Monday, December 4, 2017

Short and Sweet....

... and tangy and oh so tasty!

Strawberry Basil Salad with Balsamic Glaze
I found this recipe by blogger Celeste while looking for something neat to do with the season's first strawberries and a bunch of basil from our SW Florida Produce Co-op.  Serves two plus a lunch portion.

1 cup uncooked Farro
2 cups quartered Strawberries
1/2 cup diced Red Onion
Juice of a medium Lemon
1/4 cup torn or chopped fresh Basil
1/2 cup Nuts -- chopped Walnuts or Pecans, Pine Nuts if you're rich.
1/4 cup halved Green Olives or Caper Berries (not capers themselves, which are seeds)
1/4 cup Craisins
1/4 cup diced Cucumber
Balsamic Glaze -- see below

Farro is an ancient grain; some food scientists think it is the Mother grain, from which wheat, emmer, barley, rye, etc. were all derived by primitive genetic manipulation (not gene tweaking, but rather Mendelevian genetics).

Cook up the cup of Farro in 3 cups of water -- a rice cooker works just fine.  After cooking, rinse the cooked grain to get rid of most of the stickiness, and spread it out to let it dry. 
Here's the Farro cooked and then toasted to help it dry.

You can also just cook Farro in a pot on the stovetop, or treat it sort of like a risotto. You could even toast the cooked grain under your broiler for an added layer of flavor.   That's what I'm going to do next week -- toast the grain a bit first, then cook it up like those Rice-aroni things we used to get, and then treat it like a risotto -- adding tons of mushrooms  as I add the liquid.

While the grain is cooking, chop the onion, basil and strawberries, etc.
Top:  craisins, strawberry quarters, chopped pecans
Middle:  cucumber, basil
Bottom:  balsamic glaze

Assemble the salad items and toss to combine well.  Plate, and then drizzle with the balsamic reduction.

Observations:  This is a really good "not a salad" salad!  Would have been better if I had put the red onion in and left the craisins out.  Next time I'll cop or rip the basil, not cut it chiffonade.  A handful of crumbled feta or even sharp white cheddar would not go amiss here, either.  You want a good balance of sweet, salty and sour or tart, whatever you add to this dish.

Balsamic Glaze
In a small pot, simmer together twice as much balsamic vinegar as maple syrup (or honey) until the liquid is reduced by half and the result coats the back of a spoon.  I started with a cup of vinegar (use the cheap stuff) and half a cup of seagrape honey (because that's what I had... again use the cheap stuff if you have it).   When reduced, cool and reserve.  Can be stored in the fridge for weeks.

Apple Yam Bake
I first posted this recipe back in 2014.

1 large Honeycrisp or Ambrosia Apple
1 large fairly cylindrical Yam
1/2 cup Sweet Onion, sliced thin
1/3 cup Golden Raisins, minced
1/2 cup Apple nectar
1 clove Garlic, minced
1/2 cup Orange juice with pulp
1 tsp "Curry Powder" of your choice
1 tsp powdered Ginger, or 1 Tbsp fresh grated Ginger

Fillet the apple as I've shown you in the past. Cut the 'half moon' slices 1/8" thick. 

Peel the yam, microwave it for a few minutes to soften them just a bit for easier slicing.  Halve the yam lengthwise and slice it into 1/8" thick half moons as well. 

Arrange alternating slices of apple and yam in a fan around a 9" pie pan. Stack additional slices of each in the center, to fill the pan.

Combine the juices, raisins, garlic, curry powder and ginger in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil. Cook for 6-8 minutes to combine the flavors. In a small skillet, sweat the onions until fragrant and translucent, but don't let them brown.

Place the onions in the center of the apple-yam fan, pour the juice overall and bake in a pre-heated 375F oven, covered, for 30 minutes until the yams are fork tender.

Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate to serve the next day.  Makes a great holiday Potluck dish!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Post Turkey Day pix, Christmas Pudding, Raspberry-Chocolate Mascarpone Pudding, etc.

Chess Pie Revisited
As promised last week, here are the pictures of my Chess Pie with Orange Curd and Mandarin Wedges.  This is so rich that a 1/8th slice with curd is more than enough!

Leftover Dressing Rissole
I don't know why I never thought of this before!  Smush together a large handful of leftover dressing and form it into a patty.  Fry in just a smidge of EVOO to get a nice crust and heat things through.  Delicious with turkey gravy!  In the background are slices of Red Cooked Turkey Breast and Spiral Cut Ham.

