Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Variations on a Theme: Warming It Up

A while back I made beer-cheese soup using Rachel Ray's recipe and I was very happy with the way it came out. I'm not sure why it's been a few years since I've made another batch. While there's a lot of chopping, this recipe is pretty easy and doesn't take a huge amount of time.

I have access to a grocery store with a fabulous cheese department. Even better, it is easy to get samples. When I ran in for coffee a couple of weeks ago I walked past a table where a man was passing out samples of chipotle cheddar. I fell in love. It's not heavy on the spices, has just the right amount of smoke and I snapped up a 10 oz package.

I didn't decide on making soup out of it right away, but when I did it seemed like a perfect idea. I did have to grab some gouda (also chipotle) from the closer grocery store to bring the cheese up to the 3 1/2 cups. I love the way gouda melts and it adds a lovely richness when combined with cheddar. To review, here's the base recipe:

  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, finely chopped (Rinse your leeks well. Then do it again)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 12 ounce bottle amber beer, such as Dos Equis (I used an Abita Amber. Abita is out of New Orleans and I like a lot of their beer)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (I didn't use this, instead I added 4 teaspoons of crushed garlic)
  • 10 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated (about 3 1/2 cups) (I added more cheese to get it to 3 1/2 cups)
  • Croutons for garnish (I had warm tortillas on the side and some chorizo, green onions, and sweet bell peppers for garnish)
In a large saucepan (I used a sauté pan), melt the butter over medium heat. Add the carrots and leeks (I added the garlic here too), season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until soft, 10 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. 
Slowly pour in the milk, whisking constantly. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the beer and mustard and bring the soup to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, whisking, until creamy and thickened, about 10 minutes. 
Remove the pan from the heat. Whisk in the cheese 1 handful at a time until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with the croutons.
This recipe makes 3 generous servings, with the addition of the chorizo, it was a great main dish and Nexx let me have my fair share of chorizo.

Questions, comments? I'd love to hear from you. 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

I could have sworn I wrote this entry already

It's odd. I could swear I've written entries about tuna and white bean salad before. I've tried at least three different recipes for it. I can't think of a summer where we didn't have it at least twice. It's light enough for a sunny day, filling enough to be a satisfying meal, and the acid from the dressing is delightfully refreshing.

I've tried a few recipes. Several use lemon juice as the dressing, but this one from Giada Di Laurentis is the one I keep going back to, and there's only one thing I change, which you'll read below. 

  • 2 (6-ounce) cans dark meat tuna, packed in olive oil
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans cannelini white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 cup small capers, nonpareil in brine, drained and rinsed
  • 6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 2 cups fresh arugula
  • 6 fresh basil leaves
In a large bowl, add the tuna, reserving the olive oil in a separate small bowl. Break tuna into bite-size pieces with a large fork. Add the beans and capers. Into the bowl of olive oil, add the red wine vinegar. You should have 1 part vinegar to 2 parts oil - add more extra-virgin olive oil if necessary. Season with salt and pepper. Pour dressing on the tuna, bean and caper mixture and allow the flavors to infuse while slicing the vegetables. Add the onion and tomatoes to tuna mixture and toss gently.Place the arugula on large decorative platter and top with tuna mixture. Tear fresh basil leaves over the top and serve immediately.
Honestly, you can use any kind of tuna, even tuna packed in water. You'll need 2/3 Cup of olive oil total, whether you get it from the tuna can or from a bottle.
Funny story: In the snobbier grocery store in Stamford, there is a rack of imported canned and jarred fish labeled: "Serious Tuna." It took about five years for someone who worked there to laugh when Nexx and I asked where the silly tuna was.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Fishy Indulgence

When I go to restaurants, I like to get something I haven't tried before or something I wouldn't likely make at home. I don't usually try to recreate restaurant dishes, but this entry's recipe is an exception.

From 2010 to 2016, Nexx and I lived in Stamford, CT, which is home to some pretty damn fine food. One of my favorites is Remo's Pizza, if you like thin crust, go here. It's on Bedford Street, but I digress, that's not the place that inspired today's dish.

Another Italian place on the same street used to make a pasta dish I loved. Farfalle, smoked salmon, fresh salmon, and a champagne-cream sauce with chives. I ordered this regularly until they took it off the menu. The bastards.

I'm really happy with how this came out, and it was pretty easy. The only change I think I'd make is a drier champagne.

