Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Michael Pollan is Simply Brilliant

I'm in the process of finishing Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, which is so interesting and makes me nightly wish that I lived next door to the bounty of nature rather than across the street from a bounty of fraternity brothers. He lays it all out concisely in this past weekend's New York Times Magazine with his article "Unhappy Meals" (requires login). For anyone who's yet to experience him and both his common-sense and scientific wisdom, I highly recommend the article as an introduction.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Low-Effort Supper

Our Hero and I had plans to go out last night with friends. I find I rarely plan meals for nights like these, and I end up with a PB&J or egg sandwich or worse: bar food. (Which I often regret for both dietary and digestive reasons.)

I've made this recipe several times, but not as often as I should. It seems the very definition of "supper": easy, filling, uses ingredients simple to have on hand, and could easily be adjusted to feed fewer or more people. The eggs are cooked in a spicy tomato sauce (leftover sauce can be tossed with pasta for a quick next-day lunch) and scooped up with baked tortilla chips or crusty bread. I would not be ashamed to serve this to guests. I found the original recipe (which I've changed a little) in Everyday Food years ago.

Eggs in Spicy Tomato Sauce
2 t. olive oil
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1-2 T. chopped chipotles in adobo (I use two whole chilis, but i like it HOT!)
2 28-oz cans whole peeled tomatoes in juice
Coarse salt and ground pepper
4-8 large eggs (depending on your appetite, but 2 per serving works well)
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
Tortilla chips, pita, or crusty bread for serving

Heat oil over medium heat. Cook garlic and chipotles in oil briefly, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and juice, breaking up tomatoes with your hands or a spoon; simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally, 15-20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Reduce heat to medium-low. One at a time, crack eggs into a mug or bowl, then slide onto sauce in skillet. Cover; cook very gently (you may have to turn down heat) until whites are opaque and yolks are how you like 'em (best if they are a bit soft), 6-9 minutes. Spoon into serving bowls, sprinkle with feta. Dig in!

Monochromatic Meal

I am a fan of brightly-colored food, and in terms of visual appeal, I suppose this dish is a bit lacking. It makes up for that in flavor and texture. In my neverending quest to conquer foods with which I am uncomfortable or unfamiliar, I took on the pork loin chop. If you recall, I am still able to count the number of times I've cooked pork on one hand.

In search of a healthy, flavorful pork option, I ran across a recipe I'd clipped from a Cooking Light Idon'tknowhowlongago. Chicken breasts could easily be substituted for the pork. I think the pears sauteed in butter are by far the best part of this dish. I served it on a bed of braised savoy cabbage flavored with a little white wine vinegar.

Peppered Pork and Pears
1 t. olive oil
4 (4-0z) boneless center-cut loin pork chops (pound to about 1/2 inch thick)
2 t. coarsely ground mixed peppercorns or black pepper
1/2 t. salt, divided
1 t. butter
1 cup thinly sliced leek (about 1-2 large, white part only)
2 firm Bartlett or Bosc pears, cored and cut lengthwise into 1/2 inch-thick slices
1/3 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 t. rubbed sage

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle pork with pepper and 1/4 t. salt. Add pork to pan; cook 4 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove pork from pan; cover and keep warm.

Add butter and leek to pan; saute 2 minutes or until tender. Add pears. Reduce heat to medium; cook about 2 minutes, stirring gently. Add broth, wine, sage, and remaining salt; bring to a boil. Cook until sauce is slightly thickened, a couple minutes. Spoon sauce over pork.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Hot and Spicy

This morning was the coldest yet here in MyTown, with temperatures down to 8 degrees. Sigh.

I had a pretty slow, pleasant day today. I completed some longstanding projects around the house, listening to NPR and Tom Waits; I baked some more of the walnut raisin biscotti (by request from Our Hero); I baked another loaf of the no-knead miracle bread, this one higher than the last; and I made a warm, comforting dinner.

I'd sent this recipe out in the past to friends and family because it was so delicious the first time I made it. I think LD was over for dinner that night, if I'm not mistaken (Hi, L!). Take my advice and give this a whirl. It is healthy (I've made a few changes from the original Cooking Light recipe), spicy and creamy-delicious. Perfect for these cold winter blahs!

