Posts tagged ‘garlic’

December 6, 2011

Thyme Couscous

Like pasta, couscous doesn’t have much of a flavor itself.  But that’s one of the best things about it; you can add a variety of flavors, textures and spices to make it fit any mood.  When I’m already busy putting together a main dish, couscous is the perfect addition when you have your hands full.  It only takes 5 minutes to create fluffy, delicate pillows of joy.

Since couscous is so delicate, you need to be careful with the spice level and what you use.  It will add a great deal of flavor; so if you add something spicy like cayenne that’s all you’ll be able to taste.  I also want to steer you away from using dried herbs, fresh ones are in a completely different category.  It’s like comparing a fresh, crisp Fuji apple to those chewy dried fruit slices better known to me as foamy rubber nothingness.  Couscous cooks in 5 minutes, so the dried herbs don’t have a chance to reconstitute and end up getting stuck in your teeth apart from anything else.  So have fun with fresh herbs, and enjoy these combinations.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. Line baking sheet with foil and distribute pine nuts evenly
  3. Toast pine nuts for 10 mins.  Remove when they’re slightly golden around the edges and set aside to cool
  4. In medium saucepan, add couscous, water, butter, salt, fresh thyme and garlic powder. Stir with fork to distribute thyme.  I pinch the thyme with my fingers before adding it in as it helps release the oils and favor.
  5. Bring to a light boil, quickly stir with fork, remove from heat and cover
  6. Let stand 4-5 minutes
  7. Fluff with fork
  8. Add cooled, toasted pint nuts

Here are some of my other favorites!

Basil and Sun-dried Tomato Couscous

  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped (add it after the couscous has cooled or the leaves will turn dark brown)
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp. black olives (optional)

Curry and Raisin Couscous

  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. curry powder
  • ¼ tsp. turmeric
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 2 tbsp. fresh mint, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp. toasted ground peanuts

Cranberry & Feta Couscous

  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • ¼ cup crumbles fresh feta
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup toasted, slivered almonds
  • Fresh parsley for garnish
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December 2, 2011

Dijon Pork Tenderloin with Sweet Onion Relish

The secret ingredient in this recipe comes from my mom.  Growing up she would make this for “family dinner” night and inevitably it would result in no leftovers and everyone asking for more.  Pork tenderloin was always one of my favorite dishes until I left home and had it in several restaurants and prepared by others not known as my mom.  Dry, bland, tough and disappointing.  It was never the same.

So, there was only one thing to do… I replicated my mom’s method and added a few of my own touches, and it’s now become a staple in my home.  Every time I make it the smells and flavors bring me back home to Sunday night dinners with my family.  It was our one night a week we would have a “proper” dinner, which my mom defined as, one, being in the “nice room”, two, using cloth napkins, and three, using double the plates (half of which didn’t go in the dishwasher).  I know because I was the designated plate dryer as my dad dunked them in scalding hot water and pass them to me with bright red fingers.  I dedicate this post to my family, and hope that it becomes a tradition in your home too.

Ingredients

  • Pork tenderloin
  • 2 tbsp. extra light olive oil
  • 2 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. fresh ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp. Dijon mustard

Topping

  • 1 yellow onion, sliced into thin strips
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp. extra light olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp. hot ground mustard (Colman’s British hot mustard powder)
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • Sprinkle of salt (to taste)
  • Sprinkle of freshly ground pepper (to taste)
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • Splash of water or stock (if needed)
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 3 tbsp. fig jam

