Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Green Peppers Stuffed with Pork and Eggplant

I had some ground pork in the freezer and I decided to take it out and defrost it without really having a solid plan for its consumption. And there was quite a bit of it, too - a little over one-and-a-third pounds. At the time I bought it, I think I had some vague idea of meatloaf or meatballs and I bought some ground beef and ground turkey at the same time. But summertime is no time for meatloaf, and meatballs take time and are best reserved for special occasions. So I used the beef for the meat sauce, and the turkey and pork just sat there, chilling, waiting for me to decide what to do with them. I am still not sure exactly why I took the pork out when I did, but I did and there it was, all ready to be dressed up but with nowhere to go.

And I know it may sound strange, but I don't believe I have ever used ground pork before. I think that is why I bought it back when I did - I have never done the three-meat loaf or ball and I have been curious as to how much that really impacts the texture and flavor. I still plan to try it, but not anytime soon.

So what to do with this ground pork? Something different, that's for sure. I could make a pasta sauce but I wanted to do something a little more exotic with it - it was pork after all. And I had just made the meat sauce and wasn't really in the mood for more of that.

I don't know when the idea of making something a little further south and east of Italy crossed my mind, but once it did, I could not get my mind off of making some kind of moussaka-inspired dish. Now I know that moussaka is made with lamb, but once I got the idea in my head it would not go away, so that is what I decided to make. I started on the sauce with the half-formed thought that I would turn it into some kind of baked casserole that resembled the dish, but I did not feel like making a full-out moussaka. Instead I chopped up the eggplant and cooked it with the meat sauce. Which left me with a humongous amount of sauce, and nowhere to put it.

It does look good though, doesn't it? Thick and rich, with a touch of warmth from the cinnamon. The more I pondered it, the more it seemed it wanted to be stuffed into something. Like the gorgeous green bell peppers I had found at the Big Apple.

I had such success with my earlier effort at stuffing peppers that I've been wanting to try it again. This time, instead of using couscous to bind the sauce, I added about a half a cup of grated pecorino romano cheese that I just happened to have on hand.

It didn't take long at all to cut the tops off of the peppers and clean out the seeds. It was quick work to fill each with the meat and cheese mixture. I sprinkled a little grated parmesan on top and put them in the oven for about half an hour. The end result was rich and flavorful, and they tasted even better with some toasted pine nuts and chopped parsley sprinkled over the top.

Now that I've had so much good luck with stuffing peppers, I am eager to see what else is out there that can be stuffed. Last time I was at the green market I noticed some beautiful round globes of green and yellow zucchini. Hmmm . . .
Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes


1/2 batch of Mediterranean-Style Ground Pork Sauce with Eggplant (recipe follows)
4 green peppers, tops cut off and seeded
1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino romano cheese
2 tsp freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Created 29 June 2008

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F.

Slice a tiny bit off of the bottom of the peppers if they do not stand upright, being careful not to cut through the bottom.

Mix meat sauce with pecorino romano cheese. Divide evenly among the four peppers. Top with grated parmesan cheese. Place in a shallow 8 x 8" baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes, until the peppers are slightly wrinkled and the parmesan cheese has turned golden brown.

Exported from Home Cookin 5.6 (

Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes

1 Tbsp canola oil
1 lb. ground pork
1 onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 24-oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 baby eggplant, chopped
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste

Created 28 June 2008

Heat oil in large skillet. Add onions and garlic and cook for a few minutes, until translucent. Add pork, salt and pepper, and cook until meat is browned.

Add white wine, chicken stock, tomatoes, oregano and cinnamon. Taste for seasoning and adjust salt and pepper if necessary.

Let simmer over a low flame until the sauce has reduced until thickened so that you can run a wooden spoon across the bottom of the skillet and no liquid runs across the line created by the spoon.

Can be made ahead and refrigerated or frozen for later use.

