Friday, November 23, 2012

Friday Links: Homemade Gifts

Happy (black) Friday!  I try my hardest to steer clear of the consumerism that plagues today, and I appreciate the organizations encouraging people to donate to charity.  For me, today is about spending time with family and friends and enjoying time outside to lessen the turkey belly.  If you insist on getting a head start on gifts, take today to start some homemade ones to give your loved ones at Christmas. Cheers!

For the Baker: Homemade Vanilla Bean Extract
For the Mixologist: Cranberry Liqueur or Apricot Ginger Fizz Mixer
For the Hostess: Rosemary Roasted Almonds
For the Sweet Tooth: SG's Cranberry Orange Bark with Almonds or Hazelnut Truffles
For Everyone's Breakfast: Honey Nut Granola

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Happy (almost) Thanksgiving!  A lovely holiday surrounded by family, friends, good eats and drinks.  While many people only eat brussels sprouts on Thanksgiving, and maybe at Christmas, they are a fall staple around here.  They make a wonderful addition to the vegetable medley with roasted chicken, and are delightful on their own as a side.  They also happen to be one of Thanksgiving's most healthful foods, boasting high levels of fiber, vitamins C & K, and even quite a bit of protein (3.38 grams per 100 grams).  Roasting these gems at high heat with some scallions removes the bitterness and lends a slightly crunchy, caramelized, and delightful vegetable side. 

Happy Thanksgiving, and eat well!  

Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Serves 4-6 as a small side (I recommend that you double the recipe for Thanksgiving, see below for an easier method for a crowd)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 2 shallots, sliced into half moons
  • 1 pound brussels sprouts
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • black pepper
1. Pre-heat oven to 425.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in an oven-safe skillet.  Add garlic and shallots and cook until fragrant.
3. While oil heats and the garlic and shallots cook: trim the ends off the brussels sprouts and slice in half lengthwise.

4. Turn heat off and place brussels sprouts cut side up in skillet, nestling them around the shallots. Return to medium heat and cook without stirring 5 minutes, or until beginning to caramelize.
5. Flip brussels sprouts over with tongs, drizzle the remaining olive oil over the top, and sprinkle kosher salt over the top.
6. Place the skillet in the heated oven and roast 20-30 minutes until soft and caramelized, stirring once during cooking.

7: Season with a little fresh ground black pepper.

***For a fuss-free version of this, or for those of you who do not have an oven-proof skillet.  Put 1/2 of the olive oil at the bottom of a roasting dish, place brussels sprouts cut side down and nestle shallots and garlic around.  Drizzle the rest of the oil and roast in pre-heated oven 45 minutes, stirring once or twice.  I think you loose a little of the garlic and shallot flavor with this preperation, but it is still delicious.***

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Minestrone and Kitchen Meditation

I have often ordered minestrone in a restaurant, expecting a divine compilation of fresh ingredients, beans, and pasta.  Too frequently, I am disappointed by a salty, tasteless soup full of manufactured vegetables.  This fall I began perusing recipes to find that all the best sounding minestrone included pancetta.  I then began a 3 day search for the perfect vegetarian substitution (most common search result: vegan bacon. Really?).  The solution: olives. Kalamata olives are full of flavor, a little bit "meaty," and have a complex saltiness.  I worried that they would take over the soup, but they simply add dimension without distinct olive flavor.

The slow cooking method used here develops a rich flavor that does not need stock or broth, or excess salt to carry the dish.  It needs some time, but you can chop as you go, throwing in each ingredient as it is ready and allowing the flavors to become rich and full.  This dish is a cooking meditation.  Take your time, perfectly dice your vegetables, embrace imperfection, and cook just to cook. Nourish your  body with simple, delicious meal, and your soul with the peace of kitchen meditation.

Adapted from Love & Olive Oil

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 4 celery ribs, diced
  • 3 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 (28-oz) can whole tomatoes in juice
  • 1 qt hot water
  • 5 cups coarsely chopped kale
  • 1 piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (about 3 by 1 1/2 inches)
  • 1 (15-oz) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • Garnish: 1 cup dry ditalini pasta cooked to al dente; grated Parmigiano-Reggiano; drizzle of olive oil.

1. Heat oil in a heavy pot (Dutch oven is perfect) over medium heat and add onions, celery, and carrots, stirring occasionally, while preparing chard.

2. Cut out stems from chard and chop stems, reserving leaves. Stir chard stems into mixture with bay leaf, garlic, 1 tsp salt, and 3/4 tsp pepper, and olives and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very tender and begin to stick to bottom of pot, about 45 minutes total.

3. Push vegetables to one side of pot. Add tomato paste to cleared area and cook, stirring constantly, until it starts to caramelize, about 2 minutes. Stir paste into vegetables and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. (Paste may stick to pot, but don’t let it burn.)

