Monday, March 15, 2010

Sephardic Chicken Soup with Couscous

I'm feeling sick and am in dire need of chicken soup. Before diving into bed before 9 pm (fun, right), I decided to put a spin on the usual mild Ashkenazi version my bubbe used to make. I've read about the healing properties of turmeric and have been looking for a use for that bright yellow bottle in my cupboard, so went for a Sephardi adaptation. Note that I'm rather congested, so my taste buds were a little bit numb (you may want to adapt the spice proportions to your tastes).
2 chicken breasts (with skin and bones)
2 bullion cubes
5 cups water
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp turmeric
1/2 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp curry powder
1 tbsp crushed lemongrass (I bought a tube in the refrigerated section by the herbs at my grocery store)
2 bay leaves
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
3/4 lbs carrots, roughly cut into 1 1/2 inch coins (I leave the skin on)
1 lbs celery stalks, roughly cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved.
1 whole garlic clove
1 cup uncooked couscous
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
2 tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Add water, chicken, spices (except for cilantro, salt and pepper), vegetables and garlic to stock pot. Cook at a low simmer for an hour and a half.  Remove bay leaves and chicken breasts to debone, take off the skin and roughly cut chicken. Return chicken pieces to pot and add couscous. Let cook for 5 minutes, occasionally stirring before removing from heat and covering pot. Allow to sit for 3-4 minutes and add lemon juice and cilantro.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Mushroom Barley Soup

Mushrooms are my very favorite vegetable. They're versatile, earthy and add a notable dimension to any dish they're worked into. Pair them with root veggies and barley and you've got an inexpensive hearty meal. Also, this recipe is ridiculously easy to make.
I had never cooked barley before and was a bit apprehensive, but it's a forgiving grain and although most recipes I referenced said to cook the barley for 30-40 minutes, I found an hour and 15 minutes brought the barley to the exact texture I was looking for (wasn't mushy, but added creamy starch to the broth).

4 cups low sodium chicken stock
3 cups water
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp butter
2 cups mixed chopped mushrooms (I used shitake, white button and crimini)
3 carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 yellow onions, roughly chopped
1 heart celery, roughly chopped
2 smashed whole garlic cloves
1 1/2 cups of barley
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp dried parsley
2 tbsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Warm butter to medium low and add onions. Sweat the onions for 3-6 minutes, until translucent. Add remaining vegetables and garlic and cover with broth, water and soy sauce. Season with rosemary, thyme, parsley, salt and pepper. Simmer for 20 minutes and add barley. Cook for another hour and a 15 minutes. Season to taste. It takes a while to make, so I make this large pot of soup and freeze portions.

Friday, February 19, 2010

First Hot Dog in 14 Years...

Literally, I haven't eaten a hot dog since 1996 when I was in 5th grade. My friend Darcey convinced me they were made of dogs, and although I had a hunch that was BS, the mystery meat still made me nervous. The just looked so far from the meat the package claimed that they contained, which turned me off the dogs for years and years. Friends and family have been accommodating, but still always thought I was a bit nuts for my aversion.
About a month ago after a long day in the emergency room (Kyler was dehydrated from food poisoning) I was starving and headed to Hyvee. I was ravenous, so went for every sample I could find. Including a hot dog from Missouri Legacy Beef . Meeting the farmer and knowing that the cows were raised within 25 miles of my home made me less weary (not eating for 7 hours, also helped). It was so, so delicious that I bought a package. I broiled my hot dog until it was slightly charred (I remember that being my preference when I was little), nestled it in a buttery bun, topped it with French's mustard and sauerkraut. At this point, I'm slightly obsessed.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

NYC Visit

I haven't blogged in a bit, because I was on a little NYC vacay. It was amazing to see my friends, hang out at some of my old haunts and snack on some of my favorite food. Here are some highlights:
Uncle George's Diner in Astoria.
Lamb kebabs skewered with onions, green peppers and tomatoes, grilled to medium rare (the best for lamb, in my opinion), with tangy lemony potatoes.

Eggplant Parm Hero at Salumeria Biellese. The best, in the world, ever! They heap layers of eggplant Parmesan on a crusty portion of a loaf (the bread is magical, I can't help but get a large), sprinkled with more parm cheese and a dousing of marinara. Ask for extra marinara and many, many extra napkins.
Like I said, extra napkins.

