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.