Posts tagged ‘rosemary’

October 15, 2012

Rosemary Tomato Basil Soup

Tomato basil soup paired with a stringy mozzarella grilled cheese sandwich is a classic.  It’s been copied and modified a million times over and I still think the traditional rosemary scented soup and crunchy buttered sandwich makes any Tuesday night a little more special.

Soup should really be considered it’s own food group.  I pride myself in being the sole person to order a warm tortilla soup in the middle of Houston summer, or chilled cucumber-melon bisque when it’s 20 below.  (I happened to have both melon bisque and puréed corn chowder with chili oil at my wedding.)  There’s something about soup I find utterly addicting.  The combination of flavors, the variety of textures, and most importantly the crunchy garlic croutons, crispy bacon, or fresh herbs that get delicately placed on top and slowly sink into the silky, savory bisque.

The roasted, sweet tomatoes combined with the tangy bite of rosemary sourdough bread soothes the soul and takes the edge off a brisk day.  The bread gives this soup a thick texture with a mouthy richness I often find missing in perfectly velvety broths.  Aromatic sweet basil with hints of mint and pepper brighten the flavor and offer you a taste of summer just when you think fall has taken over.

Ingredients

  • 3-4 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 3 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
  • 2 cans stewed tomatoes, 28oz
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. salted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp. Italian seasoning
  • 4 large slices of sourdough rosemary bread
  • 3/4 cup light whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • Freshly sliced mozzarella cheese for topping
  • Basil for garnish

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss together the tomatoes, 2 tbsp. olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread the tomatoes in 1 layer on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes.
  2. In a heavy bottomed stockpot over medium heat, sauté the onions and garlic with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  3. Add butter and red pepper flakes and sauté for 10 minutes on medium heat.  Onions should become transparent but should not brown.
  4. Add stewed tomatoes, canned tomatoes (including juice), salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning in a large saucepan on medium heat.
  5. Bring to a simmer.
  6. Roughly tear the bread into smaller pieces and add to the pot.  I break up the bread so it’s easier to spoon out and purée.
  7. Next you’ll puree the soup in small batches, so I usually remove it from the heat and let it cool a little before I begin this process.  The soup should still have texture and not be completely smooth.  The soup will not be nearly as enjoyable if it’s perfectly silky in texture.
  8. Carefully puree, along with the basil leaves in small batches. You can use a blender, food processor, or better yet, one of those handy hand-held food blenders, right in the pot.  If you use a blender BE CAREFUL!  The heat will force the top off the blender and you’ll be cleaning soup off your ceiling for weeks, or you’ll burn your hands so just fill it up half way and pulse it gently.
  9. Return to saucepan and add cream and milk, while stirring, over low heat.
  10. Garnish with basil leaves, mozzarella cheese and serve with a warm slice of sourdough bread.

For a healthier version, leave out the butter and replace the cream with non-fat milk.  Enjoy!

April 9, 2012

Dry Rubbed Seared Salmon

It’s officially springtime, and with Easter passing I’m beginning to go through my lighter dishes to go with the change of seasons.  I get giddy thinking about fresh grilled corn on the cob, summer salads full of fresh veggies, pears, apples and toasted nuts, and most of all the selection of fresh fish in the local market.  One of my all time favorites is salmon, however, one badly cooked salmon can turn me off for months, so I have to choose wisely when I dine out.  The dry, chalky taste of overcooked salmon is one of the most devastating things you can be met with at the dinner table.  Similar to a burnt cookie, overcooked pasta, or a hockey puck steak, overcooked salmon is a major offense in my book.  But when it’s done well, you’ll want to have it every day of the week.  The beauty of salmon is that it can pick up a variety of flavors, teriyaki, garlic, white wine and butter, and its meaty texture lends itself to a variety of cooking methods.  I don’t recommend cooking Dover sole on the BBQ, but a salmon can stand up to this summer time classic.

