Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Spanish Potluck!

I think they liked the empanadas!
What can students cook on campus? My daughter provided these photos from a recent event at her college. She attends a small liberal arts college in upstate New York. Not exactly the center of  the culinary universe. The Spanish Club puts on a Tapas potluck each year. The club buys all the raw materials and the students volunteer to cook the food. The kitchens are pretty spartan but they manage to pull off some nice things, like empanadas.

They come together to enjoy all the delicious Spanish food.

Looks like it was a great success! Food is a great way to bring people together and build community.

Spanish tapas are first-rate party food. Many of them are easy to make. Looks like they had a nice selection of things on toast, including tuna and capers. Very Spanish!

Tuna Salad for Tapas
(serves 6 as an appetizer)

This is a very tasty tuna salad on its own and unlike most tuna salads, it contains no mayonnaise.

1 6-7 ounce can tuna fish, packed in water, drained and flaked
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons minced dill pickles
½ teaspoon pickle juice
½ teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon minced onion
1 hard-cooked egg, minced
1 teaspoon minced capers
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
12  ½ inch slices of French or Italian bread
whole capers for garnish

Combine all the ingredients except the bread and whole capers in a bowl. You can make the salad ahead and refrigerate it until you are ready to serve it; it gets even better after some time in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the bread slices on a baking sheet and toast until they start to brown. Place a bit of tuna salad on each slice of toast and serve.

(Adapted from Tapas by Penelope Casas)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Baked Rice

Here at School of Eating Good, we want to give you information that makes cooking easy. Like how to make rice, which isn't quite as easy to prefect as most people think. We previously posted an article on cooking rice in the microwave. It's pretty solid, but because microwaves have different power ratings, you need to watch it the first time and possibly tweak it. That makes it imperfect in our mind but if all you have is a microwave, it's great.

Most folks have an conventional oven, however. And baked rice is literally foolproof. You start it just like rice on the stove-top but you finish it in a very hot oven.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

For 1 cup of rice, bring 1 ½ cups water (or stock, if you prefer) to a boil in an ovenproof medium saucepan. Add the rice and stir. Cover and place in the oven. Bake for 17 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes. It will keep warm for another 15 minutes.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Green Beans with Pineapple

Does that sound like a strange combination? It works rather well in this very simple Asian side dish. It's an unusual way to get your fruit!

You can make this with fresh green beans (see our post on cooking fresh green beans) but it works nearly as well with frozen green beans. Frozen green beans aren't quite as good as fresh ones, but what they lack in texture and sweetness, they make up for in convenience. No cleaning, no cutting.

You can cook frozen beans in the microwave or on the stove-top. Takes under 15 minutes either way. To cook in the microwave, put beans in a 2 quart microwavable dish with a cover. Add ¼ cup water. Cover and microwave on high for 4 minutes, give them a stir, and cook for another 4 minutes. Let stand, covered, for a couple of minutes. To cook on the stove-top, bring ¼ cup water to a boil in a 2 quart saucepan. Add beans, cover, and cook for 8 minutes. In either case, drain them well before proceeding with the recipe.

Nutritionally speaking, they are equivalent. Frozen beans are quite inexpensive. Fresh beans in season are close, but the frozen ones are consistently cheaper.

How about canned green beans? Their texture is mushy and their flavor is over-cooked. Stick to fresh or frozen.

Green Beans with Pineapple
(serves 4, costs $2)

12 ounces cooked green beans, either fresh or frozen, well-drained
2 Tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
1 8-ounce can diced or crushed pineapple, drained
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
A pinch of salt

Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, if using, and saute for about a minute. Add green beans and stir to cover with butter. Add pineapple and soy sauce. Cook another minute to heat up the Add a pinch of salt if you think it isn't salty enough.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Cajun Meatloaf

Meatloaf - comfort food of the first order. It's easy to make and delicious as a leftover. This recipe is adapted from Bon Appetit's Fast, Easy, Fresh. What makes it Cajun? The Holy Trinity, the Pope and a good dose of heat. "What are you talking about? What does religion have to do with Cajun meatloaf?" The hallmarks of Cajun cooking are 4 ingredients: onion, celery, green pepper, and garlic. The onion, celery, and green pepper make up the Holy Trinity. Garlic, highly revered in Cajun cooking, is the Pope. With a bit of cayenne and Tabasco sauce, there's plenty of heat, if you want it. The meatloaf is still full-flavored without it.

Cajun Meatloaf
(served 6, cost is $6.15)

 2 Tablespoons butter or olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
½ green pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, minced
½ teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ - ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, depending on how spicy you want your meatloaf
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 pound ground beef
1 egg
½ cup fine dry breadcrumbs (see Note)
½ cup ketchup
1 Tablespoon Tabasco or other hot sauce

Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat butter or oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion, garlic, green pepper, and celery. Cook for about 10 minutes. Add thyme, salt, black pepper, cayenne, and cumin and cook for another minute. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 15 minutes.

