Broad Bean Paté

Oh, we are so remiss in posting here! But I just made up a little recipe I had to share…

I was pretty excited to see a new little grass roots ‘hippy’ food shop, Locavore, open directly across the street from me. After living in Oregon for 10 years, one of the (few) things I’ve missed in the UK was the availability of fresh, local – and affordable – farm produce and meat. I mean, of course it is here, but it is often rather spendy, and the whole local/slow food thing has really only caught on in the more ‘twee’ classes.

In any case, this shop is tiny, but they get a regular supply of things grown locally (including my actual neighbourhood – they’ve been working with the community to build urban gardens). But in addition, they sell wonderful Scottish products like rapeseed oil, oatcakes, highland cheeses, farm-fresh eggs, and perhaps my favourite, delicious local pork and beef sausages, and lamb.

They have also recently started a veg subscription service, another thing I used to partake of in the Pacific NW. For just £5, I get a wee bag of fresh veg every Friday. This is my second week, and I barely dipped into last weeks. Here is the haul from this week – check out the size of the courgette!

That pork & apple sausage snuck into the picture too, jealous? £5 for all that!

I have about double the amount of those massive broad beans adding in last week’s bag, so I decided I might turn them into a hummus-like paté – what a good idea that was! It was very easy too, so here is my narrative-style recipe, as usual without solid measurements:

I split open the pods, then blanched the beans in boiling water for about 5 minutes – it yielded about 2 cups. Rinsed them in cool water, then through them in my food processor with a few leaves from the basil plant I’ve managed to not murder, a heaping teaspoon dijon mustard, the juice of half a lemon, and two big pinches of sea salt.


I pulsed this a bit, then I poured in some garlic flavoured cold-pressed rapeseed oil I got at the shop. It is really nice and rather potent, but if I didn’t have this I would simply use fresh garlic (probably 2 cloves) and olive oil. So the next bit is a process of blending, scraping, and drizzling in oil until you get a nice creamy consistency as you like. Because that rapeseed oil is very garlicky, I switched to olive oil after about 2 tablespoons. In all I think it has about 4ish tbs of oil.

When it was as I liked, I scooped it into a bowl and added a bit more salt, pepper, lemon and a drizzle of olive oil, and mixed it in. How you eat it is up to you, it would be lovely with pita, crudite, tortilla chips… but I spread mine on some lovely fresh walnut bread I had, toasted just to warm.

And oh, hey, look at me, this recipe is VEGAN. Crazy. And it is every bit as good as it looks!

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Filed under Difficulty - Dishwasher Easy, Mediterranean, Quick, Summer, Vegan, Vegetarian

Lamb & Date Tagine with Saffron Almond Couscous

I find that this recipe works equally well for a celebratory feast with guests as it does as a comforting meal with the family.  I’d not call this an easy recipe, but neither is it complex.  It is, however, rather time-consuming. This recipe was originally shared with me by my friend, Chef Pippa Calland, and now I am pleased to share it with you.

Lamb and Date Tagine

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds boned lamb shoulder (bones reserved), cut into cubes
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large yellow onions, finely diced
  • 1 thick slice (or two) of fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp. freshly ground cinnamon
  • cayenne pepper
  • 2 quarts chicken stock, preferably homemade or low sodium
  • 4 oz. sliced, dried dates, preferably Medjool
  • 1 bunch cilantro, picked, stems reserved, washed, dried and sliced
  • 1 bunch parsley (flat), picked, washed, dried and sliced

