Saturday, October 31, 2009

Big, Fat Quesadillas

I never understood the quesadilla thing. When at restaurants, I always suspected a scam. At home, the only reason I ever ate them was because it was the only thing left in the fridge: cheese and tortillas. I would always opt for a grilled cheese if bread was around. But, in the interest of ease and speed, I have succumbed to them and find them quite satisfying and versatile. We've had this for dinner a few times and it always revolves around what might be in the fridge. The other day it was chicken, avocado, and tomatoes. Mmm. Big crispy tortilla holding cheesy goodness inside. What was my problem years back when I would sniff at a quesadilla?

I sauteed garlic in olive oil, added a few ripe tomatoes in chunks, let it simmer a bit, Added one shredded, poached chicken breast, salt, pepper, 1 tsp of curry powder (yes!) and a sprinkle of turmeric (try to get it in when I can; they say it's so good for you). I placed a tortilla in an oiled cast iron pan, sprinkled some cheddar cheese on one side, topped with some filling mixture (drained of juice) and folded the tortilla, placing another, smaller pan on top to apply pressure. After a few minutes I flipped it, let it cook for a few more minutes, and voila, dinner is served. I topped it with a dollop of full-fat yogurt, avocado slices, and poured a bit of the sauce left in the tomato pan around the sides of the tortilla.

Oatmeal Bread

The other morning someone forgot to eat their oatmeal, so, unable to throw it out I decided to make bread with it. This was a quick bread, slightly sweetened, with pumpkin pie spices. My oven has been temperamental so it didn't rise as I expected it to. However, it might just be the recipe. It was tasty though, and baby loved it, so it couldn't be all bad. But, be warned.

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (cinnamon, ginger, clove, nutmeg)
1 cup cooked oats
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla

Mix dry ingredients. Mix wet ingredients. Add wet to dry in quick strokes. Bake at 350 for about an hour.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pork Chops with Curried Honey Glaze and Mashed Cauliflower

This was incredible. Any non-cauliflower-eater will suddenly turn believer. The pork chops are glistening, beautiful and addictive. And best of all, this quality meal will set you back a half hour. This is why I don't go out to dinner, aside from not having the money to spend. I can make a better meal at home. Thanks go out to Eve for this recipe; I'm just the messenger!

Mashed Cauliflower:

Put about 3 inches of water in a pot and add cauliflower cut into pieces. Steam until very tender, put in a processor, add salt and pepper and greek yogurt. Add about 5-6 tablespoons, but you should
taste each time before adding more, it can get very tart. Chopped chives optional, but recommended!


1/4 cup Honey
3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. curry
3/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 chicken broth

Preheat oven 400. Whisk all ingredients in a bowl. Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large ovenproof skillet over medium/high heat. Add pork, saute until brown on all sides. Brush pork with honey mixture.Transfer skillet to oven and roast pork for about 10 min depending on cut or thickness, until it's how you like it. Make sure to turn pork over and brush again about midway through. Transfer pork to a plate and add remaining honey mix and broth to pot. Boil over high head until reduced about 5 min. Whisk it the whole time if you can. Add salt and pepper to taste and strain it if it's too chunky. The sauce will reduce and turn into a beautiful glaze.

P.S. I had been thinking of cauliflower lately; the farmer's markets were full of gorgeous heads, all different colors, and I was wondering, why don't I like that?? Apparently, cauliflower was one of the big Hudson Valley crops. I couldn't resist these beautiful cheddar cauliflowers--two little heads for a buck a pop. Next up on my list: this recipe from the Times for cabbage. I have a huge head in the fridge and don't want another slaw or saute. Sounds perfect! (Upon closer inspection I realize, of course it'll be good, there are only two sticks of butter in it! Leave me a comment if you have a better cabbage recipe.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Autumnal Days

Yesterday was a glorious day--60's, clear, blue sky, the smell of leaves mingling with smoke---so I ditched my errands and daytripped in New Paltz instead. Packed up the baby and we strolled around, hitting the playground and town, ending up on Huguenot Street playing with pinecones and puddles while the sun got soft and low and everything had that fuzzy, warm look to it. Made my heart swell. Autumn fills me with the sweet melancholy that brings back memories from my first candy apple at a school fair in Cold Spring Harbor, to traipsing through crispy leaves on Mechanic Street, and all the way to lazing about with an upturned coat collar through the Shawangunks as a scruffy college student. Sweet fall.

