Sunday, April 22, 2018

Farro Salad with Shrimp

This got expensive for something I made to use a head of Romaine out of the garden.  (Yes, I'm gloating that I actually have Romaine that hasn't been recalled.)  I'm considering the $6 bag of farro (wheat) an investment that will pop up in several dishes over the upcoming months, like the bulgur.  Then I put shrimp and asparagus on the salad.  The carrots and salad dressing were from pantry and garden ingredients, but this still ran on the high end of how I normally shop.  It reminded me of a Cheesecake Factory salad, only much smaller.

This idea was also born on a day that I went to the funeral of a 95 year old choir member and found out that a 21 year old coworker had developed Bell's palsy.  I'd much rather end up like the 95 year old and decided to make something healthy, even though Bell's is from nerve inflammation and generally unpredictable.  The real trick is making something nutritious that doesn't taste like you were trying to be a health nut.  This has a good amount of protein, fiber, and iron while being low in salt and "bad" fats.  Basically, how we're supposed to eat.

I forgot to buy feta, but a few crumbles on top would add a nice touch.  You don't need a side bread or croutons, because farro is wheat.  It ends up tasting like brown rice when cooked.  I decided to blanch the asparagus and carrots to go with the cooked aspect of the wheat, and everything was still a little warm when it was served.  I would go for room temperature normally for this.

Salad
1 C dry farro
1 heart of Romaine
2 carrots, cut in matchsticks
1/2 lb asparagus, cut in 2" lengths
*1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tb butter
1 lb peeled raw shrimp, size optional

Dressing
Juice of half a lemon
1/4 C white wine vinegar
1/4 C olive oil
*1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste

1.  Combine farro and 3 C water in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a low boil over medium heat.  Lower heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until softened, about 30 minutes.  Drain any remaining water and refrigerate until ready to use.

2.  Refill saucepan with 2" of water.  Bring it to a boil, add asparagus and carrot pieces, and turn off the heat.  Let the veggies sit in the warm water for about 5 minutes.  You want them softened and with a brighter color, but not completely cooked.  Drain, rinse with cool water, and refrigerate until needed.

3.  For the dressing, combine all of its ingredients in a bowl or cup and whisk until mixed.  It's going to settle out before you use it and you'll have to whisk it again, but this will help the flavors to meld.  If you're serving the salad within an hour, you don't need to refrigerate the already room-temperature ingredients.  If not, stick it in the fridge.

4.  Chop the Romaine very finely, more like a chiffonade that's been cut up again.  That will help it to mix evenly with the farro.  Toss lettuce with the cooled veggies, farro, and dressing.  Plate if being served within the hour, or refrigerate and let the dressing soak into the wheat.

5.  Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add the other clove of minced garlic and allow it to get fragrant.  Add the shrimp and cook until pink at least half of the way through, 3 or 4 minutes.  Don't disturb the shrimp and they'll get that pretty, browned, crusty look.  Flip and sear the other side until they're pink all the way through.  Top salads with the warm shrimp and serve.

Difficulty rating  :)

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Tea Time: A New Label

I don't often add a label category.  Too many tabs make it harder to find what you need, not easier.

I'm already thinking of this summer's tea party, which I'm determined to have.  Then I realized it would be easier to look through my recipes if they were labeled as tea-specific.  Fine, I'll go through all 900 posts to figure out what fits in the category.  Truthfully, that's a serious percentage of the recipes on this site.

I could have easily placed all cookies and drinks into the category, but only added the ones most obviously tea-related.  A great deal of pies, rolls, and egg dishes made it in, all the scones, and practically the entire appetizer section.  The criteria were pretty broad.  Not everything needs to be utensil-free.  What I did omit was most of the jams.  I don't need a label to tell me that jam goes on scones when they're served at tea.  The lightest and most unique cakes are there.  A few quick breads and heartier items are included for winter teas.

Hope that browsing the category gives you ideas for what to serve at your own tea party!

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Post-Passover Restock

Sprouts had a 25% off beans sale the weekend Passover ended.  I kind of went nuts, but I didn't buy anything I don't actually use.  I was just that out of chometz.  When you use dried beans, you have to have some things on hand because you need to soak them the night before.  I usually buy two or three items out of the bins per visit.  Let's just say I don't have to worry about bags for the litter box for a while.

