loved this. For M, it was close to the ultimate meal--she loves shrimp and she loves, loves broccoli. I thought the broccoli outshone the shrimp in this recipe. I had no problem letting the kids eat the bulk of the shrimp and sticking to the broccoli. The boys enjoyed this too.

My only changes were with the spices. I didn't have whole coriander and cumin seeds (nor a good method of grinding them either), so I threw some ground spices in.

This will serve 4, maybe.

Roasted Shrimp and Broccoli
adapted from In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite by Melissa Clark

1 - 2 lbs broccoli, cut into bite-size florets
1/4 c olive oil
1/2 t ground coriander (or 1 t whole seeds)
1/2 t ground cumin (or 1 t whole seeds)
1 1/2 t slat
1 t black pepper (optional--I omitted)
1/8 t hot chili powder (optional--I omitted this as well)
1 lb shrimp, shelled and deveined if you desire
zest from one large lemon

lemon wedges for serving

In a large bowl, toss the broccoli with 2 T olive, all the coriander and cumin, 1 t salt, 1/2 t pepper, and all the chili powder (if using). Spread the broccoli on a single layer on a jellyroll pan (a cookie sheet--but with sides) with a silpat sheet (for easiest cleanup. A silpat isn't necessary, just helpful). Roast for 10 minutes in a preheated 425 degrees oven. Meanwhile, combine the shrimp, remaining 2 T olive oil, lemon zest and remaining salt and pepper. Add the shrimp to the broccoli and toss. Roast, tossing once, until shrimp are just opaque and the broccoli is tender, 5 to 10 minutes more. Serve with lemon wedges or squeeze lemon juice over shrimp and broccoli before serving.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Bagna Cauda Salad

Raw beets? Raw turnips? Raw radishes? In a salad with anchovies? I wasn't sold but the picture looked so pretty I decided to try it anyway, mostly because I had so many turnips in my fridge.

Turns out, Curtis and I both love it. I've made this twice now. I've rotated some different winter veggies in to the dish as they show up in my CSA box (and then crisper). If you have it on hand, you can also use 1/4 small butternut squash (seed and peel it--the send end is preferable) and 8 trimmed brussels sprouts. Thinly slice the squash and pull all the leaves off the brussels sprouts.

This recipe calls for a lot of thin slicing. If you are not adept with a knife to cut the vegetables paper thin, use a mandoline. Just watch your knuckles---slicing your thumb knuckle on a mandoline because your kids have lost the protective guide. I'm not talking from experience or anything. :) Almost all your prep time is spent cutting and slicing the vegetables. The rest goes quite quickly.

Just a note on the beets. If you don't care if your turnips and cabbage turn pinkish, you can stir in the beets as enthusiastically as you desire. However, if you want your whites white, stir a little dressing into the beets before you add them to the salad. Toss the salad very gently just to incorporate the beets.

Bagna Cauda Salad
adapted from Amanda Hesser's recipe on Food52.com

2 small carrots, trimmed (peeled if store bought, not necessary if just picked)
2 radishes, trimmed
2 small turnips (or 4 very small turnips), trimmed and peeled
2 small beets (or 4 very small beets), trimmed and peeled
2 - 3 leaves of cabbage, sliced thinly
1/4 c parsley, chopped
4 anchovy fillets
2 small (1 medium) garlic clove
2 T lemon juice
5 T good extra virgin olive oil

Prep the veggies: The radishes, turnips, and beets should be sliced as thinly as possible using a mandoline or your wicked knife skills. These veggies should be translucent. Put the radishes and turnips in a small to medium sized serving bowl. Set the beets aside in a small mixing bowl. Cut the carrots into 3" long matchsticks (each matchstick about 1/8" thick or so). Add the carrots, cabbage and parsley to the radishes and turnips in the serving bowl. Mix with your hands to combine vegetables.

The dressing: You have several options. If you have a good mortar and pestle, that is sufficient. I don't. You could also use a mini food processor or blender. I don't have those either. Using a knife (or one of the other methods which involves the equipment I don't have), finely mince the anchovies and garlic. Combine to make with the salt to make a paste. Place in a small glass jar, add the lemon juice and olive oil, and shake vigorously. Season with salt and adjust the amount of lemon juice and oil as needed.

To create salad: Pour half of the dressing over the vegetables (not the beets yet) and blend with your hands, separating the vegetables as necessary. Mix very well. Taste and add more dressing if you would like. Once seasonings are how you like, very, very gently mix in the beets. Let rest for 15 minutes or so before serving.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Polenta with Chard and Mushrooms

On occasion, I have an incredible cooking day. I not only make a supper everyone loves, but I make lunch for myself too. The lunches are generally just for me. My kids are happy with peanut butter and jelly, fresh fruit, and fresh veggies for lunch so I tend to take that route. For me though, sometimes some cooked, veggie-based meal is called for.

