Monday, October 27, 2014

Warm Roasted Cauliflower Salad With Bagna Cauda Dressing

If it were socially acceptable to bathe in bagna cĂ uda (which, incidentally, means "hot bath"), then I'd be splashing around in it right now. Anchovies, garlic and olive oil - was there ever a better trifecta? In the past I've made it as a dip for crudites or crusty bread, but it struck me that it would be excellent on roasted cauliflower because more than most vegetables, cauliflower demands to be paired with rich umaminess. I got the idea of making a whole salad of the affair by cruising around on Epicurious; this recipe was helpful in getting my thoughts together. Even if you aren't the biggest fan of anchovies I still heartily suggest giving this a try - it's less specifically fishy and more just...decadently savory.



Warm Roasted Cauliflower Salad With Bagna Cauda Dressing
Makes 4 entree salad size servings or serves 6 as a side

*1 sizable head cauliflower
*1/2 head radicchio, cored and ribboned
*1 small shallot, sliced very thin
*Handful chopped parsley
*1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped
*Endive leaves, for garnish (and for dipping extra bagna cauda sauce)
*Scant 1/4 cup good olive oil
*8-9 anchovy fillets, minced
*3 fat cloves garlic, minced
*S&P

Heat the oven to 400. Cut the cauliflower into bite size florets and arrange on a baking sheet in a single layer. Drizzle with evoo and season with S&P then toss lightly so the florets are all well oiled. Roast about 30-35 minutes, or until the tops are starting to brown, stirring once midway. Meanwhile, make the bagna cauda by heating the oil over medium-low and adding in the anchovies and garlic. Cook both in the oil for about 10 minutes without burning the garlic. Keep warm. When the cauliflower is tender, then it take out of the oven and toss in a big bowl with the radicchio, parsley, chopped shallot, and some of the warm dressing. Arrange on a plate with some endive leaves for garnish, add a little extra dressing and smatter some chopped hazelnuts around. Use up any leftover bagna cauda up by dipping crusty bread slices or endive leaves into it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Spicy Stuffed Turkey Burgers with Chipotle Mayo

As odd as it is to admit, I actually prefer the flavor of doctored-up turkey burgers to plain ground-beef burgers. It's the sort of minority opinion that would make Parks & Rec's Chris Traeger proud. This particular iteration of a turkey burger might be my favorite - combine the oozy cheese stuffing, piquant bite of the spicy seasonings and the creamy heat of the mayo, and it is an absolutely delicious winner. Plus, it might still be somewhat healthier than a beef burger...? At least that's what the modest pile of roasted carrot fries on the side is telling me...

That rooster is *not* pleased that I made a patty out of his fowl brethren 

Spicy Stuffed Turkey Burgers with Chipotle Mayo
Makes 4 burgers

*1 lb ground turkey (the best ground turkey I've found locally is from Lindenhof Farm, which frequently sends envoys to the West Chester Growers Market)
*1 small shallot, finely minced or grated
*2 pressed or very finely minced garlic cloves
*1 habanero pepper, minced finely (wear gloves!)
*1/2 teaspoon cumin
*1/2 teaspoon oregano
*1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
*S&P
*1 chipotle pepper in adobo, minced, plus 1 tablespoon of adobo sauce
*3 tablespoons mayonnaise
*3-4 heaping tablespoons finely grated habanero cheddar (or a nice smoked gouda)
*Hamburger buns of your choice
*High smoke-point oil


In a bowl, gently combine the turkey meat, shallot, garlic, seasonings and pinches of salt and pepper. Shape into 8 thin patties, deposit a heaping tablespoon of grated cheese into the center of half the patties, and then carefully crimp two patties together to have 4 in total. Crack some more pepper + a sprinkle of salt over them as they sit. Heat a cast iron pan a touch north of medium heat and add a good slick of high smoke point oil. Once the oil is hot, lay the burgers in and cook undisturbed approximately 5 minutes per side. Meanwhile, combine the chipotle, adobo, and mayonnaise. With one minute left, toast the buns lightly, brush one side of each with some mayo, and then assemble the burgers with any other fixings you desire.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Butternut Squash Soup

Summer kicked it a couple weeks ago, but I feel like it's only officially autumn now on this particular mid-October Sunday afternoon, as vermillion leaves rustle in the chilled breeze outside my window, the sunbeans grow long, and the kitchen smells like roasting squash. The inaugural butternut soup of the season always reminds me that I've given in and accepted that it's finally fall, probably because the soup is about the most ubiquitous autumnal dish there is - besides Thanksgiving turkey, I suppose. I really love it though, and prefer simple preparations that let that good earthy gourd flavor and inherent creaminess shine; a pet peeve is squash soup flavored like a pumpkin pie so I nix any sweetness and limit the woodsy festive spices to what's in my garam masala. How do you prefer your butternut squash soup?



