Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Burmese red pork stew

I love it when you read a recipe and can tell exactly how it's going to taste. I love it even more when that taste is something you've been looking for but couldn't really find or articulate. This is one of those recipes, discovered in last September's Bon Appetit. For a kid who grew up in Southeast Asia, this is comfort food at its absolute finest.

But a word of caution, if you couldn't tell by the ominous appearance, it is not for the faint of heart. It's intensely spicy, salty, and porky (my faves, eee!). The heat is pretty strong, but the final dish is not nearly too spicy for us. The sambal oelek and chili oil function as major players in the flavor profile rather than just agents of spiciness (you should be able to find both at any upscale grocer, and many options of each at your local Asian market). That being said, I definitely wouldn't prepare this for anyone who couldn't handle some heat.

Like my mom's stew chicken, caramelized sugar provides the foundation for this dish. Add to that the sheer deliciousness of just garlic, ginger, chili, and just a little soy sauce, and the final dish is so much more than the sum of its parts.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Spaghetti with turkey-pesto meatballs

This recipe is another favorite in my house. They're lighter than your average meatball, but the bread crumbs and pesto keep them extremely moist. It comes together very quickly, especially with the aid of a quality store-bought marinara. Of course you could use store-bought pesto as well, but I just don't like it as much as my own. I realize this is essentially admitting I make a crappy marinara... we all have flaws.

The other really great thing about this recipe is that it serves four and freezes beautifully, so I always make a full batch as written below and freeze half in a Ziploc, sauce and all. Simply defrost and reheat in a saucepan and dinner's almost ready on another night.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Chicken and sausage jambalaya

I love where I work. Sharing hallways with some of the world's best and brightest, it's hard to not feel inspired, especially when you stumble upon stuff like this.

Hell of a lot cooler than a Jeter or Kardashian sighting, if you ask me.

There's world-changing work happening in every corner, but it's not all blood, sweat and tears; you need a sense of humor to go into science. For every positive result, there are a thousand that you absolutely work your ass off for but ultimately don't pan out. Just this week we figured something out and got some great data, the first in a long time. My boss and I just kind of stared at it... then at each other... until I finally said what we were both thinking: "Huh... I'm not really sure what to do with good news." That Science paper may look simple and elegant, but it took 10 sleepless years to design, generate reliable data, write, and get accepted by the journal, not to mention the shitload of heartache someone endured from every little failure along the way. In the face of constant rejection and frustration ("I've done this protocol a thousand times and it's always worked, and the science is correct and I'm using the same lots of buffer and yes I adjusted the pH everything and my PI double checked my calculations so WHY ISN'T IT WORKING? IT MAKES NO SENSE!), a sense of humor is critical to survival. And that's why you also come across stuff like this.

It's a wonderful community, and I'm proud to be a teensy little star-struck part of it (until I transition to full-time farmerhood). Anyway, on to the food: the ole saying goes, when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. When the world's foremost pediatric hematologist hands you the last peppers of the season from his garden, you make jambalaya.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Salmon cakes with lemon yogurt sauce with roasted asparagus and arugula salad

I've been making this dish for a few years, since I came across it in Gourmet in 2008. It has that "everyday special" vibe that I love, but is pulled together really quickly and only contains ingredients I usually have around the kitchen anyway. For some reason, eating foods in fried cake form is just plain fun (like the black bean cakes from this summer). Here I've formed them into large cakes for a main course, but you could easily make teeny little cakes for appetizers.

I love these salmon cakes in particular because you start from whole salmon fillets and hack them down to the texture you like. Definitely don't use the food processor, you want some nice big chunks of fish as well as some that has been finely minced (which helps hold them together with the bread crumbs and egg white). 
The yogurt sauce is the perfect accompaniment; creamy and tangy.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Udon noodle and miso soup with avocado and peanut salad in ginger dressing

I've tried (in vain) to ignore the reports of crippling snowfall in other parts of the country but deep in the heart of Texas, the weather has finally turned as well... this displeases me. I'm one of those people that become miserable when temps dip below 80 degrees, so the threat of an overnight freeze is particularly shitty news. Winter. I hate it so. But I do like toasty fires and have a darling collection of cozy hats... so there's that.