Exported from Home Cookin 5.6 (

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Radish, Beet and Green Bean Saute

I picked up these beauties at the green market. The last time I bought the French breakfast radishes I sliced them and made this nice little radish and celery saute. This year I had the green beans and the first batch of baby beets as well. I thought they would all play well together.

And they did. All of the vegetables have subtle, but distinct, flavors that complement each other perfectly. The celery was particularly green and leafy so I chopped the greens off and added those to the mix as well. Celery greens are to celery what lemon zest is to lemons - flavor intensified. If you're making soup, be sure to add the celery greens. You will be amazed at the extra flavor they provide. Sometimes, if I'm not making soup or cooking the celery, I will freeze the greens and use them the next time I am.

I blanched the green beans and the radishes and pre-cooked and peeled the beets, so the actual cooking of this dish went pretty quickly. The onion and celery were the only things that I cooked, and they went into the skillet first.

This worked as a beautiful side dish to my new baked chicken. It would work equally well with any other entree.
Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes

2 Tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1/2 medium onion
1 cup chopped celery, cut from top of stalk with leaves if there are any
1 bunch French breakfast radishes, sliced on the bias
1 pint green beans, stripped, broken into 1-1/2" pieces, and blanched
1 bunch baby beets, boiled, peeled and sliced
zest of 1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp oregano or tarragon
1 Tbsp butter

Heat oil. Add onion and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Saute until translucent. Add celery and saute about 2 minutes more. Add radishes, saute 2 more minutes. Add beets and cook for five more minutes. Turn off heat, add lemon zest, juice and parsley. Add butter and stir. Serve immediately.

Good with baked chicken breasts cooked with thyme and marjoram.

Created: 16 June 2008

Exported from Home Cookin 5.6 (

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Falafel Snax

So what are the things that tempt me the most at the supermarket? It's not the Barbecue-flavored potato chips, Taco Doritos<, or Chee-tohs. It's not the Entenmann's Cheese Danish, the fun-size Kit-Kats, or Haagen Daz Coffee Ice Cream.

Well, actually, at one time or another it's all of those things, and more. I am only human, after all.

But every once in a while my eyes will pass over something unusual. And so potentially wrong. So wrong I simply must buy it and take it home with me.

And that is how this package of Osem Falafel-flavor Bissli came home with me. Falafel-flavored chips? What could those possibly be like? I just had to know. When I poured them into the bowl, they reminded me of thicker, crunchier chow mein noodles.And they are similar, at least in texture and crunch. Bu they do not taste the same. Neither do they taste like falafel, exactly, although the cumin and other spices do provide a flavor faintly reminiscent. Their texture also reminds me a little of sesame sticks, but they are even crunchier than that, if you can believe it.

And while they do not taste like falafel, they do taste good. I don't know if I will buy them again, but if they were offered to me at a party I wouldn't refuse them.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

On Hash Browns

We were not a family that breakfasted together regularly when I was growing up. On school days, my mother would make our breakfasts and set them on the table and we would each come and eat when we were ready. As we got older, we would just grab a piece of toast on our way out the door.

Weekends were not much different. The main change is that we would each make our own breakfasts as we got up. I would alternate between oatmeal (with lots of margarine and brown sugar, of course), soft-boiled eggs and toast, or, more often, a bowl of cereal.

Except for the occasional Sunday, when my father would be up and in the kitchen at what seemed to me at the time to be the crack of dawn, putting together a righteous spread. Sometimes it was because we had guests; sometimes my older brother or sister were home from college. And sometimes it was just because my dad felt like making breakfast.

And he made wonderful breakfasts. My father loved to cook, and he was good at it. He was an amateur Alton Brown - he knew why oil and water don't mix, and he knew that you have to braise a tough piece of meat and not overcook a lean one. We were eating flank steak when it was still one of the cheaper cuts you could buy, and I grew up eating his skirt steak long before we ever heard the word fajita.

He was adventurous too. One of my earliest memories is rolling out bagel dough and shaping it into rounds. He worked at perfecting pickles, and even took a stab at salami. He got pretty good at both.

