Monday, February 28, 2011

Warm Kabocha Squash Salad

I will not even pretend to have been the brainchild behind such a creation.  I had just been reading Sunday Suppers at Lucques when a bluish squash resembling a turban showed up in my veggie box.  Chef Suzanne Goin features this squash in many recipes in this beautiful book But this salad had intrigued me right away because it is a feast for all senses.  Crunchy, nutty, smoky, creamy, colorful.  It's all there. The idea of it when I saw the recipe captured my attention, but when I created it myself, I fell in love.

I don't necessarily love squash. Even without sugar or maple syrup it's really too sweet for my tastes.  (I will pick cheese over chocolate every time if given the option.)  But growing up in the South where squash and sweet potatoes are regularly combined with any number of sweet components (marshmallows, syrup, brown sugar, etc.) I never acquired a taste for it.  I started roasting it to make my butternut squash risotto and I realized that in savory applications I like it.

So with all the different elements, this salad takes the sweet nature and deemphasizes it.  I have changed a few elements including the type of greens (I had arugula and used instead of chef Goin's dandelion greens and aged Gouda in place of Rondal.)  Enjoy along with a roasted chicken or grilled fish, but my favorite way is simply by itself with a glass of spicy zinfandel (no, not the pink sweet stuff, the real red varietal, please) or a cold California chardonnay.  

CWYG Stats

Veggie Box - squash, arugula

CWYG List items - shallots, bacon, pecans, sherry vinegar, aged Gouda (could also use cheddar, blue or feta)

Warm Kabocha Salad
based on recipe from Chef Suzanne Goin

1 kabocha squash, (or sub whatever winter squash you have)
olive oil for baking sheet
salt and red pepper flakes to taste
fresh thyme leaves
chopped fresh rosemary (if you have it)
4 oz bacon, cut into 1/2" strips
1/2 cup pecans (walnuts, sliced almonds, pine nuts)
2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 lb arugula, stems removed and torn into pieces
2 tbsps sherry vinegar
fresh cracked black pepper
chunk of well-aged Gouda

Heat oven to 375 degree oven. Cut the top and bottom off the squash then remove the skin by cutting down lengthwise just along the edge.  Cut in half lengthwise and remove seeds.  Cut into wedges and lay on a lightly oiled baking sheet.  Season with salt and red pepper flakes and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves and rosemary.  Roast until gold brown on the edges and soft. 

While the squash roasts, you can also toast the pecans or whatever but you are using.  (Watch them, though, they will burn very quickly.) Cook bacon in a large saute pan until crispy. Remove the bacon to a paper towel to drain reserving the bacon fat.  Add the shallots and fry til crispy.  Remove to a paper towel again reserving bacon fat.  Quickly whisk in sherry vinegar and let reduce for a minute.

On each of two plates, scatter arugula and then arrange squash, bacon, shallots and pecans.  Drizzle with the dressing and shave cheese over the top.  (If using blue or feta, simply crumble it over the finished salad.)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Poblano Potato Chowder with Roasted Corn

I guess it's official. Soup Sunday is here to stay (except maybe during the summer...stay tuned and we'll see).  It seems like I can't get past them.  This time, I had a poblano pepper in my fridge for some reason (I know there was one when I bought it, but couldn't remember why I didn't use it.) and decided that along with the potatoes in my pantry and the expiration-approaching cream in my fridge it would be a great cold Sunday evening supper.  The roasted corn just sounded better than throwing frozen corn in without any kind of manipulation.  A quick trip in a preheated iron skillet was the winter answer to our summer favorite grilled corn.

A note on the pepper.  It is a milder chile, but has a little kick.  Leave it out and just make a potato chowder with roasted corn or use canned chiles if you have then on hand.  (They are on The List so if you have everything stocked they will be there.) So here it is, enjoy with a cold chardonnay or beer and imagine yourself on a warm sunny Mexico beach.

Poblano Potato Chowder

1 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 poblano chile, roasted, peeled and chopped (or 1/2 cup canned chiles)
4 cups chicken stock (Better than Bouillon reconstituted)
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 cups frozen corn kernels

In a large saute pan, saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil until softened.  Add the potatoes and half of the chiles.  Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and cook until potatoes are very soft.