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Heat a large heavy bottom pan on stove on medium/high.  Add mustard seeds and fennel and tilt the pan so the oil lightly covers the bottom of the pan and all the spices
  3. While the oil heats up, sprinkle the pork tenderloin with salt, pepper and rosemary. Rub the spices into the meat so they don’t fall off when you drop it in the pan, it really helps flavor the tenderloin. This is your only time to season it, so if you don’t add it now it will be too late.
  4. Place tenderloin in hot pan and sear on all sides.  The mustard seeds and fennel will stick to the sides of the pork as it sears.
  5. Sear the pork, approximately 3 minutes per  side, and remove from pan.  Set in a roasting pan on a wire rack.
  6. Let it cool for a few minutes, and then spread a thick layer of Dijon mustard over the entire tenderloin.  You might need more than 3 tbsp. Just keep spreading it on so you cover the top.
  7. Place in oven and cook for 35-40 minutes
  8. While the meat cooks it’s time to make the topping!
  9. In the same skillet used to brown the meat, add sliced onions, garlic, salt and pepper and cook on medium/low until soft and translucent.  You may need to add a little more oil to avoid burning. 
  10. Add ground mustard, mustard seed, Worcestershire and a splash of water and continue to cook down for 10 minutes on low heat.
  11. You want to caramelize the onions, which is a slow and delicate process so be patient and let them cook down at a low heat.
  12. Add jam and butter and stir well.  Once it’s ready, cover leave on low heat.
  13. Check the pork with a meat thermometer.  Pork should reach 145°F
  14. If it’s under put it back in for 10-15 minutes and check again.  It depends on the thickness of the tenderloin, so it will vary every time.
  15. Once the meat has reached the right temperature remove from oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes before slicing so the meat juices have time to redistribute.  If you cut it right away all the juice will run out of the meat and give you a very dry piece of tenderloin.
  16. Slice pork and top with sweet onion sauce

This pork is flavorful enough to eat on it’s own, or add a topping, or just a simple spoonful of applesauce.  The spicy mustard keeps the pork moist and adds the perfect amount of heat to the delicate tenderloin.

Below is an alternate topping my loving boyfriend made for the following evening.  The dates disintegrated in the warm sauce resulting in a sweet jam like marmalade.

Alternate Topping

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 jalapenos, diced
  • 6 dates, chopped
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • Sprinkle of salt (to taste)
  • Sprinkle of freshly ground pepper (to taste)
  • 1 tbsp. butter

November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving Turkey (with some extras)

There’s one meal I don’t like to mess with, and that’s Thanksgiving.  This is not a place where I tend to experiment.  I threw together some fun appetizers, like prosciutto wrapped dates with balsamic glaze, and homemade hummus, but the main meal was pretty traditional.  I have the rest of the year to play around and make up new combinations, but on the last Thursday of November I go back to my roots with mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, stuffing, gravy, roast carrots, and of course succulent, juicy turkey.

Photographer: Zoltan Sylvester

I have lots to do on Thanksgiving, so the last thing I want to be doing is mollycoddling my turkey every half hour.  Basting, tenting, covering, uncovering.  I really don’t have time for that when I’m also trying to get 6 other dishes out at the same time, not to mention trying to be somewhat social while all this goes down.  I had many willing helpers in the kitchen, but I wanted people to enjoy themselves and relax so I commandeered the stove and told everyone else to beat it.  (With love of course).  Here’s my secret ingredient… bacon.  Tasty, salty, greasy, crispy, meaty, perfect-with-almost-anything bacon. The turkey doesn’t come out tasting like one big pork rind, rather it’s a natural baster keeping the turkey juicy, tender and amazingly moist.  You can leave it alone and let it cook in the oven and you’ll have perfect turkey every time, not to mention some crispy bacon on the side.  Who wouldn’t come back to your house for Thanksgiving after serving this?!?

Ingredients

  • 1 18 lb. fresh turkey (or 10, 12, 25… whatever size you need to feed all your friends and family, and leave extra’s for those lovely turkey sandwiches the following day)
  • Handful fresh rosemary
  • Handful fresh thyme
  • Handful fresh sage leaves
  • 2 large yellow onions, quartered
  • 3 whole garlic bulbs, halved
  • 1 large apple, quartered
  • 3 stalks celery, halved
  • 1 stick room temperature butter
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 2-3 packets thick cut bacon