The ingredients list:

  • 8 ounces smoked salmon
  • 8 ounces cooked fresh salmon
  • 1 pound orchiette (Nexx doesn't like farfalle and I wanted a pasta that would hold a sauce
  • 1 pint (16 fluid ounces) cream
  • 8 fluid ounces dry champagne
  • 4 tablespoons of chopped chives
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Capers for garnish
I cooked the salmon with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper in the immersion circulator for 45 minutes. You can also bake a salmon filet about that size at 350 F for about 25 minutes (check frequently).

While the salmon was cooking, I started the sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan on medium-low heat, then gradually whisking in the flour until I had a roux. After that, I added the cream a bit at a time until everything was incorporated and smooth, then stirred in the chives.

Now comes a challenge. How to add the champagne and not have the acid curdle the cream? First, I turned the heat down to low. Next, I popped the champagne and poured it into one of my big coffee mugs. I know that sounds weird, but I had a reason. The way I figured it, if I kept the heat low and added the champagne just a bit at a time, I could easily use the Tablespoon to access the liquid without spilling so to add a little bit of booze at a time. It worked beautifully. I kept the sauce on low while the pasta was cooking, stirring every few minutes.

While the pasta water was boiling, I removed the pin bones from the salmon filet and removed most of it from the skin by flaking it off with a fork. Nexx took the skin, put it in his favorite cast-iron pan and crisped it up with the creme bruleé torch and had a snack. I cut the smoked salmon into bite-sized pieces--between 2 and 3 square inches.

I drained the pasta and returned it to the pot, added a Tablespoon of champagne and stirred in the salmon. Once it was incorporated, I added the cream sauce and then ladled into bowls.

I put black pepper and capers on the table to be added as we liked. Even if you love capers, go easy on them because they could quickly become front and center, and you'd lose the lovely interplay between fresh and smoked salmon.

I hope you enjoy!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Getting Stuffed

Hi everyone,

This entry is really three recipes in one. My original plan was simple. Stuff peppers with rice, beans, and chorizo, and top them with cheese. I had planned to use red bell peppers because they stand up nicely, but Nexx made a very good case for poblanos. Honestly, I didn't take much convincing. I adore poblanos. Let's start with the stuffing:
  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil, divided,
  • 3/4 Cup short-grain rice
  • 1 1/2 Cups water
  • 7 - 8 ounces Chorizo. I used Spanish Chorizo and it happened to come in a 7-ounce stick, I'd love the extra ounce. Spanish is harder in texture and nowhere near as crumbly as Mexican. Either one will do.
  • 1 14-ounce can black beans
  • 5-6 green onions, chopped 
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 4 of the largest poblanos you can get your mitts on
  • (note for next time: 1 Tablespoon dried cilantro)
  • 6 ounces Manchego cheese.
  • 3 chicken breast
  • Ground Cumin
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 3 serrano or jalapeno peppers
  • 2 8-inch flour tortillas
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
Cook rice on the stovetop or in your rice cooker (when we lived with Austin the minimalist, I used his rice cooker all the damn time. I still miss it). While it's cooking, rinse and drain your black beans. From there, skin and then chop your chorizo into pieces about 1/2 inch x 1/2 inch. I'm 5'3", this works about to be around the size of my thumbnail.

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Rinse and drain your black beans. Cook chorizo on low heat for about ten minutes, just enough to get the fat to start melting and make your kitchen smell delicious. If applicable, chase your significant other out of the kitchen. If he's cooperative about it, give them some chorizo.

Drain the chorizo on paper towels, chop your green onions. By this time, your rice is probably ready. Remove the rice to a large bowl and let it cool for about fifteen minutes. 

While the rice is cooling, wash your poblanos. After you wash them, figure out in what position they will be stable in the baking dish. You don't want them falling over in the oven. Cut off a third of the pepper (leave the stem intact) and use a small knife to de-seed and get rid of as much of the rib as you can. Take your time and be patient with yourself. You'll end up with something like this:

Add your chorizo, beans, green onions, and lime juice to the rice and stir well. Now you're ready for the tricky part. Using a small spoon, add the rice mixture to the peppers. The small spoon is key here--you can use it to force the filling into hard-to reach areas and this will help you not to have to force open the pepper any more than necessary. 