To roast the corn, heat an iron skillet until smoking. (Spread kernels on a cookie sheet and broil if no iron skillet.) Turn off the heat (if using a gas stove) and add a thin film of oil and the corn (careful, it will spatter!) When the spattering stops, turn the heat back on to high and cook until you smell toasty corn, stir a bit and cook again for another minute or two.  It will burn so watch carefully.  Mix with the remaining poblano chiles and set aside.

Using a hand blender (or carefully transfer to a blender with the top off and covered with a towel) puree the soup.  Whisk together the heavy cream and yogurt and stir into the soup.  Heat gently until it's hot all the way through. 

To serve, place a large spoonful of the corn/chile mixture in a shallow soup bowl and carefully ladle the chowder around it.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Smoky Chicken Soup

This is definitely a CWYG recipe. We apparently got the freezing weather a bit later than the rest of the country.  With threatening freezing weather and an even more threatening cold (3rd or 4th of the season!  YUK!) hot, spicy chicken soup sounded so good.  I knew I had leftover cooked chickpeas and frozen chicken breasts.  I always have individually frozen chipotle chiles (after opening a can, I freeze each one in a silicone mini-muffin cup, then remove and stash in a ziploc9 bag) in the freezer. I keep a container of organic Better Than Bouillon* in the fridge (which means instant chicken stock without the waste of multiple organic stock cartons in the trash). It all came together in a silky smooth and smoky base with corn, chicken, chickpeas and avocado.

One of the things I love about Mexican soups is that there are always a few extras to top it off.  I had half a head of cabbage and though I've never been a menudo fan, I know this is a traditional topping and it has a lot of the same base elements as this soup so that was my starting point.  Cilantro is a natural as well as a squeeze of lime.  Cotija would be the more authentic Mexican choice for a cheese to crumble over the top, but to keep my cheese drawer simple, I keep feta instead since I can use it for a multitude of applications.  It's a perfect sub for Cotija or Queso Fresco, both of which are non-melting fresh cheeses much like feta. Even without the toppings, with your pantry, fridge and freezer stocked you will have a nutrient packed, protein filled, healing meal in about a half hour.

Smoky Chicken Soup

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 bay leaf
2 whole garlic cloves
2 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 chipotle chile (or 2 tsp smoked paprika)
1 can whole or diced tomatoes
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1 can chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans, black, white or pinto beans would work equally well)
salt and pepper to taste
1 lime, quartered
1/2 cup crumbled feta or shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups shredded cabbage (optional)
1 cup chopped cilantro
tortilla chips or strips to serve, totally optional but a crunchy finish

In a large pot, place the chicken, bay leaf, garlic cloves, salt and enough water to cover.  Bring to a boil, lower heat to medium high and boil for 5 minutes, removing any foam from the top with a slotted spoon or spider.  Cover turn off heat and let stand while you finish the soup.  Remove after 20 minutes or so and shred with forks or fingers (it will be hot, though).

In a large saucepan, saute onion and minced garlic in the oil until softened.  With a slotted spoon, remove the onions and garlic to a blender and add the tomatoes and chipotle or smoked paprika.  Blend until smooth.  Reheat the oil in the saucepan for a minute or two.  Add the pureed tomato/chile mixture and cook for a couple of minutes (covered or it will greatly spatter) until it becomes a bit thicker.  Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, add the chickpeas and corn then simmer for 5 minutes or until you have the chicken shredded.  Add the chicken and cook for a minute or two until heated through. 

In large shallow bowls, ladle the soup and top with a handful of tortilla chips, cabbage, cilantro, a lime wedge and a sprinkle of cheese.

*Try to find it locally, since online you have to buy 6 at a time and you have to pay exhorbitant shipping.  If you have a Costco available, you can buy a 16 oz container for $6.89 and it lasts for months.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Tangerine Curd - Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

It's still a little absurd and wonderful all the same that I live in a place where fruit grows so readily.  Everywhere I look (except my own backyard it seems) there are beautiful dark green trees bursting with brilliant orbs of orange and yellow.  Giant pummelos, tiny mandarins and tangerines, beautiful and almost sweet Meyer lemons, blood oranges, navels (the juiciest and sweetest you could ever imagine) and grapefruits.  I can take our dog on a walk to the park and come home with a snack from the fruit hanging over fences.  It is so ubiquitous that many don't use it and instead the ground enjoys the feast.  (Thankfully, there is an organization that offers to pick the extra fruit and distribute it to local food banks when they can get it before the ground does.)

