Friday, June 26, 2009

Stewed Cherries (with stems)

Cherries, for the lazy.

Today CCO told me he liked my blog because I often repeat myself, like a fugue. I couldn't take offense. It is true. I do repeat myself, particularly concerning my love of cherries. Often I don't make things with my cherries because I eat them immediately after returning the market. A couple weeks ago, my mom bought me an enormous 3-lb crate of cherries. That I could not eat all of immediately, so I decided to try some of the recipes I'd filed away for such an occasion.

This recipe, frankly, is genius. Part of the reason cherries are so hard to cook with is because of all the stemming and pitting required. The last time I made a cherry pie, I think I spent more time pitting than doing anything else. But this recipe does not require pitting. In fact, you are encouraged to skip the pitting and serve the cherries with stems still attached. The recipe recommends serving as a dessert with creme fraiche or whipped cream. I've decided this is even better as a breakfast treat with plain Greek yogurt.

From the Atlantic food blog, "Cherry Season Made Simpler" by Sally Schneider

Eat Rating: Awesome.
Difficulty: Easy. No pitting required.

1 lb cherries, stems and pits attached
2 tsbp to 1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp water
1/2 vanilla bean (LN: I subbed 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)

Place the cherries, sugar and water in a medium sautee pan over medium heat. If using sweet cherries, use on the lower end of the sugar. If they are sour cherries, increase sugar to 1/4 cup. Add the vanilla, cover and cook for about 2 minutes, until the cherries have started releasing their juice and the liquid has started to turn reddish. Remove the lid, turn up the heat to high and cook stirring occassionally until the cherries are tender, about another three minutes. They may start to split. At this point, the recipe suggests removing the cherries and cooking down the syrup. My syrup was done, so I just turned off the heat. Serve with creme fraiche or whipped cream or yogurt, dunking each cherry in cream before eating.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Risotto with Spring Vegetables

Risotto with Spring Veggies.

In case I hadn't mentioned before, I love risotto. A normal person, after returning from the market with fresh peas, spring onion and mushrooms would make a stir fry. I make risotto. The funniest part about it is I never made risotto until I met CCO. I always thought it would be too hard. But he taught me the secret. It's not hard really. Just don't add more than 1/2 cup of broth at a time. That'll let it soak in the broth slowly, making it luscious and creamy.

Eat Rating: Awesome. My mouth is watering a little just thinking about it now.
Difficulty: Easy to Medium. Two, maybe three pots.

1 1/2 cups of arborio rice
4 to 5 cups mushroom broth
6 oz. fresh mushrooms, preferably shitake
1 quart English shell peas (or any other peas that require shelling)
2-3 spring onions
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine (LN: I used a Viognier because it was open in the fridge)
1/4-1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)

Cut the bulbs off the spring onions, reserving the stalks. Dice the bulbs finely. Cut up the onion stalks, making sure to keep separate from the bulb. Dice the mushrooms, if necessary.

Shell the peas. Bring a pot of water to boil, then steam or boil the peas for about 5 minutes until they become a bright green color. Remove from heat and set aside.

Bring the mushroom broth to a boil, then reduce heat. In a medium-sized saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then add the bulbs from the spring onions and sautee until softened. Add the rice and wine, cooking for about 1 minute until wine has begun to absorb. Add about 1/2 of the heated broth and mushrooms. Cook the risotto until the rice has almost fully absorbed the broth. Add another 1/2 cup of broth and repeat, until all of the broth is incorporated. The rice should get puffy, the texture creamy like oatmeal. Once all of the broth is incorporate, mix in the Parmesan cheese and peas. Cook just until cheese is melted. Stir in the remaining onion from the green stalks. Serve immediately, preferrably with any leftover wine.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Honest ABE

Liz, this one's for you.

I've recently started reading the Atlantic's food blog. There are a lot of articles about how food is produced, the ethics of food, food trends, etc. But occasionally they also throw in a recipe. When I saw this post on an Asparagus Bacon and Egg Sandwich, I knew we had to make it, mostly because it reminded me of my friend, Liz.

Liz is one of my best friends. However, she hates to cook. She eats more salads than anyone I know. I'm half convinced this is because they require minimal assembly. Despite her hatred of cooking, she makes a mean fried egg sandwich. So Liz, this one's for you.

In keeping with my minimal reprinting of other blogger's recipes and to celebrate the return of the camera, I thought I would illustrate this recipe's preparation with photos.

A thought on preparation: I followed his recipe exactly. However, the cooking everything in bacon grease, I felt, overwhelms the other flavors. You can't really taste the asparagus, just the bacon grease. So, if I had to make it again, I think I'd just steam the asparagus, rather than cooking with the bacon.

