Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Cornbread Panzanella

Since snagging an eyeful of a gorgeous-looking cornbread salad on Beth Kirby's Instagram the idea of a winter panzanella has sat warming on the back burner of my mind. The occasion arose to make cornbread this past weekend when I cooked up a stew, and I saved a couple slices to be toasted up for a salad the following day. The Homesick Texan's cornbread is my go-to recipe, and it held up beautifully for the occasion. Since I usually smear leftover cornbread with a maple-butter mix, I brought some maple sweetness to the table by coating the cornbread cubes with maple & melted butter before toasting them, and swirled some maple into a quick vinaigrette for the salad as well. The final result was incredibly tasty and satisfying - it might even be good enough to warrant baking cornbread for the salad alone!

Cornbread Panzanella
Makes 2-3 servings

*1 scant tablespoon butter
*3-4 cups of cubed cornbread, made the day before
*Handfuls of spinach & arugula
*1/4 small red onion, sliced into thin half moons
*2 cups roasted Brussels sprouts (trimmed, halved, tossed with evoo, S&P at 375 for 30-40 minutes)
*1 scallion, green part sliced
*1/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola
*2 tablespoons pepitas
*2 tablespoons EVOO
*1 tablespoon maple syrup + 1/2 teaspoon
*1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
*1/2 teaspoon whole grain mustard

Melt the butter with the 1/2 teaspoon of maple syrup and toss the cornbread with the mix. Toast in the oven for about 15 minutes, stirring once, until well crisped. Prepare the vinaigrette by shaking together the evoo, a tablespoon of syrup, the vinegar and mustard with pinches of salt & pepper in a small mason jar. Lay the greens in a serving bowl and combine the onion, freshly roasted sprouts, scallions, cheese, pepitas and cornbread to serve over top. A little cracked pepper and salt to finish, and serve with the dressing on the side so people may use it at their discretion.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Pho Ga

The confluence of chicken carcasses building up in my freezer and the miserable weather brewing outside led me to thoughts of chicken soup this weekend, and when I consulted my fridge and pantry my thoughts were immediately pulled East to pho. Pho Ga is a lighter, brighter alternative to the delicate yet unctuous (and better known) beef pho, and proved to be just what I was craving. Piquant with fresh chili and sriracha spice, pungent from lime and fish sauce, aromatic wafts of ginger and warm spices rising with the steam... it's already a bowl of absolute comfort before you even get to the tender chicken and toothsome noodles! I can't recommend it enough as a curative to the winter blues 'n greys.

The recipe is an accumulation and synthesis of various tips gleaned from friends and on Chowhound, but the necessary framework came from Andrea Nguyen , whom I always consult first on all matters Vietnamese. Grab your chopsticks and your slurpin' spoon and enjoy!

Pho Ga
Makes 6 servings

*1 small chicken, cut up (whack at the bony pieces with a cleaver to expose more marrow)
*At least one other chicken carcass, chopped into pieces
*2 onions, unpeeled
*Chubby piece of ginger, about 4 inches, unpeeled
*3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
*2 tablespoons coriander seeds, toasted lightly
*2 cloves
*2 star anise
*1 inch piece cinnamon stick
*1 heaping teaspoon demerara sugar
*3 tablespoons fish sauce
*Small bunch of cilantro stems
*1 lb dried rice noodles (banh pho)
*Any combination of the following, for garnish: bean sprouts, cilantro leaves, Thai basil, mint, finely sliced hot chilis, lime wedges, thinly sliced scallions, sriracha, hoisin sauce...

Set a toaster oven or regular oven to broil. Place the ginger and onion on a baking sheet and broil, turning occasionally, for 15 minutes or until nicely charred.  Add the garlic in the last couple minutes. After they've cooled to the point where you can play with 'em, remove the charred skin from the onions and ginger, and peel & smash the garlic (you may have to use the back of a spoon with the ginger).

