Monday, May 31, 2010

Chimichurri by Colleen

Thanks for sharing this recipe, Colleen!

Not to be confused with chimichangas (deep fried burritos), chimichurri is an Argentinian sauce/marinade. I had it at our neighbors years ago, and decided on a whim to make some last night. It is ridiculously easy and a good way to use up parsley if you have a lot growing in your garden:

Chimichurri:
1 cup firmly packed fresh flat-leaved parsley (no big stems)
3-6 cloves garlic (depending on your love of garlic), chopped roughly
2 Tbsps fresh oregano or 2 teaspoons dry
1/2 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp red or white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes


Put everything in a food processor, but the olive oil, and pulse a few times. Put in a bowl and pour olive oil over the top and let sit for 20 minutes. Serve or refrigerate. Bring to room temp before using. You can marinade with this or just pour over or serve alongside grilled meats.

There are many many versions of this recipe available. Some adjust the ingredients quite a bit - the first one I found had 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes which would have made it really hot. Some include lemon juice or cilantro or chopped red onion or paprika. It is a bit like guacamole, you just have to experiment until you find the ingredients/proportions you like. But I think the basic garlic/parsley/olive oil/acid holds through
all the recipes I've found.

It is a great thing to whip up if you are grilling and didn't have time to marinate first. You can make this while the coals/grill is heating and have a great sauce at the table.

                   ---Colleen

Friday, May 28, 2010

Avgolemono (Greek Lemon Soup)

Avgolemono (Greek Lemon Soup)

We finished this soup today when we had it for lunch before taking off for the weekend.  It is such a satisfying, velvety soup.  Frothy eggs make it creamy.

This soup came about because I had some delicious leftover drippings from the Roasted Chicken with Lemon and Garlic I made a while back.  I could vaguely remember a Greek soup that started with an "A" that had lemon and rice/pasta in it, so I got out my soup books to do some research.  It turns out it is Avgolemono which means egg and lemon. 

I chose a simple version of the soup from the Mediterranean cookbook. 

Eggs are blended to create a smooth, creamy texture.  Orzo (rice-shaped pasta) is added for texture. 


Avgolemono
from Mediterranean, page 109
Serves 4 - 6

7.5 cups flavorful chicken stock
1/2 cup orzo pasta
3 eggs
juice of 1 large lemon
salt and ground black pepper
lemon slices, to garnish

Pour the stock into a large pan and bring to a boil.  I added the gelatinous drippings from my chicken, after discarding the fat from the top.  There were bits of chicken and garlic, too, adding extra flavor.

Add the pasta and cook for 5 minutes

Beat the eggs until frothy,

then add the lemon juice and a tablespoon of cold water.


Slowly stir in a ladleful of the hot chicken stock,  (I did this backwards but it turned out okay!)

then add one or two more.
Return this mixture to the pan, off the heat, stir well.
Season and serve immediately.

Don't let the soup boil again or the eggs will curdle. Today I used parsley for the garnish and it was a little overpowering. When I first made it, I used arugula. I prefer the peppery-ness of the arugula over the brightness of the parsley.  However, the books say that dill is the traditional garnish for avgolemono.  Use what you like. 

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bison Steak and Potatoes with Green Beans on the Grill by Tom

Grilled Bison Steak and Potatoes with Green Beans by Tom

The other night I decided I would experiment cooking potatoes and green beans on the grill.  I have made whole potatoes on the grill for many years, and I always figure on a minimum of 45 minutes of cooking time to insure that the potato is thoroughly cooked.  I also realized that if I cooked green beans for that long, they would either come out as shriveled pieces of dried beans or worse yet just mush.  Not very appetizing to say the least.  So the question I posed to myself was how could I cook both potatoes and green beans together so that they both came out well cooked, but not overcooked.

Additionally I wanted to cook bison steaks, which we had had before and liked very much.  Bison is very lean, lower fat than a beef steak, and a bit chewier.  But if prepared and cooked right, very tasty!

But first the potatoes and green beans.

Green Bean and Red Potato Ingredients (serves two)

8 or 9  1" diameter red potatoes
Handful of green beans, ends sliced off
salt
a dash of olive oil
aluminum foil

Can it get any easier than that?


Off to Wegman's (where else!) to shop for the potatoes and beans.  Being a chemical engineer by training, ahem, I thought about my heat, mass and momentum transfer course.  I knew that I needed to transfer heat into the potatoes potentially greater mass quickly to get them cooked, while not overcooking the smaller, less mass, green beans.  Too technical for you???  Okay, let me simplify.  I knew I needed the smallest potatoes I could find.  Fortunately I found very small red potatoes in the mix of potatoes.  In this case I bought about 8-9 roughly 1" diameter potatoes.

