Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Sweet & Spicy Shrimp

This is a pretty good approximation of what honey-walnut shrimp taste like after I doctor them up (read: douse with chili sauce). What's particularly awesome about these shrimp, though, is the texture. They're sauteed until crisp and then glazed in their marinade.

You'll need (per person):

1/2 lb shrimp (about 15 pieces), peeled & deveined (remove the tail bit too)
2T fish sauce
2T honey
1-2T chili garlic sauce (or chili sauce, + 1T minced garlic)
1/2c cornstarch
1T grapeseed oil
lime, to serve

Combine fish sauce, honey, and chili garlic sauce in a bowl. Marinate shrimp for about 30 minutes if you have time.

Drain shrimp, reserving marinade, and coat in cornstarch. The cornstarch will do an ooblecky thing with the marinade and turn the shrimp stiff and brown.

Heat oil in a (non stick or cast iron) skillet and fry shrimp on medium heat about 2 minutes per side. Remove.

Pour leftover marinade in the pan that had the shrimp (don't clean it out). Turn up heat if necessary so marinade bubbles and reduces by half.

Return shrimp to pan and toss to coat.

Serve with lime (and a sprinkle of cilantro if you want-- I meant to do this but forgot).

Monday, April 28, 2008

Creamy Polenta with Meat Ragu

Polenta, when it's good, is luscious and creamy and nutty. When it's bad it's watery and soupy. Let's not even talk about bad polenta, because it's really easy to make well. You don't even have to stand there stirring the entire time-- just whisk well at the beginning and give it a few good whirls every few minutes. And despite what some recipes may say, you can use any grind cornmeal you have on hand. Traditional polenta is made with coarse ground cornmeal for more of a bite, but I used fine ground and it turned out delicious (I had a lot leftover from a misguided tamale pie a long, long time ago). You know it's done when it's thick and just starts pulling away from the sides of the pot as you stir (unless you're making firm polenta, which I will save for another post).

You'll need:

1c cornmeal
4 1/2c water
1t salt
1/2c sharp cheddar cheese

Boil water & salt. Lower heat to medium and gradually whisk in cornmeal. Keep whisking until lumps disappear. Lower heat to low. Cook, whisking vigorously every few minutes. After 15-20 minutes, when the polenta is thick and starts to pull away from the pot, whisk in cheese (and butter, if you want) and remove. Add salt and pepper to taste.

At this point, you could let the polenta cool and stiffen so you can cut cakes, but I like it hot and creamy, especially for this dish. (If you really want firm polenta, cook it longer.)

Top with a dollop of good, thick meat sauce, like this one (or a poached egg!). Enjoy!

Warm Rice Noodle Salad with Roasted Vegetables

This salad makes a great hot lunch because you can throw almost any veggie in and they will all come together because of the tangy soy dressing, cilantro, and peanuts. It would also be delicious cold and thus makes a good choice for picnics.

You'll need:

rice stick noodles
broccoli, cut into florets
shitake mushrooms, stems discarded, quartered
carrots, julienned
spring garlic, sliced
green onion, sliced
cilantro, chopped
peanuts, partially crushed

1t olive oil
1t soy sauce
1T sesame oil
1T dark soy sauce
1t hoisin sauce
1t chili garlic sauce
1/2t rice vinegar

Heat oven to 400 degrees (if you're in a hurry, you can saute the veggies instead of roasting them). Toss broccoli and mushrooms with salt, pepper, olive oil & soy sauce. Roast until golden, about 20 minutes.

In the meantime, boil water for the noodles. Cook noodles until still slightly hard, about 1 minute. Drain and rinse.

Heat sesame oil in a skillet. Add garlic, onion, and carrot. Saute 1 minute. Add noodles. Add dark soy, hoisin, and chili sauces. Mix well so that the noodles absorb the sauce. Add roasted veggies, rice vinegar, and 1T water. Cook, stirring, until noodles are tender. Remove from heat and toss with cilantro and peanuts (and a squeeze of lime if you have one). Serve hot or cold.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Matza Pasta with Dandelion Green & Meat Ragout

Matza pasta was pretty much my favorite passover food as a child. I know it sounds weird, but don't knock it 'til you've tried it. Briefly cooked matza strips make a surprisingly good pasta alternative-- they even have a similar texture. My favorite way to have them is with butter, parmesan, and black pepper, but this ragout makes this more of a meal-- and can easily be served with regular pasta.