Fill a stockpot with enough water to cover your cut-up chicken and any parts you're using. When the water boils, add all the chicken sections, the carcass, and any other carcass parts and boil on high for a couple minutes. You’ll see lots of foam and gunk roil up to the surface. Drain, rinse your chicken of the scum and quickly rinse the pot. Refill with 3 1/2-4 quarts of clean water. Add the chicken and pieces, onions, ginger, cilantro stems, fish sauce, sugar and all of the spices to the pot. Turn heat to high – let it come to boil, then turn the heat to low. After 15 minutes or so, remove the chicken breasts, shred with your fingers when cooled and set aside. With a large spoon, skim the surface of any impurities in the broth every so often to keep the broth clear. Simmer for about an hour and remove the rest of the chicken pieces, leaving the carcasses in the broth; shred & set aside the chicken meat. Continue simmering the stock for a bit longer, perhaps another 1/2 hour. Taste and adjust seasoning with more fish sauce and/or sugar.

Strain the broth in a colander lined with cheesecloth and discard solids. Pop the broth in containers and store in the fridge for a while, until you can skim the congealed fat off the surface (which I always save because hey, Vietnamese flavored schmaltz!). When ready to serve the pho, reheat the broth. Prepare noodles per directions on package. Ladle broth into bowls, add shredded chicken and soft noodles and have your selected garnishes on hard for each person to add to their bowl.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Grapefruit Blush Cocktail

In the depths of winter I find I will sometimes go a couple weeks without eating an orange or a grapefruit, and then suddenly the citrus craving will hit hard. Over the past couple days I've binged on clementines and cut up some grapefruit to slip into a salad, and today I decided to extend the citrus trend to late afternoon tipples, too. The same friend who gifted me with maple bitters last year recently gave me an awesome bottle of hibiscus-orange blossom-ginger simple syrup from the Bang Candy Co, and I found it paired quite well with the grapefruit juice I'd just squeezed. A little Cointreau and club soda later, and I was sipping this very easy and tasty cocktail.  It's sweet, tart, juicy, effervescent, and most importantly, makes you briefly forget the dull grey chill awaiting you outdoors. Looking forward to seeing where my current citrus obsession takes me next.

Grapefruit Blush Cocktail
Makes one drink

*4 oz fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
*1 oz hibiscus-orange flower-ginger syrup (ginger simple syrup will work well as a sub)
*2 oz Cointreau
*Club soda
*Sugar & grapefruit zest, for rimming the glass

Mix some sugar and zest together on a plate and run a wedge of grapefruit around the rim of a short tumbler, then place it rim-side down in the sugar. Chill the glass.

Mix the first 3 ingredients together in a shaker filled with ice, then strain into your chilled glass and top with a little club soda.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

Some traditional Italian pasta dishes have fabulously evocative names; like spaghetti alla carbonara, this pasta dish also paints a vivid picture of its supposed originators. Puttanesca derives from puttana, a prostitute, and the name connotes an easy, cheap, and deeply savory meal a working girl might hasten to throw together between, ahem, clients. Whatever its real origins, I love the name. Slattern spaghett'.

Those familiar with the basic ingredients of puttanesca might note that cured olives go conspicuously missing in mine. As I've mentioned a few times before, I just can't but, I do love tapenade! The tapenade I use is actually a sundried tomato version which I absolutely adore and think adds a lot to the flavor of the sauce, so if you opt for a 1/4 cup of cured olives instead of tapenade, maybe chop up a few sundried tomatoes too! Puttanesca, much like its namesakes of yore, is very accommodating.  

