Friday, December 26, 2014

Greek Vegetables


This is a great recipe when you have bits of Mediterranean vegetables languishing in your fridge. I threw this together for Christmas Eve dinner with some fresh veggies and some garden veggies that I had stashed in the freezer. Consider this a template for getting more vegetables onto your plate. If you don't like eggplant, add more of the other things you do like.

The use of olive oil is generous, as is typical in Greece, though I've cut back from traditional Greek recipes that would call for even more. Olive oil makes vegetables delicious. Vegetables on their own are very low in calories but high in many other things that are good for you. If some olive oil gets you to eat more vegetables, I'm all for it.

Greek Vegetables
(serves 8)

4-6 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 cup chopped onion or leeks
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 bell peppers, whatever color you have, large dice
2 cups peeled eggplant, large dice
2-3 cups zucchini, large dice
1-2 cups frozen artichoke hearts
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 teaspoon oregano or summer savory
about 1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper

Heat up a dutch oven or large deep skillet over medium heat and add 2 Tablespoons olive oil. Add the onion/leek, garlic, and bell peppers, and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt. Cook for 10 minutes until onions are quite soft but not browned. Add the eggplant and cover. Cook for 10 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients along with another 2 Tablespoons of olive oil. Bring to a simmer. Then reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook gently for 30 minutes until all the vegetables melt together in olive oil goodness. Check for salt. Before serving, drizzle on remaining 2 Tablespoons of olive oil, if desired.

Recipe adapted from Ikaria by Diane Kochilas, Rodale, 2014.

Photo: By Dana Payne (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Maple Apple Crisp



Here's a dessert recipe that uses our low sugar granola. Any of the variations will do, but don't use granola that contains dried fruit. The fruit will dry out too much during baking. I don't mix in the dried fruit until I eat my granola for breakfast, a suggestion from my dear friend Deb of Kiger Family Vineyard. If you mix as you go, you always have fruit-free granola on hand. I used my latest seasonal granola recipe, pumpkin pie spice granola, and it was delicious!

I like to mix up the apples in my crisp. Some varieties stay crunchy, some soften when baked. Some are tart, some sweet. If you mix them up, I think the texture and flavor is better, but use what you have. Here's a handy guide to apples to help you select apples you'll like.

Maple Apple Crisp
(serves 8)

non-stick cooking spray
1 cup granola without dried fruit
½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
⅓ cup brown sugar
⅓ cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into about 16 chunks
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
6 medium apples
⅓ cup real maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease a 9"x9"x2"  baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, combine the granola, oats, brown sugar, nuts, and ground cinnamon. With your fingers, crumble the butter into the dry ingredients until there are no big chunks.

Put the lemon juice in a large bowl. Peel, core, and slice each apple and place in the bowl. Toss with lemon juice to prevent browning. When all the apples are sliced, pour over maple syrup and stir to coat apple slices with syrup. Pour it into the prepared dish. Spread the granola mix on top, covering the apples completely. Bake for 45 minutes until apples are tender when pierced with a knife.

Adapted from a recipe in Apple Cookbook by Olwen Woodier, Storey Publishing, 2001.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Braised Tofu and Leeks


Leeks look like giant scallions. Their flavor is milder than green onions and much milder than yellow onions. Fall is leek season - they take a long, long time to reach a good size. I grow them in my garden and I need to plant the seeds inside in January and won't start picking them until late summer/early fall. Lucky for you, leeks are available year round in supermarkets.

The big drawback for leeks is they need to be washed carefully. They are buried in soil to increase the amount of white stalk (look for leeks with a lot of white stalk - they are more tender). That soil gets in between the leaf layers. To clean them, cut off the dark green leafy top and the root end. Cut the leek lengthwise and swish energetically in dislodge the dirt. Check between the layers for hidden sand. On the plus side, they won't make you cry as much as other onions. :-)

I like to use them in Chinese dishes. Their mild flavor complements garlic and ginger. Their texture is nice in stir fries or braises. Here, I add water chestnuts and bamboo shoots, increasing the vegetable count in this one pot braise. Tofu replaces the meat for this Meatless Monday entree.

Braised Tofu and Leeks
(serves 4)

14-16 oz. firm tofu, cut into 1" cubes
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
½ Tablespoon minced or grated ginger, about an 1" piece
1 leek, white and light green part only, washed well (see intro) and cut into 1" slices
2 cups vegetable stock (see Note)
½ teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon sugar
1 8 oz. can sliced water chestnuts, drained
1 8 oz. can sliced bamboo shoots, drained
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 Tablespoon cold water
4 Tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted, for garnish

Place the tofu cubes on a towel to soak up excess moisture.

Heat up a wok or deep skillet over high heat. Add the oil, then the garlic and ginger. Stir and add the leeks. Stir fry until the leeks wilt and start to brown in places. Add the stock, salt, soy sauce, sugar, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, and tofu. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 4 minutes. Increase the heat to bring the stock to a boil. Dissolve the cornstarch in the cold water and add to the wok. Stir until the sauce thickens. Taste for salt. Serve over hot rice with a Tablespoon of sliced almonds for garnish.

Note: Though not vegetarian, this is excellent made with ham or chicken stock. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Steel Cut Oats


[For an alternate version of this oatmeal, one that is creamier, see this update.]

Oatmeal is good. Oatmeal with steel cut oats is even better. The downside to the steel cut oats is they take a while to cook, at least 15 minutes and sometimes much longer. Because they cook longer, they can stick to the bottom of the pot, especially if you don't stir them.

There are two ways to make cooking steel cut oats foolproof: a pressure cooker or a slow cooker.

If you want to use a slow cooker, I recommend Alton Brown's method. You cook the oats overnight and they are perfect when you wake up in the morning. Alton uses dried cranberries and dried figs in his recipe. You can use any combination of dried fruits you want. They will all add some sweetness, enough so you won't need much sweetener besides the fruit.

My favorite method is the pressure cooker. I would recommend a pressure cooker over a slow cooker as your first time-saving cooking device (you can even get a combination pressure/slow cooker called an Instant Pot, which I recommend if you have the funds for this investment). You can cook steel cut oats in about 4 minutes. They will be slightly chewy at this point. Their texture is better if you let them sit, off the heat, for 10 minutes. It's also great reheated in the microwave. Add a bit of milk because it will get thicker after it cools.

The Instant Pot recommends that you cook oats in a non-dairy milk, such as almond milk or coconut milk. Cow's milk scorches while non-dairy milk doesn't. I've tried all three milks and I like coconut milk the best. I did find that cow's milk scorches and therefore don't recommend it for pressure cooker oats.

Pressure Cooker Steel Cut Oats
(serves 4)

1 cup steel cut oats
2 cups water
1 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk such as coconut or almond
¼ cup raisins or your favorite dried fruit, diced
2 pinches salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
1 3" stick cinnamon (optional)

For each serving, add all or some of these:
fresh fruit or more dried fruit
2 teaspoons sweetener, like brown sugar or maple sugar
1 Tablespoon chopped nuts
a sprinkling of ground cinnamon
a splash of milk or cream

Put the oats, water, milk, raisins, salt, vanilla, and cinnamon stick in the pressure cooker. Lock on the lid and bring up to pressure. Reduce heat to maintain pressure and cook for 3 minutes (4 minutes at 5000 ft.). Turn off heat and allow pressure to drop naturally for 10 minutes or more. Open the pot (carefully - the contents are still very hot) and stir. Serve hot.