Eat Rating: Good. Definitely for the bacon lover, though.
Difficulty: Easy to medium.

2 thickly cut slices of bread
1-2 eggs
Pepper, to taste

Slice your bread.

Cook your bacon.

Cook the asparagus in the leftover bacon grease.

Fry an egg (or two) in the grease.

Slather mayo on the bread.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Summer Squash with Garlic, Lemon and Pepper

Lemony slices of squash.

Apologies for the lack of posts. It has been very hectic the past two weeks, necessitating carryout. Also my camera wasn't working, so I missed out on pics of a great stir fry.

Anyway, it is officially the start of summer squash season. This weekend at our farmer's market they had huge crates of squash, so I picked out some for Meatless Monday. I got six since they were small, three zucchinis, three yellow squash and some other light green variety. The light green was actually my favorite. I found the yellow one sort of bland. Feel free to mix and match with various squashes for a variety of flavors or use all the same kind.

Mini zucchinis.

Thinking that these probably also would have been good in my stir fry, I sauteed them up with some garlic and lemon. I think some spices might have been a nice touch, but sadly I didn't have any fresh ones.

Eat Rating: Good. It wasn't great as a main course, mostly because it's all the same flavor and texture. But I definitely think I'd make again for an easy, simple side dish.
Difficulty: Super easy.

Non-zucchinis. My favorites.

Adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman

6 small squash or 3 large ones, washed and sliced
1-2 tbsp olive oil
2 clove garlic, minced
1 lemon, juiced
Ground black pepper, to taste

Heat the oil in a large sautee pan, then add the garlic. Cook for about 1 minute until garlic is soft. Add the squash, and cook for about 10 minutes until softened. Remove from heat. Squeeze the lemon juice over the cooked squash, tossing to cover. Add black pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Fried Chicken

Blurry photo of chicken and waffles, taken with my friend's IPhone.

Sometimes I do crazy things. Like invite a ton of people over to my house for chicken and waffles, thus causing me to spend an hour standing over a pan of boiling peanut oil. Yeah, crazy.

Last weekend, I had some people over for dinner. I had seen this recipe for pan-friend chicken in Cooking Light and, for whatever reason, I decided it would be a good idea for me to make that for dinner. It was good, but it took A LOT of work.

The Cooking Light recipe suggests putting the flour in a ziploc bag and shaking. I think this doesn't coat the chicken as well so even though it gives you dough fingers, I always hand coat in a bowl.

I also used Michelle Obama's fried chicken techniques. Ever since I worked on the book, I've always wanted to bust those out and then casually mention, "Oh yes. This is Michelle Obama's recipe." But it's actually just a pretty common technique. Flour the chicken once, then soak in milk (or buttermilk for a nice tang) then flour again. Her real secret, that I did not incorporate, involves crumbling Ritz crackers into your flour mixture. Perhaps we'll have to try that sometime.

Eat Rating: Delicous. The spices in the flour mix really kick it up a notch.
Difficulty: Hard. The peanut oil is finicky. Also it spits at you.

Adapted from Pan-Fried Chicken, Cooking Light Magazine, June 2009

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 bone-in chicken breast, skins removed
2 bone-in chicken thighs, skins removed
2 drumsticks, skins removed
2 cups milk or buttermilk
2 cups ice-water
1/2 cup peanut oil

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Set aside.

Place the ice water in a bowl and the milk in another bowl. Dunk a piece of chicken in the ice water, shake off and then drop in the flour bowl. Coat thoroughly. Drop in the milk mixture for a few seconds, then recoat in flour. Repeat with all the pieces of chicken. Don't throw away your flour mixture.

Place the chicken on a cookie sheet and cover with plastic. Refridgerate for 90 minutes.

In a large skillet, heat the peanut oil. You want the peanut oil to be 350 degrees. That's hot, but not spitting. If you have a thermometer, use it.

Line your cooling rack with brown paper bags. (If you use paper towel, they will make the coating soggy because they hold in the steam). I recommend using the ones you get from the grocery store. If you don't have those, you can use lunch bags, but make sure to add several layers.

Once the oil is hot, take a piece of chicken and coat it one last time in the flour. Then add to the hot oil. Cook for 25 minutes, turning the pieces every five minutes to ensure even cooking. Place cooked chicken on the brown paper to cool for at least 5 minutes. Serve immediately (over waffles, if you'd like).

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Mushroom Ragout with Creamy Polenta

Creamy polenta goodness.

