Monday, December 30, 2013

soup city

Once the weather gets cold, I (like so many others) crave a warm bowl of soup. My friend, Jill, had a fun Christmas exchange where we brought things we liked to cook or bake (instead of the traditional cookie swap). I made soup - perhaps not the best planning as then I had to pour the soup into tiny jars for the party guests - but it was quite tasty.
 Chicken & Winter Veg (before the jarring process)
About 2-3 tablespoons EVOO
2 small onions, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced 
4 tablespoons tomato paste
2 large sweet potatoes peeled, quartered lengthwise, and thinly sliced
2 cans diced tomatoes with juice
Quart & half chicken or turkey stock teaspoon
1 teaspoon dried crushed rosemary
coarse salt and ground pepper
1.5-2 pounds cooked chicken (mine was pulled rotisserie chicken)
12-16 ounces kale, chopped
In a large saucepan with a lid, heat oil over medium. Add onion and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste. Add sweet potato, tomatoes and their juice, broth, and rosemary; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Cover; cook until potato is tender, 12 to 15 minutes.
Stir in chicken, add kale in two batches, waiting for the first batch to wilt before adding the second. Cover, and simmer just until chicken is heated through. Season well with salt and pepper. This recipe made a lot so feel free to half it!
 I also made pesto chicken 'n orzo soup - needless to say, the freezer is stocked.
quart of chicken stock 
1 lb cooked chicken (I used baked skinless breasts) 
14.5 oz can of chopped tomatoes
 1/2 cup dried orzo pasta 
1 small onion, diced 
2 small zucchini, diced 
2 cloves garlic, minced 
2 teaspoons dried oregano 
1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel 
1 tablespoon lemon juice 
black pepper 
4 tablespoons basil pesto  
10 ounces baby spinach 
In Dutch oven, saute zucchini and diced onion in garlic with oregano with some S&P,
remove and set aside. Into the Dutch oven, add broth, chicken, undrained tomatoes, and
uncooked orzo. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer for 6 minutes. Add zucchini, onion,
lemon peel, and lemon juice. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer and stir in pesto and
fold in spinach in batches. Cook for another 3-4 minutes or until orzo and zucchini are
tender. Season to taste with black pepper.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

balsamic tofu - the vegetarian holiday

A few weeks ago, I volunteered at Whole Foods for a great vegetarian holiday class. We made an array of dishes including a millet corn chowder, roasted pumpkin, and blood orange-beet salad. The highlight for me was this delicious balsamic tofu over an arugula salad.
This was my recreation at home - Balsamic Tofu with White Bean Sauce over Arugula & Crisp Apple
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
2 teaspoons fresh marjoram
2 teaspoons evaporated cane juice
1 cup canola oil
juice from about 2 lemons
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons fresh black pepper
14 oz package extra firm tofu, cut into 8 4 inch long slices
cooking spray
Preheat grill pan. Make marinade of vinegar, thyme, marjoram, cane juice, oil, lemon juice, parsley, garlic and S&P. Pour 1/4 cup of the marinade into a shallow dish and set aside. 
Spray each tofu piece with cooking (each side). Grill for about 1-2 minutes per side until clear grill marks on formed. Place grilled tofu in marinade and rest for about 2 hours. 
White Bean Sauce
6 sundried tomatoes
1 teaspoon garlic, choppd
2 tablespoon red onion, diced
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons white beans (like cannellini, navy, etc.) 1/4 cup of reserved bean liquid
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons agave syrup
S&P - generous seasoning
2 tablespoons butter
In small sauté pan over high heat, add sundered tomatoes, garlic, onion and beans - sauté until garlic is golden. Lower heat and stir in reserved bean liquid, vinegar, parsley, agave, S&P. Turn off heat and stir in butter until sauce is opaque. 
Heat large sauté pan and over medium heat, add tofu pieces. Working in batches, ensure all tofu is cooked and crispy (about 2 minutes per side). 
To plate, lay a handful of arugula, topped with tofu pieces and bean sauce. Assemble thinly sliced apples around plate and drizzle some remaining tofu marinade on salad.
This was the full plate from our class. Tofu, pumpkin, beet salad, smashed potatoes, brussels & spaetzle, corn millet chowder, and crunchy kale yam bruschetta. It was all so good! More recipes to come as I try these dishes at home.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

