I haven’t been posting as much, mostly because I’ve been working a lot on my dissertation lately. We’ve still been cooking a bunch, however, so I’m going to try to keep on top of it.
So far 2013 has been off to a good start. Other than an amazing week of boozing and eating in New Orleans, which helped me face turning a decade older, G and I have been off to a really healthy start to the new year. We started it off with Bon Appetit’s Food Lover’s Cleanse (which promises to introduce you to healthy foods for a week but not at the expense of your taste buds). We actually only got through the first week because of the NOLA trip, but it was a great experience. I didn’t love all of the recipes but I like that it planned everything for you – breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner. Because we work from home, this is great for me and gets rid of the, what should we have? should we just order something? easy fix to lunch or dinner. We were also introduced to a lot of new grains and preparations. You can check out the plan here: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2013/01/2013-food-lovers-cleanse A major highlight was the dark chocolate seed bark. SUPER easy to make.
Back, then, from NOLA, we’ve tried to incorporate some of these ideas and I’ve been writing weekly menus trying to limit gluten and dairy. I’ll try to share more of these over the next few weeks. Here’s one new staple: Pomegranate, apple, walnut, and chia seed oatmeal.
I used to add milk to my oatmeal, but I found that with stirring the apples and pomegranates in I don’t really miss it. Sometimes I’ll add a bit of cinnamon while the oats are cooking in the pot. I’m still not too sure about the benefits of chia seeds, but I’ve heard them talked about a lot and I picked up a bag at Costco. Like a lot of more expensive natural or organic stuff, I often won’t try it until I see it at Costco. That’s how I came across hemp seeds too, which are great in the chocolate bark.
So, I’m sticking with the theme of more of the same…4 more years and more soup!
We accompanied our election night watching yesterday with this easy and surprisingly creamy feeling tomato soup. I pulled the recipe from Bon Appetit’s “Creamy Tomato Soup” (October 2012), but I left out the cream the recipe called for and instead reduced it down a bit more than they suggested. I think a bit of cream wouldn’t hurt it (actually I think it would be even better…a little swirled in at the end) but sometimes I just don’t have cream on hand. And it’s healthier this way. Never thought I’d say this about tomato soup, but better than Campbell’s!
adapted from Bon Appetit’s “Creamy Tomato Soup” (Oct. 2012 Magazine)
1/2 stick butter
10 thyme springs tied together
1 medium onion cut into thin slices
3 garlic cloves cut into thin sclices
1/4 cup tomato paste (mine said it had italian herbs in it…not sure if that made any difference…)
2 28oz cans of whole peeled tomatoes (I used Muir Glen Organic)
1 teaspoon sugar
8 cups of water
salt and pepper to taste
In a large soup or pasta pot melt the butter and then add the onion, garlic, and bundle of thyme. Cook on medium heat for about 10 or so minutes until the onions are soft. Add the tomato paste and turn the heat up a bit and cook for about 5 minutes until the onion/garlic/paste mixture begin to caramelize (you’ll smell it). Add the tomatoes (whole cans with juice too), sugar, and the water and turn the heat to high allowing the soup to come to a simmer. Once it does let it continue simmering on medium heat for about 1 hour. Remove the thyme and with a hand blender (yes!) or working in batched through a blender, puree the soup then put it back on the heat and reduce it until it’s at a texture you like. Salt and pepper to taste. Even better the next day!
It’s starting to feel like winter here and this season I’m interested in making more soups. I’ve made a couple so far, and it’s been really easy to make a big soup every few days and have leftovers ready for lunch, dinner, whatever. Fall marks the transition to when I’m always cold so it’s been pretty awesome to have soup on hand.
This is a super easy (and quick!) recipe that has only a few ingredients – I was kind of skeptical about this while I was making it, worried that it wouldn’t have enough flavor, but it was good. That said, I think this recipe allows for experimentation. Next time I might try some sautéed onions or roasted garlic.
Also, I recently learned a cool tip for cleaning leeks. If you’re going to slice them, instead of washing them first, go ahead and slice, then put the slices in a bowl of water. If you swirl them around a bit and then let them sit, the dirt will sink to the bottom and then you can just scoop out the leeks to use.
Golden Winter Soup
recipe adapted from “Golden Winter Soup” on myrecipes.com
2 tablespoons butter
5 cups cubed pieces of butternut squash (I eyeballed this and use about 1 medium and 1 small squash)
2 cups cubed pieces of peeled russet potato (I used three potatoes)
2 medium leek sliced (see tip above)
4 cups of chicken broth/stock
Old Bay seasoning to taste (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
In a stock pot or dutch oven (or pasta pot as I used), heat the butter. Add the squash and potatoes and a bit of salt and pepper. Sauté for a few minutes, then add the leeks. Sauté a minute or so more and then add the broth. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 20 minutes. You want the potatoes and squash to be soft. Then, working in batches, blend in a blender, or better yet, if you have one, use a hand blender. I just used one for the first time and it makes blending soups SO easy! Whichever method you use, put the pureed soup back in the pot and add more salt and pepper to taste and a sprinkle of Old Bay. Enjoy!