The real silver lining on this looming prolonged torture cloud is a change in cuisine, a chance to bring back all those lovely hot soups and stews I couldn't imagine cooking a couple of months ago. This is another great staple from the Bible, How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. There are a couple of potentially unfamiliar ingredients, but nothing you wouldn't be able to find at any Asian market (and probably at most upscale grocers).

I suspect most of us have had miso soup at some point, likely a steamy little bowl with soft cubes of tofu and some scallions at a sushi bar. Miso is most commonly prepared by fermenting soybean paste but the internets tell me you can make rice or barley miso as well. Any will work in this recipe. Dashi is a stock made of bonito flakes (dried tuna flakes) and kombu (dried kelp, which brings the umami. You want this. Umami is good). Udon are thick wheat Japanese noodles that are traditional to the dish, but if you couldn't find them you could certainly substitute any noodle you like. And of course, you can add any meat you like or none at all; here I've just used a few shrimp.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Ziti alla Papera


Apologies for the sparse posting... That pesky World Series required extensive time commitments to hang out at the ballpark and drink beer, then we were entertaining out-of-towners a couple of days, and I've been forging the frontiers of science like a mofo at my day job. I was hardly cooking, and even when I was it was quick easy ol' reliable recipes all the way. Fortunately, Farmer Dad has been plowing away (heh) at the farm. The terraces are all cut, the pond is completely dug out (and is a gorgeous teal color from the underground streams filling it) and we've just started to sow grass and cover crops for the winter.

This is another recipe discovered during my nightly bedtime viewing of Molto Mario reruns. Of note, there is no herbage or seasoning in this sauce except salt, pepper, and a little parsley at the end. I was concerned about that the first time I made it, but honestly, it's staggeringly delicious as is. I would never have guessed that half of the meat is duck, but flavor and texture wise, you can tell it clearly isn't all pork. The duck gets so soft and delicate, it brings not so much a duckyness to the sauce as a sumptuous melt-in-your-mouthy richness. It adds a lot of complexity to the simple, somewhat expected sweetness of the onion and tomato. It would really overpower the flavor profile to add any other herb than parsley (basil would be an especially bad fit, so don't be tempted). Which is not to say the parsley isn't important, I actually think the tiny hit of fresh grassyness is key.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sea scallops with chanterelles and Sherry, Champagne risotto, and roasted Brussels sprouts

Now, don't get me wrong; I love slaving away all day on terribly over-complicated and tedious recipes, but special little weeknight meals are my favorites. The speed with which they get on the table is due to simple but sophisticated flavor combinations and quick cooking techniques not employed because they are simple and quick, but because they cannot be improved upon with complication.

The recipe is adapted (based on what I had around) from Suzanne Goin's beautiful and much-blogged-about cookbook Sunday Suppers at Lucques. Although this is only the second time I've cooked from it (I made the yellow tomato gazpacho at the height of summer tomatoes and it was so good), I can't recommend it enough. The recipes are organized not only into lovely four course meals but also into seasons, based on what's typically available from a farmer's market that time of year. So cool. As much as I adore a scallop, the chanterelle mushrooms are the true stars of this dish. I found these gorgeous blue-foot chanterelles at Central Market for the bargain price of $40 a pound. [To minimize the choking risk, I suggest you resist sharing this fact with your husband after he mentions how delicious they are. Fortunately, it dislodged quickly and dinner resumed.] Fear not, you only need 6 or 7 bucks worth for this dish.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Turkey shepherd's pie


This is my light take on a classic. I substitute ground turkey for the beef or lamb, pack it full of veggies, and skip the cheese altogether (I honestly just don't think it needs it). The result is heavy on flavor, light on damage. It also reheats very nicely, making it ideal to stick in a lunchbox.

The vegetables I used on this occasion are carrots, mushrooms, and zucchini, but the possibilities are endless. Frozen peas would be pretty classic, but you could use spinach, green beans, whatever you want. You are the boss of you. Clean out that fridge.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Salted caramel ice cream

I was wandering through the "blue ribbon" top-ranked recipes on the other day, looking for an interesting dessert to cap off a dinner party, and there it was. Salted. Caramel. Ice cream. Yes!

