Monthly Archives: January 2010

Beef and Baby Bok Choy

Beef and Baby Bok Choy

As much as I like making dinner at home, there is something about take-out I really enjoy.  Besides the minimal kitchen clean up, take-out is a chance to try cusine that we don’t usually make at home.  Often these are Asian cusines such as Korean, Indian, Thai, or Chinese.  I particularly like Chinese take-out.  The problem is, the Chinese food that is available where we live is not very good.  I don’t know about you, but I find it really frustrating when I get in my car, drive to a resturant, and spend good money all for food that is mediocre at best. 

Organic, locally grown baby bok choy... in the winter

Lately, when we want Chinese take-out, I have been taking matters into my own hands.  This recipe is a great example of how just a few ingredients put together really quickly can turn into a fantastic dinner… one that would put most of the Chinese resturants around here to shame. 

Beef (and garlic), it's what's for dinner

Since there are so few ingredients in this dish, make sure you use the best you can get.  For the beef I used an eye round rump roast that I sliced as thinly as possible.  The baby bok choy was young and tender and came from our deep winter CSA distribution (I love greens in the middle of winter!!).  The addition of a little sherry is really what makes this dish.  While this isn’t a classically Asian ingredient, when you add the dry sherry and it somehow takes the whole dish beyond the sum of the individual parts.  I don’t know how to explain it, but trust me, it happens. Served over steamed rice, the whole meal comes together in less than 30 minutes… you can’t even get take-out delivered that quickly.

Can you smell the deliciousness?

Beef and Baby Bok Choy

Adapted from The Produce Bible

Ingredients:

1 lb baby bok choy (about five small bunches)

2 tbls peanut oil

2 cloves garlic, crushed

8 ounces rump steak, thinly sliced*

2 tbls Tamari soy sauce (low sodium is best)

1 tbls dry sherry (please use something that you would drink on its own, the so-called “cooking sherry” is nasty stuff)

2 tbls chopped fresh basil

2 tsp sesame oil

To Make:

Wash the baby bok choy and drain.  Cut the leaves into thin strips.  Heat 1 tbls peanut oil in a large frying pan (or wok) over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic and stir-fry for 30 seconds.

Heat the remaining tbls peanut oil; add the meat in small batches, and stir-fry for 3 minutes over high heat until the meat has browned but not cooked through.  Remove from the pan and set aside.

Stir-fry the bok choy for 30 seconds or until it is just wilted.  Add the meat, soy sauce, and sherry.  Stir-fry for 2-3 minutes or until the meat is tender.  Add the basil and sesame oil and toss well.

To Serve:

Serve immediately over steamed rice, pouring any remaining sauce from the pan onto the plates.  Serves two as an entree.

* To make it easier to thinly slice the steak, put it in the freezer for 20 minutes prior to slicing.

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Citrus-Almond Bars

Citrus-Almond Bars

 

In my opinion, one of the best things about winter is the availability of fresh, US-grown citrus.  We try to eat locally as much as possible but in the middle of winter, I really start to miss fresh fruit.  Come January, my definition of local expands to include Florida so we can load up on oranges, grapefruits, and lemons. 

Filling ingredients

 

 In addition to providing lots of nutrients, all this citrus brings a much needed dose of sunshine into otherwise dreary days.  We eat oranges plain, juice lemons to add to sauces, and use all kinds of citrus to make desserts.  These citrus-almond bars are one of our favorites.  This recipe offers a little twist on the traditional lemon bar by using chopped almonds in the crust and a mix of lemon and orange juice and zest in the filling.  There are more almonds studding the top of the filling with a little extra crunch.  Dust the whole thing with powdered sugar once it has cooled and your wintery day suddenly seems a little bit brighter. 

