30 April 2013

Green Bean and Potato Salad

I like the vinegar in German Potato Salad, but not the bacon.  I like the eggs in American mustard-style potato salad, but pretty much nothing else.  Oh, and I like green beans.  So, you can imagine how this recipe came about.

This works well hot, cold, or at room temperature, as a side or just as a light lunch with a nice, crisp lager.  You could throw in capers or olives for an extra bit of sour, swap our the dill for any other fresh herb (dried doesn't seem to work), or trade the green beans for broccoli or asparagus.

Green Bean and Potato Salad

Serves 6-8 as a side

2 lbs. baby red potatoes (or any other fingerling)
1 lb. green beans, cleaned and trimmed
4 hard boiled eggs, peeled
1/8 cup diced red onion
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill or herb of your choice
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
3 tablespoons grainy mustard
4 tablespoon cider vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Clean potatoes and cut in half or quarters to yield a somewhat uniform size.  In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, bring very salty water to boil and add potatoes.  Lower heat to a gentle boil; after 5 minutes, add green beans and continue to cook until everything is tender but not falling apart, about fifteen minutes.  Drain and set aside.

Slice peeled eggs in half and remove yolks.  Place yolks in a bowl with mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste.  Mash with a fork until mostly smooth.  Chop egg whites and add to the dressing along with onion and dill.  Stir in potatoes and green beans and adjust seasoning if necessary.

26 April 2013

Cauliflower and Olives with Pasta

I must be on an Italian kick...

This is another simple pasta dish to cook on a busy weeknight when you're almost too hungry to cook (but you know it's never worth going to Burger King), or for an impromptu get-together when you'd prefer to spend your time visiting your friends, not sweating over the stove. Serve with copious amounts of wine.

Cauliflower and Olives with Pasta

Serves 6

1 pound whole wheat farfalle or other medium shape
1 large head cauliflower, broken down into bite-sized florets
1 cup mixed olives, pitted and roughly chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
1 lemon, sliced
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
Fresh lemon juice and olive oil
Crushed red pepper flakes
¼ cup fine bread crumbs
handful fresh parsley, chopped

Cook the pasta in salted water according to package directions.

Meanwhile, line a rimmed baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.  Lay down lemon slices and then scatter cauliflower, olives, and onion evenly over lemon.  Roast in oven at 425°F 20 minutes or until onions are soft and cauliflower and lemon begin to brown.

Toss hot cooked pasta with the garlic, Italian seasoning, and lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and red pepper to taste.  Stir in roasted vegetables and serve with  parsley and bread crumbs sprinkled on top.

23 April 2013

Recipe review: Custardy baked orzo with spinach, bacon, and feta

Hells to the yes!  Why would you NOT make this recipe?  Published in Food and Wine a few months back, this contribution from reality cooking show brat Mike Isabella is presented as good brunch food. I think it works well any time of day, and yes, it is also still beautiful without the bacon, for my lacto-ovo friends.

I haven't made much in the way of modification here, because I think this recipe is just about perfect.

Mike Isabella's Custardy Baked Orzo with Spinach, Bacon, and Feta

Serves 6

  1. Salt
  2. 1 cup orzo
  3. 6 ounces thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  4. 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  5. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  6. 8 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  7. 8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  8. Freshly ground pepper
  9. 4 large eggs
  10. 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  11. 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  12. 1/2 cup milk
  13. Preheat the oven to 375°. In a large saucepan of salted boiling water, cook the orzo until al dente. Drain and transfer to a medium bowl.
  14. In a large skillet, cook the bacon over moderate heat until browned, 8 minutes. Add the onions and cook until tender, 8 minutes. Add the leek mixture to the orzo, leaving 1 tablespoon of fat in the skillet. Add the garlic to the skillet and cook until just fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the contents of the skillet, the lemon juice, and the drained spinach to the orzo, fold in the feta and season with salt and pepper.
  15. In a bowl, whisk the eggs with the yogurt and milk, season with pepper and stir into the orzo. Scrape the mixture into an oiled 12-by-8-inch baking dish and bake for about 45 minutes, until the eggs are set and the top is browned. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

19 April 2013

Recipe for Chicken Cacciatore

I find chicken to be rather bland, and it is prone to both dryness from overcooking and unpleasant gamy flavor when reheated.  But it's a lean source of protein and it fills you up.  At its best, it can even be extremely moist and a complimentary part of a delicious dish.  Your safest bet for satisfying chicken is to cook it in a flavorful sauce.  Oh, and throw in some pasta.  Pasta is always delicious.

