Posts Tagged ‘Cooking’

Urban Farming: Garlic – an everyday necessity

There was a time, as an inexperienced cook, when I rarely used fresh garlic. It was annoying to have to buy an entire head of garlic when I only needed a clove or two for a recipe, and more annoying when the rest of them dried up or sprouted before I used them. I’m still not fond of the bite of raw garlic, but it seems like almost every recipe I cook now begins with sauteeing chopped onions and minced garlic.

Dan sometimes comes sniffing into the kitchen, asking what smells so good – often, it’s just onions and garlic so far. When that combination hits a pan of hot olive oil, the savory aroma sizzles throughout the room and you know something delicious is on the way.

Sprouting garlic
Sprouting garlic

Last November, some of the garlic in my kitchen began to sprout. We separated the cloves and planted them in the garden, hoping the critters wouldn’t find them tasty. A couple of weeks ago, Dan and I debated whether they were ready to harvest. That’s the somewhat difficult aspect of growing bulbs and root vegetables – it’s hard to tell what they’re going to look like before you pull them.

Garlic plant

We looked up tips on gardening websites and decided to go with the advice that, when about half the leaves have turned brown, they’re ready to pull. So we let them go a little longer. Last weekend, the leaves were browned and the plants were beginning to tip over. It seemed to be time to harvest our garlic.

Garlic ready to harvest

We were rewarded with four beautiful, home-grown heads of garlic and now we know how to tell when the cloves are nice and plump. These will go into something very tasty very soon.

Garlic in a basket

Vegetable medley from the garden

There really is nothing like picking vegetables from the backyard garden, preparing them simply and roasting them over flame. Yesterday, we harvested the first what I’m sure will be many more zucchinis, and enough green beans for two servings (there’s lots more out there). A couple weeks ago, we also pulled a couple dozen onions of various types and set them to cure on wire shelves in the sunroom.

Red, yellow and white onions from the garden
Red, yellow and white onions from the garden

There’s really not much to this recipe. I trimmed the zucchini and cut it lengthwise into four planks. I whisked together the juice of one lemon, the same amount of extra-virgin olive oil, a 1/2 tsp. of Penzey’s Minced Garlic, a pinch of cayenne, a big pinch of sugar, and salt and pepper for a quick marinade. I also sliced a small homegrown red onion and trimmed the green beans.

Dan sprinkled Paul Prudhomme’s Blackened Redfish Seasoning on two tuna steaks and took everything out to the grill. We have this handy grilling wok that makes it easy to grill small pieces of food like cut vegetables.

After everything was grilled, we tossed the vegetables with the rest of the marinade.

The first zucchini of 2011!
The first zucchini of 2011!

Garden-fresh green beans
Garden-fresh green beans

Grilled veggies, grilled tuna and remoulade sauce
Grilled veggies, grilled tuna and remoulade sauce

A Mexican Feast

Last week, Dan and I prepared a Mexican feast for 26 teachers during the annual capstone event for the graduate professional development class he teaches along with colleagues Dan B. and Richard.

I was so busy making sure everything was done and we hadn’t forgotten anything that I forgot to take pictures of everything when we were done with each dish. But here are a few to accompany the recipes we used.

Appetizers, all by Rick Bayless, served with toasted sliced baguette and tortilla chips

Fire-Roasted Tomato Salsa Prep
Prep for Fire-Roasted Tomato Salsa

Dinner

Ingredients for mole sauce
Mole ingredients

Corn tamales with chicken or cheese
Corn tamales stuffed with chicken (left) or cheese right)

Dessert was a trifle layered with cubed angel-food cake, lemon pudding and fresh strawberries, blackberries and raspberries. I tried making a tres leches cake for this, but it was flat and heavy, so I went with store-bought angel food.

Lessons Learned

  • When making tamales, test the batter by checking to see whether a handful sticks to itself; if not, it’s too wet, so add a bit more corn flour
  • I need a Kitchen Aid mixer if I’m going to try a tres leches cake; I didn’t fluff up the butter enough, so the cake was short and heavy rather than tall and light
  • When I’m cooking for a crowd, delegate the camera work to someone else!

A delicious one-pot meal: Paella

A few years ago, my mother-in-law gave me for Christmas a wonderful gift for a foodie like me – a paella kit. It included a paella pan, Spanish rice and olive oil, and some saffron.

Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world, because harvesting it is so labor-intensive. Saffron threads are the stamens of a variety of crocus. There are three stamens per flower and each must be picked individually by hand. It has a delicate flavor; liquids are generally infused with saffron and then used in recipes.

Paella is a classic Spanish dish of saffron-flavored rice with seafood, chicken and sometimes chorizo, or Spanish sausage. I made this dish for a dinner party and it was a big hit. Serve with a nice green salad and a vinaigrette made with sherry vinegar.

Seafood, Chicken and Chorizo Paella

Ultimate Paella with Seafood, Chicken and Chorizo

The term comes from the Latin patella, a flat plate on which offerings were made to the gods. The prepared dish is placed in the middle of the dining table, as it is traditionally eaten straight from the pan.

