Monday, October 14, 2019

Frugal Beef Week

Sally was gone all week, on a road trip to Virginia, with her daughter.  So I got to cook things that I love and she doesn't.  Beef was the theme of the week.  That and being "frugal" -- in the Jeff Smith/Frugal Gourmet way -- cooking once or twice and eating dinners for the whole week.

Chili Today
My Chili.  No beans chili.  Just beef, a variety of peppers, onion, herbs and spices.  No beans.  No cans. No other vegetables.

1-1/4 lbs 95/5 Ground Beef, thawed
2 large Sweet Onions (Valdosta or similar)
3 cloves Garlic, minced
5 Beefsteak Tomatoes, chopped
2 Red Bell Peppers, seeded & veined and roasted nearly black
3 Green Bell Peppers, seeded & veined and roasted nearly black
2 Poblano Chilies, seeded & veined and roasted
1 Anaheim Chili, seeded & veined and roasted
1 small Jalapeño, seeded & veined and chopped
1/2 tsp Hot Hungarian Paprika (dried pepper of course)
1 tsp Sweet Hungarian Paprika
1 Tbsp Hatch Green Chili Powder
2 Tbsp Healthy Solutionstm Chili/Taco Seasoning
1 Tbsp Cumin
5-6 cups Water

After roasting the peppers under the broiler, chop them to pieces.  Dice the Onions.  In a deep pot, brown the beef, then add the onions and cook until softening.  Add the garlic, tomatoes and chopped peppers.  Cook for an additional 10 minutes.  Add the herbs and spices and water.  Simmer 1-2 hours until starting to thicken.   Serve with white corn tortilla chips or corn tortillas.

This isn't a hot chili, by any stretch.  But it has great depth of flavor with just enough heat to make it interesting.

Pepper Beef
My other cooking this week was what I call Pepper Beef.  Simpler than my Chili, but equally tasty.

1 lb "Beef for Stew"
2 Green Bell Peppers, sliced into strips
1 Sweet Onion sliced into strips
6 oz sliced Button Mushrooms
1 Tbsp BBQ Sauce
1 Tbsp Lizano -- Costa Rican sauce
1 Tbsp Franks Red Hot Sweet Chili Saucetm
1 tsp Evergladestm Seasoning
1 tsp Green Sazon Tropicale
3-4 cups Water

Saute the onions then add the beef and brown it.  Now add the peppers and everything else.  Simmer for at least 2 hours to make sure the beef gets really tender.

Can be eaten as a stew, over smashed potatoes or pasta, or on slices of toast.  Anyway you serve it this is GOOD!

Next Week...
Of course I didn't eat just those dishes!  Breakfasts were my usual 1 egg mushroom omelets.  For lunches I had both rotisserie chicken street tacos with salsa verde, and my tuna salad (with dill pickle) sandwiches.   Plus, wit till you see what I'm making Sally for here Welcome Home dinner tonight!

Monday, October 7, 2019

Czech Guláš, Moroccan Tagine, Impossible, and more...

Hovězí guláš s knedlíčky
This is the Czech version of the ancient Hungarian herdsman's dish known in America as Goulash. 

No self-respecting Hungarian or Czech guláš would ever contain the elbow macaroni and tomatoes found in the American version!  This is the Real Deal -- meat, onions, herbs and spices.  This recipe feeds 4.

1/2 lb thick (1/4") slice of rare and lean London Broil
2 large White Onions
3-4 tsp Sweet Paprika, or a combo of Sweet and Hot Hungarian Paprika
1 tsp Caraway Seeds
3-4 cloves Garlic, chopped
1-2 tsp Marjoram
Salt & Pepper to taste
Bread Crumbs for thickening

Cut the beef into strips about 1/2" wide and " long.  I used Deli London Broil as lean and rare as I could get it, to save having to roast a big piece of meat or settle for tougher, cheaper cuts of beef.

Slice the onions and chop the garlic.