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F; when it is hot, place the reserved lamb bones in a cast iron skillet (or other heavy-duty pan or tray) and drizzle lightly with extra virgin olive oil.  Roast until boned become golden and caramelized.  Remove from the oven and set aside.
Season the lamb cubes abundantly with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Heat a large skillet on medium flame.  When the pan is warm, add a scant amount of olive oil to the pan and allow to heat.  When the oil is warm add the lamb to the pan to brown.  Be careful not to overcrowd the pan (or the meat will steam rather than sear). Repeat as needed until all the lamb has been browned.  Pour off the oil and discard. Put the pan back on the flame and add a scant amount of fresh oil to the pan and heat gently.  Add the chopped onions to the pan and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any caramelized meat juices combining them with the onions.  Cook the onions over a low flame until the just begin to brown and then remove them from the pan.
Heat the chicken broth to a simmer.  Place the lamb, lamb bones, onions, and ginger in a cazuela (a clay cooking pot, Spanish in origin) or tagine pan* and sprinkle with the freshly ground cinnamon and cayenne to taste. Add reserved cilantro stems and enough warm chicken broth to cover the lamb.  Simmer, covered tightly, until the lamb is completely tender, about an hour and a half, adding more chicken stock and turning as needed.
When the meat is cooked, add the dates. Cook the tagine for an additional 15 minutes.  Reduce the sauce to the desired consistency. Add reserved cinnamon to taste and garnish with parsley and cilantro.
Serve with couscous and a big fruit-forward Greek or Lebanese red wine.
Saffron Almond Couscous
Ingredients:
  • 1 yellow onion, finely diced
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups Israeli couscous
  • 2 quarts chicken stock, simmered
  • 6 threads saffron
  • unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup oil-toasted, salted, blanched almonds
  • cilantro and parsley, washed, dried, and sliced

Instructions:

Place a large, heavy gauge skillet on the stove and heat until warm.  Add enough oil to abundantly cover the bottom of the pan and heat gently.  When the skillet is warm, add the chopped onion and sweat it over a low flame until soft and opaque – about 15 minutes.  When the onion is ready, turn up the flame and add the couscous.  Toast the couscous over a high flame, stirring continuously, until it is a homogenous golden color and well-toasted.

Add the saffron to the couscous and ladle in enough warm chicken stock to cover by 1/4 inch. Season with salt and pepper.  Stir to ensure the couscous doesn’t stick to the bottom.  Turn the flame to low.  Cover the pan with a lid or parchment and cook until the stock has been completely absorbed.  Add more stock until the couscous becomes completely tender and then remove from the heat.

Add butter to moisten and season the couscous.  Check the seasonings and correct as needed.  Just before serving, add the almonds, cilantro and parsley.  Stir gently to combine.  Enjoy!!

 

*cook’s note – Sadly I have no clay cooking pots, but my heavy Calphalon skillet proves to work very well.

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Filed under Difficulty - Sous Chef, Dinner, Lamb, Mediterranean

Noche Buena!

Feliz Noche Buena!

You can take the girl out of Miami, but you can’t take the Miami out of the girl.

Even though I now reside ‘across the pond’, in the lands of my ancestry, my cultural heritage is more than a little Cuban. One of the traditions I picked up that I still love is Noche Buena – the Cuban Christmas Eve, which is filled with friends, great music, dancing, and some of the best food you’ll ever taste.

The typical British Christmas dinner involves a turkey, which for me of course is Thanksgiving food. So I like to do the Noche Buena, then join friends for their Christmas Day meal and avoid a second round of turkey leftovers (though I have been known to make a lovely Drambuie soaked roast beef – I’ll do that one for New Years this year). Instead, my leftovers will be lechon (roast pork marinaded in mojo), moros y cristianos (black beans & rice), yuca con mojo (boiled cassava root topped with a garlicky sauce) tostones (fried green plantains), maduros (fried sweet plantains). Que rica!

So, as my little Christmas treat, I decided to put all these recipes here, which I’ve gathered from various sources, mostly of the friend (or friend’s old Cuban Abuela) variety. And this Cuban feast isn’t just for the holidays, but can be made at ANY time of the year. Enjoy!

DISCLAIMER: I don’t measure. I’ll give rough ideas for things though!

Essentials: lots of garlic, lots of onions, cumin, orange juice, lime, olive oil salt & pepper. Everything uses some variation on this.

Mojo: What the heck is this? Well it is the essential Cuban marinade. You can buy it bottled if you are in the right part of the country, but homemade is best. There are various recipes on the net, but it is basically made from naranja agria, or sour orange (if you don’t have this available in your neck of the woods, you can made it by combining orange juice with a bit of lime juice). Mix this with lots of garlic (chopped or pressed), olive oil, chopped onion, oregano, and cumin. Why not make a whole bottle of it and store it in the fridge? For these recipes, though, I tend to mix it up for each thing I make, as needed.

