Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Zucchini and Apple Soup

I used light green zucchini from my garden. If you use standard zucchini, the soup will be a deeper green

Really? Sounds sort of odd together, doesn't it? But, it tastes delicious. Zucchini is not all that exciting on its own. The apple adds just the right amount of sweetness and acidity. It's apple season, why not?

Zucchini and Apple Soup
(serves 4)

1 large apple, peeled, cored & diced
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 medium zucchini, diced
1 large onion, sliced
½ cup cider or apple juice
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon black pepper
4 cups chicken stock
½ cup light cream
4 Tablespoons chopped parsley

Heat the butter and oil in a soup pot. Add the apples, zucchini, and onion. Cook over medium heat until the onions have softened but do not brown.

Add the cider, nutmeg, and black pepper. You can add a bit of salt here if you are using unsalted stock. Cover the pot and cook for 15 minutes. Add the stock, cover, and cook for another 15 minutes.

Puree everything in a blender or with an immersion blender. Add the cream and heat until hot. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if needed. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve hot.

Adapted from Apple Cookbook by Olwen Woodier, Storey Publishing, 2001.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Jamie Oliver's Blushing Spaghetti Vongole

Jamie Oliver has a fun new cookbook: Comfort Food. It features comforting recipes from around the world. Recipes include a rich Curried Fish Pie, Chicken Kiev, and a Chocolate Celebration Cake. These are not simple recipes (though the one below is). They are made for a day when you have time to cook, or you want to pull out the stops with something wow! Or, in this recipe, something that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. I love spaghetti in clam sauce. It's always been one of my favorite comfort foods. Most are based on white wine and don't have tomatoes. This one cooks the clams in dry rosé wine and has a bit of tomatoes for more pink color and added flavor. Very comforting!

This is a recipe that depends on mise en place: having everything ready once you start cooking. It takes about 10 minutes and you do not have time to do any prep once you get going. Look over each raw clam. If it's open and won't shut when you tap it, toss it. It's dead. Any clams that don't open after steaming are dead and should be pitched. Clams open very wide when they are cooked so it's obvious which ones are duds.

Blushing Spaghetti Vongole
(serves 2 generously)

10 oz. dry linguine pasta
salt for pasta cooking water
2 cloves garlic, sliced
4 small red ripe tomatoes, cut into quarters
6 large sprigs of fresh parsley
1 large pinch of crushed red pepper
2 Tablespoons sun-dried tomato paste (sold in a tube)
2 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ pounds small clams in the shell, scrubbed clean
¾ cup dry rosé wine

Combine the garlic, tomatoes, crushed red pepper, and tomato paste in a bowl. Set aside. Chop the parsley leaves and set aside. Thinly slice the smaller stems and add to the bowl with the other ingredients.

Get a large pot of water boiling and add a tablespoon of salt. Add the linguine and set the timer for 3 minutes. When it goes off, set a large covered skillet over high heat and reset the timer for 4 more minutes. When the pan is hot, 30 seconds, add 1 Tablespoon of oil, swirl it around, and add the ingredients in the bowl. Stir around for 30 seconds, then add the clams. Toss around, add the wine, and cover. After 2 minutes, remove the lid. The clams will be starting to pop open. Check the pasta. If done, drain. If not, cook for another minute. Once all the clams have opened, toss in the drained pasta and the chopped parsley leaves. To serve, mound into bowls with all the juices for bread dipping, and garnish with some more olive oil. Serve with a glass of dry rosé wine, of course!

Adapted for altitude from Comfort Food by Jamie Oliver

Friday, October 3, 2014

Friday Night Dinner: Pork Chops with Sweet and Sour Grapes

I picked a lot of grapes this year (OK, my husband picked them because I was out of town). We finally beat the raccoons with an electric fence and all the grapes hanging were quite a bit - 18 pounds! They are small pink seedless grapes, a variety called Canadice from central New York. They are spicy, tart-sweet, and very tasty. But, you can only eat so many grapes. The expiration date was coming up on them. I had already turned them into raisins and a wine jelly. Found this recipe to use up the rest. This is easy, really easy!

One inch thick pork chops are just big though I know plenty of people who will happily eat a whole one. I try not to, but that's a pretty typical serving. If you can resist devouring the whole thing, you can stretch this to serve more than 4; there is plenty of sauce. Of course, if you are part of my family, there will be war if you don't get a bone with your chop. :-)

Pork Chops with Sweet and Sour Grapes
(serves 4-8)

4 bone-in 1" thick pork chops, about 2 pounds total
salt and pepper
1 Tablespoon oil
2 pounds green or red seedless grapes
½ cup balsamic vinegar
2 - 3 Tablespoons cold butter, cut into a few pieces

Preheat the oven to 500°F.

Dry the chops and season with salt and pepper.

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in an ovenproof skillet large enough to hold all the chops. Brown the chops on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Remove the chops to a plate and pour off the fat in the pan. Add the vinegar, and using a wooden spoon, scrape up any bits in the skillet. Let the vinegar reduce slightly. Add the grapes and stir. Put the chops and any juices back in the skillet. Mound some of the grapes on top of each chop so they are basted by the grape juice. Place in the hot oven and roast for 10 minutes. Check the temperature. If they get to 130°F, they are done and you don't want to overcook them. If they aren't cooked enough, return to the oven for another 5 minutes.

Remove the skillet from the oven and remove the chops to a heated dish. Using a slotted spoon, remove all the grapes and mound on top of the chops. Cover the chops with foil to keep warm. Return the skillet to the stove and cook over medium heat. Stir in the butter chunks and reduce the sauce until thick and glossy. Check the seasoning; add more salt if needed. Pour the sauce over the chops. Serve over rice or mashed potatoes.

