Monday, September 6, 2010

Black Beans & Rice

So good I can't believe I didn't make them before today. This is our new favorite....

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup uncooked white rice
  • 1 - 1.5 cups vegetable broth (or chicken if you're not worried about keeping it veg)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin (or more if you like spicy)
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or more)
  • 1.5 cups canned black beans, drained

In a stockpot over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add the onion & garlic & saute for 3-4 minutes. Add the rice and saute another couple minutes.

Add the broth, bring to a boil, cover and lower the heat. Cook for 20 minutes.

Add spices and beans. Stir.

Cover and keep over low heat until ready to serve.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Arugula Salad with Proscuitto

Leftover proscuitto makes a lovely alternative to bacon in your salad. Behold!

  • Arugula, torn into smaller pieces
  • Prosciutto, cut into little cubes
  • Orange bell peppers, chopped
  • fresh ground back pepper
  • dried basil leaves
  • olive oil
  • red wine vinegar

All you need to do is mix the arugula, prosciutto & bell peppers together with your hands. Then make a vinaigrette by whisking the pepper, basil, oil & vinegar together.

When you're ready to eat, pour the vinaigrette over the salad. Lovely.

This is what was left of my salad by the time I decided to take the picture :)

Braised Chicken Breasts with Lemon Herb Gravy

Braise: to cook (meat, fish or veg) by sauteeing in fat and then simmering slowly in very little liquid.

**not my picture, just an example of what braising looks like**

This is one of those recipes I tend to make a little differently depending on what I have on hand. I'll explain. Here's what you NEED:

  • chicken breasts
  • salt & pepper
  • chicken broth
  • cornstarch (or flour, just need something to thicken the gravy)
  • butter (or olive oil)
  • juice of 1 lemon

Heat your butter (or oil) in a skillet over medium heat (braising means keeping it at a low temp the entire process).

Salt & pepper the chicken on both sides & add to pan once the butter is melted. Sear just a little on each side over medium to med-hi heat.

From here you can add whatever seasonings you want to add flavor to your chicken (and eventually your sauce). I usually add:

  • herbs de provence (mix of savory, fennel, basil, thyme, rosemary, lavender)
  • bay leaf
  • parsley
  • onion flakes (or real onion)

But you could add anything you want from garlic to paprika, etc. Mix in the flavors that you like.

Turn down the heat to med-low, cover and let cook. Check the chicken every once in awhile for doneness and add chicken broth if there's no liquid in the bottom. There should be enough liquid just to kind of cover the bottom of the pan. Maybe a little more.

When the chicken is cooked through, remove from pan & cover.

Turn up the heat to bring the liquid to a boil, adding more broth and seasonings (salt, pepper, herbs, etc.). Once it's boiling, you can stir in a mixture of about a spoonful of cornstarch mixed with more broth. This should thicken up quickly.

From here, you can just season as you like. I usually add a little more salt and pepper at least.

Add lemon juice & stir.

When it tastes good to you, it's done. Pour it over the chicken and serve with rice.

This is what it kind of looks like. I'll upload my own pic next time I make it!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Chili Con Carne

Yep. It's Cinco De Mayo. Let's make some chili. Once again, most of the amounts aren't exact. You should add and taste until you find a combination that suits your taste. I made mine mild this time because my 2-year-old cousin would be here. My husband added extra hot sauce to his. But really, you could just add more cumin and more chili powder. Also, as funny as it sounds, chocolate is not an unusual addition to chili. Give it a shot (just a bit)...
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1lb+ of ground beef for chili (it's larger than regular ground beef, but both would work fine), already cooked and strained
  • cans diced tomatoes
  • ground cumin
  • chili powder
  • parsley
  • white corn (I used frozen)
  • 2 cans kidney beans, drained
  • 2 tsp dark chocolate
  • 1/2 cup salsa (any kind)
  • shredded cheese (your preference but I'd recommend a mexican mix that includes mad cheddar)

- heat olive oil over medium high heat, add onions & garlic. Cook over med to med-low heat until onions are translucent.

-Add the rest of the ingredients. Turn heat to med. and simmer without boiling too much for as long as you wish.

- That's really it. Keep tasting. Add more ingredients (corn, kidney beans, black beans) to fill it out, or add more seasoning (worchestershire sauce, chili flakes, tabasco, hot salsa, chilies, etc.) to suit your taste. If you want it thicker, stir in some flour.

- Top with as much cheese (and maybe sour cream and some chives) as you wish.

- Chili is like soup - it's lovely because you can taste as you go and make it your own. Mine was a hit. Not bad for a first try. I'll take a picture next time.


