18 May 2018

Pasta and spring things

This dish came about from various little tubs of leftovers; the steamed green beans and asparagus from the garden that had served as a side to grilled steaks, the last bit of yogurt-and-mustard sauce used for dipping grilled potatoes, and some of Alison Roman's glorious savory granola I always keep around. You can make all of these things fresh, or substitute your own steamed veggies and creamy sauce here, and I'm sure it will be glorious. 

Springy Leftover Pasta

Serves 4

4 cups steamed green veggies (peas, asparagus, green beans, broccoli, whatevs)
1/2 pound whole grain farfalle pasta
salt, red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt + 2 tablespoons grainy mustard
garnishes: lemon wedges, a bowl of savory granola or roasted nuts/seeds of your choice (toasted groats would also be good)

In a small bowl, combine the yogurt and mustard. Set aside.

In a well-salted pot of boiling water, cook the pasta according to package directions.  If you don't already have steamed veggies on hand, you could throw them in for the last 3-4 minutes of cooking time. Drain pasta and, if you're using leftover veggies, toss together to take the chill off. Season with crushed red pepper, drizzle with some of the yogurt sauce, and garnish with a spritz of lemon and a generous sprinkle or granola. Eat hot or at room temperature.

11 May 2018

Green-and-white chili for summer

As a Midwestern girl, I had never touched a roasted green chile until I moved out to Colorado in the early 00s.  I'm not sure I even knew they existed.  Now they are my absolute favorite, and I can't wait until late summer when my local farmer's market is packed with roasters all morning.  The good news is, those frozen bags/tubs at the grocery store are pretty OK, so you can enjoy spicy, fresh stews all summer long. I use a pressure cooker to do my beans, which slows down the process and heats up the house a bit more, but I wrote this recipe for canned beans to be a little more user-friendly. Don't cheat on grilling the chicken, though--it makes a huge difference, especially when your chiles have been frozen! Just plan ahead and do it the next time you have a cookout, then wrap it in foil until you're ready to make this stew; it'll keep for a week. 

Green and White Chili

Serves 6

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
6-8 oz. of grilled chicken (no skin, chopped)
2 15-oz. cans of white beans (any type, do not drain)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper (optional)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 24-oz. bag frozen, chopped green chiles, mild or hot
1 tablespoon lime juice
shredded cheese or queso, lime wedges, sour cream, and more chopped fresh cilantro to serve

First, you must thaw the chiles in the refrigerator and save their liquid; I just toss the whole bag on a plate and throw it in the fridge for a couple of days. 

In a stock pot or Dutch oven,. heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, garlic, and cilantro and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant.  Add the cooked chicken, white beans with their liquid, salt, pepper, cumin, chiles, and lime juice, stir, cover, and heat through.  Serve with garnishes listed above and hot fresh tortillas to clean the bowl. 

04 May 2018

Covering the rest of the herb garden in food and booze...

Last week I gave you some suggestions for growing and using basil, cilantro, and some other stuff in your herb garden this spring and summer.  Here's the rest of the alphabet...

Jalapeno & Parsley Sour Martini
Makes 2

1/2 C sugar
1/2 C water
2 jalapeños, sliced, plus more for garnish
1 small bunch parsley
4 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice
6 oz. vodka

Start by slicing jalapeños. If you don't like super spicy and want more of a jalapeño flavor with less kick, definitely remove the seeds.In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and water and bring to a boil over high heat. Once the mixture is boiling, throw the jalapeños in and lower to a simmer. Let simmer for about 5-7 minutes. Strain mixture into a bowl and put in fridge to cool.

In a cocktail shaker, add parsley, lemon, and lime. Muddle together. Add ice and pour in vodka and about 4 oz. of the jalapeño syrup. Shake together and pour into a martini glass with a prepared lime-sugar rim if you choose (just rub a lime on the rim and dip glass in a plate of sugar). Add in some jalapeño garnish if you like.

Parsley is also a must in this fast, delish fish piccata.

The Wise Bee's Knees
Makes 1

1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup cold water
1 1/2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 ounce honey syrup
3 fresh sage leaves

For the syrup, bring equal parts honey and water to a simmer in a small saucepan until honey dissolves. Let cool to room temperature before using.

Combine gin, lemon juice, syrup, and 2 sage leaves in a cocktail shaker and stir to dissolve honey syrup. Fill shaker halfway with ice and shake until thoroughly chilled, about 10 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Smack the remaining sage leaf between your hands over the glass, drop into the drink and serve.

Try sage in this Italian Rice Casserole, my lazy-girl cheat for risotto!

Strawberry Smash with Tarragon
Makes 4

For the tarragon simple syrup
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons tarragon leaves
For the cocktails
10 large strawberries plus 4 for a garnish sliced
1 lime cut into wedges
juice of 1 lime
1/2 cup vodka
3 tablespoons tarragon leaves chopped
2 tablespoons tarragon simple syrup

To make the tarragon simple syrup, combine the sugar and water in a small sauce pan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Add the tarragon leaves, off the heat, and steep for 10 minutes or more. Strain, and store in a glass jar in the fridge.over medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Add the tarragon leaves, off the heat, and steep for 10 minutes or more. Strain, and store in a glass jar in the fridge.