I also got everything that didn't need to be frozen out of the freezer and rearranged the pantry.  I am so making a batch of bacon-something!  I can also have products with corn syrup in them again.  Ice cream, chocolate (without stopping to read the label), and pretty much everything in the American diet.  I'm also not getting hungry as often.  It isn't because of the extra calories, but because I'm eating foods that stick with you better.
After trying all winter to grow chives from seed, I finally gave up.  There was a package of "living herbs" at the market, roots attached.  I snipped off what I needed for a batch of ranch dressing and planted the rest in the chives pot.  Slightly more expensive than the chive seed packet, but already infinitely more productive.

The main thing I haven't bought is sliced bread.  I have that personal rule I can't buy a loaf until the matzo is gone.  However, now that I can put peanut butter on it, that should happen soon.  I only had half a box left when Passover ended.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Matzo-Crusted Salmon

I tend to eat a lot of fish during Passover because it's Pareve (neither meat nor dairy), and I can have dairy in another part of the meal.  Most Americans consider fish a meat, but kosher rules do not.

I found a surprising number of recipes like this online.  Surprising because I was only looking to get an oven temperature.  It isn't hard to crumb-coat a piece of fish.  The few I read had problems with them that made them unusable for Passover.  Whole Foods's recipe put mustard in the mayo coating.  One of the others was fine up to the point where they suggested pairing it with green beans.  For Passover, I'm also assuming you sprang for the KLP mayo.  Now, if you're just making this to get rid of some of the excess matzo, do whatever you want.  I'm not going to judge.

And that's not rice on the side.  It's tricolor quinoa, cooked with beet greens and some salt.  Another KLP rule that's kind of iffy but works in my favor.  By this meal, I was starting to get "Passover hungry" because everything was too healthy and didn't keep me full.

4 5oz salmon portions (a little over a pound)
*1 piece matzoh
2 Tb mayonnaise
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/4 tsp dried dill
olive oil if needed
lemon or tartar sauce for serving

1.  Start preheating the oven to 400º.  Place matzo, salt, pepper, and dill in a food processor.  Run until it makes breadcrumbs.  Pour crumbs into a shallow dish.
2.  Check the fish for pin bones and discard.  Brush mayo onto the tops of the salmon portions.  Mine came with skin attached, so that automatically became the bottom.  If you have skinless portions, line the baking dish with foil and spread oil on it.
3.  Dip the mayo side of the salmon into the crumbs.  Since I only made three, I coated the sides as well.  For four, one matzoh will probably only cover the tops.

4.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, depending on thickness.  You want them to only just barely cook through.

5.  Serve with lemon juice, tartar sauce, or (because it's pareve) cream sauce.

Difficulty rating  π

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Passover Carrot Scones

These were supposed to be muffins.  Then they didn't spread out in the oven and came out slightly dense.  Instead of figuring out what was wrong with the recipe, I decided to rebrand them.  Yes, scones use butter and not oil.  These taste like muffins, but have the resilience and portability of scones.

I'm not sure why chemical leavenings are ok on Passover (assuming they have a KLP designation).  You can use baking soda or powder with matzoh cake meal or potato starch and it's acceptable.  I've never done it before because I don't agree with the concept.  I guess it's because you're not waiting for anything to rise.  You can mix this and get it in the oven before fermentation starts.

I had a beautiful stand of carrots that were ready to pull.  Got to get them out so there's room to plant new ones.  Can't believe I'm already thinking about what I want to plant for summer.  A few went into the Roast over Vegetables, and two ended up here.  I had planned to use any "ugly" carrots in the scones and save the pretty ones for the roast, but they were all good.  So I used the fattest and smallest, and the middle ones were all about the same size.

I think my issue with home made carrot cake is that it doesn't taste carroty enough.  I decided to solve that problem by blanching the shredded carrot before stirring it into the batter.  Yes, it's an extra step and more dishes to wash, but you can cut down on the sugar and achieve the same flavor.  I also subbed in applesauce for some of the oil and sugar, like in the zucchini bread.

