Thursday, August 27, 2009

So good minestrone ..... with fish!

This recipe made the entire house smell wonderful and provided two great lunches. It was also my first time cooking with dried beans. The key is to remember to soak them overnight; other than that, they cook pretty normally! The recipe's title is "Fall Vegetable Minestrone" but I found it worked well even in late August. Try this recipe when you want a bunch of veggies but just can't think of anything new.

Whitefish Fall Vegetable Minestrone
(from the magazine Clean Eating)
serves 4 (in my opinion. I also halved the original recipe)

1 cup white lima beans (soaked over night)
1 1/2 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 cup carrots, diced
1 cup yellow onion, diced small
3/4 cup celery, diced small
2 1/2 garlic cloves, sliced
1/4 t dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 T tomato paste
1 cup gewurztraminer wine (I used a white Loire valley wine because i find this particular German wine too sweet for my taste)
1 quart vegetable stock (Swanson's organic vegetable worked fine)
1 t fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup collard greens, julienned
1 t kosher salt
1/8 t fresh ground pepper
2 T parmesano reggiano, grated
1/2 t fresh thyme leaves (for garnish)
about 1 lb of white fish, such as halibut, sole or tilapia

1. Cover lima beans with water and soak overnight, drain.
2. Place a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add oil, carrots, onions and celery to pan. Sweat vegetables until onions are translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme and bay leaf and cook for an additional minute. Ad tomato paste, incorporating well. Deglaze pan with wine and add lima beans. Add stock and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the lima beans are tender.
3. Once the beans are tender, add lemon juice, collard greens, kosher salt and pepper. Set aside on low heat.
4. Season raw fish with salt and pepper on each side. Add oil to medium-size saute pan on high. Once pan is hot, gently place fillets in pan with skin side up. Sear until golden brown and turn. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook until the fillets have cooked through. Remove from heat and set aside.
5. Ladle coup and vegetables into serving dish. Place fish fillet on top and finish with grated Parmesan, thyme leaves, and oil.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Baking Queen

What does one do with pounds of apples from your CSA? Make a french dessert, of course! With 2 1/2 lbs of apples I turned to Julia Child for her Pouding Alsacien or Gratin of Sauted Apples. Of course, it was so amazing, the camera flash was not quick enough and you'll have to make due with the easy recipe for an amazing cold dessert dish. Seriously, if you like apples and want to impress, try this baby on for size.

Pouding Alsacien from
This simple apple dessert is always better if prepared the day before it is eaten, as a good 24 hours are needed for a slow blending of flavors.

2 1/2 lbs firm cooking apples (Golden Delicious)
4 to 5 T butter
A 10 to 12 inch skillet
A lightly buttered baking dish, 8 to 9 inches in diameter and 2 inches deep
3/4 cup plum jam, forced through a sieve
2 T rum
A rubber spatula
4 T butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 egg yolks
1 T all-purpose flour
1/2 t cinnamon
1 cup fresh whole wheat or rye bread crumbs
2 egg whites
punch of salt
1/2 T granulated sugar
powdered sugar in a shaker

Quarter, core and peel the apples. Cut into 1/4-inch lengthwise slices. You should have about 7 cups.

Saute the apples, one layer at a time, in hot butter until they are very lightly browned on both sides and tender, but retain their shape. As they are done, place them in the baking dish.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks, then the flour and cinnamon, and finally the bread crumbs.

Beat the egg whites and salt until soft peaks are formed; sprinkle on the sugar and beat until stiff peaks are formed. Fold the egg whites into the bread-crumb mixture and spread evenly over the apples.

Bake in middle level of preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until top has puffed slightly and has just begun to color. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and continue baking another 20 to 25 minutes; the top should be a nice golden brown under the sugar.

Allow to cool, then chill, prederably 24 hours.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


So my "dirty pots" post was a sure failure, but of a recipe that had won before. I repeated tonight and had a success with the Better Homes and Gardens "Pepper-Lime Chicken".
The recipe has become a favorite because it is an easy way to use lots of chicken legs (a cheap meat purchase from my CSA) that is also low in fat and calories (without skin, it is 4.5 Weight Watcher points for four entire chicken legs). Basically you broil the legs for 20 minutes, brush with seasoning, then broil 15 minutes more. Make sure you know your boiler before you attempt this recipe.

The second part of this post is on a new recipe for a different way to use kale. I received 1lb of kale with my CSA last week and was at a loss of what to do. I don't like using bacon grease to cook it and really don't like cooking it all day with fatback, the two ways I've been taught. So I went to the Joy of Cooking and found a Potato and Kale Gratin to try.

