Saturday, March 31, 2007

Feeding My (Potato) Habit

I have a confession to make. I love potatoes. There. Said it. Ok, so it's not on the level of a heroin addicition, or a wicked bad scratch-ticket habit, but still ... in some settings, this carbohydrate-lovin' habit is harder to confess than ... well a lot of things.

I do love a french fry, so in order to be able to consume as much crispy-starchy goodness as possible, I have mastered the art of the oven fry (and other oven-baked potato yummies).

Oven fries are a great way to feed your french fry habit, without stinking up the house with the smell of frying oil or the stigma of deep fat frying. They don't take too long to prepare, and they are really easy to make.

The tricks are as follows:
  • Russets (baking potatoes) or Yukon Golds will get crispiest. You can use these techniques with sweet potatoes too. They contain more sugar, so you will want to bake them at a lower temp (around 350-375).
  • Get your oven nice and hot. Preheat it to 400 before you start cutting the potatoes up.
  • Cut your potatoes into similar sizes. You can make fry-like batons, or wedges, cubes (large or small) - even matchstick fries. Just make sure they're all about the same size.
  • Oil your potatoes, not the baking sheet. Put the cut potatoes into a bowl with some olive oil. Use your hand or a spoon to toss the potatoes around, you want them each to have a little coat of oil. You use less oil and it's easier than trying to drizzle oil on a buncha little pieces of potato.
  • Season well. While you're oiling the potatoes, toss in some salt and pepper as well. You could also add other dry spices at this point (paprika, cayenne, etc.).
  • Make sure each potato piece has adequate elbow room. For adequate browning, you want the hot air in the oven to be able to flow around the pieces. If you have a convection oven, use the convection setting for this.
  • Turn the potatoes at least once (usually after 10 minutes or so) to make sure they get nice and browned from the hot pan. The only exception would be for the galettes (see below).
Here are two sets of pictures, showing different approaches.

First, for oven-fried steak fries, cut your potatoes (these are Yukons) into wedges. Depending on the size of the potato I get 8-12 wedges per potato. Toss them into a large bowl and drizzle on olive oil and sprinkle on salt and pepper. Lay the wedges on a baking sheet and bake at 400 for about 10-15 minutes. Flip them over to brown on the other side.

Make these oven fries by cutting the potatoes into fry shapes, or matchstick fries but cutting the potatoes into ... you got it ... matchsticks. With any shape, the principle is the same: toss with oil, bake spread out on a sheet.

For a super classy approach, make galettes. Cut potatoes into thin slices (a mandoline or V-slicer is good for this). Toss them with oil and salt and pepper in a bowl. Make little flowers with them on a baking sheet (I like to put them on a sheet that's been lined with a Silpat or parchment paper). Bake for about 20 minutes at about 375.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Black Magic

One of the things I love most about cooking, is seeing how simple ingredients come together to produce a dish that's greater than the sum of its parts. Sometimes it feels like magic.

This recipe is one I read on Chocolate & Zucchini, truly a wonderful food blog. I can't urge you strongly enough to wander through it some afternoon. You will find at least a dozen things you must try that instant! Really, it's that lovely a site. Green beans and almonds in a soup don't seem a likely combination. But, think of that classic side dish, green beans almondine - really a classic pairing, and quite nice if prepared with care.

This soup is just great and I have lifted the recipe pretty much word for word from Chocolate & Zucchini. I can't recommend it enough, read the original recipe here. You will be amazed by how nicely the flavors come together: the soup won't taste beany, it will just taste fantastic. We had ours tonight with grilled ham and cheese sandwiches (I love my panini press).

Trader Joe's sells almond meal, which is what I used for this dish. You can make your own ground almonds, by pulsing almonds in a food processor until finely ground.

Green Bean and Almond Soup (a la Rose Bakery, a la Chocolate & Zucchini)

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 onions, peeled and chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • A pound of green beans
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 quart vegetable or chicken stock or water
  • 1 cup almond meal

Heat the oil in a medium soup pot. Add the onions, garlic, and carrots, and cook over medium heat, stirring every now and then, until softened and very lightly golden. In the meantime, trim the green beans and rinse them well. Add to the pot, season with salt and pepper, and cook for five minutes, stirring from time to time.