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Unwrap turkey in a clean sink, remove giblets and rinse with cold water
  3. Pat dry with paper towel and pace breast side up in roasting pan (if you’re using disposable foil pans I recommend double lining it so it holds the weight of the turkey without buckling)
  4. Place onions, apple, herbs, garlic and celery inside the bird.  Put as much as you can fit inside, and any leftovers just scatter around the pan around the bird.
  5. Mix salt, pepper and butter in a small bowl
  6. Spread butter all over bird, making sure to put as much of the butter under the skin to keep the breast moist and juicy.  You may need more butter depending on the size of the bird, don’t be skimpy!
  7. Once massaged with butter, take bacon and lay slices over the entire turkey.  They should overlap slightly so that you cover the turkey.  Wrap legs and wings in bacon too so they don’t dry out
  8. Cover the breast loosely with foil, don’t cover the entire turkey, just lay a small piece about the size of a dinner plate over the breast to prevent the bacon from burning
  9. Place in oven and cook at 400°F for 1 hour
  10. Turn down to 350°F and continue to cook for 3 1/2 hours (plus or more depending on the size)
  11. Check bird with a meat thermometer, the turkey needs to reach 160°F, if it goes about 165°F remove immediately or it will start to over cook.
  12. No need to baste the turkey
  13. No need to re-foil it
  14. No need to remove foil
  15. No need to cover in water, stock, oil.  Just leave it alone.
  16. Check temperature and remove when it reaches 160°F and let rest for 30-40 minutes before slicing
  17. Enjoy the turkey and don’t forget a piece of crispy bacon; there should be plenty for everyone!

 

Roast Carrots with Fresh Rosemary

Brussels Sprouts Salad

 

November 9, 2011

Hummus with Homemade Pita Chips

Hummus is one of my go to’s when organizing my list for party snacks.  It’s far healthier than the traditional ranch dip (although that does have it’s place at times) and packs huge flavor in a small bite.  It’s also an impeccable match for vegetables, breads, chips…. pretty much anything you like to dip.  It’s one of those dishes that will leave you with a perfectly clean bowl and happy, full stomachs after every party.

Hummus is a Middle Eastern spread or dip made with chickpeas, which are also known as garbanzo beans.  By themselves, I’m definitely not a fan, in fact, I hate them.  I pick them out of soups and salads, and toss them away without the littlest thought.  I find them mealy, dry and flaky and have no need for them.  But all blended up in the food processor with some other goodies and they make a fantastically good dip!  I can’t resist the creamy deliciousness that makes simple pita turn into a delicacy.  Serve it with some olives and a glass of wine and you’ll feel like you’re on a Greek vacation… ok, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration but it will make your ordinary Tuesday something special.

Ingredients

  • 2 cans garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tsp. sesame seed oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice, about 1/2 lemon
  • Handful fresh cilantro

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line baking tray with foil, and spread the pine nuts out
  3. Once oven is preheated, toast pine nuts for 10 mins.  Keep your eye on them; if your oven runs hot or it’s touchy, you’ll want to check on them after 6-8 minutes to make sure they don’t burn.  You can also do this in a dry skillet on medium heat.
  4. Once they turn golden remove from oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes
  5. Add all ingredients with the exception of 1 tbsp. pine nuts and cilantro to the food processor.  The reserved pine nuts will be your garnish
  6. Pulse on high for 30 seconds until mixture is well blended
  7. Add cilantro and pulse a few more times until cilantro is incorporated
  8. If the mixture is too thick, add a little more water or olive oil, this is the time to taste it to see if the salt and spices are at the right level.  Add a little more salt if needed but be careful, you can’t take back
  9. Scoop hummus into serving bowl and garnish with the remaining pine nuts and a little olive oil
  10. Serve with chips, pita bread, jicama, or carrots…. Anything you like to dip!

If you’re feeling like really treating yourself, you can make homemade pit chips to go with your hummus.  They beat the ones from the store any day.