The delicate crispy, golden crust that forms on the outside is a perfect contrast to the juicy, meaty flesh.  It’s a symbol of summer and health, and gets you on the track to looking stunning in your new summer swimsuit.

Perfect pan-seared salmon demands on a very hot pan. Use a heavy cast-iron skillet, which heats evenly. Warm the pan before you add the oil – either extra light virgin olive oil or vegetable oil; this trick allows the pan to get it really hot without burning the oil. A preheated pan also requires less oil.  Once you master this method you’ll be able to whip up a gourmet dinner in less than 10 minutes – golden brown outside and tender inside.   I like to serve salmon with a fresh mixed green salad with a tangy vinaigrette, a refreshing contrast to the rich, yet delicate fish.

Ingredients

  • 2 6 oz. salmon fillets (skin on) one per person
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, coarse grind
  • 1 tsp. lemon pepper
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. extra light olive oil
  • 2 tsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped

Method

  1. In a small bowl, mix garlic powder, rosemary, thyme, seal, pepper, lemon pepper, and ginger.
  2. Brush the salmon with olive oil on all sides.
  3. Take the spice mixture and generously coat both sides of the salmon.
  4. Set a large cast-iron skillet over high heat. When a drop of water skitters on the surface, add the oil.
  5. Tilt the pan to coat the bottom evenly and heat until the oil is almost smoking, about 30 seconds.
  6. Place the salmon skin side up in the cast iron skillet.
  7. Cook until golden brown on the bottom, about 4 minutes.
  8. Turn the salmon and cook an additional 3 to 4 minutes on the other side.
  9. Then lower heat to medium, place lid over skillet to trap heat and finish cooking an additional 2-3 minutes.
  10. With a minute to go, add a tbsp. of butter and let is melt in the pan, spoon it over the top of the salmon right before you turn off the heat.
  11. To check if the salmon in ready, stick a thin knife in the thickest part and gently look at the color inside.  It should be juicy and barely turning opaque.  If you over cook the fish it will be extremely dry and very white in color.
  12. When salmon is cooked enough to eat safely it will lose its translucency and become opaque. It should also flake easily when tested with a fork.
  13. Serve with a fresh salad and enjoy your very healthy yet tasty dinner!

February 12, 2012

Flip’s Spiced Chicken Sausage Soup

I came back from a business trip with a box of tissues, cough drops, and a sore throat that wouldn’t pass.  By day 4 I developed a hacking cough so I eventually gave in and went to the doctor.  Well, there I was, 2 ear infections and bronchitis and my other half had just left for New Zealand for 2 weeks.  I was miserable.  After a hot shower and a little dusting off, I decided to end my pity party and headed to the store for some key ingredients.

With all my congestion I wasn’t able to taste anything.  I know, my worst nightmare.  So, the traditional chicken noodle soup was going to need a little kick.  I made a twist on the original with a little heat and some Italian sausage.  It’s as if gumbo and chicken noodle soup had a child.  On day 1 I wasn’t really able to taste it, but it did have a great combination of textures from soft vegetables and tender meatballs swimming in a warm, silky broth.  I figured I’d let it stew overnight before adjusting the spice, in hopes my taste buds would make a quick recovery.  Thanks to some antibiotics, prescription strength cough syrup and decongestants, I woke the next morning to the fragrant bouquet of rosemary and Italian sausage seeping through the house.  Ok, I’ll admit it, I had it for breakfast.  I just couldn’t resist!!  The hint of spice and cumin, mixed with the expected aroma of thyme, rosemary and soft tender chicken was a welcome home.  By the end of day 2 I feel like a new person.  It has everything I needed in one bowl to fight back, who can ask for more than that?

I packed up my weeks worth of lunches, and as long as I stop sneaking into the refrigerator for another bowl it should last me until Tuesday.

