Monday, March 26, 2012

Just a quickie

No photos today, just a recipe I wanted to share (and write down somewhere that I could find it again.)  This chili is vindication for the hours spent "putting by" last summer.  The zucchini, peppers, tomatoes and corn were all from my stash.  Woohoo!

Vegetarian Quinoa Chili
(Vegan, if you skip the cheese and yogurt garnishes)

1/2 cup quinoa, well rinsed and drained
1 cup of water
pinch of salt

1 tbsp canola oil
1 1/2 c chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups shredded zucchini (I pulled mine out of the freezer; fresh would work great, too.)
1 tsp salt (or to taste--maybe start with 1/2 and build from there)
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp regular chili powder
1/2 tsp Chipotle chili powder  (or another 1/2 tsp regular, instead, if you don't want the heat)
1 cup chopped roasted red pepper
1/2 cup chopped roasted poblano pepper (could use fresh versions of both peppers; if you do, add them with the onion and garlic so they can soften)
1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups tomatoes (mine was puree from summer canning; use what you like, but use the juices, too)
1-1 1/2 cups frozen corn
juice of 1/2 a lemon  (lime would be great too, but I had lemon)

Garnishes:  (all optional)
diced avocado
shredded Pepper Jack cheese
Greek yogurt
fresh lemon juice

1.  In a small saucepan, bring the quinoa, water, and pinch of salt to a boil.  Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until water is just absorbed.  Remove from heat.  Leave lid on so quinoa can "steam" until you're ready for it.

2.  In a Dutch oven, bring the oil to medium temperature.  Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until they begin to soften, about five minutes.  Add the zucchini.  If using frozen, you'll want to cook off most of the water it releases before adding the rest of the ingredients.

3.  Add salt through chili powders, and cook, stirring, for one to two minutes, or until the spices have mixed in well and look a bit like a paste.  Add the peppers, beans, and tomatoes.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook five minutes.  Add the corn.  Cook just until heated through.

4.  Add the lemon juice and quinoa.  Stir to mix completely.  Taste, and adjust seasonings/spices to your liking.  Top with any desired garnishes.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Spring Chill

Sometimes, I hate it when I'm right.  Temperatures dropped this weekend; it's not wintry or anything, but it's a challenge after the sheer bliss of earlier in the week.  What to do, what to do?

Make soup.

Make-Way for Spring Minestrone w/ Ricotta-Honey Toasts

serves 4-6

2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 large stalk celery, chopped
1/4 cup chopped carrot
1 tbsp minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup diced, peeled turnips
1/2-1 cup diced, peeled parsnip (sometimes I find parsnip an overwhelming flavor, so I go light)
2 bay leaves
3-5 sprigs thyme
2 tbsp chopped parsley
4 cups shredded cabbage (I used green)
1-1 1/2 cups peeled carrots, sliced into 1/4 inch coins
4-6 cups chicken or vegetable broth, water, or a mix
1 cup rinsed and drained cannelini beans
1 rind parmigiano reggiano cheese (optional, unless you live here)
1 cup chopped frozen green beans (not thawed)

1.  In a Dutch oven, warm the olive oil over medium-low heat.  Add the onion, celery, 1/4 c chopped carrot, garlic, and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften.
2.  Add the turnips, parsnips, bay, thyme, and parsley.  Cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
3.  Add the cabbage and carrot coins.  Stir to coat with the oil, and add 4 cups of the liquid.  Bring to a boil, reduced the heat, add the cannelini beans and cheese rind, and let simmer 10 minutes.  (Before adding the beans, check the level of liquid; if you'd like it "soupier" add the rest of broth.  I did.) Taste, and add salt and pepper to your liking.
4.  Just before turning off the heat, add the frozen green beans.  Cook for about 2-3 minutes.  Serve immediately, with Ricotta-Honey Toasts.

