Archive for the 'winter' Category

05
Jan
14

Bran Muffins

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Well hello there.

The last time I posted I didn’t intend to go two years without blogging. Life has gotten in the way, big time. I had a second baby after an exhausting pregnancy. My job as a reporter became even more intense. Cooking and baking remained an outlet, but there was less time to do it, let alone write about it.

But today, as the four of us hunkered down during a snowstorm in St. Louis, I took the two littles into the kitchen. It felt like the perfect time to come out of our cocoon a bit more and return to Garlic Shoots. Much of the credit goes to my friend Kim McGuire, who linked to Turkish Lentil Soup the other day on Facebook. It made me miss doing this. So I got out the flour, the buttermilk, the honey, the bowls and the spatula. I changed the lens on my camera. I turned toward an old favorite — these bran muffins by Heidi Swanson. They come from her second cookbook — Super Natural Every Day, which I love love love. These muffins have become a winter staple for us. They’re perfect for January — stark and simple, but soulful. As they bake, they make the house smell like butter and honey. They smell like warmth.

During a blizzard, that’s exactly what we needed. And despite their name, these muffins aren’t boring. They hold their own. The fact that they’re made up of whole wheat flour, the wheat bran and flakes make them a nice antidote to the holidays. The other major plus is that they’re easy and quick. When you’ve these two as sous chefs, that’s pretty important.

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Bran Muffins

barley modified from Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt

1/2 cup barely melted unsalted butter

1/4 cup maple syrup or honey

1/2 cup unprocessed wheat bran or oat bran

1 1/2 cups pain, unsweetened bran cereal

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F with rack in the middle of the oven. Butter a standard 12-cup muffin pan.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, buttermilk, melted butter, and maple syrup (or honey). Sprinkle the bran and cereal across the top, stir, and allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes.

In a separate small bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Sprinkle the dry ingredients over the top of the wet and stir until just combined. Immediately fill each muffin cup three-quarters full.

Bake for 18-22 minutes, until the edges of the muffins begin to brown and the tops have set. Let cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then turn the muffins out of the pan to cool completely on a wire rack.

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20
Mar
11

Roasted Duck Breasts with Pomegranate-Chile Sauce

We’re out of the woods as far as winter goes. Our first daffodil bloomed three days ago. My chives are peaking over the lips of their flower pots. And today it was too hot for sweaters, or even jeans. But I’m still in winter mode when it comes to cooking. Something roasted and warm with a little heat is what sounds good right now.

This duck recipe is a fusion of  sweetness and heat: the Middle East meets Mexico. This sauce is seriously amazing. It’s a little like barbecue sauce. It would be amazing with pork. It’s one my favorite finds this winter, so I really smothered the duck with it. Jeff deserves full credit for finding this one — he first made it for dinner a few weeks ago. I made it again because it is so delicious.

The beauty of this: the sauce requires the most work, and it can be made well in advance. Searing and roasting the duck takes no time at all. It’s elegant and fairly easy. Definitely a show stopper.

Roasted Duck Breasts with Pomegranate-Chile Sauce
adapted from Bon Appetit, Dec. 2009

Sauce:

1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 cups refrigerated pomegranate juice (such as Pom)
1 3/4 cups low-salt chicken broth
4 large dried California chiles,* stemmed, seeded, torn into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons adobo sauce from canned chipotle chiles in adobo**
1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
Coarse kosher salt

Duck:
8 5-to 6-ounce boneless duck breast halves, skin and fat trimmed to size of breast
Coarse kosher salt
Ground coriander
Fresh pomegranate seeds (Trader Joe’s sells them packaged)

For sauce:
Stir sugar and 1/2 cup water in heavy large saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat; boil until syrup is deep amber color, swirling pan occasionally, 6 to 8 minutes (watch closely). Add juice, broth, and  chiles to the pan. Boil until sauce is reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat; cool. Puree in tightly covered blender until smooth, about 2 minutes. Transfer to bowl. Whisk in adobo sauce, vinegar, and cumin. Season to taste with generous amount of coarse salt and pepper. The sauce can be made 1 week ahead. Cover and chill. Rewarm over low heat before using.

