Wednesday Night Dinner: Alexa

The inspiration for this somewhat ad hoc meal was the day I spent combing through  all of Smitten Kitchen’s archives (too addicting). There was a recipe for sweet potatoes with pecans and goat cheese that appealed to me for all these reasons: 1. sweet potatoes 2: goat cheese 3: easy to make 4: looks pretty 5: goat cheese is the best 6: I wish I owned a goat. I basically followed the recipe, except for lack of measuring and I used walnuts instead of pecans because pecans seemed unconscionably expensive and, also, I like walnuts better. We didn’t have red wine vinegar, so I used tarragon vinegar, which I thought was perfectly fine.

Cooking the sweet potatoes was easy — our pans are so well seasoned that I didn’t even grease the one I used and it was extremely exciting when sugar started oozing out of the potatoes because I did not expect that to happen. Also, I cooked up some israeli cous cous and sausage because I was concerned that I was going to leave my guests (family) hungry. Lucas and I had to keep up our energy for badminton class!

Monday Night Dinner: Lucas

Apparently we have allowed Ina Garten to stick around as a houseguest to help ease our radiation fears*, although I think we are getting the raw end of the deal as our butter supply has been greatly depleted. Naturally she made us cook another of her meals last night, although when she wasn’t paying attention we cut the amount of butter in half and substituted the mini onions for our personal favorite ingredient; sweet potatoes.  The dish was Chicken stew with biscuits and it turned out to be excellent, below is Ina’s recipe with a few modifications.

The stew

roughly a pound of chicken breasts

olive oil

salt and pepper

4 cups chicken stock

2 chicken buillion cube

1 stick of butter

3 cups chopped onions

¾ cup all purpose flour

¼ cup heavy cream

2 cups carrots chopped

10 ounces frozen peas

I sweet potato diced

½ cup parsley

 

Preheat the oven to 375, F meanwhile rub the chicken breasts in olive oil and coat with salt and pepper. Bake until browned, roughly 35-40 minutes. Heat the chicken stock in a pan and dissolve the bouillon cubes, at the same time melt the butter and sauté the onions over medium low heat until translucent (10-15minutes). Next add the flour to the onions and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly, then pour in the hot stock, simmer for a few minutes allowing it to thicken. Add 1 ½ teaspoons salt and ½ teaspoon pepper as well as the heavy cream.  Having allowed the chicken to sit for a few minutes cut into small cubes and add into the stew along with the carrots, frozen peas, sweet potato and parsley. Place in a baking dish and bake for 15 minutes.

 

Meanwhile, prepare the biscuits. You will need:

2 cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 stick butter  (cold and diced)

¾ cup half and half

½ cup chopped parsley

1 egg whisked with 1 tablespoon water for egg wash

 

Combine the dry ingredients in a mixer, add the butter and mix until it is the size of peas, add in the half and half combining at a low speed and finally mix in the parsley.  Dump out on a well floured board and roll dough out to 3/8 inch thick. Cut out 2 ½ inch round biscuits using the top of a cup. Brush with egg. After fifteen minutes in the oven, take out the stew and place the biscuits on tap and bake for another 20-30 minutes or until the biscuits are brown and the stew is bubbling.

*Did you Ina Garten was once a nuclear energy analyst for the Ford and Carter administrations?

Saturday Night Dinner

Today’s post is a quick recap of Saturday night’s dinner, which went sadly under-photographed. We weren’t planning on writing about it, but the meal was so good that we felt we had no choice but to make a mention of it here. We’l let master chef Alison tell you about it.
I didn’t think about taking a photo until we were well into enjoying our Saturday night dinner. Ina Garten’s “roasted shrimp with feta” caught my eye as I was flipping though our cookbooks. So easy and delicious. The dish may be prepared ahead of time and put in the oven before dinner.
Ingredients:
2 T olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped fennel (our supermarket labels it as anise)
1 Tab garlic
1/4 white wine
2 t tomato paste
1 14 1/2 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 t dried oregano
1 T Pernod (we didn’t have any)
1 t kosher salt
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 lbs (16 to 20 per pound) peeled shrimp with tail on
5 oz good feta cheese, coarsely crumbled
1 cup of fresh bread crumbs. Ina recommends removing the crusts from 4 slices of white bread and putting them into a food processor with a steel blade. I’m not sure what type of white bread one would buy so I bought a rustic baguette, didn’t remove the crusts, tore the bread into pieces and placed in the food processor.
3 T fresh parsley
1 t grated lemon zest
2 lemons
preheat oven to 400
Heat 2 T olive oil in a heavy oven proof skillet over medium-low heat. Add fennel, saute for 8 to 10 minutes until tender. Add garlic, cook one minute. Add wine, bring to boil scraping base of pan. Cook for 2 to 3 min reducing liquid in half. Add tomatoes with liquid, tomato paste (I just realized that I added 2 tablespoons rather than teaspoons — that’s how I have them packed in the freezer, oh well), oregano, Pernod, salt and pepper to skillet. Simmer over medium-low for 10 to 15 minutes, stir occasionally.
Arrange the ship tails up in one layer over mixture in skillet.  I waited for everything to cool a bit because I was worried that the shrimp might cook, but maybe they were supposed to cook a bit, confusing. Scatter the feta over the shrimp.
In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, parsley and lemon zest with the 2 T olive oil. Sprinkle mixture over shrimp.
Bake for 15 min until shrimp are cooked through and bread crumbs golden brown. Mine took longer, almost 25 minutes, but I used 2 lbs shrimp and doubled the sauce — there were six of us for dinner
Squeeze a lemon over the shrimp. Serve hot with slices of lemon.