This is my 900th post!  Sure, there have been too many gardening, remodeling, and presentation discussions just to assure everyone I haven't given up some weeks, but I really do have a pretty decent catalog of recipes.  I delve into it myself frequently.  Like your mom's recipe box, but more organized and less splattered.

1/3 C sugar
*1 C matzoh cake meal
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 Tb cinnamon
1/4 C oil
1/2 C applesauce
1/4 C milk
2 eggs
2 C shredded carrots (raw)
1/4 C chopped walnuts (optional)
1/4 C raisins (optional)

1.  Place carrot shreds in a  saucepan with water to cover.  Bring to a simmer for 3 minutes.  Drain.  Leave in the sieve to keep draining while you get the rest of the batter ready.

2.  Start preheating oven to 350º and line a baking sheet with parchment or Silpat.  Combine dry ingredients.  Separately, beat together oil, applesauce, milk, and eggs.  This is going to look like too much liquid, but matzoh meal soaks it up like a sponge.
3.  Stir together wet and dry ingredients.  Unlike with flour muffins, you can't over mix these.  Stir in carrot shreds, nuts, and raisins.  It's still going to be pretty thick.

4.  Drop batter in 1/4 C mounds on baking sheet.  Bake for 20 minutes, until the jagged edges start to get dark.  Remove from pan to cool.

Makes one dozen

Difficulty rating  :)

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Passover Cream Puff Shells

When I saw this recipe in the L.A. Times last year, it went on my list of things to make for 2018's Seder.  The recipe is basically the same as choux paste, just a little heavier on the egg to make up for using matzoh cake meal.  Both are leavened by steam, with egg creating the structure.  These are basically the same thing as the "soup nuts" sold around Passover, only larger.

I had no intention of making two dozen, however, for only a single table of diners.  And it had 5 eggs in it.  A little food math later, I did turn this into a 2-egg recipe.  Stupid prime numbers.  Look for crazy amounts in tablespoons.

Also like standard profiteroles, these are neutral.  You don't have to make them into desserts, but I did.  I flavored some whipping cream with strawberry-lavender syrup and sprinkled blueberries on it. You could just as easily fill these with tuna salad, brie, or veggie cream cheese for a savory snack.

1/2 C water
4 Tb unsalted butter, cut in chunks
1/4 tsp salt
9-1/2 Tb (1/2 C + 1-1/2 Tb) matzo cake meal
2 eggs

1.  Preheat oven to 400ºF with a rack in the middle or lower-middle setting.  Line baking sheet with parchment or Silpat.

2.  In a small saucepan, combine the water, salt, and butter over medium-low heat.  Melt butter, then bring to a boil.  Add the matzo cake meal all at once.  Stir briskly with a wooden spoon until mixture is a thick paste, about 1 minute.  Remove from heat and allow to cool about 5 minutes.
3.  Beat eggs into mixture one at a time.  By hand is fine.  If you make the 5-egg recipe, go ahead and get the stand mixer dirty.  Continue to mix until dough is smooth and not oily.

4.  You can go all pastry bag at this point (or ziplock with the corner cut off), or make them more "rustic" by mounding with a spoon.  Since these are matzoh, keep them fairly small.  Anything between a soup nut and a slider should be ok.  I wouldn't go as big as, say, a McDonald's hamburger.  You can make them that big with regular choux paste, but they would get too heavy with this stuff.  If there are any points, dip a finger in water and flatten them out so they don't burn.
5.  Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 375º and bake until golden and firm, 14 to 20 more minutes, depending on size.

6.  Turn off oven, leave it open a crack, and leave the puffs in there for 30 more minutes to dry out.  If your oven has a low-temp convection setting, like a dehydrator, you can use that.

7.  Remove puffs from the oven and, using a very sharp knife, pierce one side near the middle.  This will allow any remaining moisture to escape so they don't get stale or soggy as fast.

8.  If all the puffs didn't fit in the oven the first time, reheat it to 400º and put them in.  It's ok for the paste to have been at room temperature for an hour, but I wouldn't go past two.

