Friday, March 22, 2013

Recipe Reference: Fettucine with Italian Sausage and Roasted Parsnips

This.  Is.  Amazing.

Italian sausage.  Roasted parsnips.   Caramelized onions.

In the words of Cookie Monster:    Om Nom Nom.


The original recipe is from Daily Unadventures in Cooking.  

I made a few tweaks:

  • Roasted the parsnips longer, so they'd caramelize further (40 minutes, vs. 25)
  • Added a splash of cream and a dash of nutmeg in the last few minutes of simmering the sauce



It's *delicious*, and parsnips are one of the few local ingredients available at this time of year.

Monday, October 12, 2009

OMFG, I Just Made Bagels

No time to make a proper post, but I need to show off:



I made this using the bagel recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I didn't check the book's errata before I started, so I baked it at 400F instead of 450F, but it still came out beautifully!

I was going for an "everything" bagel, so the topping was a mix of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, dehydrated onion flakes, garlic powder, and salt.

Mmm...

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Unlike most people, I have always liked brussels sprouts. I can't explain it. It might have started with the microwave brussels in cheese-like sauce that my dad made for me when I was tiny. (I think he bought them by accident; usually he and I pigged out on broccoli in cheese-like sauce.)

That said, brussels sprouts can be really hard to cook well. If you roast them, they can be very dry. If you steam them, you don't get as full a flavor, and you risk overcooking them, which gives them that sulfurous, cabbage-family stink.

The trick is to use both moist and dry heat. I experimented with a few different methods: covering the roasting dish, steaming first and then roasting, etc. Those both helped, but didn't quite produce the effect I wanted.

But then I stumbled across a surprising solution. It's almost magical in it's simplicity and "wow, that shouldn't work"-ness. It's so magical, I almost feel like I shouldn't commit it to writing. Use frozen brussels, and don't thaw them first!

The frozen sprouts hold moisture in the form of tiny ice crystals inside the sprouts. So as those crystals melt and heat up, they steam the inside of the sprout, keeping the inner layers plump and moist. And roasting the frozen sprouts gives the outside layers time to get nice and crispy-brown, while the inside gets lightly and perfectly cooked.

Toss them first in plenty of flavorful olive oil and soft aromatic garlic powder, and you have something really special. And all made from things that you pulled out of the freezer or pantry and dumped directly into the pan!



Roasted Brussels Sprouts
serves 2-3

INGREDIENTS:
- one 10oz box of brussels sprouts, still frozen
- at least 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (or a lot more, to taste)
- a generous shake (appx 1/2 tsp) garlic powder (or a lot more, to taste)
- nice-quality salt, to taste


INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 425F (any temperature between 350 and 450F will work). Toss the brussels sprouts, still frozen, with the olive oil and garlic powder, until they are evenly-coated. Place in a single-layer in a baking dish and roast, turning once or twice, until heated through and darkly browned on at least one side (usually the bottom), usually 35-45 minutes. Salt to taste.


SERVING SUGGESTION:
This is tasty enough to be a holiday side dish, and easy enough for everyday meals. I think it's especially good alongside lamb, roasted chicken or turkey, and roast beef. But any dish with a roasted character or with garlic (but not tomatoes) would probably work really well.


NOTES:

  • As with most of my recipes, the quantities are approximate, and don't really matter all that much. Just be generous with the olive oil and garlic powder, and you'll be fine.

  • While this dish is best when roasted at about 400-425, it will work just fine at anything from 350-450. So you can just throw it in the oven with whatever else you're cooking. (Except desserts: you really don't want them smelling like yummy roasting garlic. Unless you do...

  • These reheat beautifully. For a holiday meal, dinner party, or busy day, you can do most of the cooking ahead of time, and then reheat and finish crisping just before serving.

  • If you're in a hurry, you can thaw the brussels in the fridge or microwave, which cuts the cooking time about in half. I think the texture turns out best cooked directly from frozen.

  • I usually prefer to work with fresh ingredients, but you really will get better results (better texture and a much rounder, roastier flavor from) frozen sprouts and garlic powder.

