Bay Leaf Seasoning

Fri, Oct 7 • 0

bay-leaves-turkish-organic-1Penzey’s Spices used to put out an herb mix that was great for roasting  chicken. Apparently, I was the only one who bought it, because they stopped selling it a couple years ago. Here’s how to make it yourself. Aside from the bay leaves, you’ll only use a portion of the other ingredients, so you can make multiple batches, or use them in your other recipes. Not counting the salt and pepper, the total cost today is 16.44.

1/2 oz bag bay leaves (2.65)
2 T thyme leaves (2.95)
2 T rosemary leaves (2.49)
1 T basil leaves (2.45)
1 T dried onion (2.95)
1 T oregano (2.95)
1/2 t ground pepper
2 T garlic salt (2.95)
1 T plain salt

Grind together in a food processor or spice grinder until it’s a course powder.


Braised Butternut Squash

Tue, Dec 1 • 0

This is an afghan recipe called bouranee kadu or borani kadoo. Traditionally, it’s made with pumpkin, but it’s easier to find and buy butternut squash, already peeled and cut, though you’ll probably need to cut some of the pieces into smaller chunks. It’s sometimes served as a whole meal, with a layer of spicy ground meat, but I think it’s best as a side dish, especially with roasted poultry. It’s perfect in the autumn.

borani1 pound butternut squash
1 medium yellow onion
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ tablespoon minced garlic
½ tablespoon minced ginger
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
½ teaspoon chili powder or according to taste
½ tablespoon tomato paste or ½ cup tomato puree
1 cup water or stock (chicken or vegetable)
3 tablespoons sugar
salt
Dried or fresh mint for garnish

If you’re using a whole butternut squash, peel it, and using a spoon, scoop out the inner membrane and seeds. Cut the flesh into 1 inch cubes and set aside.

Peel and place the onion in a food processor and puree.

Heat oil in a medium heavy bottom pan or wok. Carefully add the onion puree and cook on medium-low heat untill it is golden, about 10 minutes. Then add ginger, garlic, turmeric, coriander powder, and chili powder and stir for 1 minute or until fragrant.

Now add tomato paste or puree, water, sugar and salt, bring to a boil, while stirring.

Add the chopped butternut squash or pumpkin pieces. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the squash is cooked and slightly translucent, but still holding its shape, about 30 minutes. Add more water while cooking, if needed.

Garnish with mint and serve with garlic yogurt and naan.

Garlic Yogurt

1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 clove garlic minced
Salt

Whisk everything together.


Time for Tomatoes

Fri, Jan 30 • 0

A yellow-green variety called Pork ChopIt’s about 10 weeks to last frost here in zone 7. So if you live near me, then it’s time to start your tomato and pepper seedlings.

This year, I’m trying five  new varieties… two big beefsteak heirlooms called Country Taste, and Grandma’s Pick; a medium-sized orange variety called Moonglow that’s supposed to be one of the best for straight-off-the-vine eating (though I would think that they would say that about all tomatoes, wouldn’t they?) ; a cherry variety called Sweet Million; and a yellow/green one called Pork Chop.

I’m also going to try growing the seedlings in egg shells that I have been saving since November. Supposedly, the added calcium will be a benefit to the plants down the road, but I’m wondering if it would be wiser to just handle the seedlings in a more normal way, and crush up the eggshells and add them when I put the plants in the ground.


Whole Foods-like Tomato Bisque

Sat, Jan 17 • 0

Gourmet-Garden-Dill-TubeWhen I make this, I go to the trouble of peeling fresh tomatoes for this recipe, because I think the flavor benefits, but I know that’s more of a hassle than probably most people would go to. I usually start with two or three of the containers of fresh tomatoes that the sell at Costco. I’ll also shred the carrot using a food processor, but if you’d rather not dirty up your processor bowl, you can probably get away with finely dicing it. The vermouth is crucial for the flavor, so don’t skip it. And fresh dill can sometimes be really hard to find in the grocery store, but I’ve found a product that is a god-send … it’s fresh dill in a tube, like toothpaste, sold under the name “Gourmet Garden,” and I use it quite generously. You will find it in the produce department, and it works perfectly for this recipe. I’m told that this soup freezes well, but it’s never stayed around long enough for me to find out.

3-4 (or more) lbs fresh tomatoes, peeled and cored, or 3 large cans of organic tomatoes
1 large onion, chopped
3 or 4 large carrots, shredded
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
olive oil
½ c dry vermouth
fresh dill
salt and pepper to taste

If you’re starting with fresh tomatoes, boil a pot of water, and fill another bowl with cold water. Cut an X, or just slit the skin on the bottoms of the tomatoes. Dunk the tomatoes, 6-8 at a time, in the boiling water until the skin starts to loosen. (It’ll wrinkle and start to peel.) Remove them with a spider and cool them off in the bowl of cold water until you can handle them. Remove the peel, and the stem/core, and cut the tomatoes into quarters, reserving as much as the liquid as you can.

