Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pan Seared Scallops in a Red Pepper Cream Sauce

The pepper sauce that makes the bed for these scallops combines red bell peppers with hot peppers to get the desired spiciness of the sauce. I was in the mood for a little heat so I used more hot than mild peppers. It's important to adjust to your personal preferences. Using all red bell peppers for this recipe will result in a sweet pepper sauce.

Seared scallops are one of our favorite seafood dishes, it seems obvious to say, if they are cooked right. It's my opinion, the best way to enjoy scallops is if they have crispy seared sides that highlight the creamy tenderness of the scallop. To achieve a nice sear it is essential to use very little oil and to cook the scallops quickly using a hot skillet.

Pan Seared Scallops in a Spicy Red Pepper Cream
serves 2

Red Pepper Cream Sauce
2 cups of roughly chopped peppers (a combination of red bell peppers and spicy peppers depending on your desired level of heat)
1/2 cup white wine
2 tbsp heavy cream
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp honey
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Pan Seared Scallops
6-8 large sea scallops
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground chili powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp olive oil

Add all the ingredients for the sauce into a blender. Puree until smooth. Transfer to a saucepan to simmer for 5 minutes.

Place all the seasoning ingredients for the scallops in a small bowl. Mix to combine with a fork. Pat each scallop dry with a paper towel and then press each side of each scallop into the seasoning bowl.

In a large skillet hot on high heat. Add the 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil. Move the pan around to even coat with the oil. Reduce the heat to medium high. Place the seasoned scallops in the hot skillet. After 3 minutes turn the scallops. Continue cooking for 1-2 minutes depending on the thickness of the scallops.

Spoon about 1/2 cup of sauce on each plate and top with the scallops. Garnish with pepper slivers.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Curried Cauliflower and Butternut Squash

Recently, I had some friends over for dinner, one of which is a vegetarian. As you probably have noticed by reading this blog, I love meat. The challenge: create a vegetarian meal that is enjoyable and satisfying to all, even the meat lovers.

I made palak paneer which is a favorite comfort food in my house but I wanted to offer a few sides for a little variety. I ended up making this roast cauliflower and squash dish along with a salad and the palak paneer. My friend Anna tasted this dish and immediately exclaimed, 'This cauliflower is delicious!' I love Anna's enthusiasm!

It was good and definitely a 'make again' dish.

Curried Cauliflower and Butternut Squash
1 head of cauliflower
1 butternut squash
2 tablespoons madras curry powder
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp of olive oil
1 tbsp of honey

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Place a sheet of aluminum foil on a sheet pan.

Peel the butternut squash with a vegetable peeler. Butternut squash can be a tough nut to crack. The skin is tough but very easy to peel if you have a sharp blade on your peeler. If you have any trouble you may be trying to use a peeler that's been in your utensil drawer for ten years and it may be just plain dull. If this is the case, go out and get yourself a new peeler. If you love butternut squash as much as I do you'll definitely want a peeler that can handle the job. I love finger food so one of my go to sides is Butternut Squash Fries.

Once you have the squash peeled, cut it into 3/4 inch cubes. Place the cubes on the alumnium foiled sheet pan

Cut the head of cauliflower into bite size pieces. Toss the cauliflower with the cubes of butternut squash.

In a bowl, whisk the remaining ingredients together. Drizzle the mixture over the squash and cauliflower.

With your hands, toss the squash and cauliflower to evenly distribute the spice mixture. This won't be entirely possible because of the crevices in the cauliflower. The spices will distribute even more while cooking.

Place in the oven at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes. Flip once during cooking. Starting at about 25 minutes, check for doneness by pricking the cauliflower and squash with a fork. Cooking times may vary depending on your oven. Both the squash and cauliflower should be tender when pricked.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Simple Locally Grown Roast Chicken - Comfort Food!

At the Farmer's Market this week, I picked up a whole chicken from a local farm, King Family Farm. Roast chicken is normally a staple in our house but I realized I haven't roasted a chicken in quite a while. I was craving not only the tenderness and wonderful flavor of roast chicken but also the smell that emanates from the oven as it's cooking.