Ricotta-Honey Toasts
make as many as you want :)

1/2" thick slices of a country-style or Italian bread, lightly toasted
ricotta cheese (1 tbsp per toast slice)
freshly grated black pepper
honey, for drizzling

Spread ricotta on toast slices.  Warm in the oven or toaster oven (I used the "light" toast setting on my toaster oven).  Grind black pepper over the ricotta cheese (I go about medium-heavy with this) and then drizzle honey over top.  Serve warm.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Dinner a Deux

...on the deck.  In March!  For the second time this week!

We actually could have eaten on the deck four out of the five evenings this week, but two of them I was just too tired and cranky to cook.  Standardized testing often does that to teachers (and their students).  But enough of that nonsense, because mostly, this has been a great week.  Temperatures have been at least in the 70's this week, and nights have been in the 50's.  I know it won't last throughout March, or, well, it shouldn't last throughout March, so I've been spending as much time outside as possible.

There are many things popping their adorable heads up all over the garden.  The sorrel is probably a week away from being able to start (sparingly) harvest it, chives are gangbusters, and mint, marjoram, and oregano and their ruffly little selves are appearing everywhere.  Because that's what they do, which is a whole 'nother story.

A few heads of escarole over-wintered, along with some collards and two kinds of kale.  The Blue Vates Kale that I harvested last December by cutting them at the stalk near the soil line are leafing out again.  (Sometimes it pays to be lazy and not pull stalks.)  The greens are all still too small to pick, but they're on their way. 

I've planted peas and fava beans--the favas are new this spring, so I'm keeping my proverbial fingers crossed, because I LOVE fava beans.  If they're a success, I'll be a happy gal.  In the kitchen window, I've started more collards, broccoli rabe, spinach, basil, tomatoes, and ground cherries--they're new this year, too.  I've planted zucchini seeds, but they're still hibernating.  Or, perhaps, I am going to add another year to my seemingly complete inability to grow the little stinkers.  For now, I choose to go with hibernating.

With all this green stuff everywhere, I was craving a spring risotto.  I pulled the last sad leeks from the refrigerator, dug out some frozen peas, snipped some chives and mint, crisped some prosciutto, and yum.

I used to be afraid of risotto, along with yeast breads and pie crusts.  But unlike motorcycles, you can eat these things, so they're fears I wanted to conquer.  I'm still not always brilliant at bread, but I'm really comfortable with the other two these days.  And risotto is worth getting comfortable with, because that creamy deliciousness, achieved without using cream, is wonderful.  A spring risotto, in my head, anyway, is a cross between earthy and green.  The leeks gave me earthy, the peas gave me a cross between the two, and the mint and chives provided the straight-up green.  I added a little lemon zest at the end, and it perked things right up.  Served with some grilled shrimp doused in lemon juice, dinner was the perfect blend of spring's green and its lightness.

Pea, Leek, and Prosciutto Risotto
serves 4

1 tbsp olive oil
2 small leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced into half moons and well-washed
1 cup risotto rice (I used Carnaroli, because it's what I had)
1/4 c dry white wine or dry vermouth
3-4 cups chicken broth, vegetable broth, or even water (I had 3 cups in the fridge, and added 1 c water)
salt and pepper to taste
3/4-1 cup frozen peas, not defrosted
1 tbsp + 2 tsp chopped fresh chives
1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
1/4-1/2 cup grated parmigiano reggiano**
zest of a lemon
crispy prosciutto, optional*

1.  Bring the broth/water to a simmer.  Keep warm.

2.  Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add the leek and a small pinch of salt.  Cook, stirring often, until very soft.  Reduce the heat if browning too quickly.  Stir in the rice, and cook, stirring, until the outer edges of the rice grains begin to look somewhat translucent.  Add the wine or vermouth, and cook, stirring, until most of the liquid is absorbed.

3.  Add one cup of the warm liquid to the rice.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is absorbed, but the pan still looks a little "creamy."  Add another cup of the liquid, and repeat.  At this point, I begin adding the liquid in half-cup increments; tonight's risotto used just over 3 cups of the liquid to reach the creamy-but-with-a-hint-of-a-bite I like in my risotto.  This whole process should take less than 20 minutes.  Have a tasting spoon so you can start checking for done-ness after your third cup of liquid.  As the risotto begins approaching your preferred consistency, add the peas and 1 tbsp of chives, and stir through.