It turned out "OK". It fix it to our tastes, I added shredded cheddar cheese and Justin added that plus some red wine vinegar to it. Add your own additions and suggestions please.

Pepper-Lime Chicken
(from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook)

2 to 2 1/2 lbs meaty chicken pieces (breasts, thighs and drumsticks(
1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lime peel
1/4 cup lime juice
1 T cooking oil (I always use olive oil)
2 cloves garlic, minced (or put two large cloves through a garlic press)
1 t dried thyme or basil, crushed (our fav is always thyme with chicken)
1/2 to 1 t cracked black pepper
1/4 t salt

1. Skin chicken. Rinse chicken; pat dry. Place chicken pieces, bone sides up, on the unheated rack of a broiler pan. Broil 4 to 5 inches from the heat about 20 minutes or till lightly browned.
2. Meanwhile, for glaze, in a bowl stir together lime peel, lime juice, oil, garlic, thyme or basil, pepper, and salt. Brush chicken with glaze. Turn chicken; brush with more glaze. Broil for 5 to 15 minutes more or till chicken is tender and no longer pink, brushing often with gaze during the last 5 minutes of cooking. Makes 6 servings.

Kale and Potato Gratin
(From the Joy of Cooking)
6 Servings

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter a 2-quart shallow baking dish.
Steam, until almost tender, 8 to 10 minutes:
1 large bunch kale (about 1 lb), washed well and sliced and deribbed
Meanwhile, peel and cut into 1/8-inch rounds:
4 medium Yukon Gold or all-purpose potatoes (about 1 1/4 pounds)
2 small onions
Drain the kale and let stand until cool enough to handle. Press the excess water and coarsely chop. Build up alternating layers of potatoes, onions and kale (2 layers of each) in the baking dish, beginning and ending with potatoes and dotting each onion later with:
2 T butter, cut into pieces
(1 t minced tarragon)
1/2 t salt
1/4 t black pepper
Pour over the top:
1 1/2 cups milk or half-and-half
Cover and bake until the potatoes are tender and almost all the liquid is absorbed, 30 to 45 minutes. Run under the broiler, if desired, to brown the top.

Making Healthy Foods Unhealthy

Thanks to Julia Child, my beautiful green beans from my C.S.A. became heart-cloggers. "Haricots Verts a la Creme" or just "Beans in cream sauce" was amazing. It was the easiest in a host of recipes that adds cream to veggies to make them nothing like what nature intended. I really wished I had a pic, but you can imagine beans smothered in cream pretty well. Check it out in her famous "Mastering the Art of French Cooking".

Haricots Vert a la Creme
for 6 to 8 people
3 lbs green beans, trimmed and washed
A wide, heavy-bottomed, enameled saucepan or skillet
Salt and pepper to taste
3 Tb softened butter
2 cups whipping cream
A lid for the pan

A hot vegetable dish
3 Tb fresh minced savory, tarragon, or parsley

Blanch the beans in 7 to 8 quarts of rapidly boiling salted water, drain them 3 to 4 minutes before they are tender. Toss the beans in the pan over moderately high heat to evaporate their moisture. Then toss with the salt, pepper, and butter. Pour in the cream, cover the pan, and boil slowly for 5 minutes or so, until beans are tender and cream has reduced by half. Season to taste.

Turn into hot vegetable dish, sprinkle with herbs, and serve at once.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

easy dinners still make dirty dishes

I've been sticking to extremely easy cooking this week. Mostly quick meals with protein, veggie and starch. My favorite veggie was zucchini sauted with garlic, an entire onion, and in the end, red wine vinegar. I'm wondering if another vinegar would have gone better. I just got some white wine vinegar and "pear-infused" vinegar.

I'm curious what everyone else's ideas are for quick meal things. I've had pre-seasoned chicken breasts, cubed steak, easy seasoned pork chops on a skillet, that zucchini, fresh corn and microwavable rice. Are there better ideas out there? I've also been eating up my tomatoes with a little salt for both an appetizer and a late-night snack.

Easy Parmesan-Crusted Pork Chops

2 large eggs
1 cup dried Italian-style bread crumbs
3/4 cups freshly grated Parmesan
4 (1/2 to 3/4-inch thick) center-cut pork loin chops
salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 T olive oil
Lemon wedges, for serving

Whisk the eggs in a pie plate to blend. Place the bread crumbs in another pie plate. Place the cheese in a third pie plate. Sprinkle the pork chops generously with salt and pepper. Coat the chops completely with the cheese, patting to adhere. Dip the chops into the eggs, then coat completely with the bread crumbs, patting to adhere.
Heat 3 T of oil in a very large skillet over medium heat. Add pork chops, in batches if necessary, and cook until golden brown and the center reaches 150 degrees, about 6 minutes per side. Transfer the chops to plates and serve with lemon wedges.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Simply Grill

Oh man. So tonight was a night of the grill. Sure, the meat was meat and needed nothing but a little spice. A little "special" spice, Bubba Brand Steak Shake! (If anyone knows where we can get some more, please share.) But tonight i tried something called "Mexican grilled corn" and was in heaven. I keep forgetting how little preparation things for the grill need and how just being on that heat can transport something simple into something amazing. However, if you want to move to the next step past amazing, try this this trick with your corn next time.