I marinated the chicken 24 hours prior to cooking. I firmly believe that marinating meat far enough in advance (12-24 hours) is essential in maximizing the moistness of whatever meat I'm cooking along with imparting the flavor of the meat with whichever seasoning I've chosen. Many of you may say, 'that is so much work!' but really I'm really wondering if it makes cooking easier. When I went to roast this chicken I simply took it out of the bag that I had been marinating it in, placed it on a baking dish and roasted it. This made it super easy to get it started roasting as soon as I got home from work.

Simple Locally Grown Roast Chicken

3 pound locally grown, whole chicken

1 1/2 tbsp coarse kosher salt
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp dried rosemary
1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp paprika
1/2 beer

Marinade the chicken prior to cooking, preferably 24 hours. To marinade, place the chicken in a gallon sized ziplock bag. Add all the marinade in the bag and shake to thoroughly coat the chicken. Place the bag on a plate and store in the refrigerator.

When ready to roast the chicken, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove the chicken from the bag and place in a baking dish. Allow the chicken to rest on the counter for about 30 minutes to take the chill of the meat. This will aid in a faster, more even cooking of the bird.

Bake for about 1hour and 20 minutes in a 375 degree oven. When the bird is fully cooked you should be able to stick a fork where the leg joint is and the juices will run clear. Prior to cutting and serving, remove the chicken from the oven, cover with tin foil and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes. This will allow the juices to redistribute ensuring the chicken remains moist.

I love the chicken wing on a roast chicken. Too Yummy!


Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Highest Compliment

What an amazing experience.

Friday night I attended the 'Roger Waters-The Wall, Live' concert in Columbus. I was sitting in front of two gentleman that, prior to the concert, were giving the couple sitting next to me advice on where to eat. Honestly, there aren't a lot of places in Columbus that impress me but one restaurant, Big Fat Greek on Fishinger, is amazing. Of course it was difficult to just sit there and not offer my opinion. I tried to restrain myself.

During a break in the concert, they began the discussion again. I interjected with my suggestion of Big Fat Greek. One of the guys looks at me quizzically. I told him that it was on the corner of Fishinger and Route 33, next to Ursus Artspace. I then told him that I sell my handmade pottery in Ursus and kind of just stumbled onto the restaurant. (It looks like a fast food joint from the outside but once you enter, you'll realize it is so much more.

Anyways, without me saying anything more other than the fact that I sell my pottery there, he says, 'I bet I have a few of your pieces.' and he starts describing the glazes.

I pull up my website for Cracked Thumb Pottery and he exclaims, 'Yes, I have 4 of your pieces!'

Hello! This is a small world. What a compliment to run into somebody at a packed concert who admires my pottery. Wow!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Make a Good Decision.

I feel like it's time to get my soapbox out. I'll say up front, I am not perfect. I make a lot of mistakes. I have a lot to learn. We all need to work on becoming more aware and making better decisions.

Do you remember the post on Snowville Creamery milk?

Today I was in the grocery store and watched as a woman was choosing Horizon milk when that brand sat right next to locally processed Snowville Creamery milk. Just because a milk is labelled organic does not mean it is the best milk. Snowville Creamery milk is minimally processed at the lowest temperatures possible. A lot of organic milk is processed at the same high temperatures that non organic milk is processed. This results in a significant loss in the nutritional and flavor values of the milk. Snowville Creamery creates a milk that does have a shorter shelf life but a ton more health benefits. Forget the nutritional difference, the flavor factor is the best benefit. Pour yourself a glass today and find out for yourself!

Read my previous post to find out more about the nutritional benefits.

Check out the Snowville Creamery's website to find out if a store near you carries this wonderful milk!

Obtaining Locally Grown Meat

The book by Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Food Life, had a tremendous impact in the way I look and think about food. In this book Barbara discusses the way her family strictly limited the foods they consumed to those produced locally, with few exceptions. After reading the book, I realised that I needed to make more of an effort to move away from the mass produced products that flood our grocery stores.

In my concerted effort to consume more locally grown and raised food, I wanted to identify local farmers as a source for meat products such as pork. I was able to find a few such farmers that were raising animals in a humane environment on sustainable farms a little way from our house. We purchased a pig from a farmer 20 minutes away and a lamb from a farmer less than 5 minutes away.

One thing we have learned from the years of processing venison is that it is always preferable for us to process the meat ourselves to as much of an extent as possible, without relying on a processing facility. There are a lot of reasons for this preference: you ensure the animal is indeed the animal you purchased from the farmer, there is more control in the cuts of meat that you end up with, and you can take steps to eliminate waste.

