Chicken with Wine and Shallots

Chicken with Shallots, photo and recipe from the NY Times

I came across this recipe, I think on Facebook, which should be evidence that Facebook is not entirely useless. You can find the recipe (and picture) here. I made this for dinner one night, and it is delicious. I generally read comments on online recipes, and one person in the comments said they added peas at the end. That sounded good to me, so I added a bunch of peas at the end, when you add the cherry tomatoes. Really good. I buy bone-in, skin on thighs, because I think they give flavor to the dish. I cook with the skin, and then remove it when we eat it.

Give it a try.

Chicken with Wine and Shallots

Ingredients
8 bone-in chicken thighs
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
12 to 15 whole medium shallots, peeled
2 cups white wine
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 sprigs tarragon
2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half.
10 oz frozen peas, optional

Preperation
Rinse chicken thighs in water, and pat them very dry with paper towels. Sprinkle over them the flour, salt and pepper.

Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot or skillet set over medium-high heat. When the butter foams, cook the chicken, in batches if necessary, until well browned and crisp on all sides. Set aside.

Add the whole shallots to the pot and sauté them in the butter and chicken fat until they begin to soften and caramelize, approximately 10 to 12 minutes. Add the wine to deglaze the pot, stir with a large spoon, then add the mustard and tarragon, then the chicken thighs. Cover the pot, turn the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove the lid, and allow the sauce to reduce and thicken, 15 to 20 minutes.

Add the cherry tomatoes and peas to the pot, stir lightly to combine and serve once the peas are heated through.

Meatless Monday


Photo and recipe from Ambitious Kitchen

I was talking to our next door neighbor the other day, and the conversation turned to Thanksgiving. These neighbors are vegetarian, but their family that will be in town visiting are not, so I asked what she is planning to make. She said they would make a turkey for the meat eaters, and she was thinking about a recipe she saw online, for stuffed acorn squash. We have Thanksgiving with Ted’s family, and his mother is vegetarian (really, pescatarian), so I thought perhaps I would look at this recipe and see if it seemed like something she would enjoy. The neighbor sent me the link to the recipe, and I made it for our dinner a few nights later, to test it out. It was delicious. Really good.

Ted’s family holidays are generally an organized pot-luck, where everyone brings something, so no one has to do all of the work. Ted’s mom makes the turkey, stuffing, potatoes, and gravy. We will bring sweet potato pudding, cranberry sauce, and a couple of different vegetables. I am thinking I will make this stuffed acorn squash as one of my vegetables. Ted’s mom can have 1/2 squash, as that is her main course, and the rest of us can have smaller servings. I’m also going to make a Brussels sprouts, apple, and pomegranate salad, and then for Ted’s dad, because he loves it, peas with pearl onions.

Here is the recipe for the delicious Stuffed Acorn Squash. (Link is to the source of the recipe) SO good.

Stuffed Acorn Squash with Cranberry, Pecans, and Quinoa
INGREDIENTS
For the acorn squash:
2 medium acorn squash, cut in half and seeds removed
4 teaspoons virgin melted coconut oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Cinnamon

For the quinoa:
½ cup uncooked quinoa
1 ¼ cups water
2 sprigs of fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon virgin coconut oil
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup pecan halves

For the goat cheese crema:
2 ounces goat cheese crumbles
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2-3 tablespoons water

INSTRUCTIONS
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.*

Add 1 teaspoon of coconut oil and 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar to each squash half; use your hands to rub into the flesh of the squash, even on the top (but not on the skin). Sprinkle each squash half with a little bit of cinnamon. Place flesh side down on baking sheet and roast in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until squash is just fork tender.

While the squash roasts, you can make the quinoa. Add quinoa, water and thyme leaves to a large pot and place over medium high heat. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat to low and cook for exactly 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove from heat and fluff quinoa with a fork. Next stir in coconut oil, orange juice, honey and turmeric and stir to combine. Fold in dried cranberries and pecans.
Once acorn squash is done roasting, evenly stuff each squash with quinoa. Bake for an additional 10 minutes.

While the squash is baking again, make the goat cheese drizzle: Add goat cheese, honey, apple cider vinegar and water to a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Drizzle evenly over each squash half.

NOTES
If you want to save time, you can make the squash and quinoa a day ahead of time. Once ready to serve, simply reheat in oven at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until warm and then make goat cheese crema and drizzle on top.

* My Note: I saw something from America’s Test Kitchen, where they said the BEST way to make acorn squash is in the microwave. It comes out tender and creamy. I haven’t decided yet whether I have the nerve to try that or not, I’m not generally a fan of microwaving food.

Roasted Branzino

A few weeks ago, OK, maybe 6 weeks ago, I was lazily watching cooking shows on PBS, and a French chef who has restaurants in Las Vegas, Hubert Keller, was making a poached Branzino. It looked really good, though to be honest, I didn’t have the equipment to poach it, and thought I might prefer to roast it instead. So I poked around the Internet, and found a recipe that looked good on a blog, Girl and the Kitchen, here.

It looked delicious, and I decided to give it a try the next time Maya would not be home for dinner (she’s not a big fan of fish). I followed the recipe, and the only complaint that I have is that the skin did not crisp up as nicely as hers. Perhaps I did not dry the fish enough, or I did not cut enough slits in the skin, I’m not sure. That’s purely aesthetics, though, because I didn’t really intend to EAT the skin, so who cares.