Christmas Pudding
British Christmas Pudding is a family tradition hereabouts.  This year three generations got together in Sally's kitchen and created the annual masterpiece.  I was relegated to the position of photographer.
Mum, Sally and daughter Holly

If you have to have one modern British cookery book, let it be Delia Smith's Complete Illustrated Cookery Course, with it's detailed recipes and lavish photography.  Therein you will find the recipe which has been tweaked and modified by, now, three generations of pudding makers.  The ingredients list is long, but the assembly is straightforward -- each item in its turn, mashed and stirred together.

8 oz shredded Suet -- the hardest ingredient to find in today's world.  You can sub- butter but it's not the same
4 oz Self Rising Flour
8 oz white Breadcrumbs.  Panko is perfect.
1/2 tsp fresh grated Nutmeg
1/4 tsp powdered Cinnamon
1 lb Light Brown Sugar
8 oz Sultanas or Golden Raisins
8 oz regular Raisins
20 oz Xante Currants
2 oz candied Citron
2 oz blanched Almonds
1 Apple, cored and finely chopped
Zest of 1 Lemon and 1 Orange
4 Eggs, beaten
4 Tbsp Rum
10 oz Guiness (or other label) Stout

Mix everything together, one ingredient at a time, until you get to the eggs. 

In a smaller bowl, beat the eggs and add to them the rum and stout.

Pour the liquid over the assembled dry ingredients, and start the hard part -- mash-mixing everything together very, very, very well. 
Mum's Puggle -- Zara -- supervised the whole operation and made sure no crumbs hit the floor!

You'll know you're about right on consistency when you can spoon up the mixture and it falls from the spoon as a ball when you tap the loaded spoon on the side of the bowl.

Cover the mixture with a  cloth, and leave it set overnight.  The next day, grease two or more pudding basins -- steel bowls -- and pack the mixture  into them all the way to the top.  Cover each basin with a disk of parchment paper, then tie a layer of aluminum foil around each basin.

Place the basins in wide pots or pans, and add 2+ inches of water.  Bring the water to a boil, and reduce to a simmer.  Put on a lid to help prevent evaporation.

Simmer the puddings for 8 hours!  Yes Eight Hours!  Really!!  Add water as necessary.

When done, remove the foil and paper, and replace with new paper and foil.  Cool to room temperature and store in the fridge for 4-6 weeks, to allow the flavors to develop.
On Pudding Day (we usually have ours on Boxing Day, the day after Christmas day),  boil the covered pudding for two hours to bring it properly up to temperature.
Ready to eat on Boxing Day!

Chocolate-Raspberry Mascarpone Pudding
This recipe, that I served for Thanksgiving, is a LOT easier than making Christmas Pudding!!  We got this recipe from a flyer from our local megamart.  Not cheap (mascarpone was $4.69) but it certainly is tasty.

4 cups Water
4 Egg Yolks (do something else with the whites)
1/4 cup Sugar
1 tsp Orange extract (recipe called for vanilla, but I like orange better here)
6 Tbsp Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa tm or similar
1/8 tsp Kosher Salt
1 cup Heavy Cream
1 can Duncan Hines Simply Raspberry Pie Filling tm

Whisk together the mascarpone, orange extract, cocoa and salt, until smooth.

Make a double boiler with a pot, the water, and a bowl set on top the open pot.  Put the egg yolks and sugar in the bowl and whisk constantly for 5-7 minutes until the mixture is pale yellow and runs in ribbons when you lift the whisk.

Whisk in the cheese/cocoa mixture until well combined.  Remove bowl from hot water and put plastic wrap on top the bowl to prevent a skin from forming.  With a mixer (or by hand if you want a workout!) whip the heavy cream until you get stiff peaks. 

Fold half the whipped cream into the chocolate mix.  Then spoon it into serving dishes.  Add a layer of the raspberry filling and top with the remaining whipped cream.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Yam Appetizers, Chess Pie, Leftover Makeover, Blanching Almonds

Happy Holiday week!   May all your dishes make you happy.

Yam Appetizers x2
This basic recipe we liberated from a local megamart holiday flyer.

Yam App 1
This is the original that appeared in the flyer, with only minor tweaks.  I made these for Sally to take to one of her favorite "wine and painting" classes.