Put a Tablespoon of olive oil in a 9x13 baking dish, and spread it around so it covers the whole thing. Cover and bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil, top your peppers with about half the cheese, and bake another ten minutes, uncovered until the cheese is bubbly.

I had originally planned these as a main dish, but then I thought some more protein might be in order. Plus, I like to serve meals with a lot of different textures, so I added cumin chicken quesadillas.

Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a pan on medium high heat. Salt your chicken lightly and shake cumin over the breasts until you can see about 1/4 of the meat. Add the chicken tt the pan and turn the meat over every 5 minutes until your meat thermometer reads your desired temperature. 

In between checking, cut up your peppers and your onion. You'll put these in the quesadillas.

My meat thermometer says poultry should be at 165 F. I take it out of the pan at 150-155. Juicier and still thoroughly cooked. Let chicken rest for about five minutes. Chop it into small pieces (about 1/4 inch by 1/4 inch) or shred, either works fine. (I like shredded, Nexx does not. It's a continuous bone of contention)

Melt half the butter in a skillet on medium heat while you prep your first quesadilla. Microwave the tortilla for 15 seconds to soften it. Add half the remaining cheese, peppers to taste, fold in half and zap in pan for three minutes a side. Serve.

I should have bought more peppers as we had a ton of filling left over. Actually, we had a ton of quesadilla ingredients over too. To save space in the fridge (when you live in NYC, you're always about saving space), we put the chicken, peppers, and onion into the rice mixture and stuck it in the fridge. The following day, we put it in bowls, topped the mixture with cheddar cheese and microwaved for about 90 seconds.

If you try any of the above, or come up with variations, let me know!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Fowl Play

I'm very new to the sous vide process and had originally looked at it with some skepticism. Then Nexx made a few things with it and won me over. My first experiment with it was chicken breasts (and chicken tastes more like chicken when you cook it in the immersion circulator), but the flavorings I added didn't take as well as I wanted so it didn't get blogged. This time, I attacked the ingredients with more gusto. 

This was a labor-intensive day, but it was worth it overall. We cooked a pair of duck breasts. In the bag with each one went:

  • 2 teaspoons of chopped ginger
  • 3 green onions, split lengthwise
  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
  • the peel of half an orange (I use a vegetable peeler for this)
  • 5 cloves pan-roasted garlic (like I said, labor-intensive. This took a while, but the kitchen smelled fabulous. When I made the chicken, I used raw garlic and it didn't cook enough to release its aromatic flavors)
Note to Kate: make sure you have the garlic salt instead of the garlic powder. Yes this can be (and was) added afterwards, but it should have been in there in the first place.

Duck takes 2 hours for medium rare. I don't recall what site Nexx gets his temperature settings from (look for an entry from him about his adventures with the sous vide method soon). A quick search found me this page, which I like because it also has the thickness of your meat to take into consideration.

While the duck cooked, I sautéed 8 ounces of mushrooms (this was a mix, I recommend shitake if they are affordable in your area) in the oil that I cooked the garlic in, added a about a teaspoon each of soy sauce and rice wine vinegar.

The duck came out two hours later and went into a hot pan for a good sear. Crispy duck fat is like elevated bacon (and no nitrates!). While it was resting (do this for at least five minutes, more is not bad), I put 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a pan, filled the pan with bok choi, and stirred it until it wilted and started turning a lovely bright green.

About bok choi: Wash it thoroughly. Then do it again. Grit is not fun and hurts your teeth.

Once wilted, I added rice vinegar and red pepper flakes. Taste as you go to get it just as  you like it.

Slice duck into pieces about 1/2 inch wide. Plate your meat and vegetables. Add salt and additional red pepper.

For next time (and there will definitely be a next time), we'll take the juices and make a pan sauce, plus top everything with green onions.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

A Light Summer Pasta--Linguine With White Clam Sauce

I'm feeling pretty pleased with myself. I've made linguine with clams before, but I've never actually researched a recipe. I may very well be missing a basic ingredient (if you know, it, please comment here). Regardless, this came out delicious and I hope you enjoy it as much as Nexx and I did. This serves 4.