Back in the day, when we were first starting "Meatless Monday," I found a bunch of vegetarian recipes I wanted to try and made a list. One of those was a mushroom ragout with creamy polenta. I don't actually know what a ragout is and I promptly lost the recipe. I still wanted to try it though, so I Googled, got the basic gist and made it for dinner last week. Initially CCO was not on board because of previous bad experiences with polenta. I think this might have made him change his mind.

Eat Rating: Awesome. I think this is going to become an MM staple.
Difficulty: Easy. Two pans. A knife. Some mushrooms.

Adapted from "Creamy Polenta" at Simply Recipes, Wild Mushroom Ragout from Martha Stewart

4 cups water
1 cup coarse cornmeal
4 tbsp butter
6 oz. (3/4 cup) cream cheese
Salt to taste

Mushroom Ragout
2 tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
3.5 oz. sliced button mushrooms
3.5 oz slice shitake mushrooms
3.5 oz porcini mushrooms (LN: You might have to buy these dry and reconstitute)
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1/2 cup red wine (LN: I used a Pinot Noir, but anything comparably full-bodied would work)
Fresh parsley, for garnish (optional)

In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Whisk in the cornmeal, reduce heat to a simmer and add in butter. Cook five minutes or until the mixture appears to be the consistency of thick grits. Turn off heat, cover and set aside.

In a skillet, sautee onions and garlic for 1-2 minutes until translucent. Add mushrooms and sautee until they have cooked down. Add the rosemary and cook for 1 minute until thoroughly mixed. Add the red wine and continue to cook until most of the wine has been incorporated. You want the mushrooms mixture to be the consistency of a thick sauce. Once it has reached the desired consistency, remove from heat.

Return to the grits and add the cream cheese, whisking thoroughly until fully incorporated.

Top a large spoonful of the polenta with the mushroom mix. Garnish with parsley if desired.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Strawberry Balsamic Jam (Part 3)

Strawberries and balsamic vinegar. It seemed like a strange combination. My mother even gave me a skeptical look, one of those "don't blame me, Leah, when it's horrible" looks, when I suggested it. But I was right. It is pretty good. The Strawberry-Balsamic Jam comes in right in between the two other varieties. The strawberry is good, but pretty plain, like the girl-next-door who you like but don't really want to marry. The port wine is so rich and sweet that you can't eat very much. The Strawberry-Balsamic is a nice middle ground, sweet but not overly so and exotic enough of a taste so it's not boring.

Eat Rating: Awesome
Difficulty: Medium-hard. No pectin in this, so you're in for the long haul.
Comparison: I think, just maybe, this is my favorite. Don't tell the others.

From "Nine Bean-Rows"

4 cups strawberries, washed and crushed
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 lemon, juiced
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 1-pint jars

In a large saucepan, combine all the ingredients. (To cut down on cooking time, you can let the berries mascerate in the sugar for 20 minutes or so). Heat over medium until boiling, then cook for about 30 minutes until the jam begins to sheet. Fill jars as previously directed.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Strawberry Port Wine Jam (Part 2)

Awhile back (and by awhile I mean, last month) I made a pretty awesome strawberry tart with port wine glaze. I say I made a tart, but the only thing anyone actually ate were the strawberries, leaving a whole sad mess of marscapone cheese. This set off a little light-bulb in my head. What if I made strawberry jam with port wine? Apparently, I'm not the most original person in the world, because I did find a recipe from the June 2003 issue of Southern Living on Strawberry-Port Jam. I even had enough port leftover from the tart that I didn't need to buy a new bottle.

The port does two things -- it makes the jam a really dark ruby red color, and it makes it hella rich. Like I don't think you could actually eat more than 1 tablespoon (if you're on a diet, that could be helpful, right?). But you'll definitely like that one tablespoon.

Strawberry-Port Wine Jam

Eat Rating: Delicious.
Difficulty: Medium-hard. Same deals as before, though the recipe cooks much faster because of the pectin.
Comparison: The jam is richer than the straight strawberry. Port is definitely the primary flavor, so consider which you like better: strawberries or wine?

Adapted from Southern Living, June 2003

20 oz (about 2 1/2 cups) strawberries, washed and crushed
1 1/2 cups ruby port
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 package (1.75 oz) powdered pectin
4 cups of sugar
5 1-pint jars

In a large saucepan, crush the strawberries with a potato masher, then mix in the port, zest, nutmeg and pectin.

Heat the mixture to a full, rapid boil and cook for about 1 minute. Add sugar, stirring constantly until incorporated. Return mixture to a full boil and boil for 1 additional minute. Remove from heat, skim off the foam and fill jars as directed.