For duck:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Score skin of duck (don’t cut into flesh) with 5 cuts in 1 direction; repeat in opposite direction, making diamond pattern. Sprinkle duck all over with coarse salt, pepper, and ground coriander. Place 2 large ovenproof skillets over medium-high heat. Add duck, skin side down, to skillets, dividing equally. Cook duck until skin is crisp and deep brown, about 7 minutes. Turn duck over; cook 1 minute. Pour off fat. Transfer skillets to oven. Roast duck until cooked to medium rare, about 5 minutes.

Transfer duck to cutting board. Let rest 5 minutes. Thinly slice each breast crosswise on slight diagonal. Arrange slices on plates. Spoon sauce over. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.

* Available at some supermarkets and at specialty foods stores and Latin markets.

** Dried, smoked jalapeños in a spicy tomato sauce called adobo; available at some supermarkets and at specialty foods stores and Latin markets.

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.

16
Feb
11

Lidia’s Meat Sauce Bolognese

I first made Lidia’s Bolognese almost five years ago, the night before Jeff and I ran our first half marathon. My friend Anne Marie drove in from Kansas City to run with us, and the three of us ate this Bolognese with linguini and garlic bread. Meat and carbs. How perfect. And how delicious.  Anytime we’ve got a big race, this is what we eat the night before, and it never fails. It’s also great when the cold weather and short days leave you strangely famished.

There are hundreds of versions of Bolognese. This one is incredibly meaty. It’s part ground beef, part ground pork. However, it doesn’t have the milk or cream that you find in most Bolognese ragus. The aromatics are merely onion, carrot and celery, with three bay leaves thrown in. Hand-crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and red wine give it acidity.

Aside from the taste, one of my favorite things about this sauce is how well it freezes. The recipe makes enough to dress about 1 1/2 pounds of pasta. Double the recipe, freeze part of it and you’re set for several days down the road. Another great thing about this Bolognese is that prep time is minimal. Once ingredients are in the pot, however, the sauce does need to simmer on the stove for at least two hours. The longer the better.

A lot has changed since we first had this Bolognese. Jeff and I bought a house. We graduated to marathon running. And these days, an irresistible little toddler helps me cook.

Lidia’s Meat Sauce Bolognese
barely adapted from Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, minced (about 1 cup)
1 medium carrot, peeled and minced (or finely shredded)
1/2 cup minced celery, with leaves
Salt
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 cups canned Italian plum tomatoes with their liquid (crush in a bowl with your hands)
3 bay leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
4 cups hot water, or as needed

1 1/2 pounds dried or fresh pasta, such as linguini or penne

Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Heat the olive oil in a wide 4- to 5-quart pan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Stir in the onion, carrot and celery, season lightly with salt and cook, stirring, until the onion is translucent, about 4 minutes. Crumble in the ground beef and pork and continue to cook, stirring to break up the meat until all the liquid the meat has given off has evaporated. Cook until meat is lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Pour in the wine and cook, scraping the bottom of the pan, until the wine is evaporated, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook a few minutes longer. Pour in the tomatoes, toss in the bay leaves, and season lightly with salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil, then lower the heat so the sauce is at a lively simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is dense but juicy and a rich, dark-red color. This will take about 2 to 3 hours — the longer you cook it the better it will be. While the sauce is cooking, add hot water as needed to keep the meats and veggies covered. A layer of oil may float to the top. It can be removed with a spoon or reincorporated into the sauce.

To serve 2, boil 8 ounces of fresh or dried pasta. To serve 4, boil 16 ounces of pasta. Boil pasta according to package instructions. While pasta is cooking, heat sauce if necessary. Drain pasta, add to sauce, stirring to coat. (If making a smaller amount of pasta, put a smaller amount of sauce in a different sauce pan for this step.) Remove from heat and stir in grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese to taste.

