Posts tagged ‘cooking’

Thanksgiving Dinner

This year, among many other blessings, I am thankful for good food, and family and friends who know their way around the kitchen so I don’t have to cook it all.

Mom’s Brown and Serve Wheat Germ Rolls
Butternut squash bisque
Whole berry cranberry sauce
Garlicky ginger cranberry relish
Green beans with lemon zest
Baked pearl onions
Mashed potatoes
Sweet potatoes anna
Shaved brussels sprouts with lemon and hazelnuts
Frissee salad with pear, manchego and pomegranate seeds
Wild rice, lentil and mushroom timbales
Mushroom gravy
Chestnut stuffing
Tony’s grandmother’s bread stuffing with lemon zest and parsley
Turkey and turkey gravy
Pumpkin pie
Cranberry almond crostata

Happy Thanksgiving!

Appetizer, Dinner, Dessert

The new season of Top Chef has begun, and Tony and I are once again glued to the couch on Wednesday nights. It took me a little while to get in to the show; the original host was fairly insipid, and the fact that you could only see, but not taste nor smell, the dishes seemed a fatal flaw. Still, we watched, because we do love to watch people cook, and seeing chefs handle challenges like assembling delicious-looking dishes out of vending machine purchases slowly won me over. I’ve even come around to the new host, Padma Lakshmi, who doesn’t trumpet her cooking abilities but is more than just a pretty face — she knows her stuff.

This week’s challenge — a pretty straightforward appetizer, dinner, dessert; no unusual requirements or last-minute restrictions– had me shouting at the contestants. They’re only two weeks into the show, sure, but this is the fifth season: surely they’ve watched it before? They should know better than to attempt a dish with an unfamiliar ingredient (ostrich egg quiche, anybody? You didn’t have to taste it to know it was not a success.) They should know to ditch something and start over when they — and all their fellow contestants — think it’s too sweet. I’ve never seen Padma spit something out into her napkin before, but she couldn’t even swallow a bite of her lemon meringue martini with cherry surprise. Who can blame her, really? I’m not sure I would put anything called “surprise” in to my mouth.

Now I’m no Top Chef and have no aspirations to be, but I can find my way around the kitchen, and so can my Lisa, my coeditor over at Learning to Eat; recently we both happened to write about appetizer, dinner and dessert, so head on over there for some recipes. And in the meantime, I’ll keep watching what those Top Chef contestants are up to.

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Enchiladas

When I switched blogs (over two years ago now!) I thought I would transfer all those old recipes over to this blog. Good intentions and all that. But this, an invention of Tony’s is a good one (even though our kids won’t eat it); it’s a nice meal for crowds (it’s very easy to scale up or down) or, as I’m doing tomorrow, to bring to a family who needs some meals in the freezer.

3 sweet potatoes, medium-sized
1 15 oz. can black beans
10-12 Flour tortillas
1 package jack cheese, grated (grate it as big as you want — truly whatever is fastest and easiest… it’s all going to get melted)
1 big (28-32 oz.) or 2 small (~15 oz.) cans of plain tomato sauce (just not “Italian flavored)
1 jar of salsa … thinner is actually better than thicker — I use “Mrs. Renfro’s” which is in a lot of supermarkets
(or if you find a can of “enchilada sauce” that would be fine too)
ground cumin
dash of cayenne pepper or hot sauce, if desired

Peel 3 medium sweet potatoes. Cut them into large chunks and boil them until you can easily stick a fork in them. You’re going to mash these, so they’re pretty forgiving.

Drain the water, and put them back in the pot or into a big bowl. Mash the potatoes well, with a fork or potato masher.

Drain most of the water from a can of black beans and add them to the sweet potatoes

Add a liberal amount of cumin (maybe 2-3 tablespoons? Start with two and you can taste it and add more if you like )

If you’re so inclined, you could add a little heat — a dash of hot sauce or cayenne pepper. That’s the filling.