Now, on to the recipes…

LECHON

Ok, the first important thing to know is that a REAL Christmas lechon is made by digging a pit in the back yard and slow roasting a whole suckling pig. And yes, it is amazing. However, not entirely necessary for a huge gathering. And the alternative is REALLY easy.

You want:

  • A fatty cut or pork for roasting – butt is recommended (and then you can snicker), but I usually find shoulder is more often available.
  • Stuff for mojo.
  • More onions.

Cook it:

Marinade that pork at least overnight in mojo. I tend to stab the pork all over (it falls apart when it cooks, so you don’t have to worry about it being pretty – plus it’s good for letting out Christmas frustration!), then rub it down with pressed garlic and olive oil, cumin, oregano (you can make a paste of this if you want, but I just go for it), salt & pepper. If you have a Adobo spice available at your local store, you can use this too, but I like fresh! Then, put it in a large ziplock bag, and add your juice. Now, this is where I personally mix up my recipe a bit – instead of the naranja agria, I use some kind of tropical juice, like orange & mango, or a blend that includes pineapple. Always Tropicana! Be generous with your marinade, you want to have plenty left for roasting too. Marinate for at least 12 hours, but the longer the better!

Lechon marinaded and ready for the oven.

When you are ready to roast (more on how long in a sec), coat your pan in a little olive oil, and layer sliced onions all over the bottom. Lay your lechon on top of that, all spread out. Pour the remaining marinade all over, sprinkle the fat cap with some more salt (important for making chicharrones later!), then cover with aluminium foil, with a tight seal.

I’m going to quote a friend for roasting instructions here: ‘Low and slow until you can’t stand to smell it and not be eating it.’ The idea is that this becomes so tender it just falls apart (which is why you want to make sure there is some extra marinade in the pan). You can broil it for about 10 minutes at the end so the top get crispy – chicharrones baby! No one ever said this was a heart healthy dish… but then again, you’ve got the wonderfully healthy black beans to go with it!

Lechon! Fat cap removed and pulled apart into the marinade. It was awesome.

Moros y Cristianos

Yes, that does in fact mean Moors & Christians. Black beans, white rice, get it? It’s all about the multi-cultural love, baby.

So, if that lechon was easy, the Moros (as we can say for short) is even easier. Especially with a crock pot! You want:

  • Bag of black beans
  • onions
  • green peppers
  • honey(!)
  • bacon (optional)
  • cumin, salt, pepper, garlic.. you get the drill

The night before, soak your beans in twice the water it takes to cover them. I throw in half an onion and half a pepper too. Now, some say to discard the water and add fresh to start cooking, but as I’ve already rinsed my beans and picked out the stones (oops, I forgot to say, do that first), I see no need. In fact, I’ve been known to turn on the pot low from the start and just go to sleep. But because we’ll be eating late, I soaked, then turned the pot on early this morning. Then left them alone. For hours.

Peppers and onions smells so good in olive oil and garlic!

So, here’s how you finish them. First, once they’ve softened up, I add salt, pepper, cumin and… the secret ingredient… about a tablespoon of honey to the pot. Then just keep em cooking over low. Can you overcook them? Sorta… but soupy beans are yummy. About an hour or so before you want to eat, sautee the following in a couple tablespoons of olive oil: a chopped onion, a chopped green pepper, about 4-6 cloves of chopped garlic, and some cumin. You can also include bacon or pancetta here, but I’ve found it is just as good without, and makes this a bit healthier AND vegetarian for your more high maintenance friends. Add that sautee to the pot, let it simmer for a while. Later, season to taste.

Black beans simmering.

Cook some long grain white rice. I’m going to tell you how, because I’ve seen more people boil and strain rice like pasta, and it makes me mental. No matter what anyone (or any box) tells you, ever, here is how to make rice. 2 cups water, boil, add 1 cup rice. Or 3 cups water, 1.5 cups rice. ALWAYS 2:1. Boil the water, add the rice, cover, turn heat to lowest setting, and WALK AWAY and do not lift the lid for 20 minutes. That’s the basics. Now, you can do things like add some butter or olive oil, or spice, or substitute half the water for stock or white wine. You also want to be aware of your stove (for instance my burners stay so hot I need to turn mine OFF rather than low). But that’s the basics on how to cook rice. You’re welcome.

