Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Simmered Kabocha Squash

I got this wonderfully simple recipe from the Kitazawa Seed Co. catalog, though mom says she used to make it all the time, which must be why it tastes so comfortingly familiar. I like to make it when I'm feeling under the weather, but in general it's a useful and colorful side-dish, especially for Japanese-style meals. It can be served hot or cold (when it's cold it makes a great late-night snack).

1 medium sized kabocha squash
~1 qt. dashi (recommended), chicken broth, or water
2-3 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. mirin or dry sherry (optional)
2 Tbsp. soy sauce

Wash the squash, cut it in half, and scoop out the seeds. Cut it into 1 1/2" square chunks, leaving the skin on (keeps the pieces from breaking apart). Place it in a suitable saucepan with the skin side down. Add enough dashi or broth to cover, and add brown sugar and mirin. Cover and bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes. Add the soy sauce and simmer for 7 more minutes. When the squash is tender (but not mush), remove from heat. Allow to sit and cool for a few minutes so the squash can absorb the flavor. Serve hot or cold.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Minestrone Soup

My minestrone, made with potatoes, carrots, small red beans, green beans, fresh tomatoes, and sproingy noodles. All just stuff I had on hand.

I just learned a great tip for making this free-form soup: add a couple spoonfuls of pesto at the end! I thought I should post the recipe (or more like, guidelines) as a reminder of this tasty dish. There are basically no rules for minestrone, so just use what you have on hand. I added a ham hock by simmering it for a long time in the broth and cutting the meat off of it to add to the finished soup, but you can use pancetta or bacon or just leave it vegetarian if you like.

Rainbow of colors, get ready to turn into rainbow of flavors!

several pieces pancetta or bacon (or 2 Tbsp. olive oil)
mirepoix (onion, celery, and carrots, diced)
red pepper flakes (optional)
3-4 c. stock or water
1 can tomato sauce
a few dashes of red wine
bay leaves
mixed vegetables, diced:
--white things like potatoes, parsnips, or celeriac
--summer squash or winter squash
--additional carrots or celery
--chopped fresh or canned tomatoes
--green things like green beans, peas, collards or spinach
1 can kidney or canellini beans, drained
2 Tbsp. pesto (or equivalent herbs and garlic)
cooked small noodles (~1/2 box) or 2 c. cooked rice
salt & pepper
parmesan for garnish

In a heavy-bottomed soup pot, render the fat from the bacon or pancetta, or heat up the oil. Add the bay leaves and red pepper flakes. Saute the mirepoix over medium-high heat until it is tender and begins to brown on the edges.

Add the stock, red wine, and tomato sauce and bring to a gentle boil.

Begin adding the vegetables, with the densest ones first. For instance, add the potatoes and cook for 10 minutes before adding the green beans. Once the vegetables are 90% cooked, add the beans. Reduce the heat to a simmer and stir in the pesto. Stir in the rice or noodles.

Adjust the seasonings and serve piping hot with freshly grated parmesan. This is delicious with crusty bread and makes excellent planned-overs.

NOTE: An awesome and 'authentic' touch is to simmer the soup with a piece rind from the parmesan cheese. It gives a great flavor, but I already used my rind for the last soup I made, so I couldn't use it this time!

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Alex requested this recipe, which was a fun opportunity to look at my Jr. High School-era handwriting on the recipe card. I learned to make pannekoeken in Home Ec. in 7th grade (surely that class has since been eliminated or at least renamed) . It is like a large popover or a very eggy panckake that's baked, and is typically served for breakfast. The whole thing puffs up when you bake it and then the edges fall inwards.

One example of a pannekoeken. They puff up higher if you preheat the pan and butter good 'n' hot, but this was the first batch and I was impatient.

Preheat oven to 45o. Coat a circular baking dish (ideally one with high sides) with melted butter.

1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. milk
2 eggs

Beat until smooth. Pour the batter into the buttered pan and sprinkle the top with cinnamon and sugar. Bake for 15 minutes, until it puffs up and browns on the edges. Serve as quickly as possible, because it will fall as it cools. I like to serve it with maple syrup, but it is also good with fresh or canned fruit.

NOTE: This recipe doesn't double well, so if you want more pannekoeken, you should just make it one batch at a time. This recipe makes enough for one very hungry person.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Spareribs part 2: jerk

This is the 2nd half of the spareribs I braised before. I prepared them jerk style, but sorta half assed so while they still turned out delicious, they did not spirit my palate away to the Caribbean.

The jerk marinade was about 1 part cider vinegar, 1 part water, half a lime's juice, a bunch of chopped scallions, and a bit each of thyme, allspice, cumin, and coriander. I blended this with a bullion cube for good measure and a couple tablespoons of brown sugar. It probably would have worked if I had properly marinated the meat, but I didn't do it until about 10 minutes before prep so there was minimal penetration of the flavor into the meat. I compensated by basted it as it barbecued.