20-24 Yam disks,  about 2" in diameter and 1/4" to 3/8" thick, skin on
4 oz. softened Goat Cheese
2-3 Tbsp Milk or Half & Half
Sweetened, dried Cranberries
Chopped Pecans

Toss the yam slices with a couple Tbsp of olive oil,  and salt & pepper to taste.  Bake the slices @ 425F for 8-9 minutes per side.  You want them tender but not mushy.  Cool completely.

Whisk together the milk and cheese until smooth and fluffy and increased in volume.  I used a hand mixer with a whisk attachment and it only took a minute or so...

Put a dollop of the cheese on each yam round, the top with 1 or 2 cranberries and a pinch or two of nuts.

Simple, easy, and very tasty even the 4 leftovers that were in the fridge (covered) for 3 days!

Yam App 2
Our vegan friends don't eat cheese, so I came up with this, even simpler, appetizer when we went to their house on Saturday evening.

1 can whole berry Cranberry Sauce
Yam Rounds

Instead of firing up the oven, I decided to nuke the yam rounds, laid flat on a plate.  If I remember rightly 5 minutes did the trick; but work up from 3 minutes, in 1 minute or even 30 second increments.

Top each round with a dollop of the cranberry sauce.  Best use I've ever seen for the canned cranberry sauce -- I'll  make my own from fresh cranberries and an orange for the holiday table.

Chess Pie
Is it 'jus pie.  Or is it ch'ess pie?  No one is sure how the name came about.  It's been a long time since I made this Southern classic!  I hardly gets any simpler to make a pie than this.  The secret ingredient is a tablespoon or so of white vinegar.  The photos here are grabbed from the 'Net.  I'll show you how mine turned out next week.

I'm making my Thanksgiving pie 'jus plain.  And then topping it with home-made orange curd and segments of mandarin orange.

'Jus the Pie
1 pre-made Pie Crust
2 cups Sugar
2 Tbsp Corn Meal
1 Tbsp AP Flour
1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 cup melted Butter or Margarine
1/4 cup Milk
1 Tbsp White Vinegar
1/2 tsp Orange extract
4 Eggs, beaten

Pre-bake the crust according to package instructions.  Cool.

Pour in the filling, well mixed.  Bake pie at 350F for 50-55 minutes.  Shield crust edge with foil after about 10 minutes to prevent too dark of crust.  Cool on a rack before topping with curd and mandarin slices.

Orange Curd -- my whey
Love the stuff -- on toast or crumpets, in a pie, you name it, I love it.  You can buy citrus curd.  You can spend more than half an hour over a hot stove whisking curd to perfection.  Or you can do what I do and use the microwave for less than 5 minutes!

3/4 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Orange (or other citrus) Juice
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice -- yes, not extra OJ...
3 large Eggs at room temperature

Whisk the eggs very well.  Push them through a mesh strainer to remove any potential bits of scrambled eggs, and put them in a microwave safe bowl.  Add the sugar, lemon juice and OJ, and whisk very well once more.

Set the microwave timer to 4 minutes.  At the end of 1 minute and 2 minutes, whisk the concoction; and then whisk every 30 seconds until the timer counts down to zero.  Ladle into a jar and let it cool before lidding.

Leftover Makeover -- for Susanne Duplantis, the Makeover My Leftover Queen
Sally's Mum took us for lunch yesterday to The Cracker Barrel.  I had Chicken Fried Chicken and the ladies had fish.  Sally's trout was two huge slabs, so we brought home the leftovers including some corn.  Can you say "plokkfiskur"?  I knew you could.  The perfect thing to do with leftover white fish to make the Icelandic "fish-potato pie" we discovered while on vacation.

I peeled and cooked a couple large potatoes, flaked in the leftover fish and corn, and brought it all together with about 3/4 cup of white sauce.  Put it in a baking dish, dusted the top with paprika, and broiled the concoction for about 8 minutes to brown the top.  
Here you can easily see the flakes of fish among the pieces of potato and corn.

Quick and tasty supper, with enough leftover for Sally to have it for lunch on Monday.  Not bad!

Blanched Almonds
Coming up on Wednesday will be The Great Christmas Pudding Making.  Sally's Mum is going to pass down her Christmas Pudding recipe and techniques.  Next week I'll show you what they made. 

