Friday, December 3, 2010

Mushroom-tomato soup


What’s better on a chilly, windy December day than hot soup? Hot homemade soup!

1 large onion, diced
1-1/2 pounds mushrooms, sliced (I used mostly creminis; I would NOT use all “white mushrooms,” as I don‘t think they have as much flavor.)
3 - 5 cloves of garlic, crushed and/or minced
1 large can diced tomatoes, with juice
herbs -- your choice; I used a mix of oregano, basil, thyme and other stuff in a blend from Penzey's called "Sunny Paris," but an Italian blend would obviously be appropriate as well.
salt and pepper
1 - 2 Tablespoons olive oil
good bread
grated or shredded cheese, your choice -- I used asiago because I had it
6 cups chicken broth (if you want to keep it vegetarian, use vegetable broth or even water); I happened to have a couple of cups of turkey broth left over (!) so I used that and a 32-oz carton of low-sodium chicken broth.

Dice the onion. In a large pot -- my trusty cast-iron Dutch oven, for example -- "sweat" the onion for a couple of minutes while you rinse and slice the mushrooms. A sprinkle of salt is good, but go easy if you are using a commercial broth that is salty.

Add the sliced mushrooms and another pinch or so of salt.  Stir occasionally, and be amazed at how much liquid comes out of the mushrooms. And that isn't from having washed them -- Alton Brown proved it on his show.

Add the garlic once there is enough liquid to keep it from burning. Burnt garlic is nasty.

After 5-10 minutes, add the tomatoes, juice and all, and the herbs. Stir and bring to simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Add the stock or other liquid and simmer another 15-20 minutes.  Taste and add salt and/or pepper as needed.

Serve with bread, toasted bread or, since this is me doing it, toasted cheese bread. Garnish with basil (parsley would work, or you could skip the garnish and just eat the dang soup).

Friday, October 1, 2010

More pelmeni photos

Because Blogger is having issues.
 Here are the pelmeni, before cooking, and after.

Pelmini photos


Pelmeni (Ukrainian dumplings, like ravioli)

We had a pelmeni making party tonight because my nephew-to-be is from Ukraine, and we want to serve them as appetizers at a post-wedding backyard barbecue party. He brought his mom's recipe, which, as he translated it, was: Grandma's noodle dough! With ground pork inside, like ravioli. He even brought his mom's pelmeni press, which makes something like 3 dozen at a time.

Here's how it works: You make a meat mixture, in this case ground pork with chopped onion, salt and pepper. Then you make pasta, noodle dough, whatever you want to call it: Put about one cup of flour on the counter or bread board, make a well, add a pinch of salt, crack an egg in, add a teaspoon or less of water (or milk), "pinch" the flour into the egg until you have dough. Chill it for a few minutes, then roll it out on a floured board with a floured pin, making sure to turn it over and turn it around so it doesn't stick and so it stays round.

Wrap it loosely around your rolling pin to transfer to the mold, which is about the size of a pie pan but has small holes in it. While one person presses the dough into those holes and puts a little of the meat mixture in, make another round of dough. Put it over the top, roll it down so the "cutters" kick in, and voila! Pelmeni!

Repeat.

When you have enough, put them in boiling water for 8 minutes. Serve with sour cream and dill, and caramelized onions once you know about that part! I didn't, but now I do.

Hard to not like something that (a) has porky goodness and (b) involves mandatory sour cream.


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Scallops with lobster sauce


Last night, after devouring the lobster tails, I put the shells in some water and boiled them. Then refrigerated the resulting lobster stock. So tonight, I took that stock, boiled it down some more, added butter and white wine, cooked it down some more, quickly cooked scallops in butter, made toast, and poured the lobster sauce over the scallops and toast. Unfortunately, you can't see or smell what that lobster sauce does, but trust me. Among other things, that's the best toast anyone has ever eaten.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

10-minute lobster tail supper


Hey, it's Labor Day weekend, they were on sale, and I was a good girl and did yard work and cleaned out two closets. So, yeah, lobster tails for supper! Also because they are very easy and fast for something that tastes so good. It really did only take 10 minutes.

Trick No. 1: I used a high-quality frozen veggie mix with asparagus, carrots and cauliflower, to save on prep time. If you want to make 'em from scratch, knock yourself out.