Saute onions until translucent, add carrots and saute a few more minutes. Add garlic, and stir until fragrant. Deglaze with vermouth. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste, add a generous amount (1 T, at least) of fresh dill, chopped. Simmer for 30-45 minutes. Taste, adjust seasoning. Puree with a stick blender, or in blender in batches.


Orecchiette with Sausage, Baby Kale, and Bell Pepper

Sat, Jan 17 • 0

Orecchiette_Pasta(Even though this recipe is called orecchiette, I’ve made it with other shapes of pasta. Rigatoni works well.)

2 ¾ teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
5 garlic cloves, crushed
Freshly cracked black pepper
14 oz sweet Italian chicken sausage, casing removed
6 cups baby kale
10 oz orecchiette (or other shaped pasta)
¼ cup grated pecorino romano
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)

Start a large pot of water boiling, with 2 teaspoons of salt.

Meanwhile, heat a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil, onion and red bell pepper, crushed garlic, and the rest of the salt. Cook, stirring until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up the sausage using a wooden spoon, and brown for 10 minutes. Add the kale, and cover, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, then remove the cover, and stir and let the moisture evaporate.

Add the pasta to the boiling water, and cook according to the directions on the package. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water. Mix the sausage mixture and the pasta and the reserved water. Cook together until the water evaporates. Remove from heat and mix in the cheese and the optional red pepper flakes.


Chocolate Birthday Cake with Vanilla Frosting

Wed, Jan 14 • 0

I don’t often get called to make birthday cakes, but when I do, this is the recipe I use. It’s practically foolproof, and completely rich and delicious, with dark chocolate cake mounded with sweet, white frosting. I usually make it as a layer cake, but it works perfectly fine as a sheet cake or even cupcakes –just use the toothpick method to figure out the proper cooking time.

My friend Theresa tried making this recipe, and snapped a picture of the result.

My friend Theresa tried making this recipe, and snapped a picture of the result.

Cake :

butter, for the pans
3 c all-purpose flour, plus a little more for the pans
2/3 c cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 c sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 c canola (or corn) oil
2 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup water
1 cup cold coffee

  • Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter and flour two 9-inch cake pans, and line the bottoms with parchment.
  • Gently mix together the dry ingredients in your mixing bowl with the beater blade.
  • With the mixer on low, add the oil, vinegar, and vanilla, and mix, then add the water and the coffee, and blend until well mixed.
  • Pour the batter equally into the cake pans, and back for 30 minutes, swapping and turning them after 15. You know they’re done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  • Cool completely in the pans.

Frosting:

1-1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
3 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
pinch of salt
2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan, and heat to 240° or soft-ball stage. Meanwhile, start beating the egg whites, the cream of tartar, and the salt in your mixer until foamy.
  • Once the sugar syrup is at temperature, resume beating the egg whites on high, and add the hot syrup in a slow drizzle.
  • Add the vanilla, and continue mixing until the frosting is glossy and the mixing bowl is cool to the touch.

Cauliflower Soup

Tue, Oct 15 • 0

1 medium onion, chopped
1 leek, cleaned and chopped (white and light green parts only)
1 t salt
1½ T butter
1 cauliflower (about 2 lbs. trimmed, cut in half, and sliced into ½ inch pieces)
4½ c water

cauliflowerIn a large pot, sweat the onions and leeks with the butter for about 5 minutes with the salt. Add half of the cauliflower, along with the stem which you’ve peeled and sliced, and the water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 15 or 20 minutes. Add the rest of the cauliflower, and simmer for another 15 minutes. Blend the soup with an immersion blender until smooth.

When thinking like a weight-watcher, the only thing that you have to calculate, points-wise is the butter. Since this recipe makes about 6 servings, that works out to about 2 points a serving. Note: Don’t be tempted to replace the butter with bacon drippings, or the water with chicken stock — the soup is pretty delicate, and the strong flavors of these two items will overwhelm the subtle flavors of the cauliflower.

This recipe is based on an article in the September, 2013 issue of Cooks Illustrated. The reason why this recipe works, apparently, is the two stage cooking method. Cooking cauliflower for 15 minutes brings out the bright, pungent, cabbage-like flavors, while cooking it for 30 minutes brings out its nutty side. By splitting it up, you get the best of both worlds, but since neither flavor is going to knock you out, you can’t use other overpowering flavors, like garlic, bacon drippings, or chicken stock. And the beauty of the cauliflower is that when blended, you get all the satisfying feeling of a creamy soup without adding any cream.

The Cook’s Illustrated recipe goes on to have you add another 5 or so tablespoons of browned butter, plus some little bits of cauliflower sauteed in it, with a touch of sherry vinegar, but since I’m watching my weight, I eschewed the extra butter for a lower calorie soup.