4. Stir in tomatoes with their juice, breaking them up with a spoon, then add hot water, scraping up any brown bits from bottom of pot.

5. Bring to a simmer. Stir in parmesan rind. Simmer, covered about 20 minutes.  

6. Stir in kale and simmer another 20 minutes, covered.

7. Coarsely chop chard leaves and stir into soup along with beans. Simmer, partially covered, 10 minutes. 

8. Discard rind. Season soup with salt and pepper.

9. If using ditalini, stir in just before serving.  Top with grated Parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil.

10.To freeze: only make enough ditalini for the amount you are serving immediately and stir into serving bowls.  Do not freeze with ditalini because it will turn into a sticky mess.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday Links: Winter Soups

Tuscan Bean Soup from The Italian Dish
The snow is coming.  The air is expectant with the incoming storm, and the anticipation is killing me.  We got our first storm a couple weeks ago, but this one is supposed to leave snow measured in feet.  With opening day coming up in two weeks, we are all ready for the flakes to fall.  I love soup on a snowy night.  The windows in my tiny house steam up, and outside is still and beautiful, reminding me of what I love about living in the mountains.  Here is a roundup of delightful soups for your snowy (or just cold...) weekend.

The Italian: Tuscan Bean Soup
The French: French Lentil Soup
The Vietnamese: Vegetarian Pho

And from the archives at SG:

The simple classic: Potato Leek Soup
The healthy choice: Black Bean Soup
The party dish: Chicken Chili
The travel-inspired: Quinoa Soup

Enjoy the weekend, and make some soup!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Shrimp Phad Thai and a Desert Weekend

We got our first big snow a couple weeks ago, and promptly loaded our bikes and tent in the car for the quick(ish) 3 1/2 hour drive to the desert of Moab, UT where the sun was shining and it was 70 degrees.  We rode the famous Slickrock Trail, as well as the popular (almost famous) UPS to LPS to Porcupine Rim shuttle route.  While Slickrock was fun, I loved the shuttle ride.  Maybe it was the 2 miles of climbing for 16 miles of downhill, or the lack of other riders, or the beautiful views of Castle Valley, but I would highly recommend it.

After our ride on Sunday, we stopped at the Thai restaurant in town for a very early dinner (5pm), and promptly devoured our HUGE servings in about 10 minutes before hitting the road.  Generally we are believers in slow food, but we were starving. My all time favorite Thai dish is Phad See Ew, but I have never found the wide rice noodles, so at home I tend to make Phad Thai.  

Castle Valley
I am not Thai, nor have I been to Thailand, so I am sure this recipe is not all that authentic.  I know it has more veggies than the traditional Phad Thai, but that is how I like it.  I think the sauce is fairly accurate, so you could omit the broccoli and pepper, and garnish with bean sprouts for a more "real" version.  Some Moab photos are at the end.

Shrimp Phad Thai

for the sauce:
  • 1 to 1.5 Tbsp. tamarind paste , to taste
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock*
  • 1 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • 1.5 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. sirracha
  • 1 tsp chili flakes
  • 3-4 Tbsp. palm sugar OR brown sugar
  1. Place all ingredients in a cup and stir to dissolve both tamarind paste and sugar. At this point the sauce should taste strong.
  2. Use immediately, or store refrigerated up to 2 weeks.
  3. Makes enough for 1 batch of Phad Thai (below).
*you can substitute vegetable stock or water, just add ~1 TB oil to the sauce

Make the Phad Thai:
  • 6 oz Phad Thai Brown Rice Noodles
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 cup firm tofu, cubed
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 red bell pepper, julienned
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 pound raw shrimp, tails and shells removed
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 batch Phad Thai Sauce
  • Cilantro and lime for garnish
  1. Boil 2 quarts water and then remove from heat.  Place the noodles in the water until just limp but not fully cooked. Remove and set aside.
  2. While the water is boiling heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large saute pan or wok (this is one recipe that I use non-stick for).
  3. Add onion and a sprinkle of salt and stir until translucent (about 1-2 minutes).
  4. Push onions aside, and fry tofu until brown in the center of the pan.
  5. Add broccoli, red pepper and garlic, and cook 1-2 minutes.
  6. Push pan contents to 1 side and cook shrimp until beginning to turn pink.
  7. Push shrimp to side, and add the beaten egg.  Do not stir 1-2 minutes until beginning to cook through. Break up with your spoon and mix into rest of dish.
  8. Add the noodles and sauce and stir to combine.
  9. Reduce heat to low. Cover and steam until broccoli is soft and noodles are tender 1-2 minutes.
  10. Serve garnished with cilantro and a wedge of lime.

Slickrock Trail and the La Sal Mountains

Thanks Kristi for the ride in your sweet VW

Castle Valley View from UPS
The Rim

Riding Porcupine

Headed to the river
Finish of Porcupine Rim