  • If you do the tossing in the roasting dish, you have only one dish to wash!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

"Yes, Actually, I DO Get A Bit Obsessive" Chili

When I was sevenish, I judged a chili contest at Art Park.

And, being sevenish, I was not that into spicy, so I (along with most of the other judges, who were all adults) voted for the non-spicy, "Ridiculously Easy Chili". And since it was, indeed, easy, and it was pretty tasty, that became our family's standard chili recipe. Plus, it made a great breakfast choice for my reactively-hypoglycemic little self, who could barely make it to school on a bowl of cheerios.

My mom has since migrated to a new recipe, her "We're All Adults Now" Chili. I will admit, I have yet to try this.

So one day, I bought a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce for a deviled eggs recipe (which I still haven't tried), and I got a taste for chili, which hijacked my one little can. So a new dish - and a new obsession - was born.

I make this a few times a year, but when I do, one batch is not enough. I will eat it for two or three meals a day for two weeks straight. This is decidedly husband-friendly, but mine doesn't usually get any of it.

Like most of my recipes, the amounts are estimated and not that important anyway. Adjust it to suit yourself. :)


"Yes, Actually, I DO Get a Bit Obsessive" Chili
Serves 4-8, depending on the size of your eyes and/or stomach.

INGREDIENTS:

Chili:

  • 1/2 cup dried kidney beans or one 15-oz can, rinsed and drained

  • 1 medium onion, chopped

  • Olive oil (about 1 Tbsp)

  • 1 to 1.5 lbs ground beef (mine comes from the nice people at Chestnut Farms)

  • 2 cups V8-style vegetable juice (sounds gross, but gives it a fuller flavor than just using tomatoes. The Whole Foods 365 brand organic stuff is great)

  • 1 can tomato paste (again, I think the organic stuff tastes better)

  • 1 big can of crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, whatever (you can skip this if you're using V8, but I like little chunks of tomato in my chili)

  • 2-5 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (depending on how spicey you like it)

  • A lot of cumin (I'm guessing 1.5-2 tsp)

  • A lot of garlic powder (about 1 tsp)

  • A generous shake of onion powder (about 1/2 tsp)

  • A teeny shake of cayenne pepper (about 1/8 tsp)

  • Enough beef stock to thin the chili to the desired thickness (optional)

  • Salt to taste



Optional Accompaniments:

  • Sour Cream

  • Shredded Cheese: monterey jack, colby, cheddar, etc.

  • Corn Chips (the blue ones are fun, but the yellow ones look the nicest)

  • Fresh Corn Kernels




INSTRUCTIONS:

If you are using dried beans, cover them with water and leave them to soak overnight. Drain, cover with fresh water, and simmer until just tender, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a dutch oven or large deep skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until they are soft and just begin to caramelize. (Don't rush this step; the chili just doesn't taste right if the onions are still crunchy.) Add the ground beef, and sauté until browned.

In a separate bowl, mix the V8 juice and tomato paste thoroughly.
(This seems pointless, but it's hard to mix in the tomato paste otherwise.)

Add the tomato paste to the meat mixture. Add the spices, beans, and the chipotles and their sauce, and stir to mix. If the chili is thicker than you'd like, thin with beef broth. Reduce heat to medium/low, and simmer until the flavors are well-blended, about 45-60 minutes. Remove the chipotles (trust me on this - don't skip this step!) If you can resist, store the chili in the fridge overnight and reheat; it's better on the second day!

Salt to taste, but keep in mind that most corn chips are pretty salty, so go a little easier than you would normally.

Serve in bowls, and top with whatever appeals to you: cheese, sour cream, corn chips, fresh corn kernels, etc. Go easy on the portions to start: this is VERY filling, especially once you add toppings. You can always have seconds. :)


WINE PAIRING:

I had this with a California Zinfandel (RED Zinfandel, not white, thank you very much!), and it was a great match. It wasn't tannic or astringent enough to taste harsh with the spice, and it had big round fruit flavors that meshed with the sweetness of the tomato and really brought out the nice round richness of the chilis.