But he had his failures, too. Like the time he made teiglach, a Lithuanian dessert made of small pieces of dough cooked in honey. It all congealed into one hard sticky blob that had to be tackled with a chisel. But tackle it we did, because if I remember correctly it sure tasted good. And then there was the lemon meringue pie incident, when because he was immutably convinced that you should be able to throw anything into a blender and have it be pulverized beyond all recognition he threw a whole lemon into the blender and thus, into the pie. Every bite had that luscious, lovely lemony tang, followed by thousands of teeny tiny pieces of bitter lemon pulp. And I will never forget the whole egg milkshake (and yes, I mean shell and all) that did not go down at all smoothly.

But mostly, he was successful. And I know that I inherited my love of cooking and my adventurous culinary spirit from him, and I will always be grateful to him for that.

And for his hash browns. My dad made the best hash browns I have ever had, and I can still say that to this day. Evenly diced squares, cooked low and slow on the electric skillet. It didn't matter if they were raw or leftover baked potatoes, they always came out the same. Perfectly seasoned with a crunchy, crusty, almost burned crust. The eggs would vary - sometimes scrambled, sometimes fried. Sometimes we would have rye bread toast with the eggs, other times we would have bagels and lox. Every Passover it would be fried matzos. The only constant was the hash browns.

I gave up trying to make them years ago. I do not have the patience to let anything sit for that long on the stove. Instead I resigned myself to only having them at restaurants, and rarely having them cooked long and slowly enough to be as good as the ones my father made.

Until a few weeks ago. I had bought so many fingerling potatoes at the green market that there were too many to go into the baking dish in which I was going to roast them. So I had five or six leftover and I didn't know what to do with them. The next morning, a Sunday, I started thinking about breakfast. And I started thinking about those potatoes.

And figured maybe by now I had learned a little something about patience. So I diced them up, turned the heat on low under my large skillet, added a little oil and, when it had heated up, added the potatoes. I seasoned them, and then I left them alone. For quite a while. I turned on my computer, read my email, and then played some computer games. After a while I went back into the kitchen and checked on them. They were coming along quite nicely - the heat was low enough that I felt comfortable turning them, seasoning them, and then leaving them alone again while I wrote some blog posts and played some more computer games.

And I continued to let them cook, until they were golden brown and starting to look a little crispy. Then I emptied them out of the skillet onto some paper towels so some of the oil could drain. I made some whole wheat biscuits from a new recipe, which I will share with you at some point, and fried a couple of eggs.

Were these as good as my dad's? Not at all. But they were close, and for the first time I can see myself getting there. It's not something I would do every day, or even every weekend, but every once in a while it is definitely worth the time and effort to put some potatoes in a pan and cook them low and slow.

Potatoes, any kind, raw or baked, diced evenly
Canola oil
cumin (optional)
chili powder or cayenne powder (optional)
any other spice or herb you would like to try (I'm thinking rosemary would be good)
salt and pepper to taste

Place skillet over low heat. Add enough oil to just cover the bottom of the pan and heat it. Add potatoes and whatever spices you are using. Stir the potatoes to get them evenly coated with the oil, then let them cook, checking occasionally, until they have turned golden brown and have a good crust on them. Turn them over and season them on the other side, then let them cook until they have reached the same golden crust all over.

When they have almost reached the desired crustiness, prepare the rest of your breakfast.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Beet Salad with Walnuts

As I mentioned in this previous post, this summer for me has been all about the beets at the Green Market. This is the same beet salad that you saw on the plate with the baked chicken and garlic potatoes. I did roast some walnuts and they do go beautifully well with this salad. The sweet and sour smoothness of the beets, punctuated by the crispness of the onions and celery, gets a final little flush of flavor from the roasted walnuts.

I took this picture one day later than the one from my earlier post. I love how the redness from the beets has made serious inroads of infiltration into the celery and onion. By the next day, everything in the salad was beet red; you could only tell what was what from its shape and texture.

For that reason, it is best to keep the roasted walnuts out of the salad until just before serving.