Leftovers should be stored in the refrigerator. They can be reheated, covered, in the microwave for 90 seconds.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Indian Greens and Cheese


I love the interesting flavors in Indian food. India has so many amazing spices that the combinations are limitless. There is also a strong tradition of vegetarian cooking. You put these two together and you have the makings of a delicious Meatless Monday meal.

Paneer cheese is the firm, drier cheese used in saag (spinach) paneer. It will keep its shape and won't melt. Mozzarella will melt and become gooey (in a good way). Queso fresco (also called queso blanco) can go either way depending on how dry it is. Any of them are delicious but the texture will be quite different.

Garam masala is a blend of warm spices, often coriander, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, and cloves. Unlike curry powder, it doesn't contain turmeric, the spice that gives curry its yellow color. It is available in many supermarkets, Indian markets, and Savory Spice Shops.

Indian Greens and Cheese
(serves 4)

1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
¼ teaspoon fennel seeds
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced thinly
1 Tablespoon minced or grated ginger
1 pound of greens (beet, chard, or spinach), washed well
¼ teaspoon salt
a pinch of cayenne
8 oz. queso fresco, mozzarella, or paneer cheese, cut into ½" cubes
a pinch of garam masala, optional

Heat a dutch oven or large covered skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fennel seeds and ground cardamom. Stir for a few seconds, then add the onion and ginger. Cook until browned, stirring often to prevent burning. Add the greens and cover. Cook for a few minutes until the greens begin to wilt. Stir to mix onions with greens. Sprinkle with salt and cayenne. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 20 minutes until greens are tender. Add cheese cubes, cover, and cook for 5 more minutes. Remove from heat. Sprinkle with a pinch of garam masala, and add more salt if needed. The cheese can be salty so you may not need any. Serve over rice.



Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Pumpkin Pie Spice Granola

The oats level goes down and the granola level goes up. Law of conservation of breakfast.
It's all about the pumpkin right now. Pumpkin pie spice this and that. If you are looking for a treat, check out these pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. If you are looking for something you can enjoy every single day until the pumpkin rage passes, here is a granola for your breakfast. It uses pumpkin pie spice and shelled pumpkin seeds. Like our standard low-sugar granola with a couple of tweeks. Granola is the chameleon of the breakfast pantry.

Pumpkin Spice Granola
(4 cups, at least 8 servings)

3 cups Rolled Oats , not quick-cooking or instant
1 cup unsalted raw shelled pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas)
½ cup Dried Unsweetened Shredded Coconut
1 teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
a Pinch of Salt
¼ cup Honey
½ cup Chopped Dried Apricots
½ teaspoon Vanilla or Maple Extract

Preheat oven to 350° F. Combine oats, seeds, coconut, pumpkin pie spice, honey, and salt in a large heatproof bowl. It's going to be clumpy, but don't worry about that. Dump onto a large rimmed cookie sheet. Don't clean out of the bowl; you'll be using it again. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, stirring it every 10 minutes so that it browns evenly. Keep an eye on it near the end of baking so that it doesn't burn. Transfer the cooked, hot granola from the cookie sheet back to the bowl. Drizzle on the vanilla or maple. Allow to cool and mix in the dried apricot. Store in a cool, dry place.

Note: Pumpkin pie spice is a combination of cinnamon, ground ginger, ground allspice, ground mace, ground nutmeg, and ground cloves. Sometimes all of them, sometimes the first three. If you don't have pumpkin pie spice, substitute ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon ground ginger, and a pinch of any combination of whatever else you've got. If you don't like something, leave it out.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Chinese Curried Noodles


Need a recipe using the Fresh Chinese Noodles from a couple of days ago? Here you go! This is an easy stir fry that becomes a delicious saucy dish. Comes together in no time. If you have some fresh noodles stashed in the freezer, you can make dinner appear in about 15 minutes. It will taste better than anything you could find in a box or jar.

There are a couple of important general cooking facts in here:

  1. Cook the curry in oil to release its fragrance. If you add it with a bunch of liquid, this won't happen and the flavor won't be as good.
  2. Cornstarch needs to boil to activate the starches that do the thickening, so make sure you boil your sauce. Good to know for any cornstarch thickened sauce.


Chinese Curried Noodles
(serves 4 to 6)

1 pound ground meat (beef, pork, lamb, chicken, or turkey)
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon + 1 ½ Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 Tablespoons curry powder

Sauce
2 cups no or low salt chicken stock
3 ½ Tablespoons soy sauce
1 ½ teaspoons sugar
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 ½ Tablespoons cornstarch

1 8 oz. can sliced water chestnuts, drained
1 ½ cups frozen peas or shelled edamame, thawed

1 pound fresh Chinese noodles (or ¾ pound dried fettuccine or linguine pasta)

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.

While it's heating up, combine the ground meat with the 2 Tablespoons soy sauce. Combine all the sauce ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside.

Heat a wok or deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon of oil. Add the meat and stir fry until it is no longer pink, stirring to break up big lumps. Remove the meat to a clean bowl using a slotted spoon. If there is a lot of fat in the pan, pour it off and discard. If you are using chicken or turkey, there will be almost none.

Return the pan to high heat. Add 1 ½ Tablespoons vegetable oil. Add the onions and stir fry for 4 minutes until soft. Add the curry powder and stir fry until you can smell the curry, about 10 seconds. Stir the sauce to dissolve the cornstarch (it settles to the bottom on standing) and add to the pan. Add the water chestnuts and peas. Stir. Bring to a boil, add the meat, and reduce to a simmer. Add more salt if needed.

Cook the fresh noodles for 1-2 minutes (7-9 if using dried) until just done. Drain and add to the sauce. To serve, put noodles in a bowl with some of the sauce spooned on top.

Reheats well in the microwave.

Adapted from Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1997.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Fresh Chinese Noodles

Curried Chinese Noodles, made with fresh noodles
This is an easy recipe. There are only four ingredients, and one of them is water. It is a recipe that requires work, and I mean physical labor. Good pasta is achieved by kneading and rolling. But, it's worth it. The texture of homemade noodles is just something wonderful. My husband, who is a damn good pasta maker, will gladly go to the trouble of making fresh noodles. That's how good fresh noodles are.

This recipe makes a lot of noodles - 1 ½ pounds. Lucky for you, noodles freeze well. See the instructions on freezing at the end of the recipe. You can go straight from freezer to pot. Use a lot of water so the temperature doesn't drop too much. The noodles will need to cook a little bit longer, but fresh noodles cook so fast, they will still be done faster than dried pasta.

Fresh Chinese Noodles
(makes 1 ½ pounds, 8-12 servings)

3 cups all purpose flour
1 large egg
¾ cup water
2 teaspoons salt

Combine everything in a large bowl. Mix well. If the dough has dry lumps that won't incorporate, add a little bit - like a Tablespoon - of water. If the dough is really sticky, add a little bit more flour. Knead until dough is smooth. This takes a while but it's good exercise. :-) Cut dough into ¼'s. Cover the pieces you haven't rolled yet with plastic wrap. Roll dough as thin as you like. It's going to plump up when you cook it. If you roll it too thick, it will be doughy in the center. Try to go thinner than you want and you'll most likely be pleased with the result. To cut, lightly sprinkle top of pasta sheet with flour, fold up into a package you can cut efficiently with a knife. Folding into ⅓'s or ¼'s works well; for a visual on this check out these photos. Flour any parts that will touch when folded to prevent sticking. Use a sharp knife to cut into strips, like fettuccine. After cutting, fluff up to separate the noodles and flour some more. To cook, drop into boiling water. Cook for 1-2 minutes until al dente. They cook lightning fast, and will go from perfect to mush quickly. Set a timer. Who wants all that hard work to go to waste?