A few weekends ago we processed the pig. For this pig we asked the processing facility to simply half and quarter the pig, leaving us to cut the pig into the various cuts.

Next time, I think we will make every effort to take it from the farmer and process the meat all ourselves. Farmer's in our area often have issues with the local processing facilities. They either don't process the animal in the cuts requested or they grind a vast majority of the meat.

Don't get me wrong, ground meat is convenient and delicious in dishes but I'd prefer to have it the freshest I can get by grinding it myself, when I need it. Also, I want to maximize the amount of large cuts of meat, which I can grind later if needed. There will always be some scraps of meat during the butchering process. However, It was surprising too see how few scraps we had to grind compared to what we would have had if we had a processing facility process the entire animal.

After butchering the pig, I took the scraps and ground them and separated the meat into one pound portions to put in the freezer for future use. I only had four, 1-pound packages of ground meat. I guarentee you if we would of had our local processing facility process the meat we would of had at least 50 pounds of ground meat. Processing yourself is hard work but I think it's easy to see the benefits.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Tomato Jelly and the Athens Farmer's Market

In Athens, Ohio we are extremely fortunate to have a wonderful farmer's market. In 2006, Audobon Magazine, ranked the Athen's Farmer's Market as one of the top 10 finest in the country. Living here in Athens, it is easy to see why the market has received such high accolades.

Strolling through the market, under a clear blue sky, with the sun shining down on a Saturday morning is mood altering. Too see the numerous vendors presenting beautiful, healthy products, and fresh, locally grown produce is purely inspiring. Inspiring from the sense of both finding ways to incorporate such beautiful ingredients in healthy meals but also to make more of an effort to grow more food on my own property.

Last Saturday, I came across Lynda who was selling really unique jams and jellies. In particular, this tomato jelly, peeked my interest. I'm not sure if it was the brilliant red of the jelly or the beautiful packaging. The farmer that made the jelly told me people have said it reminds them of strawberry jelly. One customer in particular told her that he likes to spread it on his hamburger bun.

I'm looking forward to finding ways to use this, whether it's on crackers with goat cheese or spreading it on a chicken breast and then baking it.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cuban Panini with Pork Au Jus Sauce

Have you ever had a Cuban Panini? If not, I would highly recommend that you make an effort to get one on your plate soon. Cuban sandwiches or panini's are made with a combination of roast pork, grainy mustard, pickles and cheese.

The Rosemary and Garlic Infused Ham Roast was a perfect roast to use in one of my favorite sandwiches, the Cuban Panini. I reserved the juice from the bottom of the pan as a little extra treat, Au jus sauce for dipping the sandwich into. I don't think my husband could get enough of this flavorful sauce.

Cuban Panini with Pork Au Jus Sauce
Loaf of focaccia bread
grainy mustard
slices of Rosemary and Garlic Infused Ham Roastthin slices of dill pickles
swiss cheese
olive oil for brushing on the focaccia loaf

I'm not providing quantities here for the list of ingredients because that is entirely dependent on the size of your focaccia loaf. This is a really simple sandwich to put together. Cut the focaccia loaf in half horizontally. Slather the inside of one half with mayonnaise and slather the inside of the other half with a grainy mustard. On the bottom half begin layering ingredients starting with slices of the ham roast, pickles, then another layer of cheese. Place the top of the loaf on top. Lightly brush both sides of the loaf with olive oil.

Place the sandwich in a panini grill on medium heat and grill for about 5-7 minutes until the sandwich is warmed through, the cheese is melted and you have beautiful grill marks on both sides.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Spicy Garlicky Popcorn

In an effort to lighten up I love making popcorn for dinner. This is especially nice on a day when lunch was particularly heavy. Such a day presented itself a few days ago. I was looking for a way to make the popcorn a little special compared to the standard microwave popcorn that is super easy.

I air popped the popcorn and then made a yummy garlicky spicy butter. Very satisfying.

Spicy Garlicky Popcorn
Air pop 1 cup of popcorn kernels

3 tbsp butter
1 clove of garlic minced
1/4 tsp finely crushed red pepper flakes
salt to taste (about 1 tbsp)

In a small sauce pan slowly melt the butter on simmer. Once the butter is melted add in the garlic, red pepper, and 1 tsp salt. Simmer on very low to infuse the butter with the garlic for about 2 minutes. Drizzle the garlic butter over the popped popcorn. Toss the popcorn with your hands or utensils to evenly distribute the butter.

