Wednesday, February 24, 2010

You are going to eat it, you are going to like it, and you are going to SAY you like it!

Tuesdays are now our official Make Up a Recipe and Try It Out on Unsuspecting Family nights. It's fun and confidence-inspiring and often tasty. We've come up with instant winners, as well as some recipes that required tweaking before releasing into the wild. So far, no absolute losers, but stay tuned!

Below is last night's meal. The Swordfish was an appetizer. Except for the larger cake, everything would serve 4 adults.

Spice-rubbed Swordfish Tips with Miso Dipping Sauce

1/2 lb. swordfish tips (a swordfish steak works as well, but is more expensive)
1/2 teas. chili powder
1/2 teas. garlic powder
1/2 teas. paprika
1/2 teas. salt
2 teas. white miso paste
1/4 cup lime juice (~ 2 limes)
1 teas. rice cooking wine
1 TBSP safflower or vegetable oil

Make sure fish is dry. Cut into 1-2" chunks if using steak. Tips will be fine as is. Put in a medium bowl.

Mix chili powder, garlic powder, paprika, and salt together in a small bowl. Shake over fish, turning fish with hands to make sure it is evenly coated.

In a small bowl, whisk miso, lime, and wine.

In a heavy frying pan or large, shallow sauce pan, heat oil until shimmering over medium heat. Add fish, and cook on each side for 1 1/2 - 2 minutes, for a total of 8 minutes. 

Remove from pan and put on a cutting board. Cut into thin slices, making sure to slice with the grain (against the grain will be difficult and will shred the fish; with the grain will be easy).

Serve with dipping sauce.

Note: the dipping sauce is nice as salad dressing

Beet Watercress Salad

2 cups (~ 2 medium) beets
1 bunch watercress
1 small head radicchio, torn into 1 1/2" pieces
1 TBSP olive oil
1/4 cup (~ 1 large) shallots, chopped
1/4 cup sliced almonds

1/4 cup olive oil
1/8 cup lime juice (~ 1 lime)
1/8 cup white balsamic vinegar
1 teas. mustard (we used a lovely one from Maine, purchased from our favorite Sherman Market)
1/2 teas. salt
1/8 teas. pepper
1 clove garlic, minced

1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours (or more) prior to putting salad together, preheat oven to 350  and wash beets and wrap in tin foil. Roast for 30 minutes, then reduce heat to 300 and roast for another hour, until soft but firm, not mushy. Remove from oven and let cool. 

When beets are cool enough to touch, peel skin off, using a peeler or paring knife. Cut into matchstick-sized strips and put into a medium bowl.

In a bowl or 2-cup measuring cup, whisk dressing ingredients. Pour over beets and let sit for at least 20 minutes, but up to an hour.

In a small frying pan over medium heat, heat 1 TBSP olive oil and add shallots. Stir for 30 seconds then reduce heat to low and, stirring occasionally, saute until they are brown and caramelized, ~ 15 - 20 minutes.

Heat a small heavy frying pan over medium-low heat and add almonds. Stir occasionally, until they are lightly toasted, ~ 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix all parts together (beets with dressing, watercress, radicchio, shallots, and almonds) and stir well.

Cheese Buttermilk Biscuits

makes 6

1 1/2 cup white flour
1 teas. salt
1/2 teas. baking soda
1/4 teas. baking powder
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350.

In a medium mixing bowl, add dry ingredients  and mix well.

Add buttermilk and stir until just mixed.

Add cheese, stir until incorporated. 

Drop dough onto a cookie sheet in 6 lumps, ~ 1/3 cup each. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean and tops are just starting to brown, ~ 15 minutes.

Piscean Arctic Sea Bass

An homage to Pisces and to snow. The salt forms a crust and underneath, the fish is amazingly tender and sweet. Parts around the cavity are quite salty.

2 whole black sea bass, gutted but heads and tails on
4 tarragon stalks
1 lime, sliced into 1/4" thick slices
1 teas. pepper
opt: cooking twine
5 - 6 pounds (2 boxes) kosher salt

Preheat oven to 450.

In cavity of each fish, add 2 tarragon stalks, half the lime slices, and half of the pepper. Either tie twine around each fish to keep cavity closed, or press it down as well as you can.