G got me an iPad for our anniversary (which was AWESOME!) and since I’ve started cooking more again lately I’ve been using it for displaying recipes I’m following. One app that we both use (we share a free account) is Pepper Plate, which can import and catalogue recipes from some of the more well known websites (such as Food & Wine, Cooking Light, etc). You can also import recipes manually. It has some pretty spiffy features, like a shopping list, meal planner, and a beautiful “cook now” layout that is easy to read and includes timers to help you while you’re cooking. It also syncs to your iPhone.
The biggest tip of all, however, is that I’ve found that covering the iPad with plastic wrap works great for keeping it clean while keeping it usable. I have had no problem with the screen responding to my finger and it’s WAY cheaper than some of those “chef sleeves” I’ve heard about. Pretty awesome.
New beginnings should always be marked by a big bowl of pasta. I’ve been spending the summer mainly researching and working on my dissertation and haven’t given much time to writing here or cooking really (ok, so it’s been much longer than just the summer…). G and I have been cooking a bunch over the last few weeks, so what better time to start up again.
We went to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday and got the most beautiful multi-colored cherry tomatoes and basil that smells amazing. We had recently watched one of Lidia Bastianich’s shows of cooking in Italy and were inspired to make her pesto trapanese with tomatoes and almonds. This is such a quick recipe (everything is just blended in the food processor) and just like pesto it can be made a few days ahead of time. It’s both nutty like a pesto and almost creamy tasting like a creamy tomato sauce. I highly recommend. I should also note that our turned out more of a golden color, but I’m sure if you used all red cherry tomatoes it would be more red.
3/4 pound cherry tomatoes
12 leaves of basil
1/3 cup almonds, toasted briefly
1 clove garlic peeled
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (I did a generous pinch)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1 pound pasta (we used spaghetti)
1/2 cup grated parmesan
Put everything but the olive oil and parmesan (and pasta of course) into the food processor and blend until finely pureed. Add the olive oil slowly while the machine runs. Taste to see if you need anything and then you’re done! If you store it in the fridge to use later, make sure you bring it back up to room temperature.
When ready to serve, add the freshly cooked pasta to a large bowl with the pesto (note: we didn’t use all of it so I would suggest adding half to the bowl first to see how sauce-y you want it). Toss and then toss in the parmesan. Serve with a big of fresh parm on top if you want.
Would we expect anything less from Chef Pepin? I am the proud owner of Pepin’s new book, “Essential Pepin,” which I highly highly highly recommend. It’s great to read before bed, since each recipe comes with a little paragraph explanation or hint or memory associated with it. It’s great for technique, since it really describes the basics and comes with a DVD. And it’s great for eating good food because he actually wrote and edited each recipe (over 700 of them), and he’s a master. Check a cool article at by the NYTs.
Where better to start, then, but with the classic roast chicken? I’ll admit, I had never roasted a chicken before. I’ve made beer-can chicken in the oven, which ensures really juicy tender meat, but never the classic roast chicken. And I’ve definitely never seen anyone do it quite like this.
Pepin’s recipe tells you to brown the bird (after seasoning it with salt and pepper) for a little over 2 minutes on each side in a skillet with olive oil on the stove. After two minutes on the second side the bird goes in the oven cooking for 20 minutes on that side, 20 minutes back on the other, and 20 minutes on its back, basting only before this last turn. And that’s it. G and I were pretty skeptical or at least didn’t quite know what to expect but we shouldn’t have thought twice about it. The chicken really was perfect. Moist, melt in your mouth chicken with great crispy skin. It was heaven. We served it with some rainbow kale and fingerling potatoes roasted with olive oil and rosemary. Pepin suggests watercress on top as garnish, so of course we did that too.
adapted from Jacques Pepin’s “Essential Pepin”
1 chicken (I prefer organic. They just look better. Pepin recommends 3.5lbs but ours was almost 4lbs)
watercress or other green garnish you might like
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Rinse the chicken, undoing any ties it might have. Dry it and then season inside and out with salt and pepper.
In a large skillet that can go in the oven heat the olive oil (about 1 tablespoon — we might have used a little more) until it’s hot. You don’t want it to smoke, though. When hot, set the chicken in the pan on one side (see photo above of what that looks like…it’s kind of awkward). After 2.5 minutes flip to other side (should have some browning on the first side). Let it sit on the second side for 2.5 minutes and the put it in the oven still on that second side for 20 minutes. Don’t cover it or anything. Once 20 minutes are up flip back to the first side for another 20 minutes. Then turn it onto its back and baste it with the fat it has released (we just use a spoon when we baste instead of one of those squeezey things). Cook a final 20 minutes on its back.
Now it should be done but you can test with a thermometer in the thick part of the joint between the thigh and drumstick and it should be between 150-160 degrees and the juices should run clear (this is Pepin’s tip).
Take out of the pan and put it breast side down on a cutting board or plate to keep it moist and pour the drippings in a bowl. Add a little bit of water to the pan and stir to deglaze it and add to the bowl with drippings.
Serve the carved chicken with some of the drippings on top.
OccupyMN continues in People’s Plaza. Dropped off some cookies last night. The recipe on the back of Toll House Nestle chocolate chips is still the best. My mom made them growing up and I won’t make them any other way.
Check out http://occupygeorge.com/ for some cool graphics. I support the 99%.