Archive for the ‘dinner’ Category

Monday, January 16th, 2012

Tuna Puttanesca

Last week I was able to take part in Slow Food Seattle’s Tuna Canning Workshop. I had so wanted to go to the first one last year (especially after hearing all the raves about the tuna) but work got in the way. Pacific Northwest Tuna is exquisite (I especially love it raw) and I certainly love being able to support a local fisherman so I bought my ticket and reserved my flat of tuna as soon as it was possible.

We spent the day cutting and trimming the tuna, then stuffing it into jars. Each jar then gets a little salt, a little olive oil and a piece of carrot (Jeremy the fisherman’s secret ingredient). Finally the jars are sealed and then placed in a pressure canner for 90 minutes. The tuna comes out bubbling and hot so it has to cool for a few minutes before it get packed up to take home.

I wanted to cook something delicious with my first jar of tuna, but I’ve been a bit of a hermit lately so a trip to the store just didn’t sound like much fun. I decided to turn to a classic Italian dish, Pasta Puttanesca which requires no fresh ingredients.

Puttanesca has a bit of a tawdry history as it is said that it was invented by prostitutes. Some say that it’s aroma was used to lure new patrons while others say that they made it because it was quick and could be cooked entirely from the pantry (since many of them had no refrigeration available). Of course there are others that say it was simply invented by busy Italian women who wanted something quick to serve their family. Whichever version of history you believe, know that this is one of the most delicious pasta dishes around.

You might be tempted to leave the anchovy paste out of this dish but trust me, don’t. It adds a certain salty “what is that” flavor that is essential. I served mine over fresh pasta (just because I’ve been practicing my fresh pasta technique) but dry fettuccine or spaghetti will be just as delicious. Here’s the ingredients.

Start by covering the bottom of a frying pan with olive oil. Once it’s warm add the garlic and anchovy and let it fry for about 30 seconds.

Stir in the tomatoes, black olives, capers and red pepper flakes and let it simmer while the pasta cooks.

When the pasta is almost done, add the tuna to the pan just to warm through.

Finally, drain the pasta then add it to the sauce. Let it cook for another 30 seconds or so then serve.

We had a friend over to enjoy this dinner with us. She took one bite and her eyes got big. “Yum” was all she could say. Salty, spicy and tangy this is the perfect pasta for a cold winter’s night.

 

5.0 from 1 reviews
Tuna Puttanesca
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2-3
 
This sauce takes as long to prepare as it does to cook the pasta. Start the sauce while you are waiting for the pasta water to boil. Finish it as the pasta cooks.
Ingredients
  • 1-2 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon anchovy paste
  • 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • ½ cup kalamata olives, sliced in half
  • 3 Tablespoon capers
  • 1-2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 can good quality oil-packed tuna
Instructions
  1. Cover the bottom of a frying pan with olive oil. When it is warm, add the garlic and anchovy and let it fry for about 30 seconds.
  2. Stir in the tomatoes, black olives, capers and red pepper flakes and let it simmer.
  3. When the pasta is almost done, add the tuna to the sauce just to warm through.
  4. When the pasta is cooked al dente, drain it then add it to the sauce. Let it cook for another 30 seconds or so then serve.

 

 

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

White Bean and Sage Soup

It has become painfully (pardon the pun) obvious to me that at the moment, my ankles and knees are just not up to doing triathlons. I wish that this had occurred to me sooner. That I had stopped trying so that I could avoid re-injuring myself over and over, but sometimes I guess I’m slow (or maybe stubborn).

With this realization, I have re-embraced swimming. It was always my favorite of the three sports anyway. I had been swimming at the local community pool. For my occasional swims it made sense to be on a pay as you go $5 a swim type plan, but I never really enjoyed that pool. I hated swimming inside in the middle of summer and it seemed like the pool was always closed at times when I wanted to be swimming. Plus, I have never been a fan of community locker rooms.

A couple of months ago I finally took the plunge and joined a swim club that is just a half-mile from our house. For as often as I wanted to be swimming (3-4 times a week) the private club was just a few dollars more a month.

I cannot begin to describe just how much I love it. I mean, for one thing, they have an adult-only locker room with private showers. That alone is worth the few extra dollars a month. My favorite thing about the club, however, is that they have an outdoor pool that they keep heated to 80 degrees year round. It’s a funny experience to make a run from the heated indoors so that you can jump in the pool to warm up.

I’m usually a morning swimmer, but on occasion it is just impossible for me to get out of bed early for a swim. Yesterday was one of those days. Instead, I waited for my husband to get home (since we share a car) and then went for a late afternoon swim. Of course a late afternoon swim at this time of year in Seattle means the sun has gone down.

Surrounded by darkness, I hopped into the fog-covered pool. I put my headphones on and suddenly, even though I was sharing the pool with a swim team, I was transported to my own underwater space. Save for a few shadows, I was alone with my music and my thoughts.