**so the picture isn't mine. But it could have been. Just picture it with white corn. Same damn thing.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Beef Barley Soup

I just made this up as I went along. Obviously you can follow the basics and totally make it your own.

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 large carrots, peeled & chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • olive oil
  • flour
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 2 large red potatoes, skins on, cut into cubes
  • some kind of beef, preferrably stew meat, but leftover chunks of chain meat is great too
  • dried parsley
  • beef stock/beef broth
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley

Heat about 2tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat.

Roll onions, carrots & garlic around in some flour, then add to the pot. Stir to coat. Saute about 5 minutes so onions begin to soften.

Add meat. Stir to combine.

Add enough broth so that everything is covered by at least 2 inches of liquid.

Add can of tomatoes (juices and all), and bring to a gentle boil. Add potatoes and barley.

Cover, turn down heat to about medium, maybe medium-low.

Let simmer for about 40 minutes until potatoes and barley are fully cooked.

Salt & pepper to taste.

Other things you could add include:

- 1 tsp worchestershire sauce

- shredded cabbage, mushrooms, celery, etc.

(Hearty soup in the hands of my sick husband...)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Beef Stock

I've never made beef stock before. I had some chain meat left over from one of my butchering odysseys and this being the week of St. Patty's Day, we wanted to make a good ole Irish Beef Stew. So I boiled the meat in water. But wait. Stock comes from bones. Crap. I put the meat water in the fridge for the night. Went to the store today to buy marrow bones. Behold:

Looks like a crime scene photo, no? So before I continue, I want to confess, I'm afraid of marrow. They serve it in fancy restaurants and people pay an arm and a leg for a $1.50 marrow bone just so they can scoop out the gelatinous iron-rich fat from the inside and spread it on crackers. It's literally the junk in the middle of the bone:

Do I have to say it? It does not appeal to me. I've been told it tastes like "beef jelly" and I don't really think that helped matters. But I got my marrow bones. And here we go....

  • Beef marrow bones (you can also include knuckles...ewh...and veal bones, oxtail, etc)
  • beef chunks or roast (preferably stew meat)
  • olive oil
  • onions, peeled & quartered
  • cut up carrots
  • handful of celery tops
  • garlic cloves
  • parsley
  • bay leaves
  • peppercorns
The amounts are up to you. There are exact recipes online if you wish, but who wants to paint by number? Add the things you like in the quantities you like.

Preheat oven to 400. Rub a little olive oil over stew meat pieces, carrots & onions. Place stock bones, stew meat or beef scraps, carrots & onions in a shallow roasting pan.
Roast in oven for about 45 minutes, turning the bones and meat once halfway through roasting, until nicely browned. If the bones begin to char, lower the heat. They should brown, not burn.
When the bones & meat are nicely browned, remove them & the veggies & place them in a large stock pot. Place the roasting pan on the stove top on low heat & deglaze with water or wine. Then, pour the water and browned bits into the pot.
Add the celery, garlic, parsley, bay leaves & peppercorns. Fill the pot with enough cold water so that it comes 1-2 inches over the top of the bones.
Put the heat on high, bring to a low simmer & then reduce the heat to low. Keep at a bare simmer, just barely bubbling. Cover loosely & let simmer for a minimum of 3 hours. 6-8 is better. The instructions I read said,
"Do not stir while stock is simmering - it will mix the fats with the stock and cloud up your stock."
Um. I'd never even thought to stress about my stock being cloudy. Ok, moving on. As the stock cooks, remove fat from the marrow at the top (now how do you do that without it stirring things up a bit?)
When the stock is ready, use tongs or a slotted spoon to gently remove bones and veggies from the pot. Then, it said,
"If there's any marrow left in the bones or floating on top, taste it - it's delicious!"
Fine. But I'm telling you it looked like booger soup with that marrow in there. Did it anyway. Scooped out just a little bit....and tasted it. Newsflash: it was god awful. Who are you people who like this stuff? I took another glob of the stuff and smeared it on a Triscuit and fed it to my husband saying, "here's something that a lot of people think is delicious". He ate it. Looked at me. No reaction. Apparently his cold has made it so he can't taste anything. Sigh. Oops, where was I?
Strain the broth through a fine sieve or cheesecloth. Cool to room temperature. Remove any excess fat from the top.
Now you have your own beef broth to store for all kinds of delicious things. Freeze it if you don't have any use for it immediately.
Oh, and give the bones to your dog. They go nuts for them. Just make sure you clean all the goo out first.

Delicious snack, or overpriced wad of bone fat? Let me know what you think.