I am reminded of this cozy, winter-appropriate recipe because, although it is mid-April it is still cold and windy in the Rocky Mountains.

Nicole's Poseur Chicken Cacciatore

Serves 6-8

2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts cut into 1-inch chunks
1 medium onion, cut in half and then sliced
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine 
1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and cubed into 1/2-inch pieces
8 oz. small brown mushrooms
1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes, with juice
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips
1 tablespoon pickled jalapenos, diced
1/4 cup chopped green or black olives (or a mix)1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. In a Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat, then cook the chicken pieces until lightly brown, about 4 minutes on each side.

Add the onion and red pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and jalapenos and pour in the white wine and cook until it has reduced by 1/2 the quantity, about 6 minutes.

Add the potatoes, mushrooms, tomatoes, olives, rosemary, and 1/2 cup water. Stir, season with salt and pepper, cover, and cook until bubbling, about 30 minutes. Uncover and cook on medium until the potatoes are tender, about another 30 minutes. Serve over cooked pasta or rice if desired. 

16 April 2013

Recipe review: Kale Salad with Cherries and Pecans

This is another recipe from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, and although I could not find it on her blog, I did find several other bloggers who had adopted (or adapted) it for themselves, so I guess I'm not the only one who thinks it's a keeper.  You can find the original recipe in the cookbook; I have included my substitutions in the directions below.  

I love this over leftover white rice for a lunch salad or on the side with just about any grilled protein.

Smitten Kitchen's Kale Salad 2.0

1/2 cup chopped pecans (I prefer walnuts) 
8 ounces kale
4 ounces radishes, sliced into paper-thin rounds
1/4 small red onion, thinl sliced (my addition)
1/2 cup dried cherries (or cranberries)
2 ounces soft goat cheese, chilled


3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Wash and spin kale to remove excess water. Chiffonade the kale leaves into thin strips (SK recommends removing stems and veins, but I leave 'em in and just make sure everything is chopped super fine). Add the kale ribbons to a large salad bowl. Add the radishes and red onion.

Whisk dressing ingredients together in a small dish, and pour the dressing over the kale, radishes, and red onion.  Toss to coat and allow to sit in the refrigerator at least one hour.  SK does not give these directions, but I find it slightly "cooks" the veggies so that they are tender and infused with flavor. If you're in a hurry, just serve right away.)
Add pecans and cherries. Crumble the goat cheese over top.

12 April 2013

Egg noodles with Roasted Tomato Sauce

You know I love pasta.  And I also love roasting things in the oven--so delicious and so simple.  This dish is shamefully low-maintenance: you dump the ingredient for the sauce in a pan and roast the whole thing while boiling some water for noodles on the stove.  It's perfect for entertaining because you aren't glued to the stove the entire time, and it yields a rich, complex flavor without taking any complex action to make it that way.

Egg noodles with Roasted Tomato Sauce

Serves 6

1 pound egg noodles
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
8 oz. button mushrooms, cleaned and thickly sliced
1 red bell pepper, cored and diced
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 cup dry white wine (use something you would be willing to drink!)
handful fresh basil, julienned
handful fresh parsley, chopped
freshly ground black pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Cook the pasta in salted water according to package directions. Do this sometime towards the end of the sauce's cooking time.

Drizzle a little olive oil in a large baking dish.  Scatter the onions, garlic, mushrooms, and bell pepper, in that order, into the dish.  Cover with the tomatoes and sprinkle with salt and oregano.  Bake in the oven at 400°F 25 minutes or until tomatoes start to look slightly caramelized.  Add the white wine and bake another 15 minutes to reduce.  

To serve, toss cooked noodles in the sauce and season with pepper, fresh herbs, and more salt if desired. Drizzle with a little more olive oil. May be served with grated Parmesan cheese. 

