17 September 2013

Cook, freeze, and pack it for later: entrees

Here it is--the installment of "cook, freeze..." that will absolve you from cooking dinner for days at a time.  Perhaps you will not pack these dishes (thought you could employ this method when you have a potluck looming and want to cook ahead for it), but having a hot dish ready to pop in the oven when you come home from work is worth its weight in gold on a weeknight, and it's a hell of a lot tastier than Lean Cuisine meals.

(Psst: remember last week when I told you about all the rices, grains, and lentils you could freeze?  Don't forget about that--reheat a big bowl of rice, veggies, and lentil from the freezer, toss with a little olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper and herbs of your choice, and you've got a very fast and very healthy meal on the table in less than 15 minutes.)

Many of these dishes can either simply be built and refrigerated a day before you cook it, so you can build it the night before and cook it the next afternoon, or you can cook it, eat some of it immediately, and cut the rest into individual portions, wrap in foil, and freeze for later.  Then, individual portions can be heated on a cookie tray in the oven or microwaved, at home or at work.

Brian’s Festive Turkey Meatloaf

Serves 8

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced, optional
½ yellow onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, shredded
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
½ cup plain bread crumbs
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
¼  cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
2 eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons whole milk or cream
1 ½  teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ground turkey

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Lay a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet.

In a frying pan over medium heat, sauté onion, garlic, carrot, and rosemary in the olive oil until soft.
In a large bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, parsley, sun-dried tomatoes, eggs, milk, salt, and pepper. Add the turkey and cooked vegetables; gently stir to combine.

Carefully pack the meat mixture into a loaf shape on the parchment-covered baking sheet.  Bake at 375 degrees F for 50  minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and slice. Put on a serving platter and serve.

Chicken and Leek Frittata

Serves 4

6 eggs
1 teaspoon grainy mustard
Pinch red pepper flakes
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 leek, rinsed and thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
4 ounces cooked chicken, shredded

Preheat broiler.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, mustard, and pepper flakes and season with salt and black pepper.

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large, oven-safe skillet over medium heat until the butter has melted.  Add the leek and garlic and cook, stirring continuously until soft, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the chicken and cook, stirring, until warm, about 2 minutes.

Add the egg mixture and swirl the skillet to distribute the eggs and filling evenly over the surface.  Shake the skillet gently, tilting slightly while lifting the edges of the frittata with a spatula to let the raw egg run underneath for the first 1 to 2 minutes of cooking.  Cook until eggs are almost set, about 5 minutes, and then place the skillet under the broiler for about 1 minute.  The frittata will puff up and brown slightly.  Remove from the oven and carefully slide onto a serving platter, using a spatula to unstick from the skillet as it slides.

Cut into 4 wedges and serve hot, at room temperature, or cold.

Green Chili & Potato Gratin

Serves 6-8

4 large russet potatoes, scrubbed and sliced ¼-inch thick
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
½ yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
1 cup prepared green chili sauce
2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 oz. (1 cup) grated parmesan cheese
4 oz.  (1 cup) grated sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a 3-quart baking dish with butter or cooking spray.

Place sliced potatoes, and broth in a large pan or Dutch oven.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until potatoes are tender but still hold together, about 10 minutes.  Drain in a colander when done, but reserve about a ½ cup of the cooking water.

Meanwhile saute the onion and garlic in a small frying pan with some olive oil over medium heat until onion is tender, about 10 minutes.  In a small bowl, combine the onion mixture, green chili, and ½ teaspoon of the salt.  Set aside.

Ladle just enough of the potato cooking water into the baking dish to lightly cover the bottom.  Then place approximately one half of the potato slices into the baking dish, overlapping slightly and dusting with a light layer of salt (about ½ teaspoon).  Top with ½  of the grated cheeses,  then all of the green chili mixture.  Cover with the remaining potato slices in the same fashion as before, then top with remaining cheese.  Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes.  Remove foil and bake another 10 minutes or until the top starts to brown.