To freeze: dust well with flour and lay flat or arrange into single-serving nests on a pan and place in the freezer. When fully frozen, drop them into a plastic bag and seal tightly. They will keep for a few months in the freezer


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Green Chile Cheese Cornbread


It's the end of the garden season here, except for the heartiest of veggies. I picked the last of the green chiles, a mixed bag of Hungarian sweet, mild and medium Mexican chiles. They are small, so not worthy of roasting. I sautéed them in a little bit of oil and waited from some inspiration to strike.

Green chile cheese cornbread!

I used to get cheesy green chile grits on ski trips. A friend from Alabama with a taste for spicy introduced me to them. They were rich! This isn't so rich, but it brings in many of the same flavors. You could even make it with roasted red or green peppers. Not spicy at all but very delicious. It's a tasty way to get a little bit of vegetables into your cornbread and it goes well with School of Eating Good cauliflower-leek soup.

Green Chile Cheese Cornbread
(makes 9 servings)

non-stick cooking spray for pan
¼ cup vegetable oil or melted butter
1 egg
1 cup + 1 Tablespoon milk
¼ cup plain lowfat yogurt
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all purpose flour
2 ¾ teaspoons baking powder(see Note)
⅛ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup grated Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
½ cup roasted or sautéed peppers, diced

Preheat oven to 425°F. Spray an 8"x8" baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together vegetable oil, egg, milk, yogurt, and sugar. In a small bowl, mix together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients and mix only enough to moisten all dry ingredients. Stir in cheese and peppers. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 25 minutes. Test with a toothpick; if wet batter sticks to it, bake another few minutes. But, cake is moist even when done and 25 minutes should be enough. Allow to cool, and cut into 9 servings.

Because the cake is so moist, it does not keep well at room temperature. If you don't plan to eat it all within 24 hours, freeze it. It freezes beautifully if you wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, then place in a plastic bag.

Note: this recipe was tested at 5300 ft. If you live near sea level, like most people, reduce milk to 1 cup, and use 1 Tablespoon of baking powder.

Adapted from a basic cornbread in Pie in the Sky by Susan G. Prudy, William Morrow, 2005.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Cauliflower-Leek Soup for The 52 New Foods Challenge


I've been reading The 52 New Food Challenge by Jennifer Tyler Lee, the creator of Crunch a Color. I received a pre-release copy. It's hitting the shelves this week and it's a thoughtful guide for getting more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into your family's diet. The recipes are simple for each of the 52 foods featured in the book. If you are introducing a new food into your diet, one you've never tried before, do you really want to spend a lot of time on a dish you may not love? The important thing thing is to try it, and the recipe shouldn't become a barrier to that.

One of the chapter titles, "Keep Trying, Together," really resonated with me . Sometimes, it takes time for children (and adults too!) to like a new food. That means trying it more than once. The book has great tips for how to make this work:

  • Use a reliable favorite like a stir fry or frittata. It's amazing how many new foods can work in a frittata!
  • Experiment with tastes and textures. My daughter refused to eat the florets of broccoli but loved the stems. 
  • Walk the Talk. I'm surprised when I hear about parents trying to get their kids to eat something new, and they don't want to eat it themselves. This is a learning process for everyone and the adults have to take part too.
There are lots of other creative tips for getting the 52 new foods into your family's diet. I think that's what makes this book so wonderful. Trying new foods can be intimidating and we all need ideas on how to make it work. The suggestions are positive and take the drama out of the situation. Who wants to battle with the kids (or maybe your spouse?) over eating some bok choy? Wouldn't you rather have some tools that help you and your kids through the process of trying a new food? This book has them. 

In the spirit of the book, I created a super-simple soup. Soup is another tasty way to add new foods to your diet. This recipe doesn't hide the cauliflower and the leeks, but they don't look like themselves. Their flavors shine through, however. The potato helps to thicken the soup without any cream. 

Cauliflower-Leek Soup
(serves 6)

4 medium leeks, white and light green part only
2 Tablespoons butter or olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
about 4 cups cauliflower florets
5 ½ cups chicken or turkey stock
1 medium red potato, peeled and diced
½ teaspoon salt 
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

some possible garnishes: grated nutmeg, chopped chives, chopped parsley, a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, grated lemon zest

To clean the leeks, make a cut lengthwise through each leek. Wash them well by immersing them in a bowl of water and swishing them around so that you loosen up any sand in between the layers. Leeks are infamous for hiding dirt between the layers. Thinly slice them crosswise.

Heat up butter in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add garlic and leeks. Cook, stirring, until leeks are limp, about 4 minutes. Add cauliflower, stock, potato, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 25 minutes until cauliflower is very tender. Puree soup in a blender or in the pot using an immersion blender. Return to the heat and add the lemon juice. Check for salt and add more if needed. To serve, ladle into a bowl, and garnish with one of the possible garnishes, or none of them, if you prefer.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Bleeding Barley


OK, it's Halloween, so gross is rather in style. :-) This recipe isn't as disgusting as the title would indicate. The "blood" comes from beets, which are scary for lots of folks. I love beets - they are little sweet like carrots but more earthy. Some would argue that's a nice way of saying they taste like dirt. Try them like this before you dismiss them.

The best way to cook them is either roasted or in the microwave. Boiling them is an option too, but I like the microwave better. You don't need to peel them before cooking them. The peel is easier to remove after they are cooked. I suggest you use latex gloves when peeling and cutting up beets. They will turn your hands bright pink to blood red. Which would be fitting on Halloween, now that I think of it.

Not a true risotto - that's made with short-grain rice - barley risotto has a similar creamy texture and cooked in the same way. It's less expensive; pearl barley is inexpensive while arborio rice can be pricey. The stirring releases the starch, which is what gives risotto its creamy texture, not cream or butter. Though many recipes say you need to stir constantly, that's not really necessary. Stirring every few minutes is sufficient. Yes, it takes some work but not too much.

Bleeding Barley
(serves 4 as a light entree, 6 as a side dish)

3 medium beets, about 12 oz.
oil
6-7 cups chicken or vegetable stock
3 Tablespoons butter
¼ cup minced onion (or 1 Tablespoon dried minced onion)
2 cups pearl barley
salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
cheese (optional)

Trim the off the leaves and cut the stem within 1" of the beets. Trim off the hairy tip of the root. Wash well. Using a large kitchen fork, poke each beet a few times. Rub them with oil. Place in a microwaveable dish with a couple of tablespoons of water and cover. Microwave on high 10 minutes. Give the a poke with a paring knife to see if they are tender. When they are cooked, the knife will go in easily. If not fully cooked, move them around in the dish, recover, and cook for another few minutes. Uncover and let cool for 5 minutes. Peel them with a paring knife and dice. Set aside.