Serve up a scoop of rice, and drown it in some beans. YUM! Leftovers? Put your beans and rice in skillet and cook ’em together! Yes, you can even add lechon! DOUBLE YUM! Also, you can add your raw rice to your beans at the cooking stage, but that’s a bit crazy for beginners, so try it the separate way first.

Yuca con mojo

Cassava root is ugly. It is a long, brown, waxy thing that look inedible. But when you peel it, it reveals a lovely white flesh, which you chop into large chunks and boil like a potato (just boil until soft when tested with a fork). In fact, that’s kind of what it tastes like – a starchier, stringy potato. Some don’t like it because of the stringy bits (which is found at the centre, but you can remove the larger ones, it isn’t as bad as it sounds). But here is what makes Yucca REALLY yum: the mojo, of course!

Cassava. Not pretty.

Now I make mine a little differently for this: I slice an onion (half then slice so you get half rings), and simmer it in about a cup or so of olive oil (yes, that’s right, a cup or so! maybe even 2 cups!) with garlic, a LITTLE cumin, and some lime juice. You are basically making a hot, tangy infused olive oil. Simmer til the onions are soft, and try not to burn the garlic.

Mojo for yucca

When this is done, put your strained yucca in a bowl, use tongs to top with the onions, then spoon a lot of that olive oil over the top, but don’t DROWN the yucca in oil. Reserve the oil that is left, you’ll use it!

Tostones y Maduros

Plantains are like big, hard bananas, but do NOT eat them raw. They are starchy and yuck. Also unlike bananas, they are best cooked unripe (green) and overripe (black). The yellow is just an inbetween stage.

Tostones

Green plantains are for tostones, crispy savory fried plantains. Peel the plantain by trimming each end then gutting a long slice down the skin. These are tougher to peel than bananas. Once you’ve peeled, then cut them into about 1.5 inch chunks. Heat some canola oil in a pot or pan, you want about 3 inches or so. Fry each piece til it is just turning golden on each side, turned if the oil doesn’t cover it. Remove with a slotted spoon to a dish with paper towel to soak up the oil.

Let them cool (remove the oil from heat and set aside). Once they have cooled enough for you to handle them, you want to smash them into disks. There are special devices you can buy for this, and if you live in Miami you might have one. But it is just as easy to do with a mallet (place them on a cutting board and cover with cling film), or I simply place it on the board and press with a bottom of a cereal bowl. They will be soft inside now from the cooking. This part can be done in advance.

First fry of plantains. I didn't get a picture of the finished ones as we ate them too fast.

You want to serve these hot, so finish them right before you want to eat (they can accompany the meal, but I like them as a starter). You are now going to fry the smashed discs again til they are golden. Drain on a plate (fresh towel!) and salt them. When they are all fried, transfer them to a dish and top with some of that leftover garlic oil from the yucca, and squeeze some lime over them. DIVINE.

Maduros

These are sweet, and make a great side dish for your lechon y moros. Instead of slicing these plantains in straight chunks (you’ll notice they are more ripe, too), slice them at an angle so you get nice, long, thin pieces. Shallow fry these in some FRESH vegetable oil, 2 or 3 minutes per side til the get tinged in dark but not burnt. Some recipes will tell you to coat them in sugar first, but they are sweet enough on their own I think!

There you have it, your Cuban feast! Flan makes an excellent desert, btw. But I think we’ll be too full for that!

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Filed under Cuban, Difficulty - Sous Chef, Dinner, Long but worth it!, Meat, Mediterranean, Spanish, Winter

Weekend Breakfast Staple

On the weekends, I generally enjoy preparing a breakfast that is more complex or unusual than what I would normally serve to my family during the work week. Today, I decided that I was in the mood for Eggs Benedict. The key ingredient is the hollandaise sauce.