01
Feb
11

Quick Coq Au Vin

Two days ago, I visualized us holed up in a hotel room with pipes bursting at home and limbs all over the yard. The predictions about this wintry mix/blizzard have been SCARY. Just about everyone in St. Louis stayed home today bracing for the worst blizzard in decades. Jeff and I worked from home, Gabi ran around the house, and the blizzard never really came. There were no white out conditions. No power outages or strong winds. We didn’t end up hovering over a fondue pot and sterno, cooking chicken in cooking oil. We didn’t have to pack our bags and search for an inn. There was sleet, a bit of snow, a few wind gusts and that’s it.

Instead, Jeff and I are splitting a bottle of vino after finishing off this Coq au Vin. It was perfect for tonight. All the flavors here are hints. Mushrooms and shallots are infused with bacon and stewed in red wine. The sauce is spooned over crispy chicken, and garnished with chopped parsley. I love finding a recipe for something French and comforting like this that takes 45 minutes or less. A blizzard is still in the forecast. We could have 10 inches of snow tomorrow, according to all of the hyperventilation. I’m warm, toasty and doubtful.

Quick Coq Au Vin
slightly adapted from Bon Appetit, October 2010

4 bacon slices, coarsely chopped
1 3-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces, or 4 skinless boneless chicken breast halves
3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley, divided
8 ounces large crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, halved
8 large shallots, peeled, halved through root end
3garlic cloves, pressed
1 1/2 cups dry red wine (such as Shiraz or Syrah)
1 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth, divided
4 teaspoons all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Sauté bacon in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Using slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a plate lined with a paper towel. Sprinkle chicken with salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon parsley. Add to drippings in skillet. Sauté until cooked through, about 6 minutes per side; transfer to a baking dish. Place in oven to keep warm.

Add mushrooms and shallots to skillet; season lightly with salt and pepper. Sauté until brown, about 4 minutes. Add garlic to skillet; toss 10 seconds. Add wine, 1 1/4 cups broth, bacon, and 1 tablespoon parsley. Bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Boil 10 minutes. Meanwhile, place flour in small cup.

Add 1/4 cup broth, stirring until smooth. Add flour mixture to sauce. Cook until sauce thickens, about 3 to 4 minutes. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Arrange chicken on platter; stir juices from pie dish into sauce and spoon over chicken. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon parsley.

Serve with a wedge of crusty bread.

Serves 4

26
Jan
11

Winter Chicken Noodle Stew

I’ve gone back and forth about whether to post this one. For the past couple of months, I’ve shared recipes that I absolutely love: chicken korma, Turkish lentil soup, cashew chicken chili, etc. But food blogging isn’t just about the rock stars, right? Not everything we make or eat is off-the-charts fantastic.

Take this winter chicken noodle stew, for example. It’s hearty, warm, incredibly healthy, and pretty quick to put together. It could have used a squeeze of lemon juice, or something else to add a bit more zing. Red pepper flakes, perhaps. All in all, it was a good solid stew. But it wasn’t a 10. It wasn’t even an 8.

OK, I admit. I wasn’t thrilled with the way it turned out. Jeff claimed to like it a lot. He enthusiastically ate several bowls of it. Both of us agreed that the Parmesan is essential. It adds a bit of saltiness that’s very much needed.

This a is a very thick stew, not at all like the chicken noodle soup most of us are used to. The mix of carrots, parsnips, onions and celery create subtle flavors. If you like subtle, you will like this stew. Will I make this again? Perhaps. But it’s not at the top of my list.

Winter Chicken Noodle Stew
barely adapted from Martha Stewart Living Annual Recipes 2003

12 ounces boneless chicken thighs (about 4 pieces)
1 pound boneless and skinless chicken breasts halves (about 3 pieces)
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 carrots, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
3 large celery stalks, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
2 medium parsnips, peeled, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
4 small onions, roughly chopped
3 1/2 cups water
1 14 1/2-ounce can chicken broth
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
1/2 pound wide egg noodles
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 bunch Swiss chard, leaves and stems coarsely chopped
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Cut chicken into 1-inch pieces. Season with salt and pepper. Heat a 6-quart pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add half the chicken. Cook, turning occasionally until chicken is browned, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Repeat steps with the remaining chicken. Set aside.