Bring the stock to a simmer and keep it there. Heat the butter in a large saucepan or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and stir. Cook until softened, 2 minutes. Add the barley, and cook, stirring, for 2 more minutes. Add 1 cup of stock, and stir frequently until all the stock is absorbed. Maintain a simmer - reduce to medium-low if the stock sizzles when you add it. When the previous addition of stock is absorbed, add another cup of stock and continue stirring and cooking until the barley is tender, about 30-40 minutes. You need to try it to see if it's done at 30 minutes. It should be slightly chewy but not hard in the center. If it's not done, add more stock and keep going.

Add diced beets, last tablespoon of butter and black pepper, and mix to melt butter and incorporate the beets. The risotto will turn a lovely shade of pink. Taste for salt. If your stock is salted, you may not need any more. To serve, grate or crumble on cheese, if using. Creamy goat cheese is the traditional complement to beets, but you can use Parmesan, blue cheese, or an aged sheep cheese like Manchego instead.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Dan-Dan Noodles

Another recipe from my class this week, a vegetarian version of a popular street food in China. There is quite a bit of interpretation in this recipe. I'm not sure what makes it Dan-Dan noodles besides spicy (as it came out of Sichuan cuisine) and noodles. I'm even willing to drop the spicy if it gets you to try it out.

You can use fresh noodles, even Italian pasta such as fettucini or linguine. Or you can use dried Chinese egg noodles. If you are very ambitious, you can make you own egg pasta. Takes a bit of time and elbow grease rolling it out. Lots of fun and the resulting pasta has a very satisfying bite. I understand if you want this to be fast and easy, though.

Many of the recipes use stir fried ground pork. This is vegetarian, and I substituted tofu for the pork. The tofu, which is pretty bland stuff on its own, absorbs the sauce nicely, as do the noodles. My students, some who said they didn't care for tofu, declared it quite tasty.

Dan-Dan Noodles
(serves 4)

Sauce
3 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon Asian sesame oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 scallion, minced
1 teaspoon chile oil (optional or use more if you like hot)
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

14-16 oz. soft tofu, cut into small cubes
½ pound fresh egg noodles or 6 oz. dried noodles
2 Tablespoons chopped roasted peanuts

In a large bowl, combine the sauce ingredients. Add the cubed tofu and gently toss so the tofu doesn't break apart.

Cook the noodles in a large pot of water until just tender. Drain and put in the bowl with the sauce. Toss to cover the noodles in the sauce. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts. When serving, use a spoon to make sure you get the tofu along with the noodles.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Cabbage Dumplings

Class this week! My students requested dumplings and noodles. We're making our own noodles - pasta is easy and fun - and adding some Asian sauces. We are not making our own dumpling wrappers however. Thank goodness for decent wonton wrappers in most every well-stocked supermarket! This is a vegetarian dumpling, stuffed with cabbage and shiitakes. It's served with a simple hot-sour-spicy dipping sauce.

Using a cole slaw mix makes this a bit quicker. It's a lot cheaper to chop your own cabbage but we're trading money for time in this recipe. There are often large pieces of cabbage or carrot in the cole slaw mix. Quickly chop the cole slaw to cut down any chunks. This makes it easier to put in the wrappers later.

Leftover filling makes a good Asian "frittata." I'll be posting that super-simple recipe later this week.

Cabbage Dumplings with Hot and Sour Dipping Sauce
(makes a bunch, about 30)

14 oz. bag cole slaw mix, chopped into small bits
6 fresh shiitakes
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 scallions, minced
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 ½ Tablespoons soy sauce
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil

1 package (around 1 pound) round wonton wrappers
non-stick cooking spray

Hot and Sour Dipping Sauce
4 Tablespoons soy sauce
3 Tablespoons cider or rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
chile oil, Siracha sauce, or chile garlic paste (optional)

Remove the stems from the shiitakes (stems are too tough to eat but you can add them to soup for flavoring). Chop caps into small bits. Mix with the cole slaw.

Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add the oil. Add the garlic and scallions. Stir fry for 20 seconds. Add the cole slaw mix. Stir fry until the cabbage is no longer crunchy, stirring so that it doesn't burn. It's OK to get a little char; this brings out the sweetness in the cabbage but you don't want to incinerate it. Add the soy sauce, salt, and pepper. Stir until the soy has been absorbed by the cabbage. Remove from the heat and add the sesame oil. Stir then let it cool for 10 minutes in the fridge.

To wrap dumplings, place 1 heaping teaspoon of filling in the center of the wrapper. Carefully pick up the wrapper in your hand and hold in your palm. Using 1 finger on your other hand, smear a little bit of water along the edge of half of the wrapper. Press the edges together to seal. If you want to impress your friends, learn how to pleat the edge but that's just showing off. :-) Fill and seal all the dumplings.

Put an inch of water in a pot that fits the steamer and bring to a boil. Spray the steamer with cooking spray and place the dumplings in the steamer in a single layer and not touching (or they will stick together). Place in the pot over boiling water. Cover and steam for 8 minutes. Serve with dipping sauce.

To make the dipping sauce: combine soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and chile oil in a small bowl and mix to dissolve the sugar. The soy and the vinegar are the base. If you like it really sour, leave out the sugar. If you like it spicy, add the chile oil/sauce.

Dumplings can be made ahead then frozen. If frozen, cook for 10 minutes.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Corn Chowder


As an Ambassador for Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, I get challenges each month. One was to cook the Food Revolution recipe for corn chowder and the other was to use leftovers. I had frozen corn, leftover bacon, leftover stock, and leftover cream. Sounds like the start of corn chowder to me. This recipe ended up being a combination of two of his recipes: the Food Revolution one and one he posted as his Recipe of the Day. It's not very thick because there is only a small bit of cream. Feel free to use any type of cream you have in your fridge, even the half&half you usually put in your coffee.

Corn Chowder
(serves 6-8)

1 large stalk celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
4 slices thick bacon, chopped
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
8 cups chicken or turkey stock
3 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen
2 medium boiling potatoes, cut into ½" dice
½ to 1 teaspoon black pepper, depending on your taste
salt
½ cup cream (half & half, light, or heavy)
4 Tablespoons chopped parsley for garnish

Heat the oil and bacon in a soup pot. Once the bacon fat starts to melt, add the celery and onion. Cook slowly so the onions don't brown until the vegetables are soft, 10 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Add the corn, potatoes, black pepper, and salt*.  When the soup returns to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Cook for 15-20 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Add the cream and cook for 5 more minutes until hot. Check for seasonings. Garnish with parsley before serving.

*The amount of salt will depend on what kind of stock you use. My stock was unsalted and I needed a little bit more than 1 teaspoon. If your stock is salted, don't add any at this point and taste at the end to add more if you need it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Savory Apples: a Fish and Apple Curry


I love Autumn and I love apples in Autumn. I grew up in New York State, a state with a lot of apple orchards - it's number #2 for apple-growing states (Washington is far and away the leader). Where I grew up, ancient orchards are interspersed with many a subdivision and the smell of ripe apples is everywhere. We would head to the local orchard for freshly pressed cider which was another treat of Fall.

After reading this article in The Atlantic, I started to wonder if my love affair with apples was shared widely. If you spent your life eating Red Delicious apples, probably not. I have shared your disillusionment with the apple - so many awful apples in box lunches, convenience stores, cafeterias. Please seek out some better apple varieties; I posted a list of common apple varieties and their seasons which can help you out. It's not complete. Apple breeders keep coming up with new varieties - thank goodness - because it would be a sad world with just the lame Red Delicious.