Dandelion greens have replaced kale and chard in the farmers markets and are a delicious cooking green (you don't even have to cook them-- they make a good salad too, especially with a warm vinaigrette). As an added bonus, they're remarkably healthy, with more iron & calcium than spinach and even antioxidant properties. They're slightly bitter so the sauce I made is kind of on the sweet side-- if you're using no greens, or a less bitter green (like kale), add some cayenne & cumin to the meat at the end of the browning step and skip the roasted garlic.

You'll need:

3-4 pieces of matza per person (this recipe makes enough sauce for 3-4 people)
1 lb ground beef, about 85% (I used Kobe, as it was on sale, but you can use sirloin or just chuck)
1 large leek, chopped
2 spring garlic, chopped
2T red pepper flakes
1 head roasted garlic (optional, adds sweetness)
2T tomato paste
1 large (28 oz) can peeled Roma tomatoes in sauce
3 handfuls dandelion greens, large stems removed
1T olive oil
1/4c red wine or other liquid

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the beef, salt and pepper. Break up the meat with a wooden spatula and saute until brown. Add leek, spring garlic and red pepper flakes. Saute about 5 more minutes until meat starts to stick to skillet. Add tomato paste and stir to combine; cook 1 more minute. Deglaze with wine (or any liquid), scraping the bottom of the pan. Add tomatoes in their juices and roasted garlic, if using. Stir to combine and lower heat to a simmer.

Boil salted water for the matza. Break matza into long thin strips-- you're going for something resembling pappardelle here. It's ok if they break in two. Put the dry strips on a plate while the water is boiling. When the water is ready, gently add the matza strips, leaving the crumbs behind on the plate (they'll turn the whole thing gooey-- that's why you don't just break the matza into the pot). The matza only needs about 1 minute to cook; taste it for doneness before removing and straining.

Top cooked matza with sauce and a sprinkling of cheese (I used pecorino, above). Serve immediately and mix well to coat matza. (You'll probably need a higher sauce:matza ratio than with pasta.)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Roasted Chicken on Potatoes

Ben and Suzanne made some lovely chicken and potatoes for Passover Sunday; I had seconds on potatoes for the first time in years, and was inspired to make my own version. I'm using bone-in breasts, which are a great compromise for those white meat lovers; you can remove the skin after cooking, but the skin and bone add an enormous amount of flavor and prevent the meat from drying out-- a common danger for roasted chicken. If you make this with skinless boneless breasts, cook for less time; with thighs, cook a little longer (it's hard to dry out thighs though-- dark meat is much more forgiving).

The chicken was incredibly moist and full of spicy flavors. The potatoes didn't turn out as crispy as I would have liked, but they were very flavorful and had a nice bite. Next time I might skip the blanching step and just roast them, starting them 30 minutes before the chicken to give them time to start cooking and crisping up. I'll post updates if I try this again.

You'll need:

2 split chicken breasts, bone-in, skin on
1T each: cumin, cayenne, coriander, paprika, five spice powder, za'atar & cumin za'atar (or whatever you have on hand)
2-3 large yukon gold potatoes
1 onion, thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2c chicken broth
juice of 1 lemon
1t turmeric

Mix spices (except for turmeric) in a small bowl. Add some salt and adjust seasoning to taste. Remove excess skin & fat from breasts (there's always an extra flap of skin at the tip of the breast). Rub all over with spices and marinate for a few hours or overnight.

Clean potatoes (don't peel, just scrub & dig the eyes out) and slice in 1/4" slices. Cover with salted water; bring to a boil and simmer to cook potatoes briefly (about 5 minutes). Set aside to dry.

Preheat oven to 400.