Once I got home I scrubbed the potatoes with water using a vegetable brush to get any dirt off and to rough up the skin just a little bit.  I also trimmed the green beans at both ends and washed them as well.  I did not dry either as I assembled the two as I thought the moisture would help with the cooking.

Part of the key to success is the arrangement of both.  As you can see from the picture above, I made a circle of the potatoes and then filled the inside with the green beans on a sheet of aluminum foil.  Give the whole thing a dash of salt and a little dribble of olive oil before you start to wrap it up.


I double wrapped the potatoes and green beans to make sure that I kept the steam inside the packet.


Bison Steak Ingredients (serves two)

2 6oz bison steaks
seasoning salt or meat tenderizer
ground black pepper
splash of olive oil

I prepped the bison steaks about 30 minutes before I started grilling by drying the excess moisture from the steaks, rubbing with olive oil, and then sprinkling both sides of each steak with the meat tenderizer and pepper.


Back to the potatoes and green beans.

Put the aluminum foil package on a hot grill.  Cook for a total of 20 minutes turning over the foil package every 5 minutes.

The bison steaks we had were particularly thin, so I grilled them for just 2 minutes a side, which made them medium rare.


Remove from the grill...duh!... after the requisite cooking times. 


Here is what it looked like.  The potatoes were well cooked and the green beans were just starting to caramelize a little bit.  Plenty of moisture in both.


Plate and enjoy the meal.  We served with water to drink, but a good Cabernet or Zinfandel would work just as well.

I have now used this technique a couple of times with excellent results.  The keys are small potatoes arranged in a circle; mounded green beans in the center; a tightly wrapped package; and cooking no more than 20 minutes on the grill.

So, that heat, mass and momentum transfer course finally did have some useful application!

                                                                                   ---Tom


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ginger Honey Muffins with Apricots, Toasted Coconut and Slivered Almonds

I made a version of these muffins a while back, but they were missing something, so yesterday I tried again, and added toasted coconut and almonds.  Much better this time!

Ginger Honey Muffins with Apricots, Coconut and Almonds
Makes 12 large muffins

1 stick butter, melted
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
3 cups cake flour
2 T. powdered ginger
2 T. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/4 to 1/3 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup toasted coconut
1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds
1/2 cup honey mixed with 1 1/4 c. buttermilk
crunchy turbinado sugar for the tops

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a 12 muffin pan with butter or Pam.

Get all of your ingredients out first.  That's when I usually find out that I am missing something and have to innovate or go to the store. 

The first time I made the recipe my apricots were shriveled up as hard as rocks, so I re-hydrated them by simmering them in apple juice.  Then, cooled them and chopped them up into bite-size pieces, the size of chocolate chips.
Toast your coconut and slivered almonds -- carefully --- just until they begin to brown and release their flavor.  Let cool.

Melt your butter in the microwave and let it cool.

When the butter is cool, mix it with the eggs, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients:  flour, salt, baking powder and soda, dried ginger.

If your apricots are wet, put them in with the dry ingredients and toss them to coat with flour.  This will help to more evenly distribute them throughout your batter.

Put the dry ingredients on top of the wet ingredients.  Add the coconut and almonds on top of them.

Gently mix them together until about half combined.
Pour the honey buttermilk mixture on top, then mix together until just combined.

Divide evenly into the muffin pan, using a 1/3 cup measuring cup.  Sprinkle with lots of the turbinado sugar on top, since this is not a sweet muffin batter.  Plus the sugar will add crunch, and nice color.

Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for 25 minutes.

Cool in pan for 5 minutes.  Then, remove from tin and serve.

These are not overly sweet muffins.  The ginger makes them a little spicy and the fruit and nuts give them texture.  If you want a more traditional muffin, you could use regular flour and increase the honey or add some sugar to the batter when you add the buttermilk.  But I like muffins this way --not too sweet.  They are great with a cup of coffee!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Goat Cheese Cheesecake by McJane


Hi Barbara!
This is my version of Goat Cheese Cheesecake. I've made many different kinds of cheesecake, but this is Kevin's favorite and it doesn't even need a water bath. I made if for our friends who came for dinner recently. It's perfect every time.
                  ---McJane


Goat Cheese Cheesecake

Graham cracker crust:

1 1/4 C graham cracker crumbs
1/4 C sugar or splenda (I use splenda)
5 T melted unsalted butter

Mix together in bowl and press into the bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan that has been sprayed with Pam. Crumbs should go slightly up the side. Bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes and cool.

