Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Walnut Pesto Pasta with Broccoli and Mushrooms

One of the few things I have not yet made in my new kitchen is pasta.  It had been a while since I made it at my old place as well.  I am not sure what is going on there but I am sure there is some deep psychological issue needing to be resolved in order for me to make that pile of flour and eggs and start mixing it all together.  Or maybe I've just been busier than usual these past months.

By January I was jonesing for pasta - any pasta - so I decided to use some dried whole wheat rotini I had on hand to tide me over until I could get it together enough to make some.

I am trying to eat mushrooms and some kind of cruciferous vegetables every day as part of my vegecentric diet and happily enough both of those foods lend themselves well to pasta.  I thought they would pair well with pesto but I did not have any pine nuts.

I did have walnuts, though, so I decided to make a walnut pesto using a recipe from Saveur Magazine as the main base.  My neighborhood grocery store had beautiful fresh basil which was a blessing in the middle of January so I was all set.

I was pleased with the results.  The walnuts offer a more subtle flavor than the pine nuts which, while delicious, have a strong distinct flavor that dominates the dish and I was afraid it would overpower the broccoli and mushrooms as well.  The walnuts provided a smooth, rich undertone to the pesto that married well with the pasta and broccoli. 

While there will always be a place in my heart for traditional pesto, this walnut version makes for a nice change when you want other ingredients to have a chance to shine.

I cooked the broccoli just a little longer than I should have so it was a bit on the mushy side.  It did not detract from the overall flavor but next time I will make sure not to let it go over three minutes.

Home Cookin v9.74 Chapter: Grains Pasta and Potatoes

1-1/2 cups packed basil leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup toasted walnuts
1/4 cup finely grated pecorino
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan
2 cloves garlic
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 lb broccoli stems and florets
1 lb cooked mushrooms (here's how I cook mine)
1 lb whole wheat rotini or other short whole wheat pasta
grated parmesan, to garnish

 Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  When the water boils, add a large tablespoon of salt and then add the broccoli florets and stems to the pot.  Cover and turn off the heat and let it sit for 3 minutes.  Remove the broccoli with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.  When the broccoli is cool, drain and set aside.

Process the basil, walnuts, pecorino, parmesan, and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped.  With the power on, add the olive oil through the top feeder in a steady stream and process until it reaches your desired consistency.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

 Bring the pot of water to a boil again and cook the pasta according to the package directions.  When it is done, reserve about a cup of the pasta water and then drain the pasta.  Do not rinse it.  Add it back to the pot over a low heat and add the broccoli, mushrooms, and pesto.  Combine all of the ingredients and cook until everything is heated through, adding some of the reserved pasta water to reach a smooth consistency.  Remove from the heat and serve immediately garnished with the grated parmesan.

walnut pesto recipe adapted from http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Pesto-di-Noce-Walnut-Pesto

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Duck Fried Rice

I met some friends for the Beijing Duck (Peking Duck to those of us who remember the days when most foreign city names were anglicized) earlier this week that is the off-the-menu specialty of Sun Wah BBQ restaurant on Argyle Street.  The duck was beautifully prepared and delicious.  First, the meat was carved off the breast and eaten with bao buns, and then the remaining meat was pulled off the carcass and stir-fried with rice or noodles (we chose noodles).  The third dish, a winter melon soup made from the carcass, had a tasty broth but the soup itself was a little bit meh.  But, it was not meh enough to detract from the other two dishes and was well worth it.  I would do it again.

There were only three of us with that whole duck, though, so there was a bit of meat left over.  We divvied it up and I went home with a leg, part of a wing, and a couple of breast slices.  It was more than enough for one serving but I didn't really have anything to go with it. I was describing the dinner to my friend at work and mentioned that they offered either noodles or fried rice with the meat they pull off the carcass and she said she would have opted for the fried rice instead of the noodles.  And just like that I knew what I was going to do with that duck.  I cooked the rice that night when I got home so it would have time for the grains to separate and dry out, and then the next night I put everything together and had myself a lovely meal of duck fried rice.

My friends and I decided we would happily do the Beijing Duck dinner again.  It would definitely be worth it if just to have the leftover duck so I could make some more fried rice.