In a large-ish pot or deep skillet, saute the onions and garlic until soft and turning golden.  Add the beef.  Reduce the heat, add the herbs and spices, and add water to cover.  Cover, and simmer for at least an hour until everything is "fall apart" cooked, adjusting seasonings as you go. 

At the end, add breadcrumbs to thicken and cook just a few minutes longer.  Plate with a couple slices of dumpling, as seen above.

The s knedlíčky in the title above means "with dumplings" So here's a recipe for plain Czech-style boiled dumplings -- a more appropriate accompaniment for guláš than noodles.

2 cups AP Flour
2 cups "stale" Bread  (I used the "guts" of the Turtle Bread which I had saved)
1/4 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1 Egg Yolk (save the white for something else)
3/4 cup Milk

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.  In a large cup whisk together the egg yolk and milk.

Add the liquid to the flour mix and stir into a dough.  Cover and let it rest one hour.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  While that's happening, flour your hands then work the bread pieces into the dough until well incorporated.  The shape into a  logs 6-8" long and 2-3" in diameter. 

Carefully slip the dumpling log into the boiling water, and nudge it with a soon so it don't to the pot.  Reduce heat, cover and boil for 12 minutes.  

Then remove  and slice in half to check done-ness.  I put mine back for an additional 5 minutes.  When done, slice into 3/4" thick rounds. 

Leftovers can be stored in the fridge.  To reheat, put the slices in a steamer for a few minutes, or nuke for a minute with a ramekin of water next to the dumpling to raise the humidity.

Butternut & Lentil Tagine

A tagine is a shallow, covered Moroccan "pot" used for making all kinds of stew like dishes.  If you don't have a tagine (and most Americans don't) you can use a covered skillet or something similar.

This recipe really uses the tagine to bring together the flavors of the cooked butternut squash, toasted pine nuts, and cooked lentils with a little tomato sauce and Ras el Hanut, a quintessential Moroccan spice you can find at Middle Eastern markets and some quality international shops (I get mine at World Market).

1 lb Butternut Squash cut into 1/4" dice
2 cups dry Green Lentils cooked until tender
1/2 cup Pine Nuts, toasted
1/2 cup Tomato Sauce
2 Sausages -- Vegan or Carnivore
1 Tbsp Ras el Hanut

Simple enough....

Cook the lentils according to package direction.  I use my rice cooker for perfect lentils every time.

Toast the pine nuts.  Grill the sausages and cut them into pieces.  Nuke the cubed squash for about 6 minutes until done but firm.

Put everything in a covered skillet.   Add the Ras el Hanut, the tomato sauce, and a cup or so of water.  Stir to combine, and cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes until the liquid reduces about half.

Turtle Bread Presentation
Here's the way the Ninja Turtle Bread looked on the buffet table at the baby shower:

I've heard the hype, and so have you.  So I just had to try an Impossible Burger to see what all the shouting is about.

Looks like a Whoppertm.  Tastes pretty much like a Whopper (but then the major tastes of a Whopper have always been the lettuce, tomato and mayo, with the burger tasting "flame grilled" in the background).  Looks like a hamburger patty -- "they" certainly have gotten the texture of ground beef down!  Doesn't look like your average "garden burger" -- even mine!  All in all the same taste experience you get with a regular Whopper.  If you closed your eyes you probably can't tell the difference between Impossible and a regular Whopper.

Would I buy it again?   Maybe.  Probably.  If I go to Burger King again.  It is a bit more pricey than a real Whopper.  We don't normally do that kind of fast food anymore.    But it is really good to see a major player in fast food stepping up to the plate for the growing numbers of vegetarians/vegans out there.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Mushroom Wild Rice Soup, Party Foods, Yellow Shakshuka

Alexandrian Shakshuka
From Alexandria in Egypt comes this dish of firm white fish poached atop a mixture of diced tomato, onion and spices.  Normally, of course shakshuka is a dish of eggs poached on tomatoes; but here shakshuka is a cooking technique (poaching in something besides water or wine) used for fish and other seafood.