Ingredients

Stock

  • 4lb. raw chicken
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 large carrot, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp. cumin
  • 1 tbsp. thyme
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. peppercorns
  • 1 bullion cube
  • 1 gallon cold water (enough to cover the chicken and all the contents)

Soup

  • Homemade stock (above)
  • Chicken from stock, shredded
  • 2 tsp. cayenne
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tbsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 large carrots, chopped
  • 2 handfuls baby potatoes, quartered
  • 5 Italian sausages, casing removed
  • 1 bullion cube
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. ground pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • Cilantro for garnish
  • Parmesan cheese for garnish

Method

  1. Wash raw chicken with cold water and remove giblets
  2. Place in large stockpot and add onion, celery, garlic, bay leaves, cumin, thyme, rosemary, salt, peppercorns, and bullion cube.  Don’t worry about chopping anything nicely, this is just to flavor the stock and it will all be strained out when the stock is ready.
  3. Fill pot with water until chicken and all contents are fully covered
  4. Place on stove on high and bring to a boil
  5. Once boiling, bring heat to low and simmer for 2-2½  hours.  The longer to simmer the better the flavor.  You can always make the stock the night before and let it sit overnight in the fridge.  Then you can strain it in the morning and you’re ready to make your soup.
  6. Remove chicken and strain stock
  7. Place stock back on stove and turn off heat.  Let sit for 10 minutes and then skim some of the extra oil off the top.  No need to go crazy, just skim some of the extra.
  8. Let the chicken cool about 15 minutes. Carefully remove and discard skin and bones and shred chicken with a fork.
  9. Sprinkle shredded chicken with cumin, paprika, and cayenne pepper.  Mix spices into chicken and return to stockpot.
  10. In a  sauté pan, cook onions and garlic in a tbsp. of olive oil.  Sauté on medium~high until slightly golden (about 7 mins).
  11. Add onions and garlic to stock along with celery, carrots, and potatoes.
  12. Use the same sauté pan for the sausage.  Remove sausage from casing and drop small bite size balls into pan and cook until slightly golden.
  13. Remove sausage from heat and add directly into stock.
  14. Add bullion cube and tomato paste, stir and let simmer.
  15. Let soup simmer on medium~low for 1 hour, taste and add salt/pepper if necessary.
  16. Serve and sprinkle with cilantro and Parmesan cheese.

I ran out of Parmesan so decided to try it with a little French feta crumbled on top.  Let me say, it’s worth trying!  The salty bite was perfectly balanced with the warm spice of the soup.

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 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 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!
September 20, 2011

Braised Short Ribs in Red Wine

Time to switch up the usual Sunday pot roast for braised short ribs.  Similar to pot roast, this is a one pot meal that takes little time to prepare but yields unbelievable results.  I’m always amazed at the complexity of flavor that evolves without having to do anything but stick it in a pot, pop it in the oven and forget about it until dinner.

This would be great for a dinner party, since you can prep everything ahead of time and take it out of the oven when your guests arrive.  You could even make it the day before and then reheat it on the stove, my only recommendation would be to test the broth the second day to make sure it didn’t concentrate too much, if so, just add a little chicken or beef stock.  The depth of flavor develops as it braises, and it’s almost impossible to over cook.  Who doesn’t like fall off the bone ribs?  Pop in some carrots and potatoes after a few hours and they will cook in the meat juices… there you have it, a side dish!

I used this recipe as a starting point as this was my first time braising short ribs.  It was quite complex, so I decided to take a few shortcuts and modified the ingredients.   Slow-Braised Short Ribs, Lardons, and Baby Vegetables 

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs. beef short ribs (mine were bone out, but bone in will help develop a richer flavor so that would be my recommendation if I make this again)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 small jalapeno peppers, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, diced
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/3 cup red-wine vinegar
  • 1 quart chicken or beef stock
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 beef bouillon cube
  • 3 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 6 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
  • 3 fresh rosemary sprigs, finely chopped
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 3 handfuls baby carrots (or 3 large carrots, diced)
  • 2 handfuls of small potatoes