This recipe is awesome. I realize that's an inelegant description but it feels the most accurate. The texture is exceptionally smooth and creamy. And while you can taste the salt humming in the background, it's predominantly sweet and very decadent; a one-scoop portion was just right. I whipped up a little homemade hokey pokey to crumble on top, which I highly recommend. (But I eated it all before I took a picture. Sorry. Well, not really.)

How cute is my ice cream scoop? It used to belong to my grandfolks.

Like many of the reviewers I increased the amount of salt, so I've modified the recipe to reflect that below.

1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
2 1/4 cups heavy cream, divided
1 tsp flaky sea salt, I used cute pink Murray River salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup whole milk
3 whole large eggs

Pour 1 cup of the sugar into a small dry pot and cook over medium heat, swirling often, until it's completely melted. Stirring causes the sugar to form crystals, so mix by swirling only. If you see or smell any smoke and burn the sugar, start over. Once it's all melted and amber, pour in 1 1/4 cups of the cream and cook, stirring now, until all of the caramel dissolves into the cream. Gourmet warns that the caramel will splatter when you add the cream, which had me all freaked out and chicken about it, but mine didn't splatter whatsoever. Have no fear. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the salt and vanilla. Allow to cool.

Pop the pot back onto the stove and combine the milk with the remaining cup of cream and 1/4 cup of sugar over medium heat, stirring often, until just to a boil. Whisk together the 3 eggs in a large bowl and temper by whisking in a couple of spoonfuls of the hot milk mixture, then pour all the eggs into the pot and allow to cook until the custard coats the back of a spoon (about 170 degrees). Don't let it boil. Strain custard into the pot with the caramel cream and mix until homogenous and delicious. At this point, I actually strained it again because it wasn't completely smooth, and then it was perfect. Your mileage may vary.

Refrigerate overnight or until completely cold, then freeze according to your ice cream maker's directions. This took longer than usual to me, and as the recipe warns, it will still be pretty soft when it's done. Transfer to an air-tight container and freeze overnight before serving.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Saumon aux lentilles with mustard-herb butter and roasted butternut squash

 As it is so marvelously healthy, I'm always looking for new things to do with salmon. This quick little French dish has been on my list for quite a while. Such a while, in fact, that the chives I originally bought to make it had turned to slime while neglected in the back of the fridge (merde!) and I had to use scallions.

Lentils are an ingredient I'm trying to use more frequently. Legumes in general, really. These cute little green French lentils have great texture and cook in just half an hour.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Provencal tomato soup with rice

I've previously stated that there is no finer way to eat a tomato than salted on toast with a little smear of mayonnaise, and I stand by that. However, this soup is pretty damn tasty too.

When I think of tomatoes, I think of Italy. Mario Batali never cooks with fresh tomatoes, he only prepares them raw or very nearly raw. In all of his soups and sauces, he uses canned San Marzanos. There's a Mark Bittman recipe I plan to try this winter that actually has you roast canned whole tomatoes in the oven for a bit before making the soup, which sounds really good, but Central Market still has mounds and mounds of gorgeous fabulous fragrant local tomatoes... I just couldn't pass up trying to make a soup with them. Guidance from the Italians seeming out, I turned my attention to the French.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Arroz con pollo

Please forgive the bastardization of this classic Spanish recipe. Most of the time I strive for authenticity in my kitchen, but in this recipe, I was going for quick and easy. I use very few pre-packaged "convenience" food products. I prefer to soak my own beans, never ever use canned processed vegetables, and it has been many a moon since I've enjoyed a box of neon orange Mac and Cheese. This stuff is one of the rare exceptions.

