Thursday, November 5, 2009

Whiskey Shrimp Risotto

 Whiskey Shrimp Risotto (serves two)
1 cup Arborio rice
3 cups chicken broth + 1 cup water
1/2 lb. clean shrimp, tails removed
1/4 yellow onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 TBSP whiskey
2 TBSP tomato paste
1 TBSP butter
1 TBSP olive oil
2 TBSP fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 TBSP fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 lime
salt and pepper (as you go)

Melt butter and olive oil in a saucepan.  Warm the chicken broth and water mixture on another burner and keep at a simmer.  Saute onion and garlic in butter and olive oil until softened.  Melt in the tomato paste.  Add the rice and saute until the edges of the grains are transparent, about 3-4 minutes.  Add the whiskey (away from the flame if necessary).  Stir the rice and cook until the whiskey is mostly evaporated.  Add the chicken broth 1/2 cup at a time and stir continuously.  Taste as you go, adding salt and pepper as needed.  When the rice is almost done, add the last 1/2 cup of chicken broth, add the shrimp and cover the pan for 4-5 minutes.  Stir in the herbs and lime juice before serving in warm bowls.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Tortilla Soup

There are two schools of tortilla soup:  creamy and brothy.  The creamy version is made like any other soup--saute aromatics (onions and peppers) with spices (cumin, coriander, chile powder), add chicken broth to cook the chicken and tortillas, and finish with cream.  The alternate version of tortilla soup consists of a spicy broth brewed with chiles and roasted garlic; other ingredients are more of an afterthought, added over the top just before serving.
I grew up on the creamy version because if you give a Texan a choice between creamy and brothy, their taste buds will naturally choose the higher calorie version.  But since I discovered the brothy version in the Jamison's Texas Home Cooking , I'm addicted to the smokey heat of the broth mellowed by lime.  Here's my version.

Tortilla Soup (serves two)
For the chicken:
1 chicken breast (with or without bones and skin, either way is fine)
1 bay leaf
5 peppercorns
1 smashed clove of garlic
3 whole cloves of garlic, unpeeled
1-2 TBSP olive oil
For the soup:
4 cups beef broth
3/4 tsp. Mexican oregano
1 canned chipotle pepper, minced and seeds removed if preferred
3/4 cup canned crushed tomatoes
1 medium onion, half chopped, half sliced
1-2 TBSP vegetable oil
A few handfuls of tortilla chips (I used blue corn)
1/2 lime

First, poach the chicken:  Preheat the oven to 350.  Place the chicken breast in a baking dish and add enough water to come up about half-way.  To the water, add the peppercorns, bay leaf, and smashed garlic clove.  Sprinkle the top of the chicken breast with salt generously.  Bake for about 15-20 minutes, until no longer pink in the middle.  Simultaneously, place the 3 garlic cloves in a small dish and drizzle with olive oil.  Bake until soft and golden, about 15 minutes.  Once the chicken has cooled, shred it with two forks, removing the skin and bones if necessary.  Peel and dice the roasted garlic cloves.
In a small soup pot, pour in the beef broth, roasted garlic cloves, tomatoes, oregano, and the chopped onion.  Boil this mixture for 30 minutes uncovered.  While the broth is boiling, preheat the broiler.  Toss the sliced onion in vegetable oil and spread on a sheet pan.  Broil about 15 minutes, until well browned and blackened on edges. Stir the broiled onions and shredded chicken into the broth and heat through.
When ready to serve, place a handful of crushed tortilla chips in the bottom of a bowl.  Ladle over the broth.  Squeeze lime atop. 
Please note that I did not call for salt in this recipe.  In my opinion, the beef broth, tortilla chips, and lime juice provide all the saltiness desired.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tomato and Greens Soup

I finally pulled the last of the tomatoes and fresh basil from my garden tonight.  One of the reasons I love California is because I can say things like that in late October.  With the last of my sungolds and basil, I made this soup.  All I seem to eat these days is greens, soup and pasta.  This soup is all three in one.  Perfect! 

Tomato and Greens Soup (serves two)

2 tbsp. olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 heaping cup of baby tomatoes
2 spring onions, diced (whites and green kept separate)
2 cups water
1 tsp. chicken base (I recommend Penzey's)
2/3 cup small pasta (I used orecchiette)
1 cup frozen spinach, slightly defrosted
Handful of fresh basil
2 tbsp. ground parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat.  Add the baby tomatoes whole, along with the minced garlic, spring onion whites, 1/2 tsp. salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Cover the pot and let the tomatoes burst, which should take about 3-5 minutes.  Once a nice sauce has formed in the bottom of the skillet, add the water and chicken base.  Bring to a simmer, then add the pasta.  Cover the pot and let the pasta cook until done.  Stir in the spinach, torn basil leaves, spring onion greens, and salt and pepper to taste.  Ladle into bowls and top with parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Black Eyed Peas

One of my favorite meals growing up was navy beans cooked in the crock pot with a chopped onion.  My mom would let me pour the whole bag of dried beans out on the counter and pick through it for rocks or broken beans.  A big bowl of these beans with butter-slathered cornbread on the side was delicious. 
Since everyone is talking about budget meals these days, I thought I would share with y’all my favorite way to cook almost every type of bean.  Let’s start with black eyed peas!