Using Lil's tried and true method of dividing the coals with a big foil roasting pan, I slow cooked the meat for about 2.5 hours, basting it with the sauce and turning it every 30 or so. What you see above is the result, with a pronounced smoke ring into the meat. It was delicious.

Here is the final serving, with some frijoles, fried egg, grilled onions (as always when I light the grill), and fried plantains:

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Chicken Saltimbocca

I haven't been cooking that much lately (my energies have instead been spent on pickling and preserving things), but tonight I got back into the kitchen and put together an excellent meal. Saltimbocca (literally, 'jumps in your mouth') can be made with chicken, veal, or pork cutlets, and this time I opted for boneless, skinless chicken thighs. It's wrapped in prosciutto, though I used some awesome, thin-sliced, Canadian bacon from Anoka Meats, which was surprising similar to prosciutto. The key ingredient is fresh sage, so if you don't have any just let me know and I will give you some! I have plenty in my garden. Some people add capers to the dish, some people add spinach, but I like to just keep it simple. Make it however you like.

Yummy yummy! You can't see the sage, but it's underneath the outer layer of the rolls. It give the dish its characteristic flavor, which you don't taste very often.

1 - 1 1/2 lbs. chicken, veal, or pork cutlets
enough thin sliced prosciutto so that you can wrap each cutlet in it
1 handful whole fresh sage leaves (sliver 2-3 of them for later)
salt and white pepper
flour for dredging
3 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 c. chicken broth
2 Tbsp. white wine
1/2 lemon, juiced

Pound your meat out flat with a meat pounder. Sprinkle both sides lightly with salt and white pepper. Press 2-3 sage leaves onto one side of each piece. On top of the sage and meat, place enough prosciutto to roughly cover each piece. Roll the pieces so that the prosciutto is on the outside (with a layer of sage inbetween it and the meat).

Fresh out of the pan. They look a little scary in the photo but I assure you they're delicious. I just poured the sauce over them before serving.

While you do the next step, gently heat 2 Tbsp. of the butter and the olive oil in a medium frying pan. Lightly dredge the meat rolls in flour and secure with toothpics if you like. Gently fry the rolls over medium heat, turning with tongs during cooking so that each side gets browned. TIP: if you don't want to use toothpicks, cook the side with the seam first to keep them from unrolling.

When the rolls are cooked thoroughly and golden brown on all sides, remove them from the pan and keep them warm. Deglaze the pan with the chicken broth and lemon juice and allow it to reduce by 1/3. Whisk 1 Tbsp. flour (you can just take this from the dredging plate) into the wine and then pour this into the deglazing liquid, stirring constantly. Allow this to thicken and add the slivered sage leaves and remaining Tbsp. butter, and adjust the salt. Pour the sauce over the rolls or serve it on the side.

I served these with mashed potatoes and patty pan squash sauteed with green beans. Just heat some olive oil, add a couple of minced cloves of garlic, add the squash and green beans, and season with fresh parsley, salt, and ground pepper. Voila--quick and easy!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

White Beans with Bastirma

I got this wonderful recipe from the Almost Turkish recipe blog. Bastirma is a salted, highly seasoned, pressed beef product that you can find at the deli counter in Holy Land. I think it fulfills the role a pork product like bacon would fill in non-Muslim (or Jewish) cuisine. It has a complex, salty flavor, with a lot of paprika in it. It's well worth buying and is also very good in scrambled eggs and fried potatoes.

Here's a domestic brand of bastirma. They have several at Holy Land, so you might find a pack that doesn't look exactly like this. They are probably all tasty, though I hear that the stuff imported from Turkey is more intensely flavored.

1 lb. cannellini beans, soaked overnight (or 2 cans, drained)
1/2 pack of bastirma strips (10-12 pieces), shredded
butter or olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 banana peppers, chopped
1 Tbsp. pepper or tomato paste
2 tomatoes, diced (or 1 can petite diced tomatoes)
1 tsp. crushed pepper
1 tsp. dried mint
1 tsp. oregano
salt to taste
2 c. water or broth

All of the ingredients assembled. Please excuse my bizarre food experiments in the background. The peppers came from my co-worker's garden and the tomatoes are some of the very few ripe ones I produced!

Soak the cannelini beans for 8-12 hrs. and boil or pressure cook them until they are tender but a little undercooked. Drain well.

In a heavy-bottomed pot, saute the onions in oil until they become soft and translucent, adding the garlic part way through. Add the peppers and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the pepper/tomato paste and stir well so that it coats the veggies and is fully distributed.

Stir in the tomatoes, using the liquid they give off to scrape any brown bits off of the bottom of the pot. Add the black pepper, mint, and oregano. Stir in the bastirma pieces and cook for a minute or so to release the flavors.

Add the drained beans and combine everything together thoroughly. Add enough water/broth so that the beans are submerged by ~3/4" liquid. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for one hour. (You can also use the pressure cooker here, but I think you get better flavor from a slow cooking).

This looks about a thousand times better in the Almost Turkish photo, so seriously just click on that. It's really, really tasty though--I promise!

