Saturday, April 25, 2009

Pretty / Spicy

We have skipped right over the rest of spring and landed squarely in the middle of summer, minus the humidity, which makes it all the more wonderful!  We live in an old house that has plaster walls which stay really cool.  This is not so good in the winter but it feels so great when it is hot outside and you walk into the house and it is cool and a little dark.  Some days I look around and just see all the things I would change about this house and some days it seems just right.  

I had a little trouble on the inspiration when I planned the menu this week but together with having a few things around the house and having 1 meal left over from last week I managed to put something together and I only spent about $35 on groceries for the whole week!     

This Week's Menu:

I had shrimp it the freezer because the last time I had to buy it it was buy one get one free on the bags.  This looked like a simple and tasty way to use it.  The sauce was flavorful without being over powering.  

1. Angel Hair with Spicy Shrimp
From Real Simple
makes 4 servings

3/4 lb angle hair pasta (I used a whole grain version that was so good I couldn't even tell the difference)
1 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 lb medium shrimp peeled and deveined (fresh or frozen and thawed)
3/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 t crushed red pepper
kosher salt
2 T butter

Cook the pasta according to package directions, drain and return to pot.  Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute (be careful not to let it burn).  Add the shrimp, wine, red pepper and 1/4 t salt.  Simmer until the shrimp are opaque, 2-3 minutes.  Stir in the butter until melted.  Toss with the pasta and enjoy!
This was on the dinner menu but I ended up not making it until Saturday morning.  It was a filling breakfast that sustained me through a bike ride and a couple hours of studying.  Jeremy even managed to get the broccoli down, although I don't know how much he enjoyed it.  I think it came out very pretty.  

2. Broccoli, Potato and Bacon Frittata
makes 2 - 4 servings

5 eggs
1 T ricotta cheese
1 T milk
3 slices bacon, chopped
1 cup broccoli, chopped
1 small red potato
1 T Parmesan cheese
kosher salt and black pepper

Preheat the over to 350 degrees.  
Cut the potato in half lengthwise and slice across into thin half moon shapes.  Places in a pot with water to cover, bring to a boil, and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.  Steam the broccoli until bright green and tender about 10 minutes. 
In an oven safe, non-stick skillet, cook the bacon until done but not overly crispy.  Remove the bacon and wipe out the skillet leaving a small amount of bacon fat in the pan.  Return the skillet to low heat, add the bacon, potato slices and broccoli and stir gently to combine.  
Whisk together the eggs, ricotta, milk, Parmesan, salt and pepper in a bowl until the ricotta is no longer in clumps.  Pour into the broccoli mixture.  Let it cook on the stove top, without stirring, until the edges begin to set.  Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook until the center is just set, about 15 minutes.  Remove from the pan (it should slide right out of a nonstick skillet) and cut into four pieces.  Serve with tomato dipping sauce (a.k.a. ketchup) if desired.           
With the beans and rice on the plate this really feels like a meal in a restaurant.  You could make any kind of filling you like.  This one is from the Cabbage Town Cafe Cookbook and is called "Adam's Enchilada Filling"  I don't know who Adam is but I like the way he thinks about enchiladas!  

3. Enchilada Dinner
filling from Cabbage Town Cafe Cookbook
makes enough filling for 4 large enchiladas

1/2 cup sliced almonds
3 T light vegetable oil
2 green peppers, diced
2 cups fresh or frozen corn
1 t ground cumin
1/2 t ground coriander
1/4 t cayenne
1 cup grated Cheddar cheese
1 can enchilada sauce
4 large tortillas

Toast the almonds in a dry skillet until lightly browned, don't let them burn, it can happen fast.  Heat the oil in a skillet.  Add the green peppers and cook over high heat until they are tender and the skin is blistered.  Add the corn and cook for 2-3 minutes more.  Add the spices and cook for 1 minute, stirring.  Remove from heat and mix in the almonds and Cheddar cheese.   
Fill the tortillas and top with enchilada sauce and sprinkle with cheese.  Heat under the broiler until the cheese is melted and bubbly.  For the sides you can use black beans, pinto beans or re-fried beans and a Spanish rice mix or the recipe for red rice found at the bottom of that post.
I have been making this salad for a while now.  It's actually a good one for cold weather because of the warm toppings.  I really like the flavor combinations, especially the hard boiled egg.  I don't know why but for some reason adding an egg to a salad makes it feel like a meal to me. 

