Thursday, October 30, 2008

sunday supper: berry beer baked beans

How many times have I posted about a recipe I saw on 101 Cookbooks? I've lost count, but I can't help it. How can I ignore a recipe that not only gives me an opportunity to use my beautiful heirloom Borlotti beans from Rancho Gordo, but calls for delicious Belgian Lambic Framboise beer? To be honest, I was a little concerned that this might turn out quite sweet between the beer, the dried cherries, and the molasses, but I was pleasantly surprised by the flavor. The beer gave a tangy edge to the dish, and the hot pepper, smoked paprika, and dijon mustard rounded out a very complex flavor. The only thing I did differently was use some nice smokey kielbasa and its fat in place of the olive oil. I mostly did that because I had the leftover kielbasa, but I figured the smokey flavor would complement the dish well. A word of warning, I ended up having to cook this far longer than the 2 hours she suggests, but this may be because the Borlotti beans I used turned out to be much larger than your typical cranberry bean. I recommend giving yourself plenty of time and letting the beans simmer for as long as possible; it can only get better with time. Recipe after the jump:

Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

2 cups dried cranberry, borlotti,or pinto beans, soaked over night

3 ounces kielbasa, diced
1 medium red onion, chopped
1/4 cup molasses
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 cups berry beer
1/2 cup dried berries and/or cherries, loosely chopped
2 cups light vegetable broth

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (or more to taste)
fine-grain sea salt

Preheat oven to 350F degrees, and place rack in lower third.

In a large oven-proof casserole (I use my large Le Creuset Dutch oven), saute the kielbasa until it gives off a couple tablespoons of fat, then saute the red onion for a minute or so. Stir in the molasses, mustard, red pepper flakes, beans, beer, dried berries, and broth. Bring to a simmer, cover, and place in oven for roughly 1 1/2 - 2 hours, or until beans are tender. Every batch of beans is different, and they'll decide for themselves when they're done. After an hour or so, (carefully) check every 25 minutes to see how the beans are doing. When the beans are tender remove the pot from the oven. In the off chance they need more liquid during the baking process, add more broth (or water) 1/2 cup at a time. More likely, if the beans finish cooking before the cooking broth really thickens up, pull the pot back up onto the stove top, uncover, and bring the pot to a boil until the liquid has more body - usually 5 - 10 minutes.

Now it's time to season the pot. Stir in the smoked paprika and a few big, generous pinches of salt. Wait a minute and then taste, you definitely need enough salt and to make the flavors pop and to counter-balance the sweetness of the molasses and fruit - the smoked paprika helps balance in this regard as well.

A big pot - serves 8 - 10.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

save the apples

J-Cat dropped a container with 4 honeycrisp apples in it. I'm not blaming or anything, but those apples were MESSED UP. It made me sad, because honeycrisps are for eating raw and these apples were too jacked. But just to prove that I don't hold any hard feelings, I made something with those jacked up apples that I knew J-Cat would love: a warm apple topping for some homemade buckwheat pancakes.

J-Cat isn't much for pancake syrup. He generally prefers a pancake with fruit in it so that it doesn't need the sweetness of syrup. But the bananas I got for Sunday breakfast just weren't ripe enough, so actually it's a good thing he dropped those apples. This was like a warm apple pie, for breakfast. Recipes after the jump:

1-1/2 cups sifted buckwheat flour
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups buttermilk (or less is you like thicker pancakes)
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon oil

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine wet ingredients. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix just until they come together. Avoid overmixing as this will cause toughness. Heat a skillet over medium heat and grease with butter. Ladle about 1/4 cup of batter per pancake. Pancake is ready to flip when bubbles start forming closer to the center. Flip and cook another minute or two until cooked through. Serve with warm apple topping, recipe to follow.

2 ripe apples of your choice
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Peel, core, and thinly slice apples. Melt butter in a skillet and add apples. Sprinkle with sugar, spices and salt. Saute over moderate heat until softened. Serve over pancakes.

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Monday, October 27, 2008


The newest member of our family:

For the time being we're calling him Morty Nuzzlebaum, but we haven't made our final decision yet. We're still waiting for him to let us know.

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I distinctly remember when I first heard of Bigos, the classic Polish Hunter's Stew. I had just moved back to NYC from college and was living in the East Village, which had an abundance of Polish restaurants. Brother #2 suggested I try Little Poland, and specifically to get the Bigos. I had no idea what Bigos was, but I was game. I thought that Bigos was something plural, like one of them was a Bigo, and a plate of them were Bigos. Wrong. Delightfully, deliciously wrong.

Bigos is actually considered by many to be the national dish of Poland, and is a stew consisting of sauerkraut (kapusta kiszona in Polish), fresh cabbage and various meats. It seems like one of those dishes that can vary from region to region and family to family, so I didn't feel as if I had one central classic recipe to draw from. Instead I focused on the most typical components and went for a pretty simple version that I'd say is probably more Bigos-inspired than authentic. I got a nice hunk of mystery Kielbasa from a Polish meat market in Greenpoint (I say mystery because there were about 10 different kielbasa's and I had no idea what the differences were, and the cards were written in Polish, so I just pointed). I also threw in a smoked pork chop and some bacon. To truly be a hunter's stew it actually needed some game of some kind, but I didn't have any, so unfortunately that was left out.