Rosemary and Garlic Infused Ham Roast

When cooking with pork I prefer pork butts (the cut from the front shoulder) because the fat content provides for a flavorful, moist piece of meat. The last time I cooked a piece of ham roast I ruined it. I didn't realize that it requires a much different cooking technique compared to the pork butt that I am much more familiar with.

The ham roast does not have as much fat marbling as a pork butt roast which in turn makes it a much drier piece of meat. This requires cooking the roast at a higher temperature for a much shorter period of time. I will say, this time I perfected the roasting of a ham roast. This roast was extremely flavourful and moist. It was cooked right to the point when the very center is still a little pink, ensuring in was not dried out.

Rosemary and Garlic Infused Ham Roast

2 1/2 pound ham roast

3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbsp dried rosemary
2 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper

1 beer (don't use a light beer folks!)

Marinade the roast 12-48 hours in advance. If you marinate on the longer side of this time frame, the roast will likely be a much moister piece of meat because the salt addition will serve to help brine the meat. Cut each garlic clove into 3 pieces. With a sharp knife, create slots within the roast and insert a piece of garlic. Place the roast in a gallon size baggie. Add the remaining ingredients. Close the bag, shake it and massage the roast with the seasoning to make sure it is evenly coated. Refrigerate.

When ready to begin roasting the ham roast, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a stoneware baking dish, place the ham roast. Add enough of the marinade to ensure that the roast is sufficiently lubricated. Pour about 1/2 of the beer over the roast to ensure it has enough moisture during cooking. Roast for about 50 minutes until it reaches about 155 degrees in center. When you remove the roast, cover tightly with aluminum foil. This will allow the roast to continue cooking with carryover cooking and the temperature of the roast will actually increase about 5 degrees. Allow to rest for at least 10 minutes. Slice and enjoy next to your favorite sides or on your favorite sandwich.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Chocolate Cake with Blackberry Butter Cream Frosting

Back to the Green Goddess get together this weekend at my sister's house. She served us this beautiful Chocolate Cake with Blackberry Buttercream Frosting on Saturday night. My sister baked and cooked for at least two days in advance of our visit. She's recorded the menu on her blog, 'Season to Taste'.

She served this cake along with an a gluten free Almond Lemon Yogurt Cake topped with an Almond Cream Cheese Frosting that was positively too die for yummy. Too see the entire menu of the weekend, see the 'Goddesses Are Coming' menu.

Baked Ham and Egg Cups

Last weekend I visited my sister for an annual 'Green Goddess' weekend. A few years back, my sister and her friends started the 'Green Goddess' weekends in a way to keep connected with friends and enjoy each others company while indulging their culinary obsessions. Basically, this means this weekednwe had a lot of great conversation while eating great food and sipping on great wine.

My sister spent a lot of time and energy to make sure we were all fed really well. One morning she made us these wonderfully tasty eggs and ham cups. You can see the recipe she used on her blog, Season to Taste.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Calzone: Grilled versus Baked?

Grilled pizza can often have a lot more flavor and texture than oven cooked pizza. One of the secrets to good pizza is cooking at a very high temperature which sometimes can be difficult in a regular oven. Recently I made grilled burritos for a football tailgating party. (I'll have to share this recipe later.). The burritos were a huge hit and it got me thinking why not try grilled calzones.

I was curious whether or not the calzones could be cooked long enough on the grill to make the filling hot and bubbly without burning the dough. Or would the dough be cooked on the outside with the inside luke warm and the dough not all the way cooked leaving a doughy texture?

I was a little timid, and hungry, so I made an oven baked calzone and a grilled calzone. This way if the grilled version didn't turn out I wouldn't be left trying to figure out an alternative for dinner. Also, I was able to taste test to see which method created the most flavorful calzone.

The verdict - both were delicious but the little bit of char on the grilled calzone really added a whole other level of flavor and smokiness.

Calzone: Grilled versus Baked?

Use the same recipe for dough that I used in my 'Friday Night Pizza' post. Divide the dough into 4 balls.

Toppings (This is personal preference so use whatever you like.)