Mexican Grilled Corn
(Cooking Illustrated)

1/4 c reg or light mayo
3 T sour cream
3 T minced fresh cilantro leaves
1 med garlic clove, through garlic press
3/4 t chilli powder
1/4 t ground black pepper
1/4 t cayenne pepper (optional)
4 t juice from 1 lime
1 ounce Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (about 1/2 c)
4 t vegetable oil
1/2 t salt
6 large ears corn

1. heat grill
2. While grill is heating, combine mayo, sour cream, cilantro, garlic, 1/4 t chili powder, black powder, cayenne, lime juice, and cheese in a large bowl; set aside. In second large bowl, combine oil, salt, and remaining 1/2 t chili powder; add corn and toss until coated evenly.
3. Grill corn over coals, turning occasionally, until lightly charred on all sides, 7 to 12 minutes total. Remove from grill and place in a bowl with mayo mixture; toss to coat evenly. Serve immediately.

Pasta Night

Tonight I actually used something I grew. My tomato plant has been sputtering along, so I don't have any actual tomatoes, but to my delight, I found a recipe using tomato leaves. It's a tomato sauce that uses the leaves for an extra punch of flavor. I used the tomatoes from my CSA, so I stayed pretty natural. For a side, I made a buttermilk herb dressing that went on iceberg lettuce, tomatoes and red onion. After the previous night's fiasco of over flavor and the dressing last night being very strong, I'm wondering if the garlic I got is somehow more pungent than normal. I should remember to halve the garlic with this particular bulb.

Leafy Tomato Sauce
(Adapted from "Cooking by Hand," by Paul Bertolli)

2 T olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
5 lbs fresh tomatoes, halved
10 to 15 tomato leaves from unsprayed plants
Cooked pasta for serving

1. In a large pot, heat olive oil on medium heat, add onion and garlic, and cook until soft, about 10 minutes.
2. Add tomatoes, turn heat to high and bring to a boil, stirring and mashing to break up tomatoes. Turn heat down and simmer, uncovered, until mixture has thickened, about an hour.
3. Pass mixture though a food mill or coarse strainer to remove skins and seeds. Return sauce to pot and season with salt to taste. Ten minutes before serving, heat to a simmer and stir whole tomato leaves into sauce. Ladle sauce onto cooked pasta; let leaves stay behind in pot.

Makes about 2 quarts.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Not so Yummy Tonight

I would post on what I ate tonight, if it had been awesome. It was good, but not awesome. Pretty garlicy and cilantro-y. But anyway, tomorrow I have a great recipe for an unusual tomato sauce and a restaurant-style salad. Stay tuned for new food discoveries!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Dinner with a Friend

I love how no matter what you make, if you make it with a good friend, it always turns out a treat.

For those of you who have an eggplant or two from your own C.S.A., I have a great light summer meal (vegetarian too, but you can ignore that part). I stumbled on this recipe only because I had an eggplant to use and a small budget (and some picky tastes). I was lucky enough to have invited myself over to a friend's place to make her dinner, and so had an audience for this meal. If I tried this at home with the guy it would have never gotten off the ground.

So the recipe is basically an eggplant and red pepper salad dressed with capers, lemon juice, parsley and garlic. I think I might have used more capers than it called for (we had to measuring spoons) or it is just a strong dressing, but we liked it on homemade white bread. We made sure to stop the healthiness in its tracks and put slices of brie between the bread and salad. Topped off with a glass of moscato and good conversation, it became one of those summer meals you wish you could have every summer night.

Here's to Mel and the use of her awesome new kitchen!

Eggplant with Capers and Red Peppers
(Cooking Light August 2009)

1 medium eggplant (about 1 1/4 pounds)
1 medium red bell pepper
1/4 c finely chopped red onion
3 T capers
2 T chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 t salt
1/4 t crushed red pepper
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced

1. Preheat broiler
2. Pierce eggplant several times with a fork; place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Broil 30 min or until blackened, turning frequently. Cool eggplant slightly; peel and chop.
3. Cut bell pepper in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membranes. Place pepper halves, skin sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet; flatten with hand. Broil 15 min or until blackened. Place in zip-top plastic bag; seal. Let stand 15 min. Peel and chop.
4. Combine eggplant, bell pepper, onion, and remaining ingrediants in a medium bowl; toss well. Yield: 8 servings (as a side, 3 as a meal).

