Sunday, October 9, 2011

Brussels Sprouts People Will Beg You to Make

Brussels Sprouts seem to be a universally hated vegetable, yet most people I know have never actually tried them.  I first tried them last Thanksgiving when my mom found this recipe (Stir-fried Brussels Sprouts with Lemon and Parmesan) and decided to try it.  Much to everyone's surprise, it was delicious!  I now have a more open mind about brussels sprouts so when my mom told me she had a new brussels sprouts recipe to make while we were visiting this weekend I was excited to try it.

This recipe is delicious!  Everybody loved it; even those were skeptical initially were going back for more.  The key is cooking the brussels sprouts just right - do not overcook them!!

Mustard-Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
(from the Fall 2011 issue of edibleINDY)

  • 20-25 Brussels sprouts, halved
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup red onions, julienned
  • 1/4 cup cooked bacon, chopped
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 3 heaping Tbsp whole-grain mustard
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp thyme leaves, chopped
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Blanch halved Brussels sprouts for approximately 3 minutes, until cooked through but not mushy.  Remove Brussels sprouts and place into a bowl of ice water to stop cooking (this step is key to cooking them right!).  Drain.  The sprouts should be tender and bright green.

Melt butter in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Add the onions and cook until soft.  Add bacon and sugar; continue cooking for another 30 seconds or until the sugar melts and begins to turn a caramel color.  Add the Brussels sprouts and deglaze with the chicken stock.  Reduce by half.  Add the mustard, vinegar, and thyme.  Stir to combine.  Serve immediately.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Ropa Vieja

I've been cooking a lot of crock pot recipes lately because they tend to have a very high taste to effort ratio (that's how Matt categorizes food preparation), and with a 6 1/2 month old crawling around (yes, I said crawling!), recipes with minimal effort are ideal!  Plus you have the added bonus of smelling it all day, which makes me very excited to eat it when dinner comes around.  Luckily Jeremy & Lindsay gave me an awesome crock pot cookbook for Christmas last year and I've been making very good use of it over the past 6 months.  The book is Make it Fast, Cook it Slow by Stephanie O'Dea and pretty much everything I've made from it has been terrific.

Last night's meal, Ropa Vieja, was no exception!  Ropa Vieja is Spanish for "old clothes," which may not sound very appetizing but it is!  The smell and the flavor reminded me of something and it took me a little while to figure out what - it reminds me a little of barbacoa from Chipotle, which makes me think this would also be wonderful in burritos.

This is in the crock pot after a few hours of cooking.  (I guess
I should have taken the lid off for the photo so it would
have come out a little more clear.)
And here is the finished product, with the meat and veggies
all mixed together like old clothes in the wash!
Ropa Vieja

  • 1 Tbsp (tablespoon) ground cumin
  • 1 tsp (teaspoon) smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3 pounds beef or pork stew meat or roast (get what's on sale: I used beef chuck shoulder roast)
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 2 red bell peppers, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 yellow apples, peeled and grated (I'm not sure why it calls for yellow apples specifically; I used empire apples I had and it worked out great)
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
Use a 6-quart slow cooker.  Combine the cumin, paprika, salt, and peppers in a bowl.  Rub the spice mixture all over the piece (or pieces) or meat you are using.  Put the meat into the stoneware.  Dump any extra spice left in the bowl on top.  Add the vegetables, garlic, cilantro, grated apples, chicken broth, and vinegar.  Cover and cook on low for 10 hours, or until meat shreds easily with a fork - the meat and vegetables should be shredded and fully intertwined.  The longer and slower you cook this, the better.  Serve over brown or white rice, with a ladle full of broth.

*I'll add one more note about the meat:  The roast I used had a layer of fat on the top and bottom and I figured it would melt during cooking.  It didn't and I ended up pulling out a few fairly large ribbons of fat before I served this.  It might be worth attempting to cut the fat off ahead of time if it's a thick layer like it was on mine.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Ragout of Lentils, Turkey Meatballs, and Mint

Now, in most cases, ground turkey seems to be one of those “meh-schmeh” kinds of meat. Don’t get me wrong—I love a good turkey burger—but I’m not generally racing to my kitchen because I have ground turkey in the fridge. This recipe has changed all of that. It not only tastes wonderful, but it also uses ingredients that I almost always have on hand.  