Ingredients

  • 1 bag fresh pita (white or whole wheat)
  • 4 tbsp.
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. Preheat heat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Cut pita bread into 8 wedges
  3. Pour olive oil into a bowl and brush pita chips with olive oil on both sides.
  4. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  5. Arrange pita chips on baking sheet and bake for 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown

 

November 2, 2011

Chicken and Dumplins

There comes a time in every couple’s relationship where one person says, “Oh, let’s have    insert dish here    for dinner” with a giddy, child-like smile… and the other person looks at them with a face like their trying to solve a very complex math problem.  Well, this happened to me when my boyfriend asked for “chicken and dumplins”.  Chicken and what?  My parents are British; I grew up eating pot roast, shepherds pie, sausage rolls and bubble and squeak.  I felt like I’d walked into an episode of Walker, Texas Ranger.  I thought it might be something like Matzo ball soup, which is really isn’t, so I got my lesson in dumpling creation through unscripted directions from my boyfriend’s grandmother over the phone.  It was less than vague… something along the lines of “mix a little flour with some Crisco until it looks right”?!?  Regardless, I think I figured it out and I’ve been trying to master it ever since.

Chicken and dumplings, like most southern food, evolved out of necessity and practicality.  In the old days, chicken was a special treat and not readily available like we find today in our grocery stores.  When it was available, chickens were often scrawny little birds without a lot of meat, yet had the job of serving an entire family dinner and lunch the next day.  However, flour was in abundance and an affordable staple found in all household kitchens.  Flour could easily be used to stretch a meager meal so that an entire family would leave the table feeling full and satisfied by making biscuits, dumplings, bread or an assortment of other improvisational meal stretchers.   Today, chicken and dumplings has become an ultimate comfort food of creamy sauce, thick luscious dumplings, and shreds of moist chicken.  I like mine with lots of pepper so the sauce is speckled with little flakes of black and charcoal.

Now I’ll say up front this is a work in progress, I’ll keep you updated on my adjustments but overall this recipe delivered a very satisfying dinner.  I should also mention this is not a weeknight dinner.  It takes a bit of time so I recommend making it over the weekend, or if you decide to do it during the week, split it up into two nights and make the stock the first night and the dumplings the second.

Ingredients

Stock

  • 1 whole chicken (remove giblets)
  • 1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 large carrots, roughly chopped (or 2 handfuls of baby carrots if you have them around)
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Water (enough to thoroughly cover the chicken and have room for all the flavorings)

Dumplings

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup whole milk (add more if mixture is too dry and won’t hold together)
  • 2 eggs (This was my first attempt with the eggs, it resulted in fluffier dumplings so if you like them more dense remove the eggs and add a little more milk)
  • 3/4 cup Crisco
  • Extra flour for dusting

Soup

  • Homemade stock (from above)
  • Shredded chicken, remove skin (from above)
  • 1 tbsp, freshly ground pepper
  • Strips of dumplings (from above)
  • 2 tbsp. corn starch
  • 1/2 cup whole milk

Method

Part 1

  1.  Get a large soup pot and fill half way with cold water
  2. Add chicken (whole chicken but no giblets), carrots, onion, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary salt, and peppercorns
  3. Top up with water if needed, the chicken should be completely covered and the vegetables should have enough room to float around
  4. Place on stove top on high and bring to a boil
  5. Once it begins boiling, lower heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 1/2 – 2 hours
  6. Enjoy your time off, and leave the stove to do all the work.  You don’t need to do a thing!

Part 2

  1. Remove pot from stove and remove chicken carefully
  2. Place chicken in a bowl and let cool for 20 minutes before shredding (or you’ll burn your fingers)
  3. While the chicken cools, take the stock and run it through a strainer.  Hopefully you have another large pot big enough to hold the stock, if not line up a few bowls
  4. I usually transfer the stock into a Dutch oven pot so I have more room to drop the dumplings later. I have one from target and I use it ALL THE TIME!  I highly recommend purchasing one of these, you won’t regret it. Kitchen Essentials® from Calphalon® Hard Anodized Nonstick 5-qt. Covered Dutch Oven.
  5. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, pull the meat off and discard the skin and bones.  Shred it with your hands and leave it on the side until the dumplings are ready.
  6. Return stock to the stove and bring to a low simmer.  I usually reserve some of the stock on the side, I don’t use it all and then I can make another soup later that week.
  7. Skim some of the oil off the top before you drop the dumplings, it helps your soup stay creamy and not oily.