Hollandaise is also extremely delicious over asparagus (which by the way, I also enjoy for weekend breakfasts occasionally), green beans, mixed with cooked pasta and stir-fried veggies of any type, or perhaps over fried green tomatoes and crispy bacon. Rather than share the full recipe for the Eggs Benedict, I now share with you the sauce recipe. Get creative!  Spice it up!  Put it over meats as well as vegetables or whatever you enjoy.

The recipe I find myself using over and over is a simple one adapted from the recipe created by Alton Brown of Food Network and Good Eats fame.

Ingredients:

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 teapsoon water
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne or black pepper (more or less to taste)
Directions:
Pour 1-inch of water into a large saucepan over medium heat
Bring to a simmer; once simmering, reduce the heat to low.

Place egg yolks and 1 teaspoon water in a medium mixing bowl and whisk until mixture lightens in color, approximately 1 to 2 minutes.

Add sugar and whisk for another 30 seconds.

Place the mixture over the simmering water and whisk constantly for 3 to 5 minutes, or the mixture coats the back of a spoon.

Remove the bowl from over the pan and gradually add the butter, 1 piece at a time, and whisk until all of the butter is incorporated.

Place the bowl back over the simmering water occasionally so that it will be warm enough the melt the butter.

Add the salt, lemon juice, and  pepper.

bon appetite!

Eva

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Game Day

This is my first contribution to Virtual Victualists, so please indulge me with a bit of introduction.  I was born and raised a city girl, but have lived in the Mid-Michigan farmlands for about 15 years now.  I have come to love the earthmomma lifestyle!  We grow a huge vegetable garden every summer and also have apple trees – from this bounty, I preserve literally hundreds of quarts and pints of green beans, tomatoes, relishes, jellies, applesauce and salsas.  I also dehydrate many foods – I really love my dehydrator!

I also grow many of my own herbs.  Garlic, oregano, rosemary, sage, chives, marjoram, lemon thyme… and whatever else strikes my fancy.  And then there are the teas. I grow and dry chamomile, chocolate mint, spearmint, catnip, poppy, borage, raspberry leaves, lemon balm… oh, and I am a forager. I roam the back fields and come home with serviceberries, wild strawberries, blackberries, and various oddities.

My cooking background is pretty diverse. Back in Seattle, I was married for a time to a chef and learned many techniques from him. Here in Michigan, I picked up plenty of tricks from those who lived through the depression on how to preserve food – primarily from my mother in law, who left us a week ago, and to whom I dedicate this blog entry.  Thanks for all the inspiration and common sense, Momma Caribou.🙂

Now, be warned. I do not cook ‘formal’ foods. My stuff isn’t snobbish. It’s hearty, cosy, comforting everyday food.  It’s also very flexible and you are encouraged to bend my suggestions to suit your own tastes.  I merely provide a start point and guidelines.

So then, that’s enough about me – let’s cook some dinner!  I’ll be working with venison steak, but any cut of red meat will do.  Heck, try ostrich. I did. It’s yummy. The method I use is great for taking a cheap piece of meat and ending up with fall-apart tender carnivorian bliss.

In a saucepan large enough to comfortably hold everything, toss all of this, in no particular order:

  • Meat pieces no larger than 4” in length.
  • One Quart of tomatoes, or tomato sauce, or peeled fresh tomatoes.  Really, any form of tomatoes you can get your mitts on. (Tomatoes add flavor and color BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY they break down the fibers of the meat, causing it to be fall-apart tender.)
  • One diced onion. Any kind.
  • Garlic to taste. I used four cloves because I have a lot of them, but you can use any form you like.
  • Diced bell peppers, any and all colors (optional)
  • Splash of Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt, pepper, any other herbs that appeal. Red pepper flakes are fun. A bay leaf adds depth.

Tomatoes, Venison, Veggies and Herbs

Get it all up to bubbly heat, add a bit of water if needed so the meat swims nicely, turn the burner down to a simmer and put the lid on.  Forget about it for a few hours. Go do something fun.

Once the fun is done, come back and lift the meat out of the pot. Set it aside on a plate.  Now you have a potful of veggie goop, laced with meat juices.  Let it cool just slightly, then pour it into your blender. If you don’t have a blender – improvise with whatever will puree the goop. In a pinch, I’ve used a potato masher.

