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.

 


Boston Baked Beans, take 2

Sun, Dec 13 • 0

Bean_Pot_Large_4_5_Qt_You might find, in the Cooking Monster archives, an entry I wrote about my attempt to make a batch of homemade baked beans, and how I lamented that the results really weren’t worth the effort. Well, urged on my my brother, I have since purchased an authentic bean pot in Zanesville, Ohio, and decided to try my hand at it again, having rehydrated a batch of beans and then changing my mind about what I’d do with them. The results were much better this time, though not without some pitfalls. Be sure to boil the beans after you soak them until they are tender. I scrimped on this step, and my beans, though edible, were a little tough. Also, watch the vinegar content in your bbq sauce — too much, and the acid might do nasty things to your beans.

2 cups dried beans (navy, great northern, or flageolet)
12 oz. salt pork
1 onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons molasses
2 teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon dry mustard
½ cup bbq sauce (or ketchup)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves
¼ cup brown sugar

Soak the beans for about 8 hours, or overnight. In the same liquid, simmer the beans until they’re tender — about 2 hours. Drain and reserve the liquid.

Preheat the oven to 325°F (165°C).

Combine the beans with the rest of the ingredients in a bean pot or covered casserole dish, stirring to combine, then add some of the reserved bean liquid (or fresh water) to the top of the bean mixture.

Bake with lid on for 2 hours, then check the beans for moisture, and add more water if necessary. Remove the lid, and stir. Cook for an additional 2 hours — or more, provided you add more water if the beans are getting too dry.


Julia’s Method for Cheeseburgers

Wed, Jul 8 • 0

I watched an old episode of Cooking with Jacques and Julia, on the topic of beef, and they demonstrated their methods for making hamburgers, so I decided to give Julia Child’s method a try for dinner last night. The result was really good.

1 lb. ground beef (85/15)
1 shallot diced
1 tablespoon butter
4 poppy seed kaiser rolls
salt and pepper
optional toppings : arugula, cheese, bacon, sliced tomato, ketchup, etc.

Saute the shallot in the butter until translucent, and set aside. Separate the beef into 4 equal parts. Work each part into a rough, thin patty, ½ inch thick, using a chopping motion with the back of a knife, working in a quarter of the sauteed shallot and salt and pepper. It’s not crucial that the resulting patty is perfectly round. Fry the patties on a cast iron griddle for 2 or 3 minutes per side. When you flip each over, you can add the cheese to get it melted. Remove from the heat and let rest. Meanwhile, spread a little butter or oil on the cut sides of the kaiser roll, and toast on the griddle.


Braised Spinach with Minced Meat

Tue, Apr 14 • 0

I made some braised spinach last night that didn’t go well with my wife. She prefers fresh spinach salad to anything that’s been cooked, even if I’m careful to wilt the greens only slightly. So I had some more greens left over, and tossed this together. The freshly ground nutmeg really makes it, giving an almost citrusy flavor. And I used bison for the minced meat, but you could use anything you had on hand, or omit it entirely for a vegetarian meal or a side dish.

¼ lb minced bison
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons chopped onion
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 good handfuls fresh spinach leaves

freshly ground nutmeg
salt, pepper to taste

Over medium high heat, melt butter in a tall saucepan. Add ground meat and brown. Toss in the onion, and soften a bit, and then the garlic. Put in the spinach, and toss until the spinach is coated, and begins to wilt, but not to the point where it’s a green mush. Add the salt and pepper and nutmeg.


Things to Add to Omelets

Wed, Nov 19 • 0

Brown eggs taste no different from white eggs. Rhode Island Red hens give you brown eggs … the older the hen, the darker the egg.

Creamed or plain chipped beef;
Crumbled, crisp bacon bits;
Strips of thinly sliced ham or bologna (fried);
Fried minced onions, scallions, green peppers, pimentos;
Creamed or sauteed mushrooms;
Minced leftover vegetables (especially spinach) or meat in a thick cream sauce;
Freshly grated Gruyere, Swiss, Parmesan, Romano, or cheddar cheese;
Chopped fresh herbs: chives, parsley, chervil, tarragon, or thyme;
Flaked cooked fish (minus skin and bones), leftover or canned;
Minced lobster, crab, or shrimp;
Chopped canned anchovies …

Really, though, the possibilities are endless, provided its cut up very fine and, aside from the fresh herbs, precooked.

What’s inside your favorite omelet?


Potato, Leek and Asparagus Tart

Mon, Oct 13 • 0

Completely decadent, serve this with a salad, as a side, or as a first course. It’ll definitely wow them at the pot-luck dinner.

You could really go over the top with this recipe, adding cream to the potatoes, and using a ton of butter, but I tried to keep it a little less than sinful — but go ahead and use the cream, especially if you’re going vegetarian. You can use any single cheese you want. I think the smokiness of the chedder added a lot to it, though. Smoked gouda might work well, too. If you’ve never worked with phillo dough, be sure to read the hints on the box, about working quickly, and keeping the unused layers with a moistened towel — if the dough gets dried out (which doesn’t take much), you might as well be working with newspaper. You can omit the eggs — which I did, by mistake — to save even more calories, but they help firm up the potatoes, and make it much easier to cut. Either way, it’s delicious.