When I got home, I had to think fast on my feet. A big container of stock in the fridge made my decision and what I ended up with was chicken and dumpling soup with leeks and parsley. The dumplings were gnocchi size and I will admit, could have been fluffier. But, I was in a rush. They were taken from a recent purchase: The Dumpling Cookbook, page 31, Hungarian Csipetke. How can you go wrong with a dumpling, even if it could be a little more tender?

After baby's bedtime, I made the Stayman Winesap jelly that I had prepared for all day. How did I prepare for it? Just chopped up four huge apples, skin and all, heated them with water and mashed them up. Then let them drain their juice while I was galavanting about. I am in love with apple pectin. This time I was patient and it yielded a soft, almost clear, jelly. Still, it doesn't have a strong apple-y flavor, which is interesting, but makes for all sorts of possibilities.

This morning was gray and quiet, so I threw together these golden raisin and fennel scones and they are unbelievably good for three tablespoons of butter and soymilk. The recipe is based on The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book for Old Fashioned Scones.

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp butter
1 cup plus two tbsp milk
1/2 cup raisins
tsp fennel seeds

I processed the powders and butter. Then mixed the milk, raisins and fennel in a bowl. Baked at 375 for fifteen minutes.

I used vanilla sugar and vanilla soymilk, so mine were super vanilla-y, which was delicious. I suggest adding lemon zest. I loooove fennel and golden raisins. I've made this a bunch of time varying everything from the flour to the milk, so have fun with it. It's so easy. You could have hot scones for breakfast!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Apple Cider Jellies

I was really worried that these wouldn't come out nicely, but I was wrong! What a great simple recipe, but I'm afraid that I like them a little more firm. I think I will have to start delving into pectin use. I used gelatin for these.

Very simply, I heated 1 1/2 cups of cider and 1 1/2 cups of sugar and 1 Tbsp. of lemon juice to boiling and let it boil furiously for ten minutes. Meanwhile, the gelatin softened in a 1/2 cup of cider. After the ten minutes, I added the gelatin mixture to the boiling cider mixture. Cooked for another five minutes. You could tell it was firming up. I poured it into an oiled 8x8 inch pan and let it sit in the fridge overnight. Unmolded it carefully, cut it with an oiled knife, and tossed in superfine sugar. Thassit, mes amis.


Or, Italian Parmesan and Egg Soup. What do you do when you've just made a large pot of excellent chicken and vegetable stock that can stand on it's own, but you don't want just broth? What do you do when you have two chunks of stale bread hanging around because you know it will come in handy one day soon? What do you do when you have loads of parmesan because you stocked up when it was on sale? What do you do when you have lots of great eggs in the fridge? What happens when all of these factors converge?? You make Stracciatella! This was brilliant. And you know it was good for me, too. 

I whizzed up the bread, a great handful of parsley leaves, a few garlic cloves in the processor until bread-crumby. Then mixed, by hand in a bowl, grated cheese (1/2 cup) and two beaten eggs. This mixture was then mixed into six cups of simmering stock. Served with a drizzle of olive oil, more cheese, pepper. Heavenly. The parsley and garlic are an inspired combination and the bread and eggs give it body, but light and airy.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Scrod with Tomatoes, Capers and Fennel

I love fish, but I hate that the ocean is pretty much fished clean. So, I generally don't have fish at all. It's so sad. I grew up close to the water, and we always had amazing, fresh, local fish. And we didn't call it local, it just was. One of my fondest memories is of walking the beach where we spent most of our summer, as the sun went down, picking mussels to make for dinner. This is the North Shore of Long Island back in the seventies. The water was probably horrible then, but what did we know? 