Curtis has needed to travel a lot for work in the past 9 months. Granted, I have many friends whose husbands travel a lot more than mine, but for us, it's a lot. (Curtis never used to travel at all, so the approximate once a month trips seem like a lot). Usually, I take it all in stride, but sometimes I find myself exhausted and in need of some grown-up comfort food. When I found this recipe online, I knew I had found my middle of the day comfort (after the kids are in bed comfort food almost always comes in the form of chocolate pudding, mini nutella cupcakes, or cowboy cookie bars).

I loved this recipe. I love polenta. I love, love shitake mushrooms. Yes, this was pure love. I don't have bets on my kids eating this. M loves mushrooms, but she prefers hers uncooks. Plus, the addition of chard makes it a little questionable as well, not to mention the polenta, which doesn't like at all. J and little I would probably be even less impressed than M. But for me, it's the perfect middle of the day, I need some beauty and happiness in my life meal. This is my happy meal. I don't even need a toy.

I was tempted to leave out the lemon juice because I was too impatient to take the time to squeeze/zest one. I am so thankful I didn't. This dish NEEDS the lemon juice, don't make the mistake I almost did. The lemon juice is as crucial as the mushrooms.

This will supposedly serve 2. Hmm....I'm not commenting on how many it actually served. :)

Polenta with Chard and Mushrooms
adapted from Hail's Kitchen

4 - 6 oz chard, stems removed and coarsely chopped
8 oz mushrooms, combination of button, cremini, and/or shitakes
1/4 c onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 oz pancetta or bacon, diced (you could, hypothetically leave this out if you don't do pork)
1/4 c broth, either chicken or veggie
2 T dry white wine (optional)
1/2 T olive oil
1/2 T butter
1 T fresh thyme, chopped
1 lemon, juiced and zested
1/2 t salt or to taste
dash of pepper, or to taste
1/4 c polenta
1 c water

Bring 1 c water to a boil in a small saucepan.

While the water comes to boil, cook the pancetta in a large skillet over medium high heat until it is crispy. Remove and set aside. Saute the onions and garlic in the same skillet for 2 minutes. Add the olive oil, butter, and mushrooms. Stir well to combine and then cook for a couple of minutes without stirring. Then stir the mushrooms well again and allow to cook undisturbed a few more minutes, or until the mushrooms have released all their juices. Add the wine to the pan and cook until all the liquid is evaporated. Remove the mushroom mixture from the pan.

Once the water boils, add the polenta and cook, stirring frequently until the polenta is thickened (how thick you want it is up to you). Meanwhile, add the chard to the pan. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the chard is wilted. Once the chard has wilted, return the mushroom mixture to the pan, along with the broth. Allow the broth to reduce and the chard to soften. Taste and adjust salt and pepper seasonings as necessary. Remove from heat, stir in the lemon juice and zest and thyme. Serve immediately over hot polenta.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Hot Fudge Pudding Cake

When I was young, every once in a while my mom would have her "Ladies" over. While this bothered my brother, sister, and I slightly because we had to stay out of sight and quiet, for the most part it was ok because my mom almost always made this for dessert for them. It was some what of a magical dessert to me---cake on the top with hot fudge pudding on the bottom. A piece was inverted on a plate and topped with vanilla ice cream. The vanilla ice cream always melted a bit in the hot fudge and it was wonderfully gooey mess of ice cream, hot fudge, and cake--perfect for a little girl.

Once I started making this for myself, it was no less magical or special, although for some different reasons. My favorite discovery was my mom used no bowls to make this. Every thing was measured and then mixed in the 9 x 9" pan it was baked in. I still love how during baking the cake floats to top and the vanilla ice cream makes a gooey mess with the hot fudge and cake.

This is always a hit when I make it. I love it because it's easy and good!

Hot Fudge Pudding Cake
from my Mom :)

1 c flour
3/4 c sugar
2 T cocoa
2 t baking powder
1/2 c milk
2 T oil
1 t vanilla
1 c brown sugar
1/4 c cocoa
1 3/4 c hot tap water

Mix flour, sugar, 2 T cocoa and baking powder in an ungreased 9 x9" pan. Mix in milk, oil, and vanilla with a fork until smooth. Spread evenly in pan. Sprinkle with brown sugar and 1/4 c cocoa. Pour hot water over batter. Bake 40 minutes in a preheated 350 degrees oven. Let stand 20 - 30 minutes. To serve, invert on dessert plates and top with vanilla ice cream.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Red Lentil Soup aka Curtis's Favorite Dal

It's just within the past year that I've really, really fallen in love with lentils. I try to rotate them into our menu once every two weeks or so--just like tofu stir fry. It's a nice meat alternative, very inexpensive, and very easy to make. Unlike most dried beans, lentils cook very quickly.

In my foray into lentils, I'm discovered the different kinds. French green lentils hold their shape better. Brown lentils are the traditional looking ones that turn kinda to mush when cooked to tenderness. Red lentils looks orange and also turn to mush. For this recipe you want the lentils that turn to mush, not the French lentils that hold their shape.