Greens Pie

Serve 6-8

1 cup couscous
2 pounds mixed greens of your choice (lettuce, arugula, Swiss chard, dandelion greens…), chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 green onions, thinly sliced
¼ cup chopped fresh dill
¼ cup crumbled feta or queso fresco
3 eggs, beaten
Salt and pepper

Place couscous in a medium saucepan and toast over medium heat 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often to keep from burning.  Add 1 ¼ cup water and teaspoon salt.  Cover and bring to boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and cook until water is absorbed, about 15 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add onions and cook about 10 minutes or until browned.  Add greens and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes, stirring constantly.  (If using lettuce, wait to add it at the end, as it wilts very quickly.)  Transfer to a colander and squeeze to release excess moisture.  Add couscous and stir. 

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Stir green onions, dill, and feta into the mixture. Stir in beaten eggs and season with salt and pepper. 

Coat a 9-inch pie pan with cooking spray or butter and spread the couscous mixture evenly in pan.  Bake 35-40 minutes or until lightly browned on top.

Heavenly Egg Casserole

Serves 8

5 cups bread, cut into bite-sized pieces
olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
2 cups vegetables of your choice, chopped into bite-sized pieces (broccoli, cauliflower, peas, carrots...)
1/2 cup sliced sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 cup kalamata olives
12 eggs
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 cups milk
1 cup grated cheese(s)
1 tablespoon dried oregano (or whatever mixture of herbs you like)
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

The day before building: spread out the cut-up baguette to dry and get stale on a cutting board.  Or, dry it out on a low temperature (try 250 F for 20 minutes) in the oven.

The night before eating: Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and cook the onion until it begins to soften, about 8 minutes.  Add the vegetables, if they are raw, until they begin to soften.  Turn off heat and stir in garlic and salt to taste.

In a large whisk together, combine the eggs, milk, mustard, oregano, 1 teaspoon salt, and more black pepper to taste. Stir in cooled vegetables and cheese.

Grease a 9 X 13 inch dish and lay the stale bread cubes in the bottom.  Pour the egg mixture over the top.  Cover with plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate overnight or for at least 8 hours.  When ready to cook, uncover and bake in the oven at 350 F for 75 minutes or until lightly browned on top

Hearty Lentil Loaf

Serves 6

1 1/2 cups lentils
3 1/2 cups vegetable broth or water
2 onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups cooked rice (I like jasmine)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup barbecue sauce or ketchup
1/2 teaspoon sage
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large soup or stock pot, simmer the lentils in water or vegetable broth until cooked, about 30 minutes. Drain thoroughly then mash the lentils until they are half mashed.

Sautee the onions and garlic in olive oil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until soft. Combine the onions, garlic and olive oil with the mashed lentils and add the rice, salt, ketchup or barbecue sauce, sage, and Italian seasoning. Gently press the mixture into a lightly greased loaf pan. Drizzle a bit of extra ketchup on top if desired.

Bake for 1 hour. Allow to cool 5 minutes before serving.

Indian Stir Fry with Okra

Serves 4

1 tablespoon peanut oil
½ yellow onion, diced
½ small Serrano pepper, minced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
½ lb. okra, trimmed and cut into ½-inch rings (frozen is also fine)
1 (14.5-oz) can diced tomatoes, drained
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
½ cup cooked chick peas
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Crushed peanuts for garnish

In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, warm the peanut oil and sauté the onion until it starts to get soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the Serrano pepper, garlic, ginger, mustard seeds, and cumin seeds and continue to cook until seeds begin to sputter, about 4 minutes.  Add the okra and cook until it begins to brown, about 8 minutes.  Stir in tomatoes, curry powder, turmeric, chili powder, and about a teaspoon of salt.  Lower to medium heat, cover, and simmer about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add cilantro, chick peas, and salt and pepper to taste.  Combine thoroughly and serve over basmati rice with crushed peanuts on the side to pour over the top.