4. Spinach Salad with Hot Salami Cubes
from Real Simple
makes 2 servings 

2 T olive oil
1/4 lb hard salami (such as Genoa), cut into 1/4" cubes (I get this from the deli counter so I don't have to buy more than we need and I have them slice it 1/4" thick to make the chopping quicker on my end)
1 T Dijon mustard
1 T honey
2 T red wine vinegar
1/8 t kosher salt
1/8 t black pepper
1/2 red onion, sliced into rings
4 cups spinach
2 eggs, hard boiled

Heat 1 T of the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add the salami and cook until sizzling and browned, 2-3 minutes.  Remove the salami using a slotted spoon.  Add the mustard, honey, vinegar, salt, pepper and the remaining 1 T of oil.  Whisk to form a thin emulsion.  Add the onion and salami and cook over medium heat until the onion wilts.  Divide the spinach among plates and top with the salami mixture.  Serve with the eggs.      

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Brain Food

Pretty much everybody who knows me knows that I have been studying for and taking the exams for my architectural registration since last August. I like to stick to a routine before each exam to help calm the nerves and get myself mentally prepared. One part of the routine is eating fish the night before. I took exam #6 (out of 7) last Tuesday so this week's menu starts off with a little "brain food".

This recipe called for Halibut but I can't find it fresh around here so I substituted Cod which was what looked best out of the fresh fish they had. This is light and mild in flavor and pretty quick, about 20 minutes total.

1. Poached Cod with Green Beans & Red Potatoes
Modified from Real Simple
makes four servings

1 lb red potatoes
2 1/2 t kosher salt
1 lb green beans, trimmed
3 T unsalted butter
2 T fresh chives, chopped
1/4 t black pepper
4 6 0z. pieces cod, or other white fish (one with a firmer flesh is best)
2 1/2 cups dry white wine

Scrub the potatoes but do not peel. Place in a large pot with enough water to cover them by 2". Add 2 t of the salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until just fork tender (a little shy), about 15 minutes. Add the green beans and cook 5 minutes more, until just tender. Meanwhile, season the fish with 1/4 t of the salt and 1/8 t of the pepper and place in a large skillet. Pour in just enough wine to reach halfway up the sides of the fish. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Cook 6-8 minutes, covered, until the fish is opaque. Meanwhile, when the potatoes and green beans are done drain them and set aside. In the same pot melt the butter over low heat with the chives, 1/4 t of the salt and and 1/8 t of the pepper. Quarter the potatoes and return to the pot with the green beans. Stir gently to combine. Serve with the fish and spoon any extra chive butter over the top.

Our good friend Steve made a special request last week for some Wonton Soup. He was here the first time I made it and liked it as much as we did! I told him I would happily make it if he would help me stuff the wontons. We set up a little assembly line and the numerous hands made very quick work of the tedious task (especially since we doubled the recipe!). Sometimes I like to have the kitchen all to myself and don't want to be bothered but other times it is really nice to have the company and the help! I have already posted about this so click the link below for the recipe.

This steak was delish, even after I burned it and had to scrape a little of the crust off! I had to make another substitution here. The recipe called for skirt steak but I guess my market doesn't carry it very often. The friendly butcher helped me pick out an alternate because I don't know much about the differences between cuts of beef. It was tasty and I didn't have to buy any more than we would eat for one meal.

3. Pecan Crusted Steak with Coleslaw
Modified from Fine Cooking
makes 4 servings

For the steak:
1/2 T olive oil
4 pieces tri-tip steak
kosher salt and black pepper
3/4 cup pecan pieces
2 T cold butter, cut into small pieces
2 t honey
1 1/2 t fresh rosemary, roughly chopped

Position an oven rack about 6" from the broiler and heat the broiler on high. Line a baking sheet with foil and grease the foil with oil. Arrange the steak on the baking sheet and season with the salt and pepper. Put the pecans, butter, honey, rosemary, 1 t salt and 1/4 t pepper in a food processor and pulse until well combined and the pecans are finely chopped. Broil the steak until lightly browned, 3-4 minutes. Flip it and broil until it's nearly cooked to your liking, about 3 minutes more for medium rare (I prefer mine a little more done and added about 2 more minutes). Spread the pecan mixture over the steak, pressing to help it adhere. Continued broiling until the pecan coating is toasted and fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Set the steak aside to rest for 5 minutes.