It was West Neck Beach on the Long Island Sound. I remember exploring every nook and cranny of that beach as a child. Passing leathery brown women in little bikinis doused in baby oil or Hawaiian Tropic, the smell of baby powder or coconut overwhelming in the heat, with those silver reflectors so they could really burn to a crisp. The lifeguard chairs, the beach house, the rocks that separated the swimming lesson section and all the way to the end of the spit where no one would go. You could be alone there, or mostly so, and pretend the little streams were rivers and that a feather was a boat and that you could sail to the end of the world and still be home at six for dinner. We weren't a fishing family, so we got our fish from Jeff's by the harbor. We had a lot of flounder sauteed in butter. It was all very simple. In the summer, for a treat, my mother would buy lobsters, or my brother would bring home lobsters that he helped catch. It was a big, lovely production: a bag of wriggling lobsters, big steaming pot of water, melted butter, big huge plates, nut crackers for the claws. Divine and exciting. 

Yesterday, I bought some wild-caught scrod. I just looked it up on the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch Program website and found out I bought something I shouldn't have. Oh, well. I guess I should practice what I preach. It was 7.99 a pound, a great deal and looked beautiful. I love cod and it's brethren. I should have gotten Icelandic scrod, but then that's not local, right? That's why I avoid fish entirely. It's complex enough to need an up to date report on it! Anyway, this is how I cooked it. It was incredibly delicious, entirely easy and quick.

Oven on at 350. Olive oil in baking dish. Fillets in pan. Drizzle more olive oil, salt, pepper. Chopped super ripe, fresh tomatoes on top--big chunks. A few teaspoons of capers and their juice. Some fennel seeds. Heavy splash of white wine. Bake for twenty minutes. Finish with chopped parsley and serve over whole wheat cous cous. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Roasted Chicken with Beets, Onions and Carrots

I probably make roasted chicken almost every week in the cold months. It's the easiest thing in the world and so satisfying. And variable. And economical. Our supermarket carries all natural, free-range chicken at a sensible price. Many other cuts of meat are not so sensible. In fact, downright crazy! But, I digress.

Just put your split breasts in a roasting pan with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper and some herbs. Rosemary and thyme are always nice. Today I used tarragon and lots of fresh lemon juice. I added to the pan quartered beets, onions and chopped carrots. Put it in the oven at 375 for an hour. Baste the whole shebang once or twice. I served this with boiled potatoes tossed with butter. I would have roasted the potatoes but didn't have room in the pan. 

I will admit, for those of us who work and get home starving this might not jive. But certainly you can do this on the weekend. Of course, you know how to do this. I don't even need to say it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Very Easy Corn Chowder

Lately, I've been craving lots of soup. The cold weather and its requisite colds are here, and the refrain of "lots of fluids" is ringing in my ears. This is the easiest, most satisfying soup you could as for. Why don't you do yourself a favor and make it? People should not only eat more soup, they should make more soup. It's easy and cures what ails you.

Saute a medium-sized onion in olive oil and a slice of butter. Slowly add two cups of chicken stock. If you prefer, you could just use water. Then add three or four potatoes, peeled and diced, and let them cook in the simmering broth until tender. Then add two cups of milk--I used 2 percent. Bring to almost simmering. Use your trusty immersion blender (one of those hand-held thingees) and puree until you get a nice smooth blend. Bring back to temperature and add two cups of frozen corn and a handful of chopped scallions. Parsley would be good too, but I was out. Salt and pepper. Cook for a bit more, making sure the corn has been heated thoroughly, and then you are done.

It would also be good with some bacon in it, but then doesn't everything? Say it! Chow-dah!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Crabapple Jelly

Crabapples are incredible. It's true; their pectin levels are incredibly high. I did what many people would probably refer to as a sloppy version of crabapple jelly. I didn't strain it gently, didn't use a jelly bag (this term makes me snicker just writing it; I'm so juvenile) so it's not a delicate jelly, and it's cloudy. But it was so cool to make! Although, I will be honest, the flavor is not incredibly apple-y at all. More sweet than anything.