For all of you beet haters out there, I must confess that I, too, hated beets as a child. I don't know when it changed, but I do know that there is no comparison between what comes out of the can and what is pulled fresh from the ground. When cooked properly, they are tender and sweet and bursting with flavor. I did recently learn that if you do not get all the dirt off of them before cooking them, they will absorb it and all you will be able to taste is the dirt. Now I make sure they are properly cleaned and they are delicious every time.

This salad is a perfect accompaniment to any summer meal, and would make a nice change from cole slaw or bean salad.
Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes

Note: This salad is best made the day before.

2 bunches baby beets, with roots and at least 1" of stems still attached.
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
3 ribs celery, thinly sliced
1/4 cup vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp fresh oregano, or 1/2 tsp dry
salt and pepper to taste
toasted walnuts, chopped, for garnish

Fill large pot with water and bring to a boil. Trim beets, leaving one inch of the stem and the roots. Wash well, making sure to remove any dirt that is attached. Add to boiling water, lower heat and cover. Cook for 20-40 minutes, until knife inserted into a beet goes in and out smoothly. Remove from heat and let cool.

Remove stems and roots and cut into one-fourth inch slices. Add red onion and celery, oregano, salt and pepper.

In small jar combine vinegar, mustard, sugar, and oil. Shake well and pour over salad. Mix everything well. Taste for seasonings and adjust, if necessary.

Let sit at least one hour before serving to allow the flavors to combine.

Sprinkle roasted walnuts over the salad before serving.

Exported from Home Cookin 5.6 (

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Tomato and Green Pepper Couscous

What we have here is a mistake that turned into something pretty good. I had plans to put some chicken in the slow cooker and let it cook all day so I thought I would stop at the Apple Market for the chicken on the way home from my Saturday morning walk with Bob. I thought it would go nicely with the lovely green beans, French breakfast radishes and baby beets I had found at the green market that morning. On the way to the butcher at the back back of Big Apple I passed some beautiful green peppers in the produce section so I thought I would get them and add them to the pot toward the end of the cooking time. I bought my chicken, went home, and decided to wait until Sunday to make it.

Sunday morning I was on the phone with my sister when I decided to get started on the chicken. I pulled out the crock pot, layered the bottom with an onion that I had halved and then quartered, and got the chicken out of the refrigerator to get it ready for the crock pot. I opened it up, took a look at it, and groaned.

"What's wrong?" my sister asked.

"I bought a whole chicken," I said.

"Oh," she responded. I could tell she wanted to be properly sympathetic but had no idea why that was a bad thing. So I explained that white meat does not do well in the slow cooker - the long cooking time leaves it dry and tasteless. I had meant to get chicken quarters and forgot by the time I was standing at the counter.

So I turned on the oven, transferred the onions to a baking dish and laid the chicken on top (and thus was born my new method of baking a chicken that I just wrote about here), threw it in, and had baked chicken for dinner. It was delicious, and I served it with sweet corn and a saute of the radishes, green beens, beets and some celery I already had in the refrigerator.

The chicken and the vegetables last a few days. It wasn't until I was eating the last of the chicken that I remembered I still had those green peppers, with no idea of how I was going to use them. I started thinking of kinds of grains with which I could combine them, and when whole wheat couscous crossed my mind I was pretty sure I had some strong possibilities.

I am always looking for different flavored liquids in which to cook couscous. They can be a bit bland and tasteless when cooked in water. I thought a nice green pepper and tomato combination would complement each other and the couscous. Then I took it a step further and decided to use the juice from a can of diced tomatoes in the couscous. Paired with some white wine and chicken stock, it worked out better than I expected. I opened up a can of tuna for the protein and I had a respectable dish before me.

I only had one can of tuna the night I made this (and when I took the picture); it wasn't really enough to stand out against the stronger flavors of the green peppers and tomatoes. So I stopped at the store on the way home from work the next day and bought more and added another can, which did the trick.