4.  When the risotto consistency is where you like it, turn off the heat and stir in the 2 tsp chives, the mint, the cheese, and the lemon zest.  Crumble over the crispy prosciutto, if using.  Taste and adjust for salt and pepper, and serve immediately.

Crispy Prosciutto
3 slices prosciutto
Heat your oven or toaster oven to 350.  Make a "nest" or mound of each piece of prosciutto on a baking sheet, and bake until crispy, anywhere from 7-15 minutes.  Keep an eye on it, as it can go quickly as it gets near its state of perfect crispness.

*Leave off the prosciutto and use vegetable broth, and the risotto is vegetarian.
**Also leave out the parmigiano reggiano to delight the vegans in your life.

Monday, March 12, 2012

It's not an insult

In this house, the word "tart" is thrown around lovingly.  I'm not sure when I became so enamored of these glorious concoctions, but I can't get enough of them.  Sweet and savory, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, tarts are in the rotation. 

This weekend, I made three: a roasted red pepper and prosciutto tart from a Fine Cooking magazine issue a few years back, an Artichoke Polenta Tart from Maria Speck's book, Ancient Grains for Modern Meals, and a Rocky Road Tart from Martha Stewart.

I was grumbling to Larry on Saturday about how time consuming the red pepper tart is, but after having it for lunch today, I'm kicking those grumbles to the curb; this tart is worth every second!

If you're interested in the roasted red pepper tart, you can find the recipe posted here, or at Fine Cooking's site.  You'll need a membership to read it at the magazine site, though.

Here's the Martha Stewart recipe:

I'll get back to you on the Artichoke and Polenta Tart--we loved it, but I want to make it and actually follow the recipe before I say anything else. My main concern: I didn't have the correctly sized tart pan, which I think made a difference. 

Oh darn.  I'll have to go shopping.  And make the tart again.  Poor me.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Are those angels singing?

Oh.  No, sorry.  It's just the flowers coming up in the garden.
Don't worry.  The hyperbole only lasts until I've been warm for a while.
(Waiting for food?  Scroll on down!)

Hello, little leaflings.  Welcome to spring. 
We'll be eating sorrel again soon!  Very excited, since I have a new sorrel tart I want to try.
But tonight, I tried a quinoa and beet recipe from Maria Speck's book, Ancient Grains for Modern Meals.  I'm in love with this book.  I'm intrigued by whole grains and the variety of things we can do with them, and Speck's book runs the gamut, from starters to sides and mains to desserts.  This is healthy food, but it's not Health Food.  Speck isn't afraid of heavy cream or butter, and some of the meals look luscious.  I'm pretty sure I'll be posting more as I try her recipes.
I served the quinoa and beets with a spinach and bacon salad (without the bacon, I think Larry might have rebelled some) and enjoyed dinner very much!  The beet I had was on the small side, so I amped up the crunch in the salad with a carrot.  The black flecks you see are cumin, and I used sumac for the first time.  Simmering away on the stove, the smell was divine; earthy, nutty and warm.  The finished recipe was the same, with a sweet freshness from the beet and carrot, and a lemony tartness from the sumac and lemon juice.

The recipe calls for a garlic-yogurt sauce, which I also made.  I liked the quinoa with and without the yogurt, but Larry definitely preferred it with the yogurt stirred through.  We had it as our main dish, but it would make a great side dish; it's also good warm, room-temp, and cool.