Oh, and if you're not so into the spice (or your stomach isn't), I suppose you could omit the chipotle peppers, and it would still be oniony peppery macaroni goodness. I wouldn't leave out the adobo if you do, though. The smoky flavor really makes this dish!

Oh yeah, Our Hero went back for thirds . . .

Chipotle Mac & Cheese
2 chipotle chiles, chopped
1 t. adobo sauce
1 T. butter
1 finely chopped medium onion
1 finely chopped red bell pepper
1 clove finely chopped garlic
2 T. flour
1 14oz. can diced tomatoes with chiles, undrained
4 cups cooked whole wheat macaroni noodles (about 2 cups uncooked)
2 cups shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar (I love Cabot's 50% Light)
1 cup 1% low-fat cottage cheese
1 cup skim milk
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 large egg, beaten
Bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in a dutch oven. Cook chiles, onion, pepper, and garlic. Cook until onion is tender. Sprinkle with flour, and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and add tomatoes and their juice. Cook until thickened. Toss in adobo, pasta, cheeses, milk, and egg. Stir well. Spoon into a 9x13 baking dish. Top with bread crumbs and bake for 30 minutes. This could feed a crowd.

Crazy Easy

For Christmas, my lovely Mum and Pop got me a beautiful two-burner cast-iron grill pan. What better way to inaugerate it than burgers spicy enough to get some sweat breaking on Our Hero's forehead? Of course these burgers could be broiled or pan-fried, too.

Spicy Turkey Burgers with Homemade Tabasco Ketchup
(I clipped the ketchup recipe from somewhere, no source on the scrap of paper . . . )
Red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 lb. ground turkey
2 T. Worstershire sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
Cayenne pepper
Lowfat jalapeno-jack cheese (or pepper-jack)
4 whole-wheat buns
2 T. tomato paste
1 T. yogurt
1 t. tabasco sauce
1/2 t. white vinegar
1/8 t. salt

Heat grill over medium-high heat. Rub lightly with vegetable oil. Grill bell peppers about 15-20 minutes. Combine tomato paste and last four ingredients in a bowl; set aside. Combine turkey, Worstershire sauce, and salt and peppers (black and cayenne) to taste. Form into 4 patties. Grill patties 4 minutes per side or until cooked through. Remove from heat and top with cheese. Grill buns and spread with ketchup. Place each patty on a bun; top with peppers. Serve with a veggie.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Icy Weather Warm-Up

We are used to snow here in Mytown, but the past few days' icy glaze and rain has been a bit chilling and depressing. Though this picture isn't the best (I'm still experimenting with my limited lighting and equipment), take my word for it that the Winter Squash-Leek Risotto pictured here was delicious. With several cups of squash puree added during the last 10 minutes of cooking, the texture is a bit different than what I'm used to, but it is a wonderful one-dish meal. I could have served a green salad too, but the temptation to just curl up around a hot bowl of this when it was ready was too much to resist. The recipe's from a great cookbook I got from darling KD for Christmas, From Asparagus to Zucchini: A Guide to Cooking Fresh Seasonal Produce." As usual, I made some alterations.

Winter Squash, Leek, and Saffron Risotto
6-7 cups chicken stock
1/2 t. saffron threads, pulverized (use turmeric in a pinch, if you must)
3 T. olive oil
1/2-1 cup finely chopped leeks, white and pale green parts only (make sure you wash well to remove all grit)
1 1/2 cups arborio rice (I used short-grain brown rice - be prepared to extend the cooking/stirring time by 15-25 minutes)
2/3 cup dry white wine (I used vermouth)
2-3 cups cooked pureed winter squash (I used acorn, frozen would work)
3/4-1 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
salt and pepper

Bring stock and saffron to a simmer in a saucepan. Heat olive oil in large, heavy saucepan. Add leeks; cook over medium-low until softened, several minutes. Raise heat to medium-high and stir in rice. Keep stirring 1-2 minutes, then add wine. Stir and cook until nearly all the wine has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add two ladlefulshot stock (enough to barely cover the rice); stir frequently until most is absorbed. Continue to add stock a ladleful at a time and stir very frequently until nearly absorbed. Risotto is done when rice is barely tender and mixture is creamy; this should take 25-35 minutes (longer with brown rice). Adjust heat if rice is absorbing liquid too quickly. Stir in squash during last 10 minutes. Fold in most of the grated cheese, season with salt and pepper. Serve with a little cheese sprinkled on top. This dish makes plenty. About 6 servings.
(Four servings if Our Hero is eating.)

