Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Rustic Carbonara

In this recipe, I was aiming for a heartier version of spaghetti carbonara (in the hearty vs delicate scale). I used whole wheat pasta and thick-cut prosciutto instead of the more traditional guiancale, and I added lots of fresh peas for some color and texture (and vegetable content). I really liked the result: the sauce turned out creamy and the dish overall somehow didn't feel too heavy or rich. It's also really easy to pull together-- the whole thing took about 20 minutes.

Whenever I make carbonara, I think of Katie, who makes it a lot. I made this while listening to her mix made on Char and Ryan's awesome interface, Flotate. Check it out.

You'll need (serves 2):

1/2 lb whole wheat spaghetti
2 whole eggs + 2 egg yolks
1 slab thick-cut (1/4-1/2 inch) prosciutto
1T fresh rosemary, minced
1c grated parmesan and/or parmesan-like cheeses, plus more for serving
1lb fresh English peas, shelled (about 3/4c peas)
lots of freshly ground black pepper
chopped parsley for garnish

Start the pasta water; by the time the pasta's done, the sauce will be ready. 3 minutes before pasta is done, add peas to cook too.

Cut the prosciutto into small cubes and saute (dry, no oil) over medium-high heat in a cast iron or heavy skillet until toasty and aromatic.

While the prosciutto cooks, beat eggs with cheese, rosemary, and pepper in a large bowl.

When pasta is al dente, reserve 1c pasta water and drain noodles. Slowly beat in 1/4c pasta water until eggs turn creamy (use more if you need). Add proscuitto, pasta and peas, and toss to coat.

Serve, sprinkled with parsley, with more cheese on the side.

Fennel Salad

I'm a huge fan of fennel. It's really good cooked-- it caramelizes very easily-- but it's also delicious raw, sliced very thinly, and tossed with a lemon-olive oil dressing. Here, it's paired with cheese, which adds a nice salty richness.

You'll need (serves 4):
2 bulbs fennel, fronds reserved
1 lemon
3T olive oil
salt & pepper
1/4 bunch parsley
hard cheese, like Gran Padano, Pecorino, Romano, Parmesan

Adjust other ingredients accordingly depending on how big your fennel bulbs are. Slice bulbs as thin as possible using mandoline or food processor. Toss with lemon and olive oil; salt and pepper to taste. Chop fennel fronds and parsley and combine with salad. Serve with shaved cheese on top.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

My Mother's Turkey Meatloaf

I thought all meatloaf was like this until I had some elsewhere, and was totally turned off by the sausage-like texture and ketchup flavor. This is more delicate, almost like a meaty mousse. It's also very easy (the entire thing can be made in the cuisinart) and pretty low-fat (turkey!). My mom uses crushed cornmeal stuffing for the topping; I used panko but will probably try it again with cornmeal stuffing since the panko didn't brown very much. It did stay crispy, which was wonderful. You can surround the meatloaf as it cooks with roughly chopped onion, carrot, and celery; these will cook in the meat juices and turn delicious.

You'll need:

1lb ground turkey
2 slices bread or 1c fresh bread crumbs
1 bunch parsley
1 very large onion
2 eggs
salt & pepper
1/2c panko or cornmeal stuffing

1 onion
2 carrots
2 ribs celery

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a food processor, grind the bread into crumbs. You'll have about a cup. Remove from bowl and set aside.

Clean and dry parsley well. Add to food processor and chop. Add onion and process until chopped. Add turkey, eggs, fresh breadcrumbs, salt and pepper and pulse gently until just combined. Turn out onto baking dish and form gently into a loaf shape. Cover with panko crumbs (press gently so they adhere).

Surround with chopped veggies and bake, covered with aluminum foil, for 25 minutes. Remove cover and continue baking 35-40 minutes until golden brown. Check for doneness by inserting a thin knife into middle of loaf; it should come out clean.

We served this with Alton Brown's Mac N Cheese (above).

Monday, July 27, 2009

Tuna Tartare Salad

This salad turns a delicate tuna tartare into a full meal. It's really, really good.

You'll need (serves 2 hungry people):

1lb sushi-grade tuna
1 inch piece of ginger
1/2 bunch cilantro
1 avocado
3T roasted sesame seeds
1/4 red onion
1 lemon cucumber

salad base:
1 large peach (mango would be fine here too if peaches aren't in season)
3 radishes
2 large handfuls arugula

rice wine vinegar
mirin cooking wine
soy sauce
chopped thai chile, optional

Mix dressing ingredients, adjusting quantities to taste.