I realize that duck is not something one has hanging around their kitchen every day.  This recipe would work just as well with chicken or pork.  You an also mix and match the vegetables as you desire; just add them from those take the longest time to cook first, up to those that only need a minute or two.
Home Cookin v9.74 Chapter: My Recipes
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp sweet sherry
2 Tbsp rice or rice wine vinegar
2 Tbsp tomato paste (optional)
3 Tbsp peanut oil, divided
2 large eggs
2 Tbsp minced garlic*
2 Tbsp minced ginger*
2 medium carrots, diced
1 bunch green onions, greens and whites divided and chopped
1 can water chestnuts, sliced (app 4 oz)
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 cup cooked duck, pork or chicken, chopped
1 batch of cooked brown or white rice, preferably made at least one day before making fried rice
Toasted sesame oil

*or 2 Tbsp garlic ginger paste

Prepare all of the ingredients before heating up your wok or skillet and have them ready to be added t the pan.  Mix the soy sauce, sherry, vinegar and tomato paste together in a small bowl and set aside. 

Heat wok or large skillet until it is just starting to smoke. Add 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil and swirl to coat. Add the egg and cook, stirring constantly with chopsticks to break them up. Remove the eggs from the wok and set aside.

Add the remaining oil and add the garlic and ginger and let it cook for about 30 seconds. Add the carrots and cook for about 1 minute, then add about 1/4 cup of water and stir everything together. Cook, stirring constantly, until the water has evaporated and the carrots are just tender. Stirring constantly, add the onion whites and cook for another minute, then the water chestnuts and cook for another minute and then the peas. Cook for another minute or so until everything has been thoroughly heated. Add the duck or chicken and cook for another minute or two, until it is thoroughly heated.

Add the rice and cook, still stirring constantly, until the pieces have separated and the rice has been heated through. Add the soy sauce, sherry, vinegar and tomato paste and stir it into the rice mixture until well blended.

Remove from the heat and add the chopped greens from the onions. Taste and add more soy sauce of desired. Stream a scant of the toasted sesame oil over and serve while still hot.

Exported from Home Cookin v9.74 (http://www.mountainsoftware.com/homecook.php)

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Who Knew? Chile Relleno Taco

For many years the criterion on which I judged any Mexican restaurant was their chile rellenos and I would order them if they were on the menu.  Most of them were decent but none really stood out.

And then I saw the chile relleno taco at Taqueria San Juanito, the Mexican restaurant right around the corner from my new apartment.  I couldn't imagine what it could be so of course I had to order it.  I took it home along with the taco al pastor I ordered and opened it up to see what it could possibly be.

And as you can see by the photo above, it is a full chili relleno sitting on two corn tortillas.  I don't know what I was expecting - maybe some kind of deconstructed version - but there it was in all its glory.

And it was delicious.  I didn't really need the taco al pastor but it was tasty too so I ended up eating them both anyway.

I didn't know this was a thing although a friend told me she has seen it on other menus around the city.  If that is the case I am all for it.  The breading was crisp and not too greasy and the tortillas, which are hand made, were thick and soft and delicious.

If you ever see a chile relleno taco on the menu do yourself a favor and order it.  You will not be disappointed.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Sweet Potato and Tomato Posole

I was looking for something new to do with pinto beans as it has been a while since I have used them.  I eat a lot of red lentils because they are so easy to prepare and a lot of chickpeas because I like them so much and they are so versatile.  Pinto beans, not so much.  They were ubiquitous in the parts of Texas where I grew up and until black beans arrived on the scene in the late '80s were the only beans I ever ate other than doctored up Van Camp's Pork and Beans.  (And the only reason those tasted good was because of the massive amounts of ketchup and brown sugar I added to them.)

Although I do not often cook with them, I still pretty much always have some dried pinto beans on hand and now that the weather has turned cold and soup and stew season is full upon us I decided it was time to cook some up in a nice hearty winter dish.  I had my eye on a recipe for a sweet potato and pinto bean soup that intrigued me because it called for basil, an herb with which I do not usually associate sweet potatoes and pinto beans.  So I decided to make it.

Imagine my surprise when I could not find any decent basil at any of my usual grocery stores here in Chicago in the dead of winter.  This led me to reconsider, and I decided maybe I would make that dish in the summer when there is plenty of fresh, beautiful basil on hand.