To make the cocktails, combine the strawberries and all but 2 of the lime wedges in an ice-filled shaker. Use a muddler or the end of a wooden spoon to smash the berries and limes into a chunky mixture. Pull out the smashed limes, and then add a couple handfuls of ice, the lime juice, vodka, and tarragon simple syrup. Shake. Pour into ice-filled highballs. Garnish with strawberry slices, a lime wedge, and a sprig of tarragon.

Tarragon is also an essential ingredient in bearnaise sauce, which I make with avocado in this recipe

Meyer Lemon and Thyme Gimlet 
Makes  2

4 oz gin
1.5 oz Meyer lemon juice
1.5 oz thyme simple syrup
For the thyme simple syrup:
1/2 Cup Water
1/2 Cup sugar
handful thyme sprigs

To make simple syrup, bring sugar, water and thyme to a low simmer in a small pot over medium heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Let sit 30 minutes or overnight for a more intense flavor. Strain. Cool.

In a cocktail shaker add ice, gin, meyer lemon juice and simple syrup. Shake well. Pour into two small chilled glasses and garnish with sliced Meyer lemons or zest. Serve immediately.

Thyme is excellent in this red beans and rice recipe (vegetarian or not).

27 April 2018

Cooking (and drinking) with herbs

It is full-on spring here in the Rockies (sorry, East coast friends, but it'll come someday) and my perennial herb garden is about to pop!  It's still too cold here to plant basil and cilantro, but I've got mint, sage, parsley, thyme, and tarragon all being brave little troopers about the occasional dips below freezing at night.  I am writing this post to a) encourage you to grow some fresh herbs of your own and b) give you some ideas for using them.  I promise they will make your meals oh-so-much better, and they're a fun addition to cocktails, too.

I'll cover the first half of the alphabet today, the second half next week. Skipping the obvious choices like tabouleh (parsley) and mojitos (mint), though I love them so, here are some things you may not have considered yet, along with helpful links to growing your tasty new herbs this spring and summer (here's a general one from the CSU extension website).

Basil-Lime Cooler
Makes 1

For the Basil Syrup:
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
6 basil leaves
For the Cocktail:
1 ounce basil syrup
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed juice from 1 lime
1 1/2 ounces vodka
3 basil leaves
2 to 3 ounces seltzer
Garnish: basil sprig

For the Basil Syrup: Combine water, sugar, and basil leaves in a small saucepan. Heat over high heat until boiling, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce to a simmer and continue to cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Strain through a fine mesh strainer. Basil syrup will keep for one week in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

For the Cocktail: Combine 1 ounce basil syrup, lime juice, and vodka in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Fill a collins glass with ice, then strain the cocktail into the glass. Add extra basil leaves to the glass, top with seltzer and stir gently. Garnish with straw and basil sprig.

...and chop some to stir into your BLT Rice Salad when it gets too hot to cook!

Chive martini
Is it cheating to use the flowers?  Chives are a little onion-y, but the edible flowers are not only beautiful, but a more subtle version of the stems.  So swap out the boring old cocktail onions in your classic vodka martini with chive flowers instead!

Chives also have a starring role in Crawfish Monica, the official dish of the New Orleans Jazz Fest!

Cilantro Margarita
Makes 1

Kosher salt
2 ounces triple sec
1 tablespoons sugar
1 lime, juiced
3 sprigs cilantro
2 lime wedges

Add kosher salt to a small plate. Lightly dip the rim of your glass in water and dip in the kosher salt to create a kosher salt rim.

In a shaker add all ingredients. Using a muddle or wooden spoon, slightly bruise the cilantro to help bring out the flavor.

Add ice, top the shaker and shake until very cold. Pour into the prepared glass and garnish with lime wedges and more cilantro.

I also love adding cilantro to this fast, easy lentil salad with cheese.

Tea and Whiskey High Ball
Makes approx. 8 (you could serve it in a pitcher or punch bowl)

For the tea:
2 oranges
2 quarts water
8 teaspoons or 8 tea bags black tea
For the mint syrup:
1 bunch fresh mint, ends trimmed
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup water
To serve:
2 cups Scotch or bourbon
mint sprigs, for garnish

For the tea:Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest from the oranges in wide strips, avoiding as much of the white pith as possible. Set half of the zest aside for steeping and refrigerate the remaining half in a zip-top bag or other airtight container for garnishing.

Bring the water to a boil, remove from the heat, and add the loose tea or tea bags and the orange zest set aside for steeping. Let steep for 5 minutes. Pour through a fine-mesh strainer into a 3-quart heatproof container; discard the solids in the strainer. Refrigerate the tea until cold, at least 3 hours. Meanwhile make the mint syrup.

For the mint syrup: Place all of the ingredients in a small saucepan, stir to combine, and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the syrup has slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer set over a medium bowl; discard the solids. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

To serve: When ready to serve, stir the Scotch or bourbon and half of the mint syrup (about 1 cup) into the tea. Taste and add more syrup as needed. Fill 8 highball glasses with ice and add several strips of the remaining orange zest to each glass. Pour the tea mixture over the ice, garnish with a sprig of mint, and serve.

Mint is also de rigueur in Thai and Vietnamese food; try it in this Brussels sprouts dish!