fall wheat berry & kale salad

Our Thanksgiving was so lovely this year! Dinner with friends Jill, Ethan & Mimi...lots of singing, impersonating Rocketttes, sipping thyme-pom-gin 'n tonics, and devouring delicious dishes and pies. Jill made a delectable sweet potato casserole and two amazing pies (chocolate pecan and chocolate icebox - which is insanely good). I don't typically try new things at the holidays, but I did make a wheat berry & kale salad that provided a little texture change and a nice room temp dish with our dinner.
2 pound peeled butternut squash, cut into 1/2-inch dice
about 6-8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups wheat berries
10 ounces Tuscan kale, stemmed, leaves sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick (4 cups)
2-4 tablespoons rice wine vinegar 
1/2 cup minced shallots
1 tablespoon finely chopped sage
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup dry white wine like a sauv blanc or pinot grigio
seeds from 1 pomegranate
Preheat the oven to 400°. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the squash with 2-4 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the squash for 20 to 25 minutes, until tender. Transfer to a large bowl. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, prepare wheat berries according to directions. I bought wheat berries in bulk and needed to soak overnight and boil for about 50 minutes - some packages only take about 30 minutes to boil. 
Clean kale and chop well into shreds. Add the kale to the wheat berries, cover and remove from the heat; let stand until the kale is wilted, 5 minutes. Drain well and add the wheat and kale to the squash. Add the vinegar and 2 tablespoons of the oil to the salad, season with salt and pepper and toss. 
In a medium skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the shallots and a pinch of salt and cook over moderately high heat until just starting to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the sage and cook for 1 minute, until fragrant. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the wine and simmer, stirring, until evaporated. Scrape the shallot and garlic into the salad and toss. Season with salt and pepper and add in pomegranate seeds - mix well. This salad may be made a day or two ahead and served at room temperature. 
The wheat berries are chewy and the pomegranate seeds provide a nice bite with some tartness. This salad is delicious!
This Thanksgiving helped me realize how lucky Vance and I are to have found some really great friends in Nashville. Over the past few years, this place has become home and the Dunhams are certainly part of our Nashville Jill, make your Nashville sister another icebox pie!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

nothing beats a bowl of soup

...on a cold winter Saturday. It is grey and drizzly out - the perfect day to have a fire going, watch Food Network and make lentil soup. This recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart.
lentil soup with savory bagel croutons
1 & 1/2 cups green lentils, picked over and rinsed
4 cups rich stock (I used pork stock, but chicken or vegetable are great too)
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 medium onion, diced
4 strips of bacon, chopped into small pieces
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 cups of warm water
2 day old white or wheat bagels
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
3 tablespoons of EVOO
S&P to taste
In Dutch oven, saute bacon. Pour off all but about a tablespoon of the fat. Add diced onion and carrot to the pan. Saute until onion begins to become translucent. Add garlic and sauté for another few minutes. Add lentils, thyme, tomato paste - stir to incorporate. Add stock and warm water bring to slight boil, then reduce to simmer and cover. Simmer for about 35 minutes until lentils are soft. When lentils are ready, add red wine vinegar and some fresh cracked pepper. Taste for seasonings. I did not add salt because the bacon and pork stock were salty enough for us - but do test at this point. Remove from heat and using an immersion blender, plus a few times. I just wanted a bit of a creamier lentil texture (but I didn't puree the whole soup). If you don't have an immersion blender, you could remove about half of the soup to your blender and pulse a few times. 
For the croutons, cube bagels and place in mixing bowl. Toss with cumin, chili pepper, EVOO and bit of S&P until all pieces are well coated. Assemble on a small baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes - keeping an eye on them in case you would like to toss the croutons so they brown more easily. Allow croutons to cool for about 5 to 10 minutes. Assemble soup in bowls and top with about 5 croutons.
We are finally trimming the tree this evening! Pictures to come I'm sure. The countdown to Christmas is definitely on - let the cooking begin!

Monday, December 2, 2013

the end of leftovers

Today was the last serving of delicious Thanksgiving sides - a tear fell from my eye as I took my last bite of Jill's sweet potato casserole. We had a great Thanksgiving (or Friendsgiving) with Jill, Ethan and Mimi (more on holiday fun and food to come!). 
I stripped the bird yesterday (that sounds so naughty) and used the last bit of meat to make turkey salad, turkey tetrazzini & (of course) turkey stock.
Last year, we had a turkey tetrazzini while trimming our tree. This was also the plan last night, but alas Vance's work schedule has been crazy so the trimming has to wait. Mushroom & turkey tetrazzini was good though - similar to last year's recipe but I upped the mushrooms and red & green bell peppers give the dish a holiday flair!

