Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Beet and Beet Green Salad

This is a great salad for when you've just pulled some beets out of the garden, and have both beets and greens. I've adapted it from here.

4 or so beets (maybe more if you have small garden beets)
The greens from those beets (or 1 bunch beet greens)
2 scallions
Some sort of crunchy nuts or seeds (sunflower, slivered almonds, roast pumpkin seeds)
Feta or other pungent tasty cheese (I used shanklish since it keeps more or less forever and I have some in the fridge.)
I also grated a carrot on top of the salad.

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil (not sure if this is really necessary)
1 tablespoon+ of the beet juice for a bit of sweetness

Cook beets until you can poke a fork in them easily. Skin using your fingers once they've cooled. Slice into rounds.

Blanch greens for 20-30 seconds in boiling water. I recommend undercooking them a little so they stay a bit greener. Once you remove them from the water, rinse them in cold water to stop cooking. Squeeze out the excess water.

Mix everything together, dress either at the table or per plate.

I even have a picture:

Czech Style Dumplings

These dumplings are a nice addition to stewy meals, especially for example goulash. The way I had them in Prague was sitting in the broth of the goulash in thin(1") slices. The recipe is adapted from here. Note that I've mostly halved the recipe - I left the yeast high, since it'll rise faster. This is a yeast bread, so it needs time to rise - plan ahead!

1 pk yeast (or 2.25 tsp yeast)
1 ts sugar
1/4 c milk; scalded and cooled
1/2 c milk; warm
1 egg
1/2 ts salt
1.5 c flour
1 slices white bread; cubed

Mix first three ingredients, let stand 10 minutes. Mix in everything else but bread cubes. Once mixed, add bread cubes, knead like bread. Let rise until doubled. Knead again, divide into equal sized logs (they suggest three in the original recipe - it depends on how wide you want the resulting circles.) Let rise again, for about half an hour. Boil gently for around 15 minutes.

Now, when done, what you're supposed to do is use a piece of thread to loop around the resulting logs and slice then into 1-2" thick cross sections. However, I'm lazy, and just used a very sharp knife, but they didn't look quite as perfect. I waited longer to cut some of the other logs, and I found that if you wait a bit, there's no real difference between thread or knives.

Here's a picture of them cooking:

And here's a nice picture of them next to the goulash (note how they're a little oblong due to me using a knife):

Spicy Spaghetti Bolognese

There's a zillion recipes for bolognese sauce, but this one worked well for me. Some people add cream at the end, but I find I don't like that as much. This one's really good if you can find hot pepper paste (usually associated with Hungary, but I have a Peruvian brand that's excellent). You can make it entirely un-spicy if you like, too.

2 large cans whole tomatoes, ideally Red Gold brand (or you can use 1 can puree and 1 can crushed if you don't have a blender)
1 lb ground beef
1 c. red wine
1/2 c. beef broth
1 onion, minced
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. fennel seeds (optional)
3 Tbsp. salt
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. red pepper (or tomato) paste
2 Tbsp. flour
1/2 c. water from boiling pasta
2 cloves garlic, crushed

Brown the ground beef and chop it up with your stirring device so that it's finely textured. If you have a pressure cooker, add 1/2 c. red wine and the 1/2 c. beef broth and cook for 15 minutes. If you don't have a pressure cooker, add the wine and broth and allow it to simmer 20 minutes.

Release pressure in cooker, if using. Cook away all the broth and then add the onions and spices and cook until the onions begin to soften, ~5 minutes. Add the flour, stir, and cook 2 minutes, then stir in the red pepper paste and cook 2 minutes more.

Drain one of the cans and save the liquid for another day. Coarsely chop the tomatoes from the can and set them aside to add to the sauce later. Blend the remaining can, liquid and all, until it's a fine puree (or just use pureed tomatoes, but blend them finer if you can). Add the pureed tomatoes, remaining 1/2 c. red wine, and olive oil to the pot and allow the sauce to simmer for 30 minutes. Add the remaining chopped tomatoes and the pasta water* and continue to simmer for another 30 minutes, or until the volume is reduced by half and the sauce is velvety.

*While it's simmering, cook the noodles in well-salted water, and reserve 1/2 c. of the water from boiling--this, along with the flour and the olive oil, will help emulsify the sauce.

At the very end, add the crushed garlic and cook the sauce one more minute. Adjust the salt if necessary. Serve over pasta, with a generous helping of parmesan on top.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Thick-cut Pork Chops

These intimidating chops were actually pretty easy to cook. They're called an "Iowa Chop", and they're just a thick-cut, bone-in, center-cut chop. I've discovered that the secret to juicy pork chops is to start with a cold pan and obsessively checking the temperature. I find they're best just under 160 degrees.

Pork Chops

2 1-lb. Iowa Chops
2-3 Tbsp. salt
2 Tbsp. white pepper
2 Tbsp. dried sage
2 Tbsp. Smoked (or regular) paprika
3 Tbsp. oil

Sauce (optional):
1/2 c. chicken broth
1/2 c. white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
2 Tbsp. corn starch
1 tsp. white pepper
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 c. cold water

Preheat the oven to 350.

Pat the chops dry with some paper towel. Sprinkle them liberally with the salt and spices and allow them to warm up to room temperature while you start the quinoa and chop the cauliflower.

Place the oil in your pan, but do not pre-heat the pan. Add the chops to the pan and place them on the stove. Heat the pan up to medium, turning the chop over after it browns on one side. Flip the chop and allow it to brown on the other side, ~3-5 min.

Look at those monsters! Dan was the one who picked them out--how extravagant!

Place the pan into the oven and bake the chops, uncovered, turning once or twice, until the internal temperature reaches ~155 (or just below that). This took 25 minutes for my chops. Remove the chops from the pan and losely place some tin foil over them. The internal temperature will rise to about 160.

Return the pan to the stove and add the chicken broth and white wine. Bring it to a simmer and allow it to reduce a bit and the alcohol to cook off. Taste as it cooks to make sure it doesn't get too salty. Stir the corn starch into the cold water and pour it into the pan, whisking the mixture as you go. Add some more white pepper and a blob of dijon mustard and allow it to simmer a few more moments, until the sauce is clear and thickened. Adjust the seasonings if need be.

You can get fancier with the sauce, but corn starch worked fine as a thickener.

Cooked to perfection! Dinner, and lunch the next day :)

Sunday, April 12, 2009


$4.50/lb right now at Shuang Hur!