Pour in the stock or water, bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 30 minutes, until all the vegetables are soft.

In the meantime, pour the powdered almonds in a dry skillet. Set over medium-high heat and toast for about two minutes, stirring constantly and watching closely, until golden and fragrant. Set aside in a bowl to prevent overtoasting.

When the vegetables are soft, add the almod meal to the pot and stir well. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Using an immersion blender or working in batches in a blender, purée the soup until completely smooth. Taste, adjust the seasoning, reheat over gentle heat if necessary, and serve.

4 -6 servings (very nice with a grilled ham and cheese sandwich)

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Week of March 25

This weekend was very busy. I didn’t even have time to go the supermarket until Sunday (I usually try to go on Saturdays after I’ve done my meal planning). Fortunately, I have really been loading up the freezer lately so I knew I’d be able to pull together a good meal plan for this week. There’s an (f) after any item that got defrosted for the week. An * shows what I made on Sunday.

Sauteed haddock with lemon, chilies and spring onions
Potato galettes
Roasted asparagus

Navy bean soup (f)

Soup & Sandwich: Green bean soup with almonds* and grilled ham and cheese sandwiches

Calzone with broccoli, spinach and smoked mozzarella *

The most amazing chili I’ve ever made (f)

Monday night leftovers

Broiled chicken with Indian spices
Dal (f)
Palak paneer (Trader Joe’s)
Naan (Trader Joe’s)

Wednesday leftovers

Polenta lasagna (f)

Wednesday leftovers

Pizza * (made the dough on Sunday)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Turkey Burgers

Thank you Andrea & Mike. This recipe was a referral from them and worked out very nicely. It's based on a MSL Everyday recipe. Find the original recipe here. We had our burgers on onion rolls from the deli.

We ate them with oven roasted potatoes, chopped fennel and cherry. We had fresh spinach, ketchup and lowfat mayonnaise on the burgers.

Turkey Burgers
  • 2 slices whole wheat bread, cut or torn into small pieces
  • 1.25 pounds lean ground turkey (7% fat) (my market only sells turkey in 1.25 pound packages - the original recipe calls for 1 pound of turkey)
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 2-3 tablespoons of your mom's green tomato chutney, if you don't have any of that use prepared mango chutney, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
In a medium bowl, with your hands or a spoon, blend the burger ingredients together. Shape into 4 firmly packed patties. Make sure they aren't too thick, or they will be hard to cook.

Freeze on a baking sheet until firm, about 30 minutes, then wrap each burger in plastic; place all burgers in a resealable freezer bag, label, and date. Freeze up to 2 months.

To cook: Thaw burgers overnight in the refrigerator. Heat broiler with rack set 4 inches from heat. Place burgers on a rimmed baking sheet; broil until firm and cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes per side.

Serve on a toasted roll with all the burger fixings.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Shrimp with Snow Peas

This was a modification of a recipe from this month's Fine Cooking. It's not too far from the original, except the original called for asparagus. Well, the asparagus at my supermarket looked like CRAP, but the snow peas looked okay. So, there you go then ... Shrimp with Snow Peas. We served it over orzo (pasta) which had some chopped parsley and olive oil stirred in. Fairly easy. (Although the difficulty rating does increase as the level in your wine glass gets lower. Ahem.)

Garlicky Shrimp with Snow Peas (or Asparagus)
  • 1 pound shrimp, shelled
  • olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
  • 2 large handfuls of snow peas (or 1 bunch of asparagus, sliced into 2-3" lengths)
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2/3 cup chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch stirred into 1 tablespoon of water (really optional for me - it does add more body to the sauce, but don't get too wound up if you don't have any)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Coat the bottom of a large skillet with olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot hot, add you shrimp in a single layer. Cook for 2 minutes on one side, and another 1-2 minutes on the other. Remove the shrimp to a plate (they will be a little underdone, s'ok).

