Sunday, August 28, 2011

Perfectly Minty Couscous with Beets

Laughter and mayhem. A happy-for-the-first-time-today, teething toddler; early evening sunlight streaming in across the table, and there sits a simple, nutritious, amazingly tasty dish -- that I didn't make!

My idea of a Perfect Sunday Night Supper.

This may be the real reason why I started keeping this blog. We stumble across dishes like this every so often; Josh will comment, "We should save this recipe." I say, "Yeah. I'll write it down." Enter distraction, and I have exactly 0 recipes written down prior to the beginning of this blog.

Josh made this tonight. He is such a great cook! Why is it amazing that this dish is so tasty? Well... Darn. I have a confession to make. (I am not a fan of beets.) I want to love the beet. I really do. We received more beets than I knew what to do with in Vermont, as participants in the Luna Bleu CSA (which I LOVED, and still miss to this day). Beets are hearty, and healthy, and red. "Eat the rainbow everyday," right? Dare I say they're even a bit trendy, at least within the gourmet, farm-to-table crowd?

Yes. I wish I loved the beet. But I don't. Yet, every once in a while, I come across a beet recipe that makes me reconsider this stance. Here is a good one, for example. Mint is a similar ingredient, for me: one that I love --in theory-- not necessarily in practice. It's overdone, or too much, or... something. It's just not usually all that I want it to be in a dish with "Mint" in its name.

Today, however, Josh presented me with a keeper on both fronts.

4 small to medium sized beets, roasted and chopped
1 lb. green beans, blanched and cut into 1 inch pieces
3/4 c. Israeli (big pearl) couscous, cooked according to package instructions
1 tsp. cumin
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. mint, minced
1/3 c. Spanish olive oil
1/3 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 Tbsp. red onion, finely chopped
1/4 c. crumbled feta cheese

Roast the beets. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Brush with olive oil and wrap in foil. Roast for an hour and a half, until easily pierced with a fork. Cool and remove skins. Chop.

Meanwhile, blanch the green beans -- cook 3-4 minutes in boiling water with a pinch of sugar, then dunk in icy water. Cook the couscous according to package.

Whisk the next 7 ingredients together. Pour over beets and green beans, top with feta.

A great dish to share. Potlucks, book clubs. People will say, "I usually hate beets!" Then they'll ask for the recipe. Can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for up to one day. It's also great warm.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Curried Stone Fruit Cobbler

My original vision for this tiny, tiny corner of the internet was not necessarily a recipe site. Recipes plus was more like it... At the moment, however, I find myself cooking a LOT, creating new recipes and modifying old ones: I've been turning to cooking as my creative outlet.

Lately, it feels like the summer just shot right past me. A moving train that never pulled into the station and I'm standing there, stunned and windblown, ticket and luggage in hand, ready to go. But it's gone...  hmmm... 

Cobbler, anyone?

Cherries, plums and peaches... Oh my!

Sweet & spicy. Hot & cold (to be served with ice cream, of course). This dessert brings together a variety of complex and complimentary flavors in an extremely satisfying way. Plus, it has more than one potential incarnation: Omit the cobbled topping and call it a chutney, then serve over warmed brie and baguettes. Or ice cream. Can it and save for when these fruits are no longer in season or turn it into pie filling. You could even freeze the pie and serve it with Thanksgiving dinner in a few months! What? You don't plan that far ahead*?

A couple of notes: If you can't find white balsamic vinegar (Trader Joe's makes a pretty good one), regular balsamic should work just fine; it will just color your fruit some. I use the Whole Foods brand Muchi Curry Powder and Garam Masala seasoning. Lastly, I think any combination of stone fruits (maybe even blueberries?) would work well with this.

Weird lighting... I cannot guarantee you the same florescent results.
For the filling:
2 c. Ranier cherries, chopped
2 c. ripe but firm, peeled peaches, chopped
2 c. ripe but firm plums, chopped
1/4 c. white balsamic vinegar
1/4 c. maple syrup
3/4 tsp. Garam Masala
1/4 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. grated orange zest
pinch anise seeds

1 tsp. cornstarch
pinch table salt
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the topping:
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3 Tbsp. granulated sugar +
1/3 c. plain whole milk yogurt

Mix fruit and spices, then pour into colander set over a bowl. Drain for approx. 30 minutes, tossing occasionally. Pour fruit into 8x8 baking dish, reserving 1/4 c. of the drained juice. Whisk cornstarch, salt and lemon juice into the reserved fruit juice. Pour this mixture over the fruit and bake in 425 degree oven for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut in cold butter until mixture resembles course crumbs. Mix in yogurt until dough just holds together... add a tablespoon of milk, if necessary, but don't over mix, as this will make the biscuits tough.

Remove fruit from oven and form 9 balls of biscuit dough, space 1/2 inch apart on the cobbler and return to oven for 15-17 more minutes, until golden brown and bubbly.

*Me, either.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Le Grand Aioli

I messed with the aioli... What can I say? The thyme was calling to me, and I couldn't help myself. Now be warned: This is not mayo, and it's not for the weak of heart.  It's got a major BITE.  But, used sparingly on simple, boiled vegetables, it's just right. Especially if you looove garlic.

3-5 garlic cloves
kosher salt
2 egg yolks*
1/2 c. good quality olive oil
2 tsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 sprigs fresh thyme
black pepper

green beans

Crush the garlic cloves along with a pinch of kosher salt, using a mortar and pestle.  Work at it until it's nice and creamy.  It's tough at first to keep those chunks of garlic from jumping out onto the counter, but it smooths out. Scrape the leaves off your sprigs of thyme into the garlic mash. Stir in the egg yolks, then let it sit for a few minutes. (*Use pasteurized or farm fresh eggs from a trusted source.)