Among the ingredients are "blanched almonds".  That is, partially cooked, peeled almonds without any brown skin.  Simple really.  Measure out your almonds.  Boil "some" water.  Toss in the almonds, turn the fire off, and let things set for a minute while you get out your colander.  Drain the nuts and then lay them out on paper towels.  Let them cool fifteen minutes or until you can handle them easily. 
Then just squeeze the nuts, one at a time, and the skin will slip right off.  Easy peasy!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Red Cooked Turkey and other delights

This year I thought I'd give you this recipe early, so you can try it for Thanksgiving this year yourself.

Red-cooked Turkey Breast
Red cooking is an ancient Chinese technique, which I learned from Martin Yan, of Yan Can Cook, back in the days before there was Food Network.  In those days it was Saturday mornings on PBS to watch Martin, Julia, Jacques, Graham, and the then newcomer Rick Bayless, strut their culinary expertise in living color.
These breasts combined for 13 pounds of Thanksgiving goodness last year.

The technique is sometimes called Red Braising, but to me it's more like a Hot Brine.  You'll need:

Turkey Breast, or small whole turkey.  Also works with whole or parts of chicken, duck, goose.
Large Stock Pot
Soy Sauce - on the order of a quart at least.
1 whole Star Anise

OK.  I hear you going "soy sauce and turkey?" and   "Star anise licorice flavor and turkey?"

The final dish taste of neither.  Nor is it salty.  It tastes like "Please, can I have some more?"

Put the thawed meat in the stock pot.  Cover the meat by about an inch with a mixture of half soy sauce and half water.

Remove the meat from the pot, add the star anise, and bring the liquid to a hard rolling boil.

Put the meat carefully back into the pot.  This kills the boil, of course, so now bring the liquid back to a hard rolling boil.

Put a lid on the pot, turn the stove burner off, and walk away for two hours

That's right.  leave it alone.  Don't peek.  For two whole hours, while you prepare the rest of your Thanksgiving feast, with plenty of room in the oven for baking rolls, desserts and casseroles.

The salt in the liquid opens the pores of the meat, like a good brine, and carries the flavor (but not the salt) all the way to the bone.  The heat from the water, pot and burner cooks the meat completely, and will remain hot for hours while you're waiting for that perpetually late guest to arrive.

You end up with the most moist, tender, flavor-filled turkey breast you can imagine.

After two hours, carefully remove the meat, and slice for serving.  You can make a sauce from the liquid, if you choose.
This slice of leftover breast was stored in the cooking liquid
in the refrigerator; hence the darker color

You can freeze the cooking liquid and use it again at another time for a chicken or two, or a huge bag of wings, thighs, or whatever you fancy.  I think duck breast cooked this way would be heavenly...

Carrot Soup with Garbanzos and Kale
We had a couple giant carrots from our Co-op produce box that needed to be used up, and Sally wanted a soup with Garbanzos.

2 Onions, chopped
1 lb grated Carrot, the finer grate, the better
1/2 lb dry Garbanzos
2-3 packed cups of veined and chopped Kale
3 clove Garlic, minced
2 tsp Cumin
2 tsp Smoked Paprika
1 cup plain Skyr or Greek yogurt
4-6 cups Vegetable Broth or water

Cook up the garbanzos with the cumin.  This takes quite awhile, so make the rest of the soup and then add the beans at the end.

Saute the onion until soft, then add the carrots, garlic and smoked paprika.  Cook until the carrots are soft.  When the garbanzos are done, add half of them, the yogurt, and the cooking liquid, and stir.  Reserve the rest of the beans.

Puree the soup in batches, as needed.  Then add the reserved beans and as much water or broth as you prefer to get the consistency of soup you prefer.

Serve with a side dish and toast points or croutons as garnish.

Chili Stuffed Potato
Baked potato,  chili, and garnishes.  You need a recipe??  A perfect Makeover My Leftover dinner than my chef-friend Susanne Duplantis would be proud of me making.

Roasted Vegetable Dinner
Another no-brainer.  Toss some cut vegetables with some olive oil and spices, and roast at 400F until tender.  For some vegetable protein, the side dish is Mongetes -- a Spanish fried white bean recipe that I've detailed here before, with basil or parsley pesto and spices.

Roasted above were new potatoes, halved onion, yam slices, red beets, red bell pepper, carrots and cloves of garlic.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Post Irma Party - Chilled Romaine Soup, Mixed Greens & Sausage and more...

Sally and I hosted a party for the folks who stayed at her house while we were in Scotland avoiding the hurricane.  I served this chilled soup and told them that this is what they'd have been eating if the power had stayed out another day or two!