My friend Marion's Sausage and Pepper Hero at Salumeria Biellese.

Yum Duck Salad (spicy fried crispy duck tossed in lime juice with tomato, chili pepper, pineapple chunks, red onion and ground peanuts at Yum Yum Bangkok.
I love this place because it's down the block from my first New York apartment (ah, nostalgia). My friend Dani and I hit up Yum Yum as often as we can.

Heaven on rye - Pastrami at Katz's Deli. I'm a purest when it comes to pastrami, so yellow mustard is all I'll add. This is by far the best 2 am drunk snack in NYC.
Complimentary pickle plate.
Beauty of a sammie, with potato pancakes in the background.

Harissa Falafel at Taim Falafel & Smoothie Bar. One of the more popular falafel shacks in the city, after a bite, it's easy to see why this Israeli owned spot often has lines overflowing out the door. A rather perfect version of a falafel sandwich, it has a contrast of flavors and textures - the harissa falafel spicy and slightly sweet, airy and crisp, covered in smooth tahini, crunchy tangy white cabbage salad and a tart cucumber, tomato Israeli salad. I drizzled mine with their skhug Temani, a piquant blend of coriander, peppers, garlic and vinegar.
We went to an all-you-can-drink brunch at the newly opened Sunburnt Calf, part of the Sunburnt Cow chain. I indulged in far too many greyhounds, as well as the Queen Adelaide, Poached eggs, smoked salmon, slice of avocado on an English muffin topped with a heafty drizzle hollandaise.
On my last night, I went to my favorite pizzerias in the city, Arturo's. Despite being in the heart of the village, it feels warm, friendly and makes me feel like I'm at home. Also, the live jazz sure doesn't hurt. My friend Jill insists that they have the only coal oven in the city, which makes the airy, slightly charred crust magically memorable. Our pie was topped with artichokes, sun dried tomatoes and basil.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Kroyt (Cabbage Borscht)

As a child, I was always very suspicious of old world, Eastern European Ashkenazi food (that's my heritage). When I found out what kishke really is (stuffed intestines) I thought my parents were trying to trick me into eating something scary every time traditional food was served up by parents and grandparents. Also, I loved my grandma's chicken papperkash till I questioned the rich, irony flavor...I'd been tricked into eating liver, gross (I've never been much of an offal-lover)! Borscht was another Ashhkenazi delight that made me nervous. The crazy florescent purple color and the fact that it's generally made with beets made my apprehensive childhood self apprehensive. Luckily, I've come around to kishke, papperkash (sans liver) and borscht, among others. I didn't have any beets in my veggie drawer, so I opted for a southern Russian rendition made with cabbage. The characteristic sweet-and-sour flavor come from the addition of brown sugar and lemon juice at the end.
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 white onion, chopped
2 cups beef broth
5 cups water
28 ounce can of whole tomatoes, with juice
1 medium red cabbage, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks
3 bay leaves
2 tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper
2-4 tbsp fresh lemon juice, to taste
2-4 tbsp brown sugar, to taste

Heat the oil in a large stock pot and add onions. Cook, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent. Add broth, water, cabbage, bay leaves, tomatoes with their juice (break up tomatoes with hands to smaller pieces), salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, covered for about an hour and a half. Add lemon juice and brown sugar, starting with a lesser amount, add more to desired taste. Remove bay leaves. Serve either hot or cold, whichever you prefer.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Marinara Sauce

I strongly believe in sauce - mostly every food I can think can be enhanced by being dipped in, drizzled with or doused in sauce. Sure there are exceptions, but they are few and far between. I woke up yesterday morning craving one of my very favorite marinara sauces. It's simple to make and arguably one of the best things to come out of one of my failed relationships (he gave me The North End Italian Cookbook, which this recipe is adapted from).
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup diced onions
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp dried red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon mixed dried Italian herbs
28 ounce can of whole plum tomatoes, hand crushed or chopped
1 carrot chopped
1 tablespoon of fresh basil, chopped

In large heavy skillet, on low heat, slowly heat the oil, garlic, onions, red pepper flakes and dried Italian herbs. Let cook for about 5 minutes or until garlic is brown. Raise heat to medium-high and add tomatoes and carrots. Let sauce come to soft boil and cook for 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and basil. Use blender or hand immersion blender to reach desired texture (I gently pulsed for about 20 seconds).