Tired and hungry, it was eventually time to go. I came home to a house redolent with sage and garlic and was quite pleased to remember that I had left a pot of soup simmering on the stove. Simple yet delicious, it brought me back to reality and filled me up at the same time.

 

 

White Bean and Sage Soup
Author: 
Recipe type: Soup
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-6
 
Simple and inexpensive, this soup requires very little hands on time. Make it a meal by adding a simple salad and some crusty bread.
Ingredients
  • 1 pound navy beans, picked through and rinsed (no need to soak)
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 6-8 ounce salt pork
  • 2 sprig fresh sage, wrapped in a cheesecloth sachet
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Parmesan cheese rind (optional)
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a stockpot. Do not add salt as the salt pork will add a lot of saltiness to the soup. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer uncovered for 3-4 hours or until beans are tender.
  2. Using tongs, remove and discard sage sachet and cheese rind. Move salt pork to a cutting board and cut the meaty portion of the piece into small pieces. Discard the fat. Add the meat back to the soup.
  3. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if desired.

 

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

Grilled Vegetable Chopped Salad with Creamy Pesto Dressing

So far this summer, my trips to the farmer’s market have been largely uninspiring. With the cool, wet weather that we are having in Seattle, summer produce is late arriving. My most recent trip, however, brought a wealth of inspiration. This particular farmer has been using a greenhouse to help summer along so I was able to find my first “warm weather” produce.

I decided to take advantage of one of our few sunny days and do some grilling. This, combined with some leftover chicken and a couple of ingredients from the pantry produced a wonderful main dish salad. Here’s the ingredients.

To start, I cut the bell pepper into quarters, removing the seeds and what not and then cut the eggplant and zucchini into planks about 1/2″ thick. Then I cut the sweet onions into quarters and pushed them, as well as the garlic, onto skewers. I rubbed everything down with olive oil and then seasoned them all with salt and pepper.

I started the onions and the garlic on the top rack of the grill and then walked away … for too long. Sigh. Burned. That’ll teach me for trying to do three projects at one time. I forged ahead and put the rest of the veggies on the hot grill. Flipping them as they browned …

… and removing them as they cooked through.

I decided the garlic was a goner (and it ended up being unneeded), but went ahead and peeled the charred layers off of the onions so that I could use them. I chopped everything into 1/2″ pieces, including a couple of the greens off of the sweet onions.

I stirred together the pesto, lemon juice and mayo and chopped the chicken. Finally I combined all the ingredients in a large bowl and tossed the whole mix together.

Delicious!

 

GRILLED VEGETABLE CHOPPED SALAD WITH CREAMY PESTO DRESSING
serves 2 generously

This salad can easily be made with prepared pesto and mayonnaise. However, if you have the time, take it and make a batch of pesto and homemade mayo. Put any leftover pesto into an ice cube tray and freeze. That way you’ll have a tasty touch of summer all year round. I used two “ice cubes” worth of pesto in the dressing. Mayonnaise from scratch might sound hard, but it’s easier than you think (especially if you have an immersion blender) and totally worth it. I like to use Alton Brown’s recipe (which I’ve added below) and Chef John’s method (here’s a link). If you can’t find new sweet onions, use a sliced mature sweet onion (for the bulb) and scallions (for the greens). I used leftovers from a rotisserie chicken to keep my kitchen cool.

1 zucchini, cut into 1/2″ planks
1 small eggplant, cut into 1/2″ planks
1 red bell pepper, quartered and seeded
6 new sweet onions, bulbs quartered, some of the greens chopped
10 cloves garlic (optional)
1/4 cup pesto
1/2 cup homemade mayonnaise (see recipe below)
juice of 1/2 lemon
6 ounces cooked chicken, chopped
2-3 ounces Parmesan cheese
4-5 leaves romaine lettuce, chopped

Prepare grill for cooking. Grill all the vegetables, flipping as they brown, until they are softened and cooked through. Cool, then cut into 1/2″ pieces.

Stir together the pesto, mayonnaise and lemon juice.

In a large bowl, toss together the cooled and chopped vegetables, onion greens, chicken, lettuce, cheese and dressing. Divide between plates. Enjoy!

 

Alton Brown’s Mayonnaise

1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
2 pinches sugar
2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 cup oil, safflower or corn

In a glass bowl, whisk together egg yolk and dry ingredients. Combine lemon juice and vinegar in a separate bowl then thoroughly whisk half into the yolk mixture. Start whisking briskly, then start adding the oil a few drops at a time until the liquid seems to thicken and lighten a bit, (which means you’ve got an emulsion on your hands). Once you reach that point you can relax your arm a little (but just a little) and increase the oil flow to a constant (albeit thin) stream. Once half of the oil is in add the rest of the lemon juice mixture.

Continue whisking until all of the oil is incorporated. Leave at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours then refrigerate for up to 1 week.