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
4 fist-sized yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
1 leek, cleaned and chopped
3 ounces smoked chedder cheese
3 ounces fontina
4 tablespoons butter
½ cup chicken broth
3 eggs
1 package phillo pastry
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350°. Bring two pots of water to boil, one for the potatoes (boil for about 10 minutes or until soft), one for the asparagus (parboil for 4 minutes). Saute the chopped leek in one tablespoon of the butter until softened, and melt the rest (either in a small pan, or in the microwave). Mash the potatoes, adding in the chicken stock, and the shredded cheeses, as if you’re making mashed potatoes.  Add the leeks, and the eggs, and mix until smooth.

Start lining a baking pan, or, ideally, a rectangular tart pan with a removable bottom, with the layers of phillo, spreading a little of the melted butter between layers, overlapping the edge of the pan. Keep layering until you have 6-10 layers. Spread the mashed potatoes into the middle, and smooth. Press a single layer of asparagus into the potatoes, and moisten with any of the butter left over. Fold over the hanging bits of the phillo to form a flakey crust.

Put the pan in the bottom of the oven, and cook for 20-30 minutes, then let it cool for at least 10 minutes.


Sausage & Peppers

Wed, Oct 1 • 0

This is the way my mom used to make it. And this is pretty much the best food at any street fair, ever.

1-2 lbs fresh italian sausage (hot or mild) about 6 links
1 small onion
1 bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup  white wine
salt & pepper, to taste
red pepper flakes (optional)

slice the onion in half, lengthwise, and then chop it into thin half circles. Chop the pepper to similar size and length pieces. Heat a skillet with oil, and soften the onions and the peppers. Pierce the sausages with a fork, and put them in the pan with the wine, garlic and salt and pepper(s), and clamp on a lid, and turn the heat down. Allow the pan to simmer for 15 or 20 minutes, checking to make sure it hasn’t dried out (add a little water or more wine if it has). Once the wine has mostly evaporated, remove the lid, and let everything fry a little, turning frequently, since the sugar left from the wine will carmelize and burn very quickly. When everything is as brown as you like it, remove from the heat, and let it cool a bit. Serve as is, or on a crusty roll.


Tuna Noodle Salad & Grandma’s Potato Salad

Wed, May 28 • 0

Two of mom’s old summer stand-bys. A summer picnic was never without one or both of these on the table.

Not much to post these last few days. Been a little too warm to be in the kitchen. I did make two of mom’s old summer stand-bys. A summer picnic was never without one or both of these on the table. (I’ve reduced the quantities because I’m only feeding 2, and even then, we’ll be eating these for days. You can ramp up the amounts as needed.)

Tuna Noodle Salad

You can replace the canned tuna with leftover salmon with excellent results. I use tuna packed in olive oil, but if you want to save a few calories, use the tuna packed in water. Traditionally, Mom used only elbow macaroni and spanish onion.

1 lb. macaroni, cooked, drained, cooled
2 cans tuna, drained
1 stem celery, chopped fine
1 bunch green onions, chopped fine
½ c mayonnaise
salt & pepper
garlic powder

Mix all of these in a bowl, and let sit in the fridge to chill and let the flavors meld.

Grandma’s Potato Salad

Grandma always used Miracle Whip for this recipe, but I can’t bring myself to use the stuff, even if it is family tradition. And since I’m bucking tradition, Gramma never knew a red bell pepper, nor green onions. Gramma would have also peeled the potatoes. I don’t think it’s necessary.

5 or 6 red bliss potatoes, diced
4 eggs, hard boiled, and diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
½ red bell pepper, diced
3 green onions, chopped
½ c mayonnaise
3 T mustard
3 T pickle juice
salt & pepper
garlic powder
paprika

Both the potatoes and the eggs should be started in cold water. Add some salt to the potato, and cook until easily pierced with a fork, drain and cool. For the eggs, cover them in cold water, with an inch of water head room. Bring the water to a boil, and the moment it starts to boil, clamp on a lid, turn off the heat, and let the eggs sit for 20 minutes, then into a ice water bath to stop the cooking. Mix everything but the paprika, and then sprinkle that over top.


Salmon Fritters

Wed, Apr 30 • 0

If you’re feeling rich and extravagant, replace the canned salmon with fresh chopped salmon, or lump crab meat.

5 green onions, finely chopped
½ sweet red pepper, finely chopped
1t garlic powder
¼c mayonnaise
1 egg, beaten
6 oz. flaked salmon (canned or in those foil packages)
1/3rd c corn flake coating or bread crumbs plus extra for coating
pinch of cayenne
juice from ½ a lemon

Mix all of this up in a bowl, and then make 4 balls, about the size of a golfball. Roll them around in more corn flakes/bread crumbs. Just before frying, flatten the balls to make patties. Fry in butter over medium heat, 3-4 minutes on each side.

Update, May 17 : I just made these for lunch today, using some leftover pan-fried salmon from the other night, and thought they were far superior to the packaged salmon I used last time. I didn’t explicitly point it out, but if you use fresh salmon, you might be able to get away with using it raw, if you chop it into small pieces, but even cooked salmon works well with this recipe.


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