Monday, November 24, 2008

Morcilla-Stuffed Squid

Morcilla is Spanish-style blood sausage. It's meatier than boudin and has a coarser grind. The one we got (at The Spanish Table) was combined with rice, which makes a really nice, substantial stuffing mix. If this kind of thing scares you, you can easily make this recipe with normal bulk sausage.

You'll need (serves 2-3):

6 squid bodies, cleaned (remove inner cartiledge)
4 links morcilla or other sausage
1 onion, chopped
1/2T cumin
1t cayenne
1T paprika
1c red wine

for the sauce:
7 cloves garlic, crushed and sliced
1/2 onion, chopped
4 shallots, sliced
1T tomato paste
1 8oz can tomato sauce
1T paprika

In a large heavy skillet, heat some olive oil and saute the chopped onion until brown, about 8 minutes. Remove the sausage from its casing and add it to the skillet, crumbling it up with your fingers as you add it. Stir to combine; add spices to taste. Deglaze with red wine and let simmer until almost dry. Taste and adjust spices. Remove from pan and let cool.

When the stuffing is cool enough to handle, stuff squid bodies (but don't stuff them too much-- they'll shrink quite a bit when they cook). Secure opening with toothpicks.

Add oil to skillet (same skillet-- don't clean it out) and brown stuffed squid lightly, about 5 min/side. Remove. Add sauce ingredients: onion, shallot, garlic. Let cook slowly over low heat until golden, about 10 minutes, stirring so garlic doesn't brown. Add tomato paste; let caramelize, then stir to combine. Add tomato sauce and paprika; return squid to pan. Add some chicken broth or water so that liquid comes halfway up squid. Let simmer about 45 minutes, until squid is tender (can be easily pierced with a fork).

leftovers, in the pan

cross-section of stuffed squid

Saturday, November 22, 2008

When is a pumpkin edible?

Who knows? I sure don't. This looked edible to me:

It was a bit strange looking inside. The meat was porous and the seeds were an incredible dark green.

crazy technicolor seeds!

So I cleaned it out:

And got it ready for roasting:

But once it was cooked, the flesh was stringy and watery and surrounded by a mold-colored layer. So I called Durst Organic Growers, whose sticker (still) adorned the pumpkin's extremely hard shell. After extended consultation with the grower, I learned that some of their pumpkins are edible, while some are not. Unfortunately, there's no indication on the product sticker as to the product's consumability; I offered him the product number and he said they're all the same.

Based on the texture of the cooked squash, I decided it'd be best to abstain. I tasted it and it wasn't great-- not evil-tasting, but not creamy and delicious pumpkinyness either.

Here's the real question that remains:

Are these golden-green seeds edible?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Purplecook Makes Vietnamese Food!

Banana Blossom Salad

My friend Trang, patiently and generously, taught me to make Banana Blossom Salad and Clay Pot Sea Bass, two of our favorite Vietnamese dishes, a while ago. I decided to try them myself to see if I still remembered the lesson. A few phone calls to Trang and some quick internet searches later, here are the results.

Clay Pot Sea Bass

I'd say the two best moments were at the Vietnamese market when the cashier rang up the banana blossoms and said, "Do you know what to do with these?" and I proudly responded in the affirmative, and at the end of the cooking process when my caramel sauce actually, magically, came together (even though I probably put too much oil in the oil-to-sugar ratio).

Vietnamese mint; Thai basil
Chopped fried peanuts; fried shallots

sliced banana blossom
in acidulated water

cutting the sea bass into cubes

sea bass cooking on caramel sauce

sea bass, cooked

the finished salad

another picture, just because it's so beautiful
(and delicious!)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Braised Calamari in Spicy Tomato Sauce

This is shockingly easy and cheap-- for some reason (probably because people don't know what to do with it), squid is pretty inexpensive, and most markets sell it pre-cleaned. You can play with the ingredients to create different flavor combinations-- this would be great with olives and red wine, for example.

You'll need (per person for a main course):

1 lb squid (calamari)
1c cherry tomatoes (or any other tomato. canned is fine too)
2T olive oil
5 cloves garlic, smashed
1 serrano chili, chopped (or red pepper flakes)
chopped fresh herbs (I used thyme and sage)
1T tomato paste
1-2T paprika (I used sweet; I'll probably try smoked next time, for more oomph)
1 1/2c white wine

Heat oil in skillet. Add tomatoes, garlic, chili, tomato paste and herbs. Saute, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes collapse and garlic turns golden. Add squid, salt and pepper, and paprika. Add wine and cook, uncovered, at a simmer for about 45 minutes, until sauce is thick and squid is tender. Serve with baguette.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Salmon with Herbed Bread Crumbs and Roasted Brussel Sprouts

This is an easy way to dress up salmon for a weeknight dinner. It follows my standard roasted salmon recipe, with the addition of herbed bread crumbs on top. The crumbs create a tasty crust that's a nice textural complement to the silky fish.