09 April 2013

Recipe review: Smitten Kitchen's Pumpkin Muffins

The recipe Smitten Kitchen published on her website, which is already adapted from one that was previously published in Gourmet Magazine, is a hot mess of asterisks noting her errors and changed ideas about ingredients.  But what I ended up deciding to do, based on this recipe, is pretty tasty and maintains a nice level of pumpkin flavor-to-sweetness (though I had to figure out how much sugar she was actually asking for).  SK really should redo this recipe so that it's less a catalogue of her mistakes and more a clear set of directions, but in the meantime, here's what I came up with.

Pumpkin Muffins with Chocolate Chips

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen's adaptation from Gourmet Magazine

Makes 12 muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin (from a 15 ounce can)

1/3 cup vegetable oil

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon powdered ginger

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin. 

Combine all wet ingredients in a mixing bowl: oil, eggs, pumpkin, and sugar.  Add all

remaining ingredients and combine thoroughly.  Pour into muffin cups and bake 30 minutes

or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean. 

05 April 2013

Tangy Lemon Pound Cake

Speaking of spring fever, this pound cake is light, fresh-tasting, and a not-too-sweet end to a meal.  The yogurt gives it a hint of tanginess that almost reminds me of cheesecake, and the strong lemon flavor just screams "spring".

Tangy Lemon Pound Cake

Serves about 8

1 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1/8 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
1/2 cup plain Greek style yogurt

Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease and flour a bread pan. 

In a large bowl, cream butter, sugar, eggs, lemon juice, and yogurt. Add flour, baking soda, salt, and lemon peel and stir or beat with a hand mixer until smooth.

Pour batter into prepared bread pan and bake 1 hour or until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before slicing.

My desserts might be a little more hard-core than your's, but I think this cake is perfect with a whiskey old-fashioned.

02 April 2013

Nashville food rocks!

After a really fun visit to Nashville last week, it took me a while to get myself together to report to y'all about some great restaurants in the area.  Nashville is a surprisingly diverse city, a moderate size that can offer a lot of entertainment and food options without feeling overwhelming, and it's filled with great people who want you to have a good time.  I-65 is home to some pretty crazy driving, though--they could really use some public transportation (and I will continue to say this about every town I visit until American society embraces mass transit, which is to say, until blogs cease to exist).

Lockeland Table: New American and small plates, with an emphasis on locally sourced ingredients.  I sat at the chef's bar, which was centered around the brick pizza oven in the back just in front of the kitchen, and the small pizzas looked and smelled amazing.  If I had ordered one, I probably would have gotten the "Octopi", with octopus, tomatoes, caramelized fennel, oregano, garlic, chili oil, and Parmesan.  However, what I did get was also delicious: roasted heirloom carrot and beet salad and wood fired oysters Rockefeller from the starters, and a plate of local cheeses with homemade crackers, apples, homemade almond brittle, and fig jam. The cocktails are also cool, though I can't remember what I had.  Something with rye whiskey.  The wait staff are knowledgeable and friendly, and they are happy to make substitutions whenever possible.

The Smiling Elephant is tiny inside, so go early for the best Thai meal of your life.  Their Pad Thai is apparently award-winning, but I couldn't resist getting the Pad Makea, a spicy-sour stir fry with ground pork, smoky eggplant, tomatoes, bamboo shoots, and basil over jasmine rice.  When we asked about the spice level of the green curry, the owner brought us a sample--it was surprisingly fresh and light with a good bit of after burn.

The Slick Pig: Enough of this frou-frou shit; if you're in Tennessee, you should get some barbecue.  The Slick Pig, located in nearby Murfreesboro, seems like one of those grungy college hang-outs that is a part of graduates' memories from generations back (Murfreesboro is home to Middle Tennessee State U.).  My host loves the smoked wings; I really enjoyed my "pork plate", which was a huge pile of smoky barbecued shredded pork with little cornbread pancakes, seasoned white beans, and tomato and raw onion (the true sign of authenticity).  I had to do some extra jogging the next morning, but what's a trip to the South without the BBQ?!