Archive for the 'spring' Category

09
Jun
11

Spinach and Feta Strata

I’ve begun cooking my way through Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day. I LOVE this cookbook. I’m determined to make everything in it, from the little quinoa patties to the honey and rose water tapioca. Like most of Heidi’s recipes, this spinach and feta strata makes you feel full of energy. It’s chock full of good things. It tastes great. On top of that, it’s quick and easy.

Every now and then, an occasion arises when an impressive breakfast is needed, something that’s pre-made but also fresh from the oven. It’s been nice these past two weeks NOT having one of those occasions. It was just Jeff, Gabi and me pattering around the house. But because I consider the two of them worthy of above-average breakfasts, I popped this in the oven over Memorial Day weekend and it fed us for two days .

Another thing I love about this is you make it the night before. As you sleep, the bread soaks up the eggy milk mixture. I love the spinach in this, but you could also use chard. The feta blends in nicely, adding a bit of saltiness. To top it off, I snipped some fresh herbs growing outside and crumbled them on top.

Absolutely delish.

Spinach and Feta Strata
slightly adapted from Super Natural Every Day

Zest from 1 lemon, grated
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups milk
6 large eggs
3 cups day-old whole wheat bread cubes (1/2-inch)
2 cups finely chopped spinach or chard
3/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped

Drizzle a little olive oil in a 9 x 9-inch baking dish (or equivalent). Sprinkle the pan with the lemon zest.

In a medium bowl, whisk the olive oil, mustard, salt and pepper with a splash of the milk. Whisk in the rest of the milk and eggs.

Put the bread in the prepared baking dish and top with the spinach and half of the feta. Gently toss this with your hands so that the spinach and feta mix with the bread. Slowly pour the egg mixture over the bread mixture and sprinkle with the remaining feta. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, preheat oven to 350°F with a rack in the top third of the oven.

Bake the strata uncovered for 45 to 55 minutes, until the egg is set in the middle and the sides are browned. You may need to cut into the middle for a test to see that it’s done. (Optional: put the strata under the broiler on low setting before removing from the oven just to brown the top a bit more.)

Serve warm, drizzled with a bit of olive oil and a sprinkling of chopped fresh oregano.

Serves 6.

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29
May
11

Spring Asparagus Stir Fry

This is the first weekend in two months that isn’t dominated by something pressing.  Our hardwood floors are now refinished. The furniture is moved back in, the books finally back on bookshelves, and the china in the china cabinet. Our nine-hour drive to visit my grandmother in central Kansas is over. We’ve spent a few days with my parents on the other side of the state. And then Jeff’s folks came. Not to mention, work has been INSANE juggling end-of-school-year stories and breaking news in urban education.

On Saturday, Gabi and I went to the Tower Grove Farmer’s Market and stocked up on asparagus.  Every spring Jeff and I crave green veggies so much that we nearly overdose on asparagus. We’re headed in that direction once again. Last weekend, I made stir-fried asparagus with oyster sauce for Jeff’s parents, and it was as delish as ever. Last night, I revisited this incredible asparagus stir fry I’d found on Heidi Swanson’s foodblog, 101cookbooks.com, and first tried three weeks ago. If you haven’t been to her site, it’s wonderful. So is her new cookbook, Super Natural Every Day. More on that later this week.

This stir fry has a little of everything as far as flavor goes. The asparagus and tofu dominate. Then you have heat from the ginger and crushed red pepper flakes, sweetness from the hoison sauce, tang from the lime zest and juice. Cashews provide texture, and mint and basil round it out. Hoison, by the way, is a thick sweet sauce widely used in Chinese cooking.

There are many things I love about Heidi Swanson’s recipes. The first is that they always make me feel good. The second is that you can easily mix and match ingredients without being too worried about it.

At the market, I bought a few handfuls of this tatsoi, with the intention of using it instead of chard or spinach. Tatsoi is a mild Asian green. It looks like a cross between bok choy and spinach, and works really well in stir fries.

Continue reading ‘Spring Asparagus Stir Fry’

27
May
11

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

It’s Memorial Day weekend. We’ve had hints of summer –a few humid, hot days — but  it’s definitely still spring. Case in point: rhubarb abounds. And strawberries are at full tilt. They’re the best kind of strawberries, the ones that are so red you can taste the color. We’ve had two weeks of incredible strawberries in our Fair Shares CSA box, and we’ve needed them. They’ve been mood lifters. For those of you who haven’t heard, we’ve had some pretty crummy weather in the Midwest this spring. Tornadoes everywhere. The sirens go off almost weekly it seems.

