Monday, October 31, 2011

Turns out, fennel is pretty good


For the longest time, people used to tell me that I didn't like sausage because I didn't like fennel. I'd never had straight up fennel before. So when I was told fennel was a main ingredient in sausage, and that I must be the reason I didn't like it; It made sense I guess.

Except, as I got older, I found out that fennel tastes similar to anise or licorice. I love licorice. Always have. I've always been a fan of anise too. I love a good biscotti and the smell always reminds me of a potpourri decoration that my Nana used to have in the hallway between her bedroom in the living room. So, I thought, this can't really be the reason that I don't love sausage.

Turns out that fennel is not the reason that I can't stand sausage. I'm still not sure why I don't like sausage, but it's not the fennel. Fennel is delicious. Cool, crunchy, with a hint of sweet licorice flavoring. Yum.

Paired with sweet gala apples, crisp celery, and tangy lemon juice, this fennel apple slaw a refreshing take on a traditionally heavy side. It perfectly pairs with barbecue and can even be eaten by itself as a salad, which happens to be how I ate it...all of it.


Celery, Apple, Fennel Slaw (From Bon Appétit Test Kitchen)
Serves 6
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh tarragon
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 celery stalks, thinly sliced diagonally, plus 1/4 cup loosely packed celery leaves
  • 2 small fennel bulbs, thinly sliced crosswise, plus 1 tablespoon chopped fennel fronds
  • 1 firm, crisp apple (such as Pink Lady, Gala, or Granny Smith), julienned
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Directions

Whisk first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add celery and celery leaves, thinly sliced fennel and chopped fennel fronds, and apple; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Good Morning Pumpkin


Well, it's finally fall. The leaves here are starting to change from green to gold, orange, and brown. The air has turned crisp, and even sunny days don't reach warm weather temperatures. And, cans of Libby's pumpkin puree have hit the grocery stores in full force. Yes, fall is finally here.

On days like today, it's nice to start the morning off with something sweet and filling. So over the weekend, baked up an tin of pumpkin bread to get Alex and I through the chilly mornings with a bit of love. The warm weather is gone, but sweet, buttery pumpkin bread should help ease the transition just a tiny bit.

Pumpkin Coconut Bread
Serves 8
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1/4 cup coconut flakes, shredded

Directions

Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 300 degrees. Butter a 9-by-5 inch loaf pan. Set aside. In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and salt. Set aside. Using a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, beat together the brown sugar and egg on medium speed for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. On a low speed, slowly drizzle in the oil.. Don't pour the oil in all at once. Add it slowly so it has time to incorporate into the eggs and doesn't deflate the air you have just beaten into the batter. Adding it should take about 1 minute.

Add the pumpkin, coconut milk, and vanilla and continue to mix on low speed just until combined.

Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour mixture just until thoroughly combined. No flour streaks should be visible.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top. Mix together sugar and remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Sprinkle cinnamon, sugar, pecans, and coconut flakes on top of the batter.

Bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, or until golden brown on top and the center springs back when you press it. If your finger sinks when you poke the bread, it needs to bake a little longer. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes, and then pop it out of the pan to finish cooling.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Faker


Alex and I love hamburgers. We really do. Beefy, meaty, dripping with juicy goodness, hamburgers are one of our favorite meals, by far. I don't make them at home very often, but when I do, I try to go all out with the soft potato hamburger rolls, sour dill pickle chips, sweet barbecue sauce, and melty cheddar cheese.

And this looks like one of my homemade hamburgers, except its not. It's a total faker.

Every once in awhile I forgo the beef and get a veggie burger. I've never thought to make them myself before though. They are actually really easy to make if you've got a good food processor. I do not, so they were a little more challenging, but ultimately worth the struggle because they make one fantastic meal.


Perfect Veggie Burgers (from Food Network Magazine)
Serves 6
  • 1/3 cup quick-cooking barley
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 small stalk celery, chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 5 tablespoons barbecue sauce
  • 1 medium carrot, finely grated
  • 1 cup canned pinto or black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 6 soft buns, split
Directions

Prepare the barley as the label directs. Let cool completely.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and a pinch of salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, 12 to 14 minutes. Add the garlic, 3 tablespoons barbecue sauce and the carrot; cook, stirring, until the mixture dries out slightly, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and let cool completely.

Add the barley, beans, breadcrumbs, walnuts, soy sauce, egg whites, parsley and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the food processor. Pulse until finely ground with some chunks. Form into six 4-inch-wide, 1/2-inch-thick patties and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover and refrigerate until firm, 1 to 4 hours.

Preheat the broiler. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, cook the patties until golden brown, about 6 minutes per side. Meanwhile, place the buns, cut-side up, on a broiler pan and broil until toasted, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve the patties on the buns; top with the remaining 2 tablespoons barbecue sauce.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Where business gets done


Believe it or not, I've never had a bowl of chili before. Yea, I know, totally weird, right?