 

Friday, July 15th, 2011

The $5.77 Hot Dog

We are mid-way through the year of Charcutepalooza challenges. Each month, as the new challenge is revealed I get excited about what new thing I will get to try. This month, however, that was not the case. Emulsified sausage. Nothing about that sounds sexy.

Because I call myself a chef, I’ve been sticking with the Charcuterie (rather than the apprentice) challenge each month. That meant this month I needed to make either Hot Dogs or Mortadella (basically bologna). The thing is, Mortadella has to be stuffed in beef bung and, as I have a low tolerance for funky smells (and I have experienced the funky smells associated with beef bung before) I pretty much immediately decided that Mortadella was out.

That left hot dogs.

Sigh. Hot dogs.

Hot dogs are boring. While I’ll eat the occasional hot dog, it’s nothing I get excited about. Faced with the choice, I’ll take a bratwurst over a hot dog any day of the week. But, I soldiered on.

The recipe in my edition of Charcuterie calls for 2 1/2 pounds of short rib meat (which, according to the recipe would require about 4-5 pounds of bone-in short ribs). So, off to Whole Foods I went. I bought 5 pounds of the most beautiful short ribs (and quickly thought that I would much rather sous vide them then turn them into hot dogs) which totaled $36.

Thirty-six dollars! These had better be worth it.

Then I got to work. First, grind the meat through the large die and mix in salt and curing salt. Then wait. For two days. Next, mix in the seasonings and stash the mixture in the freezer. Then wait. But only for 30 minutes this time. Then regrind the mixture using the small die and stick it back in the freezer. And wait, another 30 minutes or so. Finally, puree the mixture (in batches) in the food processor until it is a paste (yeah, that’s just what I want to look for in my meat, a paste texture).

I chilled the mix again and then (with the help of the husband) stuffed the mixture into casings. Finally, I put the dogs on the grill for smoking (and then popped them into an ice bath for chilling).

So. Many. Steps. These had better be worth it.

I grilled up a couple of dogs, dressed them with sweet onion and mustard, then took a bite.

 

I figure (very conservatively) that I spent about 6 1/2 hours making these hot dogs (which does not include all the time spent waiting). Using Washington State minimum wage as a guide, my time adds up to $56.35. Add to that the $36 spent on beef rib meat and the (conservative) cost for each of my 16 hot dogs is $5.77.

Totally not worth it!

Yes, they are very good hot dogs. I will be happy to take them along on our big-ass camping trip this summer and feed them to our friends. But, I can easily say I will never make hot dogs from scratch again. Way too much time, money and effort involved for an end product that was good, but didn’t blow my mind.

I’ll stick with sausages.

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

Five-Spice and Cherry Chicken Sausage

Years and years ago. Back when cooking was a hobby, not a career, I asked my husband to get me the pasta extruder attachment for my Kitchen Aid stand mixer. At the time, rather than being an attachment all its own (like it is now), you first had to buy the meat grinder, then you bought a separate plates for the pasta part of the process.

Happily, my husband granted my Christmas wish. Unhappily, after using the extruder just a couple of times, I gave up on it. the pasta came out all clumpy and I was certain the effort involved for the mixer was sure to burn out the motor.

In the years since, even though I still had the meat grinder, I had only used it once or twice to grind raisins for my grandmother’s Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. I never really thought using the meat grinder as a meat grinder until Charcutepalooza started. Now, I’m using it all the time.

 

This month’s challenge was to not only make my own sausage (specifically a poultry and fruit sausage), but take the process one step farther and stuff that sausage into casings. A little research yielded the fact that I could buy yet another Kitchen Aid attachment to get the job done (and it would only cost $8).

I placed an order for the attachment and for natural casings, then started plotting what the flavor of my sausage would be. During what seemed like an interminable wait two things happened. First, I got the chance to eat a special lunch at Allium on Orcas Island. The main course of squab with a five-spice and cherry demi helped determine what the flavor profile of my sausage would be. The combination was so good, I knew I had to borrow it. Second, a missed meeting during (one of the last) fried chicken nights at Spring Hill resulted in a number of Twitter messages between Kelly Cline (@kcline on Twitter) and myself that went something like this. Me: “How could we miss each other, I must have walked right past you?” Kelly: “Guess this just means we’ll need to get together another time, how about drinks? Me: “How about you come over at help me stuff some sausage?” And then a flurry of suggestive tweets followed (the topic is low-hanging fruit when it comes to dirty jokes).

Stuffing sausage into casings is a two-person project. I must say, I was grateful for guidance from a set of experienced hands. As we worked, we talked tricks for sausage stuffing (along with more jokes, seriously, it’s like we’re eight), plus family, gardening and the fact that we are both big nerds. What we didn’t manage to do is take any photos. All fours hands were needed for the sausage making. So, while I have photos of the sausage making portion of the project (which was done the day before Kelly came over) the stuffing portion of the project will have to remain a mystery.

Here’s the ingredients.

I started by pouring the port over the cherries (so they would plump a little).