For the Coleslaw:
I used a pre-washed and sliced bag of coleslaw mix that had red and green cabbage and carrots. I added dried cranberries and a handful of pecans and dressed it with a store bought coleslaw dressing.

This is a super simple summery meal. We had company over on Saturday night and everyone was in the kitchen helping out with the preparation. I was excited about how easily our kitchen accommodated five people moving around and cooking, I never think of it as very large but it really is and more than that it is quite functional.

4. Chili-rubbed Pork Kebabs with Pineapple Salsa
from Real Simple
makes 4 servings

1 pineapple, peeled and cut lengthwise into 1/2" thick slices
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
1 T fresh lime juice
1/4 t black pepper
2 T olive oil
1 3/4 t kosher salt
3 T chili powder
4 6-oz. boneless pork loin chops, cut into 1" cubes

Heat the grill to medium-high. Grill the pineapple slices for 2 minutes per side. Cut into a small dice, discarding the pieces of core. In a small bowl, combine the pineapple, jalapeno, cilantro, lime juice, pepper, 1 T olive oil and 3/4 t salt. Set aside. Combine the chili powder and 1 t salt in a large bowl. Add the pork and the remaining 1 T olive oil and toss to coat. Thread the pork onto skewers. Grill the kebabs, turning every 2 minutes, until cooked through, about 15 minutes total.

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Just What the Doctor Ordered

Well folks this week's menu is a little sad.  I have been very sick and stuck with eating applesauce and plain toast.  YUK!  I am on the mend now and was able to make one dinner last week.  I really needed something with some substance but that wouldn't upset my stomach too much.  I searched the cabinets and had almost everything I needed for Corn Chowder.  It was just what the doctor ordered.  Well not actually, the doctor was the one who ordered applesauce and plain toast.  I guess it was just what Dr. Andrea ordered.  The bacon is a very flavorful addition but if you don't eat meat another good topper would be chives or thinly sliced green onions.    
1. Corn Chowder
Modified from Cabbage Town Cafe Cookbook
makes 4 - 6 servings

3 potatoes, scrubbed well
3 T butter
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
3 cups fresh or frozen corn
1/2 t dried marjoram (or 2 t fresh, finely chopped)
1/2 t dried or fresh thyme
1/4 t paprika
1/4 t black pepper
1 t kosher salt
about 2 cups milk
4 slices bacon, chopped and cooked until crispy

Dice the potatoes into 1/2" cubes.  Cook in enough water to cover until cooked but still slightly firm about 10-15 minutes after the water boils.  Meanwhile, in a soup pot, melt the butter.  Add the onion, garlic, carrot and celery and cook until the vegetables are cooked but not too soft.  Add the corn and cook 10 minutes more.  Add the herbs, spices and salt and cook for 2-3 minutes more.  When the potatoes are done cooking blend them with the cooking water and enough milk to make a good serving consistency (I like mine to be pretty thick).  Add the blended mixture to the soup pot and heat to serving temperature.  Top with the bacon.  

*A note on the potatoes.  I like to blend all of the potatoes because I don't care for chunks of potatoes in my soup but for a more traditional chowder only blend half of the potatoes and leave the rest in chunks.  

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Monday, April 6, 2009

A Little More Cold Weather Comfort Food

Spring has been teasing us. Last week it was warm and sunny and all of the flowers were starting to bloom and this week we had rain and clouds and cold. The one good thing was it was a chance to enjoy a little more cold weather comfort food. I made a couple of old favorites and three out of the four meals below made leftovers for a lunch the next day.

This Week's Menu:

Risotto is not quick to make but it's so delicious that it is worth the time if you have it. It does not have to be stirred constantly, just stir it before and after each addition of liquid. Also, it can be made with an endless variety of fillings. On Real Simple's web site there are a ton of variations using this basic recipe.