The sauce I usually just make from plain old canned tomato sauce (since it really kind of wants to be thin… not all homestyle-y like a good homemade pasta sauce). But you do want some kind of mexican flavor in there… so essentially I just spike it with something…

Some salsa from a jar (Mrs. Renfros, enchilada sauce, or some other not-too-chunky salsa) It doesn’t need a ton –just a little something, maybe 1/2 to 3/4 cup. As far as quantity goes, for a big dish of enchiladas, you probably want like a 32 ounce can of sauce to start with. That’s the sauce. NOTE: you don’t even have to cook this… just mix the plain tomato sauce and whatever you’re spiking it with into a bowl.

Then it’s just putting filling into flour tortillas (I’m sure corn would be great, too, but we usually do flour just for size, if no other reason) — maybe 1/4 cup or so… add a little bit of grated cheese (jack is what we usually use), roll ’em up and tuck them in real close to each other in a big rectangular baking dish with the seam down.

It’s nice to have a tight fit… sometimes I use baking dish that’s a little smaller than the tortillas and just slice of 1/2 inch from two sides of the tortillas to “square them off” –but that’s not really necessary. Pour the sauce over and around… add some more grated cheese on top.

You can easily split this into two pans if need be… I probably get maybe 8 enchiladas in a big baking dish.

Then just bake it until it’s nice and bubbly… maybe 30-40 minutes at 350 or so… it’s all cooked, so you really just need to get it nice and hot.

I usually start with it covered with foil and then sometimes finish it with a few minutes under the broiler to let the cheese get nice and brown. The broiler’s not necessary, but you could at least just take the foil off for the last 5 minutes or so.

We usually have this with Slammin’ Rice — a really simple spanish/mexican rice.

I’m showing 3 cups of rice here, which is a lot… good if you’re serving 8.

3 cups plain-old white rice… ideally medium or long-grain rather than short grain like you might use for chinese food.
1/2 onion chopped fine
1-2 cloves garlic chopped fine (if you want)
olive oil
3 cups veggie stock
2 1/2 cups plain tomato sauce (just like above for the enchiladas)
1/2 cup “thin” salsa, enchilada sauce, Mrs. Renfro’s — again same as above… you’re just “spiking” the plain tomato sauce with a little flavor.

(the key is 6 cups liquid for 3 cups rice… and you’re essentially doing half veggie stock and half spicy tomato sauce…)

So, this starts out like risotto, but just gets a lot easier because you don’t have to stir. Essentially you’re just making plain rice with 1/2 stock and 1/2 tomato sauce instead of water.

In a good size pot, saute the onion in olive oil (medium heat) until it starts to get brown. Add the garlic, if you’re using it and just saute that for a minute. You might need to add a touch more oil when you put the garlic in so it doesn’t stick.

Add the rice to the onion and garlic… stir them together and cook for 15-20 seconds.

Add all the liquid: stock, tomato sauce, and whatever you’re using to spike it (the key is to use 6 cups liquid total)

Cover the pot, turn the heat to medium high until it starts to boil, give it a good stir (Scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon and make sure nothing’s stuck) and then turn the heat really low and cook for 20 minutes with the lid on.

After 20 minutes, take the lid off, give it a good stir and scrape and see if the rice is cooked. If it seems like it needs a little more time that’s fine… once the rice is all cooked you can just leave this on the stove with the lid on and it will stay hot for awhile.

You can garnish this with the obvious — sour cream, guacamole, chopped cilantro — whatever sounds good.

Granola today

I’ve been making granola weekly for over two years now, ever since Trader Joe’s discontinued my favorite fruit & nut combo. I started with a recipe from Nigella Lawson’s Feast, which I posted over on the old blog, and then I posted my adaptation here, but I keep changing it (continuing to cut down the sugar, and adding more seeds and grains) so it’s time once again for an update! Besides, Gail asked me so nicely.

6 c rolled oats and/or raw multigrain cereal flakes (Trader Joe’s carries a nice barley-oat-rye-wheat flake mix that I use)
2 c raw slivered almonds
1 c raw pumpkin seeds
1 c raw sesame seeds
1 c raw sunflower seeds
1/2 c ground flax meal
1/2 c wheat germ
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 scant c honey, rice syrup, maple syrup, or some combination thereof (I use half brown rice syrup and half honey)

Preheat oven to 320. Stir together all the dry ingredients in a large bowl until well combined. Add the oil and honey or syrup, and combine well. Pour into two large, lightly oiled baking pans (I use two metal roasting pans) and bake for 45 minutes, stirring two or three times along the way. Remove from the oven then cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Spoonbread for Spring

I’m not sure I’d make this again — somehow it used every mixing bowl in the cupboard — but it tasted great, and looks beautiful. I think next time I’ll just make the compote to serve on biscuits or with cookies.