And then I toasted up the spices.

Once they cooled a little I put the mix in my spice grinder And then put them through a sieve to  get rid of the big chunks.

Then I strained the cherries and popped the port into the fridge to use later.

I combined all the ingredients (except that port that I just put in the fridge).

And mixed it all up.

Then, it was grinding time.

I threw the port into the bowl of the newly ground meat.

And mixed it for a couple of minutes until it was sticky and tacky (and honestly, kinda gross looking).

I fried up a little test patty to make sure that the seasonings were good (and oh boy, were they). Then the mix went in the fridge until the next day when Kelly came over.

A couple of hours after her arrival, we had these.

So pretty (in a weird kind of meat-loving way).

I thought a little tang would be a nice compliment to the richness of the sausage, so I quick-pickled some sweet onion and fresh cherries kind of using a recipe from David Lebovitz but instead of using the spices he suggested, I used allspice berries and star anise.

At dinner time I whipped up some Israeli couscous and gently sautéed the sausages. Alongside I sautéed some kale tips seasoned simply with salt and pepper.

Finally I plated it all together with a couple of spoonfuls of pickles onions and cherries.

So, so good (and so, so rich). Seriously, I’ve made some tasty food before, but this sausage is awesome. Kinda sweet (but not overly so) with an unctuous, snappy bite. The pickled onions were good, maybe even necessary as a compliment. If you decide to make this sausage, consider the onions too.

 

FIVE-SPICE AND CHERRY CHICKEN SAUSAGE
loosely adapted from Charcuterie by Ruhlman & Polcyn
makes 20ish 6-inch sausage links

I got the idea for the flavoring of this sausage during a meal at Allium on Orcas Island. We were served squab with a five-spice and cherry demi that was freakishly good and I knew I needed to steal immediately.

If you like duck (and have won the lottery so you can afford to buy a lot of it) feel free to substitute it for all or part of the chicken.

Spice mix
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 2-inch cinnamon stick
3 star anise
5 cardamom pods
6 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon Coriander
1/2 teaspoon Cumin
1 Tablespoon black peppercorn

1 Tablespoon orange zest
2 Tablespoon kosher salt
1 Cup dried tart cherries
1/2 Cup port
4 Pound skinless, boneless chicken thigh meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 Pound pork fat back,cut into 1/2-inch cubes
10 feet hog casings soaked in tepid water for 30 minutes, then rinsed

In a small saute pan, heat all of the spice mix ingredients until they are toasted and fragrant. Grind into a fine powder using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Move this to a small bowl and combine with the orange zest and salt.

Soak the dried cherries in the port for 30 minutes. Drain the cherries and reserve the wine. Refrigerate the wine to chill it.

Combine the cubed chicken and pork fat with the spice mix and cherries and stir to combine. Chill until you are ready to grind.

Grind the mixture through the small die into a bowl set in ice.

Add the chilled port to the meat mixture and use the paddle attachment on a stand mixer (or a very sturdy spoon) to mix until it is well combine and has a uniform appearance (about one minute).

Cook a small portion of the sausage and adjust the seasonings if necessary.

Stuff the sausage into the hog casing and twist into 6 inch links. Refrigerate or freeze until ready to cook.

Gently roast, grill or saute the sausage to an internal temperature of 160 degrees.

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, May 15th, 2011

Chorizo and Potato Tacos

I haven’t cooked in days.

No. Actually, I haven’t cooked in weeks.

Sure, I’ve kept us fed. Sandwiches, scrambled eggs and the like. But I’ve done more reheating then cooking lately.

My drought of cooking started at the beginning of April. A glorious week in Hawaii. And while we were staying in a condo with a full kitchen, the last thing I want to do while on vacation is cook. When we returned home the fridge was barren and I was hesitant to shop because we would be heading to Portland in just a few more days. So, we had a few days of take-out and frozen meals.

Then I got sick. Yes, before we went on vacation to Portland I got sick. I suffered through a respiratory infection the entire time we were away . My hopes of eating my way through all the awesome restaurants in Portland were smashed. I rallied in time for a busy week of catering, cooking for clients, two foraging classes and a full evening of volunteering at the Art of Dining event in Seattle. I was so busy there wasn’t time for cooking. So a few more days of take-out.

Then I got sick. Yes, again. In fact, I’m still sick. For the last nine days it has felt like I’m swallowing glass and I’ve been completely wiped out. Thankfully the husband has been awesome at keeping me fed and watered.

However, with the Charcutepalooza deadline looming I decided I better suck it up and cook.

The challenge this month was to make either Mexican Chorizo (a pork sausage) or Merguez (a lamb sausage). Since Chorizo is one of my very favorite things, that is the direction I decided to take.

I followed the recipe for Mexican Chorizo in Charcuterie. I’ve made sausage before, so I found the recipe easy to follow. The whole process took less than an hour (and I was lollygagging). The only ingredient that I didn’t have was hot paprika so I substituted regular paprika instead. Since I knew this would affect the heat level of the sausage a bit I decided to add just a bit more of the ancho chile powder.