Baked bars, dotted with almonds

 

Citrus Bars 

Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens Smoke Cooking 

Ingredients:

Crust

1/3 cup butter 

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

3 tbls finely chopped almonds 

Filling

2 eggs 

3/4 cup granulated sugar 

2 tbls almond meal (you can substitute all-purpose flour) 

The zest of one medium orange 

2 tbls freshly squeezed orange juice 

The zest of one lemon 

1 tbls freshly squeezed lemon juice 

1/2 tsp baking powder 

3 tbls finely chopped almonds 

Powdered sugar for dusting (optional) 

To Make: 

 For crust, in a medium bowl beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium-high speed for 30 seconds.  Add the 1/4 cup granulated sugar.  Beat until thoroughly combined.  Beat in the 1 cup flour and 3 tbls nuts until the mixture is crumbly.  Press the mixture onto the bottom of an ungreased 8x8x2-inch baking pan.  Bake in a 350 degree oven about 10 minutes or until lightly browned. 

Meanwhile, for the filling, in a small bowl stir together the eggs, the 3/4 cup granulated sugar, the almond meal, the orange and lemon zest, the orange and lemon juices, and baking powder.  Beat on medium speed about 2 minutes or until combined.  Pour over hot baked layer and sprinkle with 2 tbls of chopped nuts. 

Bake (350 degrees) for about 20 minutes more or until the edges are lightly browned and the center is set.  Cool pan on a wire rack. 

To Serve: 

Sift powdered sugar over the top if desired.  Cut into bars.  Store, covered, in the refrigerator.  Makes about 20 small bars.

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Filed under Baked goods, Bars and Brownies, Dessert, Recipes

Mashed Potato, Ham, and Cheese Bake

Mashed Potato, Ham, and Cheese Bake

When do you find yourself reaching for comfort food?  Is it when you are tired or stressed, when the weather is cold and gray, when you aren’t feeling well?  For us, it is really all of the above.  This past week has been a little stressful and rather tiring.  The weather hasn’t been the greatest and I have been fighting a cold.  Luckily, when all of those unfortunate things converge in the space of one week, there is this casserole to make things seem much brighter.

Simple but good quality ingredients

There is nothing fancy about this dish.  It doesn’t use any fancy ingredients, nothing special in the prep, and it doesn’t really even look all that pretty.  However, it tastes really, really good.  It is warm and hearty fare that is great for any time of day.  It makes a nice brunch dish, since much of it can be prepared ahead of time, great as left overs for lunch, and of course, the best comfort food ever for dinner.

Bake sans parmesan and panko layers

To really make this dish stand out, make sure to use the best quality ingredients you can get your hands on.  Choose really good ham, flavorful cheese, and potatoes as fresh as you can get them.  When the casserole comes out of the oven all brown and crunchy on top, loaded with ham, and dripping with melted cheese, you won’t be sorry.

Golden brown and delicious

Mashed Potato, Ham, and Cheese Bake

Recipe adapted from Marc’s Italian neighbor growing up, Maria Paolucci

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lb all purpose potatoes

4 tablespoons butter

1 tbls bacon fat (or butter or cooking oil)

8 oz smoked ham steak

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 small sweet onion, finely diced

8 oz Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

4 oz Gruyère cheese, shredded

1 oz Parmesan cheese, finely shredded

1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs

To Make:

Scrub potatoes and quarter them (if you have potatoes with tender skins, leave them on, otherwise peel them).  Place potatoes in a pot with enough water to cover by about an inch and bring to a boil.  Boil until tender when pierced with a knife, about 40 minutes, depending on the size of your potatoes.  Meanwhile, heat a large skillet and melt the bacon fat.  Add the ham steak and heat until cooked through.  Remove the ham steak from the pan and transfer to a cutting board to cut into bite size pieces.  Add the onions to the juices left in the pan and cook on low until lightly browned (or turn off the heat in the pan and let the onion brown from the residual heat).

Preheat the oven to 450F.  When the potatoes are ready, strain and transfer to a large mixing bowl.  Add the butter and mash until very smooth.  Fold in the Monterey Jack and Gruyère cheeses, along with the ham, onion, and eggs.  Grease a 2-qt baking dish (lard works well) and spread the mixture evenly in the dish.  Top with bread crumbs in one layer and then parmesan in a second layer.  Bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown and the cheese bubbles up on the sides. 

To Serve:

Serve hot and enjoy.  Serves 3-4 as a main course, 6-8 as a side.