Indian Spiced Chicken Curry

So the recipes I found on this dish called it "Sri Lankan Chicken Curry". But as I dug deeper, many people disagreed with that label and swore it was Indian. Call it what you want. This is my version:

  • 1-2 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2-3 tbsp ginger, finely grated
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds (native to Asia & Southern Europe, the seeds are bitter and used most often in curries)
  • 1 tsp tumeric or yellow curry mix
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground fennel
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 stalk lemongrass
  • 3/4 cup zucchini (cut into chunks)
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • a spoonful (or so) of flour
Heat butter.
Fry fenugreek seeds until they start to brown (which happens fast, so watch closely).
Add onion, garlic & ginger & heat until onions are golden & soft.
Add tumeric, coriander, cumin, fennel, paprika, salt & vinegar. Stir well.
Add chicken & stir over medium heat until fully coated with spices.
Add cardamom, cinnamon stick, lemongrass & chopped veggies.
Cover and cook on low for 40-50 minutes.
Add coconut milk (do not cover after adding the coconut milk).
Stir flour with a bit of broth or water and stir it in while the sauce is still boiling. Remove cinnamon & lemongrass.
Taste & add salt, spices or lemon juice to taste.
Serve over jasmine or basmati rice (frankly I can't tell the difference between the two).

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Menu: Josselyn's 32nd Birthday Dinner

Josselyn and I have been best friends since college. This year I wanted to make her a tasting menu the way Wayne and I did for my parents' past 2 anniversaries. We enjoy doing it and it's a great way to make someone feel special. All of the recipes can be found here on the website. Just go up to the search window in the upper left and enter the name of the course/dish. The menu:


Seared Scallops Wrapped in Bacon w/ Wayne's Brown Sugar Glaze

Grapefruit Granita

Shaved Fennel & Arugula, Serrano, Tart Cherries, Deconstructed Vinaigrette of Orange Oil & Balsamic Reduction

**Picture to come**

Sweet Orange Granita

Tom Kha Gai

Pear Sorbet, Cardamom, Williams Pear Brandy

Main Course
Carpaccio of Filet Mignon, Lemon Remoulade

Margarita Granita

Fresh Mixed Berry Cobbler, Creme Anglaise

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Margarita Granita

Ok so technically this started out as a lime granita, which you can also do:
  • 2 limes
  • 1 tsp sugar
Juice limes & strain.
Whisk in sugar, seal in an airtight container and freeze.
Go back to it every 1/2 hour or so to stir with a fork so it keeps a nice texture and doesn't completely solidify.
Freeze at least 2-3 hours.

To make things more fun - try making my Margarita Granita. Just add:
  • a pinch of salt (to taste)
  • a bit of food coloring (a drop of green + 2 drops of yellow give it that bright margarita color)
Then follow the rest of the directions. I know a lot of people hate the idea of food color. Obviously, you don't need to add that to make it a fun treat. It's your call.

Orange Granita

I'm doing another tasting menu tonight (this time for my best friend Josselyn's birthday) and that means I'll be coming up with more fun little things to serve in between courses as palate cleansers. So bring on the granitas! Today I'm making the grapefruit granita that I made for my parents anniversary, and I'm also creating an orange granita and a lime granita. The orange one is the simplest of all. It needs nothing. I added sugar as I did with the grapefruit and the lime - bad decision. Obviously orange doesn't have that tartness that lemons and limes do. The sugar was too much. So really, all you have to do is squeeze an orange:

  • 1 navel orange, halved
  • pinch of salt
Juice the orange & strain through a sieve to get rid of pulp (or leave the pulp in, see if I care).
Whisk in salt & put juice in an airtight container.
Place container in the freezer and go back every hour or so to stir it up with a fork so it doesn't solidify completely but forms more of flaky kind of texture.
After it's been freezing for at least 2-3 hours (I usually freeze it overnight), you can scoop it into a tiny ball and serve in between courses of a nice meal. Or just enjoy it on it's own as a refreshing treat.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Beef Carpaccio w/ Lemon Mustard Remoulade

Oh the glorious day has come. We bought another tenderloin. And I butchered it myself (which I'm getting really good at) and then resesrved a piece of the tenderloin to make carpaccio (raw meat or fish that is pounded out paper thin and served as an appetizer.) Originating in Venice, Italy, it's raw filet mignon, pounded into flat discs. From there you can serve it with a small salad on top, with oil and vinegar, shaved parmesan, etc. I decided to make mine with a homemade lemon mustard remoulade (remoulade being french for "stuff you mix in with mayonnaise".) It's really expensive at restaurants and it seemed so simple to make that it was only a matter of time before I tried it in my own kitchen. Here are the basics of what I did:

  • beef tenderloin (suggestedly from the tip end of the roast, but I just used a tenderloin steak I'd already butchered earlier this week.
  • mayonnaise (I used olive oil mayo.)
  • mustard (preferrably dijon, but I didn't have it so I used yellow and it turned out fine.)
  • lemon juice
  • sea salt & freshly ground black peper

Ok, so the best way to get your meat to slice really really thin is to freeze it first for at least two hours. Once it's good and frozen, move it out of the freezer, remove bag or whatever plastic you used to seal it in the freezer.

thinly slice the beef into approximately into 1/8 to 1/4-inch pieces.

