Sunday, May 7, 2017

One of My Favorite Side Dishes--Cheesy Polenta

This might have been posted a little sooner, but Blogspot has removed the ability to schedule posts, which was one of my favorite features. This recipe already went out to two very special people already, and I hope all my readers enjoy it.

An easy meal I put together sometimes is sausage and peppers. If you're cutting back on fat, there are chicken varieties out there that are loads better than they were ten or even five years ago.

Pasta is a common side dish, but we ended up having pasta the previous evening and I always have quick-cooking polenta in the house. For the two servings today (and then I made another batch because yum), ingredients were as follows:

  • 1/4 cup of quick-cooking polenta
  • 1 Tablespoon of butter
  • 1/2 cup of tomatoes--I used half sun-dried and half fresh
  • 1/2 cup of milk or cream
  • 1/2 cup grated cheese--I used Grana Padano, which is a relative of Parmesan and quite tasty
  • 1 Tablespoon capers, drained, rinsing optional (I love brine).
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano

Cook polenta according to package directions adding the butter when you stir the polenta into the water. When the polenta is cooked, leave the heat on low and stir in milk using a fork until there are no lumps. Add the tomatoes and spices, then stir in the cheese. Stir until the cheese is absorbed. Add capers and stir again, serve.

Yes, I used the word stir 5 times. You need to do it constantly because polenta will like to clump and we can't have that.

Leftovers can be fried for a delicious change in texture if you make more. 

I plan a variation as a side dish with steak or chicken. I figure sharp cheddar, green onions, and bacon will work really well with the tomatoes. 

If you try this, let me know!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Something Different: Guest Post: Artichoke Bread Pudding

My friend Ny posted this a while back and I just had to bring nit here. I haven't tried it yet, but I drool every time I read it. Without further ado:


Okay, so this isn't the quickest or lowest fat recipe. In fact, it involves a deep frying step. But the flavor rewards are exponential.

  • 6-8 slices hearty white bread or equivalent, dried out and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 cups chicken stock, veggie stock, or water
  • 2 14-ounce cans quartered artichoke hearts, drained
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 cup diced shallot or onion (one fat shallot)
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (or less, I like nutmeg)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp hot pepper
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried or 1 tsp fresh thyme
  • 1 pasilla or cubanelle pepper, stemmed, seeded, and diced (charred-and-peeled is optional but tasty)
  • 2 to 4 sundried tomatoes, diced
  • about 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper, jarred or fresh
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley
  • 2 cups diced semisoft cheese (I used a mix of cheddar, swiss, and gouda,
  • since that was what was in my fridge)
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Grease a 2 quart baking pan and set aside. Turn the oven to 300F.

In a large saucepan or dutch oven, heat 2 inches of oil for frying. When it's hot enough, add the artichokes and immediately cover with a splatter screen -- it'll sputter a lot. Fry the artichokes on medium heat until golden and crisp, about 20 minutes (watch carefully for the last 5 minutes or so, as the transformation from bubbling to golden to burnt happens rapidly)

(You could skip this step but the browned savory flavor and creamy texture is so worth it. The tinny flavor of canning is entirely evicted. If you have fresh artichoke hearts, cook them through however you want, chop them, and use them that way.)

Meanwhile, in a 10 or 12 inch skillet, melt the butter, add the shallots, and cook over medium low heat until translucent. Add the salt, black and hot peppers, nutmeg, and thyme. Seed and dice the peppers and add them, and stir a bit and let continue to cook for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes and let cook a couple more minutes.

Get a large mixing bowl, and place the bread and broth in it. When the veggies are thoroughly softened, add them (and ALL the butter) to the bowl. When the artichokes are cooked, drain them briefly on paper towels, then add them to the bowl. (Eat a couple. They won't stay crisp in the pudding, but they will be richly flavorful.)