Heat oil in a large skillet and brown chicken, skin side down, until well browned. Flip and brown the other side for a minute or two. Remove.

Add dried potato slices to oil and saute 5 minutes to absorb spices from the chicken. Push into a flat layer. Top with onion slices and garlic cloves. Stir turmeric into lemon juice & broth; pour over potatoes. Place browned chicken, skin side up, on top. (Can be prepared a few hours ahead up until this point.)

Bake until chicken is done (155 degrees), about 35 minutes. Serve with green beans or a salad.

Salmon & Feta Bimuelos

Bimuelos are fried deliciousness. There are two types, sweet and savory: fritters, like donuts, bathed in sweet date syrup (these are everyone's favorite, but too sweet for me) and fried matza pockets stuffed with ground beef or a potato-cheese mixture. Here, I've adapted the savory type to an easy lunch meal. I always have canned wild Alaskan salmon on hand-- it makes a great low-mercury alternative to tuna, a quick dinner of salmon patties (think crab cakes), and an easy pasta sauce.

You'll need:

canned or cooked salmon
some feta cheese
1 egg
2 green onions, chopped
2T parsley, chopped
1 piece of matza
1T matza meal or crumbs made from a piece of crumbled matza (I just "chopped" the matza with a sharp knife and ended up with small crumbs)

Mix salmon, feta, green onion, egg, onion, parsley, and matza meal. This should be sticky and not too moist-- it should hold its shape in the bowl. Set aside.

Soak matza until soft but not falling apart, about 1 minute. Drain on a towel for 15 minutes. Cut in half.

Fill each piece of matza with a dollop of the salmon mixture. Fold closed like a sandwich.

Heat veggie oil in a frying pan. Fry bimuelos until golden and crispy, about 5 minutes/side. Leftover stuffing can be fried like little meatballs.

Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Eat hot!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Smoked Herring and Roasted Broccoli Salad

This sounds like a weird combination, but I had this great smoked herring that I was dying to put on matza (with butter, of course); this was the next best thing. It really came together well-- I made a similar one yesterday with feta instead of broccoli, which was delicious but very rich. This has a nice buttery smokiness from the fish, a sweet tang from the pickled red onions, and a crunchiness from the broccoli and walnuts; the spicy arugula brings it all together. I also tossed in a medium-boiled egg and some chopped olives, and dressed it with the last of my fig balsamic vinegar and some good olive oil.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Passover without Matzah

There is a matzah shortage in Berkeley. This seems true every year: we run around frantically to 6 stores on the day of the first seder looking for the lone remaining box. However, this year I think it's worse, and as a result, I have no matzah. My big plans to post Mina (an amazing meat pie with a matzah crust), matzah pasta (sounds weird but is quite delicious), and other matza-related passover goodies must wait. I still have to eat though, so here's a quick breakfast recipe.

(Excuse the photos-- my camera ran out of batteries and I didn't want my breakfast to get cold so I used a cell phone camera)

You'll need:

1 medium-large Yukon gold potato
1-2 fried eggs
grated cheese

I'm using Elise's fantastic recipe for hash browns as the base for this. Grate your potato and squeeze out all the moisture using a potato ricer. If you don't have a potato ricer, get one. I'm not a fan of extraneous kitchen tools-- I'd be happy with my cast iron skillet and wooden spatula-- but the potato ricer seems to come in handy. Anyways, squeeze out the moisture while you heat some olive oil in a non-stick or cast iron pan. Spread out the potato on the hot oil so that you have a very thin layer (Elise says 1/2 inch; I prefer even thinner). Top with salt & pepper. Cook over medium heat until it begins to brown, then flip the whole thing over by edging a flat spatula underneath. Cook on the other side until brown, 2-3 minutes.

Top with grated cheese (or cheese curds, which melt beautifully) and fried eggs.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Barley Salad

leftover pearl barley; arugula; blood oranges;
walnuts; feta; pickled red onion; parsley;
lemon-olive oil dressing

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Steelhead Trout, Roasted Broccoli, and Barley

I haven't been in a blogging mood lately, but here's a pretty picture to hold you over.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Dressing Up Pasta Leftovers

One easy, quick way to make last night's pasta a little more interesting is to add a poached egg. When you break the yolk, it oozes deliciousness and coats the pasta. This works well for a pasta that doesn't have much sauce (tomato or cream) to begin with.