 


Roasted Summer Bounty Sauce

Sat, Jul 14 • 0

When the production of your garden really starts to kick in during the summer, it’s hard not to get overwhelmed with the bounty. This recipe helps, because by roasting down all of the vegetables, you intensify their flavor. And you’ll love the aroma of the roasting vegetables.

Aside from the tomatoes and the garlic, you can add or subtract any vegetable, depending on what you have too much of. Swap eggplant and/or zucchini in place of the carrots. Add some bell peppers if you have them.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. In a large roasting pan, combine:

6 pounds tomatoes (plums are best, but some additional cherry tomatos will sweeten the sauce), cored and quartered
1½ c. coarsely chopped carrots (optional)
1½ c. coarsely chopped celery (optional)
1½ c. coarsely chopped onions
9 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
6 T. balsamic vinegar
1 bay leaf
1½ t. each fresh thyme, oregano, basil, and parsley
1½ t. salt
1 T. freshly ground pepper

Roast all of these for 45 minutes or until everything is soft (I’ve left it going for almost 2 hours with no ill-effects). Remove the bay leaf and whatever herb stems you can find, and pulse in a food processor or blender or even a hand whizzer, but leave it slightly chunky. Freeze in 2 cup portions. Makes 2 quarts.


Best Damn Smoked Chicken Recipe, period

Mon, Jan 9 • 0

This may be the best thing that could ever happen to a chicken.

I get a whole lot of compliments on this one. There are some members of my extended family who insist I bring this to any family gathering, regardless of the time of year. The technique of putting lit coals over top of unlit coals ensures a nice, long burn, and will provide enough heat for the 2-hour long cooking time. This recipe specifically relies on using a Webber kettle grill. You’ll need to further experiment in order to come up with the proper technique for a different kind of grill.

2 whole chickens, 3 to 4 pounds each
2 fist-sized lumps of chunk fruit wood
1 aluminium drip pan, 10×14
20 – 30 charcoal briquettes
cooking spray
1 cup salt
1 cup sugar
7 quarts of water

Take two chickens and cut them each into 8 pieces — 2 breasts, 2 wings, 2 drumsticks, and 2 thighs. Save the rest for chicken stock. Brine the chicken in 6 quarts of water that you’ve dissolved a cup of sugar and a cup of salt for 30 minutes to an hour. Remove the chicken from the brine and dry with paper towel. Season it with pepper, and spray both sides with cooking spray.

Soak wood in water for 15 minutes. (I’ve tried both apple and cherry wood, and can’t detect any difference in flavor, but do avoid mesquite because it’s just too strong a flavor.)

Light half a chimney full of briquettes and let burn in chimney until the top is white with ash. In your kettle grill, put an aluminum pan on one side and fill it with a quart of water. On the other side, put in 20 unlit briquettes, and nestle the wood chunks in it. Close the top and bottom vents of the grill to the halfway point. Pour the lit charcoal over top of the wood and the unlit charcoal, and put on the grill, and let it heat for 5 minutes with the lid on, then clean the grill and put on the chicken, skin side up, and putting the breasts around the outside, over top of the pan of water, furthest from the heat. Put the cover back on, and let the chicken cook undisturbed for 90 to 120 minutes.


Frenchman’s Franks & Beans

Tue, Mar 29 • 0

1 T olive oil
1 large leek

1 stalk of celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 or 3 sprigs of thyme
1 sprig of rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 small to medium russet potato, peeled and quartered
stock
or water
1 cup puy lentils
bunch of fresh spinach, chopped fine

salt & pepper

3 T balsamic or other vinegar
1 lb. (4) sausages (optional for vegetarians)

Trim and clean the leek, concentrating on the white and pale part, and cutting it into a small dice. (Reserve some of the dark green part for later.) Put in a heavy bottomed sauce pan with olive oil and the celery and carrot, and cook until the leeks have gone soft, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, make a bundle of the herbs and tie it inside the reserved dark green leek with some kitchen string, add it and the potato, and the lentils to the pot, and cover with water or stock (or both). Simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes, monitoring to make sure the water doesn’t completely boil away before the lentils are tender but chewy.

Pierce the sausages with a fork, and cook them in a little simmering water, covered, for 5 or 10 minutes. Remove the lid, and let the water evaporate. If the sausages don’t shed enough grease while they are simmering, add a little butter or olive oil, and, turning frequently, brown over medium low heat.

When the lentils are tender, remove the herb bundle, and mash the potato (now softened) on the side of the pan to thicken the sauce. Add the chopped spinach and let it all cook down for another 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, taste for seasoning, and add the vinegar. Slice the sausages, and serve on top of the lentils.

One serving of the lentils is ½ cup, and is 3 points. One Whole Foods chicken sausage with basil and sun dried tomatoes is 4 points.


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