First of all, however, I have to make an embarrassing confession of an action not befitting any sort of erudite housewife.  I have looked at and made several “ragout” recipes. But, somehow, I never realized it was a French term, pronounced “ra-goo”.  Yes, I have indeed been reading “rag-out,” as in, “I need to wring this rag out.” I always felt it to be a bit rustic, but in a world of gumbo and hash (as in, country chicken hash, of course), what’s odd about a rag-out?  Somehow, along the way, Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag started playing in my mind and I subconsciously formed a whole etymology of “rag-out.” In my opinion (because clearly, these sort of things can be based on opinion), a rag-out is a colloquialism combining “rag-tag,” and pulling everything thing out of your pantry. It’s a  mishmash where you throw in a little bit of this and a little bit of that—whatever you have on hand—and simmer it together into warm, home-y goodness.

Now, to turn my faux pas into an educational experience, I ask,  what is a ragout? According to the Food Network, a ragout is “A derivative of the French verb ragoûter, meaning "to stimulate the appetite," ragoût is a thick, rich, well-seasoned stew of meat, poultry or fish that can be made with or without vegetables."  

I guess I wasn’t so far off. Nonetheless, this is has been the most eventful enunciatory epiphany I’ve had since the fifth grade, when I realized that “ron-day-voo” and “ren-dez-vous” were the same word. I need to learn French, but not knowing it definitely provides an opportunity to laugh and not take myself so seriously. 
Now, here is this wonderful recipe.

Ragout of Lentils, Turkey Meatballs and Mint
(This is from the Williams and Sonoma Beans and Rice Cookbook)

1 lb ground turkey (or chicken, lamb or beef)
1 c. bread crumbs
2 cloves garlic minced, (you need 4 cloves in all, however)
3 T. fresh mint for meatballs, (5 T for garnish at the end)
2 T. fresh parsley,
1 t. paprika,
¾ t. ground cumin,
½ t. ground cloves,
¼ t. cayenne pepper
¾ t. salt
½ t. pepper.
¼ c. olive oil
1 chopped small onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small diced carrot
1 c. lentils
1 can whole plum tomatoes, juiced reserved and tomatoes chopped
4 c. chicken stock

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine ingredients from ground turkey to pepper. Make 24 meatballs and bake for 10 minutes. Set aside.

2.Warm ¼ c. olive oil in large sauté pan. Add chopped small onion, diced carrot, and 2 cloves of minced garlic. Sauté until onion is soft over medium heat. Add lentils, 1 c. reserved juice from can of whole plum tomatoes and chicken stock. Simmer until lentils are tender, around 20 min.

3. Chop tomatoes, add them and reserved meatballs to the pot and simmer 15 minutes. Season to taste. Garnish with 5 T. mint. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Stuffed Pumpkins and Tomato Soup

Fall is coming and the pumpkins are here. Even though it was 85 degrees and entirely green today in North Carolina, I still felt the autumnal anticipatory twinge. Thankfully, Ian (the 10 year old in the family I work for, the Scotts) was in agreement and was enthusiastic about hollowing out pumpkins with me. Today, for the Scott's dinner, I made stuffed pumpkins, creamless creamy tomato soup, and an arugula salad with apricots, pears, almonds and goat cheese. I had never made stuffed pumpkins before and would not recommend it unless you have time to spare (or you’re getting paid for cooking, like me), but it was fun and entirely satisfying to the fall craving.  I don’t know whether it tasted good, but it sure did look pretty. The tomato soup recipe will leave you pleading forgiveness for ever opening a can of tomato soup. Make it; you certainly will not regret it. 

Creamless Creamy Tomato Soup
(From More Best Recipes, by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated, pg. 43)

¼ c. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped medium
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed
Pinch red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
2 (28 oz) cans whole tomatoes
1 T. brown sugar
3 large slices high-quality white sandwich bread, crusts removed, torn into 1-inch pieces (I either make my own bread or use something like a French loaf from the store)
2 c. low-sodium chicken broth
2 T. brandy (optional… unfortunately for those who can’t have brandy in their apartment due to seminary covenants, but when I’ve made it with the brandy for the Scotts, it adds a great element)
Salt and ground black pepper
¼ c chopped fresh chives (I’ve never bothered with this, but I’m sure it would look really pretty)