6 grilled hot italian sausages
1 1/3 cups of marinara sauce
2 cups grated provolone
1/2 cup grated parmesean

Roll out each ball of dough. Sprinkle some provolone cheese on each of the rolled out dough. Placing the cheese on the dough before the sauce will act as an extra layer of protection from keeping the calzone from getting soggy. Next, spoon about 1/3 cup of marinara sauce over each being careful to spread it out evenly. Slice the sausages and place evenly over the marinara sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining provolone and parmesean cheese.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Beans to warm your soul...

Dried beans have always intimidated me. I've just never been successful with them. Even after soaking overnight they always seemed to be 'crunchy' and they would take forever to cook. But, in my heightened awareness of the local food movement along with the knowledge of how much our energy and environment is impacted when we rely on the mass production and distribution of foods, I've decided to make more of an effort.

It's so easy to get home from work and pop open a jar of beans, heat on the stove and serve. In the back of my head I also recognized if I could figure out how to use dried beans they would probably taste better when compared to beans from the can. I control the sodium level. Most canned beans are preserved in a briny, solution that is often just plain slimy. Even after rinsing they still have some of that briny flavor.

Now, I'm not trying to even attempt to claim that I'm not going to use canned beans anymore. I love beans and sometimes the convenience of the can will win over. I will, however, make an effort to use more dried legumes in favor of the canned version.

This recipe was born because I had a few ham hocks from a local farmer. The ham hocks were relatively small and not very meaty so I did add a few slices of bacon at the end just to up the porky happiness. If the ham hocks you find are meaty, I would not add the bacon (or you can if you want!) The final dish is a tasty, creamy, comfort food.

Stewed Cannellini Beans with Ham Hocks and Bacon

1 pound dried cannellini beans
1 pound ham hocks (get meaty ones if you can)
4 cups chicken stock
1 tbsp kosher salt
1/2 cup of chopped Italian leaf parsley
bacon crumbles from 3 slices of crispy bacon (optional)

Soak the beans overnight in enough water so that the beans will be covered once the beans double in size.

Simmer the ham hocks in 2 cups of chicken broth in a lidded stockpot for about an hour.

Drain the soaked beans and add them to the simmering ham hocks. Add the remaining chicken stock and salt. Simmer with the lid on for about an hour, stirring occassionly. When I made these I wasn't concerned with maintaining the purity of the shape of the bean so I kind of smashed them with the back of my wooden spoon each time I went in to stir. Smashing increases the creaminess of the final bean dish. Simmer the beans for about another hour. Once the beans have been simmering for about 1/2 hour, remove the ham hocks. Try to get as much meat off the ham hocks, chop the meat, and return the chopped meat to the bean pot.

The night we enjoyed them, I served the beans atop a bed of wilted swiss chard with some beautiful smoked pork left over from the weekend. Yes, I do like pork.. :)

Don't be afraid to make extra beans. This is one leftover that never goes to waste in our house. I love having a little bit of these for breakfast. Nothing more comforting than getting a little warm comfort food in your belly first thing in the morning. Also, it does a good job of carrying me through the morning until lunch.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Fried Cauliflower with a Indian Style Curry Tempura

I can't remember where I saw a recipe similar to this but I think it was from a Jamie Oliver show. Normally, I'm not a fan of tempura's because I think they seem 'bready'. The insiration for this dish used turmeric to season the tempura. I loved the idea of seasoning the tempura. Why stop with turmeric? Tumeric has a very mild flavor. I decided to try it with more indian flavors to make more of a curried flavor. I ultimately settled on turmeric, garam masala, and a touch of paprika. I think hot madras curry is what I will try next.

Fried Cauliflower with a Indian Style Curry Tempura
1 head of cauliflower

Tempura Batter
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups of beer
1 1/2 tsp tumeric
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp paprika

Cut the cauliflower florets into bite size pieces.

Whisk the ingredients of the tempura batter together. The batter should be not be too thick but not so runny that it doesn't adhere to the cauliflower. Test by dipping a piece into the batter to see if enough batter clings to it. If it's too runny or too thick, adjust by adding more flour or beer.

Heat frying oil in a heavy stockpot until it reaches approximately 350 degrees. Test that the oil is hot enough by dipping a piece of cauliflower in. If it doesn't bubble it isn't hot enough. Once the oil is hot enough use a chinese spider strainer to dip the cauliflower into the batter and then place the battered pieces into the fry oil. Fry in small batches for about 1 1/2 - 2 minutes per batch. Remove the fried cauliflower and allow to rest on a paper towel covered plate to remove extra oil. Sprinkle with salt.