Butternut Squash Soup
Makes 4 servings

Adapted from my friend Marisa's anecdotal butternut recipe

*EVOO
*1 ~3lb squash
*1 cup water
*3 cups vegetable stock
*3 cloves garlic, minced
*1 small white potato
*1/2 tsp garam masala
*1/2 tsp curry powder
*1 pinch red pepper flakes
*S&P

Heat the oven to 450. Cut the squash in two, scoop out the guts, and brush the cut side with olive oil. Place on a foil lined baking sheet, cut side down, and roast for 40 minutes or until totally cooked through. Meanwhile, dice the potato and saute in a bit of oil for 5-6 minutes, adding the garlic in after a few. Add the spices and pepper flakes. Pour in the water and broth and simmer until the squash has fully roasted, then scoop out the squashflesh and add it to to pot. Make sure everything is soft, then puree and season with salt and pepper. Press the soup through a sieve to achieve ultimate silky-smoothness. Garnish with a little cream or yogurt (I mixed a little Greek yogurt with adobo sauce from a can of Chipotles for this particular garnish).

Monday, October 13, 2014

Shells with Chickpeas, Sausage & Kale

Today I'm setting out a quick, simple and tasty pasta dish, the type I usually turn to on oh, say, the Monday night before payday. It's a little more gussied up than some other cucina povera classics on rotation in my kitchen, but you can easily nix the sausage if you don't have any on hand or don't eat meat, just up the amount of the kale & chickpeas and it'll still be a very satisfying bowl of comfort food. Feel free to sub orecchiette for the shells; I've made it with both and each form the most delightful little nooks for the chickpeas and other little goodies to nestle.



Shells with Chickpeas, Sausage & Kale
Makes 3 servings

*1/3-1/2 lb shells (De Cecco is always my preferred pasta)
*EVOO
*2 links hot Italian sausage, casings removed
*Good handful of chopped onion
*1 anchovy fillet, minced (optional)
*3 cloves garlic, 1 sliced, 2 minced
*3-4 kale leaves sans rib, ribboned
*Pinch red pepper flakes
*Glug of white wine (about ¼ cup)
*1 cup chickpeas, drained & rinsed
*S&P
*Pinch of chopped fresh thyme leaves
*Grated Parm

Put a pot of well salted water on to boil for the pasta. Saute the sausage in a wide pan with a little olive oil until nicely browned and cooked through, then remove and set aside. Add a touch more oil and saute the onion for a couple minutes, then throw in the anchovy if you please, and let it mmmmelt into the oil. Add the garlic then after about a minute add the kale and saute for a couple more minutes. Splash in the wine and once the alcohol whiff burns off, add the chickpeas and sausage. Set to low, season, and then add the drained pasta to the pan, tossing with a little reserved pasta water if it's dry. Dust servings with freshly-grated parm and thyme leaves.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Chicken With Coconut-Lime Sauce, Carrot Puree & Jasmine Rice

If you grow carrots, you know the exquisite, vaguely macabre feeling of pulling them up from the soil. Such was my recent experience when I was invited to take some carrots from my friend's garden. It's gross to say, but even though I enjoyed pulling out the carrots, holding them made me think of a painted Salome admiring John The Baptist's head brandished by a grasped hank of hair. It IS October, I guess this is apropos talk. Maybe it was because the tops were so grand and bushy...

Anyway!

I had a bunch of these knobby roots to use and decided to make a puree out of them, on which to lay some chicken, rice, and wee babe carrots. Lime-coconut sauce went over top and around. It was delish and branched the summer-fall divide really well! I took a lot of inspiration from this recipe I found online; I've made it with both chicken and fish and I ultimately prefer it with the chicken - but it is tasty either way.

I realize in retrospect I probably should have added something...not orange...to the plate!

