Friday, November 30, 2007

Pasta Inspiration

Got home on Wednesday night, not too excited to make the healthful vegetarian option I had planned for that evening. Then Dave expressed a desire for something a little basic and comforting, like pasta.

So, I jumped into the fray and created this dish for us. I chopped up some butternut squash and sauteed the cubes until they were lightly browned and softened. Then I tossed in a sliced leek, sauteed some more. Threw in the broccoli. Tossed the whole thing over pasta with farmer and parmesan cheeses. Quite a success.

Next time, I will make this so there are more veggies in the sauce, and that's the way I wrote the recipe up for you.

Pasta with Butternut Squash, Leeks and Broccoli
  • 1 1/2 cups cubed butternut squash (little bite-sized cubes, about dice-sized - 1/2 a medium squash)
  • 3/4 cup sliced leek (about 1 medium leek, including some of the green part of the leek - could also use 1/2 scallion, if leeks are unavailable)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped broccoli
  • 8 oz. pasta (shells, rigatoni, penne)
  • parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup crumbled farmer's cheese (or feta)
In a large skillet, heat up a little olive oil. When hot, toss in the squash. Saute over high heat until browning and softened (about 7-10 minutes, depending on the size of your cubes). Add the leeks to the skillet. Saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the broccoli and garlic and saute - add a little water (about 1/4 cup) to the skillet if everything seems too dry. The sauce is done when the broccoli is cooked (still crisp-tender).

In the meantime, boil up your pasta. If the sauce is done ahead of the pasta, just hold it on low heat until the pasta is finished. Toss the pasta with the vegetable sauce and the cheeses. Season with salt and pepper.

Serves 3-4.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Week of November 25

Welcome back from your Thanksgiving holiday. We had a very restful and thankful four days off and hope you did too. Now that the starting gun for the holiday season has gone off, I hope to remain mindful of what's truly important while managing the stressful aspects of this time of year.

I did most of cooking on Saturday this week, as Sunday was spent at a Pampered Chef party at my friend Jim's house. It was a lot of fun and I spent too much money (fun!).

On Saturday, I:
  • Made the Shrimp Gumbo from the December issue of Fine Cooking
  • Made French Onion Soup (sort of) from the December issue of Saveur (I added creamed onions and mashed potatoes left over from Thanksgiving dinner)
  • Cooked up some beans on the woodstove
  • Prepped green salads
  • Made Saturday dinner :-)
Menu for the Week
Indian dinner
Chicken with Indian spices (adapted from December Fine Cooking)
Spinach with paneer
Moon dal

Pan fried haddock with scallions, garlic, ginger and green chilies
Bok choy with peanuts
White rice

Shrimp gumbo
Corn bread
Green salad

Semi-French onion soup (has creamed onions and mashed potatoes stirred into it)
Green salad

White bean puree with rosemary and olive oil
Roast butternut squash
Broccoli with lemon and black olives

Green curry chicken soup with rice noodles


Friday, November 23, 2007

Drink of the Week: Bald Head Cocktail

First, I have no idea where this drink's name comes from. I found the recipe on CocktailDB by dong a random search for gin-based cocktails. (Anyone out there with an idea?) The name caught my eye, and then I noticed we had all the ingredients on hand, and the choice was made.

What we both found wonderful about this drink was the way the pastis merged with the vermouths to produce a rich, honeyed flavor. It was really great; not "ginny" at all.

Bald Head Cocktail
Shake together in an iced shaker:
  • 1 1/2 oz. gin
  • 1 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 1 oz. dry vermouth
  • dash of pastis (Pernod or Ricard may be names you are familiar with)
Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Week of November 18

This is an "easy" week ... Only three work days to plan for. Oh ... and Thanksgiving. Happy Turkey y'all.

The picture is of my bee-yoo-tee-ful quince caramels (post to come).

On Sunday, I:
  • Did battle with about 10,000 other supermarket shoppers
  • Made Alice Waters' carrot soup
  • Made lentil soup
  • Made Sunday dinner
Menu for the week
Italian-style meatloaf
Broccoli di rape

Carrot soup
Ham and cheese sandwiches

Baked pasta with ricotta and mozzarella

Lentil soup

Tryptophan Fiesta and recovery period

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Drink of the Week: Pomopolitan

Don't let looks deceive you, this is not Carrie Bradshaw's Cosmopolitan.

I bought a bottle of pomegranate simple syrup and we've been trying it in a few drinks. (Yes, I know that pomegranate simple syrup is technically just grenadine, but a lot of what you can find is just colorful sugar water, no pomegranate involved.)

  • 2 oz. gin
  • 1/2 oz. pomegranate simple syrup
  • juice of 1 lime
Put all everything into an iced cocktail shaker and shake shake shake. Strain into a martini glass.

Friday, November 16, 2007

"Leeky" Pasta

Last night's dinner was inspired by a recipe from December's Bon Appetit (original here). It was already a pretty easy recipe, but I made it even less fiddly (no parsley-walnut pesto, although it does sound nice). It was on the table in less than 20 minutes and was really satisfying.