Trick No. 2: I had baked an extra potato the night before so it was already cooked and only needed slicing and browning.

  • Put about an inch of water in a saucepan, add salt, and bring to a boil.

  • Meanwhile, cut shell on the "top" side of the lobster tail -- a kitchen shears is easiest -- and slightly spread the shell apart. Salt and pepper, add a pat of butter and a sprinkle of paprika, smoked Spanish if you have it. Set the lobster tails on the broiler pan.

  • Slice the potato and spread a little butter or vegetable oil on each slice and place them around the lobster. (You can't do this if the potato isn't already cooked, because the lobster would be like old tires by the time the potato cooked.) Give the spuds a sprinkle of salt and pepper, too.

  • Put the veggies in the boiling water; put the broiler pan in the broiler on high. Eight minutes should do it, less if the tails are small. By the time the potato slices are browned, the lobster should be done and the veggies will be hot. Add a pat of butter to the veggies while you're at it.
That's it. Let's eat.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Today's tip: Doctoring

OK, let's say you were making a chicken sandwich with mayo. Put the mayo in a little bowl and stir in some cayenne pepper or tabasco. And some paprika. And maybe a little onion or garlic powder. Not too much, but a nice touch. It should look different than mayo.

Or say you have a salad and some Ranch dressing. Definitely add a couple of dashes of tabasco to the dressing. Or maybe some fresh-ground pepper. And some paprika, preferably smoked paprika, which tastes like bacon.

And I don't care what people say against salt, nothing makes lettuce taste better than salt, unless it's maybe butter. Oh, but those people don't like butter, either.

Play with your food!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Peaches and Greek yogurt


Get a ripe peach. Slice it.
Get some Greek yogurt.
Layer them.
If you have to, add some sugar or honey.
Done.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

BLT minus L plus cheese! And broiled


Summer on a plate! Thanks to my friend Dennis, who went to the Farmers Market and the really good butcher shop, I have wonderful tomatoes and wonderful bacon. This is what we made for supper in Indiana when I was growing up and Dad's tomatoes were all getting ripe at once. I've "fancied it up" a little, but they're good even if you use regular bacon and regular bread and even Velveeta.

I used:
Two slices of sprouted wheat bread
a couple of ounces of good Gruyere cheese
two slices of phenomenal bacon
two slices of a big, vine-ripened tomato (you can tell because they smell like tomatoes should)

Lightly toast the bread so the bottom will also be crunchy.
Broil the bacon on its own so it will be perfect.
Slice the cheese as thin as you can so it will melt fast.
Put the tomato on the slightly toasted bread and add the cheese. I like to slide a little cheese under the tomato slice to cover the edges of the bread.
Broil until the cheese is melty.
Top with the bacon and a little chopped basil.

This is garnished with arugula and avocado just because I happened to have them. I put a little salt on them. The sandwich doesn't really need salt because of the bacon and cheese.

What happened to the rest of the tomato? Well, I had to do something while I was watching the broiler. A little salt, a little basil . . . mmmm.

Sometimes we also add a thin slice of onion. It goes under the tomato. Just because.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Moules (Mussels)


We tried to eat all the moules (mussels) in France. Came back and found I could get some from Maine, mostly alive.

Recipe: Get mussels. Wash them.. scrub 'em. Throw out the ones that don't close when you touch them. Throw out the ones that don't open when you cook them. In between, keep them damp and cool.

In a big pot, melt half a stick of unsalted butter. Mince fine some garlic, at least 2 cloves, and shallots. Add white wine, about half a bottle, and half a bottle of water. Bring to boil. Oh, chop some parsley. Keep the parsley for later.

When the liquid is boiling, toss in the clean mussels. Cover, but not for long. Keep peeking, and stir or shake. When they are all open, turn off heat.

Sprinkle the parsley on top. Serve with bread and in bowls so people can sop up the sauce with the bread.

Done. It's almost like still being in France.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Make-ahead (mostly) barbecue picnic



  • Pulled pork, for sandwiches or otherwise
  • Potato salad
  • Slaw for people who aren't fans of coleslaw


All of the hard work can be done the day/night before, and it's a good idea: The pork takes a really long time to cook, and if you cook and refrigerate the potatoes, they don't crumble up when you're dicing them for the potato salad. It's pitifully easy to do the finishing touches the next day.