16 ounces assorted mushrooms, sliced (I used half cremini and half baby bella)
half stick of butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
12 ounces egg noodles
1½ cups whole milk
¼ cup heavy cream
2 cups turkey stock (can substitute chicken stock/broth)
¼ cup white wine (can substitute stock or broth)
2-3 cups chopped cooked turkey
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 shallot, diced
1/3 cup parsley, chopped
6 ounces swiss, grated, divided
3 ounces Parmesan, grated, divided
Salt and pepper, to taste
3/4 cup plain bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, grated
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly mist a 9x13-inch baking dish; set aside. Fill a large pot with water and put it over high heat to boil. In a large Dutch oven, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the mushrooms (in batches) and cook, stirring occasionally, until all of the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to a bowl and set aside. In the same skillet, sauté shallot and bell peppers until soft - remove to the bowl with the mushrooms. When pan is empty and warm, add about 2-3 tablespoons of butter. whisk in the flour and cook, whisking occasionally, until the flour is browned and has a nutty aroma, about 3 minutes. While the flour cooks, add the noodles to the boiling water and cook to al dente. While the noodles are cooking, continue on with the recipe. Slowly whisk the milk, cream, turkey stock and wine into the butter/flour mixture. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce is thickened, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in nutmeg.
Drain the pasta when it is finished, then add the cooked pasta, mushrooms, turkey, shallot and peppers to the sauce in the skillet, tossing everything together until it is evenly coated. Add half of the swiss and half of the Parmesan cheese, stirring until the cheese is melted. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.

Melt about 2-3 tablespoons of butter in a small bowl, toss together the bread crumbs, remaining swiss, remaining Parmesan and the melted butter. Toss with a fork until the bread crumbs and Parmesan are evenly moistened. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the top of the tetrazzini. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling and the top is golden brown. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving. Makes a large dish for about 6 people.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

pom-lemon fizz

Pom-Lemon Fizz
In a fluted glass, combine 2 parts chilled vodka & one part chilled pomegranate juice. Top with sparkling lemonade and garnish with a lemon slice. Make sure all ingredients are well-chilled. This is a very pretty holiday cocktail. Sweet and fizzy!

Monday, November 25, 2013

"I've never done this with a girl here before."

Vance was on vacation last week, although it certainly didn't feel like it! He had been studying for a big exam and writing a grant proposal. Not the relaxing week he had hoped for (and needed), but we celebrated Thursday with a great pork dinner. When we hit the hay the night before his test, we were drifting off when he said, "I've never gone to sleep with a girl in my bed the night before a big exam." I assured him that I would be no bother and we zonked out.
Pork tenderloin is a serious go-to in my culinary repertoire. Marinate, sear, roast, rest, slice - it is ready fast and can be fixed in a variety of ways, plus leftover pork is great.
Maple-Dijon Pork Tenderloin with Braised Red Cabbage & Sweet Potato-Kohlrabi Mash
2-3 small kohlrabi, peeled and cubed
1 large sweet potato, peel and cubed
small or half of a large crisp apple, peeled and cubed
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss kohlrabi, sweet potato and apple cubes in a bit of EVOO with a generous amount of S&P. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for20 minutes - turning after 10 to ensure all sides bake well. When tender, place in a large bowl of food processor with butter and cinnamon. Pulse until everything is mashed to the consistency of your liking.
Maple-Dijon Pork
Prepare marinade - this recipe makes about 12 or so ounces. I used some for the pork marinade, and jarred the rest for salad dressing.
In blender, combine:
1/4 balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup good maple syrup
1-2 tablespoons dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves, minced
generous amount of Kosher salt
ground black pepper
1/2 cup EVOO (adding slowing while blending or periodically to create emulsion)
In shallow baking dish, pour some marinade over two pork tenderloins (with some additional S&P). Ensure all pork is covered and marinate overnight. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Roast pork for about 15 to 18 minutes. Allow to rest for 5 minutes and slice thinly.
 Pork & Vegetable Spring Rolls
I wanted to use up leftover pork on Sunday so I made some delicious spring rolls with dipping sauce. Great recipe on Macheesmo - directions on spring rolls wrapping too. I added some fish sauce, soy sauce and a jalapeno pepper to the peanut dipping sauce - needed a bigger kick of flavor.
Leftover pork tenderloin is great for pork fried rice, Cuban sandwiches -- or just eating cold with some cheese - yum! Enjoy!