Chilled Romaine Soup 
This recipe was made famous in Florida at Chalet Suzanne in Lake Wales, Fl.  It was also featured in the 1961 NY Times Cookbook.  Sally had sampled a canned version of this soup at a bridal shower recently.  Chilled (or at least room temperature) soups are popular here in Florida because our warm temperatures aren't often conducive to the usual hot soups.

2 Tbsp Butter
1  Onion sliced or diced
3 heads of Romaine lettuce, chopped
2 cups Stock or Broth (I used vegetable as we had vegetarians at the party)
Salt and White Pepper to taste
Croutons, Sour Cream and Bacon Bits to garnish

In a large skillet, saute/sweat the onion in the butter over medium heat until it starts to soften.  Add the lettuce and cover until it starts to wilt.  Add the broth and cook until the lettuce is very soft. 

Season with salt and pepper.  Working in batches, puree the lettuce/onion mixture in a blender or food processor -- you want a silky consistency.  

Refrigerate at least two hours or overnight.  Garnish with a dollop of sour cream (or plain yogurt), croutons, and bacon bits.

This soup, unlike many chilled soups, is equally good when heated before garnishing and serving.

Mixed Greens & Sausage
For the main course of our luncheon, I served a variation on the Swiss Chard & Rhubarb Skillet I wrote about sometime back.  The ingredients below will serve 2-4; I made more than double this for the party...

Sausage (2 per person)  I had Mild Italian, Chicken Andouille, and Apple Sage meatless sausage
1 bunch Swiss Chard
1 small bunch Kale
--  try for an equal volume of the two greens
1 small Red Onion, diced
4-6 oz Rhubarb (fresh or frozen) sliced 1/4" thin
1/4 cup raisins or currants
1-2 Tbsp Maple Syrup
1/4 tsp Garam Masala spice blend
1" finger of fresh Ginger, minced

Cook the sausages until nicely browned  While that is going on:

Disassemble the greens -- cut the leaves away from the stems, but save the stems apart and cut them into 1/4" slices.

In the same skillet where you cooked the sausage, saute the onion and stems until they start to soften.  Add the rhubarb, maple, raisins, spice and ginger, and cook (~10 minutes) until the rhubarb is softening.  Add water as necessary to prevent sticking.

Now add the greens, cover, and cook until they wilt.  Toss everything together to mix well.  Put the sausage on the bed of cooked greens and warm them through before serving family style with the skillet at the table.
Doesn't that look good?

Shakshuka For Two
Earlier this year I experimented with making Shakshuka for our Cabana guests as a breakfast option.  Making and serving the dish in matching 8" skillets was just a bit much, but the result is sure tasty.  Then recently I was given half a dozen individual casserole dishes

Baking poached eggs in Florida is an exercise in energy waste -- heating the house for 20 minutes to cook eggs for 6 minutes!!

Then I discovered you can microwave-poach eggs  Works especially well if you use the Defrost function -- the cycling, lower power, keeps the yolks from exploding all over the inside of your microwave!

So here's what I did.  Each casserole (breakfast for 1) gets 3/4 cup of "Petite Cut" diced tomatoes, either canned, or chopped from fresh by yours truly.  They will cook down somewhat in the poaching process.

Use a spoon or something to make a pair of divots in the tomatoes, and carefully crack an egg into each divot.

I used the Time Defrost function and started with 5 minutes.  Then added 1 minute at a time until I got pretty darn good looking poached eggs at about 8 minutes.  Your mileage may vary depending on your microwave.
Breakfast for 1, Shakshuka style.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Eggplant, Salmon, Lentils and Cauliflower "Brain"

My apologies...  I recently changed computers, and with that change, for some reason, I lost the edits I had made to the blog to display the correct fonts and line spacing.  I guess Microsoft truly doesn't give a rat's tail about making some of its products user friendly -- Blogger is NOT!  Anyway, I understand the only solution is to actually write each post in Blogger; rather than write it in a word processor and import.  So next week, I hope things will look better....

Eggplant With Mint, Honey and Sesame Seeds
Call this a side, or an appetizer; either way call it super tasty. I used to make this by cubing the eggplant before frying it, but recently I saw this “whole slice” method and thought I'd give it a try.  I love the presentation!

Eggplant, sliced 3/4” thick
Flour for dredging
Egg for dredging
Fresh Mint leaves, cut chiffonade
Sesame Seeds

Dredge the eggplant slices in egg and flour, and fry them in EVOO on medium-high heat, until they are just starting to get soft, and nicely browned. Plate the slices, drizzle with honey and sprinkle with cut mint and sesame seeds. One slice per person makes a nice side along with a protein and a starch.