  • 12 ounces of clams. I used canned because I am too lazy to shuck clams. The brand I bought had them chopped roughly instead of minced and I liked the variety in size and texture a lot. Reserve 2 teaspoons of juice from the cans.
  • 3/4 cup of dry white wine
  • 3 Tablespoons of lemon juice--this worked out to be 1.5 lemons
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 5 cloves of garlic (or more. Next time there will be more)
  • 1 pound linguine
  • 1/8 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
First, draft a sous chef to chop the parsley. This gives you time to put everything else together. Thank you sweetie!

Pour the wine and lemon juice into a small saucepan. Add your garlic, your clams and (something I will do next time) 2 teaspoons of clam juice. Make sure your liquid covers your clams. Add the salt and pepper and stir well. Set heat to simmer and stir every couple of minutes.

Start your pasta water boiling. If you feel like it, make a salad. I cut some small cucumbers into spears and we nibbled on those while we waited for everything to be assembled.

Cook the linguine according to your package directions. Reserve a cup of the pasta water to improve stickiness. Drain the pasta, put back in the pot. Add your clam mixture, and gently toss to incorporate. I have a set of tongs that is silicone-coated and they worked great for this. Add your parsley, some pasta water if you need to. Serve with lemon wedges on the side. 

Nexx thought some cheese could be a good garnish, and I will definitely have that prepared for next time.

The leftovers were a little sticky, and there was more garlic flavor, so maybe less pasta water and more lemon/wine mixture.

Questions? Comments? Love to hear from you!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

A Make-Ahead Breakfast Muffin

I'd heard of egg muffins before and I've had baked eggs. These seemed a good idea because I tend to be in a rush in the morning before work, and these reheat in 30 seconds, are satisfying to chew and are filling too.

I came across this recipe (hat tip to the author!), and immediately thought of ways to improve it to my tastes. I also made half a recipe because I wanted to make sure I would like them before I committed to using a dozen eggs.

So the base recipe is

  • 6 eggs
  • 6 ounces of your favorite breakfast meat
  • 2 ounces cheese 
  • 1/2 Cup of chopped onion
  • 3 teaspoons of water
I used 2 bun-sized sausages that had habaneros in them, and a sharp cheddar cheese. Instead of shredding the cheese as the original recipe said, I cut it into small chunks. This way we got a bigger taste of gooey cheese in some bites. To go with the habaneros, I put in a teaspoon of dried cilantro and 1/4 teaspoon of oregano. The herbs got lost, I'm afraid. I blame the habaneros.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. If you don't have an oven thermometer, get one. Apologies for repeating myself, but I can tell you from experience it makes a huge difference. My oven is 50 degrees F cooler than what it says on the readout.

Lightly scramble your ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl. Using a 1/3 Cup measuring cup, spoon your egg mixture into your muffin tin (grease it lightly unless you're using non-stick or silicone). Do what you can to make sure your mix-ins are evenly distributed without making too much of a mess.

You might be wondering why I added water to the recipe. The idea was to keep the eggs moist while baking and to make the texture lighter by also having steam help cook them. I think it worked pretty well.

Bake the muffins in the center of the oven for 20-25 minutes. You'll also be able to see the muffins start pulling away from the edges of the tin, and if you insert a knife it will come out clean or with only a little moisture on it..

Put the muffin tin on a cooling rack for about ten minutes. Remove your muffins and serve. We had them with yogurt as a dessert , but the damn raspberries I bought on Friday went a bit off, so the yogurt was plain. You could also serve these with a side of fruit, or if you're not in a rush, a potato of some kind.

I got some good feedback from Nexx, which is always nice, and I have some for quick breakfast this week before I get on a crosstown bus. I live in the Theatre District, sometimes referred to as Midtown West, and the ride to where I work, which is near the United Nations, is a tad annoying. A full stomach will definitely have me in a better mood.

I plan on trying some variations. Manchego, onions, bacon, and rosemary. Possibly bacon, potato, onions, and cheddar. Right now, I'm staying out of the kitchen because Nexx is threatening to make flan.


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Summer Pot Luck Dish: Quinoa Salad With No Kale Whatsoever

Apologies if I repeat myself, but I'm pretty fond of quinoa. When I first tried it, it was at a Trader Joe's and they were giving samples of it mixed with sun-dried tomatoes, feta, and basil and I loved the nutty tasty and pasta-like texture.

Today's recipe came out of my brain almost fully-formed. I've had characters come to me like then in writing the Bloody Murder Mysteries. Usually recipes take some more concentration to create.

