Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Spring Is In the Air

I know I have been a delinquent blogger for a while now. And there are several things to blame including a new job and the winter blues among them. But now that spring is arriving, I am so excited. Excited about the flowers in my garden, the herbs that are growing, the anticipation of farmer's markets that are right around the corner. And those things mean for me cooking and lots of it.
So I do not have a recipe today but I will soon and look forward to sharing.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Pumpkin Oatmeal

I was never too fond of oatmeal until I recently tried it and could not believe what I had been missing all these years. It is a very satisfying breakfast and is very healthy. I just got the best deal....a 44 oz. can of oatmeal for $1.50 (at Jewel).
In the spring, when rhubarb was in season, I stocked up on it and made a delicious rhubarb compote that I froze. I added a couple spoonfuls to my oatmeal - perfect combination! Now that my rhubarb has run out, I tried a new and possibly even tastier mix...pumpkin oatmeal. I add a large spoonful of pumpkin (from a can) along with some pumpkin pie spice and brown sugar. Then I top it off with a couple spoonfuls of ...yogurt (have to get the yogurt in somehow). It is a great way to start the day.

Pumpkin Oatmeal

1/2 C Oatmeal
1/2 C Water

Microwave the above for 2 minutes. Then add:

2 T Pumpkin Puree
1/2 t Pumpkin Pie Spice
Brown sugar to taste (I use about 2 t)

And microwave for 1 more minute. Add a couple spoonfuls of plain yogurt (optional) and enjoy.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Beef Daube

I was inspired to cook a beef dish even before I saw the move Julie & Julia (which is a fabulous movie - highly recommended). Several people wrote about making Julia Child's Beef Bourguinon after watching the movie and it inspired me to want to cook a beef dish. In addition, I purchased a lovely package of beef roast from Jewel for only $.99 per pound. I flipped through my copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking but all I could think of was that I wanted to make Beef Daube. Ms. Child does have a recipe for Daube in the previously mentioned book which I used as a base but I changed a few things to make it like the Daube I have cooked before. This recipe slow cooks beef, that has been marinaded in red wine, brandy, fresh herbs, garlic and aromatic vegetables, along with bacon, mushrooms, black olives, tomatoes, capers, and anchovies. It is packed full of flavor and delicious.

Beef Daube

3-4 lbs. Beef Chuck Roast, cut into one inch cubes
2 C Red Wine
1/4 C Brandy
2 C Onions, sliced
2 C Carrots, sliced
6 Cloves Garlic, smashed
Several Sprigs Fresh Thyme & Parsley

Combine the above ingredients and marinate for 4-6 hours or overnight.

1/2 lb. Bacon
2 lbs. Mushrooms, quartered
28 oz. Tomatoes
3/4 cup Kalamata Olives, pitted and roughly chopped
3 T. Capers
6 fillets Anchovies

Preheat oven to 300. Dredge meat in flour. Line the bottom of a large dutch oven with bacon. Alternate layers of mushrooms, meat, marinaded vegetables, tomatoes, olives, capers, anchovies, and bacon. The top layer should be bacon. Add the marinade. Cover and bake for 4-5 hours.
After taking out of the oven, skim the fat off of the top and serve with roasted potatoes.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Canning Tomatoes