Spinach Salmon Cheese Roll
I love this technique of containing the roll in parchment paper to keep it nice and round. The rest of the recipe is all my own invention!

1 package Crescent Roll Dough sheet
1/4cup chopped fresh Parsley
1 Tbsp chopped fresh Thyme
Cream Cheese or Ricotta
1/2 shallot, chopped
2 cups fresh chopped spinach
6 ounce baked Salmon filet, flaked
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 Tbsp Butter
olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Roll out crescent roll pastry on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle approximately 12 by 15 inches. Spread with ricotta, and sprinkle with parsley, thyme, salt, and pepper.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and sauté the shallots until translucent. Add spinach and sauté for 3 minutes or until wilted. Remove from heat and cool.

Spread spinach over pastry, top with diced salmon, and season with salt and pepper.

Roll up pastry, tucking ends in as you roll, burrito style. Wrap the pastry in parchment paper buttered with 2 tablespoons of butter and tie it up with kitchen string to hold roll together. Rub outside of paper with olive oil. Place on baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes.

Note that I rolled the pastry out too thin, and the paper wrap was my salvation – it kept the filling from oozing out all over the baking sheet!

Unwrap, slice roll, and serve with dill hollandaise, remoulade or similar sauce.

Skyr-Roasted Cauliflower
This whole-head roast is based on a recipe from Siggi's Icelandic style Skyr company recipes.

1 Tbs Vegetable oil
1 head Cauliflower, whole, stem and leaves removed
1-1/2 cup Siggi'stm plain Skyr
1 Lime, zested and juiced
1 Tbsp Cumin
1 Tbsp Garlic powder
2 Tbsp Chili powder
1 Tbsp Curry powder
2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Black Pepper

Preheat the oven to 400F. While that's going on...

Lightly grease a small baking sheet with a bit of vegetable oil.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the yogurt, lime zest, lime juice, chili powder, cumin, curry powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Mix well. Actually, what I did was just use Garam Masala spice blend instead of all those powders. It worked out just great.

Dunk the entire head of cauliflower into the bowl. make sure it’s well coated.

Set the cauliflower right side up on the baking sheet. Roast until the surface is browned and crusty, about 30 minutes. The skyrinade (skyr marinade) creates a beautiful and flavorful crust on the cauliflower. 

Let the cauliflower cool for about 10-15 minutes then cut into wedges to serve.

Lentil-Tomato Salad
One of the doctors where Sally works was celebrating a “workiversary” – X number of years at the clinic, so the staff threw him a party. Naturally, I was tasked to create something vegetarian but flavor-filled that everyone would like. This fit the bill rather nicely.

1 cup dried Lentils (preferably small French lentils)
1 large clove Garlic, chopped
1 tsp Salt, or to taste
3/4 lb fresh Tomatoes, diced (2 cups)
4 large Scallions, thinly sliced (or 3/4 cup sweet onion diced)
1/4 cup chopped fresh Dill
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh Basil
1/4cup Red-Wine Vinegar, or to taste
1/4 cup EVOO
1/4 tsp Black Pepper

Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a 2-quart heavy saucepan with lentils, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until lentils are just tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

Drain lentils in a sieve, then transfer to a large bowl.

Toss the hot lentils with the tomato, scallions, dill, basil, vinegar, oil, pepper, and remaining salt.  Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Fall Comfort Food

Somehow I seem to have missed posting last Monday.  Mea culpa!

We're heading into comfort food season, where even here in Florida folks are getting ready for the (nominally) cool part of the year. Thought I'd bring you some of the dishes I've been making that qualify as comfort food.

Cheesy Chicken, Kale and Sweet Potato Skillet Meal
These flavors really go together well!

2 Chicken Breast*, boneless, skinless, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup finely diced Shallot or onion
1 Red Bell Pepper, diced
2 cloves Garlic, minced
2 medium Sweet Potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 cup low-sodium Chicken Broth
2 cups stemmed and chopped Kale
1/2+ cup shredded Monterey Jack or cheese of choice
S&PTT – Salt and Pepper to taste
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add to a medium-high skillet with a splash of EVOO.   Let the chicken cook without moving for 1-2 minutes. Turn, and continue cooking until no longer pink in the center, another 1-2 minutes.