Cut peach into small cubes and slice radish. Toss with arugula and set aside.

Slice the tuna into very small cubes, removing any white connective tissue as you go. Peel, de-seed, and chop cucumber into cubes of similar size. Peel and mince ginger. Mince red onion. Chop cilantro. Combine all in a bowl and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Pour 2/3 of dressing on tartare and mix to coat. Toss the arugula salad with remaining dressing. Serve tartare in a scoop on top of arugula salad, garnished with more sesame seeds.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Potato and Squash Gratin

Up until I made this, summer squash was one of the three foods I did not like. Now, at least in potato gratin form, I think it's delicious. So, even if you don't like squash, give this recipe a try. It made eating a potato gratin actually feel healthy (regardless of whether or not that's true). It's also really beautiful.

You'll need:

a mix of potatoes-- I used 2 purple potatoes & 8 small Russian Butterballs. Yukon Gold would work as well.
2 large crookneck squash
2-3T butter
1t olive oil
1/4c heavy cream
some hard cheese (I used Gran Padano; Parmesan or Pecorino would work too)
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Peel potatoes if desired. Slice very very thinly with a mandoline or food processor (fitted with a slicing blade). Slice squash as well.

Grease a baking dish and toss squash and potato slices on to form a bottom layer. Salt and pepper; dot with butter; grate some cheese on top. Repeat, making at least 2 more layers. Dot top layer with butter and put extra cheese. Pour cream on top.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30-40 minutes. Remove foil and bake until potatoes are tender, liquid has evaporated, and top is golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Heirloom Tomato & Bread Salad

This is a wonderful way to highlight the first sweet heirlooms of the season, and it's a very easy salad to throw together. Make croutons by tossing bread cubes with olive oil and herbs (I used herbes de provence) and baking them in a 400 deg oven for 15-20 minutes (check frequently so they don't burn). Chop up some fresh tomatoes, red onion, avocado, radishes-- whatever else you want. At the last minute, toss it all together with balsamic vinegar & olive oil and, if you want, greens like arugula.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Rosemary Wine Short Ribs

I do love my short ribs, and it's been quite a while since the last ones. It's true that this is a winter dish, but I had a special request, and honestly it's been kinda wintry around here anyway. This is a dish best made in advance, meaning it's great for company-- just reheat an hour before serving.

You'll need:
4lbs bone-in English-cut short ribs (1lb per person)
1 large onion
3 leeks
1-2 carrots
6 cloves garlic
2 anchovies
2T tomato paste
1t chile flakes
1T herbes de provence
1 bay leaf
1T fresh rosemary
1 bottle red wine
1T grapeseed or canola oil

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Clean the short ribs well-- remove all visible fat and rinse and dry them. Salt and pepper generously. Heat oil in a dutch oven or heavy pot with tight-fitting lid over high heat. Reduce to medium-high heat and add ribs, meat-side down. Do this in batches so you don't crowd the pot. Brown about 10 minutes per side; be patient here, you want a well-browned exterior on all five meaty sides. Remove and set aside.

While the meat is browning, slice onions, leeks, carrots and garlic. Chop anchovies and rosemary.

Pour out accumulated fat and return pot to medium heat. Add all veggies, herbs, tomato paste, 1t salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until translucent (about 10 minutes). Add wine and bring to a boil. Boil until the alcohol smell disappears and wine reduces by about 1/3, 5-10 minutes.

Return ribs to pot, meat side down. The bone should not be submerged. Cover and place in oven for 2-3 hours, until meat is fork-tender.

Let ribs cool in sauce for at least 1 hour. Remove ribs and press sauce through a food mill. If you don't have a food mill, you can puree it, or you can just leave it chunky. I wanted a smoother, more concentrated sauce because I was serving the ribs with a potato gratin, so there wouldn't be a grain to soak up a chunky sauce.

If you have time, refrigerate the sauce until the fat congeals so you can remove it. If not, spoon out as much fat as you can *before* pureeing (it should be a translucent red top layer in the pot).

Half an hour before serving, place the ribs in a baking dish and spoon just enough sauce on top so they are well-coated. Reheat, uncovered, in a 300 degree oven. Reduce extra sauce and serve on the side.