Upon frying up a test patty I declared the Chorizo delicious, portioned it into 1-pound packages (four of which I stashed in the freezer). Then decided to take a break (being sick is exhausting).

Once I had worked up some new energy I decided to tackle dinner. I wanted to make tacos, and I wanted to keep them simple so that I could really show off the Chorizo. I settled on a play on tacos de papa (potato tacos) but instead of cooking the potatoes with onion and spices, I would use the chorizo to season them. Here’s the ingredients.

I started by browning the Chorizo over high heat. Meanwhile, I cooked the sliced poatoes in the microwave for two minutes so that they were just about cooked through.

When the Chorizo was just about cooked through, I added the potatoes to the pan and continued cooking until the potatoes were browned and cooked through completely.

While the Chorizo and potatoes were cooking I heated the tortillas so that they were flexible. I like to just throw them directly onto the gas burner on our stove (using tongs of course), but they can also be done in a pan or in the oven.

Once they were all warmed I laid them out on my counter so that I could fill them all at once. I added a couple of tablespoons of the meat and potato mixture to one side of each tortilla.

Then sprinkled each one with some Cojita Cheese. It’s important not too overfill the tacos or the filling leaks out while they are frying and it’s a big mess. Plus any leftover filling is totally delicious scrambled with eggs the next day, so it won’t go to waste.

Time to fry. I put about 1/4 inch of vegetable oil in a skillet and added the tacos, three at a time to the oil. When the first side was crispy, I carefully flipped them with my trusty tongs so the second side could fry.

As the tacos were finished I moved them to paper towels to suck up any extra oil and then started a second batch of three.

I served the tacos with some quick-pickled radish slices (slice radishes, squeeze lime juice over the top, sprinkle with salt, let sit for 15 minutes), fresh lime and my favorite hot sauce.

Muy delicioso. The potatoes got kind of creamy which was an awesome contrast to the crispness of the tortilla shell. And the home made Chorizo was just spicy enough. I ended up slipping my radish slices into the tacos but the husband didn’t care for that idea.

I’m looking forward to making these again when it isn’t excruciating to swallow. I imagine they’ll be even tastier.

 

CHORIZO AND POTATO TACOS
makes 6-8 tacos (enough for 2 people)

Sometimes Cotija cheese can be hard to find, so if you can’t, Parmesan makes a good substitute (but really, most any cheese will work). If you don’t want to take the time to make your own Chorizo feel free to substitute one from a reputable butcher.

8 oz Chorizo
6 fingerling potatoes, sliced 1/8″ thick
3-4 ounces Cotija cheese
6-8 corn tortillas
vegetable oil for frying

Cook the potatoes for 2 minutes, or until they are just tender, in a microwave, set aside. In a medium-size skillet, brown the chorizo, breaking it into pieces as it cooks. Just before the Chorizo is completely browned, add the potatoes and continue to cook the mixture until the potatoes are cooked through and browned.

Warm the tortillas until they are soft and pliable. Place 1-2 tablespoons of the chorizo-potato mixture on each of the tortillas, sprinkle each one with cheese then fold each in half.

Pour about 1/4 inch of vegetable oil in a large skillet. Heat oil until it is shimmering then carefully add the 3-4 tacos to the hot oil. Do not overcrowd the pan. Fry until tortilla is golden brown then flip each taco and brown on the second side. Move the finished tacos to a plate lined with paper towels. Repeat until all tacos are cooked.

Serve with fresh lime, taco sauce, sliced radishes, sliced cabbage, sour cream…

 

Friday, April 8th, 2011

Mashed Garbanzos, Roasted Beets, Harissa

Although it is completely out of the way, I adore a trip to Melrose Market on Capitol Hill in Seattle. I’ll stop by Rain Shadow Meats for naturally raised, local meat (essential for my Charcutepalooza endeavors) and eggs. Then I’ll visit The Calf and Kid for yummy, hard to find cheeses from very knowledgeable staff. Then I’ll check the vegetable selection at Marigold and Mint (and sometimes buy myself some flowers).

Lastly I’ll stop by Sitka and Spruce for lunch. They have a communal bar table right off of the open kitchen (one of the quietest kitchens I’ve ever seen). Every meal that I’ve eaten there has been just outstanding. The last, a couple of weeks ago, has stuck with me so that I wanted to try a hand at something like it at home.

The dish consisted of three parts, garbanzo beans blended into a thick, textured mash, beets that had been roasted, then dressed with a vinaigrette, all topped off with a generous dollop of harissa.

xxx

For the Harissa, I used this recipe from Saveur (minus the mint).

The recipe is pretty straightforward, so I won’t really go into it here, but I can add, make sure to wear gloves while you seed the peppers or you will really regret it later when you rub your eyes.