Okay full disclosure...our property does have two small trees in wine barrels and we harvested a total of 13 pieces of fruit...9 Meyer lemons and 4 lemon/lime hybrids.  Thankfully, though, we have been receiving about 5 lbs of citrus each week from our veggie box.  With that and the fact that I have a very adept orange tree-climbing husband, we have more citrus than we can eat.  Never wanting fresh food to go to waste, when I saw several of my tangerines beginning to look mummified (the pic above is of the pretty, tiny and beautiful mandarins we got this week not the mummies) I decided it was time to make something of the juice.  I looked at a Tangerine pudding recipe from Deborah Madison and while it looks beautiful in the picture, I couldn't wrap my culinary brain around the idea of a pudding created from juice. Lemon curd is a favorite use for an abundance of lemon juice, though, and so it made perfect sense to sub tangerine juice since it's a bit on the tart side. 

A bit of experimentation with mixing a little lime juice with the tangerine juice led to a not-too-tart curd that went very well with tiny chocolate cakes that I happened to make the same weekend. My sweetaholic family loved it straight out of spoon as well.  I happen to like tart things more than sweet, so I prefer lemon or lime curd, but for those of you like my family, this is a good departure from the typical English spoonsweet for scones.  Feel free to substitute any citrus juice and zest (fresh-squeezed please never the bottled stuff) for the tangerines.

One note on the technique - typically you cook this over a double boiler.  I get too impatient for that so I do it straight over the burner and start with a whisk.  I then switch to a rubber spatula and stir until it reaches the thick consistency I want.  If you keep it moving, it won't coagulate and create the scrambled egg catastrophe that the double boiler is supposed to prevent.  (If by chance it does, then before adding butter simply pour it through a fine mesh strainer with gravity doing it's thing and not pressing.  It will ease itself through and you will have a smooth curd.)

Tangerine Curd 

2/3 cup sugar
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup tangerine juice plus lemon or lime juice to make up 2/3 cup
a pinch of sea salt, optional
2 tbsp of tangerine zest
1 stick of very cold butter cut into small cubes

In a medium saucepan, whisk the sugar, egg yolks, juice, salt and zest.

Turn heat to medium and stirring constantly with a spatula, bring to a high simmer.  Cook until beginning to thicken.  When the mixture coats the spatula and you can drag your finger through it without it recovering, remove from heat.  (Strain if you see scrambled eggs of any size.)  Whisk in the cold butter a bit at a time.

Store in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for up to 3 months.  You can scoop out what you need (or crave) and return it to the freezer.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Roasted Squash Risotto with Fried Sage and Brown Butter

The great thing about getting a veggie box from a CSA is that you have fresh, organic and local produce showing up each week. It's a given that we're going to find a way to eat it even if that means a little time spent "googling". The sometimes not so great thing is that you get a lot of the same depending on the season. During the winter, it's greens of all kinds and hard, winter squash. I've got a handle on the greens, but with half our family not liking squash, it's a bit harder. Peelable squash like butternut squash get roasted since that technique gives it a crunchy exterior (texture is my issue with winter squash.) Delicata and acorn varieties gets roasted in halves, pureed with butter, garlic and herbs and made into a lasagna filling. Kabocha, a squash which I had never encountered before veggie boxes, has become a warm salad favorite. (Recipe to come later.) Chef Suzanne Goin is apparently a fan since her beautiful cookbook Sunday Suppers at Lucques features several recipe using this varietal.

I developed this recipe several years ago before moving to Cali where getting veggie boxes has become a way of life.  I was simply supporting my local farmers and butternut squash was pretty much the bulk of that week's market offerings so I bought several and then had to figure out how to use them.  I had success growing sage so I had lots of it and having read several recipes using brown butter and sage along with squash ravioli, I instinctively knew this would really augment the risotto instead of the typical method of stirring in cold butter.  So the recipe began to come together as I began to cook.  Though the typical parmesan can be used as the cheesey finish, I wrote this recipe using Cave-Aged Gruyere before it was a named cheese (which drove the price way up) so now I use a well-aged Gouda (vs a young Gouda).  Either way, you're going for a very nutty, creamy cheese.

Roasted Squash Risotto with Fried Sage and Brown Butter
This recipe looks complicated. While it does have many steps, many of them can be done in minutes.  All vegetable prep can be done up to two days ahead of time.  Share stirring and a bottle of wine with a few friends.

