Southern Roll-ups

Sun, Apr 26 • 0

I based this recipe on something I read in a vegetarian cookbook. It sounded good, but I thought it might be even better with the addition of some country ham, but you can certainly omit it. I made the mistake, though, of using a bottled bbq sauce I’d never tried before, nor even sampled. Red pepper was the fourth item on the ingredient list. It ended up being very nearly inedible because of it. So choose the sauce you start with wisely. Better yet, make your own.

1 bunch of collard greens
½ cup onion, diced
¼ cup bell pepper, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 oz. country ham, diced
1 can black eyed peas, drained
½ cup bbq sauce

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Pick out 6 or 8 of the biggest, best leaves of the collard greens, and boil for 6 minutes, then remove them to a cold water bath. Heat the oil in a saucepan, and cook the onions and peppers until soft. Add the ham, and cook for a few minutes, then add the peas and the bbq sauce. Take some of the uncooked greens and roll them up like a cigar, and slice them and add them to the pot. Simmer for 20-30 minutes until the sauce is reduced, stirring frequently.

Using a sharp knife, carefully slice the thick stem vein off the front and back of the boiled greens, to facilitate rolling. Once the beans and sauce are reduced, remove from the heat and allow it to cool a little, then put 2 or 3 tablespoons into the middle of each of the boiled leaves, and roll them up like a burrito. Serve hot.

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.

Lentils with Balsamic Vinegar

Fri, Feb 27 • 4
Photo by WordRidden, on Flickr.

Photo by WordRidden, on Flickr.

This is a great side dish, or with rice, and maybe a sliced sausage or two, a main dish. You can make it completely vegetarian starting off with olive oil, and simmering with vegetable stock or water, or, if you don’t mind a little meat, start off with a few slices of bacon and simmer in chicken stock. Add more stock or water if you want it more soupy, or hold back and monitor it while it simmers if you want it dryer. It’s based on a recipe I half-remember from Cooks Illustrated. It uses french lentils, which are the little dark green ones, sometimes called “puy lentils,” since they hold their shape better. You can either buy them prepackaged, or head over to the bulk aisle, and buy it by them by the pound.

2 T olive oil, or the drippings from 3 slices of bacon, fried
1 small onion, diced (about ½ cup)
2 cloves of garlic, chopped or sliced
2 carrots, diced (about ½ cup)
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup french green lentils
1 16 oz can of tomatoes, whole or diced
1-2 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

Resist the urge to add salt in the beginning, which tends to make the lentils tough.

If you’re starting with the bacon, chop into ¼ inch slices, and render the drippings in a medium sized saucepan (one that you have a tight lid). Remove the bacon once it’s browned and reserve for later – OR – heat the olive oil and add the onions and carrots, allowing the onions to become translucent, and the carrots to soften a little.  Add the garlic, the spices, the lentils, and the tomatoes, along with a little of the juice. Clamp on the lid and lower the heat, and let the mixture steam, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes. Add the stock or water, and let simmer for 20 or 30 more minutes, until the lentils are tender. Just before serving, add the balsamic and the salt and pepper (and top with the reserved bacon if you haven’t already eaten it all while you were cooking.)

Chickpea Cutlets

Tue, Jan 6 • 0

My wife found this recipe online and asked me to try making it. I’d never even heard of vital wheat gluten before. It’s used here to bind the mixture together, though I’m not sure why it doesn’t just use flour. I wouldn’t say this is the tastiest recipe, but it isn’t bad, and if you’re looking for good flexitarian fare, these aren’t bad. When cooked, patties look a lot like hamburgers.

1 cup canned chickpeas
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup vital wheat gluten
½ cup plain breadcrumbs
¼ cup vegetable broth or water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon lemon zest
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon paprika
olive oil, for pan frying

In a food processor, blend the chickpeas together with the oil to a rough paste. Add the remaining ingredients and blend together until a ball forms, then remove to a lightly floured surface, and knead for a short while.