When ready, mix everything that's in the bowl. Add the parsley, cheese and eggs, mix again, and scrape into the prepared pan. Press parchment paper on the surface and bake for an hour, until cooked through. Serve hot or let cool and cut up into squares. This reheats very well and keeps for several days in the fridge.

In Which Kate Makes Things Take a Lot Longer

Hi friends, it's been way too long and I have a couple recipes to share this weekend, one from my friend Ny.

A friend posted today's recipe on Facebook. I don't use my Pinterest Page much, so I never would have come across this otherwise. 

I'm lucky. I no longer have to work two jobs to make ends meet. This means I have more time and resources, so I was able to adjust this recipe somewhat. Here's where I started:

  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 4-ounce can of green chiles (the author recommends El Paso. This is not a paid endorsement)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 8-ounce package of cream cheese
  • 1 Cup Monterey Jack Cheese

My ingredients list ended up a bit different, but the directions are the same. I doubled the recipe because this looked good enough to want to have again).

  • 6 chicken breasts
  • 6 cloves of chopped garlic (feel free to roast if you have time. I roasted because it gave the cream cheese time to soften up)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of chili powder
  • 2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese (I'm not getting paid to endorse this either, but you can probably guess the brand)
  • 2 poblanos, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, ribs and seeds removed, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried cilantro (I never seem to run out of this, I think it reproduces in the herb & spice cabinet)
  • Monterey Jack cheese
Since poblanos are pretty mild, I figured the chile powder and the jalapeno would kick it up a notch (thank you Emeril). The directions are easy. Note again that the cream cheese should be taken out of the fridge to soften a little while before you start or stirring will be a pain in the ass.

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. If you don't have an oven thermometer, please buy one. When we got a new one, I discovered our oven was 30 degrees colder than the temperature I set it to. No wonder the scones took so long.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix cream cheese, garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper until well-combined. I skipped the salt & pepper. Cream cheese is pretty salty, and there was plenty of pepper in the chile powder. Stir in the chiles until evenly mixed.
  3. Lay the chicken breasts flat in a baking dish--I put a little olive oil on the bottom. Cover with the chile mixture. I used two rubber scrapers for this.  Next, cover with Monterey Jack cheese. I confess I didn't measure the Jack, I just grated it over the baking dish until everything was covered.
  4. Bake (uncovered) on middle rack for 35-45 minutes (meat thermometers are your friend)
  5. Serve hot. The recipe recommends Spanish rice, potatoes, or greens. I went with black beans. 
I jazz up canned black beans as follows:
  • 1 14-ounce can of black beans
  • 1 14-ounce can low-sodium black beans
  • 2 green onions chopped (dark and light green parts only)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • Juice of half a lime
Put all ingredients in a saucepan, stir well, simmer about 15 minutes or until hot.

I am firmly in the camp that black beans need a little acid to bring out their best flavor and I think that's why Nexx is so fond of them. More lime juice was definitely needed here. Nexx wanted more green onions. He says that about a lot of dishes that use them.

The chicken took about 45 minutes to reach 165 F. The Jack cheese was a beautiful golden brown:

The tortillas were very useful in scooping up cheese sauce that had escaped from under the crunch. I was very pleased with the recipe, though it is quite rich. I think more garlic next time and maybe a little more chile powder. I'd like a little more warmth to it.

Questions? Comments? Variations? Let me know!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Not a Weeknight Recipe: Dal Makhani

I was introduced to lentils late in life and have loved them in most presentations I've tried. My all-time favorite might be mujadera, which is on my list to make as soon as I'm in the mood for spending an hour or so caramelizing onions.

The other lentil dish that might be my favorite is dal makhani. The recipe I found has some good points and bad points, but the end result was absolutely delicious.