I served the Bigos with some fantastic Potato Onion Dill bread from Amy's Bread, which ended up being perfect because it was a rye bread, the type typically served with Bigos. I didn't know that at the time so perhaps my choice to pair them was some real cook's intuition? Recipe after the jump:

1/2 pound kielbasa, sliced into rounds
1/2 pound smoked pork chop, cubed
1/2 pound smokey bacon or salt pork, chopped
1 large onion, diced
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 cups chicken stock
1 pound fresh sauerkraut, drained and rinsed
1 pound fresh cabbage, shredded
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp peppercorns
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 tbsp dried marjoram
1 tbsp dried dill
fresh dill for garnish

Heat a large deep saute pan or dutch oven over high heat. Add all of the meats and saute to render the fat. Add the onions to the pot and saute in the fat until translucent. Add the tomato paste and allow to sizzle for a minute before stirring in. Add the cabbage, sauerkraut, and all the spices, then add chicken stock until just barely covering. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, then cover and allow to simmer for at least an hour, 2-3 hours is even better. Add additional stock if necessary. If there is excess liquid, simmer uncovered for 10-15 minutes to boil away. Serve topped with chopped fresh dill along with a nice soft rye bread.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

skinny chicken francaise

It looks like Chicken Francaise, it tastes like Chicken Francaise, but it's missing one big thing - a ton of fat. The first time I made Chicken Francaise, I was surprised at how heavy it actually was. I guess I had always imagined that in the grand scheme of neighborhood diner dinners it was one of the less indulgent. Chicken breast, lemon, a bit of butter, how bad can that be? Oh, but it was a lot of butter. And oil. And those chicken breasts were dipped in egg and flour. And fried. And it was much richer than I realized.

But it got me thinking that it didn't need to be so rich and heavy, especially when lemon is a dominant flavor. Lemon is about freshness and brightness, and freshness doesn't need a ton of fat to be delicious. Most of the time I'm a purist and think it's both no fun to lighten up a classic recipe, and also somewhat sacrilegious, but in this case it actually made sense. It was lighter and simpler, and in the end J-Cat just thought that I had made his favorite dish. He was not at all suspicious that any compromises had been made.

I should point out, however, that just because this dish is a lightened version of the classic and is served on a pile of greens doesn't mean it's diet food. I still coat the chicken in flour (whole wheat, but still), and I still use some butter in the form of ghee, and I still served it over a pile of rice. Gimme a break, there are only so many things I'm willing to let go of. Recipe after the jump:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast cutlets, about 1 lb total
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp ghee or unsalted butter
1/2 cup fat-free chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
juice of 1 whole lemon
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
1 head frisee

Place the chicken breast cutlets between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound with the flat side of a meat mallet to about 1/4-inch thickness. In a low bowl, mix the flour, salt, and pepper. Dredge each cutlet in flour and shake off any excess. Melt the butter or ghee in a large saute pan big enough to accommodate all four cutlets. Add the cutlets to the pan and sear until brown, about 3 minutes per side. Remove cutlets to a paper towel-lined plate.

Add the broth, wine, and lemon juice to the pan and scrape any brown bits off the bottom. Bring the liquid to a strong simmer and allow to reduce by half. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust seasoning. Return the chicken to the pan and simmer a couple minutes more, until the chicken is coated in the sauce and cooked through. Serve the chicken cutlets over rice and a bed of uncooked frisee, the heat from the chicken will wilt the greens just enough.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

vat of quinoa, and other good stuff

I'm trying to be good. I'm trying to eat healthier, with better ingredients, and more reasonable human-sized portions. Psychologically, mixing a bunch of stuff in a big vat makes me think that I'm still indulging, even if all the stuff is really good for you. I don't understand why this is true for me, but I'm not going to question what appears to be working. This is a classic example of a vat of healthy stuff that actually satisfies. Granted, I threw some sauteed rock shrimp with asparagus on top of it, and that went a long way toward satisfaction, but I ate it on its own for lunch the next day and it still did a pretty good job. Recipe after the jump.

1 cup quinoa
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can corn, rinsed and drained
1/2 red onion, finely diced
2 small tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely minced
1/2 cup cilantro, finely minced
juice of one lime
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Rinse the quinoa well and add to a scant two cups of boiling salted water. Boil for 15 minutes or until tender. When fully cooked, fluff with a fork to separate the grains. Toss the quinoa with the beans, corn, onion, tomato, jalapeno, and cilantro. In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Drizzle over the quinoa and toss to coat well. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

i hope you like yammin too

It's actually sweet potato, not yam, but I am endlessly confused by the distinction. I generally call the orange ones yams and the yellow ones sweet potatoes. I'm pretty sure I'm wrong.