Day 1

Pulled pork for sandwiches

6-8 pound pork shoulder, also called "pork butt" but it really is shoulder! It should be at room temperature, which means, take it out of the fridge while you mix up the rub and get the foil ready.

Aye, there's the Rub
You can buy a rub or make your own from paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, pepper, onion powder, thyme, oregano and anything else you want, like cumin -- there are recipes all over the Web and none of them are the same! I made a batch using

2T sweet Hungarian paprika
1T smoked Spanish paprika
1T cayenne pepper
2T garlic buds
1T pepper
1T dried thyme
1T mixed dried Italian herbs (mostly oregano)
1T onion powder
1tsp. cumin
1 tsp black pepper

This makes way more than is needed for this one pork shoulder, but keeps well in a jar. I didn't add salt to the mix because I add the salt, and often more black pepper, separately when I'm making something, so this is just the "spice mix" part.

Curses, Foiled Again
Make two double-width sheets of aluminum foil about 2 feet long each by stacking two pieces, folding over one long side TWICE, and then opening the top sheet back and creasing at the seam. Repeat. Now you have two big pieces of foil.

Put the roast on one piece of foil and rub it all over with salt, pepper and the rub, obviously turning the roast to get all sides. This works better if your hands are not wet!

Cover with the other sheet of foil and crimp both sides and both ends -- but fold the ends VERY neatly so you can unfold them easily later.

Place the whole package in any roasting pan you have that's big enough, fat side up so it will drip down through the meat as it melts. Ummmm.

Cook at 300F for 4 hours. Then open up the foil packet and cook for another 2 hours. Then let it cool enough to work with and pull apart into bite-size shreds with two forks. Try not to eat too much of it.

Taters, hot

Since you have the oven on anyway, scrub and "poke" some red potatoes and tuck them in the oven anywhere you have room. They'll make great potato salad to accompany the pork later! Piercing the spuds with a fork or even a paring knife lets the steam escape, or so I'm told. Anyway, it seems to work. because when I poke them with a fork later to test for doneness, they do not explode, which is a good thing. This is one time I do not put butter or oil on the skins, because I'm not going to eat them as baked potatoes, but rather will turn them into potato salad and I don't really want the skins to be crispy. Check them after an hour -- if they're in with the pork at 300F, they will take longer than if you usually bake them at 400, as I do. Mine took about 80 minutes; it will depend on the size of the spuds, of course. I think red potatoes are better for salad, but any kind would really do, especially if you cook them ahead and let them cool and "solidify." You could boil the potatoes instead, but that's so silly when the oven is on already.

Doctor, doctor
You can use any good barbecue sauce, make your own, or do what my Dad always did: Start with a bottle of good "store-bought" sauce and doctor it up over medium heat to make it even better. What I added: one caramelized onion, vinegar, brown sugar, garlic buds, a little of the"rub" mix, one small can of tomato paste. You do it by taste. I like mine a little on the sweet side (surprise, surprise!). Some people don't want tomato at all, and that's cool. Refrigerate overnight.

Egg-zactly
Make hard-boiled eggs for the potato salad and refrigerate overnight. How many? About one egg for each potato, although less will work. You could boil the whole dozen and use the rest for deviled eggs, but I didn't this time.


Day 2
This is pitifully easy.

Pulled pork
Warm up the pork in sauce, adding a little liquid, such as leftover wine, to allow for evaporation. Just simmer it. Meanwhile:

Potato salad
Cube the potatoes, peel and dice the eggs. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, paprika and a little dill weed if you have it and like it. Or any other herbs you want, like basil. Avoid cilantro: People with good taste don't like it. Add sweet pickle relish or chopped pickles and Miracle Whip, or if you must, mayonnaise. For three red potatoes and three eggs, I used two good dollops of MW and a heaping tablespoon of relish.
Slaw
I love the slaw mix from Trader Joe's that is shredded broccoli stems and shredded carrots. If you can't get that, by all means shred your own, preferably the night before, while waiting on the pork! I used:
  • 1/2 package of slaw mix, which is 6 ounces or about 2 cups
  • 1/2 package, or 4 ounces, of dried cranberries (about 1/3 cup)
  • about 1/2 cup of sesame-honey cashews, or any nut you like but these are the best, from TJs.
  • 2 T each of blue cheese dressing and Miracle Whip. Or any salad dressing you like, enough to coat the slaw without being soupy. Salt and pepper to taste, if needed; this dressing was salty enough for me.