Mix together ketchup and Tabasco in a small bowl.

Combine ground beef, egg, breadcrumbs, and about ½ of the ketchup mixture in a large bowl. Add vegetables and mix with your hands. Form into a loaf in a 8"x8" baking dish (it fits best if you form it on a diagonal) or a 11"x7"x2" dish. Bake for 20 minutes. Spread top of meatloaf with remaining ketchup mixture and bake until cooked through, another 40 minutes.

Note: To make your own breadcrumbs, allow bread to dry out until hard then grate it on the smallest holes of a grater. Great way to use up odds and ends of bread.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Food Revolution Day 2013

Last May, the School of Eating Good, as part of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, was proud to host a Food Revolution Day event. You can read about our Food Improv Potluck and get excited about Food Revolution Day 2013, Friday May 17. We'll keep you posted on what we're cooking up. We're hoping we can join forces with our fantastic local Whole Foods on this; we'll be meeting with them early next year.

If you don't live near Boulder, Colorado, we urge you to find a local Food Revolution group so you can join in the fun and support the Food Revolution!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Pasta with Greens, Garbanzos & Feta Cheese

A pot full of tasty pasta

Here's the second pasta dish from out latest class. Super easy and quick. It actually takes longer to boil the water and cook the pasta than it does to put the final dish together. The lemon zest is key. Along with the feta cheese and tomatoes, it brings some bold bright flavors to a pot full of earthy ingredients.

The recipe calls for orecchiette (which means "little ears" in Italian) or small shells. Any smallish pasta will work. We used campanelle (which means "bellflower" in Italian) and that worked just as well. We found that it was necessary to cook the pasta for nearly 12 minutes, but we are cooking this at an altitude of 5400 feet. If you are at sea level, it will probably be al dente in 10 minutes.

Pasta with Greens, Garbanzos & Feta Cheese
(serves 4, cost is $10.30)

8 oz. orecchiette or small shells
¼ cup olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
12 ounces baby spinach
1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup small cherry or grape tomatoes
4 ounces feta cheese, cut into ¼“ cubes or crumbled
1 teaspoon lemon zest (see Note)
Salt and black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm, stirring occasionally, about 8-12 minutes. Reserve about a 1⁄2 cup of the pasta water and drain pasta.

Wipe the pasta pot out with a towel, and over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant and lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Using a spoon, remove the garlic and discard.

Add the spinach, the beans and tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the pasta, half of the cheese, the lemon zest, and season with salt and pepper. The feta cheese is quite salty so be careful not to over-salt. Toss well and thin out the sauce with a little of the pasta water. Garnish with the remaining cheese and serve.

Note: How do you zest an lemon if you don't have a lemon zester? Use a vegetable peeler to carefully peel off strips of lemon peel. Try to get as little of the white pith as possible since it is terribly bitter. After you have peeled about ½ the lemon, which should be enough for this dish, mince it. It smells intensely lemony and provides great flavor to this dish, so don't leave it out.
One of our students checking out the intense aroma of lemon zest

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Baked Penne with Butternut Squash and Sausage

Yum! Bubbly cheese.

This week, we had another class for students in CU apartments. What a great group! It's just so much fun to turn them on to real food and good eating. And, they are always so happy to get a great meal.

This month's theme was pasta. This recipe looks complex but, really, it isn't. The hardest thing is cutting up the squash. Though the recipe calls for turkey sausage (which is lower in fat than pork), it's just as wonderful and only slightly more decadent with pork Italian sausage, should you be unable to find sweet Italian turkey sausage. Or use chicken Italian sausage like I did tonight, because that's what I found on sale at the market today.

Though there are some expensive ingredients in here - goat cheese runs about $1 per ounce - this recipe makes a lot of servings. So, this recipe is actually quite economical. You get a lot of mileage out of those high cost ingredients by mixing them with inexpensive things like butternut squash and pasta.

Baked Penne with Butternut Squash and Turkey Sausage
(serves 8, costs $12.60)

1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 medium Onion, chopped
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 ½ cups Vegetable Broth, divided
¾ pound Sweet Italian Turkey Sausage, without casings
½ teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1 pound Butternut Squash, ¾" dice, about 4 cups
2 cups Tomato Sauce
⅓ cup Heavy Cream
Salt And Black Pepper
1 pound Penne Pasta
3 ounces Soft Mild Goat Cheese, crumbled
3 ounces Shredded Part-Skim Mozzarella
¼ cup Grated Parmesan Cheese

Preheat oven to 450°F. Coat a 13"x9"x2" baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute until golden. Stir in the garlic and saute 1 more minute. Pour in ½ cup of vegetable broth and cook until it has evaporated and the onion is browned, about 8 minutes. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up into chunks with a spoon, until it is no longer pink.