I found Branzino at my local Whole Foods, and they cut off the head and tails for me. Girl and the Kitchen said to leave them on, but I don’t like looking at the face of my food, so no. The fish was delicious, and I think we will have this again, another time when Maya is not home. Or perhaps even when she is home. She may like it, it’s delicate and not a strong fish flavor.

NOTE #1: Here’s where this post gets a little weird. Looking at my picture, above, assuming you click over to Girl and the Kitchen’s blog, you can CLEARLY see that it is not the same as the Branzino on her post. For one thing, NO ONIONS OR SHALLOTS on hers. That’s the big giveaway. Also, it kinda looks like I didn’t cut ANY slits in my fish. That means that this is NOT the recipe that I used, though it did pop up in my history when I was searching for Branzino. And a recipe including shallots does NOT pop up, nor can I find it. What to do? I have decided to give full disclosure that I did NOT make this recipe, that I have NO idea what recipe I did make, and keep the recipe here anyway, because I would like to try it someday soon. I know, I’m weird.

NOTE #2:  After posting this, I did another, slightly different, search, and I found the recipe that I made.  If you’re so inclined, you can find it at All Recipes, here.

Anyway, here’s the recipe that I INTEND to try, because the one I did try was tasty, and this one looks like it might be even better.

Greek Whole Roasted Branzino
Author Mila Furman

Ingredients
2 branzino about 3 pounds total, lavraki or sea bass
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil * fruity kind
4 garlic cloves minced finely on a microplane
4 sprigs of fresh oregano
1 lemon cut in half and sliced thinly
salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
Place the oven on highest broil setting.
Place parchment paper onto a sheet pan large enough to fit the two fish.
Slice 3-4 slits into the fish, parallel to the fish’s head, going with the direction of the scales.
Pour the olive oil all over the fish, ensuring both sides and the insides are covered.
Slather the garlic mixture into the cavity of the fish evenly.
Place the oregano stems into the cavities of the fish.
Place the lemon wedges into the cavity of the fish.*
Place the sheet pan into the preheated oven for 18-20 minutes or until the fish flesh is flaky and white. Serve with extra lemons.

Winter Squash Soup


I have a fondness for cooking shows, especially those where they show you how to cook something interesting. Most of the cooking shows I watch currently are on PBS, but I also enjoy watching Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa. A few weeks ago, she made a delicious looking soup, with butternut squash and canned pumpkin. I thought it looked like a good dinner to have on Halloween, considering it was orange, so I made it. It was delicious, and I will definitely be making it again.

I made a couple of changes to Ina’s recipe. First, I cut up the butternut squash, then roasted it in the oven until it was soft, rather than cooking it in the soup. I think that gives it more flavor. Second, I used milk instead of half and half. Third, I don’t have a food mill, and I’m not about to go out and buy one since there is zero room in my house for any new ANYTHING, so I used my handy immersion blender, which worked perfectly.

I love butternut squash, but sometimes it is a little too sweet for me.  The pumpkin balanced it out, and maybe the milk did too.  This is a savory soup, and really good.

We didn’t put any cheese on ours. I had mine with toasted sourdough bread, and Maya had hers with cornbread, which was leftover from the night before’s turkey chili. Ted just ate the soup. We all loved it. Here’s the recipe, unedited by me.

Winter Squash Soup

Ingredients
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon good olive oil
2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
1 (15 – ounce) can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut in chunks
3 cups homemade chicken stock or canned broth
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup half – and – half
Creme fraiche, grated Gruyere, or croutons (see Note), for serving (optional)

Directions
Heat the butter and oil in a heavy – bottomed stockpot, add the onions, and cook over medium – low heat for 10 minutes, or until translucent. Add the pumpkin puree, butternut squash, chicken stock, salt, and pepper. Cover and simmer over medium – low heat for about 20 minutes, until the butternut squash is very tender. Process the mixture through the medium blade of a food mill. Return to the pot, add the half – and – half, and heat slowly. If the soup needs more flavor, add another teaspoon of salt. Serve hot with garnishes, if desired.

Cook’s Note: To serve with croutons, remove the crusts from 2 slices of white bread, cut them in 1/2-inch cubes, and saute them in 1 tablespoon of butter until browned. Season with salt and pepper.

Cooking for One

Later this month, Ted and Maya will be in the UK, with a brief trip to Paris, visiting Ted’s extended family.  His mom and brother are going as well, and aside from the time in Paris, they will be staying with family.  I elected to stay home and hold down the fort, take care of the dog, etc.  I would like to go to Europe sometime in the not-too-distant future, but I think I’d prefer it to be just the three of us, though I do adore my MIL and BIL.  I hope they have a fabulous time.

I was thinking about it, and I realized that I don’t think I’ve ever spent that much time alone before.  I mean, I lived with my mom and brother, then with my roommate Troy, then with Ted, then with Ted and Maya.  There have been times in the past when I went on vacation with my family (to Portland or Juneau), and Maya came with me, and Ted stayed home.  There have been times when Ted went away on vacation or for work with his family, but Maya was here with me then.  There have been times when Maya went away, to cheer camp, to visit her cousin in Los Angeles, to New York with my parents after she graduated from High School, but Ted was here with me then.  There was that time in Anchorage when my mom was having her surgery, but that was strange and bad.