The Ubiquitous No-Knead Bread Post

Okay, everyone has tried this recipe, everyone loves it. Count me in! The illustration is my 2nd attempt at the lovely golden loaf. Both attempts were delicious and entirely whole-wheat. Thanks to MC for bringing this to my attention!

You can find the recipe anywhere online (all food blogs seemed to have re-posted it), but it is basically 3 cups flour, 1/4 t. yeast, 1 1/4 t. salt, and 1 5/8 cups water. Because I was going for a 100% whole-what loaf, I messed around with these numbers a bit, and on my second attempt added a new ingredient. My first loaf I made with (believe it or not) whole-wheat pastry flour, because I had it around the house. Turned out nicely, not as much lift as I would have liked, but tasty all the same, with lovely desirable air-pockets. Second loaf I used King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour, and added 1 1/2 t. vital wheat gluten per cup of flour. I also doubled the yeast, as whole wheat flour is a bit heavier than AP. Because Our Hero and I are crazy cheap, we keep our home at a chilly 60 degrees. To help with the rise (which the recipe recommends 12-18 hours at 70 degrees), I kept the dough in the bathroom (thanks to a recommendation from BA) with the door closed. This kept it slightly warmer than 60 degrees, when Our Hero remembered to keep the door closed (ahem). Even with these less-than-scientific conditions, it worked out great. I let it rise for 20-24 hours instead, which is actually more convenient, if you think about it.

The recipe states to bake in a 6-8 quart covered dish. Mine worked fine in a 5-quart cast-iron dutch oven. Even if you're not a bread baker, this is too easy not to try! BA has recommended tossing herbs into the dough, which sounds delicious. Because I've been having mine toasted as breakfast bread (with PB), I've thus far omitted the savory herbs. I plan to make another loaf soon, so I'll keep you all posted!

The best part about homemade whole-wheat bread for breakfast? No high fructose corn syrup, which is in so many whole-wheat products, including my beloved Thomas' 100% Whole-Wheat English Muffins. Sniffle.

I'm back! Hope you're still around!

I think it probably goes without saying that things have been busy. Never fear! I haven't stopped cooking! I had a huge backlog of posts, the recipes kept piling up and it soon got overwhelming. Instead of playing catch-up, a clean start.

This weekend, I tinkered a bit with Everyday Food's "Whole-Wheat Raisin Biscotti." I made two batches, changing the recipe a bit to suit my desires, and have changed the instructions a bit to make them more user-friendly.

This was my first crack at biscotti, and once I knew what to expect it turned out very simple. This recipe is for dear MF, with love and kisses.

Whole-Wheat Walnut-Raisin Biscotti

Vegetable oil, for baking sheet
1 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour (King Arthur is great)
1/3 cup sugar
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1/2 cup walnut halves
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 large eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
1 T. applesauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush a baking sheet with vegetable oil. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Stir in walnuts and raisins. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, vanilla, and applesauce. Add wet to dry ingredients, mix just until all is moistened. Dough will be crumbly and will not hold together.

Put a large piece of plastic wrap on the kitchen counter. Empty dough onto plastic wrap. Pulling sides of plastic wrap around the dough, and pressing with your hands, shape dough into a loaf about 1 inch thick, 2 1/2 inches wide, and about 7 inches long. Put on the baking sheet. Bake until risen and firm, 20-30 minutes. Cool completely on sheet (30-40 minutes). Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.
Put the loaf on a cutting board. Cut diagonally into 1/2-inch slices. Place slices in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake, turning once, until dried and slightly golden, 25-30 minutes. Cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to one month.