I like to cook. Sometimes my daughter likes to eat.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Lamb Kebabs & Gumbo (sort of)

Monday was lamb kebabs made of ground lamb, scallions, matzo meal, an egg and a bunch of a Persian 7-spice mix I'm trying to use up. We have tons of crudite left over from MZ's birthday (of course we didn't run out of anything) so I made a Greek salad and a cucumber-yogurt sauce to go with the kebabs in w/w pita. It was a really good dinner, and very on the fly. MZ ate everything, so worth repeating.

Still trying to work through the crudite, tonight I made a sort of gumbo. I saw this recipe and thought of the turkey andouille sausage in my fridge, then realized that real gumbo has celery and bell pepper, which would address a few other lurkers, too. So I made up this combined Cook's Illustrated-Quick Cook never-the-twain shall-meet recipe that saved me from the insanity of a 1-hr roux or the disappointment of a pallid imitation. And served it over brown rice, completely separating this stew from its roots. Although MZ tasted not a bit (after devouring a spicy hot tamale pie last night), we liked it, I'll make it again.

Not Quick but Not Altogether Traditional Shrimp & Sausage Gumbo
1 lb. turkey andouille sausage
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup flour
2 red onions, diced small
1 celery rib, diced small
1 medium red bell pepper, diced small
6 cloves garlic, minced
2.5 t Penzey's Cajun spice mix
2 bay leaves
1 bottle clam juice
1 quart low sodium chix broth
10 oz frozen okra
3/4 lb. cooked bay shrimp
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions

Assuming this is a raw rather than smoked version of "Andouille", brown the sausage in 1 T vegetable oil in a dutch oven. Remove to a collander lined with paper towels to drain.

This part is straight out of Cook's Illustrated -- it's fussy, but amazing chemistry and really doesn't take that long to get the desired result: In the same pan, heat the oil to 200 degrees. Lightly spread the flour over the oil, and stir to combine. Turn heat to medium and stir constantly until the roux turns a copper penny shade. The flour will thin considerably (thus the need for something in the end to thicken the stew, according to CI). Add the onions, celery and red pepper and stir to combine. The mixture will seem a bit gluey but wonderfully fragrant. Stir frequently as the vegetables soften, ~8 minutes. Add the seasoning and garlic and stir.

Slowly add the clam juice in a steady stream, stirring constantly. Now add the chicken stock. When the mixture is full combined, add the okra*. Bring to a boil, add the bay leaves and turn to a simmer for 30 minutes.

Add the reserved sausage and simmer another 30 minutes to allow the flavors to develop. Adjust seasonings and add the shrimp. Stir, simmer for 5 minutes and serve over rice, garnished with thinly sliced scallions.

Easily serves 6-8 people.

* This is where I should have added a 28 oz can of drained diced tomatoes, but MZ woke up and I lost track. I would do this next time, if only to increase the vegetable content of this one-dish dinner.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Chew on this...

Really busy week and not a whole lotta cooking happening. But in the meantime, chew on this (it sounds pretty yummy).

Monday, January 15, 2007

Oyako Donburi

This remains one of our favorite meals. I added a cup of thinly sliced Napa cabbage, because I had it on hand. I prefer the baby spinach leaves. MZ loved the shiitake mushrooms and chicken.

Not much cooking over the weekend, but we did learn that MZ loves ikura. She kept asking for more orange balls. She also likes Little Star pizza.

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Petrale Sole again, with Indian Spices

Petrale sole is cheap and good right now. Halibut? $17.99/lb. Wild King Salmon? $19.99/lb. Sustainably fished Chilean Seabass? A whopping $24.99/lb. But fresh, wild Petrale sole is a mere $12.99/lb. And it is much tastier, in my opinion, than tilapia, The Other Cheap White Fish.

So we had it again tonight, this time I added 2 t. of curry poweder to the dredging mix of matzo meal and flour. Unable to look at any more potatoes or rice, I made whole wheat orzo, then McGiver'd a bechamel out of the dredging flour and the reserved pasta water, in the pan in which I'd cooked the fish. It came out surprisingly well!

The veg was charred cauliflower with chiles, onions, cumin, coriander and turmeric, finished with some yogurt and lime juice. Wow, I actually found hot serrano chiles, this was no dish for MZ. Good thing she likes salad now, her veg was the juice from chewed dressed lettuce (she spits out the mangled leaves), as well as tomatoes, cukes and shredded carrots from the salad.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Tomatillo Pork Stew, A Steak and a Soup

I made a pork and tomatillo stew earlier in the week, a variation from a real recipe in a slow-cooker cookbook. I had Niman Ranch pork shoulder and decided to go the easy way with jarred salsa and a can of green enchilada sauce. I should have known better, it was good, but kind of flat and one-dimensionally salty in spite of the browned onions, chile and 1/2 bottle of beer I added. I won't take that many shortcuts in one recipe again.