My adaptation of the recipe uses yellow tomatoes rather than red.  Sally gets a reaction if she eats too much red tomato.  However, the acid in yellow tomatoes is different than the acid in red tomatoes, and doesn't bother her.  When I was young, an aunt who lived with us got hives from eating red tomatoes.  On our doctor's recommendation we grew yellow tomatoes, which she could eat.

Spice Blend

2 tsp ground Coriander
2 tsp Sumac
1 1/2 tsp ground Cumin
1 tsp Dill weed
1 tsp Turmeric

Can't find Sumac spice in your local Mediterranean market? Substitute Lemon Pepper, or lemon zest and a couple grinds of fresh cracked black pepper.

Main Dish

1-2 lb Cod fillets
1 Sweet Onion, diced
Olive Oil
8 cloves Garlic, chopped
1 Jalapeno Pepper, chopped
5-6 Yellow Tomatoes, diced or chopped
1 lime, juiced
1/2 cup water
Salt and Pepper to taste
Chopped fresh parsley and mint for garnish

In a small bowl, combine the coriander, sumac, cumin, dill and turmeric to make the spice mix. Reserve.

In a covered skillet heat 2 tbsp olive oil. Saute the onions for 2 minutes then add the garlic and jalapeno. Cook on medium-high, stirring regularly, until fragrant and golden in color, about 2 more minutes.

Now add the tomatoes and only 1/2 of the spice mix. Add the lime juice, water, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Bring to a high simmer, then turn the heat down to medium-low. Cover and cook the tomato mixture for 10 more minutes; stir occasionally.

Meanwhile, season the fish fillets lightly with salt and pepper and coat on both sides with the remaining spice mix.

Gently add the fish fillets to the tomato mixture. Cook on medium-high briefly, then reduce the heat to medium. Cover and cook for another 10-15 minutes until the fish is cooked through (it should be flaky). Remove from heat and top with the fresh parsley and mint.

Mushroom Wild Rice Soup
Found this Forks Over Knives recipe, and for once it had all the seasonings and amounts correct.  I did add some Mushroom Powder to give it extra umami richness, though.  If you love mushroom soup, like we do, you're gonna LOVE this!!

4 cups Vegetable Stock
1 (8-ounce) Mushrooms, trimmed and quartered or thick sliced
¾ cup uncooked Wild Rice, rinsed and drained (I used part wild rice and part brown rice)
½ cup Leek, sliced (does anyone use anything but the white part?))
4 cloves Garlic, minced
1 cup chopped Red Bell Pepper
½ cup chopped Carrot
¼ teaspoon Sea Salt (I used a Truffle Salt that I happened to have on hand)
1-2 tsp Mushroom Powder 
¼ cup Almond Flour
¼ cup Chickpea Flour
1 Tbsp fresh Thyme leaves
1 TbspWhite Wine Vinegar

Combine the stock, mushrooms, wild rice, leek, mushroom powder and garlic in a 5-quart Dutch oven or soup pot. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for 45 to 50 minutes or until the rice is tender (kernels will start to pop). Stir in the bell pepper, carrot, and salt. Cover and simmer for 8 minutes more.

Combine the almond flour and chickpea flour in a small bowl; stir in ¼ cup water. Stir the mixture into the soup. Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 to 2 minutes or until thick and bubbly.  What a great thickener!!  Stir in up to ½ cup more water to reach the desired consistency. Stir in the thyme and vinegar.   Serve with nice crusty bread.

Spicy Sweet Potato Bites
You can parse that title as Spicy-Sweet Potato Bites, or Spicy Sweet-Potato Bites.  Either way they are "simple to make, simple to take" as they say.  This is a great "take" dish for parties at work, football snacking, part of a buffet spread, etc.  They can be as mild or wild as you like; but you really want to counter the sweetness of sweet potato with some serious heat.

