Saturday, August 31, 2013

King Ranch Casserole

Back in the day, I taught at a public school.  While public school lunches are notorious for their nastiness (that pizza?  those hamburgers?  Neither live up to their names), there were two days I would always buy....enchilada day and King Ranch day.  The enchiladas....oh my...greasy truck stop...two enchiladas loaded with extra jalapenos and a side of beans on top of my cornbread.  (I don't even want to know the calorie count).  The King Ranch Casserole was....ugh...too good for words.

These days, my kids' school still has enchilada day, and I try to go whenever they do (it's only once a month, usually a Thursday, unlike pizza which is almost every Monday).  However, King Ranch Casserole has gone by the to be remembered, "back in the good old days"  (unlike the stewed tomatoes and pimiento cheese sandwich not good days).

Last week, I remembered King Ranch Casserole.  I googled it and was disappointed.  Then, I remembered my favorite site for all recipes Texan:  The Homesick Texan.  Not only did the Homesick Texan rise the challenge, the recipe contained no directions that sounded like "open up a can of..." and had no corn!!

Mmm....bliss in my oven in the middle of August.  My King Ranch craving was met and I knew I would at least post one more recipe to this blog before I took another 9 month break.  M loved this.  I made it a hair too spicy, so the boys didn't eat it quite as well.  Next time, I'll dial down the spice a little...or maybe not, then I'd get more to myself.

This serves 8 - 10 (or 12.  It makes an 11x7" pan).

King Ranch Chicken Casserole
adapted ever so slightly from the Homesick Texan, because the recipe was almost perfect

1 1/2 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken (I used thighs.  They're cheaper and more flavorful)
6 t lime jiuce
4 t chile powder (I like New Mexico blend--great flavor and not too spicy)
1/4 c olive oil
4 T butter
1/2 onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 poblano (optional--may want to taste the poblano first to see how much of it you want to use), diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 T flour
1 t cumin
1 c chicken broth
1/2 c half and half or heavy cream
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes  (or a 10-oz can of Rotel or 2 c fresh tomatoes plus 1/4 c diced jalapeños)
1/3 c plain yogurt or sour cream
1/2 c cilantro, chopped
10 corn tortillas
3 c cheese, cheddar or a mix of pepper jack and cheddar

Season the chicken with 4 t lime juice, 2 t chile powder, and a dash of salt.  In a skillet over medium heat, cook the chicken in the olive oil for 10 minutes per side or until cooked through.  When chicken is   cooked through, remove from heat and shred when it is just cool enough to handle.  Season with salt and pepper as needed.  Set aside (you should have about 3 c of chicken).

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onions and both peppers. Cook for 10 minutes or until onions have softened.  Add the garlic, flour, cumin, and remaining 2 t of chile powder. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Add the chicken broth and cook until mixture has thickened.  Stir in the half and half and tomatoes.  Cover the pot and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  After 15 minutes, stir in the sour cream, remaining 2 t lime juice, and 1/4 c cilantro.  Season with salt and pepper.  Remove from heat.

Soften the tortillas (either dry--over a comal or in a little oil in a black skillet).  Ladle 1/2 c of the sauce into the bottom or a 11x7 pan (you can use and 9x13 pan, it will just not be as thick).  Top with 5 tortillas, tearing tortillas as needed to be sure the entire pan is covered.  Add half the chicken, followed by 1/2 the sauce, 1/2 the remaining cilantro, and 1 1/2 c grated cheese.  Repeat the layers, ending with the cheese.

Cook uncovered in a preheated 350 degrees oven for 30 minutes or until brown and bubbling.  Serve immediately, topping with sour cream, salsa, and more cilantro as desired.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Vegetable Pot-au-Feu

One of my favorite cookbooks is Dorie Greenspan's Baking:  From My Home to Yours.  The recipes are rich, comfort food, gift worthy desserts.  I've worked my way through it, particularly the scones/muffins section and the cookies section.  I've attempted a few of her cakes with good results.  It's a book that has a permanently reserved space on my top-tier cookbook shelf.

A few years ago, Dorie (we're on a first name basis, you know?) came out with a new cookbook, Around my French Table.  I hemmed and hawed over whether or not I should buy it and I eventually decided against.  It just sounded too fancy.  I perused it at the bookstore and most of the recipes were heavy on meat, making it just a company cookbook (not an everyday cookbook, since we eat meatless at least half the week or more most weeks).  I finally realized I could check this book out of the library.

My expectations were more or less correct.  I found a handful of recipes I wanted to try, but not enough to warrant buying the book, at least not now.