The harissa can be made way in advance. and then stored in the refrigerator until meal time.

xxx

Here’s the ingredients for the Beets.

I roasted the beets whole a couple of days prior to dinner. I wanted to keep the flavors simple so I made a really basic vinaigrette, tossed the beets in it and then set it aside. This could easily be stashed in the fridge for a couple of days.

xxx

And for the garbanzos.

I put a little olive oil in a pan and sauteed the onion until it was soft and translucent.

Then I tossed in the garlic and smoked paprika and cooked it for another 30 seconds.

Then I added two can of garbanzos with just enough of the liquid from one of the cans to not quite cover the beans. I let this mixture simmer for ten minutes or so.

Then I took the stick blender to the mix and pureed it a bit. I wanted quite a bit of texture, so I didn’t go to crazy with the blender. This too, could be cooled and then stashed in the fridge.

Finally all of the elements of my meal were ready. I spooned some of the mashed garbanzos into a shallow bowl then layered on some of the beets and a dollop of harissa.

While I’m not sure this was an exact replica of the meal at Sitka and Spruce it was mighty similar and extremely delicious. It takes a bit of time to assemble all the parts of this meal, but the work can be spread out and then the meal can be assembled quickly when it is time to eat. Sitka and Spruce served their version at room temperature. I served mine hot (though the beets were at room temperature) and then enjoyed the leftovers cold, right out of the refrigerator. All three temperatures were good.

 

MASHED GARBANZOS, ROASTED BEETS, HARISSA
serves two generously, with leftovers

I highly recommend a hunk of crusty bread to serve alongside the meal. Everything on the plate is a natural for dipping and scooping. The Harissa recipe from Saveur is great, but commercial Harissa is also available if you are interested in a shortcut.

for the garbanzos:
1 onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 cans garbanzo beans, drained, juice reserved

In a saucepan, heat a little olive oil and saute the onion until it is soft and translucent. Add the garlic and smoked paprika and saute for another 30 seconds. Add the beans and enough of the reserved juice to almost cover the beans. Simmer for 10 minutes then use an immersion blender to puree the beans slightly. Set aside.

for the beets:
1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
1-2 Tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
salt and pepper
6-8 beets, roasted, peeled and diced

Whisk together all of the ingredients to create a vinaigrette. Toss the beets in the vinaigrette. Set aside.

 

Assemble your plate by spooning some of the mashed garbanzos onto a plate or shallow bowl. Spoon on some of the roasted beets and add a dollop of Harrisa.

xxx

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

Corned Beef

I have a confession to make. Up until last week, I’d never had corned beef.

I just never really understood celebrating St. Patrick’s Day if you are not Irish. The food never looked that appetizing to me, so , seemingly, the only other thing to do is drink way too much cheap green beer. Also not appealing.

When I told my husband that I had never had corned beef, he was shocked. “That can’t be possible, you’ve never even had a reuben?” “Well,” I replied “I’ve never been a fan of sauerkraut, or 1000 Island dressing for that matter, so why would I order a reuben?”

I asked my mom about the lack of corned beef in my life and she said that she could remember serving corned beef hash for breakfast. Thing is, I don’t think this happened until after my brother was adopted. I was 17 when that happened so sitting down for breakfast before school probably didn’t happen. Plus, I seem to remember that the corned beef hash she made was out of a can, and our family dog was, at the time, being fed soft dog food and the two things looked remarkably similar. That kinda put me off the whole corned beef hash thing.

When this month’s Charcutepalooza Challenge was revealed to be brining I knew what I had to do. Since I had already accomplished the Apprentice Challenge of brining either a whole chicken or pork chops, I settled on the Charcutiere Challenge, brining, then corning a piece a beef brisket to create my first corned beef.

I followed the recipe found in the cookbook Charcuterie (the bible of Charcutepalooza) pretty much to a tee. I decided to half the recipe (because 5 pounds of brisket sounded like a lot for two people). I added an onion and a couple of carrots to the water that I was going to simmer the brisket in, then, with about 30 minutes of cooking time left I added some peeled new potatoes then, with 15 minutes left, some cabbage. I also made some traditional Irish Soda bread (read that as no caraway seeds, no raisins, just plain white bread) to complete the meal.

So, just how was my first corned beef experience? Meh. It’s certainly not the worst thing I’ve eaten, but it really didn’t live up to the hype. It smelled promising as it simmered away, but it just didn’t do it for me.

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The thing is, even though I split the recipe in half, I still had leftovers (quite a bit of leftovers) the next day. I decided to try my hand at corned beef hash. I figured at the very least, mine wouldn’t look like dog food. Here are the ingredients.

I chopped some of the corned beef, along with the potatoes and a little bit of the cabbage (the husband was not a fan of the cabbage) plus an onion and set to work.

I melted a knob of butter in a saute pan and added the onion. Cooked it until is was soft and translucent, then threw in some fresh thyme.

I let that cook for just a few seconds and then added the potatoes, corned beef and cabbage to the pan.