Mushroom and Potato Pie 

Serves 6-8

1 pre-made pie crust
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 lb. mixed mushrooms, sliced
1 large Russet potato, peeled and chopped into ½-inch pieces
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon dried thyme
2 eggs
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
3/4 cup grated sharp cheddar (or other) cheese

Prebake the crust: place in the oven and turn temperature to 425°F (no need to preheat); poke the crust around the edges with a fork and place in the oven for 10 minutes, or until it starts to look dry on the surface.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and potato and cook, stirring often, until potatoes begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook another 10 minutes, or until liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and stir in the garlic, salt, and thyme.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, and mustard. Season with black pepper if desired.

Sprinkle half the cheese in the bottom of the pie crust. Top with mushroom mixture, pour egg mustard over that, and sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese. Lower the oven temperature to 350°F and bake one hour, or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Pink Mushroom Risotto

Serves 6-8

1 tablespoon butter
½ yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups short grain white rice
3 cups vegetable broth
1 ½ cups red wine, divided
1/8 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried rosemary
8 oz. dried shitake mushrooms
½ cup frozen peas
Salt and black pepper to taste

Place the dried shitakes in a large bowl and cover with 1 cup boiling water; cover and allow to sit while you cook the risotto.

Heat the butter in a large, deep skillet or a Dutch oven over medium-high heat; when it melts, lower to medium heat and add the onion along with a pinch of salt.  Saute until soft (about 10 minutes), then add the garlic and rice; continue cooking until the rice becomes translucent-looking, about 4 minutes.  Stir in 1 cup of the red wine, lower heat to medium-low, and cook until most of the wine is absorbed, stirring occasionally.  Then, add the broth in 1-cup increments, covering to cook and checking periodically to see when it has been absorbed.

By now your mushrooms should be soft; remove from soaking liquid and roughly chop.  Pour the mushroom soaking liquid into the rice mixture and cook as before.  When all the broth is gone, stir in the remaining ½ cup of wine, cooking until liquid is once again mostly absorbed.  At this stage, the rice should be tender and creamy; keep adding water, ½ cup at a time, if this is not the case.

When rice is cooked, stir in the cheese, thyme, rosemary, chopped mushrooms, and peas; remove from heat, cover and warm through.  Season with salt and black pepper and serve piping hot.

Pork and Apples with Cider Cream Sauce

Serves 6

1 pounds pork tenderloin, cut into 12 (2-inch thick) slices
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil

2 tablespoons butter
3 Granny Smith apples, unpeeled and thickly sliced
2 medium shallots, thinly sliced (about ½ cup)
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
1 ½ teaspoons sugar
¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup apple cider
¼ cup low-sodium chicken broth
½ teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
¼ cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

To prepare pork, place medallions (slices) between sheets of plastic wrap.  Using a meat mallet or a heavy skillet, flatten each piece to an even thickness of about ¼ inch.  Remove plastic wrap and season both side of medallions with salt and pepper.

Heat a 12-inch sauté pan or skillet over high heat.  Add vegetable oil.  When oil starts to smoke, place half the meat into the pan and sauté on both sides until well browned and thoroughly cooked.  Transfer to a plate to keep warm.  Repeat the process with the remaining medallions.

To prepare apples, reheat pan over high heat.  Add butter.  When hot, add apples, shallots, rosemary, sugar, and salt.  Sauté until apples are golden brown and tender, about 8 minutes, shaking pan occasionally.  Transfer apples to plate with meat.

To prepare sauce, add cider, broth, and rosemary to pan.  Cook, whisking to scrape any brown bits, over high heat, about 5 minutes.  Add heavy cream; reduce heat to medium and simmer until mixture thickens to sauce consistency, 5-10 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Return apples and pork to the pan with the sauce.  Simmer approx. 7 minutes or until pork seems tender and infiltrated by sauce.