Tonight was skirt steak, grilled out in the wind, and Beets Two Ways. This is what we call it, I habitually buy beets with the greens, and we make a roasted beet with blue cheese salad as well as sauteed beet greens. I roasted the beets during MZ's nap, and sauteed the greens while the meat was resting. R. grilled the meat and made the salad, so it was a pretty easy dinner, along with some roasted purple potatoes.

I've been trying to get a grip on our refrigerator. It was good to get those potatoes used up, as well as some russets that have been sitting around since Chanukah, a bunch of leeks, some chicken stock left over from stretching S's fabulous matzo ball soup, and a ham steak I bought, then rejected, for my New Year's black eyed peas. I started off making potato leek soup, rustic-style with the potatoes lightly broken up rather than fully pureed. I added some ham and then couldn't resist throwing in some frozen spinach. No dairy, and it's hearty enough for a meal with some good bread and a salad. A keeper.

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Turkey Cutlets with Thyme-Riesling Sauce

I always forget how easy turkey cutlets are, and how tasty when prepared as directed in Cook's Illustrated The Quick Recipe. I riffed on the Hard Cider-Thyme sauce based on what was open and needed using. Sauce was made with a cup of slightly off-dry riesling and finished with a small amount of cream. Served with shredded Brussels sprouts braised with shallots and with mashed potatoes. Very good, and on the table in 35 minutes.

I have lots of potatoes, a few leeks and a ham steak, so look for potato leek soup sometime very soon. I think I want to try a more rustic, not-pureed version.

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Petrale Sole with Cumin Tomato Sauce

It's hard to come up with stuff to cook all the time, so I'm starting a log here of what we eat in the hopes I can bring more favorites into regular rotation and learn from what didn't work as well. Logs won't include recipes, but those will still appear when I make something up that I want to cook again.

The Petrale Sole was excellent, fresh tasting and not at all muddy. I cooked it per the Cook's Illustrated Best Recipe suggestions, but used some matzo meal and oregano in the flour, and topped with a tomato sauce simmered with sauteed shallots, toasted cumin seeds and smoked paprika. The sauce was tasty and lighter than the recommended brown butter, but the match was not perfect. However, the fish came out with a lovely golden crust, and not at all greasy. Next time go for a lemon caper sauce...

Steamed Broccoli was a nice accompaniment, whole wheat couscous was perfect with the sauce. Dinner came together in 30 minutes.


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy New Year!

Like many Bay Areans, I've adopted the African-American tradition of cooking up black-eyed peas for New Year's. Last year I made a very traditional version of Hoppin' John with ham hocks and collards, finished with a vinegar-based hot sauce. This year I never got around to buying my ham hocks and found myself looking at a few Niman ham steaks in the refrigerator case. Fortunately, my sister had scored me a link of Spanish-style chorizo at Fatted Calf. I reasoned that it would add some porky goodness as well as some heat, and what isn't better with that smoky paprika flavor? I finished the soup with Tabasco, the vinegar hit is an important flavor component, so if you don't like heat, add a jot of white vinegar.

I'm not crazy about black-eyed peas in most preparations, I find the flavor can be a little muddy. But this soup was wonderful, something I'd make again nomatter the holiday. It went perfectly with some jalapeno cornbread and a nice cold beer.
Truly, the pantry is the mother of invention.

Chorizo, Collard and Black-eyed Pea Soup

1.5 cups dried black eyed peas
2 medium yellow onions, small dice
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup beer (not too hoppy)
2 bunches (about 15 leaves) collard greens
1 t salt
6 cups chicken stock
Tabasco or other vinegar-based hot sauce
Place the rinsed peas in a large-ish pot with 1/2 diced onion, the garlic and the bay leaf. Cover with 6 cups water and bring to a boil. Skim scum off the top, partially cover and simmer for 1.5-2 hours. The fresher the peas, the shorter the cooking time. When the beans are done as desired, drain and allow to cool.
Meanwhile, quarter and thinly slice the chorizo. Saute the onion in 1 scant tablespoon olive oil, add the chorizo when the onion has softened. Keep heat on medium, do not allow the sausage to crisp. Saute ~5 minutes, then add the beer, bring to a boil, then lower heat, cover and stew for another five minutes. The previously hard and dry sausage should be somewhat soft and crumbly.
While the chorizo is stewing, cut the collards off their stems and slice the halved leaves crosswise into 1/2 inch strips. Rinse thoroughly in cold water, use two rinses if necessary, then drain in a colander.
Add the collards, sprinkle with the salt, and stir. Cover the pot and braise the greens over medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes, until the greens are tender. [You can cook the greens much longer if desired, but I prefer them with a bit of bite left.] Add the stock and bring to a boil. Stir in the black-eyed peas, simmer for 5-10 minutes to allow the flavors to meld, and finish with the hot sauce to taste. I used 1 teaspoon so that MZ could tolerate it, and we added more to taste at the table.
Riff references: Tijuana cornbread

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