Next, place a folded, damp paper towel on the counter underneath your mortar/bowl. This keeps it from slipping while your hands are busy pouring and stirring. Slowly, slowly drip a little olive oil in along the side of the bowl, while continuing to stir in a smooth, regular motion.  Mix in about a third of the oil, then a teaspoon of the lemon juice.  Steadily pour and stir in another third of the olive oil, then a teaspoon of lemon juice. Finish with the final third of olive oil.  (Don't stop stirring, or else your aioli could "break" into frustrating little clumps.) Salt and pepper to taste.

Cover and refrigerate until dinner. Serve alongside your favorite boiled veggies. I boiled quartered beets and whole red potatoes (20 min.); carrots (8 min.) and green beans (4 min.). This would go well with artichokes or asparagus, as well.  Pair with an ice cold Cotes de Provence Rose.

From what I gather, Le Grand Aioli refers to this whole meal, which often includes poached cod (poached in the veggie water). But we'd gone to Whole Foods that morning, and a certain 6 year old begged me to buy some fish "with the head and eyeballs still on." And I did! (That's not something I usually do.) We chose Branzino Sea Bass, which we soaked in milk, breaded in flour and panfried in olive oil and butter. Heads, tails, eyeballs and all:

The six year old asked for seconds! --Was actually disappointed when I didn't plop an entire fish on her plate.

Monday, August 15, 2011

"You Don't Mess Around with Aioli"

It's 9:49 PM.  The kids have settled into late summer bedtimes, but they're sleeping now. And I'm polishing off a glass of wine, watching Anthony Bourdain live the dream in the Provence region of France. He is watching a woman crush garlic with a mortar and pestle, ever so gently adding the egg, gingerly mixing in the oil. They are whispering. She is making it inside because it is too windy out... now she's glaring at the cameras.  I cannot blame her for taking her sustenance seriously.

I LOVE the idea of a daily routine that revolves around the butcher shop, the bakery and the fromagerie. Then, just taking that haul home and cooking it up -- but barely, because it's all so good and so fresh, very little cooking is necessary.  Add friends and family around the table, a dash of beautiful scenery. Next day, Repeat. (Oh, and maybe toss in making a living somehow?)

Simplicity. They're painting a picture of how I'd love to live, and for the cost of airfare and lodging, we could sojourn a while there.  I guess that's why 80% of the region's economy is based on tourism.  Mr. Bourdain reminds us that Provence used to mean workers and peasants; "synonymous with hard work," he says... Wasn't "provincial" once even an insult? Now it could be the new Pottery Barn line.  Now, it's that basic, quaint, farm-to-table lifestyle so many of us (I) crave.


Anyway, it's 10:15 PM. Episode's over, and I'll spare you the rest of my reverie and just tell you, I am inspired.  And I am just so fortunate as to not have any major plans for tomorrow... except to head out for some garlic, fresh eggs, lemon juice and olive oil.  Simple.  "Once you start slathering it on your vegetables and fish... it all makes sense."  I can't wait.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Fish Tacos (finally!)

 Ahh, summer.  The sun is out, the pool is cool, the kids are getting on each others' nerves... and we are on vacation again.  This time, we are visiting family in Texas.  I would tell you it is HOT here, but that absolutely does not convey the Oven that waits to swallow you up as you step outside the door.  There is NO humidity in northeast Texas.  Dry, crunchy fields, dying trees, and 111 degrees before noon, dropping to 99 only after 9 o'clock at night.  H-O-T hot.  Yes.  But, we are loving our time with my family now, out in the beautiful albeit parched country.  We toured a chocolate factory today! (The same factory that makes chocolates for Neiman Marcus, among others. And there were samples.)  Next week, we will head down to Houston, continuing our southern tour.

I totally meant to post this recipe before we left home.  But I didn't.  It's summer, and I intend to use that excuse right up until school starts back, at which point I will employ the excuse that school has just started back. So it goes.

HERE is the recipe. Try the yogurt marinade & breading (minus cilantro and plus whatever herbs/seasonings you like) on anything you fry -- It's wonderful!

2 c. greek yogurt
1/2 c. chopped, fresh cilantro
1 Tbsp. Tabasco (or to taste)
3 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
juice of one lime

1.5 lbs. fresh tilapia, cut into strips

16 corn tortillas
2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
vegetable oil for frying

2 c. shredded green cabbage
1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro
lime wedges

Mix first 6 ingredients, add fish strips. Cover and chill 1-3 hours.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Wrap tortillas in foil and place in oven to warm. (Alternatively, fry each tortilla in a small amount of oil until soft and keep warm in oven.)

Mix flour and baking powder. Heat one inch of oil in cast iron (or regular, deep) skillet to 350 degrees on deep fat thermometer.  Work in batches, removing fish from marinade and dredging in flour.  Carefully place fish in skillet, cover partially and fry until golden brown, turning occasionally -- 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer fried fish to paper towel lined baking sheet and pop in the oven to keep warm.

Mix shredded cabbage and chopped cilantro. Set out cream sauce, pickled veggies and lime wedges.  Enjoy perhaps with a margarita made from the cucumber juice you set aside while making the Baja cream sauce.  I'll post a recipe for that, soon.  More taste testing is needed ;-).

Baby liked it, too!  Gourmet fish sticks...