What's not wrong is this salad of wild and brown rices, oven roasted sweet potatoes/yams, oven-roasted red onion, black-eyed peas, and goat cheese. It's a super hearty and balanced combination that makes a perfect dinner on a chilly autumn evening. The idea came about from a combination of occurrences - 1. I had leftover goat cheese from the fig sandwiches, 2. I found huge yams on sale, and 3. I was browsing a new casserole cookbook by Emily Farris called Casserole Crazy, which included a recipe for Sweet Potato Not-Pie, which combines sweet potatoes and goat cheese. Obviously, as we learned with the fig sandwiches, sweet + goat cheese = awesome. So I used that flavor combination as my inspiration. As I am a fan of meals where everything is all mixed up in a vat, the result was this warm salad-like dish. Nutty brown and wild rice, sweet yam, sweet caramelized onions, meaty black-eyed peas, tangy goat cheese, dressed with lemon juice for an acidic bite. All your bases are covered. Recipe after the jump.


1/2 cup long grain brown rice
1/2 cup wild rice
1 large sweet potato or yam, approx 1 lb, peeled and cut into small cubes
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium red onion, sliced into 1/2-inch thick rounds, rings intact
1 15-ounce can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped finely
3 ounces semisoft goat cheese

Cook the brown and wild rice in 2 cups salted water. Fluff cooked grains with a fork to separate, then set aside to cool slightly. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss the sweet potato cubes with 1 tbsp olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme leaves. Lay in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast in the oven until browned and tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. About halfway through roasting, toss the potatoes with a spatula, then make room on the pan for the onion rounds. Lay the onions flat, brush with a bit of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Return to the oven and continue to roast until cooked through. When onions are cooked, chop the rings into small pieces and combine with the potatoes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the rice, potatoes, onions, peas, and parsley and toss to mix well. Drizzle over remaining olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and toss. Serve warm dotted with goat cheese.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

it's fruit, and bread

And cheese, and caramelized onions, and brilliance.

When I told J-Cat that we were having fig sandwiches for dinner, he looked a little skeptical. Fruit in a sandwich? But, I assured him, the goat cheese was the key. The tangy salty goodness was the perfect balance for the honey-like figs. Plus, caramelized onions are good on ANYTHING. Really, anything. On some crusty mild sourdough bread from Amy's Bread, this sandwich was a revelation, it was the sandwich that had me daydreaming about opening my own awesome sandwich shop and coming up with other surprising and delicious combinations. Recipe after the jump:

Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1/2 cup fresh goat cheese (3 1/2 ounces), room temperature
8 thick slices country bread
1/2 pound ripe fresh figs (about 8), stemmed and thinly sliced

1. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium. Add onions, and season with salt and pepper. Cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions have softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Uncover; cook until onions are golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes more (if skillet begins to darken, add cup water).
2. Dividing evenly, spread cheese on 4 bread slices. Top with onions and figs; sandwich with remaining bread.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

yummy meets yummy meets yummy

This is like my dream recipe. So many foods I obsessively love, all in one dish. I believe I have previously discussed my passion for cauliflower, and my other passion for chickpeas, and my more recent passion for ghee, and perhaps even my passion for curry. It's all here, it's simple and quick, it's hearty and filling, and believe it or not, it's actually pretty healthy.

I also makes the whole house smell heavenly. If your idea of heaven is curry, which it should be. Recipe after the jump:

Adapted from a recipe by Tyler Florence, via Serious Eats

-Serves 4-
2 tbsp ghee
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 head cauliflower, stem removed and chopped into florets
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Fresh cilantro, chopped

Melt the ghee in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion, curry powder, coriander, cumin, and ginger. Cook until onion is softened.

Add the tomatoes; cook for 6 minutes more.

Add the cauliflower, chickpeas, tomato paste, and 1 cup of water. Cover pot; cook 5 minutes. Remove lid; cook until liquid thickens. Stir until everything is coated. Season to taste with salt and sprinkle with cilantro.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

maybe the dingo ate your baby

My most favorite thing I've seen all week.

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Monday, October 06, 2008

first soup of the fall

Chilly weather, my favorite. It's the season for soup! I broke in soup season with an appropriately hearty soup full of beans, greens, and winter squash.

I balanced the sweetness of delicata squash with the bitterness of broccoli rabe, and contrasted texture with cannellini beans. Sweet onions were the finishing touch, with fresh sage and a touch of nutmeg. And of course I threw in a rind from a wedge of parmiggiano-reggiano.

The flavors of fall, utterly healthy and hearty. Recipe after the jump:

1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, medium dice
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 cups water
1 pound delicata or butternut squash, cut into 1-inch chunks (no need to remove peel)
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 bunch broccoli rabe, chopped
6 fresh sage leaves, minced
1 chunk peeled ginger
1 tbsp dried marjorm
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground nutmeg
rind from a wedge of good parmesan cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

In a large heavy stockpot, heat the oil on medium heat. Add the onions and a sprinkling of kosher salt and saute until just beginning to turn translucent. Add the squash and stir to coat with the oil. Add the stock and water, bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Add the ginger, herbs, spices, and wedge of cheese and continue to simmer until the squash is tender, about 10 minutes. Add the beans and broccoli rabe. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with grated parmesan cheese and a chunk of crusty wholegrain bread.

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