I served this with a potato squash gratin (look for recipe soon!).

Monday, July 20, 2009

Chicken Bstilla

This turned out way more beautiful than I expected, which is one way of saying it's easier than it looks. We also had a whole team of people putting this dinner together, and some handy tools like a food processor and one of those fast-chopping things from TV infomercials. We made a chicken version and a vegetarian version, but a real Bstilla is made with pigeon (or squab-- believe me, it's the same thing-- but which would you rather order in a restaurant?). For the vegetarian version, we used leftover rice and tofu, and made vegetable stock in place of the stewing liquid. This recipe is adapted from Claudia Roden's excellent The New Book of Middle Eastern Cooking.

inside the veggie bstilla

3lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
3T oil
2 large onions, finely chopped
1t grated ginger
1/4t powdered saffron (optional)
2t ground cinnamon & more to garnish
6 eggs, lightly beaten
1c chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2c chopped cilantro
1 1/2c blanched almonds
2T sugar

1/2c oil
14 sheets fillo pastry
powdered sugar to garnish

a slice of the chicken bstilla

Clean chicken and brown in oil. Add spices and onions and cook until onions are translucent. Add water just to cover and simmer about 30 minutes, until chicken is soft. Remove chicken and shred with a fork.

Reduce stewing liquid to 2/3 c. Pour in eggs and whisk gently until mixture is creamy & nearly set. Stir in parsley & cilantro, season with salt and pepper.

Coarsely chop almonds & fry in 1T oil, stirring and shaking pan to brown evenly. Toss with sugar & 1t cinnamon.

Brush a baking dish with oil. Fit a sheet of fillo so ends fold well up the side and overlap the edges (or use overlapping sheets, like we did). Lay 6 sheets on top of each other, brushing between each layer.

Spread chicken over pastry. Pour on egg mixture. Lay another 4 sheets on top, brushing with oil. Sprinkle almonds mixture on top, then bring the overhanging bits up and fold over the almond mixture. Cover with remaining fillo (we had 4 sheets left), brushing with oil (don't brush top layer). Tuck top sheets down inside pan, underneath pie.

veggie bstilla, just out of the oven

Bake in preheated 400 deg oven for 30 min, until top is crisp & golden brown. Turn carefully onto baking sheet & bake 15 min until brown. Serve hot, turned upside down onto platter.

chicken bstilla, decorated

Dust with powdered sugar and make a pattern of criss-crossing parallel lines with cinnamon.

We served it with Fattoush,
an Israeli/Arab-style (chopped veggies) salad
with crispy pieces of pita bread.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Smoked Trout and Wheat Berry Salad

This is a great summer salad that (if you precook the wheat berries) involves no cooking whatsoever, so it's perfect for nights when it's simply too hot to be in the kitchen. I used smoked trout from Verbrugge's in Oakland; they smoke it themselves and it's not as salty as what you normally find. If you're using particularly salty trout, some croutons might be nice to cut the salt. I use Castelvetrano olives because they are particularly mild, but you would want something more pronounced if your fish is stronger in smokiness or saltiness.

You'll need (serves 3):
1 smoked trout, about 1lb
6 large leaves of red leaf lettuce, cut into small pieces
1c wheat berries
1/4c tahini
juice & zest of 1-2 lemons
1T olive oil
1/4c Castelvetrano olives
1/2 red onion

Cook 1c wheat berries in 3c water & 1t salt until tender (they'll still be al dente), about 1 1/2 hours. Drain, toss with olive oil, and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, beat tahini with lemon juice and zest. If the mixture gets too thick, add some hot water to thin. It should be thick like soft-serve ice cream.

Toss wheat berries in tahini mixture. Mince red onion and add to wheat berries. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Arrange lettuce on plates and place a scoop of wheat berry salad in the center. Surround with trout and olives. Serve with bread.

Vegetarian version: dress salad with roasted eggplant instead of trout.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Easy Herbed Lamb Chops

These little loin lamb chops are so good that you don't even need the marinade, but it's an easy way to dress them up a bit. You can barbecue these or put them under the broiler.