Method

  • Preheat oven to 325°F.
  • Make sure ribs are dry, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Heat oil in a wide 6-8 quart heavy pot over medium-high heat, then brown ribs on all sides.  I used tongs to turn them every 4-5 minutes and sear them on each side.  When done, remove from the pot and leave them on a plate until later.
  • In the same pan, reduce heat to medium and add onion, jalapeño, garlic and sprinkle with salt.  Cook about 6 minutes until the onions are translucent.
  • Stir in tomato paste, red wine, vinegar, stock and water and bring to a light boil for 5 minutes.
  • Add bullion cube, thyme, rosemary, sage and bay leaf and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Add ribs back to the pot along with any juices.
  • Cover pot tightly and transfer to oven.
  • Braise ribs until meat is very tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
  • After 2 hours, add carrots and potatoes and continue to cook.
  • Remove from oven when meat is tender, stick a fork in it and twist, if it moves easily it’s done.
  • Let stand, uncovered, until fat rises to surface, about 15 minutes, then skim fat with a metal spoon.
  • Pull chunks off meat off with tongs and serve in a bowl.  Remember to grab some off the potatoes and carrots and spoon on lots of broth.

We had this over the weekend, and the meat was perfectly tender and had amazing flavor.  I served it on a plate with a side of potatoes, carrots and zucchini hash.  In the process of cleaning up I took a spoonful of broth to see how it tasted on it’s own and it was AMAZING!  I highly recommend serving this in a bowl (I put it on a plate so I didn’t get enough broth but will know better next time).  The broth is where all the wonderful flavor lies, you can taste the garlic, herbs, meat juices…. it’s divine.  I’d treat this more like a meaty stew so you get a good portion of brothy goodness to meaty ribs.

September 9, 2011

Pesto

Break out the food processor; it’s attack of the basil plant!

It all started with two small, innocent looking basil plants I picked up at Lowe’s.  I went with two plants, thinking they’d both be dead within a week based on my record.  The leaves would start to wilt on the way home knowing they were about to be subjected to over watering and lack of sunlight in my small apartment.  I’ll admit I do not have the necessary gardening skills to keep even a cactus alive.  So you can imagine my surprise when I found 3-foot plants with more basil than I knew what to do with?  I guess my luck changed in Houston… sadly not due to anything I did, but thanks to the hot, humid weather.

Basil’s pervading, clove-like aroma is intoxicating; it’s extremely aromatic with a scent of pepper, anise, and mint.  The minute the smell hits me I’m transported to an Italian café where I wait for a fresh margarita pizza.  The taste is sweet, but savory, and just like the smell it’s peppery with a hint of spicy mint.

In an effort to control my garden, I went on a pesto fest, and started making jars of herby goodness to share with family and friends.  Below please find 3 of my pesto recipes.  All you need to do it combine all ingredients in a food processor and process on high-speed till evenly chopped and mixed.

Basil Pesto

  • 3 cups loosely packed basil leaves
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Walnut Pesto: Substitute pine nuts for 1/2 cup walnuts; it has a slightly nuttier flavor and can also help you stretch your dollar since pine nuts can be quite pricey!

Mint Pesto: Substitute 1 1/2 cup basil for 1 1/2 cup mint leaves


While basil is abundant at the moment, I also suggest that you experiment with other herbs.  Pesto does not need to be basil based; I’ve tried mint, cilantro, rosemary and arugula.  Each one has a unique flavor, and can be added to bread, fish, meat, or enjoyed straight from the jar with some cheese.  With a basic formula you can come up with a myriad of variations by replacing the basil and pine nuts. Try these combos:

  • Arugula & toasted walnuts
  • Mint & toasted almonds
  • Cilantro & cashews
  • Basil, Rosemary & toasted walnuts
  • Cilantro & toasted pumpkin seeds

The other great thing about basil is it can be frozen and stored successfully for a few weeks.  The best method I’ve found is to place a small bunch in a clean Ziploc bag, blow some air in to inflate it, and place in the freezer where it won’t get squashed. You’ll find it quite convenient to then snip off a few leaves any time of year to add to pasta sauce, salads, or dressings.

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