Angel Hair Pasta with Leeks and Radicchio
  • 2-3 large leeks, washed, large leaves trimmed off
  • olive oil
  • 1 softball-sized head of radicchio
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • parmesan cheese
  • 1 pound angel hair pasta
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • salt and pepper
Set your pasta water aboilin'.

Cut the leeks into 4" long(ish) pieces and then slice (the long way) into long, thin ribbons. Heat a large skillet over high heat and saute the leeks in olive oil with a prinkle of salt until softened and browning in spots.

While the leeks are cooking, slice the radicchio into long shreds (discard the core sections).

After about 10 minutes, the leeks should be softened. Toss in the radicchio and turn down the heat. Add the butter and grate in some parmesan cheese. Toss everything together and hold over a warm flame.

When the water starts boiling, add your angel hair (it won't take long to cook) and cook to al dente. Drain the pasta and add it to the leek mixture. Toss in the pine nuts.

Serves about 4

This would be really nice with whole wheat spaghetti.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Butternut Squash Salad

This is another photo from my "oh crap we forgot to take a picture before dinner" series. I just love posting slightly appetizing pictures of leftovers on plastic plates in my office.

Anyhoo ... this is a really great salad. I am not a huge butternut squash fan, and when I do eat it I prefer a savory preparation (no maple syrup or brown sugar for me). This salad is one I read about on Orangette. She lifted it from the Casa Moro Cookbook (which I haven't read yet, but will be soon).

This doesn't really need a recipe, but I'll post it below anyway. The tahini/lemon combo is great on the squash. If you are a cilantro-hater (you know who you are) try parsley, mint and/or fennel fronds instead.

Butternut Squash and Chickpea Salad
  • 1 butternut squash (about 2 1/2 pounds), peeled, seeded and cut into bite-size chunks (your call on what "bite size" means, just make sure the pieces are about the same size)
  • 1 finely minced clove of garlic
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red or sweet onion (or scallions)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro (or one of the alternate herb options above)
  • 3 tablespoons tahini (stir it well before measuring)
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 lemon's worth of juice)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons water
Toss the squash with the garlic, a drizzle of olive oil (just so it's shiny, not drenched) and salt to taste. Roast in a 425 oven on a baking sheet until tender and gently browned.

While the squash is roasting, toss the chickpeas, onion and cilantro together in a bowl.

Make the dressing: whisk or shake together (in a jar) the tahini, lemon juice, 3 tablespoons olive oil and water. Taste for salt and pepper.

When the squash is done, throw it into the bowl with the chickpeas. Toss with the dressing (you may not need all of it) and serve.

This makes super leftovers, but definitely follow Molly's (and my) advice, and heat the leftovers up to just warm before eating. Toss with a little more dressing.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Everyone Loves a Casserole

Well, everyone seemed to love this one.

I brought some of this into the office and everyone who had a bite thought it was great. Sorry for the lousy picture - we didn't take one at home, so this artfully-styled shot of leftovers was taken in my office.

This recipe is lifted pretty liberally from Homesick Texan. I recommend you check out her post for the story of this casserole and her relationship with it.

Don't freak out, this is a long recipe, but it's easy.

King Ranch Chicken Casserole

  • 2 pounds bone-in chicken breast (or 1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken)
  • 1 lime
  • sprinkle chili powder
  • drizzle olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups cooked chicken

  • 4 tablespoons butter (you need butter to make a roux - you can use olive oil, but use 4 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 poblano pepper, diced (or 1 green pepper and 1 jalapeno, diced)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 cup of chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup half and half or whole milk
  • 1 10oz. can of Ro-Tel tomatoes, original-style (or a can regular diced tomatoes and 2 diced jalapenos)
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup of cilantro, chopped
  • 10-12 corn tortillas (I really like Whole Foods yellow corn tortillas)
  • 1/4 cup of cilantro, chopped
  • 3 cups of grated pepper jack and cheddar cheeses
If using raw chicken: Put the chicken on a baking sheet, sprinkle with chili powder and salt. Squeeze lime over the meat and drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 350 until done, 25 minutes for bonesless breasts, 40+ minutes for bone-in. Set aside until cool and the shred meat into bite size pieces.

If using cooked chicken: Toss chicken with a squeeze of lime juice and a sprinkle of chili powder.

Melt the butter in a saucepan on medium, and add the onions, red bell pepper and poblano pepper. Cook for 10 minutes, until lightly browned and softened.

Add the garlic, flour, cumin, cayenne pepper and chili powder, and cook for 1 minute.

Add the chicken broth and cook on low until mixture is thickened, a few minutes. Stir in the half-and-half or milk and Ro-Tel cover the pot, and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Uncover the pot, and add the sour cream and 1/4 cup of cilantro, and add salt and pepper to taste. Take pot off heat.

Heat up the tortillas (you can do this by adding a bit of oil on an iron skillet and then cooking the tortillas for about 30 seconds on each side, or buy laying tortillas across the open flame of a gas burner).

Ladle 1/2 cup of the sauce onto the bottom of an 11x7 (or 8x10) inch baking pan.