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca
Makes 3 servings

Adapted from A Food Obsession

*1/2 lb high quality spaghetti (De Cecco! I never use anything else.)
*3 large cloves of garlic, minced
*6 anchovies, chopped
*1 tablespoon chopped capers
*Pinch red pepper flakes
*1 1/2 cups crushed tomatoes
*Pinch sugar
*Pinch oregano
*Freshly ground black pepper
*1 "big spoonful" tapenade, about 2-3 tablespoons (or, cured olives)
*3-4 leaves basil, torn

Heat a puddle of evoo in a pot over medium and melt the anchovies into the oil for a bit before adding the garlic, capers, and a big pinch of red pepper flakes. After a minute or so, pour in the tomatoes and stir in the tapenade with a pinch of sugar and oregano. Tear in the basil leaves and grind some pepper into the mix, too.

Let the sauce cook over medium-low, stirring frequently, as you put the pot of water on to boil for the pasta. Salt the water well and boil the spaghetti until al dente, then drain and toss with the sauce. Reserve a smidge of the pasta water in case the dish is a little dry.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Eggnog...and Eggnog Ice Cream

Talk about having your cake and eating it too - over the holidays I had a mind to make homemade eggnog AND David Lebovitz's eggnog ice cream...and found I could do both at the same time. When I was reading Lebovitz's recipe from The Perfect Scoop it struck me that the ice cream's custard base was so extremely similar to most recipes for (cooked) eggnog I'd seen, that if I made a big enough batch, I could have both nog concoctions! 2 cups of the base went into chilled glasses and the other 2, into the ice cream maker: perfectly unctuous, rich eggnoggy deliciousness in both liquid & solid form. I prefer eggnog with black spiced rum but feel free to sub in your alcohol of choice - Lebovitz recommended bourbon & brandy. Sip your nog and eat it too!

Eggnog/Eggnog Ice Cream
Makes a quart of the base

Adapted from David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop

*1 cup whole milk
*2 cups heavy cream, divided
*Good pinch salt
*2/3 cup sugar
*1/4 cup black-spiced rum (I use Kraken)
*1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
*Pinch cinnamon
*Pinch allspice
*6 organic eggs, divided
*1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Combine the milk, sugar, salt and one cup cream in a saucepan over medium and keep stirring until the sugar has dissolved and the milk begins to steam. Put the other cup of cream into a bowl and chill well. 

Whisk the egg yolks until the yolks are glossy. Temper the yolks by slowly adding hot milk mix to them, whisking until fully incorporated. Pour the eggy liquid back into the pan and cook, stirring all the while, until it thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon – just don't bring to a boil. Pour the mix through a fine mesh sieve into the bowl of chilled cream and add the spices, rum and vanilla. Stir well, then put in the fridge to chill overnight.

When you're ready to churn, use as much of the eggnog base as you would like, reserving any extra for immediate sippin'. To pump up those sipping servings, take about a tablespoon of egg white and a heavy pinch of sugar per serving and whisk together until peaks form, then gently fold the egg whites into the servings. Garnish both liquid and solid servings with freshly grated nutmeg and allspice. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Tomato & Bulgur Soup

One of my favorite grains, bulgur, quite often works its way into soups to beef 'em up this time of year. This winter, I've gravitated to this very simple and hearty tomato and bulgur soup that I adapted from a NY Times recipe, and have taken a quart jar filled with it into work for almost a week's worth of lunches on a few occasions. Not only is it better the next day, or the day after that, but it's filling and satisfying without being heavy. It also absorbs additions marvelously: one day I may bring in some chickpeas pilfered from the previous night's chana masala, or a quarter-cup of cooked, crumbled Italian sausage, or some leftover pesto. Practically anything stirs in and mingles well with the tomato soup. As is, it's wonderful; at first sip it may taste *too* simple but you soon find that you can't stop eating it. It's a good'un.