1/2 tsp. sweet paprika (preferably Spanish smoked paprika)
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. kosher salt
3 chicken thighs, cut in half
5 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Spanish chorizo sausage, thickly sliced (about ½ cup)
1/3 cup coarsely chopped roasted red peppers
1/2 cup Spanish onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped (reserve some for garnish)
2 medium ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
3 cups short-grain Spanish rice, preferably Calasparra
5 1/2 cups strong chicken broth
Generous pinch saffron threads (about 1/2 tsp.)
1 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed
1 dozen mussels, scrubbed
1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 lemons, cut into wedges

Combine paprika, oregano and salt. Rub spice mixture all over the chicken, cover and refrigerate for one hour. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 325*.

Warm chicken broth in a saucepan to just below a simmer. Crush saffron slightly and stir into broth; keep warm.

Heat the oil in a 14-inch paella pan or large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the chorizo until lightly browned; remove from pan and set aside. Add chicken skin-side down and brown well on all sides; remove from pan and set aside. Sauté onions in the same pan; when the onions start to brown, add red peppers, garlic and half of parsley. Cook for 3 minutes over medium heat. Add tomatoes; cook until mixture caramelizes a bit, stirring occasionally.

Fold in the rice and stir-fry to coat the grains with the onion mixture. Pour in the chicken broth and stir gently to loosen browned bits from the bottom of the pan. The broth will almost fill the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring the mixture a couple of times.

Press the clams into the rice. Simmer for 5 minutes more, occasionally moving the pan on top of the flame so the rice cooks evenly and starts to absorb the liquid. You should still have a lot of liquid in the pan.

Press the chicken (with any accumulated juices), chorizo, mussels and shrimp into the rice. Place the pan into the oven and bake, uncovered, for 25 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven. Place the pan on the stovetop and sprinkle with peas and parsley. Cover with foil and let rest, covered, for 10 minutes. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve.

Paper Chef: Scones with Honey, Ricotta, and Dill

I like participating in food blogging events when I can, because they challenge me to come up with variations or to try food combinations I probably would not have thought of on my own. Paper Chef provides a random collection of ingredients and you prepare a recipe using all of those ingredients, like Chopped on the Food Network. Unfortunately, I missed the deadline, but here’s the recipe anyway :-)

This one is an especially interesting mix: honey, ricotta, dill – and an egg.

A recipe came immediately to mind when I saw those ingredients, though. In 2008, I won a cookbook called “Covered in Honey” in a recipe contest at Joelen’s Culinary Adventures, and made Scones with Honey, Rosemary and Goat Cheese. So I thought, why not replace the rosemary with dill and the goat cheese with ricotta, and see what happens?

I was afraid the dill would be really strong, so I used a rather light hand with it – should have used more. The scones have a very light dill scent and flavor, but I think I could have doubled it and had a better result. The ricotta gives the scones a very creamy texture and the honey sweetens them just perfectly. This one is well worth repeating, with some extra dill – I doubled it in the recipe below.

Savory Scones with Honey, Ricotta and Dill

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup herbal honey
1 large egg
1/2 cup cream or whole milk
1 tbsp. dill, chopped
5 oz. ricotta cheese
Additional cream or milk for glazing

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. In another bowl, lightly whisk the olive oil, honey, egg, cream or milk and 2 tsp. of the dill. Use a pastry cutter or fork to blend the ricotta cheese with the flour mixture until the mixture makes pea-size crumbs.

Make a well in the flour mixture and add the olive oil mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon until a dough ball forms. Remove the dough ball to a lightly floured surface and knead lightly, just enough to form a workable ball.

Pull off about 1/8 cup-size pieces of dough, roll each in your hands to form a ball, and lightly flatten a bit. Place dough pieces on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper or a Silpat, about 1 inch apart. Brush tops with more cream or milk and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tsp. dill. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown.

Honey, Ricotta and Dill Scones

GYO: Antipasto Pesto Pasta

I love the sound of that :-) And the dish was pretty good, too.

We had about 16 people over for Thanksgiving, and since we had spent two weeks in Europe, including a week in Italy, in September, naturally I wanted to serve antipasto for an appetizer.

But most people were holding out for the main event, so there was quite a bit left over. What to do with all these preserved meats and veggies? Put them in a pasta, of course! I found this great-sounding recipe and modified it for what we had and like, and it turned out great. I’ll definitely make it again.

This is my entry in Grow Your Own, the foodie event started by Andrea of Andrea’s Recipes and hosted this month by House of Annie. GYO celebrates the food we grow ourselves. We grew the basil and parsley for the pesto in this dish, and I froze pesto to use during the winter, since the basil was so prolific. The round-up of all the entries has been posted, so check them out!

Antipasto Pesto Pasta
1 medium roasted red bell pepper, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup marinated cocktail onions, halved
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
3 ounces salami, chopped
1/2 cup marinated mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup marinated quartered artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1/3 cup refrigerated pesto
8 ounces uncooked bow-tie pasta (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

Place the roasted pepper, onions, olives, salami, mushrooms, and artichokes in a large bowl and mix gently.

Cook the pasta according to package directions, omitting salt; drain. In a small bowl, mix together the pesto and 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese; add to bell pepper mixture, and toss to combine. Add pasta to bell pepper mixture and stir.

Sprinkle each serving with 2 tsp. remaining cheese and 2 tsp. pine nuts.


Antipasto Pasta

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