Preheat a large heavy-bottomed nonstick or cast iron skillet over medium heat. Meanwhile, divide the cutlet dough into 4 equal pieces. To form cutlets, knead each piece in your hand for a few moments and then flatten and stretch each one into a roughly 6 by 4 inch rectangular cutlet shape.

Add a moderately thin layer of olive oil to the bottom of the pan. Place the cutlets in the pan and cook on each side for 6 to 7 minutes. Add more oil, if needed, when you flip the cutlets. They’re ready when lightly browned and firm to the touch.

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.

Making Marinara

Thu, Aug 28 • 0

Well, I’ve spent the afternoon making marinara sauce with whats left of the huge batch of tomatoes I bought the other day. Some of the tomatoes have gotten a little tender in spots, but I’ve only had to throw away two of them because of mold, and I’ve nearly used up the last of them all. I’m not making a full blown tomato sauce with them, but just processing them so that they’ll be more versatile down the road. What I’m making could be turned into tomato sauce later on, but it can also be used for a lot of other things, too. No salt yet, either. I can add that when I’m ready to cook again with them. This is one of the more foolproof canning projects, since tomatoes are so high in acid. This recipe makes about 5 pints, or 2 quarts of marinara.

So here’s a rundown of the ingredients for each batch :

6 lbs. tomatoes, peeled, and diced
1 large sweet onion
1 small pinch red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, chopped
¼ cup water
bunch fresh basil leaves
¼ cup red wine vinegar (optional)

  • Bring a big pot of water to the boil. Cut an X in the bottom of each tomato, and dunk it in the boiling water for 30-60 seconds. Remove and immediately plunge into cold water. The skins should peel right off.
  • Core and chop the tomatoes. (Optionally, you can also remove the seeds and the seed membrane before chopping them.)
  • In a heavy bottomed pot, heat up a couple tablespoons of olive oil, and add the chopped onion, and allow it to sweat, about 10 mins. Then add the pinch of red pepper flakes and garlic. Stir in the tomatoes, the water, and the vinegar. Cover, and let it come to a good boil, about 5 minutes.
  • Remove the cover, stir, and lower the heat, and allow it to gently boil for 45 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • 5 or 10 minutes before it’s done, stir in the basil leaves, and some more chopped garlic, if desired.

This is a good starting point for your own homemade tomato sauce, but if you’re making multiple batches, like I am, follow the standard canning method — sterilized jars, lids, and tools. If you’ve been reading this blog all summer, I’m sure you know the drill by now. If you want to make a smoother sauce, you could run it through a food mill. In any case, fill the jars leaving a little head room. Put on the lids, then process the sealed jars in a hot water bath that covers the lids by at least 1 inch, and boil for 35 minutes for pint jars, 45 minutes for quart jars. Store in a cool, dark place, and use within a year.  Be sure and examine anything you’ve canned for any signs of deterioration, or spoilage, and discard it if you find any. More canning info can be found at

A Tale of Two Recipes : Homemade Ketchup

Wed, Aug 27 • 1

Lesson learned : When you see a recipe that looks good on a cooking show, write it down, because the corresponding recipe on the program’s website may be very different.

Yesterday, I tried making a batch of Jamie Oliver’s homemade ketchup recipe, as he demonstrated on his episode on pickling and preserving, on Jamie at Home. The recipe I downloaded has you brown off a red onion with half a fennel bulb, a stalk of celery, then add freshly ground coriander, a couple of whole cloves, some ginger root, some garlic, a red chili, and the stems of a bunch of basil. Then you could mix up a pound of fresh tomatoes with a pound of canned crushed tomatoes (or use all fresh tomatoes), and a cup and a half of water. Simmer that for 45 minutes, add the leaves from the basil, whiz in a blender, strain, and then add sugar and vinegar, and simmer for a long time until it was reduced by half. I followed the recipe to the letter, and while the resulting ketchup was pretty good, I found it to be entirely too sweet, plus the purpose of reserving the basil leaves until the end was supposed to provide a punch of fresh flavor, but simmering it forever to reduce it to the proper consistency completely undoes that.

