Saturday, February 18, 2012

Vegetable & Chorizo Stew

A lovely local restaurant holds a weekly prix fixe wine tasting dinner, themed by region.  I went with a friend a few months ago and it was delicious and charming.  But, of all of the wonderful things we tasted that evening, one dish lingered with me: an early autumn vegetable stew with chorizo.  It featured a broth that was simultaneously light and full of bold, smokey flavor.  It was hearty in taste but not heavy in the stomach.  And, with nothing to go by other than my vague recollections, I set out to attempt a recreation.

My version is certainly not identical to the original, but was very tasty and pleasing nonetheless.  I don't remember if the original had beans-- I don't think it did-- but I decided to add some to make it just a little heartier for the middle of winter, mild as this one may be.  For an earlier fall dish I think I'd replace the beans with some more corn and perhaps some diced carrots, sauteed in a pan a bit before being added to the broth.

- 2 raw chorizo sausages (though I think it could also be quite lovely with dried chorizo, as I believe was featured in the original)
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 stalk celery with leaves, diced
- 1/4 c. dry red wine
- 3 c. water
- 1 tsp salt (or less if sausage is particularly salty)
- dash paprika, dash cumin, 1/2 tsp black pepper
- lacinto kale, destemmed and chopped
- 1 can cannelini beans, rinsed well (home-cooked would be ideal, but I tend to fall short here)
- 1/2 c. corn (fresh or frozen)

- Slice the chorizo into 1/2" slices
- Heat a dry dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot over medium
- Sear the chorizo on each side in two batches.  Remove and set aside.
- Add the onions to the hot pot and saute for about 3 minutes.
- Add the celery and saute another minute.
- Deglaze the pot with the wine, then add the water, the sausage, and the salt.
- Cover and simmer at 30-45 minutes.
- Add the beans, kale, and corn, adjust seasoning and simmer another 20 minutes.

This makes about 4 servings, especially is served with hearty bread to soak up all of the delicious broth.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Are limes the fashion now?

I'm dreadfully in debt, and it won't be my turn to have the rag money for a month."

"In debt, Amy? What do you mean?" And Meg looked sober.

"Why, I owe at least a dozen pickled limes, and I can't pay them, you know, till I have money, for Marmee forbade my having anything charged at the shop."

"Tell me all about it. Are limes the fashion now? It used to be pricking bits of rubber to make balls." And Meg tried to keep her countenance, Amy looked so grave and important.

"Why, you see, the girls are always buying them, and unless you want to be thought mean, you must do it too. It's nothing but limes now, for everyone is sucking them in their desks in schooltime, and trading them off for pencils, bead rings, paper dolls, or something else, at recess. If one girl likes another, she gives her a lime. If she's mad with her, she eats one before her face, and doesn't offer even a suck. They treat by turns, and I've had ever so many but haven't returned them, and I ought for they are debts of honor, you know."

"How much will pay them off and restore your credit?" asked Meg, taking out her purse."

"A quarter would more than do it, and leave a few cents over for a treat for you. Don't you like limes?"

"Not much. You may have my share. Here's the money. Make it last as long as you can, for it isn't very plenty, you know."

"Oh, thank you! It must be so nice to have pocket money! I'll have a grand feast, for I haven't tasted a lime this week. I felt delicate about taking any, as I couldn't return them, and I'm actually suffering for one."

Little Women

My mother always said I was an Amy and, (unrelated, or so she claims), this past Christmas I received a few limes along with the traditional orange in my stocking.  Luckily mine were not tossed out into the snow and so I decided to make a cake!  I was suffering for one, you know.

This is a lovely, tender, pound cake flavored with a bit of lime and coconut.  While I usually like my citrus desserts to pack a punch, I left the cake itself rather mild and relied on the glaze for the kick.  This creates a nice contrast with every bight and a tanginess that just stings the tip of your tongue.  Serve with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream or creme fraiche to be fancy, perhaps with some berries or mint for color.

- 2 c. cake flour
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/3 c. unsweetened coconut flakes (Bob's Red Mill is great for this)
- 2/3 + 1/2 c. sugar
- 2 limes
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 c. sour cream
- 1/2 c. olive oil
- 1/2 c. water

- Start by grinding the coconut in a food processor.  You want it relatively fine, but not powdered.  Don't worry if it's a little chunky.
- Toast the ground coconut in a dry pan for a couple minutes just until it's fragrant and lightly golden.
- Combine the coconut, flour, baking powder, and salt and stir.  Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, combine the 2/3 c. sugar and the zest of the two limes.  Mix with your fingers and 'massage' the zest into the the sugar until it's fragrant.
- Add the two eggs to the sugar and whisk.
- Add the sour cream and stir, then add the olive oil and stir until it is combined.
- Make a well in the flour mixture and add the wet ingredients in two batches.  Stir just until evenly combined.  The batter should be thick and slightly lumpy.
- Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
- While the cake bakes, combine the juice of the two limes, the remaining 1/2 c. sugar, and 1/2 c. water.  Bring to a boil and simmer until the liquid reduces to light syrup.
- When the cake comes out of the oven, let it rest for a few minutes.  Poke a few small holes over the top of the cake with a toothpick and slowly pour about 2/3 of the syrup over the cake while it's in the pan.
- Let the cake rest about 10 minutes, then gently remove it from the pan.  Brush more syrup over the surface of the cake to make sure it is evenly covered.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

As an easy alternative to tomato sauce, roasted red pepper sauce increases the elegance of any pasta dish.  I especially like it on ravioli where it can play off of the flavors of the filling: here I used it atop artichoke ravioli.  It would also be sublime on a pizza or in lasagna.