But this time, I will be home with no Ted and no Maya for about 10 days.  I’ll be working, no reason to take any time off.  I’ll be walking the dog, which we both enjoy.  I may get motivated and clean out my closet and do some other de-cluttering around the house, and then again, I may not.  But cooking for one?  Dinner every night?  I’m not sure about that.  One night, Ted’s aunt is going to come over and we will have tuna noodle casserole, which Ted and Maya DO NOT LIKE, nor does Ted’s uncle.  We are the only people in the family who love it.

My friend Neva has invited me and Mulder to come to see her new house, out in the valley near Stockton, one weekend day.  This same friend Neva is going to come to my town another night and we will have dinner.

So that’s 3 dinners…what about the rest of them?  It’s hard to get up a ton of enthusiasm for cooking for one.  I’m not sure why this is true, but it is true for me.  So, I have a few ideas, and am looking to you for inspiration.

  • Baked Potato and Salad (with beets – Ted and Maya hate beets)
  • Crab Cakes (Ted and Maya love crab cakes, so we have this sometimes when they are home)
  • Eggs and potatoes with fruit (like a potato and veggie hash, with an egg)
  • Scallops (Ted likes scallops just fine, but Maya hates them.  They’re spendy, so I might just treat myself and buy 3 big scallops and eat that one night)
  • Soup – There’s a corn chowder recipe that I like that might be nice.  Ted and Maya like it, but it has a good amount of cheese in it, which doesn’t agree with Ted’s stomach as much as it used to.
  • Grilled Cheese and salad or fruit
  • Tuna melt.  I love a good tuna melt, and I make a yummy one with capers that is delicious.  (Ted and Maya like this dish, we have it fairly regularly, but it’s so quick and easy, it might be good while they’re gone.)

I’m sure I can repeat a few of these and make it through the time when they’re gone.  But what about you?  Do you have any great ideas for a dinner for one?

 

Blueberry Pancakes


(Gorgeous photo and recipe found here)

It’s ridiculous how long I’ve been gone, I know. When you’re in the blogging rythem, and you blog often, everything seems like good blogging material. When you’re not, nothing seems like it would be interesting to your readers, so you don’t bother. Don’t bother often enough, and the next thing you know, it’s been over 10 weeks since your last post. Ugh.  So I decided that I would just find something in my brain, and bring it here.  So what you get is yet another recipe.  I’ll try to come up with something NOT recipe related soon.

Ted’s schedule varies a lot, which means that sometimes he works very early in the morning, and sometimes he works late.  Tonight he works late, until after 10pm.  That means just me and Maya for dinner, which often means ‘breakfast for dinner’, which she and I both love, and Ted does not.  I made these blueberry pancakes a few months ago when we were having breakfast for dinner, and they’re delicious.  The recipe seemed a little weird to me, like there isn’t enough flour.  But there is, they work, and they’re super yummy.  Next time you’re in the mood for blueberry pancakes, give this recipe a try.

The Blueberry Pancakes Of Your Dreams
author bakerbynature

Ingredients
*Makes about 14 pancakes
3 large eggs, separated
1 cup full-fat sour cream
3 tablespoons whole milk
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
2/3 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
4 tablespoons butter, for the pan
Maple syrup, for serving

Instructions
In a large bowl whisk together the egg yolks, sour cream, milk, sugar, salt, vanilla, and baking powder.

In a separate large bowl add flour and blueberries and toss to combine, making sure berries are fully coated in the flour.

Add flour mixture to the wet milk mixture, and stir just to combine; do not over mix! The batter will be thick, so don’t worry if there’s a lot of clumps left.

Add egg whites to a large bowl or the body of a stand mixer. Beat using a handheld mixer or the whisk attachment until the whites begin to form soft peaks.

With a rubber spatula fold egg whites into flour/sour cream mixture, stirring until fully incorporated.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium heat.

Ladle 1/3 cup scoops of the batter into the skillet, only cooking a few at a time so they don’t blend together.

Cook pancakes until the edges begin to brown and the top of the batter bubbles, then flip and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Repeat for all pancake batter.

Top pancakes with syrup and extra blueberries, or anything else your heart desires! Serve at once.

Birthday Cake

Before


Maya requested carrot cake for her birthday party. She loves carrot cake and chocolate cake about equally. Last month was her Uncle Steve’s birthday, and as Steve had chocolate cake, she wanted carrot. I thought about buying one at the bakery, but decided the best way to go was going to be homemade, because there is THE family carrot cake recipe.

This is what we call “Mother Thomas’s Carrot Cake”, because it is the carrot cake made by Ted’s Grandmother Thomas. It’s from a cookbook, which I believe was part of a woman’s auxiliary, and that’s all I know. My ‘chili relleno’ recipe is from the same cookbook.

I was reading online about carrot cake, and they seem to call for a LOT of oil. One recipe I read, there was a comment where someone said that they found that sometimes carrot cake tasted oily to them, so they substituted 1/2 cup of buttermilk for 1/3 of the oil, with very good results. I’m game, but also chicken, so I decided to make a test run. On the Wednesday before the party, I made a carrot cake, and frosted it, and we tried it. It’s delicious! Then Ted packed the rest of it up and took it to work with him, and his coworkers scarfed down the rest. He even cut it up nicely so they didn’t have to see that they weren’t getting the entire cake. It got rave reviews at work. These pictures are from her actual birthday party yesterday.

After


If you need a carrot cake recipe in your life, and trust me, you do, here is a definite winner.