Another nice pasta trick that works well with a cut like spaghetti is to make a pasta frittata: just mix in a few eggs and bake until set, then cut into wedges. This makes a good lunch (served with a salad) or first course (served alone).

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Springtime Pasta

This is a springier version of the classic (or not-so-classic) orecchiette with sausage & broccoli rabe. Here we used a mix of cooking greens, goat cheese, and walnuts to brighten up the dish.

You'll need:
4 large handfuls cooking greens, cleaned & trimmed (kale, chard, collard, mustard, etc)
1 lb spicy Italian bulk sausage
1 shallots, sliced
2-3 spring garlic, sliced
1/2c dry red wine
1T red pepper flakes, or more to taste
1 lemon
1/2c walnuts, toasted
1 box campanelle pasta (my new favorite!)

Boil water for pasta.

Heat olive oil. Saute shallots and garlic, stirring to make sure they don't burn, for about 4 minutes. Add red pepper flakes and saute 2 minutes.

Put pasta on to cook.

Add sausage, breaking it up into very tiny pieces with a wooden spatula. Let a lot of the fat burn off and the sausage brown slightly. Taste and adjust salt, pepper, and red pepper to taste.

Deglaze with red wine; cook until wine is absorbed.

Add greens, tearing them into small pieces as you add them. Cook until wilted.

Add just-undercooked pasta with some of its cooking water (about 1/2c) to the sausage & greens. Stir to combine.

Zest lemon onto pasta; stir. The water should be cooked away; taste and add more water if too dry.

Add goat cheese; mix (or serve dotted with goat cheese). Top with crumbled walnuts to serve.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Grilled Tofu with Spring Garlic

This is a light and tasty meal that can be modified depending on what kind of flavor you're looking for. I ate this over bulgur wheat; you can also serve it over a salad with grapefruit and arugula, for example.

You'll need:

firm tofu, cut into 1/4" slices
2T dark soy
2T pomegranate molasses
1 large spring garlic, sliced thinly
1/4c peanuts, slightly crushed

Mix the soy sauce, molasses, and garlic in a bowl. Add the sliced tofu and marinate 15 minutes. Heat a griddle pan or cast iron skillet and lay the drained tofu slices on pan in one layer; top with garlic slices. Cook about 2 minutes, until bottom is crispy; flip, letting the garlic hit the pan to cook briefly. Transfer to bowl, sprinkle with crushed peanuts, and serve.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Ginger Soy Salmon with Rice & Eggplant

This is incredibly easy and uses a minimal number of ingredients. The salmon and eggplant use the same marinade, which is then reduced into a thick and flavorful sauce. Katie & I make a great cooking team.

You'll need:

2 thick, center-cut fillets of salmon
1/2c soy sauce
1/4c minced ginger
5 cloves garlic, minced
2T chili sauce or sriracha (optional)

1 eggplant
1c jasmine rice

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Mix soy sauce with ginger, garlic, and sriracha.

Remove pin-bones from salmon using tweezers. Place salmon in ginger sauce.

Slice (unpeeled) eggplant into 1/4-1/2" rounds. Spoon some sauce onto every slice and place in a baking sheet (it's ok if they overlap a little). Put in hot oven.

Put rice on to cook.

When rice is almost ready, place a baking sheet in the oven. When it's hot, take it out and place the salmon on it, skin side down. Be sure to get most of the ginger pieces off the salmon so they don't burn.

Turn the oven down to 275 degrees. Put salmon in. If the eggplant isn't done cooking, you can cover the pan with aluminum foil to help it cook faster (we had to do this).

The salmon should be ready in about 10 minutes, depending on how you like yours cooked. We think it's best rare.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Crispy Za'atar Lingcod with Roasted Pepper Caper Aioli

This can be made without the za'atar, a spice I brought back from Israel but that is readily available at Middle Eastern markets. You can make this an even quicker recipe by using store bought mayo instead of making the aioli base from scratch.