Heat a little more oil in the same pan and toss in the garlic, snow peas and lemon zest. Saute for a few minutes, then add the chicken broth. Let everything simmer for a minute or two, then add the shrimp back in.

Toss the shrimp in the broth and get everything heated through. If you are concerned about the doneness of the shrimp, cut one in half to check that they are now cooked through (the smaller the shrimp, the faster this will happen). Stir in the cornstarch mixture if using and squeeze the lemon juice in. Let the mixture simmer a few seconds more - it will thicken a little if you've used the cornstarch. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over rice or pasta.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Virtue in a Bowl

So, I didn't plan it for this reason, but this salad was an inspired choice for tonight. We have had a rather heavy start to the week what with bangers and mash and then macaroni and cheese ... lordy. So, a virtuous whole grain salad was just the ticket.

I was planning on making a salad like this, and then I heard a great story about whole grains on Good Food (a wonderful radio show on KCRW - do yourself a favor and podcast it), and then I read a great story about a barley salad on Smitten Kitchen. So really, it was Kismet, this salad. I used wheatberries, because that's what I had, but you could use another grain like barley, cracked wheat, brown rice or even a small pasta (like orzo or ditalini).

Wheatberry Salad
  • 1 1/2 cups wheatberries, cooked
  • 1 eggplant, cubed small (see pics below)
  • 1 red pepper, roasted and chopped (or use some jarred roasted peppers)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 lb cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • handful fennel fronds, chopped
  • handful parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 pound feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (If you don't have any of this stuff, buy some. But in the meantime, use 1 tablespoon of honey and use 3 tablespoons of vinegar instead of 2.)
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl, toss the cubed eggplant with olive oil, salt and pepper. Put the eggplant on a sheet pan and roast for 10-15 minutes until well browned and soft. Set aside.

Put the wheatberries into a large bowl and with the rest of the salad ingredients.

Take a small jar and put all the dressing ingredients in. Shake-shake-shake to blend. Toss the dressing in with the salad. Check the seasoning for salt and acid. If it's too sharp add more oil, not sharp enough add more vinegar ... you get the drill.

Yield: 4-6 main dish servings, depending on the type of grain you choose.

Prepping your eggplant:

Cube size is less important than consistency - the cubes need to be the same size so they. I find it easiest to "dress" the cubes with oil if I stir them in with the oil and salt and pepper in a bowl. Then I throw them onto the sheet pan.

Macaroni and Cheese That Might Not Kill You

Let's get one thing straight. There is no way that eating a half-pound of cheese for dinner can be called healthy. However, if you sneak some cauliflower in there, you increase the fiber and add some vegetables to what is normally a pretty decadent meal.

The trick is to cut your cauliflower into cooked pasta-sized pieces, then it hides among the pasta, stealthily adding nutrients to your dinner. Really, you don't notice it unless it gets pointed out to you. I have successfully served this to avowed no-vegetable-eaters.

I make a double batch and freeze half of it, unbaked, in single-serve portions.

Stealthy-Healthy Macaroni & Cheese
  • 1/2 a head of cauliflower, cut into small florets (see below - if you just want to make regular mac and cheese, leave out the cauliflower and use a pound of pasta)
  • 1/2 pound macaroni, gemelli, cavatappi, fiore, etc.
  • salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups milk (I use 2 cups 1% and 2 cups whole milk)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 cups shredded (12 ounces) sharp white cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup finely grated (2 ounces) Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs, coarse dry breadcrumbs work too)
Put a large pot of salted water on to boil. When boiling, add the cauliflower and cook until just tender (about 3-5 minutes). To save yourself from having to boil a big pot of water again: scoop the cauliflower out into a colander and bring the water back to a boil again. Drop in the pasta and cook 1 to 2 minutes less than package instructions (you want it extra al dente). Drain, rinse with cool water, and return to pot with the cauliflower.