I haven't tried it, but this might just work with a dry, sparkling rosé. Especially outside at a picnic with a nice fresh salad.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: Sweet/Stinky/Ugly/Funky Root Vegetable Soup

Dear blog readers (if anybody is actually reading this), I have a confession to make. I have been holding out on you. Because of my selfish desire to keep it all for myself, I never told you about Persimmon.

I told close friends. I told my fish teacher. But I didn't tell you. Because I didn't want to face the day when I'd call for a reservation and not be able to get a table. But that was small of me, and I'm sorry. Well, maybe only a little sorry. :)

I've had a hard time putting into words why I love Persimmon so much, but I think I've stumbled on it. It's about simple perfection and harmony. Their food has just the right balance of exploration and simplicity: there's nothing extraneous, and nothing missing. I've eaten more impressive/virtuosic food, and these chefs are doing important work by pushing the boundaries of culinary creativity and technical skill.

But if there's anything that my dance career has taught me, it's that the most impressive performance is not necessarily the best one. At the end of the day, the best performance is the one with the perfect balance: one gives the audience just enough of what they want and pushes them just enough and is the most personal. It's the difference between receiving an elaborate floral arrangement, and simple bouquet of your favorite flower, perfectly arranged. That's what I get at Persimmon.

Of all the dishes I've enjoyed there, the soups shine the brightest. In fact, I've gained a reputation as That Crazy Soup Girl, since I have had the soup for both appetizer and dessert (on two occasions: the sunchoke soup with an island of fried oysters and caviar and pea/asparagus vichyssoise). So you can imagine how excited I was when they announced that their very first cooking class would cover soups.

The class was demo-based, rather than hands-on (I like to get my hands dirty), but it still told me exactly what was missing in my own soups:


  • how to make a rich, clean stock: choose high-gelatin ingredients, rinse away as much blood & marrow as possible, bring to a boil slowly, skim obsessively.

  • compositional ideas: make the soup taste truly like the main ingredient(s), then add solid or liquid toppings that allow the diner to make each bite be a different experience.



So if that class and the tips that Helen shared with me on her blog together comprised a university course, this recipe would be my final project.

In the last month, I've made it twice and eaten it five times, and it still hasn't paled in my affections. And my husband, who usually has to be tied to a chair to eat root vegetables, took one taste of mine, and demanded his own bowl.



Soup of Sweet, Stinky, Funky and Ugly Root Vegetables



Notes: I'll be honest. I eyeballed everything in this recipe. The measurements given here are approximate and highly suspect. But that's okay. Try it, and adjust. You can always add a more stock if it's too thick, or a little more cooked potato if it's too thin.

Substitutions and Riffs:


  • This would work really well with pretty much any root vegetables in the mix, so use your imagination. The basic idea is to use sweet vegetables like carrots to prop up those with a more stinky/funky flavor like turnips, rutabagas, and parsnips.

    Now, parsnips are sweet enough on their own, but I don't recommend omitting the carrots, since they give the soup a pretty color. If you used all-white veggies (ex: turnips, parsnips), the caramelization you get when you roast the veggies would give the soup a sickly beige color that wouldn't be all that appetizing. Celery root (simmered, not roasted) gives the soup a nice undertone too.


  • I used chicken stock for this, since it's what I had on hand, but feel free to substitute. Vegetable stock would also probably work very well well. Champe gave us a recipe for apple stock that tastes fantastic in my mind's mouth, but I can't guarantee it. I'm curious as to whether a mix of chicken and shrimp stock would work... If anybody tries alternative stocks, let me know how they go.


  • One principle that I took away from the soup class at Persimmon was to use two or more toppings to allow the eater to make each bite a different experience. Here are some flavoring ideas that I tried:
    - sage, apple, maple bacon
    - garlic, maple, balsamic vinegar
    - bacon and nutmeg
    - truffle salt and thyme

    I also bet that any of the following would be amazing, but I haven't tried them yet:
    - wild boar or other game, possibly with balsamic or citrus peel flavors
    - calves' liver, delicately fried, probably with the balsamic/maple reduction in v3.