You'll need:

for the fish
1 fillet of lingcod per person (red snapper would be a good substitute)
1/4c panko (Japanese bread crumbs-- you can substitute with normal bread crumbs if you want; crushed cornflakes would better approximate panko's crunchy flakiness)
1t za'atar
1 egg
grapeseed or veggie oil for sauteing

for the aioli
1 egg
1/4c vegetable oil (do NOT use extra virgin olive oil-- it can turn a good aioli bitter!)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 roasted red pepper (you can roast it & clean it yourself, or buy the jarred kind)
1T capers + 1T crushed capers (crush them with your fingers)

Make the aioli first (it can be made a few days in advance). In a small food processor, beat egg with garlic & salt; slowly add oil while the processor is running so that the mixture emulsifies. Taste and adjust with more salt or garlic. (If you're using store bought mayo, just add crushed garlic and a little salt.) Add pepper and process until smooth. Transfer to bowl; stir in whole & crushed capers. Taste and adjust seasoning.

For the fish: Heat 1T oil in a nonstick or cast iron frying pan. Beat 1 egg in a shallow dish. Mix panko with za'atar in another dish. Salt and pepper fish fillet; dip in egg, then in panko. Press panko on so it sticks. Transfer coated fish directly into pan of hot oil. Saute until golden, then flip, about 3 minutes/side.

I served this with a farro pilaf. Farro is a very exciting wheat berry kind of grain with an earthy flavor and a very nice bite. You cook it like pasta in lots of boiling water, then saute it in oil or butter for some flavor. I sauteed 1 chopped onion, 1c mixed chopped mushrooms (crimini & shittake), 3 cloves pressed garlic, and 1t red pepper flakes, for about 10 minutes, then added the cooked farro. It was delicious.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Orange Roughy, Walnut & Broccoli Salad

This is like the last fish salad; the main difference is, here, we used roasted broccoli instead of sweet potatoes. The overall flavor is earthier and nuttier.

You'll need:

mixed greens
2 fillets of fish (any firm white fish works)
spices (we used cayenne, paprika, marjoram & oregano)
walnut halves, toasted
broccoli, roasted (we used this kind of amazing baby broccoli that was at the farmers' market last week)
apple, cored, quartered and sliced
1/4c grated gruyere

As you can see by the ingredient list above, this is a salad based on stuff you have lying around. First, roast the broccoli (toss with olive oil and salt and stick in a 400 degree oven). Toast the walnuts in a dry pan on the stove, over medium heat, while the broccoli is roasting. Watch the walnuts carefully so they don't burn, and when they're done, take them out of the pan. When the broccoli's done, toss it with the grated gruyere while still hot.

Turn the broiler on. Rub fish with spices and place under broiler, about 5 min/side.

Mix broccoli, walnuts, apple and greens with vinaigrette. Top with fish. Serve.

This wine was really good-- it had a rich chocolaty flavor that matched the earthiness of the salad, and was even good after the meal was done.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Spicy Beer and Kale Stew

Like a Belgian (actually, Flemish) Carbonnade, this stew uses dark ale (Newcastle Brown); the similarity ends there. It also has leeks, hot chili peppers, and kale, which make for a complex and tasty combination. You can make the sauce thicker, but I wanted a soupier, classic stew-like texture. I've given instructions for both ways below.

You'll need:

3.5 lbs beef chuck, trimmed & cut into 1" chunks
1 onion, sliced
1 large leek, quartered lengthwise & cut into 1/2" pieces
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 large rib celery, chopped
5 cloves garlic, crushed and sliced
1T tomato paste
about 4 dried chili peppers (I used 2 chipotle, 2 other)
1 12oz bottle Newcastle, or other dark ale or stout
4c broth (I used the tongue broth I froze when I made the offal dinner)
3T flour
1 bunch kale, leaves removed and stems discarded
chopped parsley for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Pass chilies over gas flame until slightly blackened. Submerge in boiling water; cover.