1-1/2 to 2 lbs Sweet Potato, peeled and cubed.
1-2" Thumb if Fresh Ginger, grated
2-3 tsp Garam Masala or other Indian spice blend
1/2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes or Hot Hungarian Paprika
2 Tbsp Almond or Chickpea Flour
Breadcrumbs for coating

Nuke the sweet potatoes in the microwave for 6-8 minutes until tender.   In a bowl combine the sweet potato, ginger, spices and flour.  Mash together until you get the consistency of thick mashed potatoes.  Divide the mix and roll into walnut-sized balls.

Flatten each ball to about 1/2" thick and pat both sides in the breadcrumbs.  Chill for 20 minutes before frying at moderate heat in a couple tablespoons of EVOO.  Fry about 5 minutes per side until golden brown.  

Cool on a rack before plating.

Turtle Dip
A great party dish and a classic Spinach Dip for veggies or crackers.  This is what I made for the Ninja Turtle Bread that Sally took to the baby shower.  You could make turtle, or just buy a boule of bread at your local bakery to hollow and serve this in.

10 oz box frozen chopped Spinach
1 cup Mayonnaise
2 cups Yogurt
1 package dry Vegetable Soup mix

Defrost the spinach and squeeze it dry. Chop it some more for a finer texture and shred it apart.

In a bowl combine the spinach, yogurt and mayo. Mix well. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. 


Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Baked Cod, Turtle Bread, Eggplant Stacks

Baked Cod, Greek Style
Every once in awhile you have to change things up, right?  Our regular Friday night dinner has been Panko Crusted Pan-fried Cod for years!  This week we decided to try baked cod instead.  I found a great recipe for "Greek style" baked cod I think you'll like. 

2,  7-8 oz Cod filets
1/4 cup AP Flour
1 tsp Coriander
1 tsp Sweet Paprika
1 tsp Cumin
Juice of a Lemon
Same amount of EVOO
3 cloves Garlic, minced

Thaw and pat dry the cod.  Preheat the oven to 400F.  Also, heat a skillet to medium or medium-high.

Meanwhile, in a bowl combine the flour and dry spices.  In another bowl whisk vigorously to combine the lemon juice and EVOO (I shake it together in a screw-top jar, actually).

Dredge the fish in the lemon/oil and then in the flour mixture.  Sear the fish on both sides, in a tablespoon of EVOO or Grapeseed oil.  Cook a couple minutes on each side to get the flour headed towards brown.  Transfer the fish to a baking dish.

Whisk the minced garlic into the lemon/oil mix and drizzle it over the fish.  Bake for 10-12 minutes until the coating has browned more.

Really good!  This one is a repeater for sure!  The fish stays wonderfully moist, and the flavored crust is very tasty.

Turtle Bread Test
Sally is going to a baby shower, where the theme is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!   So this is my test bake of a turtle bread that will have the shell removed and the inside filled with chef-made spinach dip.  When I serve, the turtle will be swimming on a (sea)bed of crackers for dipping.  The basic bread recipe and turtle idea is from Betty Crocker.
3 cups AP Flour
1 pkt Quick Active Dry Yeast
1 Tbsp Sugar
1 tsp Salt
2/3 cup Water
2/3 cup Milk
1 Tbsp Butter or Margarine
1 Egg, beaten
2 Raisins

In large bowl, mix 1-1/2 cups of flour, the yeast, sugar and salt; set aside.

In a microwave safe container combine the water, milk and butter, and nuke for about 30 seconds to warm the liquid (125-130F) and soften the butter. Add this to the flour/yeast blend and fold to combine.
Add the beaten egg to the mix.

Stir in the remaining flour, and additional milk/water as needed to make the dough come together. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough about 5 minutes or until smooth and springy. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes in a warm place.

Meanwhile, grease or spray a baking sheet and pre-heat the oven to 400F.

Shape a 2-inch piece of dough into a ball for the turtle’s head. Shape 4 walnut-size pieces of dough into balls for feet, and 1 walnut-size piece into a tail. Shape the remaining dough into a large ball for the turtle body.