Chicken With Carrots, Coconut-Lime Sauce, Carrot Puree & Jasmine Rice
Makes 2 servings

*EVOO
*2 boneless chicken breasts with skin
*1 bunch organic carrots, ideally with some teensy little carrots included
*1 knob of ginger, about the size of a thumbprint, chopped
*1 small onion, diced
*2 cloves garlic, chopped
*2 cups vegetable broth, divided
*2 tablespoons butter, divided
*Juice of 2 limes
*1/4 cup dry white wine
*1/2 cup coconut milk
*1/2 teaspoon of a citrus-flavored hot sauce (I use a fatalii sauce)
*S&P
*1 cup cooked jasmine rice (cook with some rice vinegar added to the water)

If the rice hasn't been cooked yet, start with that. I highly recommend adding some rice vinegar to the cooking water, gives a nice added dimension of flavor to the starch. Then, in a pot, saute the onion in some evoo until translucent. Add the garlic and ginger and saute a few minutes more. Chop 5-6 carrots and add to the pot along with a cup of stock. Season with pinches of S&P and cover. Simmer until carrots are tender, about 20 minutes, then puree with an immersion blender or in a processor (carefully!). Melt a little bit of butter into the puree, check for seasoning and keep warm.

Meanwhile, pick the smallest carrots (or shave some down with the peeler) and put in a small pot with the other cup of stock, plus some excess coconut milk (maybe 1/4 cup), S&P, a tiny nub of ginger and a smashed garlic clove. Simmer until tender. This is an optional step, by the way, but I really like having some extra carrots on the plate!

Season the chicken breasts with S&P and in a skillet over medium high, heat some canola or olive oil, then pan-fry the breasts, starting skin-down and flipping after 5-6 minutes. If you have cutlets (or are using fish) you can fry them entirely on the stovetop; with larger breasts I prefer to pop them in a preheated oven to finish cooking for about 10-15 minutes after crisping the skin.

Make the sauce by reducing in a small saucepan the wine and lime juice by half over medium heat, then adding in the coconut milk and hot sauce. Simmer until sauce has thickened, then remove from heat and stir in the butter.

Assemble the dish by putting some puree on the plate, then heap some rice on top and arrange some carrots around. Top with the chicken and spoon over sauce. Finish with some fresh cracked pepper and some sea salt.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Paw Paw Ice Cream

Anyone out there a fellow fan of the paw paw? I'd wanted to try one ever since hearing of a "paw paw" in Baloo's jaunty song from The Jungle Book and I am eternally grateful to a rural DE pal who has been furnishing me with an allotment of paw paws around this time of year from stock growing wild on his property ever since he heard of my fascination. They're quite delicious, mild, sweet and creamy like a ripe banana, but with a decidedly tropical tang in the mix. They also have big oblong seeds, which make extracting the fruit pulp a little unwieldy, but are fun to use in all sorts of crafty business. For the past couple years I've been using my paw paws in a personal recipe for ice cream since it's a very easy and tasty preparation for the amount I get (usually around 4-5). They spoil very rapidly so I usually make the base the day before I know I'm going to get them. I do always feel slightly bad when I post a recipe featuring a highly elusive or specialized ingredient, but if you live east of the Mississippi, and are into foraging, go looking for some paw paws! The hunt will make them all the sweeter.

If you have cooked with paw paws before, please share your recipes so I can branch out next September!



Paw Paw Ice Cream
Makes about a pint

*3/4 cup paw paw pulp, pureed (from about 4 paw paws)
*1 cup heavy cream, divided
*1/3 cup whole milk
*1/3 cup vanilla sugar (sugar left to sit in a jar with a spent vanilla pod)
*A pinch of salt
*3 large egg yolks, whisked
*Juice of half a small lime, about 1 1/2 teaspoons 

Set up half the cream in a bowl within an ice bath to thoroughly chill it. Warm the other half of the cream and the milk in a heavy bottomed saucepan with a pinch of salt and the sugar until steaming, stirring to dissolve. Carefully temper the yolks with some of the hot milk before adding the eggy mix back to the saucepan. Cook over medium until the liquid thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon. At that point, pour the custard through a strainer and into the chilled cream. Stir well and pop in the fridge for at least 5-6 hours, preferably overnight. When you're ready to make the ice cream, extract the pulp from the paw paws and puree, stir in the lime juice, then combine with the custard and freeze in the ice cream maker. Eat soft-serve when it's done, or put it into a proper container to let it ripen in the freezer.   



Monday, September 8, 2014

Smoky Roasted Corn Soup

On our way back from the shore this past weekend we heeded the siren call of one of NJ's numerous roadside farmstands to stock up on bags of fresh sweet corn and some plump tomatoes, taking full advantage of the Garden State's bounty in an effort to make the most out of the waning days of fresh summer produce. Also, to mitigate the effects of the boardwalk fare we'd scarfed non-stop during our trip. I had my mind's eye firmly fixed on a recipe that David Lebovitz had posted a while ago for corn soup, so almost immediately upon return home I got straight to making a batch of it. I tweaked it a lot as I am wont to do, and am thoroughly pleased with the final result. I'm sure I'll be making it at least once or twice again before corn season ends. I don't want to think about those dark upcoming days...