1. Risotto with Prosciutto and Peas
From Real Simple
makes 4 servings

2 T unsalted butter
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (may need extra, see below)
1 cup grated Parmesan
1 t kosher salt
1/4 t black pepper
1 cup peas (thawed if using frozen)
4 oz thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into 1" pieces

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 3 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add the wine and cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid is absorbed. Add the broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring occasionally and waiting until it's absorbed before adding more. (I have found that sometimes it just takes the 4 cups of broth to fully cook the rice and sometimes it takes more, this week it took almost twice as much. Just taste it and keep adding the broth 1/2 cup at a time until it is fully cooked.) Remove from heat and stir in the Parmesan, salt, pepper, peas and prosciutto. Set aside for a few minutes before serving to warm the peas.

Don't let the name deceive you, this meat sauce is full of veggies too. You could add whatever type you like. Sometimes I like to mix the pasta right up with the sauce and keep it on the burner for a few minutes to cook out any extra liquid from the pasta.

2. Spaghetti with Meat Sauce
makes 4 servings

1 lb spaghetti
2 T olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3/4 lb ground beef
kosher salt and black pepper
1 jar tomato sauce
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Cook the pasta. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 8-10 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high. Add the beef, 3/4 t salt and 1/2 t pepper. Cook, breaking up the meat, until no longer pink, 4-5 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and simmer about 5 minutes. Stir in the parsley and sprinkle with the Parmesan.
So this was supposed to be a cook it once use it twice recipe but the meat didn't turn out very good and we could only salvage enough for one meal. I think the problem was the cut of meat, in the future when I need a large cut I am going to go to a meat shop that is near by instead of getting it from the market. It's funny too because I was looking forward to the second meal with it more than the first. Maybe I'll try it again someday.

3. Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder with Carrots, Onions and Garlic
from Fine Cooking
make 4 servings (with leftovers, 8 without)

kosher salt and black pepper
1 6 3/4 - 7 lb boneless pork shoulder roast
1 large yellow onion, cut into 1/2" thick rings
3 carrots, cut into 1/2" wide by 2-2 1/2" long sticks
10 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup dry white wine

Combine 2 T salt and 2 t pepper and rub all over the pork. Put the pork, fat side up into a large roasting pan. Cover and refrigerate overnight or up to 3 days. Remove the pork from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 1 - 1 1/2 hours before cooking. Position rack in the center of the oven and heat to 300 degrees. Roast the pork, uncovered, until tender when pierced with a fork everywhere but the very center, about 4 - 4 1/2 hours. Add the onions, carrots, garlic, wine and 1 cup water to the roasting pan. Continue to roast, stirring the vegetables occasionally until the pork is completely tender, about 1 hour more. Remove the roast from the oven and raise the temperature to 375 degrees. Separate the roast into 8 - 10 large pieces and spread out in the pan. Add a splash of water if the cooking liquid has evaporated. Return the pork to the oven and cook until the newly exposed surfaces of the pork are browned, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer the meat and vegetables to a tray and tent loosely with foil. Let rest for 20 minutes. Skim the excess fat from the juices and serve with the meat and vegetables.

When I was in college I was fortunate to live with some pretty awesome ladies in both of the houses I lived in off campus. In the first house there were 5 of us living there and numerous others in and out. After I moved out one of the roommates decided to put together a collection of recipes that we had all made for each other over the years. She goatherd recipes from everyone and put them together into a nice book and gave us all a copy. It's called Cooking on the South Side (of Bozeman). I love having that book, even more for the memories than for the recipes but there are a few things I make from it. This is one.

4. Tuna Noodle Casserole
from Patricia Flores
makes 4 servings

3 cups wide egg noodles
1/2 small onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/4 green pepper, chopped (you could replace this with 1/4 cup peas)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup milk
1 can cream of celery soup
1 can tuna, drained
1/4 lb grated cheddar cheese

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Cook the noodles according to package directions. Meanwhile mix together all of the remaining ingredients (except the cheese). Stir the drained noodles into the tuna mixture and transfer to a baking dish. Top with the cheese and bake for 20 minutes. Turn on the broiler and place the dish on the top rack in the oven until the cheese starts to brown, about 2-3 minutes.

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