Place the body on the baking sheet and flatten slightly. Attach the head, feet and tail by placing a pulled out bit of each, and tucking the 'tab' under the edge of the body. Press raisins into the head for eyes. Cover and let rise in warm place for 20 minutes.

Make 1/4-inch-deep circular cut around top edge of body to define the edge of the shell, then make crisscross cuts to look like a turtle's shell. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.
For my dip holder, I sliced the shell off and hollowed out the body of the turtle to make the container. For presentation, I put the shell back on top before setting it on the buffet table.

Eggplant Stacks
I realized I hadn't made these is quite some time; so it was time to eat and share them again.  This is basically Eggplant Parmesan done as individual servings.

Beefsteak Tomato
Italian Seasoning
Marinara Sauce
Parmesan Cheese
Mozzarella or other melting cheese
Breadcrumbs or Panko

Slice the eggplant into rounds, spritz both sides with EVOO, and sprinkle with Italian seasoning.  You'll want three 3/4" thick slices per person.   Lay the slices out on a baking sheet and broil them for 3-5 minutes per side, until they are just browning but still firm.   Remove and reserve.

In a baking dish, lay down one round of eggplant for each person.  Add some breadcrumbs, a bit of Parmesan, and some marinara.  Top that with a slice of tomato.  Add a second slice of eggplant, more breadcrumbs, marinara, and a slice of cheese.  Add the third slice of eggplant, more crumbs, marinara, and parm.    Repeat for each serving -- three slices separated by breadcrumbs, marinara, and either sliced tomato or sliced cheese.

Bake the stacks at 350F for about 20 minutes until the cheeses are all melted and everything looks scrumptious.  Serve with a nice side salad.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Mexican Bean Burgers, Ratatouille Pasta, Pomegranate Fun

Mexican White Bean Burgers
Don't get me wrong, I love black beans; but every so often you want a change... These are great!
1½ cups cooked Great Northern Beans --  cook your own, they're better than canned
1 cup cooked Short-grain Brown Rice – not easy to find, but worth it!
1½ cups total (in any combination) diced green chilies, corn, onion, black olives, cilantro
¼ cup chopped nuts – almonds, and/or whole pine nuts
1 cup Bread Crumbs
4-5 tsp Taco Seasoning, Chili Powder or a combination
2–3 tablespoons Salsa, as needed

Take the cooked beans for a spin in the food processor but don't go full-on puree – you want some texture here.

In a large bowl, combine the spun beans with the rice. Add the other ingredients – I used onion, red & yellow bell peppers, half cup of Salsa Verde, and pine nuts. Then the seasoning and bread crumbs (not panko). For seasoning I used Healthy Solutionstm salt-free Chili/Taco Seasoning and Cajun Seafood Seasoning in equal amounts. A packet of ordinary taco seasoning would work as well.

Smoosh all the ingredients together until well blended, using your hands and/or a spatula. Pick up a baseball-sized lump of the mixture and squeeze/compress it a couple times to mash everything well together. Then pat it out to about 5” in diameter and a bit more than 1/2” thick. Repeat with the remaining mix, and you should have 6 nice size patties.
Fry them on medium to medium-high heat for 6-8 minutes per side, until nicely browned.  Serve with a splash of salsa if you want.

Pomegranate Molasses Glazed Salmon
A pomegranate showed up in my SWFL Produce box last week.  I've eaten the seeds in salads and such, but never really messed with one.  Have you?  Here's what it looks like to break one down:

To make the pomegranate molasses glaze, you need more pomegranate juice than you get from one fruit, so I bought a bottle of juice.

Pomegranate Molasses
This is a great glaze for seafood, lamb... you name it!

2 cups pomegranate juice
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Optional: 2 heaping tablespoons pomegranate seeds 

Bring the pomegranate juice, sugar, apple cider vinegar, ginger, and black pepper to a boil. Reduce the heat slightly and allow it to simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes, until the pomegranate ginger sauce has reduced in volume by two-thirds. 