Every year my husband and I look forward to a weekend of canning tomatoes. We make a day of it and start out early at the farmer's market buying the tomatoes, and then bringing them home and doing the work. It is so satisfying to have a bunch of gorgeous jars of tomatoes and brings a taste of summer all year long.
It started about 10 years ago when I was in the Master Food Preserver Class with me canning a mere 25 pounds. We ran out that year so the next, with the help of my husband, we canned 50 pounds. That was sufficient for a couple years but last's a beautiful morning at the farmer's market and my husband talks me into 75 pounds. We still have a couple jars left from last year but last weekend at the market, my husband looked at the 3 boxes (75 lbs.) and decided we needed one more. So...100 pounds of tomatoes.
We are a pretty efficient canning team. The night before we load up the dishwasher with the jars and then sterilize them first thing in the morning while we go to the market (our dishwasher has a sterilize setting - if yours does not, you need to sterilize them in boiling water). When we get home, one of us washes the tomatoes & lids and replenishes the ice in the ice bath while the other boils and skins the tomatoes. Then one of us cuts them up and the other prepares the jars with lemon juice or vinegar (you need to add a little acid in case the tomatoes do not have enough). The several hours of prep work (and please do not let this dissuade you from canning - 100 pounds is a little overboard) are nothing compared to the processing of the 100 pounds. Each batch of jars needs to process in a boiling water bath for 85 minutes.
So, after a long day, we had about 40 quarts of beautiful, delicious canned tomatoes that we will use for the rest of the year for pasta sauces and soups.
I should probably get a word or two in about the frugalness of this activity. Each 25 pound box was $14 (some weeks they are only $10-12) - bargain! Here is the recipe from the Illinois Extension for canning tomatoes. If you only do 25-50 pounds it's a real joy.
Canned Tomatoes

Monday, August 17, 2009

Cauliflower Truffle Soup

The cauliflower that I have seen lately has really been great. Farmer's markets have it and...I just got a couple heads for a fabulous deal (at Stanley's) for only $.29 per pound. Because I bought quite a lot and wanted to use it before it went south on me, I decided to make a soup. I added some pecorino cheese and truffle oil at the end to make it special.
First, I sauteed some onion and a little celery, added a bunch of fresh herbs, then the chopped up cauliflower with some chicken stock and simmered it until the cauliflower was tender. Once it was, I removed the herb stems and pureed the soup with one of my favorite kitchen tools, my hand blender. I added some shredded pecorino cheese and the truffle oil...mmm.

Cauliflower Soup with Truffles

1 large head cauliflower, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
5 sprigs of thyme
1/4 cup parsley on stems
2 bay leaves
5 cups chicken stock
2 T olive oil
1 cup shredded pecorino cheese
truffle oil to drizzle

Saute the onion and celery in olive oil until onions are translucent, about 8 minutes. Add herbs and saute for another minute. Add cauliflower and chicken stock (can use vegetable stock or water), bring to a boil for one minute, turn down heat and simmer until cauliflower is tender, about 20-30 minutes. Turn off heat and blend using a hand blender or regular blender. Before serving, add several drops of truffle oil to each bowl.

Monday, July 27, 2009

My Herb Garden

Now that summer is in full swing (and I just got a job), I'm not doing any cooking that's too fancy but I am using the herbs from my garden and absolutely LOVING them. I have made a sauce using a large handful of various herbs blended into some yogurt that is really good. The first time I made it I used thyme, tarragon, rosemary, parsley, basil, and oregano - a lot of strong flavors that for some reason really worked together. I just pureed them in a food processor and added some plain yogurt with some salt and pepper. I used that sauce on both grilled salmon and grilled vegetables.
Another time I went heavy on the tarragon and omitted the rosemary and basil. I put that sauce on some pan-fried halibut - delish.
I tried another fresh herb sauce that was kind of a chimichurri but with an Asian flair. I used mint, Thai basil, chives, and lemon balm chopped up with some garlic and mixed in some olive oil. It was a nice sauce on some pork that I marinaded in a store bought Asian marinade (the horror)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Farmer's Market

Over the fourth of July, I went to a Farmer's Market in New Buffalo, Michigan that had some great buys. I think many of the farms in that area supply produce to the Chicago area farmer's markets also. We got some really good corn on the cob, fresh peas, and zucchini. Corn on the cob is pretty easy to cook. I usually put it in the pot with cold water and bring it all to a boil for one minute. Piece of cake. I also like to make a little extra corn to cut off of the cob and use for salads (which we had the next day and was excellent).
The great buy at this particular market was the fresh peas. In Chicago they charge $5 for a pint (and I still buy them because they are so good) but here they were only $2. I like to boil them in some water for a couple minutes, drain them and add some butter and a little chopped fresh mint. Of course I add a little salt and pepper and pretty much any other herb will work well if you do not like mint.