I was never interested in jelly--it seemed so demanding to me. Now I'm a confirmed believer. I saw a recipe for Dr. Pepper jelly the other day. How sick is that?

Recipe: Joy of Cooking

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Oregon Delight, or Aplets

This was, quite possibly, the weirdest thing I've ever made. Do you like Turkish Delight? I do. Especially one flavored with bergamot and dotted with pistachios. This is called Oregon Delight, or Aplets. It's made with apple cider and cashews. I used a vegan jel because it was all I had. The recipe called for gelatin, which I think would have been better to use and will use in the future. And I think I put too many nuts in. This is a re-occurring problem of mine. I always think: more nuts? It's got to be better!

All in all, it's a tasty little candy and I'll make it again. There is something about the jelling process that fascinates me. I'm not sure why this particular transformation thrills me so, but it's harmless enough. Right?

Arugula and Tomatoes over Polenta with Goat Cheese

I love polenta, but I've realized that unless I buy some instant polenta (which is available and good, too) I shouldn't make it when it's just me and baby. Wayyyyy too much stirring is involved. I forgot. You can't watch a walking one-year-old and a bubbling pot of boiling cornmeal at the same time. Something will go wrong. Although, I did manage it the other day. I used medium ground organic cornmeal, milk, stock, butter, cheese, cheese and more cheese. And some rosemary. It was creamy and tangy. Topped with a quick saute of garlic in olive oil, arugula and big chunks of really ripe tomatoes. 

Goodbye, summer.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Orecchiette with Roasted Red Peppers

Tonight I was at a loss. The kale has been overtaken by cabbage worms. So, lo, in the fridge was a pint of roasted red peppers with garlic in olive oil. While I cooked up a pound of orecchiette, I dumped the peppers in a cast iron skillet to heat and bubble off the water in it. Sliced up the peppers. Drained pasta, tossed it in the pan with the peppers. Into a bowl to greet chopped fresh parsley and generous amounts of grated Pecorino and Parmesan cheeses. Pepper and salt, a honk of bread, and we're off.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Collard greens with raisins and feta

When you grow good greens you eat good greens. The collards and kale are still going strong and I hope they continue into the snowy months. They will certainly be in the garden next year because if they grow, I will eat them. 

Clean and chop a huge bunch of collards. Saute a good sized onion in a goodly amount of olive oil. Add the greens and some chicken stock. Let them cook a good long while, continuously adding stock so the greens braise and soften. [It took me a while to understand that collards and kale really need to be cooked well. I like crisp vegetables, but you really want them to soften or they're tough, not crisp.] So, at least twenty minutes. In the last five minutes, add some golden raisins. Go ahead, eyeball it, see how much raisin you can take. I like a bit, but I have a sweet tooth. At the end, add a good sized chunk of feta and crumble it in. 

That's a good green. 

BBQ Stew

Listen, I know this sounds gross, but it was really tasty. It was inspired by a pint jar of bbq sauce that I made back in the beginning of September knowing full well that the season was on the wane and thus, there was not much more of a need for said sauce. So, what to do? (The sauce was from a Joy of Cooking recipe). I had bought a huge fresh ham and roasted it with potatoes, onions and apples, served with sauerkraut. It was gorgeous, all burnished mahogany and glistening fat, and we ate it at 8 p.m. in front of the TV watching Fellini. The next day I cubed up all the left over meat and cooked this up:

BBQ Stew

Put all this in a crock pot and cook it on high for six hours:

1 pint of good BBQ sauce
2 pints of water
1 can white beans
1 can plum tomatoes (28 oz.)
1 bay leaf
a few cloves of garlic
cubed, cooked pork

When this is done, leave the crock pot on warm and add 1/2 white rice, and 2 peppers (1 red and 1 green looked nice). Cook for another fifteen or twenty minutes. Add chopped fresh parsley.