Mother Thomas’s Carrot Cake
Ingredients
1 1/2 cup corn oil *
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 cups flour
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp soda (clearly they mean baking soda)
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
1 7-oz box coconut
2 cups shredded carrots
1 cup chopped nuts (I used pecans, which I toasted for a few minutes)
1 can (8 3/4 oz) crushed pineapple and juice (clearly sizes have changed. I only found 8oz cans.)

Sift together dry ingredients, and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, mix together oil and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat well. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Fold in coconut, carrots, nuts, and pineapple. Pour into lightly greased and floured 10×15-inch pan.**. Bake at 350F for 45 minutes. When cool, frost with Cream Cheese Frosting. Yields 16 to 20 slices.

* I suspect you could try any kind of oil you want. I would suggest a neutral oil, like peanut, but I did see a comment that said, once you try olive oil carrot cake, you’ll never go back. I haven’t tried this. Also, I used 1 cup oil and 1/2 cup buttermilk.

** I wanted a two layer round cake, so I used two 8″ round cake pans instead. I thought it would be ready much faster that way, but I think it turned out to be about 45 minutes. I just kept an eye on it after the 30 minute mark.

Cream Cheese Frosting
ingredients
2 3-oz pkg cream cheese (again, sizes have changed. I used 1 8oz pkg.)
1 box (1 lb) powdered sugar
1 stick soft margarine (I used butter)
1/2 tsp vanilla

Mix all ingredients with electric mixer until very creamy and smooth.

The Recipe

Bitter

Clinton Cookies

Clinton Cookies*

These were supposed to be our victory cookies, based on a recipe from the 1992 Presidential election, when Hillary Clinton made a comment on the Today show that she supposed she could have stayed home and baked cookies, but instead she continued her law career.  She was slammed, with the assumption being that she held contempt for stay-at-home moms, that she thought their life was simply baking cookies and drinking tea.  She quickly fell in line, doing the politically expedient thing and entering a cookie recipe in the Family Circle baking contest, a First Lady challange that survives to this day.

I decided it would be symbolic of how far we’ve come to bake a batch of her cookie recipe.  I baked some on Saturday and sent them to my Grandma and Great Aunt, who were SO EXCITED about this victory.  I baked the rest for us yesterday.  I made one small change, in that I used butter instead of shortening.  I’m not enough of a baker to know how the shortening ones would have turned out, but I looked at both oatmeal and chocolate chip cookie recipes, and both seemed to generally call for butter.  

And now, here we are. President Trump. It sticks in my throat and gave me nightmares last night. I cannot believe we are here. I cannot believe our next President will be a man with zero political experience, who denies climate change in the face of all evidence, who says and does the things he says and does. It is a bitter pill to swallow.

Anyway, since I had it ready to post yesterday, here is Hillary Clinton’s recipe.

Hillary Clinton’s Chocolate Chips

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup solid vegetable shortening (I used butter)
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar (I used dark because we had it)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 12 oz semisweet chocolate chips

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease baking sheets (I used parchment paper instead, so the cookies wouldn’t spread as much.
  2. Combine flour, salt, and baking soda in a bowl.
  3. Beat together shortening (butter, room temperature), sugars, and vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer until creamy.  Add eggs, beating until light and fluffy.  Gradually beat in flour mixture and rolled Oates.  Stir in chocolate chips.  (Add some nuts if you’re baking for Grandma and Aunt Flo, omit if you’re baking for Ted and Maya.  Life is a little complicated sometimes.)
  4. Drop batter by well-rounded teaspoonfuls onto baking sheets.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden.
  5. Cool cookies on sheets for 2 minutes.  Remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: 7 1/2 dozen cookies

* The Almond Joy is Maya’s superstitiouss move…she enjoyed an Almond Joy for Obama’s win in ’08

Eggs in Pepper Boats

image
One of my Christmas gifts this year was a lovely cookbook, Heart and Soul in the Kitchen, by Jacques Pepin.  I’ve tried a few recipes from it, with various levels of success.  This recipe I consider an unqualified success, because it’s super delicious and relatively easy.  You cut a poblano pepper in half, simmer it a bit to soften it, then fill the cavity with a little cheese and an egg, and cook it (covered) until the egg is set to your liking.  It’s really good.  Depending on how hot the peppers are, it’s either spicy or not.  Poblano peppers are not terribly spicy anyway, but I’ve made this twice now, and there was definitely a difference in heat between the two.

Ted and cheese don’t get along as well as they used to, so I made this for him without any, which is clearly healthier anyway.  But not as tasty in my book. And I keep forgetting the cilantro. I’ll have to try it that way next time.

EGGS IN PEPPER BOATS

Yield: Serves 4

Ingredients
2 (4 oz each) banana, cubanelle or poblano peppers
4 extra-large eggs, preferably organic
6 tbsp grated cheddar cheese
4 tbsp water
1 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp fresh cilantro leaves (or as much as you prefer)

For the peppers: Split the peppers lengthwise in half and remove the seeds and the stems if you want. Arrange them cut-side down in a large skillet and add the oil, water and a ¼ teaspoon of the salt and cook, covered, over medium heat, turning occasionally, for about 4 minutes, or until the peppers are softened somewhat but still firm.

For the eggs: Remove the skillet from the heat and, if necessary, turn the peppers over so they are hollow-side up. Place the cheese in the peppers. Break an egg into each one and sprinkle the eggs with the remaining ¼ teaspoon of salt and the pepper.