Stir the pomegranate seeds into the sauce, if desired, and serve it warm or use as a glaze for salmon, butternut squash steaks, whatever suits your fancy...

The Salmon
Wild-caught Faroe Isle salmon in this case.

Marinated for about an hour in a heavy slather of pomegranate molasses before being baked for 15 minutes in a pre-heated 400F oven

For Dessert
Carrying the pomegranate them one step further, here's Pomegranate with Sugar Kiss Melon:

Ratatouille Rotini
The flavors of the classic French vegetable stew as a "sauce" for baked rotini.

8 oz. dried whole grain penne pasta
2 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into ½-inch slices
2 cups coarsely chopped tomatoes
½ cup chopped celery
½ cup chopped red onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 15-oz. can no-salt-added tomato sauce
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
¾ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 15-oz. can no-salt-added red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

Preheat oven to 375°F. Cook the pasta according to al dente package directions; drain.

In a large skillet, cook the zucchini for a few minutes until just starting to soften.  Now add  the rest of the ingredients to combine and cook for 6-8 minutes until things are somewhat soft.

Transfer the skillet contents to a baking dish (8x12 or 9x13). 

Bake, covered, 20 minutes. Sprinkle with additional oregano and/or thyme and serve.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Indian Okra, Spinach Pie, Figgy Yogurt

Figgy Yogurt
Got some really nice figs in this week's SWFL Produce box, and found a simple and really tasty way to serve them...

Figs, quartered
Yogurt -- we prefer Siggi's brand Icelandic Skyr
Almonds -- slivered
Honey -- your favorite varietal; this one is Prickly Pear Honey from southern Arizona

Quarter your figs.  Put some yogurt in a ramekin or small bowl.  Add quarters of fig.  Add some shaved almonds.  Drizzle honey over.  Devour!

Bhindi Okra
Haven't made this for quite awhile.  Sally was gifted with more than a pound of fresh, huge okra just crying out to be griddle fried this way.  Indian Street Food at it's finest.  We first had this at the Chai Pani Indian Restaurant in downtown Asheville, NC -- one of our best ever restaurant discoveries.  We make a point to eat there every time we visit.  My version of Bhindi Okra is healthier than the Indian street food version, here the okra is deep fried.  I do mine on a griddle pan with only 1-2 Tbsp of grapeseed or olive oil.  If you used an oil sprayer you'd use even less oil...

1 lb plus Okra, topped and sliced lengthwise
pinch of Salt
Amchur Powder -- Indian dried green mango powder
1-2 Tbsp Grapeseed Oil (high smoke point)

Spread the oil on a griddle pan -- mine is 13" diameter.  Lay out the okra cut-side down to start, add a pinch of salt, and fry until starting to brown. 

Turn over, dust with Amchur power and continue frying and turning until you get some serious carmelization/blackening going on:
Crispy, chewy, a little salty, a little smoky, almost buttery tasting.  This is not your slimy Southern boiled okra that I suffered through in school!!!!!!  This is Yummm.
I served Bhindi Okra with Garam Masala Salmon, which didn't turn out too bad.

Spinach Pie
That time of year!  Sally was also gifted with 2 pounds of fresh spinach that wanted using up and a spinach pie seemed just the thing to do.

1 Pie Crust -- make your own or not
2 lbs fresh Spinach
4 oz Feta
1 cup small curd Cottage Cheese
1 bunch Green onions, chopped
2 tsp dried Dill Weed
Juice and zest of a Lemon
1/4 cup chopped Parsley
Mushroom slices for topping

Preheat oven to 400F. Par cook the pie crust in a 9" deep dish pan, and let it cool.

Wilt the spinach in batches.  I used the microwave and a large bowl with 1/4 cup of water in the bottom; about 4 minutes.  Chop the wilted spinach as fine as you like.

Pre-heat oven to 425F.

In a large bowl combine the ingredients (except mushrooms) thoroughly.  Spread into the cooled crust.  Top with sliced mushrooms. 
Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove foil and bake another 10 minutes.  Cool a bit.  Slice & serve.