Filling:

2 eight-ounce packages of fat-free cream cheese at room temperature
12 ounce log of goat cheese
12 ounces of sour cream
4 eggs
1 C sugar or Splenda (I use Splenda)
3 tsp vanilla extract

Beat the cream cheese and goat cheese in a bowl with an electric mixer until it starts to turn light and fluffy. Mix in the sour cream and eggs one at a time. When thoroughly mixed, add sugar and vanilla.

Pour filling into the prepared crust and place on a baking sheet in the preheated 350 degree oven. Bake 55-60 minutes. The top of the cheesecake should not start to color, but rather just start to pull away from the sides. It will still jiggle a bit when you take it out of the oven.

Let it cool completely. It will continue to set. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight before serving.

You can make a fruit sauce to pour over this with whatever fruit you have on hand, but I think it is good enough to be served alone. Enjoy!

                     ---McJane

Friday, May 21, 2010

Brining Pork Chops by Tom

Brining Pork Chops by Tom

With summer around the corner, grilling is on my mind.  The two just go together.  And Tom makes some great things on the grill -- like these delicious pork chops he brined last summer.  So, I asked him to write about this technique for the blog.  Thanks, T for contributing again!  ---ILY, B

Last summer I read a book by Michael Pollan titled "The Omnivore's Dilemma".  Colleen had given it to Barbara to read, and I thought it looked like it would be interesting to read as well.  It was.  In it he explores the natural history of three meal sources:  industrial corn, pastoral grasses, and the forest for both hunting and gathering.  The book is fascinating and very interesting, on its own, so I recommend it as a good read.  But it is also interspersed with some interesting approaches to food preparation.  One of those, brining, caught my eye.  So I thought I would give it a try.
Brining causes meat to absorb moisture and helps to break down the proteins that can toughen the meat on the grill.  The approach is very simple, and the results are excellent.

The Ingredients (based on 6 thick cut pork chops or 6 servings)

~1/2 cup kosher salt
2 bay leaves
~1 tablespoon of chopped garlic, about 2 cloves
~1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
~1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
~1/4 cup soy sauce
thick sliced pork chops (1 chop per person)
water to cover

Adjust the quantities based on the number of pork chops you will be serving. 

In a large bowl add all of the dry ingredients.  Mix it up a bit.


Next add the soy sauce and stir the mixture.
 
Now add the pork chops to the mixture, and pour water over the chops to cover.  Stir the mixture to insure that the chops are completely in contact with the brining solution.  Be sure to use good quality pork chops --- we got these at the butcher in Penn Yan, NY.  Cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator for about 6 hours.  About halfway through, stir up the pork chops just to make sure all parts of the pork chops are in contact with the brining solution.


Time to grill!  Remove the pork chops from the brining solution and discard the brining solution.  The chops will look a little anemic when you remove them from the brining solution, but that means the brining process is working.  Make sure your grill is hot.  Grill until cooked to your preference, which will probably be around 20 minutes depending on the thickness of the chop.  Always a good idea to cook pork to medium at a minimum.


I also grilled the corn on the cob.  I remove the husk and silk.  I butter the corn and put salt and pepper on it before cooking.  Then I wrap it tightly in aluminum foil.  I put it on the grill for 20 minutes rotating the corn about a half turn every 5 minutes or so.


These were big chops!  So one was more than plenty for each person.  Besides the corn, this meal also included sauteed asparagus.  The chops, as advertised, were very juicy and tender, the result of the brining.  This is a technique that I had not used much before, but will definitely use again.  Thank you for the tip, Michael Pollan!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Salad of the Week: Arugula Salad with Shaved Grana Padano Parmesan

Arugula Salad with Grape Tomatoes and Shaved Grana Padano Parmesan

We've been making this salad to go with our meals all week, thanks to Cindy.  It's delicious!  

Over the weekend, our friend, Cindy, was in town, and introduced us to a new version of Parmesan, which she discovered through another friend, Lisa's husband.  I love it when people pass on cooking finds.  This cheese comes in a tub, next to where you would find the Wegman's shredded Parmesan, but I never noticed it before. This one is SO MUCH better...

and it comes already shaved, ready for adding to your salad.

Cindy says this salad is tasty because the arugula itself has so much flavor, and to be sure to use grape tomatoes -- which are sweeter than regular tomatoes, the Grana Padano --which is better than regular Parmesan, and lots of salt in her tasty vinaigrette, which is a classic combination:  balsamic vinegar, good olive oil, a little Dijon mustard and salt and pepper.