In a large pan (lasanga-sized, at least 15" long), with 2 inch sides, evenly sprinkle 1/4" layer of salt.

Lay fish carefully on top, side by side, and cover in 1/4 to 1/2" of salt.

Bake for 30 minutes, until a thermometer inserted into middle of fish reads 130 degrees. Remove and carefully crack salt layer, lift fish out onto a tray, and wipe off any clumps of salt. Serve as is, pulling spine out and eating around the bones. Yum!

Peach Upside Down Cake

We used the cake batter recipe from the Joy of Cooking, because how do you improve upon perfection? We did increase baking time.

Preheat oven to 350.

2 cups frozen or fresh peaches (we pulled a bag of frozen from the freezer and were reminded of the farmers' market!)
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 teas. salt
2 TBSP butter

Heat peaches in a large saute pan over medium heat until melted (if frozen) and juicing, ~ 5 to 7 minutes.

Add sugar and salt and let it boil for 10 minutes, until thickened to a "thin jam" consistency. Drop in butter and remove from heat.

Meanwhile, make cake batter.

1 cup flour
1 teas. baking powder
4 eggs, yolks and whites separated
1 TBSP melted butter
1 teas. vanilla
1 cup sugar

Sift flour and baking powder.

In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks, then add butter and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, whip egg whites until stiff. Fold in the sugar, 1 TBSP at a time, then yolk mixture, then the flour, 1/4 cup at a time.

Pour peaches into the bottom of a pie or tart pan. Evenly spread batter on top. Bake for 40 minutes, until nicely browned.

Let cool and then turn onto a plate. Scoop any peaches remaining in pan on top of cake. Eat as is, or, for a super decadent treat, liberally drizzle on Kahlua, Bailey's or the like. 

Monday, February 22, 2010

Chocolate Covered Treats

The problem is, strawberries aren't in season yet. The solution? Pretend they are and enjoy!

Chocolate Covered Treats

1 quart strawberries
1 cup mini marshmallows OR 1 cup large marshmallows and 4 skewers or more toothpicks
3 1/2-inch slices pound cake
1 package bittersweet chocolate chips

Wash berries, keeping green ends on. Lay out to dry.

In a double boiler, melt chocolate chips, stirring frequently.

If using large marshmallows, evenly divide into 4 and put onto skewers or toothpicks.

Cut cake slices into 3/4 - 1" strips.

Cover a cookie sheet with a large sheet of waxed paper.

Once chocolate is melted, turn it off but leave over the water and  dip strawberries into chocolate to just below the green end. Place on cookie sheet, leaving small space between each.

Dip cake strips in halfway.

Dip skewers or toothpicks of marshmallows in or, if using mini marshmallows, put all minis into remaining chocolate, stir quickly to cover, and pour/scrape whole mass onto cookie sheet, spreading out as much as possible. 

Let all cool, keeping at room temperature, until chocolate has hardened, ~ 1 hour. If there are any leftovers, which is unlikely, refrigerate covered.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Seafood Chowder-Bisque

When Renee and I set out to shop for yesterday's experiment, it was snowing and I was tired.  It was late morning, but already I was dreaming of curling around a bowl of thick hot comforting chowder and then climbing right into bed.  I've never made chowder, of any kind.  Renee had a good idea of what we'd need, but as I started to press her about what exactly makes chowder chowder, she wasn't quite sure.  The guy at New Deal Fish Market provided us with super fresh and, it turned out, exquisitely flavored shellfish and Hake, but suggested checking wikipedia when we asked about the definition of chowder.  So we took our goodies home, chopped, sauteed, and simmered, and chatted idly about what to call our creation. Turns out, we seem to have made something that is quite between the two: some research by both of us (beyond Wikipedia) reveals that seafood chowder is a thick chunky soup with potatoes while seafood bisque is a smooth soup whose base is made by boiling shellfish in the shell.  What follows has the light but creamy and complex quality I associate with bisque full of potato, vegetable, and shellfish chunks.  It raises the bar on cozy slurping, like you might use a silver spoon and slip into silk pjs. 