This recipe is the exception.  In this vegetable pot-au-feu, vegetables have a starring role and it is a main dish (most of the vegetarian recipes in this cookbook are relegated to side dishes).  We loved it, M and Curtis especially.  I made poached eggs to serve in it, and learned for next time, the kids would rather go eggless.  That makes it even easier!

I made this in a wok, like Dorie suggested, but a dutch oven or soup pot would work just as well (and I'll probably use that next time).  Dorie also said this wasn't good leftovers--don't tell that to M!

This serves 4 - 6.

Vegetable Pot-au-Feu
adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Around my French Table.

2 T olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small to medium onion, thinly sliced
1 leek, halved lengthwise and well rinsed, sliced
3 medium potatoes (6 small), sliced 1/4" thick
2 - 4 small to medium carrots, cut on the diagonal into 1/4" slices
3 c water (can also use vegetable or chicken stock)
1 2-inch piece lemongrass, split lengthwise
8 - 12 asparagus stalks, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2" pieces
4 - 6 shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1/2 lb spinach, chard, or kale, stemmed, washed, and coarsely sliced
4 large eggs, hardboiled or poached
slices of crusty bread, toasted

Heat the olive oil over medium hat.  Add the onion and leek, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until they just begin to soften, about five minutes.  Toss in the garlic and cook for an additional minute. Stir in the potatoes and carrots, followed by the water and lemongrass.  Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered, until the vegetables are almost tender, about 10 minutes.  (While the vegetables are simmering, you can cook the eggs).  Add the asparagus and shiitake mushrooms to the vegetables and cook for an additional 4 minutes, or until tender.  Stir in the spinach (or other greens) and cook until  spinach (or greens) are slightly wilted.  Spinach will take about 2 minutes, chard slightly longer, and kale even longer.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.

To serve, place a slice of toasted crusty bread in a bowl.  Ladle soup over top and slice in the egg.  Serve immediately (I found it easiest to serve at the counter, not on the table).

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Curried Rice Salad

I've started feeling like I'm in a bit of a cooking rut this summer.  I seem to just be making the same (wonderful, nonetheless) meals over and over.  That's saying something too, since I had three weeks of not really cooking smack dab in the middle of the summer.

Maybe it's the multitude of eggplant, peppers, and summer squash that brings about the cooking doldrums.  Maybe I'm just a little bit lazier this summer (that could be the case, because its been a really enjoyable summer...).  However, I was ready for some new inspiration.

I have a list of potential cookbooks I'd like, but I've learned, I have limited real estate for cookbooks.  I would like to find cookbooks that I cook many recipes from and that are different than the recipes I'm already using.  Plus, the recipes need to be heavy on vegetables and not so heavy on meat.

Jerusalem has been a great match for that, but I needed more.  So, I went to the public library.

This recipe is from one of my library cookbooks.  It's a great Sunday afternoon meal, perfect for taking to the pool and eating there.  It didn't use eggplant or summer squash, which was a disadvantage, but frankly, I'm tired of both those.

We all loved it, except for M.  J was thrilled that it was vegetarian--that boy's deciding he's not a big fan of meat.  I'll definitely make this again (and just let M fend for herself for supper. She's 8.  She can handle that).

This originally called for fresh tomatoes, of which I had none.  I omitted them and didn't miss them at all.  I also didn't really measure the vegetables, just eyeballed it.  This is the kind of recipe where you can do that without many negative effects (however, please, measure your spices).  This reminded me of a curry dish, minus the meat or sauce.

Serves 4- 6.

Curried Rice Salad
adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special

1 c uncooked brown rice
1/2 t turmeric
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t salt
2 c water

1 c celery, diced
1 c sweet peppers, diced
1 c apples, diced
1/2 c currants or raisins

1/4 c olive oil
1/4 c lemon juice
1 T brown sugar
1 T fresh ginger root, grated
1 1 /2 t cumin
1 t curry powder
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t coriander
1/4 t cardamom
salt to taste

Greek plain yogurt
cashews, toasted and chopped
mango, diced (optional)

In a saucepan, combine the rice with the turmeric, 1/2 t cinnamon, 1/4 t salt, and water.  Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 40 minutes or until the rice is tender.

Meanwhile, combine the vegetables in a large bowl.  Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, brown sugar, ginger root, cumin, curry powder, cinnamon, coriander, and cardamom.  Pour it over the vegetables and fruit and salt to taste.

Cool the rice for 15 minutes, then toss it with the vegetables and dressing.