Tomato & Bulgur Soup
Makes 6 servings

Adapted from the NY Times

*1 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes in juice
*1 small red onion, finely chopped
*4 cloves garlic, minced
*2 tablespoons tomato paste
*1 healthy pinch red pepper flakes
*1 pinch sugar
*1/2 cup coarse bulgur
*4 cups water 
*Squeeze of fresh lemon juice per serving
*Chopped fresh mint, to garnish
*Crumbled feta, to garnish

Pulse the tomatoes to a coarse puree in a food processor and set aside. Heat the oil in a pot over medium-low and add the onions with a good pinch of salt. Saute 5-6 minutes, then add the garlic and pepper flakes, and cook about another minute. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste and sugar and bring to a strong simmer. Cook, stirring often, about 10 minutes or until the tomatoes have cooked down slightly. Add the bulgur and water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, season with pinches of salt & pepper and cover partially. Simmer for about 45 minutes, check for seasoning, then ladle the soup into bowls with squeezes of lemon and sprinkle with mint and feta. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Joe Beef's Lentils Like Baked Beans

I can't believe it has taken me this long to write up a post about Joe Beef's lentils! Joe Beef is an incredible (world class, really) restaurant in Montreal in which my husband and I have been lucky to dine a few times, and once I realized there was a Joe Beef cookbook a few years ago, I immediately got my hands on it. Of course most of the dishes in the book I leave to the experts in the JB kitchen to tangle with, but the recipe for lentils like baked beans has become a mainstay in my rotation. In the summer, it's one of my go-to dishes for any and all cookouts, backyard parties, potlucks; in winter, it's one of our favorite comfort foods. The lil' legumes are absolutely delicious, boasting big notes of mustard, maple, and cider vinegar, and when you top a heaping ladleful with a fried egg you've got a masterful breakfast, lunch or dinner.

I tweaked the recipe in the cookbook to fit my palate; for example, they had listed two TABLESPOONS of powdered Coleman's mustard, which I have tried and think is just...way too much... but feel free to add more or less of any ingredient to suit your personal tastes!

Joe Beef's Lentils Like Baked Beans
Makes 4 entree-size servings

*3 slices good bacon, diced
*1 small onion, finely diced
*4 cloves garlic, minced
*2 cups brown lentils, rinsed and picked over
*4 cups water
*Heaping 1/4 cup ketchup
*1/4 cup maple syrup
*1 tablespoon sweet BBQ sauce (I use a maple BBQ sauce, naturally)
*1 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
*1 tablespoon dry mustard (Coleman's)
*1 heaping teaspoon freshly ground pepper
*1 bay leaf
*Salt, to taste

Heat the oven to 350. In a dutch oven, fry the bacon over medium until it's nearing crispness, then add the onions and continue cooking for 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook a minute more, then stir in everything else besides the salt. Bring to a boil, then cover and place in the oven. Bake 45-60 minutes (until the lentils are tender - timing depends a lot on their age). Taste for seasoning and then serve hot, ideally topped with an egg.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Meatball Cookies

My noted culinary genius pal Michael G has been baking up hordes of holiday cookies lately and out of all the goodies these "meatball" cookies most captured my attention, so after I secured the recipe I immediately set out to bake a batch. They were just as delicious as they looked, and I'm thrilled to have them in my cookie repertoire now. The scintillating spices mixed with notes of coffee, cocoa and orange conjure up a particularity warm and enveloping Christmas spirit, especially when they're paired with a mug of holiday blend coffee on a chilled December Sunday evening. May you enjoy them just as much as I do!

Meatball Cookies
Makes about 30 cookies

Recipe adapted from my friend Michael G

*2 cups flour
*3/4 cup sugar
*1/4 cup dark chocolate cocoa powder
*1 tablespoon instant espresso
*1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
*1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
*1/4 teaspoon cloves
*1/4 teaspoon allspice
*1/4 teaspoon salt
*2 teaspoons baking powder
*6 tablespoons unsalted butter
*1/2 cup milk
*1 egg
*Scant 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
*1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
*1/4 teaspoon orange extract
*1/2 teaspoon orange zest
*1/2 cup broken walnuts

Heat the oven to 375. Add the flour, sugar, cocoa, espresso, spices, salt and baking powder in a large bowl and blend well. Grate in the butter and work with your fingers until a crumbly mixture is achieved.