Make the cheese sauce. Depending on your confidence in the kitchen, do this while the water is boiling and the pasta cooking, or wait until the pasta's done so you don't get distracted.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour; cook, whisking, 1 minute. Add milk, cayenne, nutmeg, and 2 teaspoons salt; bring to a simmer. Cook, whisking occasionally, until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk in cheeses until smooth. You have just made cheese sauce. Taste for salt and adjust if needed.

Pour the sauce over pasta and cauliflower and toss to coat - it will be saucy (I like a "wet" mac and cheese). Spoon the pasta into a large baking dish (9" x 13") or four smaller dishes. Sprinkle the panko over the pasta.

To bake: If refrigerated: Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes covered with foil, and another 15 minutes uncovered (for a large dish, smaller dishes will take less time). If frozen: Bake at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes covered with foil, and another 15 minutes uncovered (for a large dish, smaller dishes will take less time). I usually defrost a frozen one overnight.

Prepping your cauliflower:
Make sure you cut your cauliflower into florets about the same size as your cooked pasta will be (otherwise, it won't be stealthy. If you care not for subterfuge, bigger pieces are fine).

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Week of March 18

Lordy, we got about 6-plus inches of snow and then capped that off with a luscious layer of sleet. We are having another one of those cozy-craving weeks. I suppose I shouldn't gripe. The sun is out and the birds are singing. Before long, we'll be muttering about the humidity and debating whether it's too hot to turn on the oven after 8:00 a.m.

Sunday is inspired by Saint Patrick's Day, of course. Although I should confess that I am not a fan of Irish sausages, so our bangers are sweet Italian sausages instead of the traditional Irish ones.

Other recipes for this week have been heavily appropriated from others. I'll make sure to provide attribution in each posting, but until then: Thank you Smitten Kitchen, Andrea & Mike, Fine Cooking Magazine and Riverford Organic Vegetables.

An asterisk denotes food stuffs prepared on Sunday.

Bangers & champ *
Savoy cabbage with mustard seeds *
Chocolate stout cupcakes *

Chickpea deli salad *

Stealthy-healthy macaroni & cheese *
Steamed broccoli


Sunday leftovers

Mediterranean wheatberry salad *

Monday leftovers

Shrimp with snow peas & lemon
Orzo with baby spinach

Tuesday leftovers

Turkey burgers *
Oven baked fries
Side o' veggies: Fennel & carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes

Wednesday leftovers

Steamed and pan-fried Chinese dumplings from Wang’s Fast Food
Cucumber salad

What's in your Lunchbox?

On Monday this salad will be in my lunchbox.

This is a very nice and quick make-ahead salad. It holds well and goes together quickly. It's even faster if you ask your deli man to slice your cheese and salami nice and thick - then all you need to do is cube it and toss it in with the beans.

Chickpea Deli Salad
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • Handful of parsley, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1/2 of a large red pepper, chopped
  • 2 -3 scallions, sliced thin
  • 1 thick slice of deli provolone, cubed
  • 2 thick slices of deli salami, cubed
  • vinaigrette
Toss everything but the dressing together in a medium bowl. Add as much vinaigrette as you think is needed - probably about 1/4 cup. Toss everything in the dressing. Add more to taste. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 2.

This is a very basic formula - use different types of bean, cheese, vegetable and/or cold cut. You can make it more chopped salad-like by putting everything over chopped romaine.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Chili Night

This was a new recipe for me - I made a double batch - and boy am I glad I did. This chili was deeee-licious. This recipe is based on one I found in Gourmet a long time ago called Spicy Princeton Junction Chili (it's not on

The recipe below is for a single batch, but I recommend doubling it and putting some away in the freezer for later.

Beef and Pork Chipotle Chili
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder (I used Penzey's medium chili powder)
  • 2 chipotle chilies in adobo, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes (I used Progresso)
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 3 cups cooked kidney beans (for those of you trying to cook dry beans at home - 1/2 pound of kidney beans are perfect, for those of you not cooking them from scratch: 3 large cans of cooked beans, rinsed, will work fine)

In a large skillet, saute the onions and garlic over medium-high heat until translucent (about 10 minutes), then add the chili powder, chipotles and oregano and saute for another minute. Put the onions into a large dutch oven or stockpot.