  • 1 Cup dry lentils (I used brown ones, red would also do fine)
  • 1/4 Cup dry kidney beans, optional (I used these, but they didn't actually cook all the way through and I have no idea why)
  • Water to cover (for soaking)
  • 5 cups of water (I used broth, and this was really too much)
  • 2 Tablespoons salt (I used a T and it turned out to be way too much. I should have considered that there was salt in the low-sodium broth and probably added maybe a teaspoon total)
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil (I used avocado, see below)
  • 1 Tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 4 cardamom pods (I used 6 because I love cardamom so much)
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken (in several pieces)
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1.5 Tablespoons ginger paste (I keep chopped ginger in a jar around, grating or mincing the same amount would probably be fine, though I suggest if you mince add the ginger earlier in the cooking process to give it time to soften)
  • 1.5 Tablespoons garlic paste (see comment above)
  • .5 teaspoon ground tumeric (I used more like 2 teaspoons because there was only a little left in the jar)
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper (or more, to taste)
  • 1 Cup canned tomato puree
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 Tablespoons ground coriander
  • 1/4 cup of butter (half a stick)
  • 2 Tablespoons dried fenugeek leaves (I used powdered fenugeek)
  • 1/2 Cup cream, optional
I've been using avocado oil lately because of the light taste and I thought this was another great opportunity to take advantage of the lightness.


  • Place lentils and kidney beans in a large bowl; cover with plenty of water. Soak for at least 2 hours or overnight. Drain.
  • Cook lentils, kidney beans, 5 cups water, and salt in a pot over medium heat until tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour. Remove from heat and set aside. Keep the lentils, kidney beans, and any excess cooking water in the pot. The nice part about this step is it gives you time to measure out and have all your ingredients ready. I was talked in cooking classes that you should always do this, but Nexx will tell you I can be a little haphazard when prepping.)
  • Heat vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook cumin seeds in the hot oil until they begin to pop, 1 to 2 minutes. Add cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, and cloves; cook until bay leaves turn brown, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low; add ginger paste, garlic paste, turmeric, and cayenne pepper. Stir to coat.
  • Stir tomato puree into spice mixture; cook over medium heat until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Add chili powder, coriander, and butter; cook and stir until butter is melted.Stir lentils, kidney beans and any leftover cooking water into tomato mixture; bring to a boil, reduce heat to low. Stir fenugreek into lentil mixture. Cover saucepan and simmer until heated through, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes. Add cream and cook until heated through, 2 to 4 minutes.
Following the recipe was pretty easy, but I ended up with way too much cooking liquid in the lentils. We ended up fishing the lentils and some of the sauce into a pot with a slotted spoon. I'm not sure if that means cooking them a little longer or using less liquid; I will have to experiment.

I forgot the cream, but when I realized it, I decided we really didn't needed. There was a little creaminess from the butter, and that was enough. This came out delicious, rich, complicated. We served it with chicken that I sautéed with some curry leaves, a recipe that I am going to perfect when I get some new curry leaves. 

I'll definitely make this again, though probably not for a while because it took so long. The leftovers, on the other hand, can easily be microwaved and put over rice.

Questions? Comments? A good mujadera recipe? Let's hear from you!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

I only tweaked it a little: Cauliflower Soup with Chorizo

I've been a fan of The Splendid Table for over a decade. It was a Sunday tradition I'd listen to either on the way to gaming, or after I did grocery shopping when I lived in Tennessee several years back. Now, I try to catch it via podcast. I no longer have a car, so I rarely listen to the radio anymore.

Anyway, I have a ton of recipes from the site bookmarked, and what I made today immediately caught my eye when I saw it earlier this week. 

It's no secret I love cauliflower. I've roasted it, roasted it another way, and made a curried soup, just to name a few dishes. I do wish, however, that little bits of it wouldn't get all over the damn kitchen when I'm taking one apart. Especially when the kitchen has just been cleaned.