Whirr up the veggie goop till smooth. Return it to the pot and get it back up to boiling.  Mix a few tablespoons of cornstarch with COLD water in a cup, then drizzle it into the goop while stirring energetically.  Viola! You now have vegetable gravy.

And really, that’s it! Now you can cook any budget piece of red meat and end up with fall apart yumminess. This is a good recipe for gamey meat too, as the tomatoes and herbs help mellow the flavor.  (I am lucky enough to get venison literally from the fields behind our home, where the deer feed on apples and corn.  No gamey taste whatsoever.)

Accompaniments

Oh Deer!

Tonight I decided on baked herbed potato spears, rather than plain baked potatoes.  Grease a cookie sheet with your preferred oil, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Scrub your potatoes.  Slice them in half, then into long, fat sticks.  Lay them out, skin side down, on the cookie sheet.  Brush on more oil (or in our case, due to a lowfat diet, we spritz with a can of olive oil cooking spray.) Now you get to have fun.  What do you like on your taters, precious?  I sprinkle mine with salt, pepper, crushed oregano, parsley and garlic flakes. Rosemary is also lovely.  Go for what you like.

Are you getting the hint that my recipes are totally flexible and adaptable to your whims?  Good.  When I make this with baked potatoes, I ladle the gravy over the open, burst potato. Tonight, since we did roasted potato spears, I served the veggie gravy in au jus bowls on the side for dipping.

Next time, I’ll talk about sourdough.  And pancakes!

(The photos are my own, taken with my phone. I make NO claims to being a visual artist! Just wanted to show you what I make.)

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Conchiglie con Langostinos un Pomodori Secchi Salsa di Mornay

Last evening as I wondered what to make for dinner, I decided to head to the local market for some inspiration.  I was so very pleased to find that our local fish monger had gotten some langostinos in from Chile.  My mind began humming.  How would I choose to prepare these tonight?  There are some favorite answers for those familiar with langostinos:  scampi, “mock lobster” casserole or bisque, little appetizers.  However, I was feeling the need for comfort food since the weather was cold and rainy, and well on its way to stormy.  I decided to cook what is essentially a very tasty gourmet mac n’ cheese.

“But, Lady Eva, first things first.  What are langostinos?”

Langostinos are commonly referred to as ‘langostino lobsters’, but in reality are not actually lobsters at all.  Also called squat lobsters (the mind wanders thinking about the classic B-52s song rewritten as Squat Lobster, but I digress), these tasty creatures are actually crustaceans of the families Galatheidae, Chirostylidae and Kiwaidae and are most closely related to crabs.

Langostinos - rinsed and thawed

And now the recipe (admittedly, I merely added things to taste so not everything has measurements for you):

Ingredients:

For the saute

  • 8 ounces frozen (or fresh) langostinos, rinsed
  • 4 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sun-dried tomatoes, julienned
  • pignoli
  • fresh basil

For the Mornay Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 tablespoons of all purpose flour
  • 1 cup heated milk
  • kosher salt
  • white pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated white cheddar
  • Worcestershire sauce

~ 12 oz conchiglie (fresh or dried)

conchiglie pasta

Directions:

  1. Prepare the conchiglie according to package directions and set aside with a drizzle of oil to coat.

Meanwhile prepare the Mornay Sauce

  1. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add flour and stir until mixture is well blended.
  3. Gradually stir in hot milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sauce begins to boil and thickens.
  4. Simmer, stirring frequently, over very low heat for 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in white cheddar cheese, and continue to stir over low heat until cheese is melted
  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste

For the langostino saute

  1. Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat
  2. Once oil is hot, saute the sliced garlic for 1-2 minutes
  3. Add langostinos and cook for ~3 minutes
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste
  5. Stir-in sun-dried tomatoes until flavors are incorporated
  6. In a separate bowl stir the conchiglie and the Mornay sauce together

To plate, top the conchilglie with the langostino mixture.  Finish with toasted pignoli and fresh basil.

Buon Appetito!!