Now here’s the hard part. I had to let it sit. Trying hard not to stir the mixture very often, so that every thing would get golden brown and delicious.

Once it was nicely browned (finally). I cooked up an egg to put on top. I had a little problem with my over easy egg flip, so it’s not the prettiest, but it’s still tasty (try not to judge me).

Now we’re talking. Turns out what I needed to like corned beef was tasty bits of crunchiness on every piece of it. This was a meal I could get behind.

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Even after two meals, I still had more leftover corned beef. I also had some cold rice from dinner earlier in the week so I decided to make my standby quick meal, fried rice. This was probably my favorite meal of the bunch. The corned beef almost tasted like Lup Cheong, a Chinese sweet sausage (and one of my favorites). It was so good, in fact, that the husband and I ate it all without taking a picture.

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So, my first corned beef experience has led me to these conclusions:

1. I’m not a fan of corned beef straight out of the pot, Irish style.

2. Corned beef that has been cooked again so that it has crusty edges is delicious.

3. Corned beef may be too much effort to put into my life regularly, but once a year it might be worth it, for the leftovers.

Saturday, March 12th, 2011

Potato Skins

Back in the day (I can say “back in the day” now that I am officially over 40) I bussed tables at Sea Galley. If you don’t know what Sea Galley is, picture Red Lobster with a 40 item salad bar (which sounds great in theory, but actually sucked because it was up to the bus people to fill).

They had a little song on their commercials with the lyrics “we’ve got crab legs” – and they actually had crab legs. I mean, they actually had foam rubber crab legs that the hostess would have to put on and venture out to the street to drum up business when the restaurant was slow (there was also a slightly inappropriate Christmas party that involved half a santa suit and said crab legs.

They were one of those “would you like rice, french fries or baked potato with your entree” kind of places. I noticed they did something kind of ingenious. At the end of the night, any left over baked potatoes (the ones that had been cooked but not served) were split open and prepped to be used for potato skins. The inards that had been scooped out were then used in the clam chowder. Thus, no potato waste.

This story really has nothing to do with my recipe, other than the fact that my love of potato skins was developed, and perfected, during my tenure at Sea Galley. Really, it’s hard to find a bad potato skin, I mean, what’s not to like? You’ve got potato, cheese and bacon, it’s really hard to go wrong. However, there are levels of “good” and I think these potato skins are exceptional. Mine have, of course, bacon (I happen to have used my own home-cured bacon but any good bacon will do), and really sharp cheddar. But they also have a layer of sauteed red onion to amp up the deliciousness.

Here’s the ingredients.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter in a small sauce pan then add the garlic and smoked paprika.

Give it a stir and leave it on the stove so that it stays warm.

I like to cook the onion in a bit of bacon fat, so once the bacon has been cooked crisp, remove it from the pan, reserving a bit of the fat, then toss in the onion. Let it cook at medium heat until is is soft and translucent.

While the butter is melting and the onions are cooking, prep the potatoes. Cut each in half (if they are really thick you may want to cut a little out of the center of each one so that each half is about 3/4 inch thick). Then, using a spoon, scoop out most of the potato from each half.

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Leave enough potato so that each half will keep it’s shape when you pick it up.

Put the potato halves on a baking sheet (I like to line mine with foil) then brush the skin sides with the butter mixture.

Bake at 400 degrees for 8 minutes. Take them out and flip the potatoes over and brush with more butter (don’t get to carried away, if lots of butter pools in the potato half the potato skins will be greasy). Bake for another 8 minutes. This helps to make the potato skin crispy before the toppings are layered on.

Once baked, spoon about a tablespoon of cooked onion into each half.

Then layer on the cheese and the bacon (I seemed to have got excited about the prospect of potato skins at the point because I forgot to take a picture).

Return the baking sheet to the oven and cook for another 5 minutes to melt the cheese, then sprinkle on a few chives.

Um. Yum.

The smoky paprika and garlic add a nice flavor to what might be a rather bland skin. The onions add a lovely sweetness that is a great contrast to the tang of the sharp cheddar. I like to leave the sour cream on the side so it doesn’t get melty on the warm skins.

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Of course, now you’ve got a bunch of potato guts on your hand. You could do what they did at Sea Galley and use them in soup. Or, you could combine the potato, along with any leftover onion, a little of the extra cheese, maybe a teaspoon of the butter mixture and a dollop of sour cream…

…and put it in a little baking dish (and top with a little more cheese).

Then bake it at 350 degrees, covered for 40 minutes, then uncovered for 15 more to make a delicious potato casserole for lunch the next day.

Almost as good as the potato skins themselves.

xxx

POTATO SKINS
serves 2-4

Russet potatoes work exceptionally well in this recipe, however, if you would like smaller, two bite, potato skins, feel free to substitute small red potatoes. You will need two or three red potatoes for every russet potato called for.

