Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Delicious summer veggie soup

Another Tuesday, the night before Wednesday CSA delivery equals empty out fridge. this week, we made soup and it was deeeelightful, I am sure never to be replicated. Of course, if I were you, I wouldn't really follow this recipe. I'd just toss what you got in a pot. I hope your bounty is as super sweet as mine.

2 Tbsp olive oil
3 shallots, chopped
2 carrots cut into chunks
2 zephyr squash, cubed
1 pint pear shaped teeny-tiny tomatoes
2 small green heirloom tomatoes, cubed
1 bag dried tortellini
1 can canelli beans, rinsed
4 cups homemade chicken stock
1 cup wax beans

Heat oil over medium high heat
Sautee shallots and carrots in olive oil until shallots are translucent, add pinch of salt and pepper
Toss in squash, salt the squash, saute 2-3 minutes
Toss in tomatoes, salt, saute another 2-3 minutes
Add chicken broth and bring to a biol
Add in tortellini, bring back to a boil,
Add canelli beans and wax beans, reduce heat to low-medium, simmer gently about 10 minutes until tortellini is done
Add salt
Garnish with fresh basil if you have some

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Creme Fraiche and Redemption

I made a chicken dish this weekend that I found via the Wednesday Chef blog with a lemon and creme fraiche sauce. Basically, you sear the chicken and then finish cooking it in the oven. Then make a sauce by de-glazing the pan with lemon juice and lots of creme fraiche. And I've got to say, that while I love creme fraiche as an accent ingredient, I just didn't love the sauce. It was just a little bit too much and too rich for my taste. Just personal taste I guess.

I also successfully made a basic chocolate mousse recipe, which I topped with beautiful berries from the Nashville farmer's market. Not a big deal you say? Everyone can make chocolate mousse. I was recently reminded by my mother that my childhood best friend and I attempted to make chocolate mousse several times for our French class as young teenagers quite unsuccessfully. I believe we finally settled on mixing chocolate pudding with cool whip. But a failure I am no more. TAKE THAT FRENCH KARMA! Whose your bitch now?

PS: The chocolate mousse recipe was a bit boring....not really sure what it was missing....maybe some cinnamon would do the trick. Or maybe my displeasure with most foods this weekend had everything to do with the heat. The only thing that tasted DELICIOUS to me were the gorgeous heirloom tomatoes I picked up at the farmer's market....sliced with a little salt and olive oil. It doesn't get better than that in July.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Summer Ice Box Pasta

I threw this together last night with items we were trying to use up from our last CSA delivery. We get a new delivery on Wednesday, so sometimes Tuesday night it's a fun chore to figure out how we can throw together what we have left over.

What we had on hand were some long, thick green beans with purple speckles, I don't know exactly what they were, tomatoes, garlic, and some nice Greek feta that gets moldy pretty quickly.

It is imperative to use the proper pasta method, which allows for the flavor of the sauce to permeate the pasta. Otherwise what you get is bland pasta with sauce sitting on top with a weird texture contrast. I'll describe it for those of you who aren't familiar. If you're a proficient cook, I apologize for the detail. Some of my friends and family have probably never learned to cook pasta this way, so I thought it might be fun to explain it to them. It makes such a world of difference.

What I was thinking about when I cooked this up was Italian style green beans cooked in 'maters and what I got was much much better! We loved it so much that there is no picture as evidence.

1 lb whole wheat angel hair pasta
2 T olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic minced
1-2 cups green beans trimmed and cut into bite sized pieces
2 cups diced fresh tomatoes OR 1 large can good quality diced / or whole tomatoes (San Marzano are my favorite)
2 T fresh basil or 1 t dried basil
kosher salt
4 oz. feta cheese
kosher salt
pinch sugar

1. Fill VERY large pot with cold water, cover and bring to boil. More water is better.
2. While the water heats up, heat oil in a large skillet over medium- high heat.
3. Add onion, saute until translucent.
4. Stir in garlic, cook 1 minute. Add large pinch of salt to onion-garlic mixture.
5. Stir in green beans, add large pinch of salt, and saute about 2 minutes until start to turn bright green.
6. Stir in tomatoes (if using canned, include liquid). If using dried basil, stir in now....otherwise wait.
7. Season with 2-3 pinches of salt and one pinch sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and let simmer.

8. Your pasta water should be boiling. Season LIBERALLY with salt....I'm talking a good handful. If you don't season your pasta water, your pasta will be bland.
9. Add pasta to water, stir well. Cook until about 2-3 minutes shy of being done...which in the case of whole wheat angel hair is only about 3 minutes.
10. RESERVE 2-3 CUPS HOT PASTA WATER, strain pasta. Don't worry about getting all the water out. That water is going to add body and flavor to you sauce.
11. Transfer partially cooked pasta to skillet with sauce and toss well. Spoon in 2-3 ladles of pasta water and let the pasta water blend with sauce and become absorbed into pasta until pasta is al dente (taste it to know if it's done).
12. Move pasta and sauce to very large bowl, season with another 2 pinches of salt.
13. Crumble feta over pasta and stir well.

What you'll get by adding the salt a little bit of time is that every part of your sauce will be well seasoned, it won't be salty I promise. By finishing the cooking of the pasta in the sauce, the flavor of the sauce will be permeate the pasta. And the combination of the starchy pasta water, plus the feta will make a delightfuly velvety texture that you can't replicate by cooking sauce separately and just dumping it on pasta. That would end up a watery mess.