It was a thick and meaty chili-ish dish. A little vinegary and a touch sweet. Although, I am not sure when the next time will be that I have a pint of bbq sauce I need to use that doesn't include, well, barbecue.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Wax Beans and Leeks

We had a lovely visit from family the other day, and a nice harvest-y meal was slowly eaten in late afternoon with a bottle of red wine. What a luxury! I served pork chops on the grill, marinated in cider and crabapple jelly, roasted potatoes tossed with parsley, sauerkraut cooked with diced apple, and this side dish, which was the breakout star of the evening.

1 pound of wax beans, trimmed, snapped in half, cooked in boiling water for five minutes
3 leeks, I used the green portion only, but you may do as you choose, sliced
Secret ingredient: Oregon dukkah spice mix

Sautee leeks in olive oil and butter. Add beans and toss. Salt and pepper. Add dukkah and toss. I think I had either the Zesty or Traditional Dukkah. Thanks, Dane!

Savory Winter Squash Bread Pudding

Another winter squash recipe that can be a main course, good for baby, vegetarian, and uses my miracle cooking ingredient: yogurt. I was doubtful of this, but it was delicious! I can't stress enough how wonderful a spot of nutmeg is with squash. I also can't talk highly enough of my friend the leek. Especially the local farmer's market variety, all muddy and fresh from the soil.

1 loaf of stale, hard bread (I used a baguette) cubed
1 winter squash, roasted, pureed
1 cup milk
1 cup yogurt
1 cup water (or chicken stock)
6 oz feta cheese
1 cup sauteed leeks
1/8 tsp nutmeg

Mix squash, milk, yogurt, nutmeg and leeks (which I sauteed in lots of olive oil and butter). Toss the cubed bread with the mixture. Put in greased baking dish (13x9?). Crumble cheese on top. Pour water or stock over all to moisten. Put in preheated 35o degree oven and cook for 30 to 40 minutes, or until it browns a little on the top, looks bubbly, but most of the moisture is out of the bottom of the pan, and hopefully saturated in the little cubes of bread. 

Winter Squash, Rice and Chicken Casserole

I don't really like squash, but I really want to like it. So, I buy it and try to cook it in ways that are, to me, delicious. It's something about the texture, I think, although my mother thinks that I had an issue with all foods orange as a child. I disagree, because I drank orange juice all day and night. I always volunteered to make the orange juice because not only was it a fun science project, but I could sneak spoonfuls of the orange, sticky, sickly sweet stuff while no one was looking. But, yes, sweet potatoes, squash were not friends of mine in their chunk form. I love them pureed, though, so that's what I do.

This was brilliantly easy, and I happened to have everything on hand, which is how I roll when it comes to cooking. I thought it would come out dull, but it was just delicious. And, of course, it's good for baby, too. You could very easily leave the chicken out for a vegetarian option.

2 cups of cubed, roasted winter squash, roughly pureed (I used butternut)
2 cups of cooked white rice (I'm sure brown would be just as nice; I happened to use Jasmine)
Shredded cooked chicken--1 or 2 cups?
1 cup plain, low-fat yogurt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg

Mix all together. Grease a lidded quart casserole and fill it with the mixture. Grate some nice sharp cheddar cheese (or whatever you have) on top. Cover with a thick layer of bread crumbs. Drizzle a little olive oil on top. Pop in preheated 350 oven. Bake for about thirty minutes, or until bubbling and looking good enough to eat.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Concord Grapes, Apricots and Apple Cider Donut Holes

I'm sitting here with a small container of apple cider donut holes that are, I think, superior to the actual donut. Thick with sugar and cinnamon they are still a little crisp from the fryer. Oh, I do love this time of year! All hail the apple cider (insert type of fried dough here).