Put the vinaigrette ingredients in the bottom of a bowl.  FYI -- those leaves are just a design in the bottom of my pottery.  I love this bowl.  Got it at the Corning Arts Festival a long time ago from an artist whose spouse was teaching at Alfred University.  It's great for salad for two.

Whisk your ingredients together until they emulsify.

Put your arugula on top and then toss the leaves in the vinaigrette until evenly coated.  Add the tomatoes and shaved Parmesan on top.  Toss again.

Serve.  If you aren't going to serve the salad for a while, just leave the dressing in the bottom of the bowl and toss it all together just before serving.  This keeps your arugula from getting soggy.

Grana Padano is similar to Parmigiano Reggiano, and is also from northern Italy.  It is less well known in the US but outsells Parmigiano-Reggiano by 10 to 1 in Italy, according to several sources on the web.  It comes from cow's milk. 

Monday, May 17, 2010

Thai-Style Shrimp Soup by Tom

Thai-Style Shrimp Soup by Tom

We have contractors in the house today, so a good time to steal away to the computer and enter the dinner soup that I made last Monday when Barbara was painting with her friend Lin.  Barbara had made a version of this soup several years ago, and we both thought it would be a tasty, lower fat dinner to make after a day of activities.

The Ingredients

~1 teaspoon vegetable oil
3 lemon grass stalks halved about 5" long (I used a jar of lemongrass already sliced up - about 2 tbs)
3 large shallots chopped
1 green onion sliced (optional)
8 sprigs of fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons fish sauce
4 cups (about 2 cans) low-sodium chicken broth
2  14 oz cans of lite coconut milk (you can use full strength coconut milk, but is has much more fat)
1 tablespoon sugar, preferably brown sugar
1/2 lb button mushrooms, cleaned, stems removed and sliced in half
30 uncooked, cleaned and shelled shrimp
3 tablespoons juice from fresh limes
1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste (adjust this to your taste: a little less for less spice, a little more for more heat!)

I used frozen shrimp from Wegman's (where else!), so I defrosted it in cold water.

Chop up the shallots and green onion.  If you are using fresh lemon grass, this is where you would cut the stalk to about a 5" length and then halve the stalk.

Heat the vegetable oil in large pan over medium heat.  This is a "one pot meal", so be sure to use a heavy and large enough cooking pot to hold all of the ingredients.  Add the chopped shallots, chopped green onion, and the lemon grass stalks (or in my case, the already chopped lemon grass from the jar) to the heated oil. Also add the cilantro that was coarsely chopped and 1 tablespoon of the fish sauce.  Cook, stirring frequently until just softened and the shallots are slightly translucent.  You are not trying to brown the vegetables.

Stir in the chicken broth and one can of the coconut milk.  Increase the heat and bring to a simmer.  Cover and reduce the heat to low and simmer until the flavors are blended.  I cooked this mixture for about 18-20 minutes.  The whole point of this step is to infuse the flavors of the shallots, cilantro, green onion, lemon grass and fish sauce into the chicken broth/coconut milk mixture.

While the broth is simmering, in a small bowl combine the lemon juice, red curry paste and the remaining 2 tablespoons of fish sauce.  Stir this all together to dissolve the red curry paste into the liquids.  Set aside.

After the infused broth has simmered for the 18-20 minutes, strain the broth of all the solids.  I took a slotted ladle and just fished it all out and threw it away.  You can pour it through a strainer if you want into a large bowl.  Then return the mixture to the cooking pot.  Don't worry if you have a few "solids" left in the broth.  Bring the mixture back to a simmer over medium heat.

Clean, de-stem and halve the button mushrooms while reheating the broth.

Add the mushrooms to the simmering broth and bring back to a boil.  Cook the mushrooms for about 5 minutes.

Now add the cleaned, shelled shrimp to the broth and mushroom mixture.  Bring it back to a boil and cook until the shrimp are firm, about 4-5 minutes.

We had some leftover snow peas, so I threw them in at the last minute to just heat them up.  This is an optional ingredient, which is why I did not list it above.  But any leftover vegetable will taste good in this soup.

Remove the soup from the stove after the shrimp have finished cooking.  Now is the time to stir into the soup the bowl of red curry paste, lime juice and fish sauce that was previously made and set aside.  Garnish with some additional cilantro and red pepper flakes.

                           ----Tom

"We used shrimp but you could use chicken, too. It's the broth that is so wonderful in this soup."

                       ---Barbara