Fortunately, strawberries and rhubarb provide comfort.

The most obvious combination is this simple crumble. The strawberries and rhubarb almost melt into each other. It’s a fusion of sweet and tart. I made this for the first time in 2008. It’s so amazingly delicious that it’s an annual ritual.

Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Divine.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble
slightly adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook

For filling:

2 pounds strawberries, hulled and halved (quartered if strawberries are large), about 6 cups
1 1/2 pounds rhubarb stalks, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch slices, about 4 1/2 cups
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons corn starch
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt

For topping:

1 1/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, slightly softened

Put a rack in the middle of oven and preheat to 425° F.

Gently mix the ingredients for the filling in a large bowl. Spoon the mixture into a shallow 3-quart baking dish.

Stir together oats, flour, brown sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Blend in butter with your fingers until mixture forms small clumps.

Crumble topping evenly over strawberries and rhubarb. Bake until fruit is bubbling and topping is golden, 40 to 50 minutes. Cool slightly on a rack and serve warm.

Serving suggestion: with vanilla ice cream.

Serves 8

28
Feb
11

Raw Tuscan Kale Salad

I intended to make a kale caesar. My friends Nancy and Jeremy raved about one they made last month — a true caesar salad, with a creamy dressing from egg yolks and anchovies. It sounded interesting. I picked up the ingredients. I started to measure. Then I looked at my mortar and pestle and thought about how much I didn’t want to use it to pound the anchovies into a paste. Yes, I chickened out. I made this kale salad instead.

Why kale? The past two weekends of decent temperatures have made me crave green. Spring is flirting with us here in St. Louis. Crocuses are blooming in our front yard, and a couple of days last week were warm enough to shed coats. But then, sadly, spring scampered off  today and the cold returned.  It’s gray, gray, gray. And I want green — green leaves, green grass, and green food.

I used to shy from raw kale. Then last summer, I had a phenomenal salad of kale and red cabbage while passing through Boulder, Colorado. I still think about it. For best results, use Tuscan/lacinato kale if you make this. It’s also called dinosaur or black kale. The leaves are more tender. This is a strong-tasting salad, as you’d expect from raw kale. The lemon, garlic and Pecorino offset the bitterness of the leaves. It’s incredibly nutritious — exactly what we all need after months of gray weather. The beauty of this salad is that it won’t wilt. Dress it, put it in the fridge and it’s just as good the next day.

Raw Tuscan Kale Salad
New York Times, Oct. 24, 2007

1 bunch Tuscan kale (also known as black, dinosaur or lacinato kale)
1/4 cup homemade bread crumbs (coarse) [I used crumbled up croutons]
1/2 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely grated Pecorino cheese, more for garnish
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, more for garnish
Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

1. Wash the kale. Trim bottom 2 inches of the stems and throw them out. Slice kale, including ribs, into 3/4-inch-wide ribbons. You should have 4 to 5 cups. Place the kale in a large bowl.

2. If making homemade bread crumbs, toast a slice of bread until golden on both sides. Tear it into small pieces and grind in a food processor until mixture forms coarse crumbs. If using croutons, grind in a food pro until crumbs are coarse.

3. Pound garlic into a paste using a mortar and pestle. Transfer garlic to a small bowl. Add 1/4 cup cheese, 3 tablespoons oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper flakes and black pepper, and whisk to combine. Pour dressing over kale and toss very well to combine (dressing will be thick and need lots of tossing to coat leaves).

4. Let salad sit for 5 minutes, then serve topped with bread crumbs, additional cheese and a drizzle of oil.

Serves 2 to 4.

27
Jun
10

Mushroom Risotto

Last night was a night of favorites. Jeff and I made dinner together. We had risotto. We used delicate oyster mushrooms, hearty chanterelles and shiitakes  from the farmers’ market. And we had homemade chicken stock, a rare treat.

For a moment, the risotto took me back to our last night in Venice two years ago, when we nearly went insane looking for a particular Michelin-rated restaurant. The food we had in Italy was unbelievably good, except for the food we had in Venice. We were warned this might be the case. We needed to end our trip with a good meal, so we kept looking for this place, and we finally found it. I had risotto with squid ink. My journal entry from that night also mentions fritto misto and a creamy chocolatey dessert, but it’s the risotto I remember.