This sauce comes together in a snap and is easily adjusted to make any quantity.

- Red bell pepper
- olive oil
- garlic
- salt
- oregano
- red pepper flakes (optional)

- Rub the outside of the red pepper with olive oil and put it in a pan under the broiler.
- Cook the red pepper until the outside is charred, rotating as needed.
- When the pepper comes out of the oven, cover it with a bowl or towel.
- Once the pepper is cool enough to handle, the skin should easily rub away.
- Remove the top and pulp inside and put the rest of the pepper in a blender or food processor.
- Puree until smooth.
- In a small pan, combine a healthy drizzle of olive oil (about 1 tbsp per average sized pepper), some minced garlic, a sprinkle of salt, some dried or fresh oregano, and the red pepper flakes, (these provide a little heat as the roasted red bell pepper is actually quite sweet).
- Heat the oil over medium until fragrant, then stir in the red pepper puree.
- Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes to let the flavors combine.
- Adjust seasoning as needed.  A little pasta water can be added to thin the sauce if desired.

For a little extra decadence you could add a dash of cream and/or parmesan cheese to the sauce, though it is certainly delicious as is.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Celebrate Celery with Sensational Seasonal Soup

Celery.  You know.  That green stuff that's usually left on the crudite platter, alone and limp.  That ingredient you usually skip in complicated recipes because you don't have it and who wants to buy a whole bunch of celery for a stalk or two and who's going to notice anyway?

Well, I have news for you: celery is actually really delicious.

But!  There are two rules for maximum celery deliciousness:
1. Buy quality celery that still has its leaves.
2. Cook it!

When you're making a dish that really features the celery, I recommend seeking it out at a farmers' market, (contrastingly, if you're looking for a vehicle for ants on a log then giant, watery, crispy supermarket celery is the way to go).  Farmers' market (organic) celery will usually look a little different: the stalks will likely be much thinner, it will probably be darker green, and it will have a full crown of lovely leaves.  This is a wonderful thing.  While I find the stalks themselves to be more flavorful, the leaves of the celery are actually the most flavorful part and should be used for cooking.  If you buy from a supermarket, they often cut the leaves off entirely or leave just a few.  Ask your produce manager to sell celery with leaves!

Okay, so you have quality celery.  It will be tasty on its own, but cooking celery really brings out the delicate flavors.  Regardless, these are not in your face flavors. A little grassy and floral with just a hint of onion, it is subtlety embodied.  But make the time and effort to appreciate this flavor and you will find it most pleasing.  This soup is very pleasing, indeed.

- 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tsp salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- a pinch of paprika
- 1 1/2 c. diced yellow onion
- 3 c. diced celery stalks
- 2 c. roughly chopped celery leaves
- 3 c. water
- zest and juice of 1/4 lemon

- Melt the butter in a large-ish pot and add the onions, celery, salt, a few grinds of pepper, and paprika.
- Cook over medium heat until the onions are transparent, about 15 minutes.  Stir as needed.
- Add the 2 c. celery leaves for the last five minutes.
- Add the the water, zest, and lemon juice.
- Cover and simmer over low heat for at least 30 minutes, (I let it go for an hour).
- Carefully pour the soup into a blender and blend on high until the soup is smooth.
- Taste and adjust for seasoning.  I added just a little smoked sea salt.
- Serve plain or with a dollop of greek yogurt and paprika or celery salt for garnish.

If you have leftover celery leaves, dry them for future use!  Lay them out on a baking sheet and put in a 250 degree oven for about 5 minutes, until they are dry enough to crumble.  You can make celery salt, a lovely garnish, or keep them plain to add a little celery flavor to future dishes.

If you absolutely can't find celery with (enough) leaves, you can still try the recipe but I would add some celery seed, increase the amount of celery stalks, and try to reduce the soup a bit to intensify the flavor.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Habanero Peach Hot Sauce

I grew some habanero peppers this year, an impulsive nursery purchase for which I had no plan.  So they grew and grew and I began to accumulate them as I harvested, not knowing what to do.  After one mouth-burning salsa that determined that I wouldn't be eating them raw, I decided to try my hand at cooking hot sauce.  It turned out quite well: insanely spicy, but not without flavor.  Now I just have to figure out what I'll use the hot sauce for...

- 6 habanero peppers (I used them when they were orange-- hotter-- but you could use green ones, too)
- 1 peach
- 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 c. water
- 1 tbsp olive oil

- Skin and dice the peach, chop up the pepper (wearing gloves!!!), and combine in a food processor, blending until smooth.
- Combine the puree with all other ingredients in a small sauce pan.
- Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
- Allow to cool and then refrigerate.

That's all!  Enjoy!