Return the skillet to the stove, cover and cook over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes, until the egg whites are set, but the yolks are still runny.

To serve: Transfer to plates, sprinkle with the cilantro and serve immediately.

Failure and Success

image
Tuesday was Maya’s 20th Birthday, and also Spring Break for the elementary school where she works, so she didn’t have work that day. Spring Break at her college was last week, so she did have school, but she decided to play hooky and spend the day with us, her loving parents. I love this kid. (Not a kid at 20, but still MY kid)

We recently watched the movie “Chef” on HBO. Have you seen that movie? It’s really cute, about a chef in Los Angeles who is working for a restaurant that is uninspired and doesn’t allow him to showcase his creativity, and he ends up quitting his job, flying across the country, and starting up a food truck, driving across the country selling Cuban sandwiches. Maya decided that for her birthday, she wanted to go into San Francisco and get Cuban sandwiches. So she went online and found a place that gets fabulous reviews, which is in fact a corner store that also has a little sandwich area. So off we went. When we got there, we discovered that it wasn’t a traditional Cuban sandwich like you might get in Havana, but is instead a Torta Cubana, which has ham, cheese, mayonnaise, chorizo, chicken, pickled peppers, sour cream, fried egg, milanesa, avocado, and hot dog slices. Way too much, when what we were looking for has roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard on Cuban bread, which is buttered and grilled in a press, like a panini. Failure

So I looked on my phone, and found another restaurant, known for the Cuban version (rather than the Mexican Torta). We drove across town, and when we got there, discovered they had shut down, permanantly. Looked for another place, also shut down. Clearly, our internet research skills are lacking.Failure

Ted had to go to work that afternoon, so we found a sandwich shop near his office, and had a late lunch there. No Cubans in sight, but it was nice nonetheless. Since Maya was born in Philadelphia, I had the Philly Cheese, which was quite good. Success (at last)

After dropping Ted off at work, Maya and I went to the Legion of Honor, so we could see a lovely painting by Raphael, Portrait of a Lady with a Unicorn. We do love the Legion of Honor…the views of San Francisco’s skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge, the smell of the sea, the gorgeous Cypress trees, and of course the beautiful paintings and sculptures. The current exposition is a collection of Pierre Bonnard’s paintings from around the world, which we very much enjoyed. Success

The following day, I saw a recipe online that looked pretty good to me, for Rajma, or Red Kidney Bean Curry, which popped up on Facebook, since I follow Smitten Kitchen there. In her post, she mentions a spice mixture that she found at Whole Foods and loved, and eventually figured out how to make herself. I thought that perhaps I might try it, and since sometimes spices in my cabinet can get a bit old, I’d just use the mix. So I went to the spice blend website, which said it was carried at both our local Whole Foods and at another local grocery store. So I went to Whole Foods (since I was in that neighborhood), and searched for the mix. Nope. Not in the Indian food section, nor in the spice section. I asked at customer service, and they said they had never heard of the brand. Sigh. So I went to the Indian spice shop across the street, where I was also out of luck. Failure I asked the woman at the spice shop, and she said the spices for Rajma are coriander, cumin, and garam masala. I had cumin at home that was fairly fresh, so I bought some coriander and garam masala and went on my way. I made the recipe for dinner and served it with rice, and it was delicious indeed. Ted said he could eat it every week, so I suspect I’ll be making it again soon. I varied the recipe in that I added a bit of garam masala, which the recipe did NOT call for, but the woman at the spice shop said it should. Really good. Success

Another recipe I tried this week was something that I saw on America’s Test Kitchen, which was lentils and rice with crispy onions, which included cumin and cinnamon. As they are known to do, America’s Test Kitchen tries the recipe several ways and tweaks it until they feel they have it just right. The recipe was supposed to be a pilaf type recipe, with tender lentils and fluffy rice, and crispy fried onions. When I made it, however, the rice came out gloppy and disgusting, and the flavors were blah. So Maya and I had bagels for dinner, and when Ted came home from work he had leftovers. Failure

Maya, as you know, has been attending our local community college for the last two years, in order to save money. Now she’s finishing up her Sophomore year, and is getting ready to transfer. She applied to one California State University, SF State (where Ted and I met!), and perhaps 6 University of California schools. She has heard from SF State, UC Santa Barbara, and UC Santa Cruz, and she is accepted to all three. YAY! She likely won’t hear from the others for a few more weeks. Her first and second choices are UC Berkeley and UC Davis, so we’re hoping for those. But if they don’t work out, she has some very good options to consider. Success!

Braised Short Ribs

Picture from ATK website, because I didn't take a picture of ours. The picture on the recipe is what inspired me to make the polenta.

Picture from ATK website, because I didn’t take a picture of ours. The picture on the recipe is what inspired me to make the polenta.

Two recipes in two days. Sorry. I like to keep a lot of recipes here, in addition to printing them up, so I can find them when I need them. The thing with America’s Test Kitchen recipes is that only the current season episodes are free. For past seasons, you have to pay for a subscription. So there’s a time limit on them. Best to write it down somewhere. For me, that’s here.

I saw the cooks on ATK make this beef stew the other day, and I was intruiged. I am not a big fan of beef bourgenion, or coq a vin, so I don’t know why I wanted to try this one, but I did. You braise beef short ribs in Chianti, and you do it in batches to effect the flavor of the sauce.