It's so perfectly spiced, I just don't think I could improve on it in this application. And besides, we all need a break once in a while. Put those 17 bottles of spices back in the cabinet and grab a packet of Mahatma Saffron Yellow Rice.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Black bean patties with pineapple guacamole


Last year, my husband picked up a wonderful (autographed!) cookbook called Clean Food, by Terry Walters. The recipes are sorted by season, with emphasis on eating what is grown closest to home and sustainable as possible. It's a lovely book. Despite the lack of pictures, when you read the recipes you can imagine exactly how they will look and taste, which I love in a cookbook. I hadn't even noticed until recently that it's also vegan. That's a damn good cookbook!

Being good Southerners, we are big fans of shaping things into patties and pan frying them. Beans are great for this. I made the insanely delicious black-eyed pea cakes from Martha Foose's beautiful cookbook Screen Doors and Sweet Tea the other night, but didn't photograph it. They were a huge hit with us. Buy that book and make them before fresh black-eyed peas disappear. Anyway, these are the same concept, different flavors.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Salted tomatoes on toast

My current favorite recipe, one I've been enjoying at some point almost every day for the last month. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Embrace the best tomatoes of the year while the season lasts.

slice whole grain bread, toasted
smear of real mayonnaise
large glorious tomato from your garden or the farmer's market, sliced thickly
generous sprinkling of kosher salt

Toast up toast. Smear on mayo. Adorn with tomato. Sprinkle with salt. Stuff in face. Repeat at will.

When you're full, come "like" us on Facebook and take a first look at the farm in its infancy. We bought a tractor! Whee!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Swedish meatballs and mushroom stroganoff

I am fortunate enough to already have a couple of great recipes for turkey meatballs; one with a few scoops of pesto mixed into the meat and then simmered in marinara, and another more simple meatball served with a lovely tart cranberry sauce, a little riff on Thanksgiving dinner (minus the following week of dry leftovers). Despite the existence of these known winners, I had a hankering for spiced Swedish meatballs. I wanted a more robust sauce than the typical Swedish meatball condiment, so I read a few recipes and Frankensteined them all into this, using half a pound of raw ground turkey leftover from making my husband a taco pizza the other night. Yes, you read that right. No, I don't want to talk about it.

A big concern when cooking with ground turkey is because it's so very lean, it can easily dry out. Not so with these guys. These suckers are moist. I think the trick is soaking your bread crumbs in milk before mixing them into the meat. As Mr. Batali would say, I'm talking "big boy bread crumbs", as in made from actual bread, not the sawdust from the little blue cardboard can. "You're such a food snob! Like I have fresh bakery bread just LAYING AROUND everyday! GAWD," you say. Not so, friends. I just freeze that shit. Whenever you've got half a baguette or hunk of sourdough that you know you're not going to eat (shame on you), tear it into hunks, pop into a Ziploc and freeze. Then you can just take out as much as you need, give it a rough chop (very easily to do when frozen) and broil for a minute to toast up and bring back to life. Vwa-lah, lovely fresh bread crumbs whenever you need them. I don't want to know what people did before Ziploc bags. Those were uncivilized times.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Strawberry ice cream

I have to say, strawberry is my favorite ice cream flavor. I had always figured myself forever a chocolate girl, but hey, things change. I still make no time for vanilla (please). However, in Tobago (where my mother is from) they have the most divine ice cream flavor ever, Guinness. Yes, that Guinness. Beer ice cream. My brother and I have been working on copycatting the recipe for several years, and I can proudly say we're almost there. The coconut ice cream in Tobago is also to die for, but I am much farther away from figuring out the recipe. Mom says I actually need to shred fresh coconut meat and squeeze it through some cheesecloth to get all the cream out, and use that instead of canned coconut milk. Oh, mom. She so crazy. But seriously, I probably would go through all that if it tasted like it does down there. Anyway, this ice cream is wonderful. The fresh strawberry taste just punches you in the face when it hits your tongue, then the creaminess and understated sweetness linger.  

This is pretty foolproof, so you only have yourself to blame if you blow it. Enjoy!