Seafood Chowder-Bisque

12 Littlneck clams
12 oysters
12 mussels 1/2 lb Hake or other solid white fish (cod, halibut), cut into 1/2" cubes
2 slices thick bacon, cut into 1/2" squares
1 onion, finely chopped
3 small-medium potatoes, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 carrott, cut into 1/2" squares
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 cup whole milk

In a large soup pot, saute the bacon until it renders (about 5 minutes).  Remove and set aside, leaving the fat.  Saute the onion in the bacon fat until it is translucent (about 5 minutes).  Add the chicken broth, carrotts, and potatoes.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Add the bacon and simmer, covered, until the vegetables are tender (15-20 minutes).  While you wait, make sure the shellfish are all tightly closed or able to close themselves when tapped against the counter or thebottom of the sink, then scrub the shells very very well.  When the veggies are tender, add the Hake.  Cook for 5-10 minutes, until it's white all the way through.  Add the shellfish.  Cover and cook until all have opened, 8-10 minutes.  Discard any that remain closed.  Turn off heat.  Add 1 cup milk and 1/2  tsp. pepper.  Taste to see if salt is needed (it probably won't be, as the shellfish open they release saltwater...).  Serve immediately.  There may be a little grit at the bottom of the pot, but it's a small price to pay for the flavor of shell-cooked shellfish.

We served this with cheese biscuits and a beet-arugula salad, but since neither were perfect we're going to hold off sharing those recipes until we've had a few more goes at them...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Fun(!) Vegetarian Dinner

If it hasn't become abundantly clear over the past year and a half of posts, I'll admit here and now that I am a hardcore carnivore. Technically, I'm a hardcore omnivore, but (in a sheepish voice) I love meat to the point of feeling as though a meal is incomplete without it. My husband enjoys it but frequently, gently, expresses a desire for vegetarian meals to break up what he sees as the monotony of meat-centric dinners. I try, but, short of a few exceptions, those meals just don't have the excitement of one which includes even a small serving of meat.

We had plans to eat with friends tonight, but since the kids and I all have nasty colds, we sadly declined and decided to stay home. As I had already planned the week's meals, we were without dinner. So, with a slight detour to the grocery store, we used a lot of things in the cupboards, fridge, and freezer and ate a yummy, vegetarian, filling dinner that provided something for everyone.

The whole meal includes baked tofu, vegetarian sushi, edamame, and a watercress salad. It serves 4 adults. I served the sushi and cut avocado and cucumber on a cutting board, with the other three dishes in small bowls across the table. Served on small plates, it was easy to go back for seconds or fifths for the things each person liked best.


4 sheets sushi nori
1 cup sushi rice, cooked according to package instructions; when cooked, toss with 1/4 cup mirin and let cool
1 avocado, sliced thin
1 cucumber, peeled, deseeded, and sliced thin

Spread one sheet nori out on a cutting board and starting 1 inch from the bottom edge, spread 1/4 of the rice out in a 3 inch swath going across the entire sheet. There will be about 2 to 3 inches not covered in rice at the top. Press down firmly on rice. In the middle of the rice section, lay four or five slices of avocado or cucumber across (looking at the nori overhead, you will see in stripes top to bottom: 2-3 inches of nori, 3 inches of rice with a veggie strip halfway down the rice, then 1 inch of nori).

Lightly wet the top 1/2 inch or so of the nori and, from the bottom, roll the whole thing up into a cylinder. The wet part of the nori will be at the very end and will seal it together. Slice the roll into 6 or 8 pieces.

Repeat with the remaining 3 sheets of nori. Any leftover avocado and cucumber can be sliced up and served with the sushi.

Baked Tofu

This is inspired by an Eating Well recipe but I added honey and reduced the oil for a slightly sweeter marinade. I also added cooking time, which makes it slightly crisper.

2 lbs tofu, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
Place tofu in a bowl or tupperware with a lid.

Tofu marinade:
1/2 cup lime juice
1/2 cup tamari or soy sauce
3 TBSP toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup honey

Warm marinade in a small pan over low heat until honey is melted.  Pour over tofu, cover with top and rotate very gently to get all tofu covered. Refrigerate for an hour, rotating container halfway through to recover tofu with marinade.

Preheat oven to 450. Bake for 30 minutes, turning halfway through.


Follow cooking instructions on bag. If it's fresh (a treat in late summer), put into boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain and sprinkle with salt.