1. Heat 2 T. of the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion, garlic, red pepper flakes (if using), and bay leaf. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent, 3-5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes with their juice. Using a potato masher (or a slotted spoon; that’s what I do) , mash until no pieces bigger than 2 inches remain. Stir in the sugar and bread; bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the bread is completely saturated and starts to break down, about 5 minutes, Remove and discard the bay leaf (Whoops, definitely forgot to do this today. So, friend. Please remember and you’ll save valuable time trying to spoon little bay leaf bits out of your delicious and easy soup)
2. Transfer half of the soup to a blender (or use one of those awesome immersion blenders that’s on my Christmas list, right, Mom? J ). Add 1 T more oil and process until the soup is smooth and creamy, 203 min. Transfer to a large bowl and repeat with the remaining soup and the remaining 1 T. oil. Rinse out Dutch oven and return to the ot. Stir in the chicken broth and the brandy. Return the soup to a boil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle the soup into individual bowls and garnish with chopped chives.

Stuffed Pumpkins
(Taken from The Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook, by Tosca Reno, page 151. )

1 4-5 lb sugar pumpkin or 6 small sugar pumpkins (I opted for the latter, because they were cute)
2 t. sea salt
1 t. dry mustard
1 T. olive oil
1.5 lbs lean ground venison or bison (which, of course, means I substituted ground beef)
7 green onions, trimmed and chopped
4 cloves garlic passed through a garlic press
1.5 c. cooked wild rice
4 egg whites + 1 yolk (I just used 3 eggs, because I guess I just don’t believe in being that healthy)
1 t. dried sage
½ t. black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cut the top from each pumpkin and remove seeds and strings. Prick the inside flesh with a fork. In a small bowl, mix the sea salt and dry mustard. Rub the interior of the pumpkin with this mixture and set aside.
3. In a large skillet, heat olive oil. Add ground meat, onion and garlic. Sauté over medium high until meat is browned. Remove from heat and drain excess oil. Add cooked wild rice, eggs, sage and pepper. Mix well with clean hands. Stuff each pumpkin with the meat/rice mixture.
4. Place the pumpkins in a shallow baking dish or lasagna pan. Add water until half of the baking dish is full.
5. Bake for 1 to 1.5 hours or until pumpkin is tender. If using individual pumpkins, cooking time may be less and vice versa.

Decadent Strawberry Blueberry Sorbet

Amanda and I are sisters-in-law, married to brothers Jon and Matt.  We both love cooking, and found ourselves talking about recipes a lot when we recently got together in New Jersey.  We've both been wanting to start cooking/crafting blogs so we decided to do one together.  And here it is!  We're still in the process of setting everything up, but I made some great sorbet the other day so I figured I'd just go ahead and post that recipe and we'll get everything else sorted out soon.  Enjoy!

I've been making sorbets all summer with different types of fruit from our local farmer's market.  I love sorbet, so it was fun to make my own mixes of flavors with fresh fruit.  They were all very good, but something about the combination of fruits I tried this time was a step above the rest.  Unlike most sorbet I've had, this one is rich and decadent.  It's wonderful with some fresh blueberries on top.

You do need an ice cream maker for this.  I have an older version of this one and I love it!  I just keep the cylinder in the freezer so it's ready whenever I want to use it.

Decadent Strawberry Blueberry Sorbet
(modified from this Food Network recipe)
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 3/4 cup - 1 cup sugar (depending on how sweet the berries are and how sweet you like your sorbet.  I tend toward adding less sugar)
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries (frozen berries would probably work fine too)
  • 1 3/4 cup fresh strawberries, stemmed and sliced (frozen berries would probably work fine too)
  • 1 cup cranberry/raspberry juice (or some other cranberry juice blend)
  • extra fresh blueberries or strawberries, or chocolate chips (optional, for serving)
 In a medium pot bring water, sugar, and blueberries to a boil.  Cook and stir for 1-2 minutes until the sugar is dissolved and the blueberries are soft.  Remove from heat and drain berries, reserving the liquid; set aside to cool.

Puree the sliced strawberries in a food processor or blender until smooth.  Press pureed strawberries through a fine-mesh strainer; discard seeds.

Puree the blueberries and 1/3 cup of the reserved cooking liquid until smooth (*do not discard remaining liquid*).  Press blueberry mixture through the fine-mesh strainer; discard skins.

In a large bowl combine the pureed mixtures, remaining cooking liquid, and cranberry juice.  Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or more, until mixture is completely chilled.

Freeze mixture in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions - I turn the handle on mine 3 or 4 times every minute for about 15-20 minutes, until it gets harder to stir and looks frozen throughout.

Can be served with fresh berries or chocolate chips for a decadent dessert!