Salt and pepper beef chunks and brown well in hot grapeseed oil, in batches. Set aside browned meat.

Lower heat. Add onion, leek, carrot, celery, garlic, tomato paste, salt & pepper. Stir, scraping brown bits at bottom of pot. Cook about 15 minutes.

In the meantime, remove chilies from water. Slice open to remove seeds. Chop roughly and add to cooking veggies.

Add flour to veggies and stir well, 2 minutes. Add beer. Scrape to remove flour stuck to bottom of pan. Scrape and stir until the pan is clean.

Add broth and bring to a boil. Add meat and accumulated juices. Cover and place in oven. Cook until meat is fork-tender, about 2 hours.

At this point, it's best to let the stew sit overnight for the flavors to develop, but you don't have to. If you do, reheat it in a 300 degree oven about 30 minutes before serving.

For a thicker stew, remove the meat and puree the liquid and veggies with an immersion blender. You can then reduce the pureed liquid to achieve your desired consistency. I normally do this, but for this stew, I wanted a more classic, brothy feel.

About 10 minutes before serving, add kale and stir to combine. Cook until kale is tender. Taste and adjust seasonings (salt & pepper). Garnish with chopped parsley and serve with spicy cornbread, brown rice, or egg noodles.

Spicy Cornbread

We used Bob's Red Mill Cornbread mix
and added 1 chopped habanero & 2 chopped jalapeƱos to the batter.

2005 La Cabotte Cotes du Rhone

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Slide Ranch

fresh chicken eggs
(yes, some are green!)

homemade butter, honeycomb, and cornbread

Fennel, Leek and Sausage Pasta

This is pretty quick to put together once you've gotten everything chopped & sliced. The French mise en place is one of my favorite cooking concepts-- get everything ready in those cute little prep bowls (except I don't really have any, so I make piles or use mugs), and then you're not pounding garlic at the last minute while the oils overheats.

You'll need (serves 4-6):

1 1/2 lbs pasta-- we used orecchiette (ear-shaped) and campanelle (bellflower-shaped)
1 large (28oz) can peeled tomatoes & their juices
3T tomato paste
1c half & half
1 very large leek (or 2 smaller ones)
5 shallots (or 1 onion)
6 cloves garlic
2 large bulbs fennel (2 lbs)
1/2c sun dried tomatoes
5 uncooked sausage links (about 1.3 lbs)
1c grated parmesan, and more for serving
2T fresh marjoram, chopped, plus some for serving
1T cumin
1t red pepper flakes
2t dried oregano
1/2t cayenne
1t fennel seeds, toasted

Boil salted water for the pasta.

Clean your leeks by slicing them through the root, lengthwise, almost to the dark green top. Then turn and slice again, so the leek is split into quarters but held together at the top. Wash well and shake dry. Slice off root and discard; then slice thinly. Stop at the dry dark green tops.

Slice shallots or onions and fennel. You don't need to remove the fennel core-- just slice very thin.

Saute everything in 1T butter + 2T olive oil, salt & pepper, until brown and caramelized.

In the meantime, slice garlic & sun dried tomatoes. Add them to the pan when ready, with all the dried herbs & spices. Saute until fragrant (about 3 minutes), then push everything to the sides of the pan and add the tomato paste to the middle. Let brown a bit (2 minutes), then stir together.

Push to the sides again. Squeeze the sausage out of its casing into the middle of the pan (if you're using a low-fat sausage like turkey or chicken, add some oil first). Add marjoram and more cumin if you want. Saute, breaking up sausage, until brown. Stir together.

This would be a good time to put the pasta on.

Add tomatoes in their juices and break them up with the back of a wooden spoon. Stir to combine everything and cook until liquid evaporates, about 6 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Then add half-and-half (or cream!) and stir together; simmer until cream thickens and the whole thing starts looking like a sauce. Then add grated parmesan, stirring to combine.

Mix pasta with sauce; add a sprinkle of marjoram for color, and serve with more parmesan.

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