I ended up using 2 3/4 lbs of bone-in short ribs. I’m estimating that that meant about 1 1/2 lbs of meat, or maybe 2lbs, I’m not sure. I halved the rest of the recipe. I’m not sure how different it would taste with boneless, likely just as good, or else they would have made the recipe with bone in ribs. I kind of wish I had made the entire recipe, because it was really good and I wish we had leftovers. I served it with polenta, which I sometimes like and sometimes do not. This time I liked it a lot. Also peas and carrots. So, without further ado, here’s the recipe. If you’d like a cozy meal, give it a try (it was almost 80 degrees yesterday, so who knows what inspired me.)

TUSCAN-STYLE BEEF STEW/Braised Short Ribs
Ingredients
4 pounds boneless beef short ribs, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
Salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 (750-ml) bottle Chianti
1 cup water
4 shallots, peeled and halved lengthwise
2 carrots, peeled and halved lengthwise
1 garlic head, cloves separated, unpeeled, and crushed
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon cracked black peppercorns, plus extra for serving
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons cornstarch

Instructions
1. Toss beef and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt together in bowl and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees.

2. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add half of beef in single layer and cook until well browned on all sides, about 8 minutes total, reducing heat if fond begins to burn. Stir in 2 cups wine, water, shallots, carrots, garlic, rosemary, bay leaves, cracked peppercorns, gelatin, tomato paste, anchovy paste, and remaining beef. Bring to simmer and cover tightly with sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil, then lid. Transfer to oven and cook until beef is tender, 2 to 2 1/4 hours, stirring halfway through cooking time.

3. Using slotted spoon, transfer beef to bowl; cover tightly with foil and set aside. Strain sauce through fine-mesh strainer into fat separator. Wipe out pot with paper towels. Let liquid settle for 5 minutes, then return defatted liquid to pot.

4. Add 1 cup wine and ground black pepper and bring mixture to boil over medium-high heat. Simmer briskly, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened to consistency of heavy cream, 12 to 15 minutes.

5. Combine remaining wine and cornstarch in small bowl. Reduce heat to medium-low, return beef to pot, and stir in cornstarch-wine mixture. Cover and simmer until just heated through, 5 to 8 minutes. Season with salt to taste. Serve, passing extra cracked peppercorns separately. (Stew can be made up to 3 days in advance.)

Onion Burgers

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photo from Cook’s Country website, because I neglected to take a picture of ours.

A few years ago, we tried a hamburger recipe that was inspired by an episode of Man vs Food, Louis’ Lunch Burger.  In that recipe, a bit of onion is smashed into the burgers before cooking, and then they are grilled on an antique grilling machine.  We don’t have an antique grilling machine, just a grill, and when we made it, most of the onion fell between the grates, which was a shame because they looked good.

This weekend, Cook’s Country (do you watch cooking shows on PBS?  I love them) had a similar burger , which they said was from Oklahoma, and served at a hamberger joint on Route 66.  It’s similar in that it has onion smashed into one side of the burger before cooking.  It’s different in that it’s cooked in a non-stick pan on your stove.  I liked the look of that, so we had that for dinner last night.  The results are that it was a really good burger.  I think I’ll make my burgers the same way next time we have burgers, except maybe I’ll try one trick from the Louis’ Lunch Burger recipe, which was to use a combination of meats.  I had forgotten that when we made those burgers, we used 1/2 80% and 1/2 85%.  I think these would be even better that way.  The only changes we made from the Cook’s Country recipe are that their recipe makes 4 3oz burgers, and we made 3 4oz burgers, and I only used 1/2 of an onion, though it was a decently big (yellow) onion.

ONION BURGERS
adapted from Cook’s Country

Ingredients

1/2 large onion, halved and sliced 1/8 inch thick
Salt and pepper
6 ounces 85 percent lean ground beef
6 ounces 80 percent lean ground beef
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 slices Cheddar cheese (No cheese for Ted)
3 hamburger buns, buttered and toasted

Instructions

1. Combine onion and 1 teaspoon salt in bowl and toss to combine. Transfer to colander and let sit for 30 minutes, tossing occasionally. Using tongs, transfer onion to clean dish towel, gather edges, and squeeze onion dry. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon pepper.

2. Divide onion mixture into 3 separate mounds on rimmed baking sheet.  Mix two types of beef, then form into 3 lightly packed balls and season with salt and pepper. Place beef balls on top of onion mounds and flatten beef firmly so onion adheres and patties measure 4 inches in diameter.

3. Melt butter with oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Using spatula, transfer patties to skillet, onion side down, and cook until onion is deep golden brown and beginning to crisp around edges, 6 to 8 minutes. Flip burgers, increase heat to high, and cook until well browned on second side, about 2 minutes. Place 1 slice cheese on each bottom bun. Place burgers on buns, add desired toppings, and serve.

Friday Randomness

Have you seen the beautiful tribute to my first husband, David Bowie, at the BRIT awards?  This is the entire thing, I think, including a tribute by Annie Lennox, a tribute by Gary Oldmam, and a song by Lorde, backed up by performers who had worked with Bowie in the past.  I’ll confess, Lorde’s song brought me to tears.  I miss David Bowie being alive in the world.  It was a better place with him here.   Coming so soon after the Emmy awards, which included a tribute by Lady Gaga, of course invites comparison.  I’ll chime in and say that Gaga’s tribute left me feeling cold, didn’t move me at all.  Hers was an over the top performance, with her dressed to honor the glam rock Bowie from the 70s.  She did a fine job, but tried to squeeze in too many songs, and it sounded like she was trying to pitch her voice to match his.  Lorde instead did a straight up version of ‘Life on Mars?’ that was gorgeous and simple.  The video above is the whole BRIT tribute.  If you want to see just Lorde’s performance, it starts about 9 minutes in.

