29 March 2013

Asparagus, eggs, and mustard...

There's nothing really all that French about this, except perhaps for the seasoning, but asparagus, eggs, and mustard always seem so right in the spring, and so very Gallic.

French Stir Fry. P.S.--that drink in the upper left hand
corner is Pinot Grigio with a splash of lime on ice. 

French Stir Fry

Serves 4

2 cups white rice
1 teaspoon dried summer savory
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
½ teaspoon salt
1 small garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon diced red onion
Handful chopped fresh parsley

1 pound asparagus, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 small carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
½ cup frozen corn
½ cup frozen shelled edamame

1 tablespoon grainy mustard
2 tablespoons lemon juice
8 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon fresh lemon zest
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Salted peanuts and chopped hard-boiled egg for garnish (optional)

Combine rice, savory, herbes de Provence, ½ teaspoon of salt, garlic, and onion in a rice cooker or medium saucepan with enough water to cook rice according to package directions.  Fluff to combine when done.

Steam vegetables.  I use a steamer insert over my rice cooker so that I can do both at once.

Whisk together  mustard, lemon juice, olive oil, lemon zest, and salt and pepper in a small bowl.

To assemble, spread a serving (¼ ) of the rice on a dinner plate and top with ¼ of the vegetables.  Pour  ¼ of the dressing over food and sprinkle some egg and peanuts on top.

22 March 2013

Cranberry Sauce Muffins

This warm weather is great, but don't you miss the carby, comforting days of November and December just a little bit?  Your former enthusiasm for clean, white snowfall that keeps you inside, watching a movie on the couch? These muffins evoke the flavor of the holidays by using the same spices and fruit you expect from a Thanksgiving meal.  And in keeping with my ongoing love affair with the muffin, they're healthy enough for breakfast or a coffee break with guests, and they freeze perfectly for later consumption.

Cranberry Sauce Muffins

Makes about a dozen muffins

1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
½ cup quick cooking oats
½ cup brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground flax seed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons orange rind
1 egg
1 cup milk
1 large apple, grated
1 ½ cups dried cranberries
¾ cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Grease a 12-cup muffin tin.

In a large mixing bowl, combine egg, milk, brown sugar. And grated apple.  Add all remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly; dough should be thick, but you can add milk if it’s difficult to stir.

Fill muffin tins 2/3 full.  Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with more brown sugar if you like.  Bake 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.  Cool on wire racks and serve or freeze until ready for use.

15 March 2013

Drunken Pintos

I like pinto beans.  They're tasty, and they're cheap and plentiful.  I had these recently in tacos topped with roasted sweet potato, onion, and spinach (pictured), but I have also done all of the other suggestions listed at the end of this recipe and I fully endorse them.  This recipe serves as a good base for my version of  Brazilian Pinto Soup, as well.

Drunken Pintos

2 cups dry pinto beans
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons salt
½  teaspoon cayenne
12 oz. beer
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, finely diced

Place beans, tomato paste, cumin, salt, and cayenne in a stock pot or pressure cooker and add water to cover 1 inch above beans.  Cook 1.5 hours at a low simmer or according to pressure cooker directions (generally 20-25 minutes) or until beans are tender.  Drain off some of the cooking liquid if it seems like too much and pour in the beer.  Stir in the garlic and jalapeno and heat through.  Serve as a soup (you can blend up to 2/3 of it for a thicker, creamier texture), over rice, or drain and serve in tortillas topped with chopped tomatoes, sour cream, and red onion as tacos.

08 March 2013

Spiced Lentil Stew

Winter's not over yet, and this stew will serve as nourishment, security blanket, and a much-needed dose of vegetables all at once while you wait for spring to finally make its mark.  

Spiced Lentil Stew

Serves 4

2 cups brown lentils, rinsed and sorted
3 ½  cups water
1 tablespoon curry powder
2 teaspoons salt, divided
Bay leaf
I large carrot, peeled and cut into ½-inch chunks
2 teaspoons olive oil
½ yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
½ cup dry red wine
2 scallions, sliced (white and green parts)
2 teaspoons cumin
½ teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Handful fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)

In a medium saucepan, combine the lentils, water curry powder, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and bay leaf.  Cover and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium and cook until lentils are tender, about 20 minutes.  While the lentils are cooking, you can steam the carrot in a basket over the water, or else steam the carrot in another vessel.

Meanwhile, in a medium skillet,  heat the oil over medium heat and cook the onion until soft, about 8 minutes.  Add the garlic and scallions and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Stir n the tomato paste, red wine,  cumin, coriander, the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and paprika.  Add enough water to turn into a medium-thick sauce (about ½ cup, adding a little at a time).  Add the cooked lentils and carrot and lower heat to low. Allow to simmer 5-10 minutes, season with pepper and coriander.  Can be served over rice, mashed potatoes, or cauliflower puree.

05 March 2013

Magic Broth

This recipe is very loosely adapted from an article in the February 2013 issue of La Cucina Italiana magazine. The original calls for painstakingly made beef broth from scratch, but I think the ready-made kind, along with a couple of flavor additions, works just fine.

I like to keep this broth on hand and pour it over steamed vegetables and cooked pasta or rice.  Mushrooms, kale, and carrots work very well here, and any kind of small-shape pasta makes it a meal.  It also compliments all kinds of tomato-based sauces well when you need a thinner and don’t want to water down the flavor.

Magic Broth

Makes about 5 ½  cups

1 quart beef broth
1 cup tomato sauce
½ cup red wine, plus extra
Bay leaf
1 finely minced clove of garlic
1 finely minced scallion, green and white parts

Combine all ingredients in a stock pot and simmer on medium-low heat for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to meld.  You can skim our the minced garlic and scallion at the end of cooking time if you want, but I don’t.  Remove bay leaf, turn off heat, and stir in another tablespoon of the red wine.  Serve or allow to cool before refrigerating or freezing.

01 March 2013

Pesto Scones

All these snow storms lately are giving me spring fever, which often translates into a desire for fresh pesto. But the jarred stuff just isn't as good as homemade pesto using your own fresh basil.  SO, buy that crap anyway, and then bury it in some wintry carbs...

These work on the side with pasta dishes and Italian-ish soup, but they also make an amazing substitute for an English Muffin or brioche in eggs Benedict.  Substitute any cheese or any herb paste you like.

Pesto Scones

Makes about 12

1 cup unbleached white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
2/3 cup milk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
5-6 sun dried tomatoes chopped
2 tablespoons prepared pesto
1/2-1 cup mozzarella

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  

Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Stir together prepared pesto and lemon juice in a small bowl and add to the dry ingredients, along with the milk, butter, cheese, and tomatoes. 

Spoon dough onto prepared baking sheets (I try to make each blob about a 1/4 cup in size) and bake 10-12 minutes or until golden.