Luckily, I had the episode saved on the DVR, and so I sat through the segment again, and the one he did on television ended up looking a lot redder than the stuff I ended up with. Also, he didn’t have the celery, used fennel seeds, didn’t add the water, used twice the amount of fresh tomatoes as the recipe on the web called for. He didn’t do the two step method, but added the vinegar and sugar during the first step.

So since I have plenty of tomatoes, I tried making a batch using the recipe he gave on the program. The end result was something more like ketchup than the recipe on the site. Redder in color, and not nearly so sweet. If you’re going to go to the trouble of making homemade ketchup — and after making it, I can’t really say it’s worth the effort — I suggest you use the following recipe, which is from the television program, as best I can remember it…

1 large sweet onion, chopped
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
4 cloves
2 thumb-sized pieces of ginger, skinned and chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 or 2 red chili peppers (optional)
good pinch of pepper and salt
2.2 lbs (1 kilo) ripe tomatoes, preferably cherry, chopped
the stalks from a handful of fresh basil, leaves reserved
1 liter of Passata (or the equivalent of canned tomato puree)
1 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup brown sugar

  • In a heavy bottom pan, sweat the chopped onion in olive oil to bring out their sweetness, for about 15 minutes.
  • Grind (in a mortar and pestle, or a coffee grinder dedicated to grinding spices) the whole coriander, fennel, and cloves, and add it to the onions.
  • Peel and chop the garlic and the ginger, and chop up the chili pepper, and add that.
  • Cut the fresh tomatoes and remove the seeds and membrane (optional), and add to the pan.
  • Add the passata/tomato puree, the basil stems (chopped) and stir in the vinegar and sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30-45 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and add the basil leaves.
  • In a blender, working in batches, whiz it all until it’s a relatively smooth consistency.
  • Force through a sieve or use a food mill to get a completely smooth and thick paste.
  • Using sterilized bottles (either run through a hot, hot dishwasher; put in an 175° oven for 30 minutes, or boiled in water for 30 minutes), as well as a sterilized funnel and ladle, spoon in the mixture until nearly full.
  • Put on the sterilized lids, and process in a hot water canning bath for 30 minutes.
  • Store in a cool, dark place for up to 12 months. (Be sure and examine anything you’ve canned for any signs of deterioration, or spoilage, and discard it if you find any.)

Stuffed Zucchini

Sat, Aug 23 • 0

Still a work in progress…

I tried a recipe a few months back from Ellie Krieger, that involved zucchini, sliced very thin, and grilled on a grill pan, and then a dollop of goat cheese and a basil leaf was placed on each one, and rolled up. I thought they were delicious. The grilling of the zucchini, even for only a couple of minutes, was enough to provide a nice smoky flavor, and the creaminess of the goat cheese, paired with the jolt of the basil leaf.

Unfortunately, my wife wasn’t as enamored as I was, and so I tried to come up with an alternative when I made dinner tonight. I was pretty good, but I think I need to figure out a way to cook the zucchini a little more.

3 small zucchini
small package of goat cheese
3-4 T greek style yogurt (plain)
salt, pepper
parisian herb mix
1small onion, sliced thin
1 small russet potato, shredded

Preheat the oven to 375. Slice of the tail and the stem end of the zucchini, and peel the green skin. Slice it in half, lengthwise. With a melon baller (or a spoon) remove the seedy interior, so that it looks like a dugout canoe. Salt and drizzle with a little oil, and place in a baking pan. In a frying pan, sautee the onion and the potato until lightly golden, and set aside to cool. In a bowl, break up the goat cheese and mix it with the yogurt until creamy. Add the spices and the herbs. Mix in the cooled onion/potatos, and with a spoon, fill in the wells of the zucchini. Bake for 10 minutes, until heated through.

(Note : Parisian herb mix is a prepared blend of dried shallots, garlic powder, tarragon … but you can use any herbs, fresh or dried, that you favor.)

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