This is perfect served with a sambal aoili. Mix 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise with 1 1/2 tsp of sambal hot sauce.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Jazzed-Up Butternut Squash Pie

The butternut squash plants were super prolific this year. It's perfect because this winter squash can store for 3-4 months easily. Plus the squash is so versatile. Some of my favorites (besides this delicious dessert) are oven baked B-nut squash fries, butternut squash ricotta ravioli in a browned butter sage sauce, butternut squash gnocchi, thyme butternut squash bread, or B-nut squash and potato au gratin. There are so many other ways you can use the squash to create delicious dishes. I intend to use my stash to create lots of exciting meals.

What's your favorite way to use the Butternut Squash?

This recipe is fun because I've added a surprise ingredient that just seemed to go well with the squash - Smoked Paprika.

Jazzed-Up Butternut Squash Pie

Pie Filling
1 large butternut squash - cooked
1 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 inch cube of fresh ginger, skin removed and minced
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp melted butter
1 tsp vanilla

Pie dough
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsp ice cold water

The dough needs to rest in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes so I made the dough first. In a food processor, pulse the butter, salt and flour together until the flour and butter are combined into pea sized crumbles. Pulse in the water a tablespoon at a time being careful not to overwork. The texture of the dough should be slightly crumbling. Pull together into a ball and wrap with saran wrap. Place in the refrigerator and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes. This could be made a day in advance.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a blender, add the evaporated milk, eggs, and butternut squash. Puree. Add the remaining ingredient.

When the dough has rested enough, roll it out and place in a pie plate. If you have extra dough, wrap tightly in a freezer bag and use later.

Pour the filling into the pie dough covered pie plate. Bake for 50-55 minutes until the center is not

This tasted great warm out of the oven but it was a little soft. Once you chill the pie it will hold its shape a little better. I'd suggest eat a piece warm and then eat another piece the next day cold to see which way you like it best!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Mongolian Beef

This was the first year I've been successful at growing green onions. They are beautiful so I was inspired to make a favorite, Mongolian Beef.

Mongolian Beef is by far one of The Hub and I's favorite Chinese dishes. One of the Chinese restaurants in town makes an absolutely spectacular version of this simple dish. This restaurant makes it so much more flavorful than a lot of the other Chinese restaurants that we've had because the meat has a slight char flavor from the caramelization of the meat versus an almost steamed texture that I've gotten from other restaurants.

This is one of the first Chinese dishes that I've worked at perfecting. Making this type of dish in the home kitchen can be problematic because most home stoves can not create the high level of BTU's that are used in commercial kitchens. To compensate I first sear the meat on a screaming hot grill. During this flash grilling the intent is not to cook the meat but to caramelize and sear the surface. The other key is to cook the ingredients in batches while wokking. Crowding the wok will cause the meat to steam instead of caramelize.

Marinade: 2 tbsp olive oil + 2 tbsp of soy sauce

1 1/4 pound of chuck roast
2 medium onion cut into slivers
1 large bunch of green onions - sliced
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp chiu chow oil (I use Lee Kum Kee brand)
1 tbsp soy sauce
4 cups of steamed rice

Cut the chuck roast into thick 1 1/2 inch strips. Cutting the roast into strips will create more surface area than the roast kept whole. Marinade the chuck roast for about 30 minutes in the olive oil and soy sauce.

Get your grill screaming hot and sear the strips of beef on each side for about 1 minute per side. Remove and allow to cool for 5 minutes on a plate. Allowing the beef to rest before cutting will allow the meat's juices to redistribute and will eliminate the juices from draining out of the meat.

Slice the strips into small pieces. The beef should be very pink in the middle still.

To a hot wok, add 1/2 tbsp of the chiu chow oil along with 1/2 tbsp of the canola oil. Stir fry the grilled meat pieces in batches for about 3 minutes per batch. Add 1/2 tbsp chiu chow oil and 1/2 tbsp canola oil to each batch. For this amount of meat I will typically stir fry the meat in 3 batches. When each batch has been stir fried for about 3 minutes, remove to a plate.

Once all the meat has been stir fried and removed to a plate, add the crushed red peppers and 1/2 tbsp chiu chow oil to the empty wok. Toss in the onions.