Part 3 – It’s dumpling time!

  1. Combine flour and salt in a large bowl
  2. Cut in shortening using a pastry knife or a large fork.  Pastry makers mix in the shortening using their hands, this is my preferred method too – dip your hands in ice-cold water for a minute, then dry your hands; it helps to not melt the Crisco and the dough doesn’t stick to your hands as much.
  3. Add cold milk and beaten eggs, a few spoons at a time, mixing the dough from the outside in with fork until a soft dough forms (do not over mix – about 2 minutes total). You may need to add a small amount of milk or flour at the end to adjust the consistency of the dough.  Add milk if the dough is very dry and crumbly after it’s been mixed; add flour if the dough is very sticky.
  4. Sprinkle your work surface with flour to prevent the dough from sticking.
  5. Roll dough out thinly, about 1/8″ thick, then slice into strips, each about 2 inches in length.
  6. Lightly dust with flour and then gently drop the dumplings into the simmering chicken broth.
  7. Stir them gently to prevent sticking
  8. Add chicken and 1-2 tbsp of pepper and stir gently.  (Add more or less pepper depending on your taste)
  9. Let cook for 15 minutes
  10. Check consistency and then add 1-2 tbsp. corn starch to thicken the broth.  You want it to be nice and creamy!
  11. Let simmer another 30 minutes until dumplings are cooked through
  12. Add salt/pepper to taste
  13. Serve in a big bowl so you get plenty of tasty dumplings!
October 18, 2011

Yellow Chicken Curry with Vegetables

You might be interested to know that curry is not a spice. In fact, there are several definitions out there designed to describe curry’s various combinations of piquant flavors, with many of these relying on origin just as much as how it’s used in the kitchen.  The important thing to remember is that it’s a blend of spices that can be selected and mixed by hand or purchased as curry powder to get the exact level of heat, spice or mellow warmth you’re looking for.  In my quest for the perfectly mild, yet also spicy curry, I began working on my own concoction.

My yellow curry can be altered to suit a spicy palette or toned down for those who prefer a mild heat, either way it’s depth of flavor and fragrant bouquet of spices will have you craving Indian more often.  I prefer a rich, velvety sauce with lots of meat and vegetables that offers up a variety of textures and flavors.  I use big chunks of carrots and cauliflower that soften as they simmer and absorb all the flavors of the cooked spices.  The rich flavor and velvety quality of the curry is perfectly paired with freshly steamed jasmine rice; you can’t help but go back for seconds.  Just adjust the amount of cumin and red pepper flakes to change the level of heat, either way you’ll get a traditional Indian curry worthy of being  part of your menu.

Ingredients

Chicken

  • 2 lbs. skinless boneless chicken breast, cut into bite size pieces
  • 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 4 tsp. turmeric
  • 2 tsp. cardamom
  • 2 tsp. coriander
  • 2 tsp. mustard seed
  • 2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp. dehydrated jalapeño peppers
  • 2 tsp. cumin

Sauce

  • 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. cardamom
  • 2 tsp. coriander
  • 2 tsp. mustard seed
  • 2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp. dehydrated jalapeño peppers
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp. fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 3 jalapeno, finely chopped (include seeds if you want more heat)
  • 4 Bay leaves
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1 small head of cauliflower
  • 2 10 oz. cans light coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1-2 tbsp. semolina flour (for thickening)
  • Handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Raita

  • 1 pint plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 bell pepper, finely diced
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 3 tbsp. fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp. lime juice (1/2 medium lime)

Method

You’ll start this recipe by cooking the chicken in a mixture of spices, similar to the ones that you will use in the sauce.  This gives the chicken way more flavor than if you just dropped it in at the end