Quick Stewed Black Eyed Peas (serves two)
2 TBSP. cooking oil (anything but olive)
½ medium purple onion, diced
1 small stalk of celery, diced
1 small jalapeno, finely diced (or several dashes of Tabasco)
1 small green bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can of black eyed peas (not drained)
1 tsp. Worcestershire
Lawry's seasoning salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Saute vegetables and garlic in oil until pepper begins to brown in spots.  Stir in the can of black eyed peas and Worcestershire sauce.  Simmer to heat through, then taste and add seasoning salt and pepper to taste.  Serve over hot white rice or with butter-slathered cornbread.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Eggplant Bean Dip

I reckon the whole country has heard about all the rain California has received lately.  On the big day, I came home to a furnace billowing smoke and a flooded basement.  Fire and water in one disaster?—how did I get to be so lucky?  But my concern was not so much about the mess…I was more focused on dinner.  (I should say here that my house is only a rental.)  My goal for the night was to try to convince the electric company to not turn off my gas so I could still cook dinner.  Most people would be trying to salvage the items in their basement, but not me.  In preparation for the storm, my coworkers and I tried to pick the last of the summer produce from the company farm.  I had 3 enormous eggplants in my bag and I had to use them! 

I’m not really an eggplant fan; I usually make eggplant parmesan once a year and then wait around for next summer’s crop to make it again.  Having an annual eggplant consumption of 1 medium fruit suits me fine.  But then I saw an eggplant dip in Fine Cooking last summer and decided to make it.  Ever since, I’ve been a bigger fan.  This tastes more like a lemon-y herb hummus than a veggie dip.  This is my simplified version of the Fine Cooking recipe.  I think this could be made into a pasta sauce by roasting red onion with the eggplant and adding lemon zest to the puree.  

Eggplant Dip
3 medium to large eggplants (I love Rosa Biancas or use 3 pounds baby eggplants)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic
3 tsp. anchovy paste
1 14oz. can garbanzo beans (drained and rinsed)
Juice of 1 lemon
6 sprigs of fresh marjoram (or more)
¼ cup fresh mint

Preheat broiler.  Slice the eggplants in half and score them with a knife (do not cut through the skin).  Toss them in a generous amount of olive oil and sprinkle flesh with salt and pepper.  Place flesh side down on a large rimmed baking sheet.  Broil the eggplants 20-30 minutes, or until the skin is charred and wrinkled.  Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
Meanwhile, in a large food processor, blend 1 tsp. salt, garlic, anchovy paste, garbanzo beans, lemon juice, and 1/4 cup of olive oil.  Once eggplant is cool enough to handle, scrape out the pulp and add it to the food processor along with the herbs.  Discard the skin.  Puree the mixture.  Taste and add salt, citrus juice or more herbs to your liking. 

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Bitter Greens + Olives = Loveliness

In the summer issue of Fine Cooking (the best food magazine out there), I found a recipe for a bulgur salad with swiss chard and green olives.  I now make it for lunch weekly with whatever dark greens I have on hand.  I am infatuated with the combination of dark greens and salty olives. I created this pasta dish to replace my usual 'aglio e olio' (garlic and oil) pasta dinner.

Pasta with Spicy Collards ( serves one )
3/4 cup frozen collard greens (slightly thawed if possible)
2 TBSP olive oil
4 fat garlic cloves, sliced
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (or more)
2 spring onions sliced (green and white parts kept separate)
3 TBSP. ground parmesan cheese
1 cup favorite chunky pasta (I used rigatoni)
3 green olives, finely diced
2 TBSP fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2-3 TBSP ricotta (optional)

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta.  Once the pasta goes into the boiling water, start the sauce.  In a heavy-bottomed skillet, saute the garlic, red pepper flakes, and white parts of the spring onions in the olive oil for 3-4 minutes, being careful not to burn or brown the garlic too much.  Add the collard greens and 1/4 tsp. salt when the pasta is nearing al dente.  Before draining the pasta, reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta water.  Add the cooked pasta to the skillet with the collards and stir in half of the pasta water.  Sprinkle in the parmesan cheese, green olives, spring onion green tops, and parsley.  Add additional pasta water as needed.  Grind plenty of black pepper on top, and then taste to see if salt is needed.  If desired, stir in a few tablespoons of ricotta cheese.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I absolutely love soups. I can eat soup even when it's too hot outside for such fare. The only thing I don't love about soup is the recipes that usually make enough to feed a small army. As much as I love a good escarole and white bean soup, or even a good turkey chili, after 6 bowls of the stuff in 6 days I've fallen out of love.
This chunky lentil soup with root vegetables is perfect for these autumn nights. I love this soup because it cooks in about 30 minutes. Please trust me on the soup toppings because...because, well, lentils can be a bit boring. I like a sprinkling of red wine vinegar with a drizzle of roasted walnut oil or a squirt of dijon mustard with freshly ground black pepper. Either topping requires chopped fresh parsley. These toppings add an element of salt, so if you skip them, you will find your soup requires more salt.

Chunky Lentil Soup with Root Vegetables (serves two)

3/4 cup French green lentils (du Puy)
2 TBSP olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, small diced
1 large carrot, peeled, quartered and diced
1 small purple-topped turnip, peeled and diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. chicken base (I like Penzey's for it's low salt content)
2 cups water
1/2 tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
walnut oil
Dijon mustard
red wine vinegar
fresh lemon juice
handful flat leaf parsley, chopped

Place lentils in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let rest on the counter 10-15 minutes while you prepare vegetables.
In a heavy-bottomed soup pot, saute onion, carrot, and turnip in olive oil over medium heat. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper and cover with lid. Let saute for about 5 minutes, lifting the lid frequently to stir. Just as the carrots and onions are beginning to brown, add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the bay leaf and dried thyme. Pour over 2 cups of water and plop in the chicken base. Drain and add lentils. Let soup come to a simmer, then lower heat and let simmer while covered for 30 minutes, or until lentils are done.
Ladle soup into bowls and serve with desired toppings.