Our risotto with mushrooms last night was just as memorable, but for a different reason. There are few things better in life than to cook a meal like this with someone you love. After we put Gabi to bed, Jeff and I measured out some carnaroli rice, warmed up the stock, got the ladle ready and got to cooking. Making risotto can be intimidating. With two people at the stove — one stirring and the other grabbing ingredients and adding stock — it’s really not that  hard.

The risotto was creamy and mushrooms were earthy. The Parmesan added some tang. At the last minute I stepped outside and snipped some parsley for a sprinkle of green. We savored it with a nice bottle of wine and enjoyed the moment.

Mushroom Risotto
How to Cook Everything, Vol. 2

1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms
4 to 6 tablespoons butter or extra virgin olive oil, to taste
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups Arborio, carnaroli or other short- or medium-grain rice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine or water
4 to 5 cups chicken, beef or vegetable stock
1 cup sliced wild mushrooms, or shiitake or portobelle mushroom caps
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Rinse the dried mushrooms once or twice, then soak them in hot water to cover. Put 2 tablespoons of the butter or oil in a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium heat. When the butter is melted or the oil is hot, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally , until it softens, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is glossy and coated with butter or oil, 2 to 3 minutes. Add a little salt and pepper, then the white wine. Stir and let the liquid bubble away. Drain the porcini and chop them, then stir them in, along with about half of their soaking liquid.

Use a ladle to begin adding the stock, 1/2 cup or so at a time, stirring after each addition. When the stock is just about evaporated, add more. The mixture should be neither soupy more dry. Stir frequently, keeping the heat at medium to medium-high. Meanwhile, put the remaining butter or oil (more will make a creamier risotto) in a small skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted or the oil is hot, add the fresh mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and almost crisp, about 10 minutes, then remove from the heat.

Begin tasting the rice 20 minutes after you add it; you want it to be tender but still with a tiny bit of crunch; it could take as long as 30 minutes to reach this stage. When it does, stir in the cooked mushrooms, with their butter, and at least 1/2 cup of Parmesan if you’re using it. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve immediately, passing additional Parmesan at the table.

Serves 4 to 6

10
Jun
10

Linguini with Shrimp, Asparagus and Basil

When books and magazines start taking over our coffee table, Jeff always looks at me. I know the look. Half of the clutter is my cook books and food magazines. The funny thing about that is I don’t even subscribe to any food magazines. I just hold onto my old ones and rediscover them every now and then.

I started leafing through one of my old Bon Appetits the other day. In May 2007, a photographer snapped a pic of this dish in front of the Sydney Opera House and made it the cover photo. I’ve made it for family and friends about a half dozen times since the issue came out. I made it again last night. We already had some asparagus, lemon and several pots of basil growing outside on the deck. Basil is what makes this dish.  The only wild card is the hot pepper. Red jalapenos, I’ve found, can vary in their degrees of heat. Maybe it has to do with shelf life, who knows. This time I used fresno chiles instead, with good results. If you can’t find a red chile, settle for green. The taste will be the same. The visual is all that will be lacking.

Continue reading ‘Linguini with Shrimp, Asparagus and Basil’

01
Jun
10

Three Cheese Pizza with Arugula and Sage

We have a lot of arugula.

I can’t keep up with it. Yesterday I gave a bag to a neighbor, but even that didn’t make a dent.  The heat lately has made our arugula increasingly peppery. It’s time to use it.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about arugula on pizza. I had some with proscuitto recently, which is always a good combination. However,  it echoed a pasta dish I made a few weeks ago. Time to try something else.

This pizza was unbelievable. Together, Fontina, Gorganzola and Parmiggiano-Reggiano were strong enough to stand up to the arugula but weren’t over powering. The sage and red onion added another layer of flavor. It was the kind of dinner that made me wonder why I’d never made this particular pizza before.

And the crust. The crust! I almost made the crust I typically use when making pizza. I’m glad I didn’t . This one was better. The dough was easy to work with. The crust turned out crispy and wonderful.

One tip on pizza making. This and other pizza recipes tell you to coat a pizza peel with corn meal, and with a jerk of the wrist, slip the pizza onto a hot baking stone in the oven. I’m incredibly inept at this. The pizza always ends partly sticking to the peel, and toppings end up on the oven floor. Jeff scurries to remove the smoke detector while I pout. To solve this, I’ve started putting parchment paper on the peel rather than cornmeal. The pizza slides right into the oven.

Continue reading ‘Three Cheese Pizza with Arugula and Sage’




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