Don't worry about being exact, just cut it as thinly as you can.

Lay out a piece of plastic wrap on your cutting board, and put the meat on the wrap. Then add a 2nd layer of plastic wrap on top.

Here's the fun part - pound the meat with a mallet until it is paper-thin.
Once all of the meat is sliced and pounded, divide the meat evenly among your plates (however many you're using).

From here you have several options. You can serve with greens tossed with vinaigrette, salt, pepper and/or Parmesan.

I opted to make the remoulade. You just mix the mayo, mustard and lemon juice until you get the right consistency and flavor. Drizzle it over the carpaccio.

Sprinkle salt & pepper over the top and maybe add a few more drops of lemon juice.
These days you'll find carpaccio of all kinds on restaurant menus, not just meat and fish, but also fruits and veggies. Still, beef carpaccio will always reign supreme.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Beka's Unconventional Risotto (using no cheese, and stock from christmas turkey)

I received arborio (risotto) rice as a Christmas gift from a close friend of my mother's (thanks, Val!) and was dying to make a lovely creamy winter risotto. I have no fancy parmesan cheese. And instead of using chicken stock, I was interested in using the leftover stock I'd made from our Christmas turkey. So this was definitely a creative adventure. The result? The best risotto I've ever made (according to me as well as my husband). It was creamy, comforting and filling just like a risotto should be, but it was lighter without the cheese. And the homemade turkey stock created a lovely post-holidays flavor that just overwhelmed us. It was fantastic! So the next time you roast a turkey, make that stock and save it for a risotto. It's delicious. And hey, who needs to spend $6-8 on fancy cheese when it's so good without it? Leaving out the cheese made it understated enough for a side dish. Not nearly as heavy. Anyway, here's what I did:
  • about 6 cups turkey stock (leftover from holiday turkey, in my case), but you can always use chicken stock, even from a can, I won't hold it against you
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 onion, very finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, very finely minced
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 2/3 cup dry white wine (room temperature)
  • sea salt & freshly ground pepper

Put the turkey stock in a saucepan and keep at a gentle simmer. Melt half the butter in a large, heavy saucepan and add the onion. Cook gently for 10 minutes until soft, golden and translucent, but not browned. Add garlic and saute for additional 3-5 minutes.

Add the rice and stir until well coated with butter and heated through.

Pour in the wine, boil hard until it has reduced and almost disappeared. This will remove that raw alcohol taste.

Begin adding the turkey stock, a large ladle at a time, stirring gently until each ladle has been almost absorbed into the rice. The risotto should be kept at a bare simmer throughout cooking, so don't let the rice dry out - add more broth as necessary. Continue until the rice is tender and creamy, but the grains are still firm. This should take about 20 minutes, depending on the type of rice used (check package instructions).

Taste and season well with salt and pepper and beat in the remaining butter.

Turn off the heat and let risotto rest for a few minutes to finish absorbing the rest of the liquid and to set up. Serve immediately after. I hit it with a generous amount of salt and pepper before serving. If it's a bit sticky, add a little extra hot broth at the end to get the right texture.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

One Pot Pork Chops, Gravy, & Veg

Made this up today based on the contents of our fridge and the fact that it's freezing outside. Started out sauteeing two thick boneless pork chops in the pan and then just kept adding stuff. Turned out lovely:

  • 2 thick boneless pork chops
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • rosemary
  • salt
  • pepper
  • pearl onions (I used a combination of yellow, white and red)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • cornstarch

As always, vary this a million different ways based on what you like and what you have in the fridge that needs to get used up....

Sprinkle chops with salt, pepper, and a pinch of rosemary and sautee in pan to brown both sides.

Add 3/4 of the chicken broth and start tossing in chopped garlic, onions and potatoes. Cover for a bit to cook veggies.

Uncover, add butter & milk. Stir remining chicken stock with a bit of cornstarch and add to thicken.

Cut up chops, put them in little crocks and cover with the veggies and broth/gravy/sauce. Sprinkle a little extra salt & rosemary on top.

Quick. Easy. Comforting. And it's not even soup, for once.