Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Stale Bread? Scrumptious Meal!

I always keep homemade bread around, and usually it gets gobbled all the way up, but every once in a while we don’t quite get to the end of it before it starts to dry out. That’s when I cut it into cubes and throw it into the freezer. Perfect for making croutons, bread crumbs, or bread pudding. Bread pudding is one of my favorite desserts—rich and not too sweet, the perfect end to a light supper. But for a while now I’ve been coming across recipes for savory bread pudding, and drooling. This comes from whatever I’ve stored up from reading those, and the idea that bread pudding has pretty much the same base a quiche
This has a bunch of steps, but they can be done…in steps. Prepare the bread, sautee the veggies, mix it all together, and finally bake it in order all at once, each totally separate in whatever pockets of time you have over a day or two, in clusters…

Savory Bread Pudding
Serves 6-8 as a main dish; 10-12 as a side

1 lb dried bread cubes
2 sprigs oregano
2 sprigs thyme
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup plus 1 T olive oil
1 lg onion, diced
8 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
½ cup of your favorite dried mushrooms, rehydrated and sliced
4 stalks celery, diced
1 bag spinach
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground pepper
2 strips bacon
6 eggs
3 cups milk
6 oz grated cheese (any combination of your favorite kinds – I prefer either all cheddar, a blend of gruyere and romano, or all fresh goat cheese)
1 bunch chives, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350

Lay bacon on a pan in oven and back 15-20 minutes, until just crispy. Save grease. Once bacon is cool, chop into small bits.

At the same time or later, toss the bread, oregano, thyme, 1 tsp. salt, ½ tsp. pepper, and ¼ cup olive oil, and bacon grease if you did the bacon earlier in a bowl. Lay out in a glass baking pan and bake 10 minutes. Toss in bacon (with its grease if you cooked it at the same time as the bread). Remove and let cool. You can set this aside in the fridge for up to 2 days now.

Rehydrate dried mushrooms by soaking in 2 cups hot water for about 20 minutes.

Saute onion in 1 T olive oil for 5-10 minutes, until translucent and just beginning to brown. Add celery and mushrooms and sauté, stirring occasionally, until they have rendered their liquid, about 15 minutes. Slice rehydrated mushrooms and stir in at last minute. If you’re not ready to assemble yet, you can store this in the fridge for up to 2 days.

Steam spinach and chop finely (or, use frozen chopped spinach)

Using a wire whisk, mix eggs, then add in milk, 1 tsp. salt and ½ tsp. pepper.

Stir in bread, grated cheese, chives, and veggies. Let sit for 20 minutes, or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day.

Preheat oven to 350. Bake 45-60min, until the center is firm and you can insert a stick and it comes out clean.

Like quiche, this basic recipe works with all sorts of substitutions: leave out the bacon or put in more, switch it for cubed ham or prosciutto; switch out the spinach for steamed asparagus; switch out the onions for leeks; swap the oregano for your other favorite herbs; play with different kinds of mushrooms…

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Chili (mac)

We have been cooking for Community Cooks for over a year now. It's a wonderful local organization of people who cook homemade meals for neighbors in need. Check out their website for info or to volunteer: http://communitycooks.org/.

Every month we are given a main course to make for 15 to 20 people. We are, by nature, throw-it-in-the-pot-and-see-what-happens sort of cooks, so when we are given a specific dish to make we see it as a challenge. This month it was chili mac, something neither one of us had ever heard of before. Through a bit of research  we learned that traditionally you add Hormel chili to Kraft Mac and Cheese. We decided to amp it up, add in local beef and onions from the farmers' market, beans from Sherman Market, and a jalapeno frozen from last year's CSA, and we were off! 

To make a straight chili, follow through the simmering for 30 minutes and then serve with rice, cilantro, grated cheese, diced onions, or whatever else strikes your fancy.

This recipe makes a large pot of chili (enough to feed 8) or a whopping amount of chili mac.

1 1/2 lb dried kidney beans
2 TBSP olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
4 tsp. garlic powder
4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. chile powder
2 red peppers, chopped
1/2 jalapeno, diced (add seeds for more heat)
56 oz. diced tomatoes, with juice
14 oz. crushed tomatoes
15 oz. grated cheese
16 oz. cream cheese
1 1/2 lbs. elbow macaroni

Soak beans overnight in water, adding more water as needed as beans soak it up.

The next day, drain the beans and put in a pot, covered with clean water. Bring to a boil, stir, reduce to a simmer, and cook ~ 2 hours until tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.

In a large Dutch oven, saute onion in olive oil until translucent, ~ 5 minutes. Add in ground beef and cook, stirring frequently, until browned.

Add in spices and stir.

Add in red peppers, jalapeno, tomatoes, and beans. Taste and add more seasoning if needed. Simmer, stirring frequently, for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook macaroni. 

Add in cheese, sour cream, and macaroni and stir well. Serve.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Leftovers Are Better

Until this week, I had one large package of meat left from the whole lamb Renee and I got in the Fall.  The shoulder roast.  I braised it, in red wine with shallotts and potatoes, planning to write it up here. Braising isn't quite the best thing for a lamb shoulder roast.  I won't go into details.  (If anyone knows a better way to cook a lamb shoulder roast, can you tell me?) The strange mix of dry, fatty, boney meat left over in my fridge wasn't ruined, in fact it was well cooked and nicely seasoned, it just wasn't all that appetizing on its own.  So I chopped it up.  In the process it was easy to weed out the fat and bones.  Then I added steamed spinach and feta and a little tomato sauce, and I baked it.  O, all of the rich loveliness of lamb returned, plus healthy greens.  My son asked for seconds, the true marker of success.  I wouldn't go through all of the work of braising the lamb shoulder just to get the meat for this, but the good news is any leftover lamb will work.  Next time I'm making any less expensive cut, I'll throw in an extra pound to have what I need for this!

Leftover Lamb with Spinach

1 lb leftover lamb, chopped finely
1 lb spinach, steamed and chopped finely (or 1 package frozen spinach, defrosted)
4 oz feta cheese
1/4 cup tomato puree
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground pepper

Mix all the ingredients together.  Put into a small baking dish.  Cover and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.  Serve with rice.