Wednesday Night Dinner

Ok, this meal does not necessarily look super delicious but, I swear, it was.  SO good. First, though, a little backstory: the hardest part about cooking dinner, I think, is often deciding what to make. Unless I have already had a brainstorm about something I really want to eat, it’s just so hard. My process goes something like this: First, I have high enthusiasm. I peruse what’s new on epicurious, check out the Food and Wine website, consider some food blogs. And, most often, I come up with NOTHING. For some reason, when it’s my turn to make dinner, nothing looks appetizing, or feasible to make. Then I call my mom and groan about how IT’S SO HARD and that there is absolutely nothing to make and I have resigned to making black bean soup again (see last week’s entry). She sighs, and suggests I check out our cookbooks. I feel that I have done this countless times in the past, and how could there possibly be something new in them. And now, with enthusiasm flailing and dejection setting in, I halfheartedly flip through the cookbooks. And, as always, either Ina Garten or Mark Bittman comes through for us. Phew. Lesson: part time employment allows for much agonizing about simple decisions.

This week, it was Ina Garten’s curried chicken salad that became the inspiration for our meal. I concurrently decided that I would like to make homemade hamburger buns again, and curried chicken salad seemed like an ideal filling.

First, the buns. The New York Times had an article about the “perfect” homemade hamburger and all its parts — including the ideal brioche bun. I had made these before, with great success. They are the kind of buns that will make you pledge to never eat a store bought hamburger bun again (which, of course, you will — but you’ll still pledge not to.) These guys worked a little better the first time I made them, because this time I forgot to mix the last egg with some water and so I accidentally kind of deflated them a little. But they were still superlatively good.

Ina Garten wanted me to roast a chicken, which sounded slightly time consuming and I couldn’t find the appropriate kinds of chicken so I poached chicken breasts instead. We threw in some white wine, chicken stock and onions for the poaching liquid, which were all good decisions. Here is what I used in the dressing:

3/4 c Greek yogurt

3/4 c mayonnaise

1/4 c chutney (I used more because chutney is delicious)

1/3 c dry white wine

3 tbl curry powder.

The recipe called for 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise, but I decided to use half Greek yogurt and half mayonnaise, which was most successful. I also included the following ingredients in the salad.

1/4 c chopped scallions

A couple handfuls of halved grapes (I love grapes in curried chicken salad, no matter what the traditionalists might say)

Some chopped red pepper

2 chopped celeries

I do believe that is all. It was a most appetizing salad. Oh! AND. I started a fire. Drama. My rolls were rising on a tray, under a dishtowel, which I placed on the burners, not realizing the tea kettle was boiling on a different burner and so the towel promptly caught fire. Fortunately, I noticed fairly quickly and, even more importantly, my rolls were not compromised. Although, perhaps the trauma contributed to their slight deflation. You never know.

Tuesday Night Dinner

This is the first entry of a meal by Alison, which is somewhat misleading — we don’t know why we didn’t get around to writing anything about her food before because 1. she still cooks the most in the family and 2. everything she cooks is delicious. So, sorry Mom, and here you go! (Maybe we’ll blame her delay in meeting the chief blogger’s suggested draft deadline, although that might not even be true. Hard to say.)