This is really fast to make, and allows possibilities for many improvisations. It can easily become a side dish without the tuna, or you can add other kinds of protein for a nice one-dish dinner.
Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes
This could also be used as a side dish; just leave out the tuna.

1 cup whole wheat couscous
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, cut in half lengthwise, each half cut into thirds and sliced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
3 green peppers, cut into 1" pieces
1 28-oz. can whole tomatoes, drained, with liquid reserved
3/4 cup white wine, divided
1 Tbsp fresh basil, or 1/2 tsp dried
2 Tbsp fresh thyme divided, or 1-1/2 tsp dried
salt and pepper to taste
2 6-oz. cans tuna packed in oil
Parmigiana Reggiano

Heat oil in large skillet. Add onions and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Saute, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the drained tomato juice with the 1/2 cup wine. Add water to make 2 cups. Put in 3-quart saucepan and bring to a boil.

Add green peppers to skillet. If using dried thyme and basil, add now. Saute another 5 minutes, continuing to stir occasionally.

Add 1 teaspoon salt and couscous (and 1/2 teaspoon thyme if using dried) to boiling tomato wine mixture. Stir, lower heat, and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add half the fresh thyme, cover, and let stand for five minutes.

Add tomatoes to skillet, along with the remaining thyme. Pour in 1/4 cup white wine. Let simmer while couscous are steaming.

Drain tuna and flake into the tomato mixture. Fluff couscous and add to skillet. Add more liquid if necessary and cook fo another minute or two to let the flavors blend.

Place serving on plate, then grate some
Parmigiana Reggiano over the top .

Exported from Home Cookin 5.6 (

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Baked Chicken with Garlic Coated Potatoes and Beet Salad

This year I am all about the beets at the green market. For some reason I just can't get enough of them, and they have moved from being a small player in a green beans and radish saute to the main attraction, as you can see above. Beets, red onions and celery marinated in a blood orange vinaigrette make a beautiful salad. The only thing that would make it better would be some toasted walnuts scattered across the top.

New potatoes made their first appearance this week so I grabbed a box each of the smallest pinks and purples I could find. A quick stop at the Apple Market for a quartered chicken and I had the makings of a mighty fine meal.

Earlier this week there was no knitting class, so one of my students graciously hosted a knit-night at her house. I'm sad to report that there was no knitting done, but it was a fun night nonetheless. I made an olive-walnut dip from a recipe I got from Lynda (yes Lynda, I finally made it!) that used fresh thyme, oregano and sage, so I had leftovers of all three and I wanted to find uses for them. I've actually been using a lot of thyme lately so I had plenty of ideas, but I rarely have sage and oregano on hand.
The most obvious use for all three was the chicken. I had already started using thyme on it, which is heavenly with dried marjoram. This time I did not use the marjoram; instead I used equal parts of the thyme, sage and oregano. I also peeled and dropped about 15 whole cloves of garlic around the chicken, and then mashed them and added them to the potatoes with Sonoma Garlic and Basil Dipping Oil. They keep coming up with more flavors, and like a sucker I keep buying them. (Have I mentioned that I have also been eating a lot of corn on the cob? It's scrumptious with the lemon-infused oil.)

The beet salad is still a work in progress. I hope they stay in season long enough for me to perfect it.

I have, however, managed to perfect a method for baked chicken that comes out tender, moist, and mighty tasty every time (or at least the three times I have made it within the past couple of months).
Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes
1 large onion, cut into eight wedges
1 chicken, cut into 8 pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
fresh or dried thyme, dried marjoram, or any other fresh or dried herbs you have on hand
1 tsp garlic powder
olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Arrange onion pieces in 9 x 13" baking dish. Place chicken, skin side up, on top of the onions. Rub with olive oil, then season with salt, pepper and garlic powder, then sprinkle the thyme, marjoram, and any other herbs you wish to use on top.

Cover with tin foil and bake for one to one-and-a-half hours, removing foil for last half hour.

Let sit for 15 minutes before serving.

Servings: 4

Exported from Home Cookin 5.6 (
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