Stir fry for about 5 minutes until the onions are caramelized. Toss in the already stir fried beef and the green onions. Stir fry for another 2 minutes or until the beef is heated through.

Serve with hot steamed rice.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Pickled Beets - Summertime Pleasure!

Pickled Beets are amazing. Last year I became obsessed with beets. It's sad that I let so much time go without beets in my life. I say that because my mom used to make beets but until last year I haven't had them since childhood. That is time wasted.

But, no worries. I am making up for lost time.

Pickled beets have the most amazing texture - smooth and firm. It's hard to believe they're not candy. We've already canned a big batch of beets this year and I made sure to include a lot of onions. The Hub and I were always fighting over the onions in the batch from last year so I had to make sure we had a bunch. Plopping a few hard boiled eggs into each jar won't hurt either - until you've eaten the 2 eggs and there's none left. ;)

If you forgot to grow beets this year, don't fret. Run over to your local farmer's market (or grocery store if you're really desperate) and buy some.

15-20 medium sized beets
1 pound of onions
3 1/2 cups of white vinegar
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups of beet water (cooking liquid)
1 tbsp kosher salt
a dozen hard boiled eggs

Prep your beets. Cut the stems off about 1 inch from the top. Trim the root off. The reason why you want to cut the stem an inch from the top is to ensure the glorious beet color doesn't leach out during cooking. Place the beets in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a simmer and simmer for about an hour.

Once tender when pricked with a fork remove from heat by using a slotted spoon to pull the beets out of the hot water. Save 1 1/2 cups of the beet cooking liquid Let cool until they are cool enough that you can handle them. Now cut off the top and peel the skin. Slice the beets into about 1/4 inch thick slices.

Slice the onions.

Prepare your lids and jars (about 6). Do this by running them through a scalding hot water bath.

Bring a large canning pot filled with water to a boil.

In a separate pot bring the beet cooking liquid, vinegar, sugar, and salt to a boil.

Carefully pack the jars by layering the onions and beets. Be careful not to touch the edge of the jar. Fill to about 3/4 inch from the top. This can be accomplished most easily with a canning funnel.

Pour the liquid over the tops, covering the beets completely until the liquid comes to about 1/2 inch from the top. Cover with the sealing lid and screw on the top. Carefully lift the jars with canning tongs into the boiling water and boil for about 5 minutes. Remove and let sit on a towel covered area on your counter. Allow to sit until the seal is made. You can tell the jar has a seal when the center of the lid is impressed and not 'clickable'.

Serve as a wonderful snack, breakfast treat or as part of your antipasta tray during your next football party.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Beet Green Lasagna with a Bechemal Sauce

We recently made a batch of pickled beets. I was really surprised at our harvest this year as last year was a little disappointing. Well, when you harvest beets, we're also harvesting beet greens. Nobody in our house is too disappointed with that since it's one of The Hub's favs.

To give you an idea of exactly how many beet greens we had to use up, the greens filled 4 (FOUR!!!) plastic grocery bags that were packed. I'm pretty proud of myself because none went to waste. This recipe was one of my more creative uses since mostly we just wilted the greens as I did in this recipe and ate them plain.

For a little more decadence and elegance I highly recommend trying this instead of wilted greens alone.

Beet Green Lasagna with a Bechemal Sauce

10 ounces of lasagna noodles
2 pounds of beet greens
1 tbsp olive oil
3 anchovies
1/2 tsp crushed red peppers
8 ounces Gruyere cheese
4 ounces provolone cheese
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
1 1/2 cup of chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cook lasagna noodles in a pot of salty water for 4 minutes. Remove and let cool.

Cut the greens in batches to create ribbons of beet greens. Heat a skillet on medium heat. Add the crushed red peppers and the anchovies mixing with a wooden spoon until the anchovies have dissolved into the oil. Add the greens in batches depending on how much the pan can hold until all the greens are wilted. Remove from the heat.

Make the bechamel sauce. Melt the butter in a saute pan and slowly stir in the flour. Allow the butter and flour mixture to gently cook for about a minute. Slowly stir in the cream and stock until the sauce is slightly thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Create an assembly line with the ingredients - cheese, lasagna noodles, beet greens and bechamel sauce.