1 (1 lb) butternut squash
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
1 bunch of sage
1 medium yellow onion, diced
6 cups chicken stock
5 tablespoons butter, divided
1 ½ cups Arborio rice
¾ cup dry white wine
salt and pepper to taste
½ cup shredded gruyere or well-aged gouda cheese

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Using a vegetable peeler, peel the butternut squash.  Using a very sharp knife, cut off the stem and bottom of the squash, then divide the squash where it begins to form a bulb.  Cut the bulb in half and remove the seeds.  Cut the squash into ½ ” pieces.  Place on a baking sheet and toss with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and salt.  Roast for 20-30 minutes or until brown.

Pick the leaves off the sage.  Chop the largest leaves to make up 2 tablespoons of chopped sage.   Reserve the rest of the leaves for later.  Chop the onion into ¼” pieces.

Place the chicken stock in a saucepan and bring to a low simmer.  In a small saute pan set over mediume heat, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter with the reserved sage leaves.  When the leaves start to sizzle, reduce heat to medium low until butter has turned a deep brown.  Reduce heat further if foam begins to develop. 

In a deep sided 10” skillet or 3 quart saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.  When melted, add the onion and saute until onion is wilted and starting to slightly turn golden.  Add the rice and stir to coat every grain with the oil and butter.   Continue to saute rice and onion until the rice becomes translucent and slightly golden.

Remove the skillet from heat and add white wine.  Return to medium low heat and stir continuously until the rice has absorbed the wine.  Stir in 1 cup of chicken stock and stir until the rice absorbs the stock.  Repeat this process for 10-15 minutes, then taste.  If the rice is slightly chewy, turn off the heat and add salt and pepper to taste.  If the rice is still a bit hard, keep adding stock and stirring until the rice reaches this al dente state.

To serve, place the risotto in either individual bowls or one large serving bowl.  Top with the roasted squash.  Carefully spoon out the crispy sage leaves reserving the browned butter.  Place the sage leaves on top of the roasted squash and risotto.  Sprinkle with the shredded cheese.  Drizzle the top with the browned butter and spoon any remaining broth around the perimeter of the risotto.

Makes 4 generous main-dish servings or 8 side dish servings.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Warm Turnip Salad with Citrus and Olives

There are just some things I really want to like, but just haven't yet acquired the taste. Shellfish of most sorts, game meats, escargot. Though I'm a fan of most veggies, the lesser roots would be in that category, too. Turnips, rutabaga, celeriac (celery root), parsnips. Though I am learning to make friends with some of them - parsnip fries are a new favorite for three out of the four of our family. But in general the others, when I get them in my veggie box, elicit a sigh along with the thought of "how am I going to make myself eat these?" Though I ended up giving a large bag of assorted roots to a friend after they started piling up in my veggie drawer, I did keep a small bunch of Scarlet Queen turnips recently out of sheer curiosity.

Having received many bunches of Japanese turnips (AKA baby or Tokyo) in my box, we've eaten them raw like a radish or gratineed, but would Scarlet babies work the same? They were small like a Japanese turnip and they still had the leaves. They looked like they would be tender and not in need of long cooking and I enjoy mild radishes with citrus so a salad might work. Bacon always adds salty goodness and crunch to anything (don't throw anything at me, Vegans, and you bacon-eating vegetarians, you know I'm right!) and olives add a contrast to the orange and scarlet colors. So off to salad world I go...

Warm Turnip Salad with Citrus and Olives
Enough for two side salads

1 small bunch baby turnips (Tokyo, Scarlet Queen, etc.), washed, leaves removed and chopped
1 orange, peeled and cut into supremes (skinless segments), reserving juice (How to click here)
2 thick slices bacon, cut into 1/2" pieces and fried til crispy, reserve a little of the fat. (totally optional!)
2 scallions, cut into 1/2" slices on the diagonal, keep white and green parts separated
a small handful oil-cured black olives (or whatever you have on hand)
1/2 tbsp sherry vinegar (or apple cider or red wine)
salt and pepper to taste

Thinly slice the turnips. Arrange the chopped leaves on salad plates.

In olive oil or reserved bacon fat, saute the turnips and saute only long enough to slightly wilt them. Remove the turnips carefully and leave behind as much of the fat as possible. Arrange the turnips on the leaves. Saute the white part of the scallions in the remaining fat (add more if necessary). Stir in the reserved orange juice and sherry vinegar. Drizzle over the turnips then arrange the olives, bacon and orange segments over the top.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Gluten Free Apple Pancakes with Orange Walnut Butter

By now you've hopefully realized that CWYG is a lifestyle, not simply a clever blogging idea. It's really helpful to know you don't have to have special ingredients or a mix for this or that and that you can create healthful and tasty meals with what you have on hand. Even breakfast!