For a main dish, you could probably serve the game or liver on a regular plate on a nice little pond of the soup.


Ingredients:

Soup:
- 2 large turnips, cubed (you may substitute rutabagas, if desired)
- 1 lb parsnips (appx 3 big ones), quartered lengthwise
- 1 shallot, chopped fine
- 3 or 4 large carrots, peeled and sliced
- 1 Tbsp sugar, optional
- 4 small white or yellow potatoes (or 1 baking-sized one), quartered
- olive oil
- about 2 qts unsalted chicken stock
(Homemade is best if you have it, otherwise the most flavorful unsalted variety you can find. It's best to have a little extra on hand)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- salt to taste


Accompaniments:

v1: (yummy)
- 1 strip bacon, fried until crisp and tossed in 1 tsp maple syrup
- 1/4 flavorful apple (I used a buttery apple sauce, but I'll bet roasted or glazed apple slices would be even better)
- 5 sage leaves, gently fried in butter
- 6 sage leaves for the stock (don't skip this step!)

v2: (okay)
- fresh-grated nutmeg or nutmeg-infused grapeseed oil (olive oil will work in this recipe)
- 1 strip bacon, fried until crisp

v3: (excellent)
- 3 roasted garlic cloves, skins removed
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar and 1/4 cup maple syrup, heated together until thick and syrupy

v4: (not that great)
- truffle salt or oil
- 1 sprig/serving fresh thyme for garnish
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme for the stock



Make the soup:

- preheat the oven to 425F

- toss the turnips and parsnips generously with olive oil. Sprinkle the turnips with sugar (optional). Roast (turning occasionally) until browned on at least one side (20-40 minutes?) They'll probably be tender at this point, but it doesn't actually matter.

- meanwhile, saute the shallots in olive oil in a large dutch oven until soft and lightly browned

- remove the vegetables from the roasting pan, and place in a large dutch oven. Ladle some of the stock into the emptied roasting pan, and deglaze by scraping any browned bits, encouraging them to dissolve into the stock. Pour the deglazing liquid over the vegetables.

- add the turnips, parsnips, shallots, carrots, and potatoes in a large dutch oven. Tie any topping-related herbs into a bouquet or in a cheesecloth sack, and add them to the pot. Add enough of the remaining stock to cover the vegetables generously, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer gently until the vegetables are very tender and the potatoes break apart when poked through with a fork.

- remove any topping-related herbs and discard.

- puree the soup in a blender. Work in batches so it doesn't explode. Pulse first to mush it up, then puree on highest speed to make it smooth and add air. And more stock if needed to make it smooth and fluffy.

- strain through a fine mesh sieve, stirring with a ladle, and pressing the back into the sieve to help it along.

- return the strained soup to the sauce pan, add the cream, and heat over medium-low, stirring frequently, until hot. Meanwhile, prepare the toppings.

- salt to taste

- if desired, run through the blender or immersion blender on high speed just before serving to add more "fluff"

- ladle into soup plates and top with desired toppings.


Serves about 8. Maybe.


Wine Pairings: I still haven't figured this one out. I tried it with an off-dry riesling first. It had enough sweetness and acidity to stand up to the dish, but it's more subtle flavors were lost in the big, earthy POW of the soup. I also tried a Chianti that I had on hand. It had enough body, but was too dry and astringent. My guess is that a big fruit-forward California Zinfandel would do the trick, but I haven't confirmed it yet.

UPDATE: the Zinfandel was a step closer, but still a little dry compared to the soup. If anyone has any suggestions, I'd love to hear them!


Reheating Tips: The silky texture is a big part of this soup. Microwaving, even on lower heat, tends to give it a dried-out, thickened "skin" around the edges that isn't very appealing. I'd recommend reheating it on the stove-top, stirring frequently. Or if you must microwave it, skim off the skin before serving. Either way, give it a run through the blender (immersion blender comes in handy here)


If you try this, let me know:

- which ingredients you used
- what you used for toppings
- which wines you tried and how they worked out

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Just a quickie

I stumbled upon a fantastic quote today at Ambrosia and Nectar (whose pork belly and baked beans is probably going to end up on my table sometime this week, assuming I don't get preemptively lynched for using tomato in a baked bean recipe in Boston. I'm hoping they'll make allowances, me being Not From Here and all. Or maybe I should play it safe and make a traditional recipe. Play it safe, or be bold?)