Serve room temperature or cold, garnishing with yogurt, cashews, and mangoes, as desired.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


This is quick becoming one of our summer favorites (up there with Bun Chay, Taco Salad, and Sicilian Stir Fry).  Despite doing this CSA thing for the past five plus years, our kids are still not fans of eggplant and zucchini.  Curtis and I are still kinda iffy on both of those as well, especially zucchini.

Well, this recipe has no zucchini.  It does use eggplant and cucumbers.  We love this and have adapted it to the kids by also adding some grilled marinated chicken breasts.  Everyone's happy.  First bite and once again, I remember how wonderful summer can be.

This recipe calls for savory mango pickles.  Some day, I hope to have the time to locate those (I know what store to look at, I just haven't braved it this summer with three kids in tow), so I am leaving them in the recipe.

adapted from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

2 large eggplants (or 3 - 4 small or medium ones), peeled leaving a zebra like pattern (one strip peeled, one peel left on, etc)
1 1/4 c sunflower or canola oil

1/2 - 1 lb seasoned chicken breasts
sourdough bread, ciabatta bread, or fresh pita (I usually use bread)
4 hard boiled eggs, peeled and sliced
savory mango pickle (optional)
2 medium ripe tomatoes, diced
2 small cucumbers (1 med-lg), diced (if you use a large one, peel and seed cucumber as well)
1 1/2 T parsley
lemon slices

Tahini Sauce:
2/3 c tahini
1/2 c water
2 T lemon juice
1 clove garlic, crushed (optional)

1 1/4 oz cilantro (thin stems ok)
1/3 oz parsley (thin stems ok)
1 - 2 hot green chiles, coarsely chopped
1/2 t cumin
1/4 t cardamom
1/4 t cloves
pinch of sugar
1/4 t salt
1 clove garlic, crushed (optional)
2 T olive oil
2 T water

Cut eggplants widthwise into slices 1 inch thick.  Sprinkle them on both sides with salt, spread on baking sheet or kitchen towel, and let stand for at least 30 minutes (this helps remove some of the water).  Pat dry with paper towels or clean kitchen towels.

While the eggplants sweat, prepare the tahini sauce.  In a small bowl, combine tahini, water, and lemon juice.  The consistency should be of honey or a little runnier.  Add a little extra water if needed.  Taste and add salt as desired.  Sauce can be store in the fridge for up to a week, just stir well before using (and add a little more water if needed).

Prepare the zhoug.  Finely chop all the zhoug ingredients (not including olive oil or water).  Add the water and olive oil and combine to make a coarse paste.    If you have a small food processor, you could also pulse all the ingredients (including olive oil and water) until you have a coarse paste.  Zhoug will keep in the fridge for up to three weeks (but ours never lasts that long!).

After the eggplant have sweated for 30 minutes or so, heat the sunflower or canola oil in a heavy frying pan.  Make sure the oil is very hot (it almost looks like it starts swirling around in the pan by itself, it shouldn't smoke though, and you definitely don't want it catching on fire) and fry the eggplant slices in batches until nice and dark.  Flip the eggplants once.  Add oil if needed.  When the eggplant is done, it should be nice and squishy in the center.  Remove and drain on paper towels.  While the eggplant fries, grill the chicken.

To serve:  Slice the chicken into thin strips.  Put the hardboiled eggs, diced tomatoes, diced cucumbers, and mango pickles on a platter.  I don't mix things together because we all like different combinations.  Put the parsley in a little bowl and serve the lemon slices as well.

Make the eggplant and chicken into open-faced sandwiches.  Spoon tahini sauce over the bread.  Follow with eggplant slices (or chicken), some more tahini sauce, eggs, tomato, cucumbers, and top with zhoug.  If desired, you can squeeze a lemon over top or season with salt and pepper.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Vanilla and Intensely Rich Chocolate Frozen Custard

I have learned this summer that frozen custard and ice cream are not the same thing.  I prefer frozen custard.  Ice cream tends to leave that funny, fat coating on my spoon and then on my tongue.  Frozen custard leaves none of that but doesn't sacrifice richness.

This chocolate frozen custard is intensely rich.  I am a chocolate lover and I only could manage one scoop.  I'm not complaining.  It's not often ice cream or custard has such a wonderful chocolate flavor.

The base for the chocolate is a vanilla recipe.  The vanilla recipe received mixed reviews in my family.  M thought it was great, Curtis not so much.