Speaking of Gaga, I read today that Joe Biden is going to introduce her at the Academy Awards on Sunday, where she will perform her Oscar nominated song about rape and sexual assult.  This comes in the wake of a court decision this week that Kesha, who was (allegedly) sexually assaulted by her producer, Dr. Luke, will not be released from her contract with Sony.  Kesha says she wants to break all ties with Luke, but Sony says they are unable to do so, because the contract belongs to Dr. Luke’s company, which has a deal with Sony.  What a mess.  This is just an injunction, however, and the actual trial hasn’t started yet.  So we’ll see whether she will be contractually required to create 4 more albums with her attacker.  I don’t know more about the case, but I’m glad it’s getting attention.  Sexual assult is hard to prove, and so often the blame is put on the victim.  We need to change that mentality.

How’s the weather where you are?  It’s stupidly gorgeous here, 70 degrees outside right now.  We’ve had a very dry February, though not as dry as recent years.  January was pretty wet, which was good, unless you live on a cliff in Pacifica.  But February is prime rainy season.  It’s not unheard of in an ‘el nino’ year for us to have a dry spell, so I’m hoping still for a wet March and maybe even April.  After that it pretty much dries up around here.  What we need are winter storms to drop a lot of moisture, and we’re just not getting that right now.  Ugh.

Did you watch ‘Freaks and Geeks‘ when it was on back in ’99-2000?   We did, though I think we missed it first run and watched in reruns.  The entire series (only 18 episodes) is available now on Netflix.  If you came of age in the early 80s, you should give yourself up to a good binge and watch the entire thing.  We just finished the other night, and it really held up well.

I thought the series finale of Downton Abbey was this coming Sunday, but maybe they didn’t want to go up against the Academy Awards.  It’s next week, March 6th.  We have the DVD, so we’ve watched already.  Clearly I’m not evil and I won’t spoil anything for you, but I will say I think they did a really nice job with it.

Do you like Spaghetti and Meatballs?  We do.  We’re especially fond of the recipe in my Alice Waters cookbook.  It’s fairly involved, though, and usually Ted makes the meatballs while I make the sauce and it’s a real team effort weekend type meal.  So I was happy the other day to see that Smitten Kitchen had an everyday meatball recipe.  And instead of serving it with pasta, she said maybe you might want to have it with garlic toast, as sort of an open face meatball sub.  So that’s exactly what we did, and gosh it was good.  I think I would have liked the sauce portion to be a bit more complex, maybe some onions or carrots or something in there, but for a quick sauce, it was quite good.  Happily, there are leftovers on the menu tonight.

Lastly in this rambling post, for some reason last night I was thinking about these TV dinners, Libbyland, we sometimes got when I was a kid, in Alaska.  They were made and marketed to kids, so there was a game or a puzzle or something on the box that you could occupy yourself with, there was a packet of Nestle Quick that you could mix with milk and have chocolate milk (maybe they even had strawberry milk with some meals, I’m not sure.)  TV dinners back then were cooked in the oven, and these for some reason often came with chocolate pudding, so that was hot.  Strange.  The food was definitely geared towards kids tastes, and was fairly gross.  But boy, I loved those things.  I think we would get those if my mom was going on a date, so not a nightly thing by any means.

 

Leftover Turkey Chili

We were lucky enough to have some leftover turkey after Thanksgiving. We had some delicious turkey soup one night, a few turkey sandwiches, and last, some turkey chili. I had considered turkey chili for dinner, and the recipe I generally use is good, and calls for ground turkey. But Ted suggested we might make a recipe with the leftover roast turkey. That seemed like a good idea to me, but I wasn’t sure the same recipe that starts with raw ground turkey would work well with roasted turkey leftovers. So I found this recipe on Foodnetwork. I measured and I only had 1 1/2 cups of turkey left, so I halved the recipe. I didn’t fancy the idea of mashed potatoes or rice, so I went old school and made corn bread instead. I served the chili over a bit of sharp cheddar cheese, with a dollop of sour cream on top, and a bit of avocado to make it even better. Delicious.

Leftover Turkey Chili
Ingredients
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 small jalapeno, seeded and minced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried oregano
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 to 4 cups leftover roasted turkey meat, white and dark combined, chopped or pulled into 3/4-inch pieces
One 28-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
Two 15-ounce cans pinto beans
Leftover mashed potatoes or cooked rice, for serving
Sour cream and chopped scallion, for serving

Directions
Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and bell pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, about 6 minutes. Stir in the jalapeno and garlic and cook until they soften slightly, about 1 minute.

Stir in the chili powder, cumin, oregano, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Add the turkey and stir until well coated in the spices. Pour in the tomatoes and chicken broth and scrape up any spices that may have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Bring the chili to a simmer on medium-low and cook, uncovered, on until the liquid has reduced by a few inches and the chili has thickened, about 1 hour.

Drain and rinse one of the cans of beans; leave the bean liquid in the second can. Add all the beans plus the reserved bean liquid to the pot and heat until the beans are warmed through, about 10 minutes. Season to taste with more salt and pepper. Serve in bowls over potatoes or rice with a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle of chopped scallions.