Anyway, here's the quote:
"luxuriating over the chopping board and stove each night"

I shivered when I read that. It is EXACTLY how I feel about cooking: something to luxuriate in. Not a chore, not a hobby, not even a sport (and trust me, there are plenty of competitive cooks out there). A part of a beautiful life, both in process and product.

Now off to buy some beans...

Friday, December 12, 2008

What's Up With the Seafood Watch?


(Mackerel photo by Amy Groark, kindly shared via a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works License.)


If anybody is actually reading this on a regular basis, you might have noticed that I'm adding Seafood Watch ratings to my seafood recipes. I decided to do this after seeing some discussion on sustainable fish choices in some of the comments on Beyond Salmon, home of my sometimes-teacher and blogging role model Helen Rennie (aka, The Fish Queen).


I'm trying to live by the the idea that every dollar you spend is a vote for the world you want to live in*. The money we spend on food is one area where we have the most access to alternatives, and where our choices have the most impact.


Each of us has to decide:

Which issues are important to us:
- ecology
- local vs. global economies
- food security
- animal treatment
- health & safety
- tradition
- social justice / fair trade
- etc.

How we should support those values:
- giving up a food vs. eating less of it
- changing our consumption of specific foods vs. focusing our attention on how they're produced, where, and by whom
- opting out of something entirely vs. using our dollar votes and voices to influence how it's made, sold, etc.
- which businesses (both manufacturers and retailers) we should support

How strictly we want to adhere to those choices:
- religiously
- carefully
- whenever practical
- more often than not
- better than we used to (i.e., the baby steps approach)



I strongly believe that there are no right or wrong answers to these questions. Nobody can decide for you, and nobody else should.

Not that it's wrong to put forward an argument for your own position. But nobody else is qualified to analyze your values and personal situation and decide what's right for you. And anyone who claims that there is only one right way has something to gain by having you adopt that way**.



Making a conscious decision on how to spend your food dollars takes a lot of research. But don't let that scare you off! Learning where your food comes from and how it's produced is empowering; it means that your choices are really your choices. Here are a few topics you might want to read about:
- conventional vs. organic production (and certified organic vs. not certified but meeting many or all requirements)
- pastured vs. grain-fed/industrial animal products
- local vs. non-local production (i.e., "food miles")
- monocultures and biodiversity
- social justice in the production and distribution of food
- globalization


After you educate yourself on these topics and examine your values, most of the decisions you make are going to be pretty straight-forward. They may not be easy or convenient, but they'll be pretty easy to formulate, ex: "I'm going to start buying fair trade coffee".


However, when it comes to choosing seafood, things gets more complicated. The impact your seafood purchases depends on the species, how it's fished, and where it comes from. And that means that you have to make a LOT more choices than just conventional eggs vs. cage-free.

So, in the interests of helping you make informed decisions about voting with your food dollars, I'm going to be posting the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch ratings for any seafood dishes I post. That rating assumes that the reader is buying their seafood in the US. Those of you in other countries may want to consult one of the buying guides from The Seafood Choices Alliance.



Now, I would like to make two things clear:

1) I am posting the ratings as an informational tool, not to imply what you "should" be doing. The choice is yours. I'm not going to judge you for making choices different from mine, and I'm not going to give you any brownie points for making more extreme choices than I do.

Anyone who educates themselves on the issues and makes an informed, honest choice based on their own values and circumstances has my respect, no matter where that choice falls on the spectrum.


2) This blog is NOT the place to debate issues of what people should eat, whether for health or ethical reasons. By all means, have that discussion, but take it to another venue.


* that's the subtitle of The Better World Shopping Guide. We received it as a housewarming gift from our awesome real estate agent, Ken Sazama, and I highly recommend them both.

** a quote from Shakira (a dancer in Illinois, not the Columbian singer)