By now, the pork should be hot. Dig in. Refrigerate leftovers. Repeat.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Lobster tails with pasta and leeks


Lobster tails on sale at my store!
Organizing the pantry, discovered I still had some dried tri-colored pasta. Baby leeks and arugula in the crisper. Red grapes in a bowl on the counter; they're a little tart/acidic. White wine in the fridge. I figured it should work. It did.

So, for two tails, which I consider one serving (!):
Boil a big pan of salted water and add the pasta. (Obviously, you could boil the lobster tails, too. I like to broil mine. Although boiling the lobster would let you use the stock to cook the pasta, which would be good, too.)
Melt 3T butter in a smallish saute or saucepan. Add the clean and chopped baby leeks -- I used the "fat" part from two small ones -- and sweat them. Which means don't brown them, just get them a little soft. Add a little white wine and let simmer on low.
Broil the lobster. Depending on size, probably 4 minutes per side. Let it cool enough to handle, then pop it out of the shells. I find snipping down the middle with a kitchen shears is the way to go.
Clean and dry the arugula and arrange on a plate.
When the pasta is done, which you tell by fishing one out, cooling it off and eating it (!), drain it. Put it on top of the arugula, and put the lobster on top of it. Spoon on the sauce, and garnish with some grapes.

If you don't have grapes, or yours are really sweet, something else acidic or tart would work, lemon or lime being the traditional ones. I like that the grapes mirror both the slight sweetness of seafood and of course the wine in the sauce, but still help cut the richness of the butter. The leeks are mild enough to not overpower the lobster but still add lots of flavor. Same with the arugula; it's a little peppery without being a distraction from the star of the meal.

If you don't want to use butter, I suppose you could use olive oil or something, but to me, lobster and leeks both want to be eaten with butter. And pasta with butter is pretty darned good, too.

If your store doesn't have lobster tails on sale, I'm confident this would work with shrimp or scallops, and probably with many kinds of fish (especially if the description of the fish is, "it kind of tastes like lobster"). Rockfish, for example.

The only "bad" thing about this recipe is that it uses three pans, counting the broiler pan. I usually manage with one or two, which is another reason to try it with the boiled lobster alternative.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Today's tip: Re-filling a pepper mill

Today's tip: When re-filling a pepper mill, whether you are using a funnel, a paper cone or a plastic bag with a corner cut out, you may still experience peppercorns escaping, bouncing, ricocheting and landing all over the kitchen floor. Where, if they don't trip you, they at least look disgustingly like rodent droppings.

I used to put the pepper mill inside a bowl, but that did not seem to discourage ricocheting. Ceramic encourages ricocheting, in fact.

Tonight I put the pepper mill inside a paper coffee filter. Voila. No bouncing of the stray peppercorns. And it was easy to load the strays back into the pepper mill.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Scallops with sherry cream sauce


I know, I know, scallops and bacon are almost a cliche, but there's a reason for that: They're a great team! This sauce is rich but you don't need much.

Ingredients:
scallops, preferably ocean scallops -- the big kind! I used 3/4 pound for 2 servings; 4 big scallops
leek, half of the white part of one large leek or a whole small one, carefully washed and chopped fine
shallot, one clove, minced
four cremini mushrooms, sliced thin
four slices of bacon
3 T butter
1/4 cup (approx) sherry
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt, pepper
paprika
arugula (could substitute water cress or any green you like, especially if it has some "bite" to it, as in peppery), washed of course

Cook the bacon in a heavy skillet until it is about half done -- no longer raw, but not crispy at all. Don't throw away the grease!

Salt, pepper and paprika the scallops.

Wrap a slice of bacon around each of the scallops and put under the broiler, at least 6 inches from the flame. (You can secure the bacon with wooden toothpicks if you want, but it's not that big of a deal if you don't.) Check them every couple of minutes and turn, so that the bacon doesn't burn but browns nicely all over. How long it takes to cook the scallops depends on how big they are, but it's pretty fast; mine were done in 5-6 minutes.