Watercress Salad

1 small bunch watercress
1/4 bunch cilantro, large stems removed
1/2 cup loosely packed mint leaves
1 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP lemon juice
1/2 teas. pepper
1/4 teas. salt

Very coarsely chop the watercress, cilantro, and mint. Put in a bowl. 

Mix together olive oil, lemon, and salt and pepper and drizzle over greens. Toss well.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Crunchy Veggie (and Aphid?) Asian Soup

I think I've said before that one of the keys to having my son eat vegetables is ensuring that they are crunchy. The other day, after I had overcooked his broccoli, Lucca asked me to tell a story about a time when I was a little girl and my mom made a cooking mistake. So I told him a classic Valens family story, and remembered onr of Amy's standbys that I had quite forgotten (trauma does effect memory). It is a wonderful superfast superhealthy meal as long as you don’t (here’s the story) use local organic broccoli and forget to check for aphids before you toss it in the soup (in my recently recovered memory, I was first told that the little green floaters were broccoli buds, then that even if they were bugs they were fine to eat and full of protein). The one other caveat: do not cook any longer than suggested. The veggies really are better crunchy, even to an adult palate.

Crunchy Veggie Asian Soup

4 cups chicken or veggie broth
3 T soy sauce
1 block firm tofu, cut into 1” squares
1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch broccoli (2 large heads), broken into pieces
2 carrots, cut into 1” matchsticks
1 ball of thin rice noodles (aka rice vermicelli)

Bring the broth and soy sauce to a boil. Add mushrooms and cook five minutes. Add broccoli and carrots and cook five minutes more. Add rice noodles and cook another 2 minutes. Turn off heat and stir in tofu. Serve immediately.  Adults may want to add a dollop of spicy black bean sauce at the table.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A New Twist

Until now, the recipes we post have either been old favorites we've cooked for years, things we've individually come up with since beginning this project, or family and friends' classics. But now we are entering a new phase: starting this week, we are going to work together to come up with new recipes. We will post our results on Wednesdays. From time to time, if one of us feels inspired, we will post something on our usual days (Renée on Monday, Keja on Thursday).

We began this new phase with one ingredient, a la Iron Chef: scallops. They are in season, so that fit the bill. A friend of Keja's lives in China and went to our local Asian market to stock up on ingredients when she last visited. So, we decided to go for a Chinese style dinner. We winged it, something we both enjoy in the kitchen, and came up with a really nice meal. The broccoli should be served as part of the meal, as it complements the spiciness of the scallops. We are going to tweak it to be a stand-alone veggie, as it's a bit bland without the spice of the scallops, so stay tuned.

And just so no one thinks we are absolute geniuses at this, there were many tweaks we did during this whole process; you are getting the final result.

Chinese Style Scallops with Root Veggie Purée
serves 4 

Serve scallops over the purée. Have broccoli on the side.

1/4 cup roasted sesame seeds
3 inch nub fresh ginger, peeled and grated on large holes of a box grater
2 TBSP sesame paste (tahini will substitute well)
1 TBSP brown sugar 
1/2 teas. salt
1/4 teas. red chili bean paste (we used Youki brand shisen toban jan)

Sauce add-ins:
1 TBSP vegetable oil
1 lb. bay scallops
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup white wine

Mix paste ingredients together in a medium bowl. You may have to use your hands to get it really incorporated. Add scallops, gently rubbing paste evenly on them. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and put in refrigerator for 30 to 45 minutes.

Take scallops out and gently wipe the biggest chunks of paste back into bowl. Put scallops in a separate bowl. Reserve paste.

Heat a frying pan over medium-low heat. Add oil. When oil is shimmering but not smoking, add scallops. Cook for 2 minutes on first side. Using a spatula, turn them over and cook another 1 - 2 minutes until they start to split. Remove from pan and put on a plate.

Get a blender ready to use.

Add rice wine vinegar to the pan and deglaze, scraping until all stuck bits are off from the pan. Cook for 3-5 minutes then add white wine and cook for another 2-3 minutes.  Scrape everything in the pan into the blender. Blend until smooth. This can either be served over the scallops and root veggie purée (recipe to follow) or - our preference - served in a small bowl on the side and used as a dipping sauce.