Recipe: Turkish-Spiced Chicken Kebabs with Pomegranate Relish and Tahini Yogurt

Source: Bon Appetit, January 2011 (You can find the full recipe here.)
Spices: Great combination of spices (mint, oregano, cinnamom, coriander, cumin, nutmeg) combined together to make Baharat seasoning, which is used to marinate the chicken and then as an ingredient in the Tahini Yogurt Sauce.
Surprise ingredients: pistachios, pomegranate seeds
Sad fact: Pomegranates are no longer in season. While I’m pleased that no one has found a way to cover them in wax/chemicals to make them last year round I was dissapointed that they weren’t available. It seems like we saw them just last week. Dried cranberries were my substitue becuase I wanted to have a bit of red on the plate. (In Bon Appetit’s defense, They would have been in season when the recipe was originally published.)
Verdict: delicious and easy.
If anyone is wondering, pistachios grow on trees.

 

Monday Night Dinner

Having made a cold weather amiable meal the prior week and feeling comfortably within the confines of spring I planned ahead to make a meal that would suit my weather expectations. Alas, such was not the case, except for a brief moment of sunshine the weather was decidedly un spring like. Regardless, I held fast to my original choice of veggie burgers. In the fall I had been intrigued by some exceptionally good store bought veggie burgers and feeling bolstered by newly appreciated cooking prowess decided to try my hand at a recipe.

After some deliberating I chose to base my burgers around the grain Bulgar and to stay away from “meat texture” facilitating ingredients such as eggs and bread crumbs. The necessary ingredients are listed below followed by my interpretation of the recipe.

½ onion

½ cup bulgar

1 cup water

1 cup pinto beans

1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce

¾ cup walnuts

2 gloves of garlic coarsely chopped

½ cup parsely chopped (cilantro may also be used)

1 tsp ground cumin

¼  tsp cayenne powder

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

olive oil

¼ cup mayonnaise

1 lime

whole wheat bread

First, heat ½ tbs olive oil in frying paying and cook ¼ of the onion over medium heat until browned. Then add in the water and bulgar, cooking covered over low heat until the water is completely absorbed (15-18 minutes). Meanwhile, combine the rest of the onion, walnuts, garlic, parsely, cumin, cayenne, salt and pepper in a bowl. In a separate bowl combine the soy sauce and pinto beans. When the bulgar is finished cooking place in the bowl with beans and allow to cool a bit. Next combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until fine. Shape mixture into four half inch thick patties (1/4 cup each) and place on parchment paper and allow to cool in the fridge for at least ten minutes. You can take this time to combine the mayonnaise with a teaspoon of lime juice as well as zest from half the lime, to be used as the condiment.  Cook burgers on a skillet with olive oil or on a grill sheet as they tend to fall apart, roughly 4 minutes a side. Serve of toasted whole wheat bread.

Alongside this I served a sweet potato and black bean salad with a chili lime dressing, which was created by our friends at the New York Times and notably (generally) shares an ingredient list with another friend of ours who goes by the name of vegetarian sweet potato chili.

2 medium sweet potatoes

1 large red onion

2 cups black beans

1 red or yellow bell pepper finely diced

juice of two limes

½ jalapeño pepper

½ cup cilantro chopped

1 clove garlic

brown sugar

olive oil

salt

pepper

Skin and cut sweet potatoes into ¾ inch cubes, chop red onion and toss both with olive oil salt and pepper. Place on baking sheet and bake for 35-40 minutes at 400F, turning on occasion until browned. Set aside to cool and combine rinsed bean with bell pepper and cilantro. Toss in the baked vegetables and top with dressing that is made by utilizing a small food processor to puree the jalapeño pepper, lime juice, garlic, brown sugar, olive oil , salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday Lunch

Sunday’s lunch comes to our readership courtesy of aunt Kim, who kindly hosted the extended family for a reunion lunch. She made (and Vic photographed) a phenomenal nicoise platter. It was delicious. Even the family food baby (grown adult) ate it (at least, I think he did. He might have pretended.)

I’d share the whole recipe, but that’s a significant amount of typing (copying/pasting) and you can find it on the internets.  However! We will focus on the potatoes, which were remarkable. I am uninterested in eating any other potatoes from now on. They were prepared as follows (adapted from Ina Garten)

Suggested ingredients:

  • 1 pound small white boiling potatoes
  • 1 pound small red boiling potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons good dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard.
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 10 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1/4 cup minced scallions (white and green parts)
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
  • 2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons julienned fresh basil leaves

Cook the potatoes in boiling water for an amount of time between 20 and 30 minutes, until you consider them “cooked through.” Drain in colander and place a dish towel over the colander so the potatoes steam for about 10 minutes. Cut them in half pieces (or quarters, if you feel inclined), place in bowl, toss with wine and stock. To make the dressing, combine vinegar, mustard, 1/2 t salt, 1/4 t pepper and then whisk in oil, or shake it in a jar, so that you produce a dressing. Then add scallions, dill, parsley and remaining salt and pepper. Good work! Your potatoes will be deeelicious.