But what I wanted to talk about was Concord grapes. The other day we purchased a basket of them for baby's birthday party because they looked cool and harvest-y, but then, guess what, oh yeah, then you have almost a full basket left over. So, what do you do? Well, if you are a crazy person like me who can't bear to see anything go to waste, you will do this: pick over all the grapes (which smelled so wonderful, to me it's a sweet, heady, perfumed mix of summer and fall), remove them from the stem, separate them from the raisin-y, moldy ones, pinch every bloody grape to remove their jacket, take all the pulp and simmer it in a sturdy pot, strain said pulp to remove seeds, return pulp to the pan and add the reserved jackets, bring back to a simmer, add a cup of sugar and two tablespoons of lemon juice, bring to a rolling boil and then jar the gorgeous deep purple stuff, all the while thinking, I will never, ever do that stupidity again.

I will say that the skins ruin it a bit. I used a recipe for the filling for grape pie, which, maybe because it got cooked in the oven afterwards the skins softened a bit. If there is to be a next time (which, stupid me, there probably will) I would just follow a recipe for grape jelly instead which bypasses the skinning and adding of the skins.

The next day I made apricot jam with low sugar pectin. I don't mind pectin. I know purists will demure, but as I say, what the jell! (You know it's bad when you begin making really awful pectin jokes. Wow.)

Cheerio Chocolate Chip Cookies

These were called "Moon Baubles" on the box of cereal. That would be the ShopRite brand of Cheerios. I sort of feel like that's a stupid name, and also, that Cheerios is one of those brand names that have passed over into the lexicon, like, say, BandAids, have. I guess you could call them O's like many folks do, but you know, whatever, they're Cheerios.

Cream together a softened stick of butter with 1 cup of vanilla sugar. (Or use regular sugar and add vanilla, I don't care.)

Then add an egg. Then add a mixture of 1 cup of flour, 1 tsp. of baking powder.

Then add your favorite brand of O's--2 1/2 cups full and a half cup of chocolate chips. I found it a bit stiff so I added some milk, about a 1/4 cup.

Drop rounded tablespoons onto a "prepared" baking tray. (Figure it out, I guess it means greased.) Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 9 to 11 minutes. Let cool a minute then transfer to baking rack.

Not rocket science. Just chocolate chip cookies with cereal in them!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

French Lentils with Venison Kielbasa

This was inspired by those lovely little greenish-gray pastilles called French Lentils. I had them in the cupboard, bulk-style from the health food store. Also had some amazing Venison Kielbasa from the Smokehouse of the Catskills, a superlative German meat store in our area. Legumes and salty, cured meat. How can you go wrong?

In your trusty, sturdy soup pot sautee onions in olive oil, then carrots (you could add celery, but for some reason I never buy it; I should, but I don't), add a bay leaf, 1 1/2 cups of lentils, and six cups of water. Bring to a boil and let it simmer for a half hour. For fifteen minutes I had it covered, then I uncovered it to burn off some of the water. I didn't want soup, I wanted beans and sausage. When it seems like a lot of liquid was evaporated, I tossed in about 3/4 of a pound of sliced sausage. And, in about ten minutes I had a nice piping bowl of lentils. I served it with roasted smashed fingerling potatoes that a friend had grown and given to me. So good! Even your baby will like it. But I pulled the sausage; it was a little spicy.

Chicken Orzo Soup

What a soothing balm chicken noodle soup of any kind is on a rainy, stay at home day. I don't believe I need to say more, except that making your own is easy, and delicious. I started off with a whole chicken (an inexpensive fryer from our local super marche, actually, good chicken, not like, the national brands or nothing) and I filled the trusty stock pot with water and boiled off the chicken making a lovely, simple stock. The chicken went in a bowl to cool, and then to be picked. the stock was strained and kept off to the side.

To the soup pot: olive oil, onions sauteed til soft, carrots added, cooked for a bit (five minutes?), stock added slowly while it warmed up til boiling, 1/2 cup of orzo and the shredded chicken meat. In ten minutes, I was reaping the benefits of a hot bowl of soup. Don't forget salt and peppa!