Brown the pork and beef, breaking it into small pieces as it cooks (depending on the size of your skillet, you may need to do this in two batches - you will have to do this in two batches if you double the recipe). Drain any fat off the meat and add it to the onions in the dutch oven.

Add the chocolate, tomatoes and broth to the pot. Bring the chili to a simmer and let it simmer for about 1 hour. Add the beans to the pot and simmer another 30 minutes.

Adjust salt to taste. The beef broth is salty, so you may need less salt than you need. If you use canned beans, they will be salty as well, so take heed not to overdo the salt.

Garnish with grated cheese, chopped olives, sliced scallions, salsa, etc. Serve alongside with corn chips or corn bread.

Spring Forward Salad

Okay, so it can be hard to make a salad entirely ahead. Just get everything organized in your fridge on Sunday and all you have to do at mealtime is wash the greens.

This was a very nice salad: spinach and beets greens (I would say the availability of baby greens in my market was the only nice result of the e coli/spinach fiasco.) with salami, mushrooms, carrots, fennel, hardboiled eggs and really nice bread from Annarosa’s bakery in Newburyport.

To make salad ahead for a lunch, wash some extra greens at dinner, dry them really well, wrap them in paper towels and put them into tightly sealed Ziplocs in the refrigerator. They’ll stay pretty crisp for a few days (I’ve gone as long as 5 days this way). Then, when you’re ready to eat – toss everything in the Ziploc bag and shake.

Big Spinach Salad

Per person:

  • 4 cups of one or several of the following: spinach, beet greens, endive, radicchio

  • 1 cup of chopped vegetables: any combination of carrots, celery, scallions, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, etc. (What’s in your refrigerator?)

  • ½ cup of chopped cold cuts and/or cheese

  • a few olives or capers

  • 1-2 hardboiled eggs, peeled and cut into large pieces

  • ¼-½ cup cooked beans (this is a nice way to use up leftover beans)

  • Salad dressing – I usually use a red wine vinaigrette with garlic

Get out a big bowl. Wash and dry the greens and put them in the bowl. Put the vegetables, cold cuts, cheese, and eggs in the bowl. Toss with salad dressing. Serve with toast.

To make ahead: wash and store the greens as directed above. While you’re making the salad for dinner, prep double amounts of the toss-ins. Throw half into a small Tupperware as you go. Then at work, toss the contents of the Tupperware in with the greens (take the paper towels out first) with some dressing, shake it like a Polaroid picture and eat.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Week of March 11

Anything marked with an * means it was made on Sunday.

Sorta-French Dinner
Steamed leeks with mustardy vinaigrette*
Roasted potatoes with tarragon*
Cheese: Boucheron, Wensleydale Cheddar
Green salad *

White bean and collard greens soup with rosemary and parmesan*

Big Salad: spinach, beet greens, hardboiled eggs *, cheese, and sliced mushrooms, carrots and scallions - all tossed with a red wine vinaigrette

Sunday leftovers

Chili *

Monday leftovers

Out for dinner

Tuesday leftovers

Bachelor dinner: baked chicken breast, steamed broccoli, TJ's microwaved brown rice

Wednesday leftovers

Pierogies and salad

Ingredient Spotlight: Dry Beans

After I posted the recipe for Black Bean Soup, I was surprised by how many people told me they had dried bean anxiety. So, as I promised those folks, here are the ins and outs of cooking dried beans.

You can find a wonderful variety at your supermarket - in cooking, they are all treated the same, only some will take longer than others to cook. The different varieties do taste and behave differently, so experiment to see what you like. This variety (all but one) was all purchased at my local supermarket.

small red, soldier, pinto, black
black-eyed, yelloweye, navy, kidney
garbanzo (chickpea), lima, great northern, scarlet runner (grown in Ann's garden last summer)

The Basics: Picking, Rinsing, Soaking

Pick: When beans are processed and packaged, they can get a little dusty. Sometimes, depending on the size the beans, there will also be pebbles or small chunks of dirt in with the beans. So, the first thing you have to do is pick through the beans. This goes pretty quickly: put a handful of beans on a plate, pick out any pebbles or damaged beans, and dump the rest in the pot or bowl you're using. Repeat until all the beans are done. This is really easy if you use a plate that is a contrasting color to the beans.