This particular cold, rainy Saturday (the Bay area's answer to the freezing precipitation that is everywhere else) the thought of going out to get more agave nectar to top our normal Saturday pancakes was very unappealing. A quick look around yielded oranges from our giant basket (thanks to my hubby for going and heisting as many as possible from a tree on semi-public land.) and I always have walnuts and butter. Pink Lady apple rings dipped in our favorite pancake batter recipe flavored with cinnamon and we were off.

My favorite pancake recipe is actually gluten-free (see below for recipe) but you can use any basic pancake recipe if you are not a gluten-free family. Add cinnamon and vanilla and then simply peel, core and slice apples, dip them and serve with the butter.

Orange Walnut Compound Butter

1 stick softened (not melted) butter
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 teaspoon salt (if using unsalted butter)
zest of 1 orange
2 tbsp honey

Mix all the ingredients and set aside.

Gluten Free Pancake Batter
2 1/2 cups Featherlight Flour Mix* or your favorite gluten-free flour mix
4 tbsp dry milk powder (or omit and substitute milk for the water)
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp xantham gum
1 tsp cinnamon
4 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
6 tbsp melted butter or canola oil
2 tbsp vinegar plus water to make 2 cups

Mix all dry ingredients together in a large bowl. (This can be done in advance and stored in an airtight container or zip-top bag.  Just add the liquid ingredients when you are ready for pancakes.)

Whisk eggs until foamy.  Add vanilla, oil and vinegar/water mixture and whisk until well blended. Gradually add to dry ingredients until well blended.  Let stand for a few minutes while warming griddle.

Do a test pancake.  If the batter is too thick, add a little more water (or milk.)

For the apple pancakes:  Peel, core and slice the apples about 1/8" thick.  Dip each apple ring in the batter then lay on the griddle.  You could also chop the apples and add to the batter.  They will take a bit longer to cook this way but just as good.

Top with the orange butter and a drizzle of honey.

*Featherlight Flour Mix is from Bette Hagman (Gluten-Free Gourmet) - Mix 1 cup each cornstarch, tapioca flour and rice flour, then add 1 tbsp potato starch

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Friday, February 4, 2011

Easy Winter Menus

Mid-Winter Veggie Box
Okay, admittedly, many of my posts start as "a little of this, little of that" cooking, but then end up as actual recipes.  Although I prefer to not follow a recipe, many people I know prefer to follow a recipe instead of cooking off the cuff.  These friends are also usually brilliant scientist/accountant types who are amazing bakers because they follow a recipe.  So for that reason, this website is a recipe website and I like to share with you when I do create new things.

However, since CWYG is a kitchen lifestyle, then sometimes there are days when creating and/or following a recipe is just not possible. On those days, I just need a simple grilled meat and sides kind of dinner that doesn't require much creative brain power and uses the veggies from my box.  (Usually on project or writing week when I'm in the thick of homework with my kids.)  So here are my go-to winter dinner menus:

  • Roasted Vegetables with Butter and Lemon (Romesco Sauce is great if you feel adventurous or have some in your freezer after following my recipe in Rock Star in the Kitchen Recipe Collection.)
  • Salad with Bacon, blue cheese (or whatever we have), walnuts and vinaigrette
  • Grilled Wild Salmon Burgers (very little extra stuff and good quality from Costco)
  • Parsnip Fries
  • Steamed Broccoli for boys, braised greens for the big people
  • Sauteed Boneless, Skinless (usually from frozen state!) Chicken Breasts with pan juices*
  • Boiled baby potatoes slightly smashed with butter and lemon zest
  • Roasted Cauliflower (Break into florets and roast at 375 degrees with olive oil, sliced garlic, salt and red pepper flakes or black pepper.  Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice or a light sprinkle of red wine vinegar.)
  • Twice Baked Potatoes with spinach and broccoli (Bake potaotes, mash the insides with yogurt or sour cream, cooked chopped spinach and broccoli florets.  Stuff into shells and top with cheese. Bake until hot and melty.)
  • A basic green salad or veggie sticks
 *Want tips for how to roast vegetables until carmelized or how to create a delicious pan sauce from any sauteed meat?  Or even how to make several meals with just a few recipes, download my CWYG - The Basics Recipe Collection

    Thursday, February 3, 2011

    Grilled Chicken and Pear Salad

    Veggie Shopping at Ferry Plaza Market in SF     
    When I have lettuce in the house, salads are my fallback. My kids like it because I let them put whatever they want on them besides the main ingredients and I like them because generally there are lots of veggies and protein involved.