Add the butter to the pan with bacon drippings. Saute the leek, shallot and mushrooms over medium heat and add the sherry. Have a lid handy in case it wants to flame up, or add while the pan is off the heat. Let cook a couple of minutes, then add the cream. This makes more sauce than you need, but it would be good leftover with good bread or toast, and it is hard to make a smaller amount of sauce than this!

Arrange the arugula on the plate, add the scallops, add the sauce, pour a glass of wine and enjoy.

If I only had the smaller bay scallops, I would cut the bacon into one- to two-inch pieces and fry it, adding the leeks, etc., then add the scallops and sear them, and make the butter-sherry-cream sauce in another pan.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Pork Tenderloin


Best roast pork tenderloin ever:
2.75 pounds pork tenderloin, in my case, this is two pieces


Marinade the pork for about 2 hours in this mixture

2T fresh ginger (peeled and minced)
5 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 pint chicken stock
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 T kosher salt

After 2 or so hours, remove the pork and pat dry with paper towels. Discard marinade, even though it hurts
Put 2T oil in a cast iron pan and heat

Preheat oven to 350
Brown the pork on all sides, about 2 minutes a side, so 8 minutes on the stovetop.

Slide it into the oven and roast for 20 minutes. Well, after 16, you can turn the oven off and let it coast. Then remove from oven. Let rest, then slice.

This is shown served with tri-color farfalle (butterfly/bowtie) pasta in a simple sauce (butter, flour, cream, parmesan) with kale that has been lightly sauteed with a little pre-sauteed sausage.

Don't hate me.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Rockfish with veggies and supremes of orange


I only recently learned that it's ok again to eat rockfish, as they are again plentiful. Hurray! A lovely fish. My store had them tonight, so that's what I cooked. The veggies were frozen, which I'm OK with -- it's like having a sous-chef to do the prep work! Plus, I don't end up with a lot of veggies spoiling in the fridge, which is probably what would happen if I bought all the individual items in this "Asparagus Stir-Fry Blend." Also, it makes this meal faster than ordering a pizza, which is a definite plus for many of us.

Total ingredient list:
  • 1 rockfish fillet (the one I bought was about 12 oz., what is on the plate is about 6 oz. and I didn't eat it all!
  • white wine
  • 2-3 T butter, most of which stays in the pan. If you really have to, you can substitute canola oil or something, but this is one of those places where I think the flavor of the butter is worth it!
  • salt
  • pepper
  • dill weed
  • frozen veggie blend -- the kind that lets you take what you want from the bag and put the rest back in the freezer
  • 1 T canola oil
  • one orange

Step 1: Open the wine. Seriously, this cooks so fast that you don't want to have to stop and do that. Go ahead and cut the orange supremes, which means cutting the sections out of the membranes, or if you aren't fussy, just peel and section the orange. I do prefer to have taken the orange out of the fridge earlier so it is room temp instead of chilled, but that's up to you.

Heat one skillet over medium high heat and add 1 T canola oil. Dump in the veggies, stirring occasionally. Being frozen, they will take longer than the fish! Just watch them and be ready to turn the heat down or off so they don't get soggy.

Heat another skillet over medium high heat and melt the butter in it. Meanwhile, salt and pepper the fish and sprinkle with dill weed.
When the butter is foaming, add the fish, skin side down first. Cook 2-3 minutes. Turn. Add about 1/4 cup of white wine. Cook 2 minutes. Lower heat and put a lid on the pan for another minute. Unless the fillets are very thick, that should be enough. Check with a fork. People have different ideas of what is "done," but you don't want it to be dry. I like to stop cooking it when it is no longer pink or translucent, just milky white but still moist. (Using the lid helps this because the last minute or so is steaming, so it stays moist.)

The white wine and butter will have turned into a flavorful little pan sauce, so you can serve the fish with a drizzle of that and still feel fairly self-righteous.

10 minutes, tops.

This would also be good with shallots and/or almonds cooked in the butter along with the fish, the way I do orange roughy.

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My photo
This is me enjoying a limoncello in Rome on the last night of our trip to Italy. Funny thing is, I don't really like limoncello that much, but thought it would be great in a dessert. And wouldn't you know, The Barefoot Contessa just did a great fruit salad with limoncello. So now I can't. Oh, well.