14. Consume pasta.

An aside: my personal blog is about to spill into my food blog a bit here. Using this method always makes me think of my dad. If you knew my dad, you'd be scratching your head right now because he didn't cook, at all. His idea of cooking was boiling hot dogs. So, my mother makes this really delicious Italian sausage tomato sauce that is one of my husband's favorites. My parents really love B, so when we visit, my mom will frequently have either pasta with the sauce or a baked pasta dish using the sauce awaiting us. Upon our arrival, we were always tired, but happy to be in their home and very happy to get some food and my parents would sit down with us even if they had already eaten. One of these nights, my father felt it necessary to explain to me that it is important to finish cooking the pasta by mixing it with the sauce. I have no idea where he learned that, but it makes me laugh to think about that.

He and I had a lot in common in our lives, but our taste in food was not one of those things. Yet somehow, many of my memories of him and everyone who has been important to me are totally wrapped up in food. And this is one of the reasons I take so much care and effort to make sure that what we eat has been prepared with love. An unhealthy relationship with food? Perhaps.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Picky Eater's Grilled Chicken

So we had some neighbors over for dinner on Saturday night. Somehow we ended up in a neighborhood of people who are absolutely nothing like us, which is just fine by me. All of our immediate neighbors are empty-nesters, mostly native to TN. This actually turns out to be an ideal situation because most of these people have lived life enough to be decidedly un-fussy.

I happen to know the male half of the couple that came to our place for dinner is very picky and has pretty different taste than us. His wife teases him because he thinks Italian food is exotic. What the heck was I going to feed him. We eat almost exclusively foreign-inspired cuisine, don't eat much meat, and almost never make southern food. Plus, I didn't really want to cook indoors.

So, I went with grilled chicken, which seems pretty universal for non-vegetarians at least.

This recipe, Peruvian Grilled chicken, is from Gourmet. I felt like the ingredients were fun enough to satisfy B and myself, but tame enough for the non-adventurous neighbors. It was, indeed, delicious. It'd be great for kids.

1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
5 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika (I used smoked paprika for a little oomph)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 whole chicken (about 3 1/2 pounds), quartered

Accompaniment: lime wedges

Marinate chicken:
Blend soy sauce, lime juice, garlic, cumin, paprika, oregano, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and oil in a blender.

Put chicken in a large sealable bag and add marinade. Seal bag and marinate, chilled, 8 to 24 hours.

Grill chicken:
If using a charcoal grill, open vents on bottom and lid of grill. Light a large chimney starter full of charcoal (preferably hardwood). When coals are lit, dump them out along opposite sides of bottom rack, leaving a space free of coals (the size of the quartered chicken) in middle. When you can hold your hand 5 inches above the grill rack directly over coals for 3 to 4 seconds, coals will be medium-hot.

If using a gas grill, preheat all burners on high, then reduce heat to medium-high.

Discard marinade, then pat chicken dry. Oil grill rack, then grill chicken over area with no coals (or over a turned-off burner), skin side down first, covered, turning over once, until cooked through, 30 to 35 minutes (add charcoal to maintain heat).

Cooks' note: If you aren't able to grill outdoors, chicken (quartered) can be roasted in middle of a 500°F oven in a 13- by 9-inch roasting pan with 1 cup water 30 minutes, then tented with foil and roasted until browned and cooked through, about 15 minutes more.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Chicken / Veggie / anything you want fried rice

Alrighty folks. Let's talk about home made fried rice. This is a fantastic time of year for fried rice because it is a quick, adaptable dish that you can make without turning on your oven. If you're like me and are the recipient of lots of seasonal veggies, either from your garden or a CSA, you'll be looking for some fun things to do with them.

BUT, you need to remember that I am Croatian / Hungarian / German / English. This is SOOOO far from authentic, but good none the less. The method for making fried rice couldn't be simpler, the key is good ingredients, of course. I'll show you what I made tonight going through step by step, but please be creative and use any veggies, protein, spices that you like.

Ingredients for tonight's rice
1 cup dry jasmine rice cooked according to directions on package
canola oil
1 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed small (omit if want vegetarian)
1 cup chopped onion
1 clove minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
two crookneck yellow squash, cut into small cubes (use anything on hand: carrots, cabbage, peppers, etc)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 eggs
0.5 cups frozen green peas
kosher salt
1-2 teaspoons butter

1. Cook rice on stovetop according to directions

2. Pre-heat large wok or skillet over medium-high heat

3. Salt cubed raw chicken liberally

4. Add 1 tablespoon canola oil to wok, add chicken.

5. When chicken is brown and cooked throgh, remove from skillet
and set aside

6. Add another tablespoon canola oil to wok, add onions, garlic,
and ginger. Sprinkle with pinch of salt and cook until translucent.

7. Add squash to wok, cook about 2-3 minutes.

8. Add red pepper flakes.

9. Push veggies to exterior of wok, add two beaten eggs and cook,
stirring, until just scrambled and solid.

10. Add in froze peas, give a good stir to distrubute.

11. Add cooked rice and chicken to wok.

12. Sprinkle with good quality soy sauce (I use tamari) until top layer is coated well. Stir well.

13. Finish rice off with 1-2 teaspoons butter.