    Grilled chicken breasts are another fallback. A secret I learned after many nights of forgetting to thaw chicken is that if you wet it a bit, any dry seasoning will stick to them then you can throw them on the grill, get some good grill marks then move to a cooler part of the grill (medium heat) and let them cook through. Definitely check it with an instant read thermometer or by cutting into it first, though. The grilled pears were a last minute thought since they were a bit on the crispy side. We simply threw them on the grill to get marks and warm them then pulled them off.

    There isn't really a recipe since this was a "Cook What You've Got" night at its essence. We had blue cheese (little cubes of cheddar for the boys), we had some dried cherries and pecans so those got thrown in, then I made a simple shallot balsamic vinaigrette. Any dressing starts with a basic ratio of 1 part acid to 3 parts vinegar, so again use what is readily available and you'll come up with a great salad dinner, too!

    (For a great set of dressing recipes, download my Rock Star in the Kitchen Recipe Collection)
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    Wednesday, February 2, 2011

    The Basics are Always Good - Spaghetti and Meatballs

    This picture has nothing to do with this post except that this is a cool Italian bar in North Beach which is the Little Italy of San Francisco and I hate to not have any photos on my post!
    I so rarely serve spaghetti that we have to reteach the proper fork twirling technique to the boys each time, which is partly why we don't serve it often. It's just much easier to serve penne so that twirling and the inevitable splattering are not involved.

    We have chosen to teach them the more Italianesque way of using the side of of the shallow pasta bowl to help your fork instead of the Mob movie method of using a spoon.  And, with two boys who think eating is a competitive sport because of the ridiculously short school lunch time, we have to keep reminding them that eating only three strands of spaghetti at a time is much more appropriate than clearing out the bowl in a few bites.  So, on the occasion that I pull out the bag of gluten-free spaghetti (a holdover from my gluten-free days that I like over regular wheat pasta) instead of penne, I know it's going to a teaching moment as well as dinner.

    My youngest son had been asking me for sometime about making spaghetti and meatballs and upon spying ground turkey in my freezer and the ubiquitous organic diced tomatoes in my pantry, I decided it was time.  There was nothing particularly special about how I made it, it was just really good.  In fact, I really don't know why this was only the second time in 18 years of marriage that I had made it. On second thought, maybe that's why it was good, I don't make it all the time.  Having grown up in the era when Chef Boyardee was the culinary hero, I didn't really know what homemade tomato sauce could really taste like.  I graduated from the boxed dinners and canned ravioli when I struck out on my own and started buying the separate pasta and pre-made pasta sauce.  With a little doctoring and a package of ground beef or turkey that I cooked and seasoned myself, it was definitely an upgrade from the unmarked canned meat sauce that came in the boxed spaghetti dinner (How did anyone think this was okay?)

    But it wasn't until I met my sweet friend, D, who was from a Sicilian family and grew up the daughter of a pizza maker in New Jersey.  I tasted her sauce and knew I would never buy a jar again. I have been sworn to secrecy so I will not share her recipe, but I do feature my own recipe in my CWYG - The Basics Recipe Collection which you can quickly download and enjoy along with about 15 other basic recipes.  (Along with each recipe is several varations giving you dinner plans for at least a month.)

    So I'll simply give you the meatball recipe and the absolute Italian method of making a pasta and sauce.

    CWYG Stats

    Veggie Box - nothing this time, this was strictly a pantry/freezer recipe.

    CWYG List Items - ground turkey, garlic, onions, Italian seasoning, canned tomatoes, parmesan cheese, eggs, olive oil

    Ground Turkey Meatballs
    1 1/2 pounds ground turkey (or lamb or chicken or beef)
    3 cloves garlic, minced
    1/4 yellow onion, grated
    1 egg
    1 tbsp Italian Seasoning
    1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
    2 tbsp olive oil
    1 Recipe Basic Tomato Sauce
    1 lb spaghetti
    Additional cheese for sprinkling

    In a large bowl, mix the ground meat, garlic, onion, egg, Italian Seasoning and cheese. Using a teaspoon or a small melon baller or scoop, make 1" diameter meatballs. (They can be bigger, but I personally favor quantity or size)  Saute in batches in the olive oil until brown on all sides.  If sauce is cooking simultaneously transfer to the sauce, but if it was made ahead, pour the sauce in to warm while the meatballs finish cooking.  I remove the meatballs to a warm plate to serve over the top after I have tossed the pasta with the sauce so that I am following the proper pasta protocol.