Here’s the recipe, as published originally in the San Francisco Chronicle:

Serves 8

The compote
* 1 pound rhubarb, cut into 1-inch chunks
* 2/3 cup sugar, or more to taste
* 1 pound strawberries, hulled, cut in half and sliced
* — Lemon juice, to taste

The spoonbread
* 2 cups diced strawberries (from about 3/4 pound fruit)
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 3 cups milk
* 1 1/2 cups cornmeal
* 6 tablespoons butter, softened
* 6 eggs, separated
* 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1 teaspoon kosher salt
* — Whipped cream for serving

For the compote: In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, cook rhubarb with 1/3 cup sugar, stirring occasionally, until fruit is softened, about 25 minutes. Meanwhile, toss the strawberries with the remaining 1/3 cup sugar and set aside to macerate while the rhubarb is cooking. When the rhubarb is done, combine with the strawberries, and add lemon juice to taste.

For the spoonbread: Preheat oven to 375°. Generously butter a large oval souffle dish or 13-by-9-inch baking dish.

Toss the strawberries with 1/4 cup of the sugar, and set aside to macerate.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, scald the milk until it is just about to boil. Whisk in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and cornmeal in a steady stream, and continue to whisk constantly until the mixture is smooth and thickened, about 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl. Mix in butter while the cornmeal mixture is still warm. Set aside and cool to room temperature.

Beat egg yolks lightly and whisk into the cornmeal mixture along with the baking powder, salt. Combine well. Fold in the strawberries and their juice.

In a clean bowl of a stand mixer, whip egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold in a quarter of the egg whites to lighten the batter, then fold in the remainder. Spoon into prepared dish and bake until golden and puffy, about 40-45 minutes.

Serve with the compote and whipped cream.

Per serving: 435 calories, 11 g protein, 63 g carbohydrate, 16 g fat (9 g saturated), 195 mg cholesterol, 407 mg sodium, 5 g fiber.

Roasted Sweet Potato & Leek Pasta for a Winter Night

I found this recipe in Real Simple (where I also snagged the picture because we ate ours all up before I could get out the camera). So although I’ll link to the original since that might be easier to print, I’ve made some changes below: roasting the sweet potato rather than sauteeing it (it takes longer, but it’s no more effort, and I think it tastes better), and also deglazing the pan with some white wine.

Of course, only Tony and I ate it as written; Ben ate his pasta sprinkled with nuts, the sweet potatoes on the side, and Eli, having rejected the sweet potatoes and the leeks, ate pasta with grated cheese and sprinkled nuts, but at least we all ate versions of the same thing. I’ll call that a success!

2-3 small sweet potatoes (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces, or an equal amount of winter squash, peeled and diced

12 ounces penne (whole wheat or multigrain pasta is especially nice here)

3 leeks (white and light green parts), cut into half-moons
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 T white wine
3-4 T olive oil
1 or 2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped

salt and pepper
toasted pumpkin seeds or slivered almonds
3/4 cup grated parmesan
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 400 while you peel and chop the sweet potatoes or squash. Oil a roasting pan and toss the sweet potatoes/squash in the pan with a drizzle of olive oil and some of the chopped sage. Roast the vegetables, turning once or twice, for 15 minutes, or until tender and caramelized.

While the vegetables are roasting, bring a big pot of water to boil and cook the pasta. When it’s done, drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

While the pasta’s cooking, heat a couple tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring, until they begin to soften, 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic and a bit of sage and cook 2 minutes. Add the white wine and cook another minute or two.

At this point, you can turn off the heat under the leeks until the pasta and roasted vegetables are finished. Once all three elements of the dish are cooked, add the pasta and roasted vegetables to the leeks in the skillet, add the sprinkle of nutmeg and stir, adding a bit of the pasta-cooking water if it seems too dry. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with grated parmesan and the slivered almonds and/or pumpkin seeds sprinkled on top.