The ingredients list is pretty simple:

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 6-OZ chorizo, cut into 1/4-inch dice (use Spanish-style chorizo in casing, not loose Mexican-style chorizo) (The package I bought was actually a little more than 7 oz, so I used the whole thing. It seemed silly not to.)
  • 2 Cups (2 – 3 medium) chopped leeks, white and light green parts only
  • 2 Teaspoons chopped garlic
  • 8 Cups (about 1 1/2 lb or use packaged florets) cauliflower florets
  • 5 Cups chicken broth or stock
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 Cup sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lime zest
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Toasted breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro (I garnished the soup using dried cilantro because I somehow bought three jars of dried cilantro and it's taking up too much space in the the spice storage)
I've probably said this before, but when you have a recipe like this, start with the leeks. Wash them, chop off the stringy end and the dark green leaves, split lengthwise, chop, and then wash them again. The little layers inside leeks love dirt. Pat them dry with paper towels.

In a heavy pot over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil until hot. (I was taught to put a drop of water in the oil and if it sizzled, you were good to go). Add the chorizo and cook, stirring, until slightly crisp, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Set aside. 

Reduce the heat to medium and add the leeks to the drippings in the pan. Cook, stirring often until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute more. Add the cauliflower, broth, and 1 teaspoon salt. (5 Cups of water didn't quite cover my vegetables, so I added one more)

Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until the cauliflower is very tender, 20 to 25 minutes (or until your boyfriend gets home; then about 45 minutes after that once you've turned the heat up a bit). Purée the soup in batches in a food processor, blender, or food mill. (Or use an immersion blender to purée the soup in the pot. I love my immersion blender)

I didn't do the following step because Nexx doesn't like sour cream. Instead I added 1/4 Cup of heavy cream and 1/4 teaspoon lime zest. I also served sour cream on the side for me.

Whisk together the sour cream and the lime zest and stir half the mixture into the soup. Season the soup with more salt if needed and with 1/4 teaspoon or more black pepper. 

(Soup can be prepared two days ahead. Cook to this stage, then cool, cover, and refrigerate the sautéed chorizo and the sour cream separately. Reheat the soup over medium heat, stirring often.)

Ladle the soup into bowls. Garnish each serving with a dollop of the remaining sour cream. Serve with small bowls of chorizo, toasted breadcrumbs, and cilantro for sprinkling.

I skipped the breadcrumbs and went for another option to add some additional texture. Multi-grain is all the rage (and my doctor says it does good things for my cholesterol levels) and I was able to find some multigrain tortillas. I picked up some of those and took a stick of butter out of the fridge to soften. I mixed it with about a tablespoon of garlic, a teaspoon and a half of olive oil, the juice of half of a lime and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper. I buttered the tortillas and zapped them in a frying pan on medium-high for about a minute on each side. 

Now I'm finding I wish it was corn on the cob season because I have the better part of a stick of butter leftover. However, it's cold, and soup is good on a cold day, so I'll it a win anyway. Next time, I think more lime, garlic, and black pepper.

Questions? Comments? Friend me on Facebook (tell me you read the blog) or write them here.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

A Story That Starts with Chickpeas

A friend of mine recently said, "Chick peas are my thing." (Hi Adam!) I can't argue with this. Hummus and falafel, for example, are two of my favorite things, and I've posted a recipe that puts them in a pan with chicken and harissa. 

I came across this entry's recipe a while ago, made it and it didn't quite work. We have since achieved an oven thermometer, which improves the odds considerably

I hadn't made any specific plans to make it again until I made a chicken and white bean dish the other day and accidentally opened a can of chick peas. Read the labels, Kate. Really. So, needing something to do with them, I remembered this. Here's our ingredient list:

  • 2 Cups cooked chick peas. If you're using canned, rinse them well.
  • 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons za'atar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
I love za'atar and it's becoming easier to find. If you can't find it locally, there's always Amazon. 

I have some quibbles with the directions. 