Add the ground cinnamon, squash, tomato sauce, broth, and cream. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid boils. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered and stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender, about 15 minutes. There should be plenty of liquid. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

While the squash is cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook penne according to package directions until al dente. Drain well.

Combine goat cheese and mozzarella in a medium bowl.

Add the pasta to the sauce and stir. Add ½ of the cheese and mix well. Spread the pasta in the prepared baking dish, smoothing out the top. Top with the remaining cheese mixture and the Parmesan cheese.

Bake until the cheese melts and bubbles, about 15 minutes. Let sit 5 minutes before serving.

Friday, October 5, 2012

What's in Season Now?

Pumpkins and apples, out in an orchard near Syracuse, NY
Autumn is such a wonderful time of year - crisp weather and there is loads of wonderful produce everywhere. Most of these are available all year, but are at their best in the fall. Apples are freshly picked, not pulled out of storage. Greens, such as kale and collards, are at their sweetest after a touch of frost. Here's a list of great produce now in season and some recipes to help you cook them. Check back in to the blog, because we'll be posting more great fall recipes.

Winter squash: In my supermarket, winter squash is currently displayed in giant bins. That's a lot of squash! There are many varieties, but two of our favorites are acorn squash and butternut squash. Both come in size that a single person can handle. Acorn squash has ridges which make peeling it a royal pain. Don't even try. Microwave them instead and then it is easy to scoop out the cooked flesh. You'll find an easy recipe for acorn squash at the end of this post. Butternut squash is another favorite because it is easy to peel. That makes butternut squash one of the best for roasting. You can learn all about roasting vegetables, including winter squash, in this article we wrote earlier this year.

Sauteed Kale with Asian Pear

Greens: It's true - greens are better in the fall. Extremely cold hardy, they not only thrive in cold temperatures, they produce more sugar. If you are afraid they will be bitter, this is the time of year to give them a try. Try our basic sauteed kale. You can use other greens such as collards or mustard but you'll need to cook them longer. And, kale is the sweetest of the bunch, making it a good "starter" dark leafy green for most folks.

Apples: The most popular fruit of fall in the US. Currently, apples are selling for 49¢ a pound in one of my local markets. Now, that's cheap! There are endless varieties. Need help figuring out which one to use? Check out this post on the most popular ones in US markets. And, we recently posted a recipe for a delicious yet simple apple crumble.

Orange-Pecan Acorn Squash
(serves 4, costs $1.50)

Unlike many recipes for baked acorn squash, this one depends on the natural sweetness of orange juice and pecans.

1 1-pound acorn squash, cut in half lengthwise and seeded (see Note)
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons orange juice
¼ cup chopped pecans
¼ teaspoon salt

Place acorn squash halves in a microwavable container. Cover and microwave on high for 10 minutes. Let stand, covered for 5 minutes.

Combine butter, orange juice, pecans, and salt in a 2 cup microwavable measuring cup. Cover tightly and microwave on high for 1 1/2 minutes.

Using a soup spoon, scoop out flesh from the acorn squash into a serving bowl. Pour over pecan mixture and serve.

Note: Winter squash can be difficult to cut in half because of its tough skin. You can soften the skin by microwaving it for a minute. The best tool for removing the seeds from squash is a soup spoon.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Keeping Brown Sugar Soft

In our last post on apple crumble, we used brown sugar. Brown sugar frustrates many a cook since when it dries out, it solidifies into a useless lump. Here's some advice on keeping it soft and "refreshing" it, should it turn into a useless lump in your pantry.

First, store it properly. Keep it sealed up in a plastic bag or a tight sealing air-tight container. You need to keep the moisture in the sugar. If there are holes in your plastic bag, even little ones, the moisture will evaporate and you have a useless lump of sugar.

What if you discover your brown sugar has dried out? If you don't need it right away, put the sugar in a tightly sealing air-tight container. Lightly wrap a slightly damp paper towel in some plastic wrap and place that in the container with the sugar. You don't need a lot of moisture to refresh the sugar. Too much moisture, and the sugar will dissolve. The sugar will slowly absorb the moisture from the towel, softening in the process. Once the towel is dry, the sugar should be soft again and you can discard the paper towel. If you keep it stored in an airtight container, it will stay soft a long time.

If you need the sugar right away, you can microwave it to soften it up. Put a cup of it in a covered dish and microwave for 30-60 seconds. If it isn't soft after a minute, try another 30 seconds. Watch it carefully because if it's microwaved too long, it will melt. If you use this method, and don't use up all the sugar you softened, you should use the damp towel method for the rest. After the sugar cools, it's going to solidify into a useless lump again.