Place carrots, celery, parsnips and onions to the pot or Dutch oven. Add the water, broth and rosemary. Use a wooden spoon to scrape the browned bits from the bottom. Cover, and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are slightly tender, about 10 minutes.

In another pot, cook noodles until al dente according to package instructions. Drain. Stir noodles, parsley, reserved chicken into pot with vegetables. Cook until chicken is heated through, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Keep warm.

Meanwhile, melt better in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic; stir until golden, about 1 minute. Add chard. Cook, turning every now and then until tender, about 5 minutes. Divide the chard among six bowls. Ladle stew on top. Serve with grated Parmesan.

Serves 6.

23
Jan
11

Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni

We’re on Week 2 of what seems like constant snowfall. At least five inches fell about 10 days ago. Then eight inches fell last week. Another two inches or so fell today. Yesterday afternoon, I rushed out to the store with the rest of St. Louis to stock up on bread, milk, eggs, and — ahem — cannelloni noodles.

When it snows, we stay in. Gabi started walking last month. She’s not exactly ready to go bounding out into the snow. So, we spend a lot of  time pointing at it from inside.  Today, while Jeff and Gabi played in the living room, I cooked. I baked cinnamon raisin bread (post will follow later this week). I took my second stab at vanilla yogurt. And, I make this spinach cannelloni for dinner.

I’ve been thinking about this dish since summer. I bought this Jamie Oliver cookbook when the weather was quite hot — too hot for cannelloni.  It’s been in my head ever since. There are several reasons to try this one. First, this is a pretty simple cannelloni recipe. No bechamel sauce is necessary. Boiling the noodles isn’t either. And, the end result is wonderful in every way. The cannelloni is warm, melty, delicious. The noodles are a bit crispy on top. The spinach and ricotta make a light and super yummy filling. On a snow day like today — it is perfect.

Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni
adapted from Jamie’s Dinners: The Essential Family Cookbook

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
handful of fresh oregano or marjoram, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon nutmeg, grated
8 large handfuls spinach (about 3 large bunches), thoroughly washed
handful of fresh basil, stalks reserved and chopped, leaves torn
28-ounce can whole plum tomatoes, chopped, juice reserved
salt and freshly ground pepper
pinch of sugar
15 ounces ricotta cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
16 cannelloni tubes
7 ounces mozzarella, broken up

For the white sauce
1 cup creme fraiche
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Find baking pan large enough to fit cannelloni in one layer, if possible.

In a medium saucepan, heat butter on high heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil, one of the sliced garlic cloves, a handful of the chopped oregano or marjoram, and the nutmeg. Saute for about 2 minutes. Add spinach in batches. Use tongs to turn it over, and add more as it cooks down.

Cook spinach for 5 minutes. Then, put the spinach into a large bowl and allow it to cool. Return the pan to heat, add a bit of olive oil, the other clove of sliced garlic, basil stalks and the chopped tomatoes. Pour tomato juice from the can into the pan. Add about a cup of water. Bring to boil. Turn the heat down, add a pinch of salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar. Simmer for about 10 minutes, until you have a loose tomato sauce. Take the pan off the heat and add the basil leaves.

Squeeze excess water from the spinach, but keep the liquid in the bowl. Finely chop the spinach and put it back into the bowl. Mix it with the liquid.  Add the ricotta and 1/2 cup Parmesan, stir to combine. Fill the cannelloni with the spinach mixture. You can do this with a piping bag, or fill a plastic sandwich bag, twist the bag so the filling is pushed into on corner,  cut a hole in the corner and squeeze. Or, use your fingers to stuff the noodles.

Pour the tomato sauce into the baking dish. Put the filled cannelloni on top of the sauce. Arrange in one layer so the noodles are snug.

To make the white sauce, mix together the creme fraiche and the cup of Parmesan with a pinch of salt and pepper. Loosen the sauce with a little water until you can spoon it over the cannelloni. Sprinkle withremaining Parm and te mozzarella pieces, and back for about 25 minutes, until golden brown and bubbling.

Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 4




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