9.  It's best to use the shells on the same day they're made.  You can store them for one day in a sealed container at room temperature.  They can also be frozen as soon as they're cooled.  In either of the storage scenarios, a quick trip through the toaster oven or a low-temp oven will crisp them back up.  Once filled, try to serve them within a few hours.

Yield depends on size (1 dozen 2-inch)

Difficulty rating  :-0

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Beef Roast Over Vegetables

When I saw Michael Symon make this on The Chew a few weeks ago, I knew this would have to be my Seder dinner.  Low effort, as cheap or expensive as I felt like making it, and impressive in presentation.  Plus, after last year's potato bar, I kind of owed everyone some meat.

Also as a result of the potato bar, I didn't use potatoes as one of my root vegetables.  I pulled some carrots, and radishes that had gone so long they were bolting.  Parsnips, onions, turnips, and fennel from the market rounded out the selection.  I think I spent more on veggies than the roast, which was on sale for $4 a pound.
I was really nervous about staking my dinner party reputation on a chuck roast.  When someone says Chuck, I think of stew, fondue, or chili.  Maybe beef vegetable soup.  I don't think of having people over for a ritual meal.  My nice set of flatware doesn't even have steak knives.

It did come out a bit tougher than a more expensive cut of meat, but nothing that the not-so-pretty steak knives couldn't handle.  Most important, it was done as much as I wanted it, which was slightly more than medium-rare on the ends and true medium-rare in the middle.  Only the two end slices were medium.

3 lb chuck roast
2 small onions, quartered
1 lb small Yukon potatoes, halved
4 thin carrots, peeled
2 parsnips, peeled and cut in half
2 C water
kosher salt, pepper, paprika
olive oil
fresh herbs such as thyme and rosemary, bundled

1.  The night before, generously season meat with salt, pepper, and paprika on all sides.  Leave in fridge, uncovered, for at least 12 hours to dry-marinate (rub).
2.  Remove roast from fridge and allow to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 450º.  Line a roasting pan with foil.  (I barely had to wash it after.)

3.  Distribute prepared vegetables in roasting pan.  Nestle herb bundles among the veggies.  Sprinkle with kosher salt and cracked black pepper.  Drizzle lightly with olive oil.  Place roast on top of vegetables.  Drizzle meat with more oil.  Add water to the bottom of the pan.  Don't wash the spices off the meat.
4.  Bake at 450º for 30 minutes, then turn down oven to 275º.  I also rotated the pan.  That's the photo at the top of the post.  You can see that this is when the dark crust forms.  Continue to roast at 275º in 30-minute increments.  Check temperature starting at the next 30-minute (1 hr total) mark and baste meat with pan juices every time you check it.  When thickest part of roast reaches 125º, you have achieved rare to medium-rare in the middle and close to medium on the ends.  For me, that was at the 1-1/2 hour total time mark with a 2-1/2 lb roast.  It was also too early, so I turned my oven down to 140º for a half hour before pulling it out.  If you like a more done roast, go to 135º.  Be careful, it happens quickly.

5.  Remove the roast from the oven and allow to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes, about 10 minutes per pound.  Also how long it takes us to do the first part of the Seder.  Remove roast from pan and slice across the grain.  Place on serving platter with vegetables and spoon pan juices over it.  I also had a gravy boat on the side with more juice.  What I don't have is a picture, because we were hungry and I forgot.  I took a picture of what was left.
Serves 8

Difficulty rating  :)

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Braised Lamb with Blackberry Sauce

By the time I remembered to get a lamb shank for the Seder plate, lamb bones were few and far between at the market.  There was plenty of ground and boneless lamb, lamb for stew, and a couple of sad, fatty chops.  There was also one package of neck cuts that was 30% off.  Close enough.

Really, the only good way to cook lamb neck slices is slow braised, which is how I was going to do the hypothetical lamb shanks anyway.  There isn't a whole lot of effort involved, but you do have to start dinner early.

I'm using blackberry jam for the sauce.  You've already spent enough time braising the lamb.  Here's a time-saver at the end.  Actually, I used blackberry rhubarb jam because I still have two jars of it from last year's canning.  If you can't find blackberry jam, you can buy fresh or frozen blackberries and cook them down with sugar and a little water in about fifteen minutes.  Again, I was trying to save you some effort.