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Pecorino Romano

My friend Beth raves about her brussel sprouts recipe so much that I figured it was time to give it a try. Good God...she was right! Roast halved brussel sprouts with plenty of extra virgin olive oil (slow and low at 350 degrees for 45 minutes), season to taste with salt and freshly cracked pepper, and sprinkle with 1/4 cup of grated Pecorino Romano before serving.
The recipe and prep was simple and yielded delicious results.
Thanks B!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Lemony Wild Mushroom Risotto

Risotto was a dish I strictly ordered in restaurants and was too intimidated to try to make, until last winter when my friend Mindy gave me a tutorial. Since then I've cooked up many a pot of risotto with very few mess ups. Just stick to the basic formula of slowly adding stock to the Arborio rice and stirring patiently for 20-25 minutes until the risotto reaches a creamy consistency. I love how easy putting together risotto is relatively easy, but guests are always so impressed whenever I serve it up.

Wild mushroom risotto is my absolute favorite, so I was intrigued when I came across a variation of it on - add lemon zest. I don't think I'll ever go back! The slight acidity and fragrant citrus aroma permeating the risotto brought out the earthiness of the morel, baby portabella, lobster, shitake, crimini and oyster mushroom mix.
I swear that once you master risotto once, you'll impress yourself time and time again.

2 cups hot water
1/2 oz dried mixed wild mushrooms (my mix included morel, baby portabella, lobster, shitake, crimini and oyster mushrooms)
1/2 cup quartered baby bella mushrooms
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream
2 shallots, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 cup Arborio rice
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
1 scallion stalk, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Soak dried mushrooms in 1/2 cup of hot water. Warm chicken broth and 1 1/2 cups of water in sauce pan and maintain a low heat.  In medium-size skillet, warm 1 tablespoon butter over moderate heat and add shallots and garlic. Saute for 3-4 minutes before adding baby bella mushrooms. Strain dried mushrooms and squeeze out excess water. Add excess water from soaking into chicken broth and re-hydrated mushrooms to skillet. Add rice to pan with an additional 1/2 tsp butter; stir constantly for 2 minutes. Stir in wine and stir for 1 minute until absorbed. Ladle in 1/2 cup simmering broth and cream; simmer, stirring frequently, until broth is absorbed. Continue adding 1/2 cup of broth and stirring for around 20 minutes, until it is the consistency of a thick soup and the rice is still a bit firm. Stir in remaining butter, parsley and lemon zest. Season to taste. Sprinkle each serving with chopped scallions.

Proceed to high five yourself!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Hungarian Beef Goulash

Goulash is one of the most satisfying cold weather foods I can think of. Hell, I love it so much I'll eat it in 90 degree weather. When it's in the single digits as it has been in my neck of the woods, I've got hearty Hungarian stew on the mind.
1 1/2  pounds  boneless chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4  cup  all-purpose flour
1 tbsp   butter
2 white onions, chopped
2  garlic cloves, minced
2  tablespoons  paprika (I've said it before, I'll say it again -- smoked paprika is the best!)
1  tablespoon  red wine vinegar (or really whatever thinner vinegar you have on hand, I don't think it makes a huge difference if you sub with apple cider or a white balsamic. I'd avoid a rich, dark balsamic vinegar)
24 oz can of chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon  caraway seeds, crushed
3  whole bay leaves
1  cup  water
14 oz can fat-free, low-sodium beef broth
6 medium sized Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
5 peeled carrots, cut into 3/4 inch disks
1 1/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Dredge beef in flour and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Melt butter in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add beef to pot and cook until brown on all sides. Remove beef from pan and reserve.

Add onion and garlic to pan and sauté until lightly browned, then stir in paprika and vinegar. Cook mixture for 4 minutes before returning beef to pot. cook for 2 minutes.  Stir in tomatoes, crushed caraway seeds, bay leaves, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, 1/2 cup water and beef broth. Bring to a boil and then cover, reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours. Add chunks of potato and carrots;  cover and cook until potatoes are tender (about an hour and a half). Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper and lemon juice. Discard bay leaves.
Serve with crusty bread and a dark beer. Kyler picked up an amazing rustic rosemary garlic potato bread from Uprise Bakery and we drank Founders Breakfast Stout (Currently my fave beer in the whole wide world. It's a damn shame that it's seasonal and the season just ended...thus we stocked up).