In a baking dish begin assembling the lasagna. To avoid sticking on the bottom start with a spoon full of bechamel sauce spread over the baking sheet. Next layer the noodles to cover the bottom of the pan. With your fingers, spread 1/3 of the beet greens evenly over the lasagna noodles. Sprinkle 1/4 of the cheese over the beet greens and then spoon more bechamel sauce over the cheese. Continue layering the lasagna, beet greens, cheese and bechamel for 2 more layers. The lasagna should be topped with a layer of noodles, bechamel and cheese.

Cook at 375 degrees until bubbly and golden, about 25 minutes. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes to allow to set.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Flatbread with Anchovies and Basil

Looking for that quick and easy dinner idea that is full of flavor but EASY?

Well, I came up with this little treat one evening when I wasn’t in the mood to cook. We had recently gotten home from vacation, the garden needed weeding, the carpet (which was really dog hair) needed removed and in general life was really overwhelming trying to keep up. I did eventually get caught up on getting my life back under control. (Theoretically. ;) Even though this recipe was an afterthought, I’d definitely make it again.

The recipe here calls for Greek style pitas which are thicker and softer than the pocket style pitas. They are great for pita wraps and pizzas. Very tasty indeed!

Flatbread with Anchovies and Basil
4 Greek style pitas
1 large handful of fresh basil leaves - chopped
1 can of anchovies
2 cups provolone cheese
1 tbsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with tin foil to make cleaning super easy. Brush each side of each pita with the olive oil. Bake for 4-5 minutes until the bottom is slightly crispy.

Flip the pitas and top the crispy side with the chopped basil leaves. Top with the cheese and divide the anchovies among the four pitas. Bake for another 5-7 minutes until the cheese is warm and bubbly.

Place each pita on a cutting board and cut into eights. Serve with a light salad topped with a simple vinaigrette for a more rounded meal.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Refreshing Icy Basil Tonic

Next time you're encountered with a sweltering hot summer day and you need a little pick me up try this icy cold beverage. Sipping on this drink will make you forget about the heat and will put some extra bounce in your step.

3 cups ice
2 shots of gin
4 large leaves of basil
1/2 cup of pineapple juice
1 1/2 cup of diet tonic

Throw it all in a blender. Blend until the ice cubes are completely ground. Pour into a tall glass and top with a little basil top.

Close your eyes. Sip, slowly....

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Fennel and Beet Salad with Queso Fresco and Snapped Peas

I am having the most delectable harvest of beets this year. It is hard to describe how pleased I am. It seems like I won the lottery because I have lots of beets AND beet greens. Both are soooo amazingly yummy. In an effort to please the husband I roasted beets for a salad. The Hub is used to me coveting the beets for my batches of pickled beets (which are also amazing – especially canned up and saved for a fall football game snack!) so he rarely gets beets simply roasted without being pickled

This recipe was inspired by a recipe in the A16 cookbook. I embellished quite a bit with other ingredients I had on hand. Not only was this a beautiful dish but it tasted great the evening I made it for my folks and it was excellent as leftovers. (I’m not a fan of leftovers so that’s saying a lot.)
Fennel and Beet Salad with Queso Fresco and Snapped Peas
2 bunches of beets
1 fennel bulb
1 cup freshly shucked peas
½ cup crumbled queso fresco
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp of red wine vinegar
Salt and Pepper
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cover a small sheet pan with tin foil. Cut the stem of the beets about an inch from the top of the beet. Trim off the roots. Wash thoroughly to remove any soil. Place the beets on the sheet pan and drizzle 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over the beets. Rub the beets with your hands to make sure the beets are covered with the olive oil. Pull the tin foil around the beets to lock in moisture. Roast for about an hour or until tender. Remove from the oven and allow to cool enough so that you can handle them.

Cut the tops off and remove the skin. Slice the beets into approximately ¼” slices.

Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 ½ tbsp of red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper. Toss.

Cut the fennel fronds off the fennel bulb along with the root. Discard the fronds. Thinly slice the fennel bulb and place in a bowl. Drizzle with ½ tablespoon of olive oil, ½ tablespoon of red wine vinegar, salt and pepper and toss.

In a small sauté pan toss the peas in a ½ tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper and sauté for about 2 minutes.
Plate the dish by laying the beets down on plate flat while slightly overlapping the slices. Next, layer the fennel slices over the beets. Top with the sautéed peas and queso fresco.
This is a perfect salad to serve when you are entertaining. Great combination of flavors and textures. Delightful!