  • Heat 3 tbsp. oil in a large, heavy bottom skillet at medium heat
  • Add paprika, turmeric, cardamom, coriander, mustard seed, red pepper flakes, dehydrated jalapeño peppers and cumin to the hot oil and slowly cook the spices.  This will bring out all the deep flavors and give you a great base for the chicken.  Use the spice amounts listed in the top part of the ingredients under “chicken”
  • Let the spices cook for about 1-2 mins until aromatic
  • Drop chicken in the pan and let cook for about 6 mins. You don’t need to worry about cooking the chicken through, you just want to coat all sides with the spices and oil and slightly brown the pieces.  Carefully toss until everything is coated and the outside is golden
  • Remove from pan and leave in bowl for later
  • No need to wipe out or rinse the pan, just add in the oil and continue cooking on medium heat
  • Add oil and spices: paprika, turmeric, cardamom, coriander, mustard seed, red pepper flakes, dehydrated jalapeño peppers, cumin and salt and cook for 2 minutes until aromatic
  • Add onions, garlic, ginger and jalapeño and bay leaves stir to evenly coat the onions.  Cook on medium for 10 minutes, you don’t want the onions to turn brown, you want them translucent (it’s called “sweating”)
  • Once the vegetables cook down, add tomato paste, coconut milk, and carrots.  Stir in new ingredients, cover and bring to a simmer on low heat.  Leave for 20 minutes to let all the flavors meld.
  • While the curry flavors develop, it’s time to make the raita.
  • In a medium bowl, add yogurt, mint, cumin, salt, pepper, lime juice and bell pepper.  Mix well, cover with saran wrap and leave in the fridge until dinner
  • Add chicken and cauliflower continue to simmer for another 20-30 mins.
  •  Serve over rice with a side of Puppodums and raita.

Puppodums are wafer thin Indian “crackers” made with lentil flour and sometimes spices usually served at the beginning of a meal, or alongside the main dish with chutney and raita for dipping.  I LOVE THEM!  I usually eat a whole box when I make curry, I break them up and use them like a spoons.  I just can’t have curry without them, and the ones from the store are easier than making them from scratch.  I buy the Tiger brand Spicy Puppodums, spray a little oil on them, and them pop them in the microwave for 40 seconds.  Puppodum perfection!

October 11, 2011

Homemade Meatloaf with Peppers and Fresh Herbs

Please try to forget all the stereotypes of the classic meatloaf.  I know; it’s hard.  So to try and help I’ve come up with a recipe to help put all your fears of dense, hard, dry meat bricks to rest.  It’s a modern spin on a traditional comfort food, with a promise to deliver juicy, flavorful meatloaf, which will leave you sneaking back to the kitchen for seconds.

When I’m served a hot plate of meatloaf, I search for the steaming aroma of meat, onions and spice that reminds me Fall’s crisp air is just around the corner.  The sage gives off a woodsy, minty flavor that pairs well the fresh rosemary, which has a unique pine-like fragrant flavor balanced by a rich pungency, a combination that evokes both the forest and the sea.  The use of bell pepper and jalapeño gives the meatloaf a sweet and spicy contrast, and the hint of green specks is beautiful.  While some people might be looking for the ketchup crust or the homemade gravy, I turned to my magic ingredient.  Bacon.  Yes, I cover the loaf with bacon and let it crisp up in the oven, helping to keep the meat moist, tender and delicious.

Two tips I have before I get started.  First, don’t over mix the meat.  This is the biggest culprit for tough meatloaf.  You want to mix the ingredients into the meat, not knead it like bread or pasta.  If you’re gentle and quick with the meat, you’re meatloaf will be fluffy and juicy.  Second, I recommend cooking it on a baking sheet, not in a loaf pan.  The sides of the pan get hotter than the oven and tend to burn the edges.  Have fun with this and get your hands dirty,  it’ll be worth it.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. ground beef
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 1 yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, finely diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 3 jalapeño peppers, seeds removed finely diced
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. fresh ground pepper
  • 2 tsp. ground mustard (hot Coleman’s English mustard is the best)
  • 1 tbsp. fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp. fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 10 oz. packet of center cut bacon