Eva

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Filed under Difficulty - Dishwasher Easy, Dinner, Italian, Seafood

Gumbo z’herbes

I have, sadly, never been to New Orleans, nor am I Catholic, but when a friend gave me a huge bagful of fresh greens the other day, my first thought was to make that Creole Lenten specialty gumbo z’herbes. I did my usual Internet recipe research and discovered, as I expected, that there was a great deal of variation in how to make the dish–no consensus even on such basics as whether to thicken it with a Creole-style roux or with file powder. In fact, some of the recipes didn’t seem all that Lenten to me, containing impressive amounts of meat and sausage.

The one common denominator: greens, and lots of ’em–everyone recommended using a variety, preferably seven different kinds for luck. I was good for that: my friend had given me kale, beet greens, turnip greens, Asian mustard greens, and three different colors of swiss chard. A quick supermarket trip turned up no Creole sausage, but I got some Mexican longaniza that stood in quite well.

And then, on to cleaning and chopping all that vegetation. Every recipe said to discard all the stems from the greens, but I hate throwing out good food, which the stems are if you treat them right. I did remove them all, but only so I could simmer them separately, putting a little extra heat under them to get them as tender as the leaves. The chard stems especially were a great addition, as they’re so tender to start with; but even the kale stems got nice and soft with my treatment.

Cooking greens are notorious for hiding grit in all their nooks and crannies. To wash them properly: pile them all in a sink, fill with cold water, agitate the greens in the water as best you can, then pull them out and pile in a colander before draining the sink. Drain and rinse away all the grit left in the bottom of the sink, then repeat at least one more time, or until there is no more grit left in the sink when you drain it.

Ingredients:

  • Several generous bunches of fresh cooking greens, preferably seven different varieties, but in any case as many as you can manage–anything from collards, kale, and mustard greens to cabbage and lettuce counts
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup light-flavored vegetable oil (I used canola)
  • 1 large onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced fine
  • 3 ribs celery, diced
  • 1 lb. spicy sausage, cut into 3/4″ slices
  • 1 dried red chile pepper
  • several whole black peppercorns
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 heaping tsp. poultry seasoning (I was out of marjoram)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt to taste

Instructions:

  1. Thoroughly wash all the greens as described above, then roughly chop into 1-inch strips. If you’re also using the stems, chop them into 1-inch segments too, and keep them separate.
  2. In a large heavy pot with a well-fitting lid, bring about a quart of water to a high rolling boil. Turn it down to a still very active simmer, and then add the greens (just the leaf parts). If they won’t all fit at the first go, don’t panic; just put the lid on the pot and let the first batch cook down a bit, then unlid and chuck in more greens, repeating till you get them all in. Turn the heat to low, cover, and let simmer until very tender, at least an hour. If using the stems, bring some more water to a boil in another pot, place the stems in, cover, and turn heat to medium-low, letting them cook till they too are tender.
  3. Drain the cooked greens and stems, reserving all the cooking liquid (the “pot likker”). Chop all the greens and stems finely and reserve.
  4. Rinse out and thoroughly dry your large heavy pot, and place back on the stove. Add the oil and heat on high until you can see the surface of the oil rippling. Add the flour gradually, whisking thoroughly after each addition so that all the flour is incorporated with no lumps. Cook this roux on medium-low, whisking continuously and watching that it doesn’t scorch, until the roux turns a golden peanut-butter brown, which can take a good 20 or 30 minutes.
  5. When the roux is ready, start adding the greens cooking liquid gradually, again whisking in each addition thoroughly so as to prevent lumps. Once all the liquid is incorporated, turn the heat up to medium, stirring frequently, until the thickened liquid bubbles but is not yet boiling. Now add all the rest of the ingredients, stirring as best one can so that everything is well combined. Turn the heat to low, cover, and simmer at least another hour.
  6. Stir again and adjust seasonings. Serve in large soup plates over mounds of steamed white rice. Makes 8 servings.

Notes: Feel free to use more or other meats (ham, pork, veal, a ham-hock or ham-bone, etc.), and to vary the seasonings. You can also leave out the meat altogether to make this vegan, in which case I’d up the seasonings even more, and maybe add some of that vegan soy-chorizo to preserve a sausage-y note. The flavor will also change depending on which kinds of greens you use–because of the kale in mine it tasted very green-y, which since I love greens is a very good thing. For a smoother texture, you can run some or all of the simmered greens through a food processor before adding to the thickened cooking liquid.