Salted Chocolate-Pecan Toffee

This was a fine way to end a busy week, or start a busy weekend. Ben and Eli both helped, Ben marveling at how much sugar the recipe called for, and both boys loving the sight of me wearing heavy-duty work gloves when it was time to stir the vanilla into the boiling sugar (somehow we don’t have oven mitts). When I asked Tony if he wanted a taste (we’ll give most of it away) he said, “Are you kidding? I saw everyone in my family throw a stick of butter into the pot. Yeah, I want a taste.” I’ve never made candy before, but it turns out to be a lot less work than an equal amount of cookies, and needless to say, it’s plenty delicious. We might be trying out some more recipes during this holiday baking season. Stay tuned.

Ben’s Whole Wheat Bread

Ben’s been reading cookbooks lately, really reading them, like bedtime stories. After our bedtime routine of two picture books and a chapter of (currently) A Cricket in Times Square, Ben reads aloud to Eli, who is very patient about being read to sleep with recipes for pesto and salad dressing (though I do sometimes wonder how this affects his dreams).

And because Ben’s a reading and writing kind of guy, it didn’t surprise me that reading cookbooks would lead him to write out recipes, but now he’s also starting to invent his own. He didn’t get very innovative with his recipes for guacamole or roasted potatoes (both of which he made for the extended family over Thanksgiving), but the other day he wrote out a recipe for bread that he’s been begging me to help him make.

I was torn. On the one hand, I want to encourage his kitchen adventures. On the other, it just didn’t look like a recipe that would turn out very well. I didn’t want him to be disappointed, and I didn’t want to waste food. So we sat down and compared his recipe to a similar one from his cookbook, we talked about the chemistry of baking, and we talked about not wasting food. He took it all in very seriously, but was ultimately not swayed. He wanted to bake his bread recipe, as written. So we did, and I’m happy to report, it turned out just fine — a nice, wheaty soda bread. So here’s the recipe, exactly as Ben wrote it, with my comments in brackets.

Whole-Wheat Bread

You’ll Need
¾ c + ½ c whole-wheat flour
½ c warm water
1/3 c cornmeal
1 package (1/4 ounce) dry yeast [not really doing anything in the recipe, so you could cut it]
3 tablespoons + ½ teaspoon granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
2 tablespoons + ¼ teaspoons wheat germ
¼ teaspoon baking powder
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter [I talked Ben down from a full cup of butter, so we used 1/2 cup, melted]

Measuring cups & spoons
Bread pan
Cooling rack

Preheat oven to 375 F.
Measure the flour, cornmeal & butter into the bread pan
Add the yeast and salt
Now add the water, sugar, baking soda & baking powder
Add the wheat germ
Bake up to ½ hour [it took exactly half an hour. This surprised me almost more than how good the bread tasted]

Note: This bread will taste good with some raspberry jam (page 77) [a reference to the jam recipe still to come in his hypothetical cookbook]

Edited to add: we ultimately halved the recipe (which delighted my fraction-loving boy) so a full recipe might need to bake longer than half an hour. Bake until the top is browned and a tester comes out clean.

Ben’s Chocolate Honey Cake

Eli and Ben were both very busy in the play kitchen today before dinner. Eli was making “salad,” tossing the wooden vegetables into the salad spinner, and then sitting on the plunger to make the thing spin with his butt (I use a different salad spinner).

Ben was making cake, which he presented to me with a flourish, and then offered to write the recipe out for me. I don’t have a picture of the cake, because I was given an empty loaf pan from which to taste, but here’s the recipe. Enjoy!

Breakfast, or Art Project?

Now that weekday breakfasts are a rush job, I’m savoring our lazy weekend mornings and looking forward, throughout the week, to making special breakfasts. Yesterday, we made pancake faces, inspired by a picture in a magazine my parents gave to Ben. Both boys took turns measuring ingredients and of course were fascinated by seeing what happened to the egg whites after a few minutes in the KitchenAid (No, you don’t normally separate the eggs for pancakes. Yes, the pancakes turned out to be particularly light and delicious for the extra effort. No, I won’t be doing it this way again!) We made the faces with banana chunks, shredded coconut, dried blueberries, grapes, orange slices and apple slices. It made a big mess, but everyone left the table happy.