Vanilla Frozen Custard
adapted a hair from Bon Appetit magazine

1 1/2 c heavy (whipping) cream
1 c milk (I use skim without any problems)
1/2 c sugar, divided
pinch of salt
1 t vanilla
5 large egg yolks

In a medium saucepan, combine cream, milk, 1/4 c sugar, pinch of salt, and vanilla.  Bring the mixture just to a boil, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat.  In a heat proof bowl or glass measuring cup (my preference), beat the 5 egg yolks and the remaining 1/4 c sugar, until pale yellow and thickened (it should form "the ribbon").  Gradually whisk in 1/2 c or so of the hot milk.  This is tempering the eggs so they don't scramble when they are come in contact with the hot milk.  Slowly whisk the hot egg/milk mixture into the saucepan of milk and cream.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thick enough to coat a wooden spoon.  (In other words, if the custard is on the back of the spoon, you can draw your finger through the custard and it doesn't run down over the finger line immediately.)  Be careful not to overcook so the eggs don't scramble or clump.

If your custard is smooth, pour into another bowl.  Place bowl in a bowl of ice water and stir occasionally until custard is cool.  Process according to your ice cream maker directions.  Try not to eat all of the custard before you freeze it, which is always an issue for me.

The plain vanilla frozen custard makes about 3 1/2 c.

Chocolate Frozen Custard
adapted from the Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Book

one recipe of vanilla frozen custard, hot off the stove
1/2 c sugar
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped

Place unsweetened chocolate and 1/2 c sugar in a bowl.  Pour the hot vanilla custard over the chocolate and sugar.  Let sit for a couple of minutes or so and then stir to melt and incorporate chocolate.  Place bowl of chocolate custard over another bowl of ice water and stir occasionally until custard is cool.  Process according to your ice cream maker directions.

The chocolate frozen custard makes about 1 quart.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Spiced Chickpeas and Summer Vegetable Salad

I know it's been a long time since I've added any recipes.  A usual, its a new cookbook that causes me to start adding recipes.  For Christmas this year, the dog gave me a cookbook again.  Her choice was superb:  Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.  I want to be sure next summer when I am scrambling to come up with recipes using eggplant, cucumbers, and the likes, I remember these recipes.

Normally I shy away from cookbooks by restaurant owners or Food Network personalities.  They seem full of themselves and full of ingredients that are either terribly expensive or terribly hard to find.  Not so for Jerusalem.  Although Ottolenghi owns restaurants bearing his name in London, the recipes are easily accessible.  The recipes are mostly kosher and heavy on vegetables.   Many of the summer vegetables use limited stove/oven time as well, which is nice when it's over 100 degrees outside and I really don't want to heat up my oven any more.

This the first recipe to share.  We love it, especially the spiced chickpeas. My margin note?  "The spiced chickpeas are divine!"  I made a few changes.  The original recipe called for a dressing on top of the vegetables.  I left that out.  Additionally, because with five people we are bound to like different things, I did not mix the vegetables together, I left them in separate piles on the serving platter.  I used the vegetables I had (two kinds of sweet peppers), I omitted those I didn't (radishes).

Remember to start the chickpeas the night before you want to eat this meal.

This serves 4.

Spiced Chickpeas and Summer Vegetable Salad
adapted from Jerusalem by Ottolenghi and Tamimi

1/2 c dried chickpeas
1 t baking soda

2 small cucumbers, cut into 2/3" dice (seed and peel if you prefer)
2 large tomatoes, cut into 2/3" dice
8.5 oz radishes, cut into 2/3" dice (optional)
1 -2 sweet peppers, seeded and ribs removed, cut into 2/3" dice
2/3 oz cilantro, coarsely chopped
1/2 oz parsley, coarsely chopped

1 t ground cardamom
1 1/2 t allspice
1 t cumin
1/4 t salt

Greek yogurt

Soak the chickpeas overnight in a large bowl with plenty of cold water and baking soda.  The next day, drain, place in a large saucepan and cover with water twice the volume of the chickpeas.  Bring to a boil and simmer, skimming off any foam that may gather on top.  Simmer for an hour or until the chickpeas are tender.  Drain and set aside.

Mix the cardamom, allspice, cumin, and salt on a plate.  Roll the cooked chickpeas gently through the spices.  Heat 1 T olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat.  Add the chickpeas and fry for 2 - 5 minutes.  Gently shake the pan so they cook evenly and don't stick.  Remove from heat and keep warm

To serve, put each vegetable on a serving platter. (Alternately, combine all the vegetables and herbs and place in a low bowl.  Top with warm chickpeas.)  Serve the chickpeas in a small bowl.  Allow everyone to take the vegetables they want and top with chickpeas.  Serve with pita and drizzle Greek yogurt over top if desired.