Denny

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Filed under Difficulty - Sous Chef, Dinner, Southern, Spring

Lunch: Herbed Chicken Sandwich with Tarragon Mustard

I’m a mustard slut.

I’ve noticed that these days, when I travel about (and lucky me, living and working in Europe!), I am bringing back foodie delights for my souvenirs, mostly condiments. And mostly mustard.

Partridge's Royal Warrent. Posh!

I had a gorgeous herbed mustard that I brought back from Paris last summer, and I tried to make it last, but alas. So on my recent sojourn to London, after spending the afternoon in the Saachti Gallery with a friend, I discovered the divine Partridge’s in posh Sloan Square. (My life isn’t always so glamourous, so I have to mark these moments as they come!) I think part of the reason I have been buying nice mustard is it doesn’t take a huge outlay of cash to buy something really nice that can doctor up a boring sandwich or flavour an ordinary dish. I said in an earlier post, nice condiments can alleviate feelings of ‘not eating well’ when your wallet is thin.

So today, I made a chicken sandwich – simply sauteed the breast in some Olive Oil, seasoned salt, and herbes de provence – then on a whim, threw some garlic stuffed olives in the pan and fried them too. This softened them a bit, but also really brought out the salt, so I wouldn’t recommend it unless you are a salt-lover. I then toasted a whole grain roll I picked up at the local deli, and spread on a layer of  divine tarragon mustard from La Moutarderie Fallot.

Et voila!

Herbed Chicken Sandwich with Tarragon Mustard and Fried Garlic Olives

Bon appétit!

Rowan

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Filed under Difficulty - Dishwasher Easy, French, Lunch, Mediterranean

Beef Stew with Gnocchi

This is a variation of a stew recipe that I found in a nondescript magazine while waiting for Rosette in the orthodontist’s office.  The original recipe was lacking in spices and interest, but the potential was there.  I chose to cook this in the oven, but it would be well-suited to a crock pot or slow cooker on busy days.

Please let me know what you think, if decide to try it.

Beef Stew with Gnocchi (via Creative Commons search)

Ingredients

1.25  pounds chuck steak, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 medium zucchini, chopped
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
12 ounces Portobello mushrooms
4 cloves of garlic, minced (or more)
8 oz frozen pearl onions
2 cups  99% fat free beef broth
3/4 cup dry red wine

3 bay leaves

(All spices listed below are to be added to your taste – I honestly did not measure them.)

dried thyme
oregano
garam masala
cayenne pepper
red pepper flakes

17.5 ounces gnocchi
fresh Italian parsley – chopped

In a large bowl toss together steak, flour, salt and pepper.  Place steak in enameled cast iron french oven (4 or 5 qt).  Add chopped vegetables, garlic, onions, broth, wine, and seasoning.

Cook in 350 degree (convection, if you have it)  oven for 2.5 hours.

Meanwhile cook gnocchi according to package directions.  If this is done early in the process, drain, add olive oil and set aside until stew has cooked.

Remove stew from oven.  Gently stir gnocchi into the stew.

I suggest that you plate in large bowls and garnish with the fresh Italian parsley and fleur de sel.

Hope you enjoy!

Eva

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Filed under Beef, Difficulty - Dishwasher Easy, Dinner

Pistachio and Chocolate Chip Cookies

I love pistachios. By far they are my favourite nut and I’ll put them in anything I can. Of course pistachios and chocolate are a match made in heaven, so I made cookies.

Ingredients:

1 cup oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips
1 cup crushed pistachios

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C
Crush Pistachios. I like to just put them under a towel and take the rolling pin to them until they’re as crushed as I like.

In a large bowl, mix together the oil, butter, brown sugar and white sugar until you’ve got it well mixed and most of the brown sugar lumps are gone or small.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition, then stir in the vanilla .

Mix in the chocolate chips and pistachios.

Add the flour, salt, and baking soda and mix well.

Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto cookie sheets.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, until light brown.

Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

~Kostika

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Filed under Cookies, Dessert, Difficulty - Dishwasher Easy