Layer the tortillas along the bottom of the pan (on top of the sauce). Tear tortillas in half if needed to make an even layer. Layer half the chicken, half the remaining sauce, half the remaining cilantro and 1 1/2 cups of grated cheese into the pan.

Make another layer of sauce, chicken, cilantro and cheese. Make sure the top layer is cheese.

If making ahead, refrigerate, covered, for up to 3 days.

To cook: Bake at 350 for 30 minutes if making right away. A refrigerated casserole will take about 45 minutes to an hour. Either way, bake until browned and bubbling. Serve with sour cream and additional chopped cilantro.

Serves 6-8.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Week of November 11

November is NaBloPoMo. Since I can't keep up with the daily posting schedule, I am apparently trying to make up for it by overdoing it the kitchen every weekend. It's my masochistic streak, I guess.

On Sunday, I:
  • Made confiture de lait per Pim. Our woodstove was hummin' and it provided the perfect even heat needed to cook this stuff for the requisite 3 hours.(!)
  • Made quince caramels, ibid. Therefore, I poached several quinces (see photo), which leads to:
  • Baked a quince tart.
  • Stewed up a pot of white chicken chili.
  • Baked beets.
  • Made chard and mozzarella calzones.
  • Made Sunday dinner.
Menu for the Week
Stuffed portobello mushroom caps
Sweet potato oven fries
Sauteed cauliflower with scallions
Quince tart

White chicken chili
Fennel and orange salad

Falafel plate
Beets with walnut sauce

Calzones with swiss chard and mozzarella

Pasta with leeks and radicchio (inspired by a Bon Appetit recipe from the December issue)

Franks 'n' beans

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Gingersnappy Snack

I made the gingersnaps from David Lebovitz's website on Sunday. They are quite delicious (although I think my ginger was a little old - so they aren't quite hot enough. Sounds like it's time for a trip to Penzeys!)

This is a "slice and bake" cookie recipe, which means you don't need to make all the cookies at once. Perfect for the holidays.

Go to David's site for the recipe. You won't be disappointed.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Week of November 4

Recipe-palooza this weekend! Lots of new recipes and a few improvisations, and each one worked pretty well.

This picture is one of the improvs: a salad of shredded radicchio, sliced green apple, pomegranate seeds and pistachios. I sprinkled it with red wine vinegar and a little olive oil. Would be quite festive on a holiday table.

On Sunday, I:

Week Menu
Sunday Lunch with Ann
Potato and leek soup
Radicchio and apple salad
Polenta crackers
Ice cream cake

Sunday Dinner
Grilled flank steak, teriyaki style
Roasted mushrooms and broccoli with sesame
Poached pears with gingersnaps

Butternut squash salad with chickpeas and tahini dressing
Green salad

Sweet potato sausage soup

King Ranch chicken casserole

Mushroom barley soup (freezer)
Green salad

Green salad

Friday, November 2, 2007

Drink of the Week: French Apple

A seasonal cocktail choice. This drink is based on a Canadian Apple (Canadian whiskey and calvados). We didn't have any calvados on hand, but we did have some apple cider and some French armagnac.

So, a drink is born ...

French Apple

Put into an iced cocktail shaker:
  • 1 3/4 oz. rye
  • 3/4 oz. armagnac
  • 3/4 oz. apple cider (not hard cider)
  • squeeze of lemon juice
Shake and strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with a slice of apple.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Spicy Grain Soup?

This recipe is from Food and Wine magazine via Cream Puffs in Venice. I am always looking for healthy, hearty soups and stews and I am sure that this soup (and myriad versions) will frequently find a place on our table.

When made and served right away, this soup is soupy (duh), but when made ahead and held for two days, it ends up looking like this picture. It becomes a risotto-type dish which could work as a side dish too.

I modified the recipe based on what I had on hand (added quinoa, couldn't find parsnips, etc.); for the "official" recipe check the link below. I am not certain that the initial 45 minutes of simmering really needs to be that long, but everything pureed beautifully with my immersion blender (no pepper skins or unwelcome chunks of garlic).

Spicy Grain Soup (adapted from Food and Wine, November 2007)
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 1 cup brown basmati rice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 ancho or dried mulato chiles—stemmed, seeded and broken into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, halved
  • 2 quarts low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • One 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 6 cilantro sprigs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 pound mushrooms, stems discarded, chopped
  • One 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 medium zucchini, finely diced (same size as mushrooms)
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  • chopped cilantro, about 1/4 cup
Cook the barley and brown rice (I used my rice cooker and cooked each separately. I see no reason why you couldn't use leftover brown rice that you bought at a Chinese restaurant). Have the grains cooking while you're making the rest of the soup.

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil and add the chiles, onion and garlic. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the broth, tomatoes, and cilantro sprigs and season with 1 tablespoon of salt and a pinch of pepper. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes.

Puree the soup with an immersion blender or in a blender and return to the pan.

Add the mushrooms, black beans and zucchini to the pureed soup and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Add the barley and rice and season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls, sprinkle with chopped cilantro, and squeeze a lime wedge over each serving.

Note: This will turn stewy and risotto-like if made ahead. If you want to keep it soupy, don't add the grains until you want to serve: keep them aside, heat the soup base and then scoop in the grains to heat through.
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