Method

  • Preheat oven to 350°F
  • Line a medium size baking sheet with foil and set aside for meatloaf
  • In a medium skillet, heat 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • Add onion, garlic, bell pepper and jalapeño.  Sprinkle with salt and stir so the oil evenly coats all the vegetables.  Leave on medium heat, stirring occasionally until onions are translucent and slightly brown.  You’re caramelizing the onions; about 10 mins.
  • Remove from heat and let cool
  • While vegetables cool, add meat, salt, pepper, sage, rosemary, parsley, Worcestershire, panko, ketchup, and eggs in a large bowl
  • When vegetables are cool, add them to the large bowl and mix with hands (don’t try using a spoon, it’s time to use your hands!)
  • Mix quickly and gently, the more you mix the tougher your meatloaf will turn out (which is why you don’t want to use a spoon).  Just mix until the ingredients are evenly distributed.
  • Lay the meat on foil lined baking sheet and form into a large log
  • Take the bacon and lay slices across the meat.  This will add flavor and keep the meat moist while it bakes in the oven.
  • Bake for 110~130 mins until cooked through, check with an oven thermometer.  Internal temperature should reach 150°F.
  • When meatloaf is cooked through, turn broiler on low, and cook for 5 mins to crisp bacon.  Stay near the kitchen and keep your eye on this, it may only take 2 minutes depending on your oven, and it will happen quickly!
  • Remove from oven and let rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing.  This allows the meat juices to redistribute.
  • Serve with ketchup!
October 7, 2011

Sautéed Potatoes with Garlic and Red Pepper Flakes

I was on my own for dinner the other night, and I was feeling like a pile of hot, tasty French fries.  As I don’t have a fryer and don’t intend to get one, I went with the next best thing, sautéed potatoes with garlic and red pepper.  In the end, they turned out much better than any French fries, and for some reason I felt better about eating them, even if I did finish the whole plate!

I like my potatoes with a nice, crispy coating, but they’re still soft and creamy in the inside.  The only way to achieve this is to go low and slow.  If you brown the potatoes too quickly, they won’t get cooked in the middle, so you need a little patience.  I’ve tried par boiling the potatoes before sautéing, but they always seem to fall apart, so I just cut them up and drop them in the pan raw, that way they have a nice bite but still get cooked through.  The vibrant color of the purple potatoes will turn any sautéed potatoes into a gourmet dish.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. golden Yukon potatoes, cut into bite size pieces (1-inch pieces)
  • 1 lb. purple baby potatoes, cut into bite size pieces (1-inch pieces)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
  • 1 – 1 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 tsp. salt, to taste
  • 1 tsp. pepper, to taste

Method

  • Rinse potatoes under cold water; drain and pat dry
  • Cut potatoes into bite size pieces, leave the skin on
  • Heat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat
  • Add potatoes once the oil is hot, sprinkle with salt and pepper
  • Watch the potatoes and turn frequently for about 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.
  • Add garlic and red pepper flakes and toss until evenly coated
  • Cover and reduce heat to low. Cool, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.
  • Remove from heat and add parsley, stir until evenly coated
  • Add additional salt and pepper to taste
  • Let cook for a few minutes before digging in, they’ll be very hot!
October 2, 2011

Spaghetti with Italian Sausage and Creamy Tomato Sauce

It’s starting to cool down (well, maybe not in Houston) but my mind-set say it’s time for Fall, and with it comes a new array of dishes for the colder weather.  Pasta is my all time go to, there is so much you can do with it and I always fee like it’s a perfectly balanced meal, especially when you add a side salad.

Instead of starting from scratch with ground pork or beef, I start with hot Italian sausage, which already has a great base of spices and seasoning.  It just needs a little doctoring up, and you have a great base for any pasta sauce.  I love the heartiness of this dish, and the spice you get from the sausage.  The auburn color of the sauce reminds me of the leaves changing in Vermont, and it pops with the addition of the fresh green basil and the creamy specks of Parmesan cheese.