Adapted from Nicole Routhier's Fruit Cookbook by Nicole Routhier, Workman Publishing Company, 1996.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Shrimp a la Greque

A simple yet delicious recipe for shrimp. I've adapted this from Mark Bittman's Fish, a comprehensive book on all manner of finny or shelled critters. It's one of my go-to fish cookbooks because it covers the fast and simple right through to the fancy and complicated. Everything I've tried in here has been excellent. I have made the recipe for Crispy Skin Salmon with Gingery Greens and it's become a house favorite. Fish is still available and a good buy in paperback.

Shrimp a la Greque
(serves 4-5)

4 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
½ cup dry white wine
4 Tablespoons minced fresh parsley
½ teaspoon crushed dried oregano
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 ½ pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 oz. feta cheese, cut into ½" cubes

Heat the oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, wine, 2 Tablespoons parsley, oregano, salt, and pepper. Smush the tomatoes with a spoon. Turn the heat up to medium-high and cook until the sauce thickens to the consistency of thick tomato sauce.

Add the shrimp and cook until they turn pink all over, about 5 minutes. Add the feta cheese and stir gently to keep the feta cubes intact. Serve over pasta or rice. Garnish with the remaining parsley. Serve with bread to get every drop of the delicious sauce.

Adapted from Fish by Mark Bittman, Macmillan Publishing Company, 1994.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Preserved Lemons

They don't look like much but they pack a lot of amazing lemon flavor!
I think preserved lemons are wonderful: lemony, salty, just a little tart. I have a recipe that makes 8 of them, which is a lot because you don't need much in any recipe and they take up a bit of room in the fridge for months and months.

I recently found a recipe for just 2 of them. I started them yesterday and they should be ready to use in a week (though not at their best - that takes a month). It's really simple and you can keep them in a pint jar. This is just what I need to make this recipe - Chicken with Preserved Lemons and Olives - more often. Try it. You will love its fresh Mediterranean flavors. You don't need to make your own preserved lemons. They are now available at many good markets. But, it's so easy to do it, why not!

Preserved Lemons
(makes 2)

2 whole lemons, washed and dried
coarse salt, like kosher salt
about ½ cup lemon juice (2-3 lemons)

Cut the lemons into eighths. Pour a layer of salt into a shallow dish. Roll each lemon piece in the salt to cover. Drop in a pint canning jar with a tight-fighting lid. When all the lemons are in the jar, pour in enough lemon juice to cover. Squish the pieces down to remove any air bubbles. Cover tightly and leave on the counter at room temperature for 1 week. Each day invert. After 1 week, they are ready to use but they will be at their best after 1 month. Store in the fridge after 1 week. Will keep for at least 6 months.

From Cooking with Fruit by Rolce Redard Payne and Dorrit Speyer Senior, Random House, 1992.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Spicy Lamb Burgers

Paul Gauguin - La bergère bretonne.jpg
"Paul Gauguin - La bergère bretonne" by Paul Gauguin - Sotheby's (not for sale, only as a reference). Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Lamb is one of my favorite meats, which is pretty obvious  if you look at recipes posted on this blog (like lamb espresso, Scotch broth, or a lamb-lentil stew). Most Americans do not share my love of lamb; yearly consumption is so small it barely shows up next to other meats. Hey, that doesn't deter me! I'll keep posting my favorite lamb recipes for you few "dyed in the wool" lamb lovers (yes, pun intended).

Ground lamb is often fairly fatty. If you grind it yourself, you can get a leaner mix. The added fat does add to the unctousness of the burgers, however.

Spicy Lamb Burgers
(serves 4)

1 pound ground lamb
¼ cup panko bread crumbs
2 Tablespoons dried minced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 serrano or other hot green chile, minced
¼ cup minced parsley or cilantro
1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon cayenne
½ teaspoon ground cumin

Combine everything in a bowl and mix thoroughly with your hands. Form into 4 burgers. Let rest for 10 minutes - use this time to get your grill smokin' hot. Grill or sear in a very hot cast-iron pan until done to your liking. I wouldn't go past medium and medium-rare is even better. For medium-rare, 4 minutes per side will be enough if you use a very hot grill or pan.

Though very much mixing up ethnic origins, this burger(Pakistani) is delicious with Romesco Sauce (Spanish).

Adapted from The Barbecue Bible by Steve Raichlen, Workman Publishing Company, Inc, 1998.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Asparagus Ham Soup

Asparagus makes a lovely soup. This recipe is adapted from a microwave recipe in Barbara Kafka's The Microwave Gourmet, the original gourmet cookbook for the microwave. I didn't use my microwave, however. What can I say? I'm kind of old school when it comes to cooking.

You could use the whole spear but that seems like a bit of a waste here. Save up your trimmings and peelings in the freezer, then make this soup when you have collected enough.

Asparagus and Ham Soup
(serves 6)

1 pound asparagus trimmings
4 ½ cups ham stock
1 medium onion, chopped
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
½ cup heavy cream
kosher salt to taste
½ teaspoon black pepper

Chop the asparagus trimmings into 1" pieces. Place the asparagus, ham stock, and chopped onion in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until asparagus is tender, about 30 minutes. Run the soup through the fine disk of a food mill - asparagus has a lot of long indestructible fibers, so this takes a bit of work. Return the soup to the saucepan. Stir in the lemon juice, cream, maybe a little bit of salt (ham stock is plenty salty), and black pepper. Heat on low until just hot, not boiling. Can also be served cold.

"Légumes du marché 2" by Vassil - Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons -