Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Fettucine with Butternut Squash and Gorgonzola Sauce

Another one I've made a few times and want to write down for posterity... This makes a really big recipe, could feed 8 if you have a substantial salad and other side dish. Divide it in half for two very hungry people, or four peckish ones...

Fettucine with Butternut Squash and Gorgonzola Sauce

1 tblsp. butter
3 cups sliced onions
3 cups 1" pieces of butternut squash
1 1/4 tsp. salt, divided
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 minced garlic cloves
3 cups lowfat milk, divided
3 Tblsp. flour
1 1/2 cups crumbled Gorgonzola cheese, divided
1 lb. uncooked fettucine
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup toasted and chopped walnuts
1 tsp. grated lemon rind.

Cook pasta in boiling water. Meanwhile, melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, squash, 1/4 tsp. salt, and pepper, saute until tender-- taste until squash is ready, 6-10 minutes. Add minced garlic, cook one minute. Turn off heat.

Bring 2 cups milk to boil. Combine remaining 1 cup milk and flour, stirring well until there are no lumps. Add to boiling milk, reduce heat to medium, stirring constantly for 5 minutes or until a little thicker. Add 1 cup cheese, mix until smooth.

Mix together squash, pasta, and cheese sauce. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tsp. salt, mix well. Place on plates, decorate with parsley, walnuts, lemon rind, and remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Serve immediately.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The mother of all breads...

My favorite food writer, Mark Bittman, has done it again. His recipe for No-Knead bread is so amazing and out of this world that I made it three times in four days. It tastes like bread you'd buy from an expensive bakery-- a perfectly crisped crust, a center with large, satisfying air pockets. I haven't tried it yet with wheat flour, or with little pieces of black olives (another idea I had), but I bet it would be terrific. I've made it both with the eighteen hour version and with only letting it rise for six hours (but using a whole teaspoon of yeast)-- both were excellent...

No-Knead Bread

Here is the recipe for no-knead bread. (Can somebody forward this to Andrew? I don't have his email.) Tastes best if you make the dough the night before and cook it the next afternoon or evening, but it will do well with slightly more yeast (a teaspoon) and about six hours of rising time... Don't be alarmed by how sticky it is. Crucial steps include placing the Dutch oven in the oven to heat, also covering bread for first 30 minutes of cooking time (steam=good crust). No need to grease the Dutch oven; the bread won't stick to it.

No-Knead Bread

3 cups flour
1/4 tsp. instant yeast
1 1/4 tsp. salt

Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed

In a large bowl, combine flour, yeast, and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, stir until blended. Will be sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

Dough is ready when surface is dotted with bubbles. Flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle flour over and fold it over on itself once or twice. (It will be very sticky). Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest 15 minutes.

Coat a cotton towel (not a terry cloth one) with cornmeal or wheat bran. Scoop dough into ball and place on towel, sprinkle with more cornmeal or wheat bran. Let rise another 2 hours.

At least half hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 and place a Dutch oven or other heavy covered pot (cast iron, enaml, Pyrex, or ceramic) in oven as it heats. After 30 minutes, slide your hand under towel and pick up dough, turning over into pot. Shake pan once or twice to evenly distribute dough. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes. Remove lid, bake another 15-30 minutes (15 works for me) until browned. Cool on rack.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

grilled chicken burritos

I had the chance to visit both China and Mexico this summer, China along with a group of professors from my university and Mexico to give a paper at a conference. Both trips were great. Everyone says that real Chinese food in China tastes nothing like what we have here in the States, but if that's the case, the Chinese are now making remarkable concessions to American tastes. Everything I had vaguely resembled something I'd had before in the States, only better. Much better. Fresher ingredients, nothing soggy or congealed, a lot of vegetables. There were some familiar dishes-- staples like kung pao chicken, only better than any kung pao chicken I'd ever had in my life...

It was also my first trip to Mexico, and the two best meals I had were at a restaurant in San Miguel de Allende called El Correo (some kind of spicy pork dish) and in a village in the countryside outside San Miguel, a lunch that was entirely vegetarian, with fresh salsas, refried beans, something that resembled spinach, and some other tasty things.

Now it's back to school, and to celebrate the end of the first week, I decided to experiment with this week's installment from the Splendid Table, the NPR feature on food that I get delivered to my email inbox. After making these grilled chicken burritos, I'm thinking of making a big donation to the program. What made this so awesome was not taking any shortcuts-- marinating the chicken in a mixture of cumin, lime juice, garlic, and cilantro for a few hours, actually GRILLING it (Nour's job), carefully preparing the guacamole (which turned out much better than the usual stuff I slap together with a smashed avocado and some lime juice and salt) and the green tomatillo salsa. I also made refried beans-- I don't think the canned ones taste as good as the recipe claimed. Then you cook your tortillas on the grill, spread with refried beans, the sliced chicken, cheese, the guacamole and salsa, and you have something really and truly amazing... I don't know about "weeknight kitchen" though, unless you happen to have a few hours to spare for marinating, a pound of tomatillos, some Mexican queso blanco, and some charcoal on hand.

Recipe adapted very slightly from the Splendid Table, Lynne Rossetto Kasper

The Chicken:

1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 Tblsp minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Mix ingredients together. Marinate chicken in plastic bag for at least three hours. When it's time to grill, grill 5 minutes per side, let stand 5 minutes, then slice diagonally.

Accompaniments I used:

Flour tortillas
2 cups refried beans, heated
2 cups queso blanco or Monterey Jack
2 cups Guacamole (recipe follows)
2 cups Tomatillo Salsa (recipe follows)

Guacamole (adapted for what I had on hand)
Makes 2 cups

3 ripe avocados, peeled and diced roughly
1/3 cup chopped plum tomatoes
1 Tblsp. minced jalapeno pepper,
1 Tblsp. chopped cilantro
3 Tblsp. lime juice
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
3 dashes Tabasco

Combine all the ingredients and mix well. Smash the avocados to keep a bit chunky. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Tomatillo Salsa:

1 lb. tomatillos, coarsely chopped
1 roasted jalapeno, peeled and seeded
1 cup chopped tomato
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 Tblsp. lime juice
1 Tblsp. minced garlic
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste

Combine all ingredients, mix well, chill until ready to use.

Once chicken is grilled, let stand 5 minutes, then slice diagonally. Grill tortillas 30 seconds per side, spread with refried beans, cheese, chicken, salsa and guacamole. Num, num.

Agave field, Jalisco, Mexico

Erhai lake, Dali, China

Sunday, July 02, 2006

blueberry coffee cake

This is a recipe I keep making since seeing it on Paula Dean's show last year on the food network. It's an unusual blueberry coffee cake that is also very decadent, with buttery, sugary layers between crunchy oatmeal and buttermilk biscuits, good right now when blueberries are so cheap. I've made a few minor adaptations, such as cooking time and the amount of sugar used.

1 12 ounce can buttermilk biscuits (I can never find this, so I get the 16 ounce can & leave two out)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter (this could probably be trimmed slightly)
1 cup rolled oats
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1/4 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 375, grease a 9 inch square baking dish. Mix together brown sugar and cinnamon, melt butter. Take 12 oz. of biscuit dough and cut each biscuit into four pieces. Dip each biscuit piece into butter, then sugar/cinnamon mixture, then place in pan. On top of these, sprinkle half the oatmeal. Combine blueberries with sugar and spread over oatmeal and biscuits. Top with remaining oats, then drizzle remaining melted butter over all. Bake for 45 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

broiled salmon with marmalade-dijon glaze

This salmon is something I made last night from the latest issue of Cooking Light. I was afraid it might be cloying, but it's not at all-- the mustard tempers the sweetness of the marmalade. It's good and easy for those nights of coming home from work exhausted, chopping up a couple potatoes and tossing them with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and rosemary, and roasting for an hour at 375, then cranking up the oven to BROIL and making this salmon... The second recipe, for balsamic-roasted asparagus, is one I keep making again and again, and I want to have it in one place so I don't have to keep searching for it.

Broiled Salmon with Marmalade-Dijon Glaze
1/2 cup orange marmalade
1 Tblsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
4 6 ounce salmon fillets

Preheat broiler. Combine first 6 ingredients in a small bowl. Place fish in jelly roll pan coated with cooking spray. Brush half of marmalade mixture over fish, broil 6 minutes. Brush fish with remaining marmalade mixture, broil 2 minutes or until fish flakes easily.

Balsamic Roasted Asparagus
1 lb. asparagus
1 Tblsp. olive oil
1 Tblsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425. Snap off ends of asparagus, place in roasting pan. Drizzle with oil & vinegar, sprinkle with salt, garlic & pepper, toss to coat. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes, 4 servings.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Chicken curry with fried onions

I'm slowly making my way back into my kitchen... which starts not with experiments but with old favorites, things I make again and again. I have several different curry recipes I keep returning to, but the only problem is that while I always have chicken and yogurt on hand, I often don't have almonds, and many of the curry recipes I've used call for that. Here's one that doesn't, adapted from a Madhur Jaffrey recipe, and which I made last night, along with potatoes sauteed in turmeric, cumin and mustard seeds, basmati rice, and a green salad. Fairly easy-- maybe 45 minutes of active time?