Cumin-Scented Quinoa with Beets
from Ancient Grains for Modern Meals by Maria Speck

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
1 cup quinoa, (yellow if using yellow beets, red for red beets) well rinsed and drained
1 3/4 cups water
3/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp sumac

Sumac and Yogurt Topping, and to Finish
1 cup plain yogurt
1 clove garlic, very finely minced
1/2 tsp sumac or 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 1/4 cups peeled, shredded raw beet (I also added a carrot)
1 to 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 or 2 pinches cayenne pepper

1.  Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the oil shimmers.  Add the cumin seeds and cook, stirring, until the seeds darken and become fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in the quinoa (Speck warns it may splatter, and she is correct) and cook, stirring, until hot to the touch, about one minute.  Add the water, salt, sumac and bring to a boil.  Decrease the temperature to maintain a simmer, cover, and cook until the liquid is absorbed, about 15-20 minutes.

2.  Make the sumac-yogurt topping.  Beat the yogurt and garlic in a small bowl with a fork until smooth.  Sprinkle with sumac and set aside (I mixed the sumac in).

3.  To finish, remove the saucepan from the heat.  Stir in the shredded beet, cover, and steam for 3 to 5 minutes.  Stir in 1 tbsp lemon juice and the cayenne.  Taste for seasoning, and serve with the yogurt topping.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A little giddy

It's supposed to be 60* tomorrow and Thursday.  And sunny.  And the tulips, daffodils, and sorrel are coming up, and the hellebores are blooming.  Spring is returning to us again.
 is still in the 40's.  Warm, comforting stews are still a safe and tasty bet.  I'm working on leftovers and freezer and pantry supplies again, trying to whittle them down before all the fresh stuff starts coming in for our Spring Treat Share.  Today's challenge:  sprouting potatoes from the pantry, and leftover leg of lamb and chopped kale, both pulled from the freezer.  I've been wanting lentils lately (I don't think my 15 year old self would recognize me...) so I combined the lamb and kale with a recipe from The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook, by Jack Bishop.  I tell you, if I had to give up meat, this is the book I'd cook my way through first.  My mouth waters more every time I turn a page.

The recipe is "Spicy Lentils with Tomatoes and Aromatic Vegetables."  I'll give you the basic recipe, and weave in my additions and suggestions so you can play to your heart's content.  The recipe as it stands is earthy and warm, with a little fresh zing from the parsley (or recommended basil-if-you-have-it).  The lentils have just enough bite to feel like you're chewing something, and the tomatoes add their acidic sweetness.  It really didn't need anything I added to it.

But it was good with all that stuff, too.

Spicy Lentils with Tomatoes and Aromatic Vegetables
from The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook by Jack Bishop, with additions by me

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, minced (I didn't go crazy with the mincing--just tried to make the vegetables a little larger than the lentils)
1 medium carrot, peeled and minced
1 celery rib, minced
2 medium cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups drained canned whole tomatoes, chopped (I used my homemade canned tomato sauce, 2 cups)
1 1/2 cups brown lentils (I lowered this to 1 cup)
pinch of cayenne (I used about a 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper, but might add  both next time--we like the heat)
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley leaves (or basil, or both)
salt, to taste

My additions:
2 cups potatoes, peeled and diced small
2 cups chopped, cooked kale
2 cups chopped, cooked leg of lamb
juice of half a lemon

1.  Heat the oil in a large saucepan.  Add the onion, carrot, and celery and saute over medium heat until softened, about ten minutes.  Stir in the garlic and cook for one minute more, or until slightly softened.  (If using the potatoes, add them with the garlic and cook an additional 3-5 minutes, just to get them going.)

2.  Add the tomatoes, lentils, cayenne, kale, if using, and 4 cups of water (I started with three, since I had the juicy tomatoes, but wound up adding almost the full other cup to keep the dish a little brothy as it simmered).  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer gently, stirring occasionally.  If using the lamb, add it in after the pan has reduced to the simmer.  (I put a lid on it at this point, though the recipe doesn't call for it.)  Cook until the lentils are tender and the liquid in the pan is almost evaporated, about 30 minutes.

3.  Stir in the herb(s) and salt to taste, and stir in the lemon juice.  Serve immediately.

We had to laugh--the dish was to help clean out the pantry/freezer.  But this made enough to feed 5-6 people, so a serving went back into the freezer after we portioned out our lunches.  Oh well, I can't be sad about having food stored away!