Smoky Roasted Corn Soup
Makes 4 servings

Adapted from David Lebovitz

*4 ears corn, shucked
*1 small poblano chili, seeded and diced
*3 1/2 cups water
*1 bay leaf
*1-2 thickly cut slices of good bacon, diced small
*1/2 small onion, diced finely
*2 fat cloves of garlic, minced
*Smoked paprika, to taste
*1/2 teaspoon Chipotle Tabasco
*1/4 cup heavy cream
*EVOO
*S&P
*Sliced scallions and basil leaves, for garnish

Heat the oven to 375. Put the water in a pot on medium. Spread the diced chili pieces on a large baking sheet, then slice the kernels of corn off the cobs over the sheet so that it'll catch the kernels as they fall. Drizzle the kernels and chili bits with a good glug or two of EVOO, smatter with salt and pepper, toss well, and set in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, stirring a couple times during cooktime. Chop the cobs into pieces and put in the pot with the water, a bay leaf, and a sprinkle of salt. Once it comes to a boil, lower the heat to med-low and cover. Simmer for the duration of the corn roasting time.

Meanwhile in another pot, fry the bacon until crisp, then remove with a slotted spoon. Saute the onion for a few minutes in the fat, then add the garlic and a sprinkle of salt and continue to saute for another minute. When the corn mix is done, add to the pot with the onions and garlic, then strain the cob-water into the pot as well. Add a dash or two of paprika and the chipotle Tabasco; taste for seasoning. After it simmers for a bit, pour in the cream and once again taste for seasoning. With an immersion blender, blitz the soup just a few times to add more body to it, then let it simmer for a good 30 minutes or pop in the fridge to be heated up the following day. It's crack when fresh, but even more addictive when given time to let the flavors carouse around together.  When you're ready to serve, garnish each bowl with basil leaves and sliced scallions.



Monday, August 25, 2014

Mapo Tofu

This dish consisting of slippery cubes of bean curd in a rich scarlet sauce is an instantly recognizable Sichuanese classic. It's always a standout at my beloved Han Dynasty's monthly epic tasting dinners, and after attending the last one I consulted my Sichuan bible, Fuschia Dunlop's Land of Plenty, for a good recipe so I could satisfy the mapo tofu craving whenever it arose. The recipe is remarkably straightforward if you, like I, have collected a couple key ingredients - which is totally worth your time and investment to do if you like cooking this cuisine. I'm still scraping at the dregs of the giant jar of Pixian doubanjiang (authentic-as-it-gets Sichuan chili bean paste) my husband gifted me with two years ago (!), and will be instantly re-ordering when I finally run out. It lends its indelible fire and funk to not just this delicious mapo tofu, but to many other Sichuan dishes as well. I'm very happy to always have some on hand so that now, armed with this fantastic recipe, I can whip up a batch of mapo whenever the craving hits.


Ma Po Tofu
Makes 3 servings

Adapted from Fuschia Dunlop's Land of Plenty 

*1 block tofu (12 oz to a pound), cubed
*Scant 1/2 cup peanut oil
*A couple ounces of ground pork
*1/4 cup chili bean paste
*1 clove garlic, minced
*1 small nub of ginger, minced
*1 tablespoon fermented black beans, rinsed
*1 cup chicken stock
*1 teaspoon sugar
*1 teaspoon finely ground roasted Sichuan peppercorns
*4 teaspoons cornstarch mixed with 6 teaspoons cold water
*Light soy sauce
*3 scallions, 2 sliced in larger diagonal pieces and the final sliced thinly for garnish
*Sesame seeds for garnish

Put the tofu cubes in gently simmering salted water while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Pour the peanut oil in a wok over medium-high heat and when it is nearly smoking, throw in the pork. Using a wooden spoon, break it up into small pieces and stir-fry for about 5 minutes or until the pork is beginning to brown and crisp. Reduce heat to medium and add the chili bean paste; stir fry for about 20 seconds before adding the beans, garlic and ginger. Continue cooking for another 20-30 seconds before pouring in the stock. Sprinkle in the sugar and peppercorns, and season with soy sauce (I use less than a teaspoon). Gently drain the tofu and add the cubes to the mix, stirring carefully to not break them up too much. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 5 or 6 minutes, stirring every now and again. Throw the larger pieces of scallion in about half-way through.