Chicken curry with fried onions
2 lbs. boneless chicken breasts, chopped into bite-sized pieces
4 onions, peeled
1.5 inch chunk fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled
4 Tblsp. vegetable oil
1 Tblsp. ground coriander
1 Tblsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/4-1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
4 Tblsp. plain yogurt
2 1/2 cups water
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. garam masala

Chop 2 of the onions coarsely and throw into food processor. Ad ginger and garlic, puree until mixture forms a paste.

Slice the other two onions in half and then into thin slices. In cooking oil in a nonstick skillet, fry and stir until reddish-brown. Remove from pan. Add onion paste to skillet, stir and fry until brown, 3-4 minutes. Add spices, stir once. Begin adding yogurt, 1 Tblsp at a time, until all is incorporated. Add chicken, stir for one minute until pink. Pour in water, tomatoes, and salt. Bring to a simmer, cook covered for 20 minutes. Uncover. Add garam masala (can be purchased in small quantities at stores like Whole Foods) and fried onions. Cook, uncovered, until sauce thickens, may take 20 minutes. Serve with white rice.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

sorry for not posting

I'm in the whirlwind of an extremely busy second semester, plus visits from family in Morocco, who have, amazingly, been doing all the cooking. I thus have no discoveries to report but hope to return to cooking (and posting) soon...

Sunday, January 15, 2006

new ways with mac & cheese, part II

I had a dinner party last night. It was one of those dinner parties where everything comes together, where every recipe turns out wonderfully and everyone's having a good time, talking for hours. Good food can definitely facilitate that. The menu: mustard-and-herb chicken from this month's Food & Wine, balsamic-roasted green beans, the crusty macaroni and cheese recipe from the NY Times, a salad with walnuts & pear dressing, and for dessert, molten chocolate cakes (I've made these before-- sometimes they unmold beautifully, sometimes they don't, but they always taste delicious).

The two recipes that I will absolutely 100% make again were the macaroni & cheese and the mustard-and-herb chicken. Amazing. The mac & cheese recipe, the second from the NY Times article on the perfect macaroni and cheese, blew the creamy recipe out of the water. (Actually, after making this one, I am pretty sure I will not return to the other recipe). This recipe was not grainy but flavorful, crunchy, creamy inside, a hint of spice... in short, unbelievable. There were two kids at our dinner party, a 6 and 9 year old, and they loved it, too, which impressed me because I've seen so many American kids who will only eat the stuff from the box.

The original article commented that American cheese has superior meltability, so the recipe is a mix of sharp cheddar and American. I couldn't find the American in the Publix supermarket, so I was shocked when I asked and discovered it was in the nonperishable food aisle-- not refrigerated at all. Okay, no big deal. It does melt perfectly. Basically this recipe is just cooked macaroni mixed with a ton of cheese, placed in a pan, milk poured on top, and cheese sprinkled over, then baked for a very long time until it develops a crust both on top and on the bottom.

The mustard-herb chicken thighs are prepared in a skillet that can go into the oven (my new cast iron skillet is wonderful-- very affordable at Ross Dress-for-Less). You saute them first, flip them over, smear them with mustard and place a breadcrumb coating on top, then bake in the oven for 15 minutes. The recipe directions are firm that you should use fresh breadcrumbs, not the stuff in a can, and in this case you really must do this. Yum, yum, yum. Here are the two recipes:

Crusty Macaroni & Cheese
3 Tblsp. butter
12 ounces extra sharp cheddar, coarsely grated
12 ounces American cheese, coarsely grated
1 lb. elbow macaroni, cooked and drained
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
salt to taste
2/3 cup lowfat milk (using lowfat did not make a difference here)

Heat oven to 375. Coat 9 x 13 pan with 1 Tblsp. butter. Mix together the grated cheeses and set aside two cups. When pasta is cooked, toss in a large bowl with the rest of the cheese, cayenne, and salt. Place in baking dish and pour milk over top. Sprinkle reserved 2 cups of cheese on top, dot with remaining butter, and bake, uncovered, 45 minutes. Raise heat to 400 and bake another few minutes until crusty. (Recipe said 15-20 minutes of extra baking, but mine was already well-browned after 5.). Serves 8.