I then turned to another recipe I have been eying for a while that uses pinto beans.  The recipe actually calls for butternut squash, but I had already bought the sweet potato so I decided to go with that.

And it worked out beautifully.  I used my home-made chili powder which has no heat so I added half a teaspoon of cayenne which added the perfect amount of heat for me.  I used chicken broth since I had some in the freezer but I would normally use vegetable broth since I always have that on hand.

The relatively short cooking time leaves the flavors of each ingredient intact while at the same time bringing them all together for a bright, fresh flavor.

A batch of Skillet Cornbread provides the perfect accompaniment.  Add a green salad and you have a perfect meal.

Home Cookin Chapter: Soups and Stews
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp grapeseed oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp chili powder
1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne, or to taste
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
1-1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 15-oz can white hominy, draind and rinsed
1 lb cooked pinto beans, drained, or 1 15-oz can, drained and rinsed
diced avocado, for garnish
chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until they begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the chili powder and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds.

Add the sweet potato, broth, hominy, beans and tomatoes. Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, umtil the sweet potato is tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

Serve with avocado and cilantro.

adapted from Eating Well November/December 2012 http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/butternut_squash_posole.html

Exported from Home Cookin v9.73 (http://www.mountainsoftware.com/homecook.php)

Monday, January 07, 2019

Baking Class: Lahmacun (Flat Bread with Lamb and Tomatoes)

Lamb and cinnamon is one of my favorite flavor combinations.  So when I came across a recipe for a flat bread with lamb and tomatoes with cinnamon (Lahmacun) in Saveur Magazine I knew I had to try it.  And it did not disappoint.  It is perfect for a light meal or snack and makes an impressive party treat.

Both the dough and the meat sauce come together easily and can be made ahead and refrigerated for a day or two.  It's a little bit of a production to roll out and top the dough but well worth it.

And as good as the sauce is on the flatbread, it would be just as good on its own over eggplant, sweet potatoes, or other vegetables.  It's a winner either way.
Home Cookin v9.73 Chapter: Breads and Muffins
Sourdough Version:
72 g starter
204 g flour
1 tsp sugar
152 g water
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more

(For the non-sourdough version click here)

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 ounces ground lamb
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 plum tomato, grated
1 small onion, grated
1 Tbsp dried mint

Combine the starter, flour, sugar, salt and water in a large bowl and stir to form a dough. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 6 minutes. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Punch down the dough and divide it into 4 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and place them onto a floured baking sheet. Cover with a damp towel and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.

While the dough is resting combine the oil, tomato paste, parsley, cayenne, cumin, paprika, and cinnamon in a medium bowl and stir vigorously with a fork. Add the lamb, garlic, tomatoes, onions, chilies and salt and mix well. Set aside.

Put a pizza stone or an inverted rimmed baking sheet in the bottom third of oven and heat oven to 475°.

Roll each ball of dough into a 10-inch disk. Brush off excess flour and transfer each one to a piece of parchment paper. Spoon three to four tablespoons of the topping onto the dough and using your fingers or an offset spatula, spread it evenly to the edges. Season with salt.

Hold the parchment paper by its edges and transfer it to the baking stone or upside down baking sheet. Bake until the dough is golden brown and the topping is cooked, 6 to 8 minutes.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

adapted from Saveur Number 132

Exported from Home Cookin v9/73 (http://www.mountainsoftware.com/)

Monday, December 10, 2018

Roasted Broccoli and Mushrooms

Broccoli and mushrooms are something I try to eat every day, as they are both quite good for me.  When the weather is warmer I will usually just cook up the mushrooms using this cool method I discovered a couple of year ago and throw them in a container with frozen broccoli florets and take them to work with me.  By the time lunch rolls around the broccoli is defrosted and the mushrooms have enough flavor from the sherry and olive oil to make a delicious side.

But when the weather gets colder I like to roast them together with some onion and herbs for a quick side.  It's super easy and full of flavor and goes with just about everything to make a satisfying dinner.  I make it at least twice a month during the winter.  Once you try it I am sure you will, too.
Home Cookin v9.73 Chapter: Beans and Vegetables

1 - 2 Tbsp olive oil
1 head broccoli, but into bite-size pieces
1 lb button, cremini, or portabello mushorroms, sliced
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp dried thyme, oregano or tarragon
salt and black pepper to taste

Line a half-sheet baking pan with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 425° F.

Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and stir to coat well with the olive oil. Spread the mixture evenly into as much of a single layer as you can. Bake for 10 minutes and then turn the pan in the oven. Bake for another 10 to 20 minutes, until the broccoli and onions have some char on them. Serve immeditely.


Exported from Home Cookin v9.73 (www.mountain-software.com)

Monday, December 03, 2018

Dan Dan Noodles

I don't remember where I first heard about Dan Dan noodles, but I do remember wanting to try the recipe right away.  One of the things that stopped me was that it contained Sichuan Peppercorns, which are related to the citrus family and which for a long time were banned in the US for being potential carriers of a citrus virus.  I first heard about them as one of the ingredients in Chinese 5-Spice Powder, which at the time what we could buy here in the states did not contain.  So I decided to wait until the ban was lifted before trying any dishes that I knew traditionally used it.

Not long after the ban was lifted in 2005 I saw them in my local spice shop and bought a big bag of them.  And put it in my spice cupboard.  Where it sat for a few years, until I finally decided I wasn't going to use them any time soon and they had probably lost all potency and got rid of them.

And then Bon Appetit had a recipe for Dan Dan Noodles in their October 2011 issue so I eagerly tore it out and resolved to make it soon.  But I no longer had the Sichuan peppercorns.  And could never seem to remember to pick them up when I was at the spice shop.

Fast forward several more years to the time that we chose Sichuan Peppercorns for one of our spice-themed potlucks in my spice group. By this time I had pretty much forgotten all about Dan Dan Noodles so I was thrilled when the recipe popped up during my search for something to make and decided to make it then.

I was pleased with the results.  The Sichuan Peppercorns are not that hot but you can taste the citrus just before your mouth goes tinglingly numb.  But not so numb that you can't still taste everything.  The chili oil raises the flavor of the pork to a new level and the pork and the sauce complement the noodles perfectly.  The peanuts and green onions add a welcome freshness to the overall flavor profile.  The result is a spicy, numbing, tingling and surprisingly comforting dish.  It was a big hit.

This is one of those lovely dishes that is simple to make and has simple ingredients that come together for a powerhouse of flavor.

Home Cookin v9.73 Chapter: Grains Pasta and Potatoes

8 ounces fettucini
2 Tbsp grapeseed or peanut oil
12 oz ground pork
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp chopped peeled ginger
3/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 Tbsp chili oil (or to taste)
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp tahini
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, lightly crushed
2 Tbsp chopped roasted peanuts, for garnish
2 Tbsp thinly sliced green onions

Cook the noodles in a large pot of boiling water until al dente. Drain and transfer to a large bowl of ice water and let stand until cold. Drain well and place in a serving bowl.

Heat vegetable oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add pork and season with salt and pepper. Cook about two minutes, breaking up pork with a spoon. Add the ginger and cook until the pork is cooked through and lightly browned, about 3 minutes more. Stir in the chicken stock then add the chili oil, red wine vinegar, soy sauce, tahini and Sichuan peppercorns and stir. Simmer until the sauce thickens, about 7 minutes.

Pour the pork mixture over the noodles. Garnish with the peanuts and green onions and serve.

from Bon Appetit October 2011

Exported from Home Cookin v9.73 (www.mountain-software.com)

Monday, November 26, 2018

Turkey Isn't the Only Reason to Love the Winter Holidays

Most of my friends and family look forward to the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays because it is the only time they have turkey during the year.  Which is mainly interesting for the fact that most of them don't really like turkey all that much.  I include myself in this group.  While I do love those leftover turkey sandwiches, I usually only eat one or two small slices at the Thanksgiving table, mainly as a vehicle for sweet pickles and cranberry sauce, both of which I only eat with turkey, and vice versa.  I am a big fan of the stuffing, potatoes, and other side dishes but the turkey itself is my least favorite part of the meal.  (That being said, I have no problem whatsoever having it those two times of the year for those who do actually, you know, like turkey.)