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Filed under Breakfast, Dinner, Eggs, Meat, Recipes, Side Dish

Celeriac and Potato Mash

Celeriac and Potato Mash

Have you ever seen a celeriac?  If so, then you know that it is a foreboding vegetable, dirty, knobby, and tangled with root-like appendages.  It is not a pretty sight.  We consider ourselves pretty adventurous when it comes to food yet we were still afraid of the celeriac. 

The celeriac and his potato friends

It turns out, that even though it has a pretty rough appearance, the celeriac is really a lovely vegetable.  Underneath all that dirt lies a creamy white interior that is sweet but with a sharpness that is reminiscent of celery.  It tastes very good tossed with olive oil and roasted.  However, if you want something warm and comforting, then make this mash. 

Simmering the roots

The potatoes mellow out the rough edges while the celeriac adds some interest and overtones of sweetness.  The easiest way to prep the celeriac is to wash it well (there will be lots of dirt in your sink) and then use a paring knife to trim off the outside skin.  You can use a peeler but make sure it is super heavy-duty as the outer layer can be tough.  Serve this creamy mash as a side to steak, chops, or chicken and add a little interest to your evening meal.

Celeriac and Potato Mash

Recipe from The Produce Bible

Ingredients:

1 medium size celeriac, peeled and chopped into 1 inch pieces

4 small potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1 inch pieces

2 cups milk

salt and pepper to taste

To Make:

Place cut vegetables and milk in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until the vegetables are tender when pierced with a knife and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes.

Remove from heat and mash until smooth.  We prefer to use an immersion blender because it makes a very creamy mash very quickly.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

To Serve:

Serve immediately.  Serves 4-6 as a side dish.

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Gougeres (aka French Cheese and Bacon Puffs)

Gougeres (aka French Cheese and Bacon Puffs)

The weekend is almost here.  Do you have any big plans?  If you are doing any entertaining and need something that is both easy and impressive, look no further than these delicious appetizers.  

Golden and delicious butter

These cheesy, crispy puffs are French so they add instant panache to your appetizer spread.  Plus, they have bacon and everything is better with bacon.  They are light and airy with fluffy insides and, the best part, they are really easy to pull together.

Dough ball

Boil (yes, boil) some butter and water, stir in flour until you get a dough ball that somewhat resembles a thick roux, and then beat in eggs until you get the most beautiful and glossy batter you have ever seen.  Fold in grated Gruyere cheese and crispy hunks of  bacon and you are nearing appetizer nirvana.

Batter after beating the eggs in

Once these beauties come out of oven, all golden and crispy, do your best to wait until your guests arrive before you devour them.

Unbaked puffs

Gougeres (aka French Cheese and Bacon Puffs)

Adapted from The Bacon Cookbook

Ingredients:

1 cup water

8 tbls (1 stick) butter

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup all-purpose flour

4 large eggs

1/2 pound slab bacon, rind removed, finely diced

1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese

To Make:

In a heavy saucepan, combine the water, butter, and salt and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low, add the flour, and beat with a wooden spoon till a ball of dough forms.  Transfer the dough to a mixing bowl and add the eggs one at a time, beating with an electric mixer on high speed till the batter is just thick enough to hold soft peaks.  Transfer the batter to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill briefly.

In a large skillet, fry the bacon dice over moderate heat till crisp and drain on paper towels.

Preheat the oven to 375F.  Butter a large baking dish.  Fold the cheese and bacon into the prepared batter till well blended, then drop by tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheet.  Bake the puffs for 30 minutes, turn off the heat, and let the stand till they are golden and crisp, about 10 minutes.  Serve the puffs warm.

To Serve:

Makes about 36 puffs.  Serves 8-10 as appetizers (or 2 people who can’t stop eating the bacon-y deliciousness).

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Thai-Syle Chicken and Sweet Potato Soup

Thai-Style Chicken and Sweet Potato Soup

I came home from work one evening in a little bit of a funk.  I was tired from a long day, it was cold outside, and it was one of those days where I drove both to and from work in the dark.  However, all of my crankiness evaporated when I walked into the kitchen.  There was a big pot of soup bubbling on the stove and the whole house smelled like a Thai restaurant tinged with lime and coconut.

Onions and garlic and ginger, oh my

Marc is a real soup nut… he would eat it everyday if I agreed to it.  On this cold night he was craving something a little different, something that was a little Asian and a little Caribbean.  This soup was the culmination of those cravings and as good as it smelled, it tasted even better.

Sweet potatoes and mushrooms into the pool

There was a nice meatiness from chicken and mushrooms, sweetness from sweet potato and coconut, a little nuttiness from peanut butter, and some tang from a lime.  It was a perfect balance of the different flavors and just the thing to return my mood to its normally cheerful state.  So if you find yourself in need of a little cheering up, just whip a pot of this soup, inhale the savory-sweet smell, and dig in.  I guarantee you will feel better immediately.

Stirring the soup

Thai-Style Chicken and Sweet Potato Soup

From the mind of Marc

Ingredients:

2 tlbs ginger oil (if you don’t have any, substitute peanut or other neutral oil and add an additional tbls of minced fresh ginger)

1 tlbs fresh ginger, minced

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 small yellow onion, sliced

16 oz chicken stock (homemade preferred, if you don’t have any on hand make sure to use low sodium broth)

1 medium sweet potato, peeled, chopped in 1″ cubes

6 oz white button mushrooms, stemmed, sliced

2 tbls fish sauce

1 – 14 oz can light coconut milk

2 chicken breasts (about 1.5 lbs), cooked* and chopped

Juice and zest of 1 lime

1/4 cup chunky peanut butter

1/4 cup shredded coconut

Toasted shredded coconut**, chopped peanuts, and cilantro for garnish (optional)

To Make:

Heat large soup pot with the ginger oil over medium heat.  Once hot, add in the ginger, garlic, and onion and cook until softened, stirring often, about 5 minutes.  Add the sweet potato, mushrooms, and fish sauce.  Pour in the chicken stock and add water (if needed) to barely cover the vegetables.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered for 1 hour.

Add in the chopped chicken, lime zest, lime juice, peanut butter, shredded coconut, and coconut milk.  Continue to simmer for another hour, stirring occasionally.

To Serve:

Serve hot garnished with toasted coconut, chopped peanuts, and fresh cilantro.  Serves 4-6 as a main course.

* We brined our chicken overnight prior to oven roasting.  While this isn’t absolutely necessary, it does add a lot of nice flavor to the chicken.

** To toast shredded coconut, place coconut on a foil lined baking sheet.  Place in a 325 degree oven until browned and toasty, 8-10 minutes.  A toaster oven works well for this.

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Filed under Dinner, Meat, Recipes, Soup

Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Pancakes

Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Pancakes

In our house, weekday breakfasts are typically composed of utilitarian fare like cold cereal, yogurt, or the occasional oatmeal.  However, on weekends, we like to pull out all the stops and make things a little more interesting.  We often find ourselves trying out various pancake recipes; buttermilk, cornmeal, buckwheat, etc.  Then one day, we stumbled on this recipe for chocolate chocolate-chip pancakes and we were hooked.

Mixing in the chocolate chips

These pancakes are thin and light (which is how I like them best) and just barely crispy around the edges.  They are full of rich chocolately flavor courtesy of cocoa powder and chocolate chips but they aren’t too sweet.  They are delicious topped with fresh fruit, especially strawberries or blueberries, maple syrup, dusted with powdered sugar, or eaten warm off the griddle.

Fluffy egg whites

If you are looking for something to make a weekend breakfast a little more special, definitely whip up these pancakes.  With all of the chocolate, you really don’t need maple syrup, but if you want to pour it on we certainly won’t judge.

On the griddle

Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Adapted from The Joy of Cooking

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/4 cups milk

4 tbls (1/2 stick) butter, melted

2 eggs, separated

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

To Make:

Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the egg whites in a clean metal or glass bowl until they hold soft peaks.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, melted butter, egg yolks, and vanilla.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.  The batter will still be slightly lumpy and that is okay.  You don’t want to over mix.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  Gently fold in the whipped egg whites.

Drop batter by 1/4 cup fulls onto pre-heated and lightly buttered griddle.

To Serve:

Serve warm.  Makes about 18 4-inch pancakes

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