    For the spaghetti, do not put it in the water until the meatballs and sauce are completely ready to serve.  Pasta does not wait for the sauce!!  Salt the water with at least 2 tablespoons of salt, then add the pasta.  Let it cook for 5 minutes then begin to test it.  You truly do want it just barely beyond the "crunchy in the middle" stage which is what "al dente" is referring to.  Remove it with tongs then add directly to the sauce.  With the tongs, toss the pasta for a couple of minutes to coat it with the sauce and finish up the cooking process.  Serve a mound of spaghetti with several meatbals and sprinkle with cheese.  Twirling lessons to follow...

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011

    Feijoida - My Way

    Beans, though my boys declare them "the magical fruit" are about the most unglamourous food you could possibly eat.  Even though foods such as fish eggs and goose liver when called by their actual name are unglamourous also, call them caviar and foie gras and they take on a bit of cache. Beans just don't.  Even the Tuscans, as beautiful as their home is, can't get past the nickname Beaneaters (Mangiafagioli - which, on second thought, when said by a beautiful Italian does have cache).  Regardless, our family eats them in one form or another because they are one of the healthiest and least expensive forms of protein we can eat.

    I always keep at least two or three kinds of beans in my pantry.  On a good day when I remember to think ahead, I soak and cook them, freezing some and using the rest for an immediate meal. Feijoida is a Brazilian feast dish comprised of black beans and several meats accompanied by sautéed collard greens, rice and fresh orange segments.  I had been meaning to create a version for quite some time, but just never did it.  Since I have been getting about 5 pounds of oranges and tangerines each week from our farm and this week happened to also receive collard greens, I knew it was time to do it. (Incidentally, when you consume vitamin C-containing foods with iron-rich foods like collard greens or spinach, your body absorbs both nutrients better.  Maybe that's why they are both served with this dish!  Or maybe just because it tastes good?!)

    Since I choose to use meat more as a supporting actor than the “star” of a dish, I decided to use a little pork fat in a couple of forms to flavor the meat rather than shelling out the cash to buy pork loin, sausages, brisket and the like.  (In Brazil, it’s normally more of a meat centered dish, much like cassoulet in Southwest France.)

    My kids actually love beans and totally dug this recipe.  Surprisingly they even liked the oranges with it.
    So here it is and yes, you can use canned beans if you choose to keep those in your pantry (See the List) instead of dried.

    CWYG Stats – beans, chorizo (the dried Spanish type, not fresh Mexican), ham (I had frozen some from Christmas), olive oil, onions, garlic, rice
    Veggie Box – Oranges, collard greens
    Store Run – Nothing

    Feijoida – My Way
    3 tbsp olive oil, divided
    1 onion, chopped finely, divided
    6 cloves garlic, minced, divided
    2 ounces chorizo, chopped
    1 cup chopped leftover ham, crumbled bacon, smoked turkey, whatever you have
    6 cups black beans with cooking liquid (4 cans)
    1 bunch collard greens, stem removed and sliced thinly
    ½ cup chicken broth
    1 tsp apple cider vinegar
    6 cups cooked white or brown rice
    2-3 oranges, segmented

    In a large pot, sauté ¾ of the onion and garlic in 2 tbsp of the olive oil until softened.  Add the chorizo and ham.  Add the black beans and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes while you finish preparing remaining ingredients.

    For the greens:  Heat the remaining onion and olive in a large skillet until it is softened then add garlic and cook until the onions and garlic are browning, but not turning black at all.  Add the greens and chicken broth. 
    Toss to coat thoroughly then reduce heat and cook until the greens are tender and the broth has totally cooked down.  Add the cider vinegar and salt to taste.

    Serve over rice and top with oranges.

    Copyright 2012 TablaVie Personal Chef Service

    All photos and recipes may not be used without express permission from Christi Flaherty, owner and creator of Cook What You've Got Concept and blog.
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