Preheat oven to 500 with the baking dish inside it. Rub salmon with olive oil, salt and pepper; top with bread crumbs (see below). Toss the salmon into the baking dish, skin side down, and lower heat to 275. Cook about 10 minutes, until just flaky. 

To make the bread crumbs, grind up some stale bread in the food processor with whatever fresh herbs you have on hand-- I used a mix of sage, rosemary and thyme. If you end up with a lot of bread crumbs, just put the leftovers in a jar in the freezer and use them next time.

These brussel sprouts are even easier than the salmon. They've been featured on The Purple Kitchen before, but the recipe is so simple I'll repeat it here. Just quarter the sprouts, toss with salt, pepper, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and roast in a 400 degree oven until golden brown, about 25 minutes. They should be crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside.

Tingly Spicy Stir Fry

I know these are not the most appetizing photos, but I made this in a hurry and it smelled so good that I wanted to get around to eating it as soon as possible. This is an easy way to use up veggies that need to be cooked. I had some string beans and an eggplant on hand, but other things would be delicious in this too-- broccoli, kale, spinach, chard, bok choy, etc. 

Unfortunately I've been a bad blogger lately, and I didn't write down what went into this. But it was something along the lines of 1/2lb ground beef, 1/2lb ground lamb, cubes of roasted eggplant, green beans cut into halves or thirds, shittake mushrooms, garlic and ginger; all that cooked in a sauce of light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, and garlic chili paste. When I took it off the heat, I mixed in some toasted ground szechuan pepper for its delicious tingly spice.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Kale Shittake Pasta

I had some leftover cooked pasta, but not quite enough for a meal, so I sauteed an onion, some chopped garlic, sliced shittake mushrooms and some chopped kale. I added the pasta til it warmed up and topped the whole thing with some good olive oil and freshly grated parmesan

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Quick Pickles

All you need to make these delicious "quick pickles" is something to pickle (cucumber works nicely) and some vinegar and spices. I chopped-- and sliced-- some "Mediteranean pickling cucumbers (the small bumpy ones) and stuck them in a jar with a teaspoon of sugar, a 1/2 teaspoon of salt, a chopped serrano chili, and some cilantro; I covered them with rice vinegar, gave the jar a good shake, and stuck it in the fridge for a day or two. The result was perfectly crispy, vinegary, spicy pickles!

In the photo above, I roasted cubed eggplant in the oven, tossed it with sesame seeds and bits of seaweed, and put it (and some leftover green beans) on top of steamed rice. I topped the whole thing with pickles and some of the pickle juice, which dripped down into the rice sushi-style. It made for an easy and delicious lunch.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Chicken Chanterelle Stew

I've been waiting for months for the rain and cold to come, and it's finally here so I decided to celebrate. This is the perfect rainy day dish, and it's a one-pot meal.

You'll need (serves 6):

3 1/2lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
3/4-1lb meaty pork neck bones
5 medium yukon gold potatoes
2 onions
2 carrots
10 cloves garlic
4 anchovies
1T tomato paste
1 bottle dry red wine
4c chicken stock
2c chanterelle mushrooms
1T herbes de provence
1c flour
veggie oil

bouquet garni:
3 bay leaves
2 springs rosemary
4 springs thyme
1 large branch sage

Heat 1T oil in a dutch oven. Brown neck bones well on all sides.

In the meantime, clean the chicken. Remove all the fat you can find. 

When the bones are browned, remove them and set them aside.

Salt and pepper chicken generously and dredge in flour. Heat more oil in the dutch oven, if necessary, and brown the chicken in batches, about 4 minutes per side. Set aside browned chicken.

Chop onions and carrots. Crush and slice garlic. Chop anchovies.

Add more oil if necessary. Saute onions and carrots about 2 minutes; add garlic and anchovies. Saute about 10 minutes until golden brown.

In the meantime, clean the chanterelles. Remove dirt from the gills under running water. Cut off the tough stem ends. 

Move the onion mix to the sides of the pot. Add a little oil in the middle. Add the chanterelles, ripping them into pieces as you add them. When they're all in, mix them with the other vegetables and saute about 4 minutes.

Return the neck bones to the pot. Add the bouquet garni (just tie together all the herbs listed above with a piece of string) and the herbes de provence.

Pour the bottle of wine into the pot. Boil about 20 minutes, until reduced by at least half. You'll end up with about half an inch of liquid in the pot.

While the wine is reducing, peel and quarter the potatoes.

Return the chicken to the pot and add the potatoes. Add broth to cover. Bring to a boil. Stir to make sure everything's fully submerged. Lower to a simmer; cover and cook about 30 minutes, until the chicken is tender and the potatoes are done. Uncover and continue cooking to reduce liquid to desired amount and consistency, or smash a few potatoes to thicken the liquid.

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