Mustard-and-Herb Chicken (Serves 2-- double for more people)
2 1-inch slices of country bread, torn
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan or pecorino romano
1/4 cup olive oil
4 boneless chicken thighs
2 Tblsp. Dijon mustard
2 Tblsp. butter
1 small onion, thinly sliced
Pinch sugar
1 Tblsp. fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 400. Pulse bread in food processor until finely shredded. Add garlic, rosemary, parmesan, season with salt & pepper to taste and combine. Add 2 Tlbsp. of olive oil and pulse just to moisten crumbs.

In an ovenproof skillet, heat 2 Tblsp. olive oil over medium-high heat. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper, saute on one side until golden, about 6 minutes. Turn over, smear Dijon mustard over skin, and spoon bread crumbs on top, patting with back of spoon. Place skillet in oven and roast for 15 minutes or until crumbs are golden and crunchy. (I left mine in the oven, which I switched off, while I finished the rest of the dinner, and with thighs I don't think they dry out, although breasts would).

Sauce: I made this but the chicken really would have been fine on its own, without it. Saute onions in butter with sugar for 6-7 minutes until soft. Add lemon juice, cook until evaporated, about 2 minutes. Spoon onions onto plate, top with chicken.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

new ways with macaroni & cheese

One of the "most emailed stories" in the NY Times this week was an article from this past Wednesday's food section, about a quest for the perfect macaroni cheese, one made neither from a box nor with a flour-water white sauce. Like the writer of the article, macaroni and cheese was not around much in my childhood household, either, so when I went away to school and discovered the Kraft stuff, I was hooked. I don't like the Kraft box version much anymore, especially since I learned about how many weird chemicals and preservatives are in it, but it's good to know there are organic box varieties out there that are even better and not much more than $1.50 each (The article also does an extensive review of those, and I can vouch for Annie's being tasty).

But I was most intrigued by the author's search for the perfect recipe, and she included two, one that professed to be creamy, the other crusty. I could hardly see how the creamy recipe would not also be crusty, since it involved uncovered baking time, which is guaranteed to put a crunchy layer of cheese over the top. What I was really curious about was the fact that she baked the uncooked macaroni right there in the pasta, and that it also featured cottage cheese placed in a blender to remove its consistency.

I tried this one the other night, using all the high-fat ingredients required just so I could get the whole effect. Next time I'll try it with lowfat ingredients and see if it works. A colleague of mine made it with low-fat ingredients and commented that the final texture was "grainy." This was a little bit true of this recipe, but it didn't strike me as grainy in a bad way. The entire pound of sharp cheddar was delicious and decadent, it did have a crunchy crust, and the noodles perfectly absorbed all the creamy goodness of the cheeses. I would definitely try to make this again, but my next move will be to tackle the second NY Times recipe, for "crusty macaroni and cheese."

Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

2 T. butter
1 cup cottage cheese (not lowfat)
2 cups milk (not skim)
1 tsp. dried mustard
Pinch cayenne
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 pound sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 pound elbow pasta, uncooked

Heat oven to 375. Using one tablespoon of the butter, grease a 9" round or square baking pan, or gratin dish. In a blender, puree cottage cheese, milk & spices. Set aside 1/4 cup grated cheddar. In a large bowl, mix pureed milk mixture with the rest of the cheddar cheese & uncooked pasta. Pour into pan, cover tightly with foil, and bake 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, uncover pan, stir gently, and scatter remaining cheese over all, dotting with another tablespoon of butter. Bake, this time uncovered, for another 30 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

pears poached with mascarpone

After the gluttony of the holidays, here's a simple dessert recipe that you can make that won't feel excessive... The mascarpone cheese is creamy without being overbearing, almost like a whipped cream or creme fraiche.

Pears poached with mascarpone cheese
2 Bosc pears, peeled, halved, & cored
2 Tblsp. lemon juice
1 cup water
1/2 cup white wine
6 Tblsp. honey
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
2 tsp. sugar

Toss pear halves with lemon juice & set aside. In a saucepan, combine water, wine, & honey, scraping in seeds of vanilla bean. (If you don't have a vanilla bean lying around, add 1 tsp. vanilla.) Heat until honey dissolves, add pears & simmer on medium low until pears are tender, turning halfway through cooking, 15-20 minutes.

Remove pears to a bowl and boil liquid until reduced to 3/4 cup. Cool syrup & pour over pears, cover & refrigerate. The recipe said to refrigerate at least 8 hours but I only did it for three-- it was really good, but perhaps would be even better if I'd waited longer... Remove vanilla bean.

Beat mascrapone cheese & sugar until smooth, add 1/4 cup of the chilled poaching syrup and whisk until soft peaks form. Place pears on plates, pouring syrup over, and add scoop of mascarpone cream into middle of pear half. Serve & enjoy...