Most of us eat our apples in desserts. Here, it provides sweetness and texture to a fish curry. A tip when using curry powder: some of the spices in there have a bitter and raw undertone. To tone this down, it's important to cook the curry in fat for a minute.

Fish and Apple Curry
(serves 6)

2 Tablespoon oil or butter or a combination
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons mild curry powder
¼ cup raisins
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 Tablespoons chutney
salt and pepper
2 medium apples
2 zucchini, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 ½ pounds mild whitefish such as Pacific cod or catfish, cut into bite-sized pieces

Heat up the oil and/or butter in a dutch oven over medium-low heat. Cook the onions and garlic for 10 minutes until the onions are soft and turning golden. While the onions are cooking, peel, core, and dice the apples. Add the curry powder and cook for a minute. Add the raisins, crushed tomatoes, chutney, ½ teaspoon salt, and apples. Cook for 20 minutes on medium-low (to keep the tomatoes from scorching to the pan). Sprinkle the fish with salt and pepper to season. Add the zucchini and fish. Cook for about 10 minutes until the zucchini is tender and the fish is cooked. Check for salt and pepper before serving.

This gets even better if you refrigerate it and reheat it. The sweetness of the apples mellows the curry making it even more delicious.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Turkish (or maybe Greek?) Stuffed Peppers


Turkish cooks are experts at stuffing all sorts of vegetables. This recipe is a mash-up of a classic Turkish vegetable stuffing and some Greek flavors. It's not so crazy; they are neighbors.

The filling itself is easy. Stuffing peppers isn't that hard either. But, it all takes a while, particularly the cooking of the peppers. You need to braise them a long time until they are tender. The great thing is they reheat well so you can make a panful and have a quick meal by throwing a pepper in the microwave.

The filling contains short-grain rice (such as sushi rice) which is stickier. It holds together as a stuffing better than long-grain rice.

Stuffed Peppers
(serves 6)

6 large bell peppers, whatever color you like
4 Tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons raisins or dried currants, soaked for 5 minutes in hot water
1 10-12 oz. package frozen chopped spinach
1 ¼ cups short grain rice
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup chopped parsley
¼ cup chopped fresh dill
4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
juice of 1 lemon
stock or water

Cut off the top of the peppers as high as you can to leave a large cavity. Remove the core and seeds. If the peppers won't stand up straight, you can take a very thin slice off the bottom to make them flat. Then they won't tip over in the pan. Set aside the peppers.

Heat 2 Tablespoons olive oil in a large covered skillet or Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add onions and garlic. Cook for 10 minutes until onions are soft but do not brown them. Drain the raisins. Add raisins and spinach and raise the heat to medium. Cook until spinach has thawed. Add the rice, ¾ teaspoon salt, pepper, and 1 ½ cups of water or stock. Stir to mix, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until the liquid is absorbed, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from the heat. Mix in herbs and cheese. Taste the filling and add more salt if needed. If the filling is bland, it will be even blander after steaming for nearly an hour so season well.

Season the insides of the peppers with salt. Fill each pepper with stuffing. When you have used up all the stuffing, wipe out the pan and place the peppers in the same pan (you don't want to have to do more dishes, do you?). Pour enough stock or water into the pan to cover the bottom of the pan. If you are using water or unsalted stock, add ½ teaspoon of salt to season it. Drizzle the lemon juice and the remaining olive oil over the peppers. Put on their tops. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, just enough to maintain a simmer. Cover the pan and steam the peppers for about 50 minutes until quite tender. If you pierce one with a knife, it won't resist at all.

Serve hot or at room temperature. A little bit of extra virgin olive oil, chopped fresh parsley and/or dill, or crumbled cheese are all nice garnishes. I also like it for breakfast, topped with a fried egg.



Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Jamie Oliver's Blushing Spaghetti Vongole


A pointer over to my other blog, World on a Platter (a link to it always appears in the right-hand margin on this blog). I'm a volunteer ambassador for Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution because I believe in real food. You can read a bit about how I, with my friend Ronnie, started up School of Eating Good on the Food Revolution site. I think Jamie and his organization do great things and I also think Jamie is a masterful chef. He just released a new book: Jamie's Comfort Food filled with comfort food recipes from around the world. There are some fun and exciting things in it, though it's not a beginner cookbook. The Blushing Spaghetti Vongole is one of the simpler recipes, but it does require getting a hold of live clams. Which aren't cheap or easy to find, particularly in landlocked Colorado*. A special meal - when you want to spoil yourself, your loved ones, celebrate something wonderful. That's what the book is about: recipes to treat the ones you love. The ones we love deserve great food and anyone can make it.

*If you live near Boulder, I recommend Pacific Ocean Marketplace on 120th Ave. in Broomfield for live clams and lots of other fishy and Asian things. You will find lots of interesting things there and some of the best deals on produce, anywhere.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Greek Salad

One of the few salads that did have some lettuce - but not much!
The final recipe from my class on Greek food...this one is very easy, full of delicious and healthy things, and very Greek. Rather than consult my extensive cookbook collection on Greek Salad, I talked to my friend Lynn who spent her spring vacation hiking around Greece and exploring ancient ruins. Of course, she had to eat too! She told me that she ate many Greek Salads during her stay and didn't see any lettuce in most of them. OK, skip the lettuce! This makes sense because lettuce is not in season when tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers are in season. The dressing is also simple: a lemon vinaigrette made with olive oil. Because what else would you use in Greece, birthplace of olive culture? As far back as 3,000 years ago, olives were a commercial product in Greece, specifically Crete.

Greek Salad
(serves 4)

1 cucumber, peeled and cut into thick slices
1 large red pepper, cored, seeded and cut into 1" chunks
1 large green pepper, cored, seeded and cut into 1" chunks
2 ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into chunks
½ medium red onion, sliced thinly
4 oz. feta cheese, preferably sheep milk
tasty black olives such as Kalamata
salt
dried oregano crushed between your fingers

Dressing
1 - 2 cloves garlic, smashed
a healthy pinch of salt
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, the best you can afford

Toss together the cucumber, peppers, tomatoes, and red onion in a large bowl. Mash the garlic cloves with the salt until you have a paste of garlic. Press your knife blade while pulling it across the garlic-salt to make the paste. At first, it will be chunky but the abrasive nature of the salt will help to break down the garlic. Place the garlic paste in a medium bowl. Add in the lemon juice and olive oil. Whisk to combine. Drizzle over the vegetables and toss again. Taste for salt, adding more if needed. The feta and olives are quite salty, so don't over-season the veggies.

To serve, arrange ¼ of the vegetables on a plate. Garnish with slices or chunks of feta cheese and olives. Sprinkle lightly with a pinch of dried oregano.

Vegetarian Pastitsio


Here's a great tip for the vegetarians out there for adapting the traditional Pastitsio recipe I posted earlier this week. Instead of using 1 pound of ground meat, substitute 1 ½ pounds chopped mushrooms. Mushrooms have a savory flavor and substantial texture, making them a great meat substitute. You won't need to pour off any fat because mushrooms have next to none. In fact, I would increase the olive oil to 4 Tablespoons to make them a bit richer. The rest of the recipe stays the same.