  • Spread out chick peas on a paper towel. Let dry for one hour. (The first time I made this, an hour did not feel nearly enough. Even though the oven temperature was low, they should have crisped up somewhat. I left them out for a couple episodes of The Fall, maybe a little longer)
  • Heat oven to 400 degrees Farenheit. Line a heavy rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper and spread chick peas evenly on the pan. Bake in the center of oven for 30 minutes, stirring and turning every 10 minutes (I just shook the pan; I also baked them about 10 minutes longer)
  • Place hot chick peas in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil, za'atar and salt.
Theoretically, these will keep in an airtight container for a week. I wouldn't know. I ate half of them and saved the other half for Nexx. 

I made another batch, this time with some homemade chili powder. I made it a little too heavy on the chilis (I had de arbol in the house) and even serving it with some cheese and chunked avocado, they were a wee bit too spicy. Tasty, but a little too much burn.

I did have another use for the leftover chili powder, though. Next entry!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Not Quite What I Had In Mind: Chicken UnTikka Masala

It's no secret I love Indian food, whether it's spicy or not. I make an aloo gobi that passed muster with the Indian guys on my team at my former job. I grind my own garam masala when I manage to have most of the spices in the pantry (pantry is a bit of an exaggeration. We have the bottom half of a storage unit from IKEA, but I have a drawer in it with nothing but different kinds of pepper, which I find quite cool).

Anyway, most recipes I've found on Epicurious have been pretty good, and they email me recipes on a regular basis, though I know I never signed up for that.

So I found this recipe in my mailbox and thought I'd give it a try. No chicken tikka masala I've ever had has included peas, but peas do go well in curry, so I figured I'd follow the recipe. I'll critique the "quick" part in a bit.

  • 1 (2 1/2") piece ginger, peeled
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 3 breasts), cut into 1" cubes
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided, plus more to taste
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons garam masala, divided
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/2 cup plain full-fat or low-fat yogurt (not Greek)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
A few comments before I get started. This seemed to be pretty heavy on the salt, so I cut that a bit. I'm also of the firm opinion (I can hear Nexx muttering "Do you have any other kind?) that if you're chopping more than two things, you're  no longer making a quick recipe. Quick to me means 30 minutes from having all your ingredients out to having the food plated on the table in front of your guinea pigs, er, loved ones.

I also had a slight problem with the yogurt. We get our groceries delivered if we need a lot at once. It saves on the back muscles. It does come with its risks, and one of those is missing the email when they're out of something. The plain unstrained yogurt I ordered was replaced by vanilla, which was not going to work. So I cut some Greek yogurt with some cream and I know I was missing some of the tanginess that should be there, so that one's on me.

The instructions:

  1. Pulse ginger and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped. Add onion and pulse again until finely chopped. (You really don't need a food processor, you can chop just fine by yourself. Also, considering the time it takes to put a food processor together, this also removes from the definition of "quick."
  2. Toss chicken with 1 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper, and 1 tsp. garam masala in a medium bowl. (too much salt, I cut it to .5 teaspoon)
  3. Heat oil over high in a large skillet (at least 12" in diameter). Add chicken and cook, tossing occasionally, until lightly browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer chicken to a clean medium bowl. (this took closer to 12 minutes)
  4. Heat same skillet over medium-high and add butter, chopped onion mixture, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper. (I did't bother with the salt and black pepper here. There's already black pepper in the garam masala) Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened and translucent, about 3 minutes (closer to 5). Add tomato paste, turmeric, cayenne, and remaining 1 1/2 tsp. garam masala and cook, stirring constantly, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until hot, about 2 minutes (again, closer to five minutes). Return chicken to pan, add peas, and cook, stirring occasionally, until warmed through, about 1 (3) minute more.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in yogurt and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Divide among 4 plates, top with cilantro, and serve with naan.

It was tasty, but way too heavy on the tomato taste. I felt like Bobby Flay in a Throwdown episode. "Hey Bobby, this is great, but it isn't the challenge food of the week." While we were eating, I started to deconstruct the recipe, starting with eliminating the tomato paste, and Nexx stopped me. He liked it just as it was. 

Success? I guess so. There's two more servings in the freezer that will be very nice on a cold winter's night very soon.