You'll need (serves 4):
8 loin-cut lamb chops
5 cloves garlic
2T herbes de provence (rub in your hands to break up the dry herbes)
1t cumin
1t coriander
1/2t cayenne pepper
2T olive oil

Crush and chop garlic to a paste with some kosher salt (this will help keep the garlic from sticking to the knife). Place in a dish large enough to hold the chops in one layer. Add spices.

marinating lamb chops

Clean chops (I remove all the fat; if you're barbecuing, this isn't necessary) and dry well. Place in spices and turn to coat. Drizzle with olive oil until spices just form a paste; massage into lamb. Let sit for 2-3 hours in the refrigerator. Take it out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before cooking to allow for meat to return to room temperature.

Wipe marinade off lamb and broil in preheated broiler 4-5 minutes per side for medium.

Serve with quinoa and green beans with pine nuts.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Green Beans with Pine Nuts

If you usually saute green beans with shallots, try this for a change of flavor. The pine nuts are a fantastic complement to the crunchy green beans, and the lemon ties everything together.

You'll need (serves 4):
1lb green beans
1/4c pine nuts, toasted
1 lemon (juice & zest)
red pepper flakes

Cut green beans into bite-sized lengths. Saute very briefly over high heat in olive oil with salt and pepper flakes. When they turn bright, pour in lemon juice and toss. After 5-7 minutes total cooking (they should still be crunchy), pour into a bowl and toss with lemon zest and toasted pine nuts.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Chipotle Corn Chowder

This is a creamy, hearty soup perfect for summer colds (like mine this week). It's easy and quick to make, and very adaptable-- you can turn it into a creamy chowder or leave it unblended; you can add crab, shredded chicken or tofu to turn it into a main meal; you can adjust the level of spiciness as you like.

You'll need (serves 6 appetizers or 4 main courses):
5 ears of corn
2 medium leeks
1 onion
3c milk
1-3 chipotle chilies in adobo
1 8oz bottle clam juice (optional)
2T butter
1 bay leaf
2T tomato paste
2c chicken stock or water

Cut corn kernels off cobs with a large sharp knife. An easy way to do this is to break the ears in half and place one half cut-side down on a cutting board; then angle your knife slightly towards the cob and cut down.

Place the shorn cobs in a pot and cover with milk. Add clam juice, if using, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then simmer, stirring often.

In the meantime, clean and thinly slice leeks. Slice onion. Melt butter in a large skillet. Add onion and leeks and salt and pepper. Cook about 5 minutes, until leeks turn bright; then add corn and cook 10 more minutes, stirring often. Add tomato paste and chipotle chiles and cook 5 more minutes.

Remove corn cobs and bay leaf from milk. Add corn mixture. Cook about 5 minutes.

Blend soup in batches and return to pot. Add salt and pepper to taste. Thin with chicken stock, water, or milk.

Warm Tomato Dressing

This is a nice change from the classic vinaigrette, and a great way to use up any over-ripe cherry tomatoes.

You'll need:
cherry tomatoes
olive oil
kosher salt & pepper
balsamic vinegar

Toss tomatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in a small oven-proof dish or skillet at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, until they pop.

Smash with balsamic vinegar.

I used this dressing on a salad of baby gem lettuce, roasted eggplant, radish, avocado, and feta cheese.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Extra Creamy Baked Ziti

I haven't posted in quite a while because I've been away, eating delicious things like Brazilian mariscada at Muqueca in Cambridge, dim sum at Perfect Team Corporation in Flushing, and a bucketful of creamy carbonara loaded with crispy bacon cubes for breakfast (yes, breakfast) at Prune in Manhattan. Since coming back to the Bay, I've been busy preparing to teach a new course, and have been making mostly old standbys that I've already posted or that don't particularly deserve a post.

But my latest rendition of Baked Ziti, based on my old recipe already featured here, might merit another posting. This time, I did a few things differently:

1. I made an enormous amount of bechamel, using an entire container (~4c) of 1% milk and copious amounts of mozzarella and parmesan. The result was an especially creamy, cheesy finished dish.

2. I used turkey sausage, which cuts down on the fat. I also browned the sausage meat separately and then drained it well in a strainer before mixing it with the tomato sauce I'd already prepared. Taking out the extra grease here helps the sauce stick to the pasta.

3. I mixed the pasta with the meat sauce, and put about half in the pan. Then topped that with half the cheese sauce; then the rest of the pasta & sauce, then the rest of the cheese sauce. Keeping the pasta and the bechamel separate is key here: it prevents the pasta from soaking up all the bechamel, so that the finished dish has distinct layers of cheesy goo. Yum.

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