Photo credit: By wikioticsIan (Mushrooms (cremini)) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, September 29, 2014

Spinach and Rice Casserole


Another recipe for my Greek class. It draws from the very popular Spanakopita which is a Greek spinach pie. Spanakopita is made with phyllo dough but that's not the easiest thing to deal with for beginning cooks. Here, we make it easier by mixing the spinach filling with some brown rice. This is a stick-to-your-ribs vegetarian entree.

Frozen spinach comes in packages ranging from 10 oz to 16 oz. Use whatever you can find. You do need to thaw it and drain it, but no need to squeeze out the water, as is usually done with spinach filling recipes.

Spinach and Rice Casserole
(serves 6-8)

about 5 cups cooked brown rice*

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained

4 eggs
1 cup low fat or whole milk
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese, about 4 oz.
1 cup crumbled feta cheese, about 4 oz.
2 Tablespoons chopped parsley
2 Tablespoons chopped dill
1 teaspoon salt or more to taste
½ teaspoon black pepper

non-stick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and spinach. Cook for a few minutes until heated through. Remove from the heat, transfer to a large bowl, and allow to cool for a few minutes, so you don't scramble the eggs when you mix them into the spinach. Spray a 9" x 13" baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Beat the milk into the eggs. Add this and the remaining ingredients into the spinach and stir to combine. Spread into the baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 10 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature; refrigerate any leftovers.

*Cook 1 ¾ cups raw brown rice in 3 ¼ cups water to yield 5 cups of rice. Depending on the rice, they take 40-50 minutes to cook. If you cooked the rice ahead and it is cold, zap it for a minute to warm it up. Precooked brown rice cooks up in less time than white rice and is a good option if you want this dish in under an hour. Check the box for how much rice you need to cook because the yield is different than for raw brown rice.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Pastitsio - Greek Baked Pasta

This is a Greek version of lasagna. It is similar to many Italian versions except:
  • It is not made with flat noodles. It's always made with elbow macaroni.
  • The red meat sauce, usually lamb but could be beef,  is flavored with cinnamon.
  • It isn't heavy on cheese. The richness comes from a cheaters* béchamel, a white sauce made with milk and enriched with eggs.
It is familiar, and yet not. The cinnamon is the secret flavor which makes it totally unlike any Italian lasagna.

This recipe makes a lot. It's rather a production, so that's a good thing. You can freeze it or you can share it with your friends. You can eat it for breakfast, if you like. I have!

Because there are a number of components and steps, it's important to read through the whole recipe to understand what happens when. You want to wait until you are ready to assemble the casserole to cook the pasta. Otherwise, it will be over-cooked and mushy.

Pastitisio
(serves 8-10)

Meat Sauce
½ Tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground beef or ground lamb, or a combination of the two
1 large onion, chopped
½ cup dry red wine
½ cup tomato sauce
3 Tablespoons tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon dried oregano
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained

1 pound elbow macaroni
salt for pasta cooking water

White Sauce
2 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
½ cup cold water
3 cups whole milk
¾ teaspoon salt
4 eggs, beaten in a medium bowl

2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
ground cinnamon for garnish
non-stick cooking spray

Spray a 9"x13" lasagne pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground meat and cook until starting to brown. Drain off the fat to leave about 1 Tablespoon. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes, under softened. Add the remaining meat sauce ingredients, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until the remaining components are complete. Make sure to taste it for salt. If the sauce is bland, the casserole will be bland, so season well.

While the sauce is simmering, bring a pot of salted water to boil. 

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Dissolve the cornstarch in water. Add the milk, cornstarch, water, and salt to the saucepan. Cook until the sauce starts to thicken, stirring to prevent sticking and scorching. The sauce will not thicken until the milk comes to a boil. Remove the sauce from the heat and pour about 1 cup of it into the beaten eggs, stirring to combine. Then add the rest of the sauce to the eggs, mixing well. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cook the macaroni until just under-done, about 7-8 minutes. Drain well. Place ½ the macaroni in the lasagne pan. Pour the meat sauce evenly over the macaroni. Sprinkle with 1 cup of the grated cheese. Spread on the rest of the macaroni. Pour the white sauce over the pasta, spreading it evenly. Sprinkle with the rest of the cheese and  ground cinnamon. Bake for 45 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes before trying to cut.

Tastes even better reheated the next day.

*It's a cheaters version because a classic béchamel is thickened with a roux, a mix of butter and flour. This one uses cornstarch, which also helps to stabilize the proteins in the eggs, keeping them from scrambling in the hot sauce.


Monday, September 22, 2014

School of Eating Good, Inc. officially a not-for-profit charity


Sorry about the lack of recipes here lately. It will be picking up shortly. The School is giving a class on Greek food tomorrow evening at CU and those recipes will be up this week. I've been traveling quite a bit, so no time for testing and posting. Don't worry - we haven't gone away.

In fact, great news came our way from the Internal Revenue Service - how often does that happen?! School of Eating Good, Inc. was granted tax exempt status under section 501(c)(3). Which means that we do not have to pay income tax and you can make donations to support our mission and your donations are tax-deductible (if you pay US income taxes). This is a big step because it makes our mission as an educational organization more legit. We can start planning some interesting new initiatives, raising money for these, and bringing food education to even more people.

To get you primed for the Greek recipes coming later this week, here's a recipe that jazzes up plain white rice in a Greek way: with the addition of dill and lemon. I am not a fan of dried dill. Like its cousin cilantro, it loses most of its flavor when it is dried. I recommend you buy a big bunch (it's in season right now), chop it, and freeze it. You'll have fresh dill all winter long.

Lemon-Dill Rice
(serves 4-6)

2 Tablespoons olive oil
½ medium onion, chopped
1 cup white rice
zest of ½ a lemon
juice of ½ a lemon, about 1 ½ Tablespoons
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh dill
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 ¾ cups water

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, a couple of minutes. Add the rice and sauté for another minute. Add the remaining ingredients, stir, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low to maintain a simmer and cover. Cook for 18-20 minutes. Turn off heat and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Recipe adapted from Lemon-Dill Rice, #250959 at food.com

Illustration: "Illustration Anethum graveolens0". Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Korean Grilled Chicken

Korean dinner: grilled spicy chicken, kimchi cucumber and some simple green beans
It's still grilling season and here's a delicious combination of flavors. There are a lot of ingredients in the marinade but they are all easy to find. If you can find Korean crushed red pepper - it's much milder than the stuff you shake on pizzas - use that. Rather than searingly hot, it's slightly hot and fruity. On the heat/flavor scale, I think it's close to Aleppo pepper, though that isn't much easier to locate than Korean chile! If you must, use the crushed red pepper. Or you can leave out the chile because there is a lot of flavor going on here.

This marinade is also great on veggies, such as chunks of red peppers, shiitake mushrooms, whole scallions, or spring onions.

Korean Grilled Chicken
(serves 8)

2 pounds skinless boneless chicken breasts

3 Tablespoons soy sauce
⅓ cup rice wine or dry vermouth
3 scallions, white and light green part, finely minced
8 cloves garlic, pressed or finely chopped
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 Tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
4 walnut halves, toasted and finely chopped
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 Tablespoon Korean red chile flakes or Aleppo pepper OR ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 ½ ground black pepper
pinch of salt

oil for greasing grill
salt

Cut the chicken breasts into 1" thick slices. Mix together the remaining ingredients in a large glass baking dish. Add the chicken and coat with marinade. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Heat up your grill on high. Brush with oil to prevent sticking. Reduce heat to medium. Remove chicken from the marinade, sprinkle lightly with salt, and cook until done, about 20 minutes, flipping to get some light char on both sides. Serve as whole pieces, or slice on the bias (as in photo above).