You can make quinoa in a rice cooker, the ratio is the same. One part quinoa to two parts water. I don't have room in my kitchen for a rice cooker, so I make it on the stovetop.

  • 1 Cup quinoa. Measure it over the sink because the stuff can get everywhere if you're not careful.
  • 2 Cups water
  • 2 avocados, chopped. 
  • 1 cup red onion, chopped and rinsed (this keeps it from dominating the salad)
  • 4 green onions, green parts chopped
  • 1 14-ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed. I recommend low-sodium.
  • 1 11-ounce can of corn, drained and rinsed if it's in liquid. I recommend something vacuum-packed
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 Cup of Olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon dried cilantro 
  • 6-8 limes
The quinoa I buy usually cooks for 25 minutes, but follow your package directions. You should see a white outline around the edge to indicate it is done.. Make the quinoa first so it can cool while you finish the chopping.

To mix the dressing:

Thoroughly juice 5 of your limes into the olive oil Add the salt, pepper, and cilantro. Put in a sealed container. I used old glass iced tea bottles. Shake the living hell out of it. Set aside.

When the quinoa is cooled stir in your vegetables. I use a rubber scraper for this. Add your dressing and stir well. Squeeze more limes to taste, and serve with more lime wedges.

This went to a pot luck alongside some tacos and I got some compliments, which I was happy to hear. Even someone who normally doesn't eat quinoa tried some. I was nice and left some at home for Nexx who wasn't feeling well that day.

If you try this, please let me know if you make any variations. I'd love to here them. 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

So There Was Cheese Left Over From the Polenta

The challenge: Use up the tomatoes and the Grana Padano from the polenta before they go bad. The dish must be significantly different, because I avoid being boring at all costs. Sometimes I manage to succeed, so people tell me.

So, I considered and came up with this:

  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil (divided)
  • 1 13-oz can of artichoke hearts in water
  • 6 oz mushrooms (I get whatever it is on sale)
  • 1.5 tomatoes. These fit in my hand, and were slightly smaller than a baseball. If you don't play baseball, figure your average orange. If you don't eat oranges, I'll get back to you.
  • Cheese--Parm will work here. A mix of Parm and Romano would probably be delicious too. I had the leftover Grana Padano (this worked out to about 3/4 of a cup, and could easily be adjusted to more next time I make this)
  • 4 shallots
  • 1 pound of linguine
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Add 1 T of the olive oil in a sauté pan. Mince the shallots into very tiny pieces and add them to the oil. Bring the oil to medium heat and stir frequently until the shallots are brown. I went all the way to crispy, but this isn't necessary if you're short on time.

In between the stirring, drain the artichokes, roughly chop them (I put them in about four pieces each), rinse them and drain. Also pat dry with paper towels.

Don't forget about the shallots, give them a stir. Rinse and chop your mushrooms. Do the same for your tomatoes. Zest the lemon.

When the shallots are done, take them out of the pan and drain on a paper towel. Add the other Tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and then add your chicken breasts. Turn the breasts over every 5 minutes or so, and take the temperature of each breast in its fattest part. Take them out of the pan when the temperature reaches between 160 and 165. The chicken will be starting to get brown at this point. 

Put the chicken on a plate, cover it with foil and start the pasta water. Have a glass of wine. Go wake up your significant other. Kill about five minutes so when you cut the chicken its juice doesn't go all over the place. Trust me. It's a bitch to clean up. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Before you drain, set aside about 1/2 a cup of the pasta water. This will help saucify the dish. Is saucify a word? It is now. I'm suddenly reminded of a very young Laurence Fishburne in Apocalypse Now.

Lemon and Parmesan (and its relatives) sounds counter-intuitive, but it's a really neat combination.

Once the pasta is drained, put it back in the pot and put the heat to low. Add your vegetables, stir well, start gradually adding the cheese. Incorporate pasta water a little at a time (you may not use it all), until the sauce coats your pasta and vegetables. Finally add the chicken, lemon, and pepper. Serve immediately, with more red pepper to taste.

I was really pleased with how this came out, but it definitely needed more shallots. Nexx wanted a lower pasta-to-additions ratio, and I can see his point. I like pasta with additions. He prefers meat and vegetables with pasta.

I'm considering a few variations of this. I'd like to try adding basil. Another thought is bacon or pancetta. I can definitely do more vegetables.

If you try this, let me know!

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 it 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.