4 russet potatoes, baked
1 Tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 clove garlic, minced
4 ounces bacon, chopped and cooked crisp, fat reserved
1 red onion, chopped
6-8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
1 Tablespoon chives

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a small saucepan, melt butter and stir in garlic and paprika. Heat for 15 seconds to cook the garlic, then turn off the burner.

In a skillet, heat the reserved bacon fat. Add the onion and saute over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and translucent. Set aside.

While the onion cooks, prep the potatoes. Cut each potato in half to approximately 3/4 inch thick. Using a spoon, scoop out the cooked potato, leaving about 1/4 inch of potato in the skin.

Place potato halves skin side up on a baking sheet and brush with the butter mixture. Bake for 8 minutes then remove from oven. Using a spatula, turn each of the potato halves over and brush lightly with more of the butter mixture. Return pan to oven and cook for an additional 8 minutes.

Into each potato half, layer about a tablespoon of sauteed onion followed by cheese and bacon. Bake for 5 minutes until the cheese is melted. Sprinkle potato skins with chives and serve with sour cream.

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Dinner for Friends

I live by a few major tenets when it comes to food related gifts.

1. If you give me a gift of something like, say, fruit off of your tree, you can count on getting some of it back in a new improved form (pie, jam, infused liquor, etc.).

2. If I do happen to give you a jar of jam or chutney or what not and you don’t return the jar to me, I probably won’t give you more jarred goods (the cost of jars really starts to add up).

3. If you and a bunch of my other friends get together and buy me an expensive new toy for the kitchen, I’m going to make you a fancy dinner.

That last one, number three, that happened this Christmas. My husband and several friends all chipped in to get me this:

A Sous Vide Supreme Demi (and a vacuum food saver, since it is integral to the process). I decided to make a dinner that would show off what I think are the best features of cooking sous vide (French for under pressure).

Over the span of a couple of weeks of planning my menu developed into five courses. I wanted to do a fish course too, because that is a place where the sous vide method really shines, but my friends include one with a salmon allergy and one that hates all things that used to swim in the sea (I also had to work around dislikes of winter squash, hazelnuts, raisins, olives and one friend with a dislike of vegetables in general). I also did a cocktail pairing to go with each course, ’cause that’s how I roll.

My awesome friend Dawn took a lot of the pictures that follow (and also helped clear the table, serve drinks and load the dishwasher). Not sure I could have done it without her (well, I could have, but it would have been way less fun and there would be like five photos).

Here we go…

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Eggs are especially nice cooked sous vide. The whites are just set and the yolks get really creamy, almost custard like. I also took this opportunity to serve of some of my home cured duck prosciutto (in fact, this is the same salad I developed and posted the recipe for just a couple of weeks ago).

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If you’ve ever opened up a can of park and beans, you’ve seen that sorry excuse for a piece of pork just floating there on top. Well, my pork and beans instead featured a large square of my home-cured bacon which I finished sous vide instead of in the oven (I’ll be posting more about my bacon experiments soon). Cornbread seemed like the perfect accompaniment.

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The beauty of chicken cooked sous vide is that it can safely be cooked to only 140°f (where the normal safe temperature is 165°f) because it is cooked for at least an hour. This makes for exceptionally moist chicken. I served it with a plum chutney that I canned over the summer and a mustard vinaigrette. The carrots were also cooked sous vide with a touch of butter and a bit of brown sugar. Even my vegetable hating guest said that they were tasty.

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Another strength of cooking sous vide is the ability to turn a tough cut of meat into a something that is tender and delicious. Generally I would cook short ribs in a braise. Sure they turn out great but they have to be cooked well-done. With the sous vide, they can be cooked medium-rare (130°f) but since they are cooked for 48 (or even 72) hours they still get super tender. I adapted a recipe from Grant Achatz’s Alinea Cookbook using the root beer cure and the fennel recipes found on page 356 (though I cooked my fennel sous vide). However, since I am not a “foam” person, instead of a vanilla-potato foam I roasted potatoes with vanilla salt and a vanilla bean (though I’ll admit they got a little over cooked). I also completely forget to make the poached prunes. I was four cocktails in after all.

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Lastly I made what I called my “Ode to the Captain” (Captain Crunch, that is). I will have a post with pictures of the process and a recipe later this week. But for now…

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Thanks to all my awesome friends (and my even more awesome husband) for the great gift and a great night!

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P.S. Five courses, with five cocktail equals a lot of dishes to put away.

About Me

I'm a personal chef living happily with her picky-eater (but willing to try anything) husband, neurotic black lab and a red heeler puppy.

I watch way too much TV and enjoy hip-hop more than any reasonable grown-up should.

I'm an avid swimmer and sometime triathlete (whenever I'm not nursing an injury).

Find out more about me here.

About This Blog

I started this blog at a time when my personal chef business was quite slow and I needed to keep my mind busy and my skills sharp. But now, business is booming so I've had to put the blog on the back burner. So, no new recipes for now, but please enjoy my archives.

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