We loved this recipe (well, not the kids, but I'm don't always worry about them when it comes to lentils. It takes a couple of tries with a lentil recipe before they love one). I trimmed some cilantro from my herb garden to sprinkle on top.

This recipe serves 6.

Red Lentil Soup
from In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite by Melissa Clark

4 T olive oil
1 very large onion or 2 medium onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 T tomato paste
2 t cumin
1/2 t salt, plus more to taste
1/2 t pepper
pinch of chili powder or cayenne
2 qts chicken or vegetable broth
2 c water
2 c red lentils
2 large carrots or 4 small carrots, diced
juice of 1 lemon
1/3 c fresh cilantro, mint, or parsley, chopped

Heat the oil over high heat until hot in large soup pot. Add the onions and garlic. Saute until golden. Stir in the tomato paste, cumin, salt, pepper, and chili powder. Saute an additional 2 minutes. Add the broth, water, lentils, and carrots. Bring to a simmer, partially cover the pot, and cook for 30 minutes, or until lentils are soft. Taste and add more salt, if necessary (if you are using homemade chicken stock, you will need more salt). Puree half of the soup in a food processor or blender (be sure to leave the center of the lid off to allow the steam to escape). Reheat the soup if necessary, then stir in lemon and desired fresh herb. Serve the soup lightly drizzled with your best olive oil, if desired.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Moorish Paella

Back when I made my Moroccan Pickled Vegetables, I made a batch of harissa to use in them. I made way more than I needed, especially considering that harissa is spicy stuff. I use only 1 T or so at a time. I've since made a second batch of the pickled vegetables, but the harissa jar still is about half full. While I suspect I'll make a third batch of the vegetables (my neighbors love the pickled vegetables, so I make a batch and pawn at least one jar off on them every time), the harissa still isn't being used fast. So, I looked for some new recipes using harissa.

Really, I love food52.com. I put harissa in their search engine and had several possibilities. I found one that I thought my kids would eat, contained a little vegetables, and had been tested extensively (I find on websites where individual can upload their own recipes, it's best to use recipes that have been tested). I was interested in this Moorish Paella.

It ended up a little spicy. I was nervous. However, the kids ate the chicken without a problem and Isaac ate some of the rice too, which was spicier than the chicken. I will definitely make this dish again. I also was a little apprehensive how much time the recipe would make. Paella conjures up the image of hours spent watching the stove. Not the case. While this isn't a dinner in a hurry recipe, from starting to table it was just over an hour (and it could have been quicker if my chicken had been fully thawed when I started). The last 20 minutes or so are totally unattended, so I got a head start on dishes, making clean up after supper a lot shorter.

I am including a couple of changes I want to make to the recipe next time--like more cauliflower and a little less rice. I also went easy on the spice which is reflected here as well. One important note: start brining the chicken at least an hour (as long as 8 hours) before you plan to start cooking.

This serves 4 - 6 people.

Moorish Paella
adapted from NWB on food52.com

4 -6 chicken pieces---a combination of bone-in thighs and breasts, depending on your family's preference (it should all fit in one pan without touching though)
4 small or 2 large links of cured, (shelf-stable) Spanish chorizo (not Mexican for you Texans with accessibility to such things), sliced
1 small onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 T olive oil
1 small- medium head of cauliflower, cut into small, bite-sized pieces
1 t ground caraway
2 t smoked paprika
1/2 t cumin
1/2 - 1 T harissa (this is what gives the dish most of its heat)
1 1/2 c Arborio rice**
8 oz tomato sauce
2 3/4 c chicken stock (or 2 1/4 c stock plus 1/2 c dry wine)**

Sprinkle chicken generously with coarse kosher/sea salt and place in plastic bag or bowl. Put it in the refrigerator to brine at least 1 hour, or as long as a day.

Brown sausages in a large, deep skillet. Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Brown brined chicken over medium high heat in the same skillet, adding a little olive oil to sausage fat if needed, until richly browned. Turn over and brown other side. Remove and set aside. Add onions to pan (and a little olive oil if pan looks dry) and cook for 3 minutes. While onions cook, mix together caraway, paprika, and cumin in a small bowl. Add a dash of salt a spoonful of the paprika mixture to the onion. Add the garlic and cook for a minute. Add the cauliflower and cook for 5 minutes. Add more paprika mixture.

Add 1/2 c chicken stock or wine. Scrape bottom of the pan to get browned bits off and cook a couple of minutes. Add the sausage and harissa and stir well. Add tomato sauce and cook for 5 minutes. If you want, add a little more spice mixture (I think I may have added a little here--not much). Add the rice and stir in. Spread rice and onion mixture evenly over bottom of the pan. Lay the chicken on top of the rice. Carefully pour in the remaining 2 1/4 c of chicken stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 20 -30 minutes, until rice is cooked and chicken is cooked through. Turn off heat, let set 2 - 4 minutes (about the time it takes to get everyone to the table), and serve.

**Original recipe called for 3 c chicken stock added to 2 c Arborio Rice.