So what does make me happy this time of year?  In a word, citrus.  Late fall and early winter is citrus season, when oranges are orangier and limes and lemons are juicier, and Texas Red grapefruits make their annual appearance in my local Chicago grocery store.

As I mentioned when I first wrote about them in this 2009 post, the two things that I miss the most since moving away from Texas are Ruby Red grapefruit and the Pecos Cantaloupe.  I still haven't found the cantaloupe, but every November the grapefruit shows up at Jewel.

Apparently I am not the only one who feels that way about these deep red, sweet gems.  The 73rd Texas State Legislature declared it to be the State Fruit in 1993.  That is a resolution I can get behind!

Since my move this summer I have been thrown off kilter from my normal routines, and seeing all kinds of things from a new perspective.  The holidays and grapefruit have not been much on my mind, especially once I decided that I was not going to travel this year and instead spend time working on my apartment and other things I have been neglecting since I moved (like this blog).  So I wasn't really thinking about the usual things this fall.  A few days ago I did have the fleeting thought that we were coming into citrus season, which made me happy because oranges are more plentiful and juicier this time of year, but that is as far as my thoughts went.  So when I walked into Jewel Monday afternoon and this five-pound bag of Texas Reds was the first thing I saw, I think I actually squealed with delight.  And threw it into my cart, of course.  That five-pound bag of flour I was going to buy could wait until my next visit.

I went home and immediately supremed a few of them and have been enjoying them all week.  Unlike pink or white grapefruit, the reds are sweet with just a hint of tartness.  I am not a big fan of the pink and white varieties but I absolutely love the reds.  If you give them a try I think you will too.

Many people find grapefruit to be more trouble than it is worth.  I always supreme a few at a time and keep them in a container in the fridge so it is ready to eat when I want some.  If you have never supremed citrus before, this post will show you how.  So now you have no excuse not to enjoy these seasonal gems.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Holiday Baking: Swedish Cinnamon and Cardamom Bread

The holidays offer me the perfect excuse to try recipes for breads that I would normally not consider eating, and this Swedish Cinnamon and Cardamom Bread is the perfect example of that.  It is full of butter, sugar and milk and is a very rich bread.  Which makes it delicious, of course.  The cardamom takes it up a notch from a more usual cinnamon-filled sweet bread and I was intrigued by the shaping method.  So I decided to give it a try last year and was so happy with the original large loaf that I made that I made smaller loaves to give as gifts.  The bread itself is light and not too sweet.  The filling is sweeter but the cardamom helps to mellow out the sweetness.  It was a big hit with my friends.

It is fairly easy to make, which is always a plus.  It only takes a few hours and the aroma of cinnamon and cardamom made for a festive holiday feel in my kitchen the day that I made it.  I am sure it will do the same for yours.

Home Cookin v.9.73 Chapter: Chapter: Breads and Muffins


7 tablespoons unsalted butter
1-1/2 cups whole milk, heated to 115°
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
4-1/2 cups flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons cardamom seeds, lightly crushed
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1-1/2 teaspoons cardamom seeds, finely crushed
1 egg, beaten
Pearl sugar, for topping

Melt butter in a 1-qt. saucepan over medium. Remove from heat and stir in milk and yeast; let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes. Whisk flour, sugar, cardamom, and salt in a bowl. Stir in yeast mixture until dough forms. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 3 minutes. Return dough to bowl and cover with a clean dish towel; let sit in a warm place until dough is doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Mix granulated sugar, butter, cinnamon, and cardamom in a bowl until smooth.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into an 11" x 17" rectangle, about 1/4 " thick. Spread filling over dough, leaving a 1/2 " border along edges. Working from one long end, roll dough into a tight cylinder; transfer seam side down to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Cover with dish towel; let sit in a warm place until dough has doubled in size once more, about 45 minutes.

Heat oven to 375°. Using kitchen shears and starting 1" from ends of dough, make crosswise cuts, spaced 1" apart, three-quarters of the way through dough. Fan dough slices away from the center, alternating left to right. Brush dough with egg and sprinkle with pearl sugar; bake until golden brown, about 22 minutes. Let bread cool completely before serving.


Exported from Home Cookin v9.73 (www.mountain-software.com)
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