Shepherd’s Pie, Made Over

Serves 6-8

1 small head cauliflower, roughly chopped
1 russet potato, peeled and chopped
2 small parsnips, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
¼ cup plain yogurt
4 oz. grated cheddar cheese (optional)
Salt and black pepper to taste

In a large pot of salty water, boil the cauliflower, potato, and parsnips until soft.  Drain and mash by hand with the garlic, yogurt, and salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in cheddar cheese.  This step can be done the day before and refrigerated or can occur while you make the filling.

Olive oil
4 oz. dried shitake mushrooms, hydrated, drained of excess water, and chopped
½ cup broccoli florets and stems, chopped
1 small yellow onion, diced
½ green bell pepper, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
½ cup dry red wine
1 tablespoon minced chives
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, pinch salt, and the smoked paprika and sauté until tender.  Stir in the broccoli, mushrooms, pepper, tomato paste, and red wine, lower to medium low heat, and cover.  Allow to stew about 10 minutes, remove from heat, and stir in chives and salt and pepper to taste.

Grease a a large pie pan or medium-sized casserole dish with a bit of olive oil.  Pour in the vegetable stew and smooth out so it’s even.  Spread the potato mixture on top, gently smoothing like a thick layer of icing over the stew.  If the potatoes are cold, cook uncovered in the oven for 20 minutes at 400°F before broiling; if everything is hot, place under the broiler and cook about 10 minutes, or until potato mixture gets browned.

Summer Squash “Lasagna”

Makes 12 pieces

…or you could use zucchini.  Add this to the list of recipes developed to survive the onslaught of these summer beauties that just seem to take over the garden from July to October.

4 large summer squash, cut into ½ -inch thick “coins”
4 large tomatoes, cut into ¼-inch thick slices
4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
8 oz. ricotta cheese
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Dried oregano, salt and crushed red pepper flakes
Cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves

You can skip this step if you’re pressed for time, but it will help keep the moisture content down: lay all squash and tomato slices out in single layers on thick paper towels or flour sack towels, salt lightly, and place another layer of paper/ flour sack towels on top.  Allow to sit at least 30 minutes before building your lasagna.  This releases the excess water from the vegetables so they don’t become a soup in the oven.

Oil a large lasagna pan with extra virgin olive oil.  Start layering: squash coins on the bottom, a tomato slice on top of each squash coin.  Add a little salt, red pepper, and dried oregano on top, then small blobs of ricotta on each tomato slice, followed by a very thin scattering of some mozzarella.  Continue in this fashion, pressing down to compact the cheese as you go, until you’re out of all the squash and tomatoes--your last layer should be vegetables.  Scatter the fresh basil all over the top, then cover with remaining (should be the majority of the 4 cups) mozzarella.

Cover the pan with foil, allowing a little space at the top so it doesn’t stick to the cheese.  Bake at 375°F for 40 minutes.  Uncover, raise temperature to 425°F, and bake another 20 minutes or until cheese is golden brown and some of the extra liquid in the pan has reduced to more of a sauce.

Zucchini and Goat Cheese Frittata

Or make it a quiche by pouring the batter into a pre-made pie crust.

Serves 4

6 eggs
1 cup grated fresh zucchini (about 1 medium zucchini)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme or marjoram
4 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1.3 cup grated pecorino cheese
1 small sprig fresh thyme

Preheat broiler.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and garlic and season with salt and black pepper.  Add the zucchini, thyme, and goat cheese, stirring to combine.

Heat the olive oil in a large, oven-safe skillet over medium heat.  Add the egg mixture and swirl the skillet to distribute the eggs and filling evenly over the surface.  Shake the skillet gently, tilting slightly while lifting the edges of the frittata with a spatula to let the raw egg run underneath for the first 1 to 2 minutes of cooking.  Lower the heat to medium and cook until eggs are almost set, about 5 minutes.

Cover the frittata with the pecorino cheese and place the skillet under the broiler for about 1 minute.  The frittata will puff up and brown slightly.  Remove from the oven and carefully slide onto a serving platter, using a spatula to unstick from the skillet as it slides.

Garnish with thyme, cut into 4 wedges and serve hot, at room temperature, or cold.