When the beans are completely tender, remove from heat and salt to taste. Serve with buttered crusty bread and, if you like, freshly grated parmesan.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Emma Fischer's Apple Pudding

I can't believe that I haven't posted this until now. This is the Magidow family's all-time favorite recipe involving apples; it was given to me by a dear friend who died an early and untimely death; each time I make it I think of her. To Toni!

Fill buttered baking dish with chopped and peeled apples. Sprinkle with sugar and dot with butter. Put in medium oven (350) while making the batter:

1/2 cup soft butter
1 cup sugar

Cream butter and sugar well. Add:

1 well-beaten egg
1 small cup flour sifted with 1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoon vanilla

Pour (or plop) batter over apples and bake 45 minutes or until brown. Serve hot from the oven. Invite your friends. Makes a great breakfast treat, too.

As you can see, there is no specific amount of apples, just kind of mound them up so they don't fall out of the pan. The batter will seem kind of sticky, but it melts into a lovely, golden crust. It is a great alternative to pie or apple crumble and most people have all these ingredients handy.

Happy Fall!

Sea Foam Pancakes

A good old Magidow recipe, posted here for posterity so I don't have to search around my computer for the recipe every time I need it:

3 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold water
3/4 cup matzo meal
3 egg whites, stiffly beaten
fat for deep frying

Beat together the egg yolks, salt, water. Stir in the matzo meal and fold in the egg whites. Heat the oil to 375 and drop the batter into it by the tablespoon. Fry until browned on both sides. Drain. Top with cinnamon sugar or maple syrup. Serves 3-4 very small people who aren't very hungry.*

* this recipe does not "double" well. It is best to make it twice (in two different bowls) to make twice as many.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Braised spareribs

Here are some tasty meaty bits prepared via my favorite method: braising. Quick recap: this means browning in a heavy pan at very high heat to get a tasy sear, then covering the meat about halfway with a flavorful liquid, sealing the pan as airtight as possible, and baking it at a relatively very low temperature (~225 degrees) for 2+ hours.

In this case, the tasty liquid was about 2 parts red wine, 1 part water. I sprinkled the meat with salt and pepper first, but otherwise there was no seasoning. You want the liquid to be gently bubbling, but not at a rolling boil; this is difficult to gauge since you must seal the container, but using tinfoil makes it pretty easy to replace the lid. Or, if your oven's thermostat is pretty accurate, just aim at a little over the boiling point (212). The heaviest pot you have is important, but cast iron or other reactive materials will change the color of the sauce (although with a red wine sauce it wont be too noticeable).

When they're done (about 2.5 hours in this case) remove the meat, wrap in foil, and get reducing. I never have the patience to produce a true demi glace, but the difference is 10% less texture with 100% of the flavor. Stick the braising liquid over medium-high heat, and reduce by at least 75% (to make a demi glace you'll be left with about 10% of the liquid you started with, and the last 10 minutes or so require close attention so it doesnt burn).

I added a spoonful of my homemade extra-hot mustard, some diced scallions, and a healthy drizzle of maple syrup. Sides were some of momma's garden beans and parsely mashed potatoes.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Fasuliya - Green Bean Stew

If you're anything like me, you have more green beans than you can deal with right now. Even if you don't, this is an easy and versatile dish that can either be a vegetarian side-dish or a meaty main entree. You can even use frozen green beans, so this would be a welcome taste of summer when you're raiding the freezer for vegetables in the middle of winter.

I first had this dish in Jordan, and was pleased to find the recipe at Summer Bahrain's wonderful Mimi Cooks Middle Eastern food blog. I followed her instructions pretty closely, so you can view the recipe there, but I will re-post it here for convenience.

If you want to make this a heartier meaty main-dish, add some ground beef, lamb or beef cubes, or kufta meat balls. It's delicious with rice or as a side-dish. Many of the ingredients are optional, so just make it how you like.

~1 lb. green beans, trimmed and cut into 1.5" pieces
2 Tbsp. cooking oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 chili pepper, chopped (optional)
1 bunch cilantro, chopped (optional)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 small can tomato paste
2-3 c. water or broth, boiling
1 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp. cinnamon or allspice, whichever you prefer
1-2 fresh tomatoes, diced (optional)

In a medium-sized soup pot, saute the onions in oil until tender and starting to brown. Add the chili pepper and cook 1-2 more minutes. Meanwhile, dissolve the tomato paste in the broth. Add the garlic, green beans, and cilantro to the pot and stir. Add the black pepper, salt, and allspice. Pour the broth mixture over, scraping any onion bits off the bottom of the pan. The beans should be almost submerged, with a few sticking over the broth level (add more broth if necessary).

*If you want to add meat, cook it in a separate pan and then add to the beans before the next step. Deglaze any drippings off the bottom of the meat pan and add them to the beans.

Stir in the tomato chunks and bring the pot to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook for 30 minutes, or until the green beans are tender. Adjust the seasoning as necessary.