Make a well in the center and add the milk, egg, extracts, zest and walnuts.  Stir with a large wooden spoon to combine until the dough is sticky and damp. Cover the dough and refrigerate for a few hours.

Scoop by the teaspoonful and shape into balls and place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for about 10-11 minutes or until they are done. Let cool completely before glazing with a mix of hot milk, confectioners sugar and flavoring (I have flavored it with spiced rum or cocoa).

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Spinach & Persimmon Salad with Prosciutto, Pistachios & Pomegranate Vinaigrette

Persimmons are my favorite late-fall fruit followed closely by pomegranates, and I love to throw the two together whenever I can, which leads to a great many fruity salads around this time of year. This is probably my preferred iteration though, because persimmon wedges and swatches of prosciutto make for a heavenly pairing. It looks so festive, too - this salad was actually my contribution to Thanksgiving dinner, and it looked quite nice mixed with with the spread if I may say so! Can't please everyone though; my husband likens persimmons to tomatoes injected with watermelon juice, and no, he doesn't mean that in a good way. More for the 'simmon lovers to enjoy!

Spinach & Persimmon Salad with Prosciutto, Pistachios & Pomegranate Vinaigrette
Makes 4-6 servings

*1/4 cup pomegranate juice
*1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
*1/3 cup fruity EVOO
*1 squeeze honey
*1 dollop (about 1/2 teaspoon) Dijon mustard
*1 small clove garlic, minced
*6 cups baby spinach, washed and dried
*2 very ripe persimmons, sliced (I prefer the flatter, squat variety)
*4 slices of prosciutto, ribboned
*1/4 cup pomegranate arils
*1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
*1/4 cup pistachios, lightly toasted and chopped

In a small mason jar, combine the first 7 ingredients to make the vinaigrette. Shake the jar vigorously until everything is well incorporated, and taste for seasoning. Prepare the salad with the rest of the ingredients and drizzle with the vinaigrette.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Sage Chicken & Sausage Bake

When your hands smell of onions and sage, you know you're making something autumnally appropriate! Adapted (barely, if I'm being honest) from Nigella Lawson, this recipe is perfectly simple and delicious late fall comfort food...and hearty enough to ease you into an early hibernation. I usually just opt for thighs when I throw this together but you can use any chicken pieces you desire - just keep track of baking times. When paired with roasted potatoes, a crisp salad and peppery saison, you couldn't ask for a better November weeknight dinner.  

Sage Chicken & Sausage Bake
Serves 3-4

*1 onion, peeled and cut into wedges
*3-4 cloves garlic, smashed
*1 tablespoon EVOO
*1 teaspoon of your favorite mustard - my standard is a wild mushroom mustard
*1 heaping teaspoon dried sage
*1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
*Juice of half a lemon
*4 chicken thighs, extra skin and fat trimmed
*3-4 hot or sweet Italian sausages, your choice
*Handful of fresh sage leaves, roughly chopped

Throw everything but the sausages into a Ziploc bag with a good grinding of fresh pepper and a couple pinches of salt. I cut the spent lemon half in a few pieces and throw that in too.  Toss the bag around, squelching everything together to mix all the ingredients evenly across the chicken. Leave to marinade in the refrigerator a couple of hours (or overnight), squelching and turning the chicken around in the bag every so often.
Take the chicken out of the fridge about 30 minutes before you're going to bake, and toss the sausages and some sage leaves in the bag as well, squelching everything around again. Heat the oven to 425.

Arrange the chicken and sausage as well as some of the onion quarters all in a roasting pan. Sprinkle the rest of the fresh sage leaves over the chicken and sausages (I usually tuck one under each flap of thigh skin, too) and then put into the oven to cook for 45 minutes to an hour, until the thighs are done. Turn the sausages about halfway through to brown on both sides.