Chili has always been one of those dishes I figured I wouldn't much like. Beans are okay, but the idea of creating a dish where they are the star, always seemed kind of boring to me. Spicy food is not really my thing. And, is chili a meal, or is it soup? I've never really been able to tell. From what I know it's just an ingredient in nachos, one I sometimes opt to have put on the side.

But, boy, have I been missing out...


Smoky Slow Cooker Chili (from Cooking Light)
Serves 8
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 pound boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3 cups chopped onion
  • 1 3/4 cups chopped orange bell pepper
  • 1 chili pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup lager-style beer (such as Budweiser)
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 tomatillos, quartered
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans plum tomatoes, undrained and chopped
  • 1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added pinto beans, drained
  • 1 (7 3/4-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 smoked ham hock (about 8 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped green onions
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded cheddar
  • 8 lime wedges
Directions

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add ground pork to pan; cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring to slightly crumble. Drain well. Transfer pork to an electric slow cooker.

Recoat pan with cooking spray. Add pork shoulder; cook 5 minutes or until lightly browned, turning occasionally. Transfer pork to slow cooker.

Recoat pan with cooking spray. Add onion, bell pepper, and chili pepper; sauté 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add tomato paste; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in beer; cook 1 minute. Transfer onion mixture to slow cooker. Add chili powder, ground cumin, dried oregano, ground black pepper, tomatillos, bay leaves, plum tomatoes, pinto beans, tomato sauce, and ham hock to slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or until meat is tender. Remove bay leaves and ham hock; discard. Stir in sugar. Ladle about 1 1/3 cups chili into each of 8 bowls; top each serving with 1 tablespoon cilantro, 1 tablespoon green onions, and 1 tablespoon cheese. Serve each serving with 1 lime wedge.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Millions of peaches, peaches for me


This summer was all about peaches, plums, and nectarines. Every week we bought what seemed like bushels of them and ate them fresh. But with the cool weather sweeping in, they've all but disappeared from our local super market. On a quick lunch break at Trader Joes, I spotted a last container of peaches hidden behind the apples, pears, and other fall fruits. I knew I had to have just one last week of summer produce before the season ended.

Like any other produce purchased in the District of Columbia, the peaches were as ripe as ripe could be the day that I bought them. So, I decided to eat one fresh, chop one up in a salad, and make something sweet with the remaining three.

Over the summer I had cut out a recipe for Fresh Peach Cake from my Food Network Magazine. I seized it, prepared my ingredients, and baked a cinnamon-sugar coated treat. Maybe I'll have to rethink my dislike of the Barefoot Contessa. She didn't steer me wrong on this one.

Fresh Peach Cake (by Ina Garten)
Serves 12
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 large, ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and 1 cup of the sugar for 3 to 5 minutes on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add the eggs, one at a time, then the sour cream and vanilla, and mix until the batter is smooth. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the batter and mix just until combined. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and the cinnamon.

Spread half of the batter evenly in the pan. Top with half of the peaches, then sprinkle with two-thirds of the sugar mixture. Spread the remaining batter on top, arrange the remaining peaches on top, and sprinkle with the remaining sugar mixture and the pecans.

Bake the cake for 45 to 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

More masculine than a macaroon


Sundays are meant for cooking. No matter how beautiful a day out it happens to be, on Sundays, I just want to stay in and cook, do laundry, clean the house, and catch up on my DVR. We had grand plans this weekend to finally check out the Holocaust Museum, walk across the city to Eastern Market, and have dinner at Cava, the last restaurant in DC on my list of places I'm dying to eat at.

We went out and about on Saturday for a hike down the Rock Creek Parkway and the C&O Canal, even grabbed drinks at the Wonderland Ball Room with a friend; but when Sunday rolled around, I canceled all of our other plans for a day in the the apartment cooking, baking, and watching trashy action movies.

Having the windows open qualifies as being outside, right?

Beef Tenderloin with Tomatoes, Shallots and Maytag Blue (by Marcia Kiesel from Food and Wine Magazine)
Serves 2
  • 1 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3/4 pounds medium shallots, peeled
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 1/4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • One 1-pound, center-cut beef tenderloin
  • 1 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 ounces Maytag blue cheese, crumbled into 1/2-inch chunks
Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the tomatoes and shallots on separate rimmed baking sheets. Add 1/2 cup of the wine, 2 tablespoons of the oil and 2 thyme sprigs to the tomatoes. Add the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 thyme sprigs to the shallots. Season the tomatoes and shallots with salt and pepper, toss well and spread in even layers. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the tomatoes and shallots are very tender. Discard the thyme.

Increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees. Season the tenderloin with salt and pepper. In a large ovenproof skillet, heat the vegetable oil until shimmering. Add the tenderloin and cook over high heat until browned, 4 minutes. Turn the tenderloin and cook for 3 minutes. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast for 10 minutes. Turn the tenderloin and roast for 10 minutes longer, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat registers 125° for medium-rare. Transfer the tenderloin to a carving board and let rest for 10 minutes.

Pour off the fat in the skillet. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of wine and boil until reduced by half, scraping up the browned bits, 3 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the tomatoes, shallots and their juices.
Slice the beef 1/3 inch thick and transfer to plates; spoon the tomatoes, shallots and sauce on top. Dot with the cheese and serve.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I shall stay the way I am because I do not give a damn


I always find that buying fresh herbs to be a little painful. You have to purchase them in large bunches. They inevitably go bad before you have a chance to use them all. You end up feeling frustrated, defeated, and utterly guilty. I also feel this way about purchasing large containers of chicken stock. Yes, I know you can freeze chicken stock, but I never remember to do it. Sunday night roles around and the chicken stock from last week is still sitting in the fridge and I end up pouring and entire container down the drain feeling like a total loser.

I must be stopped.

I've decided my new mission in the kitchen is no man left behind. At the end of the week, this week, I froze my leftover wine in ice cube trays; butchered my own six pound raw pork shoulder into small portions, wrapped them, and stuck them in the freezer; and I made loads of cilantro pesto.

If you've never tried cilantro pesto, I urge you to give it a shot. It's a little different than traditional basil. So super fresh, a little tangy, and it will make you feel like summer never left, especially when paired with pasta and lemony chicken. I wouldn't steer you wrong.

Cilantro Pesto Pasta with Lemon Grilled Chicken
Serves 2
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 Lemon, zested and quartered
  • 1/4 lb thin spaghetti
  • 1/2 cup cilantro
  • 2 tablespoon pine nuts
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In an oven-proof skillet, heat olive oil over medium high. Generously sprinkle salt, pepper, and lemon zest on each side of the chicken breasts. Add the chicken to the pan and cook on each side 3-4 minutes until golden brown. Remove pan from heat. Juice lemon into the pan. Then, place the pan directly into your hot oven for 20 minutes.

Boil water in a medium saucepan. While the water is boiling and the chicken is cooking. Whiz cilantro, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and kosher salt in a food processor or Magic Bullet until smooth.

Once the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook until preferred doneness. Once cooked, place pasta and cilantro mixture in a medium mixing bowl. Toss pasta to coat and divide in two bowls. When chicken is done, remove pan from the oven, slice and place over pasta.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Chicken or Beef?


I have owned a slow cooker ever since the Christmas after I moved out of my parents house. It was a gift from my sister, who probably foresaw my eventual spiral into domesticity. Though at the time, I had no use for cooking gadgets, it remained on my counter for many years just waiting for the day that I would appreciate it for the convenient, easy, and generally wonderful cooking appliance that it is.

At work the other day, my coworker mentioned that slow cookers were great for cooking pot roast. I wasn't so sure. Pot roast happens to be one of my favorite foods in the world. So, I decided to see how using a slow cooker compares to the oven for such a classically delicious dish using Martha's recipe.

Though you don't get quite the variation in texture that you do with a traditional oven, the crock pot does a nice job creating a juicy, fork tender roast. Plus, it was wonderful to come home to a fully cooked meal, served only 15 minutes after Alex walked in the door. Our dinner was done by quarter past 7 and the kitchen was clean by 7:30. What a great way to start an evening.


Slow-Cooker Pot Roast (by Martha Stewart)
Serves 4
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 8 medium carrots, cut into thirds
  • 2 medium onions, each cut into 8 wedges
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 beef chuck roast (3 pounds), trimmed of excess fat
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Directions

In slow cooker, stir together cornstarch and 2 tablespoons cold water until smooth. Add carrots and onions; season with salt and pepper, and toss. Sprinkle roast with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; place on top of vegetables, and drizzle with Worcestershire. Cover; cook on high, 6 hours (or on low, 10 hours).
Transfer roast to a cutting board; thinly slice against the grain. Place vegetables in a serving dish; pour pan juices through a fine-mesh sieve, if desired. Serve roast with vegetables and pan juices.

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Dish Worth Driving For


Whenever Alex and I visit Provincetown, Massachusetts, we always head to the very end of Commercial Street at dinner time for a meal at Lorraine's Restaurant. It's my favorite, and has become quite the tradition whenever we make it out to the tip of the Cape.

I've tried a few dishes on their menu, and they are all quite good, but one always stands above the rest. If you ever visit Lorraine's, you must try the Chicken La Paz. Sautéed chicken breast with spinach, tomatoes and topped with feta, then simmered in a citrus broth; it sings.