From Growing Up in a Korean Kitchen: A Cookbook by Hi Soo Shin Hepinstall, Ten Speed Press, 2001.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Sausage and Vegetable Stew


I recently visited Chicago to take in a baseball game at the oldest major league ballpark: Wrigley Field. The food there is very old-school. Unlike my local ballpark Coors Field, the fare is as traditional as...well...baseball! Classic Chicago hot dogs and one of my favorites, sausage and peppers and onions on a roll. This inspired me to create this stew. There's a little bit of sausage but the bulk of it is veggies from my garden - some eggplant, zucchini, and Italian peppers. You can serve this on a hoagie roll or Italian bread. Or you can serve it over rice, like my dinner in the photo. We also ate it stuffed into a pita, though that's a pretty messy container!

You can choose the type of sausage you like best: spicy or mild, chicken or pork. You want a flavorful Italian sausage because the flavors in the sausage provide a lot of flavor in the stew.

Sausage and Vegetable Stew
(serves 6)

1 large sweet onion, sliced
2 Italian sweet peppers, cored and sliced crosswise
4 cloves of garlic, sliced
2 Tablespoons olive oil + ½ Tablespoon
¾ pound Italian sausage, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 14-oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 pound zucchini, cut into ½" dice
½ pound eggplant, peeled and cut into ½" dice
salt and pepper
healthy pinch of crushed red pepper (optional)
about 20 large fresh basil leaves, chopped
¼ cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Heat up a large skillet with a lid over medium heat. Add the 2 Tablespoons oil and the onions. Sprinkle with about ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook until golden and very soft, about 20 minutes. After 10 minutes of cooking, lower heat to medium-low to keep the onions from burning. Stir occasionally. This step takes time but this is how you get delicious onions. Add the peppers and garlic. Stir to mix and cook for 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the onion mixture to a bowl and set aside.

Return the skillet to the stove and turn up the heat to medium-high. Add the ½ Tablespoon oil. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the sausage. Brown the sausage. Add the diced and crushed tomatoes, scrapping up any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan (this is the good stuff!). Add the zucchini, eggplant, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper, and crushed red pepper, if you want a spicy sauce. Stir to mix and cover. Cook for 10 minutes. Remove the cover, add the cheese, and cook for another 5 minutes to thicken the sauce a bit. Stir in ½ the chopped basil. Taste and add more salt and black pepper, if needed. To serve, mound onto a roll, and garnish with onions and remaining chopped basil.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Lipstick on a Pig

Been busy traveling of late so not much cooking going on in my house. Have been catching up on my reading, though. Found this excellent article by Dr. David Katz, Director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center. Quick summary - fortification is great, but juicing up junk food with nutrients does not make it a replacement for real food. Check it out. (And, I love the photo of a pig with lipstick.)

Fortification Follies: Lipstick on a Pig for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Monday, July 14, 2014

Carrots and Turnips with Marsala


This recipe gives me an opportunity to introduce a few interesting ingredients:
  • Marsala wine - a fortified wine from Sicily. It has a wonderful nutty flavor. It's fairly inexpensive and because it is fortified with brandy (and sometimes sugar), it lasts forever. I used a dry Marsala, which is an aperitif, but sweet Marsala is also made and served as a dessert wine. Marsala is the primary flavoring in Zabaglione, a silky, frothy egg custard dessert, and one of the great Italian sweets.
  • Walnut oil - full of delicious walnut flavor, it can be used for cooking, as a salad oil, or as a finishing oil, like a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. And like extra-virgin olive oil or butter, it can handle medium-high heat cooking. A great source of healthy fats, so I like it to use it instead of butter in many recipes where the flavor of olive oil is too savory. Walnut oil is expensive, about twice as expensive as butter, which isn't exactly cheap either. But, if you can fit a bottle in your budget, and use it sparingly, it packs a lot of flavor per penny. 
  • Turnips - Not the most popular vegetable in the garden. They have an earthy flavor which is most pronounced in bigger turnips like rutabagas. I prefer the smaller purple topped turnips that show up in the Boulder Farmers' Market in early summer. From a good family, the Brassicas, which includes broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and cabbages.
We're going to put all these together with some carrots - their sweetness balances the earthiness of the turnips - to make a delicious and unusual vegetable side dish.

Carrots and Turnips with Marsala
(makes 4-6 servings)

4 medium carrots
12 oz. purple-topped turnips
2 Tablespoons walnut oil
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup dry Marsala
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (about 4 sprigs) or more
¼ teaspoon black pepper

Peel the carrots and turnips. Cut the carrots into thick sticks about 3" long. Cut the turnips in half and then slice into half-moons. Heat the oil in a large skillet with a cover over medium heat. Add the carrots and turnips and toss to coat in oil. Sprinkle with the salt. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the Marsala and cover the pan. Cook for another 5 minutes until the wine has evaporated and the vegetables are tender. Sprinkle with parsley and black pepper. Serve hot.

Adapted from 1000 Italian Recipes by Michele Scicolone, Wiley Publishing, Inc., 2004.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Apple Cinnamon Granola

My breakfast: granola with strawberries and yogurt. Yum!

As I said last year, the low-sugar granola recipe is one of the most popular here. Here's yet another version of this: apple-cinnamon. Boosted the cinnamon a bit, added a touch of powdered ginger, dried apples, and raisins, though like my dear friend Deb, I like to add the dried fruit as I eat it, so I can eat what I feel like that day.

Apple Cinnamon Granola
(serves about 8-10)

3 cups rolled oats (not quick or instant)
½ cup shredded unsweetened coconut
¼ cup honey, heated in the microwave until pourable
1 cup silvered or sliced almonds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon powdered ginger
a large pinch of salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup diced dried apples
½ cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350° F. Combine oats, nuts, coconut, cinnamon, honey and salt in a large heatproof bowl. Dump onto a large rimmed cookie sheet. Don't clean out of the bowl; you'll be using it again. Bake for 25-30 minutes, stirring it every 10 minutes so that it browns evenly. Keep an eye on it near the end of baking so that it doesn't burn. Transfer the hot granola from the cookie sheet back to the bowl. Drizzle on the vanilla and stir. Allow to cool and mix in the dried fruit. Store in a cool, dry place.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Sweet Potato & Bean Stew


This recipe is really Mark Bittman's from his excellent The Food Matters Cookbook. That recipe starts with dried beans, cooks the beans with some seasoning and pork product, and then proceeds to the stew. I think it's wonderful to start with dried beans; I usually do that myself. But, there are plenty of days where I'm just running behind and a can or two of cooked beans can save your dinner. If you start with dried beans, dinner will take a few hours. If you start with canned beans, you can pull this off in an hour.

The sausage in this recipe is garnish, not the main event. I made it with 1 link (about 6 oz.) of andouille, so everyone gets two to three small slices of sausage with their stew. You get the flavor of the meat without adding much to the cost.