2 lbs bone-in lamb shanks or neck slices
1 Tb olive oil
1 onion, chopped
*1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp dried rosemary
kosher salt and pepper to taste
*1/2 C blackberry jam
*1 Tb Marsala (optional)

1.  Drizzle oil into a large soup pot and warm over medium heat.  Sauté onion until translucent.  Add lamb and garlic.  Cook until lamb is browned on all sides.

2.  Add water to cover.  Add rosemary and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cover.  Cook for about 2-1/2 to 3 hours, until meat is falling off the bones.  Check every hour or so to make sure it isn't boiling and there's enough water.  If the meat is only sticking up a little, you can just turn it and don't have to add water.
3.  For the sauce, warm jam in a small saucepan.  Add Marsala and a tablespoon of the broth, more if you want a thinner sauce.  Stir until uniform.

4.  Remove meat from saucepan.  You've just made a lamb bone broth, so I suggest straining it and saving the quart or so of liquid.  Once refrigerated overnight, you can remove the fat (which I also saved) and have a rich stock.  I made a batch of harira with it that was amazing.

5.  Traditionally, one lamb shank is a serving, but that can be a lot of meat.  Depending on how big they are, you may choose to take the meat off the bones and serve it in pieces.  I had to do that with the neck slices, and it simply looked like pulled lamb with a few larger pieces.  Serve with sauce.

Difficulty rating  π

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Mashed Turnips with Sauerkraut

The idea of mashed turnips reminds me of Little House on the Prairie.  I want to say they were a big deal in one of the books.  Anyway, I had some cream in the fridge and decided to make some.  Then there was some leftover sauerkraut from corned beef sandwiches, and I figured I'd put that in, too.  Turnip is already a little tangy.  This would just up that a notch.

For those who are hesitant to try something that kind of looks like a purple and white potato, but isn't, I can put your fears to rest.  Turnips are simply another kind of root vegetable.  They don't make it onto American tables as often as they used to.  As a result, they tend to be more expensive than potatoes.  Not by much, just enough to make everyone think they're unusual.  The more that food trends go towards ingredients which have fallen out of favor in the past 100 years, the lower those prices get.  There have been times that carrots have been pricier, because fewer people were eating them and farmers didn't grow as many to avoid a glut.  It's all economics and what the government is willing to subsidy.

1 lb turnips, peeled and chopped into 1" to 2" pieces
1 Tb butter
*2 Tb cream
salt and pepper
*1/2 C drained sauerkraut
1.  Place chopped turnips in lightly salted water in a saucepan and bring to a low boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until a fork easily pierces, about 20 minutes.  Drain well.

2.  Mash cooked turnips, or beat with a beater or stand mixer, until broken up.  Add butter and cream and mix thoroughly.  Stir in sauerkraut, then taste.  Add salt and pepper as needed.  Serve hot.  If desired, top with more sauerkraut.

Difficulty rating  π

Monday, March 26, 2018

Passover Sorting

I spent what's probably the last two rainy days of the year doing the bulk of my Passover cleaning.  Except for the floor, the kitchen is done.  I'll scrub that the day before.  Everything is dusted, moved, laundered, and polished.  It's a huge feeling of accomplishment, and I wasn't doing anything else those days anyway.

The pantry does take a little while.  Everything comes out, shelf liners get washed, and everything goes back in, carefully sorted by what's chometz or not.

This year, I really appreciated the work I did painting the pantry.  The shelves only required a quick wipe down, and nothing needed to be scrubbed except the floor.

I didn't do too badly working off the chometz.  In the photo, the KLP is on the right and the chometz is on the left.  I had already put flour, cornmeal, and packaged baked goods in the chest freezer.  Without all that canola oil in the back, the left side is definitely smaller.  I was hoping the wasabi powder would be ok, but mustard is the second ingredient.

Sure, it's a little tempting to have foods on the top shelf that I can't eat for a week.  (Peanut butter...)  That's why households with children lock it up or "sell" it.  I trust myself to use willpower.  If it's not on the OK shelf, I don't touch it.  It's only a week.