For some time, I've wanted to try to recreate the dish in my own kitchen, but I've never quite gotten up the nerve. Seeing as Provincetown is now 10 hours away from where I live, I decided it was time. Warning, these flavors may be too delicious for the average foodie. Be prepared, you may want to have a full tank of gas and a map of the Cape on hand after reading the ingredient list.


Chicken La Paz (inspired by Lorraine's Restaurant)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 14oz can chicken broth
  • 1 orange, quartered
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, sliced thickly
  • 1 cup of white rice, prepared
  • 2 oz feta, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups spinach

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add shallots and saute till light brown. Add chicken and cook 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside. Add chicken broth and juice from the orange and lemon to the dutch oven, reserve the rinds.

Bring broth to a boil. Reduce broth to a simmer and add chicken and citrus rinds. Cover and bake for 10 minutes in the oven. Remove from the oven, uncover, remove citrus rinds, and add tomatoes. Return to the oven, uncovered, for 10 more minutes.

Remove from the oven again, add rice and top chicken with feta. Return to the oven for 10 more minutes. When the chicken is cooked through, remove from dutch oven and let rest. Add spinach to the broth mixture and swirl until wilted. Spoon broth mixture onto plates and top with chicken.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Blow it out your old wa-zoo!

I grew up in a very small town in Southern NH. I lived on a street with very few other houses where there were many more trees than other kids to play with. From time to time, my sister and I would play at our next door neighbors house. The kids weren't exactly our age, the youngest was 5 years older than me, but still they were the only other young people we had on our street.

Every once in awhile we'd get invited over to our neighbors house for dinner. I hated it. First, there was a rule that you had to finish everything on your plate, whether you were full or not. Second, everything was cooked in lard. I can still remember the thick, ripe, musty smell, the thought of which makes my stomach turn. I distinctly remember being forced to finish a stuffed pepper that tasted just awful. Green and sickly, coated in fat, and stuffed with ground sausage and rice. It's like a nightmare. I've avoided stuffed peppers since then. The thought of them just made me cringe.

This weekend, Alex and I went to a wedding where vegetarian fare dominated the menu. The buffet looked delicious and the line ended with bright, colorful, delightful looking stuffed peppers. This was it. My chance to try them again without the slimy, artery-clogging lard coating or the heavy, meaty filling.

They were delicious. I knew I had to come home, recreate the dish, and change my feelings about stuffed peppers forever. I served my over a bed of pillowy couscous with sauteed zucchini


Baked Stuff Peppers (from Martha Stewart)

  • 2 red bell peppers, halved lengthwise through stem, seeds and ribs removed
  • 1 heaping cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, coarsely chopped
  • 8 basil leaves, torn into pieces
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, with rack in top third. Place bell pepper halves, cut sides up, in a baking dish. Toss together tomatoes, feta, thyme, and basil in a medium bowl; season with black pepper. Fill each pepper with tomato and feta mixture, dividing evenly. Drizzle each with oil.

Bake stuffed peppers, covered with aluminum foil, until they begin to soften, about 30 minutes. Remove foil; continue to bake until tomatoes begin to burst and cheese turns light brown, 13 to 15 minutes more. Remove stuffed peppers from oven, and serve warm.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Borophyll? More like Chlorophyll.


When I was in college, I knew this girl who would only eat white food. Every day she would fill her tray up with bread, potatoes, and cheese and sit down to a singularly colored meal. It never failed to completely weird me out. First of all, on her plate, nutrients were no where to be found. There were no vitamins, no minerals, nor nearly anything healthy aside from maybe a little calcium. Second, how boring can you be. I love dairy and carbohydrates as much as the next girl, but really, all white is so bland.

When I saw this recipe for a Green Fruit Bowl with Frozen Grapes in August's Martha Stewart Living, it brought me back to the Emmanuel College cafeteria sophomore year. I had to laugh. My college acquaintance would not dare take a second glance at this dish. But for me, this was one monochromatic meal I could get down with. Not only is green my favorite color on the spectrum, but for sure, when it comes to food, green will never been boring.


Green Fruit Bowl with Frozen Grapes (from Martha Stewart Living)

  • 12 ounces green grapes
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup thyme sprigs coarsely chopped
  • 1 green apple
  • 3 kiwifruits, peeled and sliced
  • 2 honeydew melons, balled

Directions

Freeze grapes on a rimmed baking sheet for 1 hour. Meanwhile, make the syrup by bringing water and sugar to a simmer in a medium sauce pan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, and add thyme. Let stand, covered, until cooled completely. Strain syrup through a fine sieve and discard solids. Thinly slice apple. Divide apple, kiwifruits, melon, and grapes among 8 bowls. Pour syrup over tops just before serving.