To thicken the sauce, add the cornstarch slurry a teaspoon at a time and mix well after each addition - only use as much as you need to thicken it to your desired consistency. Serve garnished with thinly sliced scallion and a spangle of sesame seeds, with rice.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Kedgeree

It's fun to learn what other people keep as mainstays in their kitchen. You think you know a person, only to find out that they are opening tins of "kipper snacks" and getting to the bottom of tubs of goats' milk yogurt on the regular. Such was my experience when I agreed to house/pet sit for a good friend of mine; she left me a panoply of groceries and a note encouraging me to take anything in the pantry or fridge that I wanted, so I of course had to take stock. In the pantry were a couple boxes of aforementioned kipper snacks and in the fridge, a half-empty carton of goats' milk yogurt plus another, unopened. I was fascinated and delighted. Eyeballing the kippers, I thought to use them in a batch of kedgeree, a Brit-Indian dish of spiced rice, eggs and smoked fish first brought to my attention at the superlative Lawrence in Montreal. I decided that the dish could use a little tang, so I stirred in some of the goats' milk yogurt as well - it turned out to be fabulous. Every spoonful yielded tasty fish fragments, greenery, voluptuous egg, warming spices and toothsome rice. I loved it. I think I'll be stacking kipper snacks in my pantry from now on, too. Maybe leave the goats' milk yogurt to my friend, though.



Kedgeree
Makes 2-4 servings

*1 organic egg per intended serving
*2 1/2 cups leftover cooked basmati rice (Cooked with a shard of cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, a couple crushed cardamom pods, and a clove, ideally!)
*1 tablespoon ghee or butter
*1 small onion, somewhere between diced and minced
*1 clove garlic, minced
*1 teaspoon Madras curry powder
*1/2 teaspoon turmeric
*1 teaspoon cumin
*1/4 teaspoon coriander
*1 tin smoked kipper fillets (or smoked haddock, or another smoked fish), flaked, pin bones removed
*Good handful chopped parsley and cilantro
*1 heaping spoonful Greek or goat yogurt       
*S&P

Bring a pot of water to a boil and soft-boil the egg(s). Meanwhile, in a wide skillet, melt the ghee over medium-low and saute the onion until soft, then add the garlic. Sprinkle in the spices and let bloom before adding in the rice and fish. Cook a few minutes on low to heat everything up, while you remove the soft-boiled egg. Run it under cold water and peel gently. Stir in the herbs and yogurt, season to taste, dish out and fleck each serving with quartered or chopped soft-boiled egg.

For the record, I did scrape off the skin on the kippers (Crown Prince brand) and fed them to the lovely kitty I'm caring for. If you're not icked by fish-skin then that isn't necessary. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Herbed Pearl Couscous Salad

Cold pasta salads are ubiquitous during high summer, but for good reasons - they're excellent vehicles for summer produce, they're delicious, and can be made in advance and left to loiter in the fridge (or in the cooler toted to a picnic) until needed. This is one of my absolute favorites to make; the pearls of Israeli couscous deviate from the well-trod rotini rut, and it is superlatively tasty and cooling on a hot summer day. It's a nice way to showcase all the herbs that are exploding on my porch, too - the basil, parsley and cilantro provide a rich green backdrop for the mint to accent in refreshing little flourishes.


Herbed Pearl Couscous Salad
Makes 5-6 servings


*1 1/3 cup pearl (Israeli) couscous
*1 cup water
*3/4 cup vegetable stock (or, just use 1 3/4 cup water)
*1 small onion, thinly sliced (or, about a half cup of caramelized onions)
*2 packed cups of assorted herbs: my breakdown is 1 cup parsley, 1/2 cup cilantro, a palmful of basil leaves and a couple sprig’s worth of mint leaves, maybe 7-8. Mint is essential, but don’t overdo it!
*1 clove garlic                        
*1/4 cup olive oil
*S&P
*Handful of pistachios, toasted and chopped
*Handful of arugula or nasturtium leaves, chopped
*Healthy squeeze of fresh lemon juice
*1/2 teaspoon citrusy hot sauce (I love Chile Spot's Fatalii Fantasii Sauce for this)

In a pot over medium heat saute the onions in some evoo until translucent if you're not using caramelized onions. Remove the onions and add the couscous; saute a few minutes while you bring the water and stock to a boil. Add the boiling water/stock to the couscous, stir well, cover, and cook on low for about 11 minutes. Make the herb pistou by blitzing the herbs along with the oil, garlic and pinches of S&P in a small food processor.  Add the pistou, nuts, onions and greens to the couscous, mix everything together well, and then season with the hot sauce, lemon juice, and S&P to taste. Serve at room temp or chilled.