Ingredients

  • 18 oz hot Italian sausage
  • 2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 2 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground back pepper
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 6 roma tomatoes, diced with seeds and juice removed
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 chicken bullion cube
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 lb. spaghetti pasta (or whatever’s your favorite)
  • Fresh Parmesan cheese (I highly urge you to buy the real stuff, not the cheese in the green can that shall remain unnamed)
  • Handful of fresh basil leaves for garnishing

Method

  • Heat medium size skillet to medium~high
  • Peel the casing off the sausage and crumble into skillet
  • Add fennel, Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes
  • Brown sausage and continue to break it up with a wooden spoon into bite size pieces, it doesn’t have to be even, just break it up as much as you can.  Takes about 5-10 minutes for sausage to cook through
  • Remove sausage with a slotted spoon and place on paper towel lined plate, leave the oils and juices in the skillet, you’ll use this to cook the onions and garlic
  • Lower heat to medium~low and add onion, garlic salt and pepper, cook for 10 minutes (this is sweating the onions, you want them to become translucent, not brown)
  • Add canned tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, tomato paste and stir for 1 minute
  • Add bullion cube, water, sugar and cooked sausage
  • Simmer on low for 10 minutes
  • While sauce simmers, place large pot of water on high and bring to a boil for the pasta
  • Once boiling, add 1 tbsp. of salt and pasta and boil for 9 minutes, or longer depending on the type of pasta you’re using.  I like mine al dente, so I boil mine about 30-60 seconds less than what the package recommends.
  • Strain pasta
  • Add cream to sauce and stir, then remove from heat
  • Usually I would recommend stirring the pasta in with the sauce, but tonight I wanted to put it on top so you could see the vivid color and velvety consistency of the sauce
  • Top with parmesan cheese and basil
  • Repeat for seconds!

Feel free to use different sausage or mild Italian if you’re sensitive to the heat.  I don’t find this dish too spicy, but it would be for kids, so just mellow it out to match your taste.  Happy Fall!

September 28, 2011

Simply Salsa

I have a few salsa recipes in my repertoire, and I promise I will share all of them with you over time.  This is one of the easiest, and it’s a perfect way for me to use up the peppers in my garden, as I can’t possible add jalapeños to every dish.  Peppers seem to grow like weeds in Houston, they love the heat and humidity, and they seem to survive no matter what I do to them.  If case you didn’t know I’m probably the only person you know who can kill a cactus (yes, I did).

When the peppers are cooked their sharp heat softens, and they take on an unexpected balance of sweetness and deep pepper flavor without the heat.  The cilantro adds a nice freshness and gives the salsa vibrant specks of deep green. This salsa can vary in heat depending on the peppers; so if you have a batch of really spicy ones, only use 4-5 jalapeños.

Ingredients

  • 6-8 jalapeño peppers
  • 2-4 serrano peppers
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion
  • 8 roma tomatoes
  • 1 handful fresh cilantro
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp lime juice (half a lime)

Method

  • Fill large pot half way with water (one big enough to cook pasta)
  • Drop in peeled gloves of garlic, onion, and jalapeños.  There’s no need to chop or dice any of the ingredients, the food processor will take care of that later
  • Bring water to a light boil and let vegetables cook for 10 minutes
  • Drop in whole tomatoes and boil an addition 5-10 minutes until the skin of the tomatoes start to split
  • Remove from stove and pour all contents into strainer.  You aren’t going to save any of the water, so you can do this directly in the sink
  • Let cool for 5-10 minutes until cool enough to touch
  • Remove tomatoes skins and pepper stems and put all the contents into a food processor.  If you don’t have a food processor, you can use a blender, but BE CAREFUL!  Blenders don’t have vents so the hot contents will explode if you put it on high.  Take a cloth and hold firmly on the lid while pulsing slowly.  I would also recommend waiting another 5 minutes to cool, believe me, salsa burns are not fun.
  • Pulse on high for 15 seconds
  • Add lime juice, salt and cilantro and pulse until mixture is smooth
  • Taste test, it may need a little more salt and the only way you’ll know is by trying it!
  • Serve warm with tortilla chips

Feel free to mix up the pepper combination.  This is one of those salsas that can one day be blazing hot, and others as mild as bell peppers… it all depends on the time of year and the jalapeños.   Feel free to substitute more mellow peppers, which you can achieve with Ancho, Pasilla or Anaheim, all popular varieties you should be able to find in your local store.

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