Root  Veggie Purée

This was inspired by the need to clean out both of our refrigerator vegetable drawers of the odd and end root veggies lurking there. What a delightful way to reconstitute them!

4 cups peeled white root veggies (we used rutabagas, parsnips, turnips, and dikon), cut into 1/2 - 3/4" cubes
1/4 cup vegetable or chicken broth or water
1/4 cup coconut milk
juice of two limes
1 TBSP butter
1 TBSP rice cooking wine
1/2 teas. powdered ginger
1/2 teas. powdered garlic
1/2 teas. salt
1/4 teas. crushed Szechuan pepper

Steam root veggies until they are very soft, ~ 20 minutes.

Put roots and all other ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. If it needs to be reheated, do so over very low heat, stirring frequently.

Garlicky Broccoli

As we said above, this works really well to counterbalance the spiciness of the scallops. Alone, it tastes bland, so don't be disappointed when you taste test!

2 TBSP toasted sesame oil
2 TBSP minced garlic
4 oz. Wood Ear mushrooms, torn into 1/2" pieces
1 lb. broccoli florets
1 TBSP rice vinegar

In a wok over medium-low heat, heat oil and then add garlic, stirring constantly until fragrant, ~ 30 seconds. Add mushrooms and cook for another 30 seconds.

Add broccoli and using tongs or two wooden spoons, continuously stir, lifting broccoli up from the bottom to evenly cook it. Do this until the broccoli is bright green, ~ 5 minutes. 

Add rice vinegar and put the top on the wok. Let it steam for 3 - 5 minutes, until broccoli is cooked through but still crunchy.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce

My son Lucca loves broccoli, saag paneer, tomato sauce, and crunchy salad veggies.  Nothing else mushy, or even gently cooked in the vegetable realm will work for him.  I only require one bite of everything that's served, so most nights he either eats salad or foregoes a vegetable.  While I'm working on getting him to knowingly branch out, I'm also quite happy to slip him the varied vegetable whenever I can.  One of the best ways to hide the veggies is to remove their texture and color, and my latest favorite way of doing this is in the blender with tomato sauce.

Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce

1 14-ounce can of stewed tomatoes
1 small can of tomato paste
1 onion, diced
1 zucchini, diced
2 carrotts, diced
1 whole garlic clove
1 T olive oil
1 T salt
1 tsp ground pepper
2-3 sprigs oregano (I have oregano in a pot on the back porch, under the snow, it's still fresh and green!)
2-3 sprigs thyme (I keep thyme in a pot on the back porch too, totally dried out and brown but still full of flavor)

Heat the olive oil and saute the onions until translucent.  Add in carrots and zucchini and saute for another 5-10 minutes, until tender.  Add all of the other ingredients and cook until the veggies are soft, 20-30 minutes.  Remove the garlic clove and any sticks still attached to the herbs.  Pour into a blender or blend using a submersion blender.  Blend until completely smooth.  The zucchini has the added benefit of making the sauce slightly creamy.  Serve over any kind of pasta.  If  you want a little extra protein, you can saute ground beef, ground pork, ground turkey, or sliced italian sausage at this point and then cook it in the sauce for another 20-30 minutes.

Monday, February 1, 2010

A Total Blank

I think I have officially run out of recipes! I've been grasping at straws for a few weeks now, and today I am coming up with a complete blank. A year and a half of recipes is not too shabby, I suppose, though it does mean I'll have to actually start working on our plan to turn this project into a cookbook. 

Lately, I've been looking in my library of cookbooks for ideas for dinners. And it feels nice; I missed them. We had skirt steak stroganoff from The New Basics the other night. It's consistently good and very easy. While at the grocery store, I took a cue from Keja and bought them out of skirt steaks. They were on sale and are often hard to find in the Whole Foods where I buy meat. So, I bought in bulk, individually wrapped them in labeled freezer bags at home, and put them into the chest freezer. And, to avoid my typical "what the heck is this freezer burned lump?" problem, I am now keeping a list on the fridge of meat I have in the freezer.

I am almost out of CSA meat and that feels good. We had ribs last night that were really nice. Except for bacon, Stillman pork is excellent. I put a medium layer of barbecue sauce all over them, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and baked at 375 for 30 minutes. Easy.

If you have an idea you'd like a recipe for, let me know. Maybe requests will get me thinking again!