2 cups sweet gorgeous fresh strawberries, roughly chopped
1 cup heavy cream
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of kosher salt
1/2 cup milk, I generally use 2%
1 tsp vanilla

In a heavy saucepan, begin to warm the cream over medium heat, stirring often. You don't want it to come to a boil, you just want to get it hot. While that's happening, whisk together your eggs, sugar, and pinch of kosher salt in a small bowl. When the cream is hot, temper the egg mixture by adding a tablespoon or two of the hot cream into the bowl and whisking. Repeat a couple of times to raise the temperature of the eggs, then pour them into the pot with the cream and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Keep the temperature on the low side or it may curdle. Pour into a fresh non-reactive bowl and stir in the strawberries, milk, and vanilla. Now, there are varying schools of thought regarding chunks in ice cream. I fall into the big-chunks-are-the-devil camp. So I stuck my immersion blender into the bowl and gave it a few pulses to break the strawberries up fairly finely, without making it totally smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The next day, freeze according to your ice cream maker's directions (I love my the ice cream maker bowl for my KitchenAid mixer - thanks Auntie Jan!!), transfer to an air-tight container and freeze for a few hours before serving. Soooo good.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bass in artichoke and tomato broth over mashed butternutty potatoes


I love, love this recipe from an old issue of Gourmet. The combination of flavors is not unexpected, but rather simple and classic: tomatoes, artichokes, wine, garlic, olives. Yet it still comes together as much more than the sum of its parts. It's crazy easy and delicious, another excellent recipe staple for the weeknight repertoire. Sure, it might seem a little winter-y, being basically a stew, but it's actually quite light.

This is best served atop soft mashed potatoes to sop up all the sauce and avoid challenging the delicate texture of the fish. If I have any butternut squash laying around such as today, I like to use half squash to make it a little more nutritious and interesting (and fabulously colored). I've used all kinds of white fish and can confirm that anything firm and relatively mild will do nicely.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Linguine sugo di olive verdi

So, I have like 900 salted anchovies in my fridge. I need to start using these suckers. The other night during my routine bedtime viewing of Molto Mario reruns, Mr. Batali whipped this up. And it had my name aaaaaaall over it.

If you are an extreme olive-phile such as myself, this will tickle you in all the right places. The anchovy lends a richness, a roundness of flavor that you wouldn't experience if you used olives alone. Without the anchovy, it would be pretty flat, one-dimensional. Like the spaghetti with anchovy carbonara I made the other month, the addition of one little salt-cured anchovy elevates something quite ordinary to complex, interesting, delicious places. Also, don't skip the bread crumbs. I've seen Mario Batali sprinkle them over dozens of fairly austere pasta dishes and always thought, what the hell? Now I get it. The texture makes this a lot of fun to eat, but they're also like concentrated little bombs of the olive oil you cook them in, too. The result is just really delicious and interesting.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Asian-inspired grilled chicken thighs with asparagus and jasmine rice


I've been working on a soy-based chicken marinade for a long time, and I think I've finally got it. The much sought-after balance of salty, sweet, spicy, and savory. When allowed to marinate for a day or two and then grilled, the result is intensely flavorful moist dark meat on the inside with a crispy charred exterior. Glorious!

If it's five billion degrees where you are, you can certainly prepare these on a grill pan or under the broiler. The cast-iron Le Creuset grill pan actually does a pretty decent job because it gets so nice and hot, but it's incredibly difficult to clean (I can't figure out how to get the damn thing to season). If you go the broiler route, watch closely for burning as there are some sugars in the marinade. Anyway, because I am stupid, I insist on grilling these outside on the actual grill even when it is 108 degrees. I just don't think you just can truly recreate the char in any other way. There are plenty of dishes where I don't think it matters (shrimp, for example, I almost always cook inside regardless of the recipe directions because I don't really notice a difference - and who wants to bother with the grill for 1 minute of cooking per side?) but in this case, if you can stand it, use the grill.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Mustard and dill-glazed salmon with cauliflower and green olive pasta

Apologies for the lack of posts, we had wonderful back-to-back weddings of good friends the past two weekends. We're finally home, settled, and tractor shopping so we can get this farm show on the road. Squee!

A quick post to get things moving again. Tonight I made my awesomely delicious cauliflower and green olive pasta with a really quick mustard and dill glazed salmon. The magic of the whole dish is a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice atop each serving. It's a dish I make frequently that always leaves us happy.