Giving Thanks for Cranberry Sauce

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I’ve spoken here before about Thanksgiving, about how as a child, it was my least favorite holiday of the year.  (I should clarify that I am only talking about the years when I was in California…I don’t remember much about Thanksgiving in Alaska, but I’m sure it was lovely and fine.)  My entire family (on my mom’s side) is obsessed with weight.  My grandmother decided at a young age that she was NOT going to be fat like her parents and aunts, and pretty much has been on a diet ever since.  To the point where now, at age 92 and weighing in at about 88 lbs, she will still make comments like, “Well, since I ate that brownie, I’ll have to starve myself tomorrow.”  It’s digusting.  She raised her kids to be obsessed with weight as well, putting my mom on a diet when she was about 10.  It backfired, and the combination of her obsession and family genetics put all of her children into the overweight/obese category, though my aunt Colleen was much thinner than my mom or my uncle.

As might be expected, the conversation at family gatherings was often about dieting, about what one should and should not eat, what works and what doesn’t, on and on and on.  And all the while, of course, there’s turkey and stuffing and potatoes and candied yams and gravy and pie and fruit salad and cranberry sauce and rolls.  Please eat, enjoy…with an undertone of, you wouldn’t be so big if you didn’t enjoy quite so much.  Ugh.  Add to that the chain smoking by both of my grandparents, and throw in a big helping of my grandpa’s acid tongue and sarchasm, and you get the idea.  No family gatherings were particularly wonderful or happy, but Thanksgiving seemed to me to be about food food food, and with this family, that was not a good thing.  Plus most of the food wasn’t good.  Turkey was dried out, mashed potatoes from a box, brown gravy from a packet, cranberry sauce from a can, yams from a can.  Almost nothing was fresh.

I did always like the fruit salad and the cranberry sauce, canned though it was.  Actually, I liked the mashed potatoes and gravy from a box/packet, if truth be told.  It wasn’t until I was older and tried these things made from scratch that I realized that my grandparents’ cooking was like living in Plato’s cave, eating shadow versions of dishes, and there was a real world out there with delicious versionis of these same foods.

I remember the first time I tried cranberry sauce that wasn’t canned.  It was 1993, and Ted and I were newly married.  My mom had moved to Alaska that summer, though Richard and his wife had not moved up there yet, and were still in California.  Richard and Kathy were married the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and my mom had flown down for the wedding.  Generally we have Thanksgiving at Ted’s parents house, but we decided that year to have Thanksgiving at our apartment in San Francisco.  Kathy asked what she could bring, and I don’t remember if she brought pie or something else, but I do remember that she brought cranberry sauce.  It was a revelation. SO good.  Not overly sweet.  Fresh tasting.  I begged her for her recipe, and she looked at me, stunned.  “It’s on the back of the bag”, she said.  “1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, cranberries….cook over medium heat until the cranberries pop.  Chill.  That’s it.”   I think she felt that day about the same as she did when she told Richard they were going to make mashed potatoes, and he grabbed the box of powdered potatoes, while she grabbed fresh potatoes from the produce aisle.

Ever since that year, I’ve made this version of cranberry sauce, with a few exceptions.  One year I tried a savory version, which I did not care for.  One year I added a pinch of salt, which was fine but not really any different.  This year, for Canadian Thanksgiving in October, I tried a new recipe.  I don’t know what motivated me to do so, but I did.  It’s very similar to the one on the cranberry bag, but has less liquid.  You start out over low heat with the sugar, cranberries, and only 2 tblsp of water instead of a cup.  When the sugar dissolves, you have plenty of liquid, so then you turn up the heat to medium and cook until the cranberries pop.  I found the recipe on Food Network, and they added a strip of orange peel, which I don’t fancy.  Some commenters used 2 tblsp OJ instead of water.  Result?  A lovely cranberry sauce!  Not adding as much water gives you more concentrated cranberry flavor.  Also, I used a bit less than a cup of sugar.  Maybe more than 3/4 of a cup, I’m not exactly sure.  Delicious. So this is the cranberry sauce recipe that I’m making for today’s Thanksgiving feast.

I’ll be thinking of Kathy, and thanking her for introducing me to fresh cranberry sauce.  I’ll be thinking of my mom and all of the years when she would come to California for a month, and Thanksgiving was during that time and she would spend a week with us.  I wish we were able to do that this year.  I’ll be thinking of my grandma and how much I love her, even if a visit with her means coming home smelling like cigarettes.  I’ll be thinking of my grandpa and how much I loved him, even if he was a mean old man.  I’ll be enjoying a lovely day of delicious, freshly made food, laughter, music, wine, and fun with our new dog, at Ted’s parents house.  I do have a lot to be thankful for.  (I considered changing that to the more gramattically correct, “I do have much for which to be thankful” but I don’t like it, so I didn’t.)

I’m also making my Grandma’s fruit salad, sweet potato pudding, and as an appetizer, shrimp cocktail.

If you’ve not tried fresh cranberry sauce, or if you have only tried the version with 1 whole cup of water, give this one a try.  It’s delicious.

Cranberry Sauce
Ingredients:

12 0z cranberries (fresh or frozen)
3/4 cup sugar
2 tblsp water or orange juice
1 strip orange or lemon zest, optional

Directions:

Put all ingredients into a saucepan.  Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves and the cranberries are soft, about 10 minutes. Increase the heat to medium and cook until the cranberries burst, about 12 minutes.