Rinse: After you've picked through your beans, now you rinse them to remove any dust. Just dump them in a bowl or pot, run in cold water and swish the beans around. Pour off the water and repeat until water runs clear. Depending on your beans, they may need one to four rinses.

Soak: In my opinion, this step is optional. It does speed up cooking, but it requires that you think about soaking your beans at least 8 hours before you cook them. I seldom do it because I can never plan that far ahead. Cover the rinsed beans with 2-3 inches of water. Let them soak for at least 8 hours in the fridge. Soaking can cut cooking time in half. Drain the soaking liquid off before covering them with fresh water for cooking.

Basic Method: Cooking Dry Beans

  • Prep your beans: pick, rinse and soak (if you'd like). Put them into a pot (they will DOUBLE in size, so plan accordingly) and cover with 2-3 inches of water. Add some large pinches of salt. Bring to boil and then simmer until done. Check them every now and then and add more water if needed. You want them covered with water the entire time they are cooking.

  • Depending on your beans, they should take between 45 minutes to 2 hours to cook.

  • Drain and add to chili, make bean dip, put them in your soup, etc.

Other Tips

Don't add acid to the beans until they are almost done. Acid will keep your beans from softening - if your recipe calls for tomatoes, citrus, vinegar, or any other acidic ingredients, wait until the beans are done. The nice thing is if your beans are starting to get too soft, the acid can help hold them together.

If your bean's skins won't soften, you can try adding a little baking soda (1-2 teaspoons) to the water. The soda does the opposite of the acid - it should soften things up a bit.

If you're going to add beans to a chili or a minestrone, or some such thing, it's good to cook the beans in a separate pot, then add them to the main dish. It be very stressful to wait for beans to soften while your minestra is perfect ... except for those damn crunchy beans!

Cooked beans freeze well. Cover them with a little cooking liquid and then into the freezer they go.


Most store bought beans are fine in the bags they come in. Keep them in a cabinet or cupboard - in a dry, dark place. It's very pretty to decant beans into jars to display, but unless you're planning on using them soon, leave them as decor and buy a new bag to cook.

If you are fortunate enough to have a source of fresh dried beans (not a complete oxymoron: these are dried beans that are only a few months dried) keep those beans in ziplocs in the freezer unless you are certain they are 100% dry dry dry (then store them like storebought beans). Otherwise, they can get moldy and you will be sad ... very sad, when you open your jar of furry blue beans.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

A Happy Circumstance

So ... I just happened to be perusing the latest issue of Saveur and read the extensive story on shrimp. Then ... I read that Northern (or Maine) Shrimp are only harvested for a limited season and that's RIGHT NOW. Then ... I went to Whole Foods at lunch and saw them in the seafood case. The very nice fella I talked to confirmed that they had come in that morning (and were mostly likely swimming in the bay 24 hours prior) and were probably the last shipment they'd get for the season. So, what else to do but buy a pound and bring them home for supper?

They were good. But I will admit, Dave and I weren't blown away by them - I am wondering if we got a mild catch, or if our tastebuds have just been reset to expect more intense flavors (more likely the latter then the former). That said, it was a lovely dinner and was on the table in a jiffy: Maine Shrimp sauteed with butter, shallots and garlic, steamed broccolini, sliced fennel and baguette.

Sauteed Maine Shrimp
  • 1 pound Maine shrimp
  • 4 tablespoons butter or oil
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • salt

Rinse the shrimp and pat it a little dry. Melt the butter in a large skillet. Toss in the shallots and garlic. When everything is sizzling, toss in the shrimp. Spread them into a single layer and sprinkle some salt over. Let them sit for a minute then stir them around (gently, these shrimp are delicate). Let them sit again and stir them again after a minute or so. They don't take long to took at all: maybe 5 minutes tops.