Remove the chicken to a plate, keeping as much liquid in the skillet as possible, and return the skillet to medium heat.

Add a drizzle more oil if the skillet is dry. Add the shallot (or onion), red pepper, and garlic. Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes, until the onions have started to turn translucent and soften.

Add the sweet potato, red pepper flakes (if using), and broth. Bring to a gentle simmer. Cover and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring once or twice so the sweet potatoes don't stick until they are tender. Add more broth as it cooks if the mixture becomes sticky or dry.

Add the chicken back to the skillet along with the kale. Stir and heat through until the kale is wilted.  Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.

Sprinkle cheese over the top and cover with the lid until melted or pop under a preheated oven broiler until golden and bubbly. Serve immediately.

*Ground turkey or beef could substitute for the chicken; or get fancy with some Gulf shrimp.

Mediterranean Sausage, White Bean and Spinach Bake 
Simple foods prepared simply – the essence of comfort food.

1 lb Sausages (4 nice bratwurst sized links)
2-3 cups stemmed, ripped Spinach leaves
1 can (15 oz) White Beans, drained and rinsed
1 small Red Onion, diced
3/4 cup Evaporated Milk
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
1/4 tsp Nutmeg
1/4 tsp White Pepper
2 cloves Garlic, minced
4 tsp melted Butter
1/3 cup Breadcrumbs

Cook the sausage, drain and reserve.

In a baking dish combine the spinach, beans, onion, milk and half of the cheese. In another dish, combine the remaining cheese, butter and bread crumbs, and reserve.

Bake the spinach-bean mixture @ 375 for 30 minutes. Nestle the sausages into the cooked mixture. Turn oven to Broil. Sprinkle the reserved cheese-butter-breadcrumb mixture on top of the dish and broil for 5-7 minutes to heat the sausage through and brown the breadcrumb topping.

Spaghetti Squash Boats
Another easy-peasy dish, if you buy a jar of pasta sauce and doctor it to your liking.

1 Spaghetti Squash
1 jar Pasta Sauce – I like the Paul Newman brand sauces
3/4 lb ground Beef – preferably 90/10
Mushrooms, tomatoes, olives, bell pepper and other ingredients to doctor the sauce
Optional – Parmesan cheese for topping.

Brown the beef. Add about half the jar of sauce, and whatever you like to doctor things with. Simmer the sauce 30 minutes or so to marry the flavors. You don't want a really 'liquid' sauce here.
Sauce is still too 'wet' here...

While that's going on, slice the squash lengthwise and remove the seeds. Cook the squash, cut side down, until the skin is getting soft – you can roast it in the oven for 30-45 minutes @ 375F, or do like I do and nuke it in the microwave for 5-8 minutes depending on size.

Turn the squash cut side up and plate it. Ladle the cavity full of sauce, and top with Parmesan if you choose. Use your fork to pull shreds of the squash into the sauce, and enjoy. Some folks, like Sally, prefer the squash shredded and removed from the boat before topping with sauce like conventional spaghetti. I like to keep mine in the boat...

Simple Posole
Posole, to me is green chili with hominy added – green not red chilies, onion, tomatillos not tomatoes – and that unique corn product called hominy (white or yellow).   I don't mind spending a couple hours cooking this from scratch, but you can save yourself a ton of hassle, and start with a large can of Green Chile Enchilada Sauce from your local tienda or the ethnic section of your megamart.  

1 large can Green Chile Enchilada Sauce
1+ lbs Pork for stew, or a couple pork sirloin cutlets cut into 3/4” pieces
1 Tbsp Cumin
Hot Pepper Sauce to taste
1 can mild Green Chilies
1 Sweet Onion, diced
2-3 Poblano Chilies, chopped
2-3 Cubanelle Chilies or 1 regular green bell pepper, chopped
1+ Jalapeno Chili, chopped or seeded/veined and then chopped
1 large can White or Yellow Hominy, drained (reserve liquid to adjust liquid in the final stew)

Brown the pork with cumin, hot pepper sauce and a splash of EVOO in a large-ish pot. Throw in everything else, adding liquid as needed, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and and simmer for half an hour or so. Add water to get a nice stew consistency.  Perfect with a slab of corn bread or a couple tortillas. I also like it served over white corn tortilla chips as Green Nachos:

Gratuitous Photo
I made a fruit bowl for our Cabana guests last week and thought it looked really good, so I snapped this picture of grapes and oranges.