Sweet Potato and Bean Stew
(serves 6, cost $12)

1 teaspoon oil
2 oz. bacon or pancetta, diced
1-2 links andouille or hot Italian sausage
1 large onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
a pinch of cayenne
1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
2 15-oz. cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
2 large sweet potatoes, about 2 pounds, cut into 1" chunks
1 ½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
vinegar-based hot sauce (like Tabasco) or juice of ½ a lime

Heat up the oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the bacon or pancetta and cook until it renders its fat. Remove from the pot and set aside. Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the sausage. Sauté until browned. Remove from pot and set aside to cool slightly. There will be a bit of fat in the pot and it will add lots of flavor to the dish. But, you don't need more than a couple of tablespoons and remove some if there is more than that.

Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion, peppers, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, allspice, and cayenne. Sauté for 5 minutes, scraping the bottom to keep the spices from burning. Add the tomatoes and stir to combine. Add the reserved pancetta, beans, sweet potatoes, salt, and pepper. There should be enough liquid to nearly cover the beans and potatoes. If not, add some water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cover. Cook for 30 minutes until sweet potatoes are tender. Slice the sausage while the stew is cooking and add back to the pot so the sausage can finish cooking. Add hot sauce or lime juice, stir, and serve.

Reheats very well.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Sesame Spinach


Now that we have pre-washed spinach in most every supermarket, spinach is a quick and easy vegetable side dish. This dish is similar to many Asian dishes, lots of garlic, soy, and that powerhouse of flavor, Asian sesame oil. You can eat it cold too. Add a pound of stir-fried tofu cubes, serve over rice, and you have a super-quick vegetarian dinner for 4.

Sesame Spinach
(serves 4)

3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound pre-washed spinach
½ Tablespoon sesame oil
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ Tablespoons sesame seeds (optional)

Combine the soy sauce and sugar in a small bowl and mix to dissolve the sugar. Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok until smoking hot. Add garlic, stir for 10 seconds, then add the spinach and toss. Continue to toss until spinach is wilted. Add soy-sugar mixture and toss again. Remove from heat. Add sesame oil, salt, and sesame seeds (if using) and toss. Serve hot, room temperature, or cold as a salad.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Cold Spicy Noodles with Shredded Vegetables

I used whole wheat spaghetti. It adds a nice nutty, hearty flavor.

It's heating up and this is one of my favorite cold dishes for summer. Cold noodle salads are very popular in many Asian countries, including China, Vietnam, and Japan. The type of noodles changes as do the seasonings, but they are all packed with flavor and cooling on a hot summer night.

My version is most like the Chinese version with the toasty flavor of Asian sesame oil, and a good dose of chili oil. If you don't have chili oil, you can use Siracha sauce. You can leave out the chili if you don't like spicy and it will still have good flavor.

Cold Spicy Noodles with Shredded Vegetables
(serves 4 as a main dish)

Salad
1 pound spaghetti
1 Tablespoon salt (for cooking water) plus 1 teaspoon salt for salad
1 red pepper, cored, seeded and sliced thinly
2 carrots, shredded or grated
4 scallions, thinly sliced for garnish
1 Tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted until golden and cooled
cilantro leaves for garnish (optional)

Dressing
1 teaspoon sugar
2 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 Tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar
½ to 1 teaspoon chili oil or Siracha sauce
2 Tablespoons Asian sesame oil
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt. Cook spaghetti until just al dente, about 9 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water until noodles are cold. Dump onto a clean kitchen towel to dry off - you don't want to add a bunch of water that is sticking to the noodles because it will thin out the dressing.

Combine sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and chili oil in a medium bowl. Whisk until sugar and salt dissolves. Whisk in sesame oil and vegetable oil.

Toss together spaghetti, red pepper, and carrots in a large bowl. Whisk dressing on more time then pour over spaghetti. Toss to coat. Best if served really cold, after sitting in the fridge for a couple of hours. To serve, mound up salad and sprinkle with sesame seeds and cilantro leaves. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to 2 days

Monday, June 9, 2014

June Ambassador Challenge: Basil Yogurt Dressing

I used the dressing on my lunch salad: canned beans, tomato, avocado and romaine lettuce
OK, the challenge is actually to make Jamie's Buttermilk Dressing, which is quite excellent on its own. But I had neither buttermilk nor dill. But, I did have yogurt and fresh basil. Yogurt is a little tangier than buttermilk, and thicker too. It works to replace the buttermilk because it is close enough. The original recipe calls for dill but the basil was getting long in the tooth and had to go into something. And, we love basil in my house. That's a lesson for all you budding cooks out there: sometimes what you have in your fridge is good enough. Basil doesn't taste anything like dill, but it works just as well in a salad dressing. In fact, now you have one basic recipe that you can customize to what you have on hand, or what you feel like eating! The basil makes this a great dressing for a salad of sliced tomatoes.

Some ingredient notes: dry mustard can be found in any supermarket. I like Colman's, which comes in a small yellow tin. Seasoned rice vinegar is sushi vinegar, rice vinegar seasoned with salt and sugar. You can make your own, as we did for our class on sushi.

Yogurt Basil Salad Dressing
(makes enough dressing for 8-10 salads)

1 ½ teaspoon dry mustard
3 Tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
5 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup low fat plain yogurt (not Greek which is too thick)
1-2 Tablespoons milk (skim, low fat or whole)
½ teaspoon onion powder (or 1 Tablespoon finely minced onion or shallot)
1 Tablespoon minced fresh basil
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt

Place everything in a jar that holds at least 1 ½ cups liquid. Shake it up really well to mix the dressing. If it seems too thick, add a little bit more milk and shake again.

The dressing will keep for a week in the fridge. Shake well each time you use it.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Grilling Time!

View of Lake Cayuga, one of the Finger Lakes. Both Wells College and Cornell University overlook this beautiful lake.
Memorial Day officially kicks off the summer season and that means it's time to fire up the grill. Here in Colorado, we grill year round (I usually grill a turkey for Thanksgiving) but once the summer heat hits, it's the only way I cook.
The Original Wells Chicken recipe
So, to celebrate the start of grilling season, I offer "Wells Chicken." I was just back from central New York where I attended my daughter's graduation from Wells College (my alma mater, too). Cornell Chicken is sold out of shacks throughout this part of New York. Two of my college friend's decided that our little college needed its own version. This is what they came up with, and I proudly served it to friends and family last week at my daughter's graduation party. The main difference? Cornell Chicken uses apple cider vinegar and her Wells version uses red wine vinegar. Try them both this summer. Either way, it's a delicious take on grilled chicken.

The real secret ingredient in both these recipes is the egg. Egg yolks are full of lecithin, an emulsifier. It keeps the oil and vinegar from separating in the marinade. Because we eventually cook the chicken, the egg works well for this.

Someday, do try to sample Cornell Chicken in the Finger Lakes. It's a beautiful place, filled with wineries, tree-lined villages, history, and of course, stunning lakes!

Wells Chicken
(For 5 broiler halves, enough for 8-10 people)


½ cup oil
1 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoon poultry seasoning
¼ teaspoon white pepper
1 egg
juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, mashed 
healthy pinch of crushed red pepper

Combine everything in a big bowl, making sure to beat egg in well. Add chicken and marinate for up to 3 days in the refrigerator. Overnight is the minimum. Turn chicken a few times to makes sure all pieces are well-covered.

Grill on a slow grill to prevent flare-ups. (More tips on grilling chicken)

For traditional Cornell Chicken, replace the red wine vinegar with apple cider vinegar and don't use lemon juice, garlic, and crushed red pepper.