Scoop them out into bowls. Squeeze a little lemon over if you'd like. Peel and eat - finger bowls or wet napkins are a must. Ideally, the whole meal should be "finger friendly" so you don't get things too messy.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Navy Bean Soup

In addition to being on a casserole kick, I am also on a bean soup jag. Again, I cite the cold and the related need for coziness as my defense. The fortunate thing is this: there is no shame in loving a good bean soup.

First though: In talking to friends, I have discovered that there are people out there who fear dried beans (eek!). So, this weekend, I'll be posting a leguminous dissertation about beans and bean cookery. Stay tuned ...

Tonight's soup recipe is below, do not be skeptical of the limited ingredient list, and the secret ingredient.

Navy Bean Soup
  • 1 pound navy beans (these are small white beans, not to be confused with cannellini which are large white beans)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 pound ham, chopped (I get thick sliced ham at the deli counter and cube it)
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup ketchup, to taste
  • salt and pepper

Pick over and rinse the beans. Put them in a bowl and cover them with water. In a large soup pot, saute the onion in a little olive oil until soft and translucent, about 5-10 minutes, depending on the size of your chop.

Drain the beans and add them to the soup pot with the onions. Cover the beans with water (you want the water to be about 1" above the beans) and bring to a boil. Add salt (2 - 3 teaspoons). When the water is boiling, turn down the heat and simmer the beans until soft and smooshy, adding more water as needed (you don't want them falling apart, but they should be the opposite of al dente: gently yielding). Depending on the age of your beans, this could take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours. Add the ham after the beans have started simmering.

When the beans are done, take your trusty potato masher and mash some of the soup up so it becomes creamy. Add more water if everything is too think.

Squirt in the ketchup. Start with 1/4 cup and see what it tastes like to you: you should taste a little tomato, but what you should find is that the ketchup brings the "beaniness" together with the onion and the ham. Add more ketchup if you'd like (remember this is not tomato soup ... unless you want it to be). Adjust salt to taste and grind in lots of pepper.

Makes 4-5 servings. I usually make a double batch of bean soups - so easy to freeze.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Baked Pasta with Greens and Sausage

I have been on a casserole kick lately, I admit. But, it's been cold out and I've been busy, so casseroles are perfect make aheads. Feel free to adjust the greens, the sausage and the cheese - there are a lot of ways you can modify this to fit what you have in the pantry.

Baked Pasta with Greens and Sausage
  • 12 oz. pasta (I used whole wheat spaghetti)
  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe, washed and chopped
  • 1 pound sausage, cooked
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups part-skim ricotta
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan

Cook the pasta. When it's cooked through, but still al dente, drain it and set aside.

While the pasta's cooking, saute the broccoli rabe in a large skillet. When it's wilty and cooked through, put it into a large bowl. Stir together the greens, cooked sausage, tomatoes and ricotta. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Stir the pasta into the bowl. When everything is blended together, put the mixture into a large baking dish.

Sprinkle the parmesan over the top. Cover with foil.

To bake: Bake the foil covered dish at 350 for 30 minutes, then uncover the dish and bake for about 30 more minutes.

Makes 4-6 generous servings

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Week of March 4 - March Forth!

Ok, cheated a little - I made the Navy Bean Soup on Saturday, not Sunday.

Anything marked with an * means it was made on Sunday and (r) means there's a recipe for it on this blog.

Ann & Jim are coming for supper!
To start:
Crostini and crudites with olive spread and arugula salsa
For dinner:
Grilled boneless leg of lamb, marinated in red wine, garlic, tamarind, pepper and rosemary *
Farinata (chickpea crepe) *
Roasted beet salad with walnut vinaigrette *
Green salad *

Tuna and chickpea salad *

Baked pasta with sausage and broccoli rabe *

Lamb sandwiches
Beet salad

Navy bean soup

Monday leftovers

Eggplant parmesan (r)

Tuesday leftovers

Indian food (when I don't make my own, we eat the shelf-stable stuff you get at Trader Joe's - rather salty, but not bad in a pinch.) served with yogurt and lime wedges

Wednesday leftovers

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