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Dirty Pots

I have to write one more thing today, this about a small disaster. We (sig. other and I) have been planning on cooking some chicken legs for a while now, putting it off too long. Ie: the legs have been thawed in the fridge a day longer than makes us comfortable. However, my fear of wasting food won out and I cooked them as planned, just a little longer under the broiler. I forgot, however, that our broiler requires us to place the meat one level down than normal. I also let it cook a little longer, eager to kill any evil samonella. Result: so much burning and charring, all windows had to be opened. Any of the marinade that was on there was now burnt to a literal crisp, which you can see below. sigh. Let this be a lesson to me to use food when it should be used.

What's for dinner tonight

I made this one recipe before, with a friend staying over. The second time making something always works better. This is a great light meal to make if you have fresh basil and tomatoes on hand. I'm making it tonight because I have leftover phyllo dough and feta from the soup I made last weekend.

Phyllo Pizza with Feta, Basil, and Tomatoes
(From Cooking Light)

1/2 cup (2 oz) shredded moz. cheese
1/2 cup (2 oz) feta cheese
1/4 cup (1 oz) grated fresh parmigiano-reddiano cheese
1 T chopped fresh oregano
1/4 t salt
1/8 t freshly ground black pepper
10 (18 x 14-inch) sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
Cooking spray
2 c thinly sliced plum tomato
1/3 c thinly sliced green onions
1/4 c fresh basil leaves

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Combine first 6 ingredients in a bowl.
3. Cut phyllo sheets in half crosswise. Working with 1 phyllo sheet half at a time, place phyllo sheet on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Coat phyllo sheet with cooking spray. Repeat with 2 more layers of phyllo. Sprinkle with 2 T cheese mixture. Repeat this 3 sheets/2T cheese 5 times, ending with 2 phyllo sheets.
4.Coat top phyllo sheet with cooking spray; sprinkle with two T cheese mixture. Pat tomato slices on top of cheese, leaving a 1-in border. Sprinkle with onions and the remaining cheese mixture. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes or until golden. Sprinkle with basil leaves.

First Post on my New Journal

I've been cooking up a storm, and being more creative and adventurous than I think I will ever be. The combination of my CSA participation, little spending money, and a job that just doesn't challenge me has created a second activity: cooking. It's become my hobby, my joy, my one thing that's special to me. The new upcoming movie Julie & Julia is something I'm really looking forward to. I'm not saying I'm anything like Julie or Julia, but I know I have some understanding. I used to say I cook because I love to eat. That's what Julia said. And in the movie, Julie is doing it because she needs something else in her life, same as me. So I've decided to post the recipes and and discoveries and food-related fun that I see before my life as a mother begins (in a couple of years). I'll start the blog with my newest "famous" recipe that will knock anyone's socks off and impress even the pickiest guests. One thing of advice: make sure you have a bar stool to sit on for the last bit of the recipe or you'll spend the rest of the night cranky about your sore feet and not enjoying the wonderful dish you just created.

Roasted Corn, Pepper, and Tomato Chowder
(from the magazine Cooking Light, June 2009)

3 Red Bell Peppers, halved and seeded
3 ears shucked corn
1 1/2 pounds tomatoes halved, seeded and peeled (about 4)
(peel and seed them after grilling and don't worry about getting all the seeds)
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
4 c chopped onion
3 (14oz) cans fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
(Swanson's fat-free chicken broth is my personal fav)
1/4 t salt
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c (1 oz) crumbled blue cheese
(we use feta)
2 T chopped fresh chives

1. Prepare grill to medium-high heat.
2. Arrange bell peppers, skin side down, and corn in a single layer on a grill rack; grill 5 minutes, turning corn occasionally. Add tomatoes; grill an additional 5 minutes or until vegetables are slightly charred. Remove from heat; cool 10 minutes. Coarsely chop tomatoes and bell peppers; place in a medium bowl. Cut kernels from ears of corn; add to tomato mixtures.
(I find that peeling the charred skin from the bell peppers works better in the end)
3. Heat oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion; cook 7 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomato mixture; cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Increase heat to high, and stir in broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Cool 20 minutes.
4. Place one-third of tomato mixture in a blender; process until smooth. Place pureed mixture in a large bowl. Repeat with remaining. Wipe dutch oven and press tomato mixture through a sieve into pan; discard solids. Place pan over medium heat; cook until thoroughly heated. Stir in salt and pepper.
5. Serve 1 1/2 cups per serving, garnished with the cheese and chives.