Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sorrel - Celery Leaf Soup

One thing I love about having a CSA is that it often challenges me to expand my knowledge and skills. This time around, it provided me with a small bunch of sorrel. Now, this was a green I'd never heard of, but Google is my friend. Sorrel has a sour taste, from an excess of oxalic acid, the same chemical that gives rhubarb its distinctive flavor.

Sorrel is most commonly used in salads, and pureed soups. I thought I'd  try my hand at sorrel soup. I didn't have a lot of sorrel, so I wanted to stretch it a bit. I did have some very leafy celery, also from my CSA, so used the celery leaf to get enough greens to make soup. I flavored it with a little green onion, and thickened it with sour cream and egg. It is garnished with sour cream and onion sprouts.

To prevent curdling, the egg and sour cream will need to be tempered. What this means is that a small amount of the hot soup is added to the eggs and sour cream, and whisked. This raises the temperature of the egg, as well as spreads out the proteins. If you just dump egg in the soup, you'll get a lump of scrambled egg.

It had a wonderful lemony flavor, and the bitterness of the celery leaf matched well. It seemed to have a fair bit of umami, which seems to come from the celery leaf, which is high in glutamate.

Sorrel - Celery Leaf Soup

3 cups (packed) chopped sorrel leaves
1 cup (packed) chopped celery leaf
1 large green onion, minced
2 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. vegetable stock base
3 cups water
2 Tbsp. sour cream
1 egg, beaten
sour cream to garnish
onion sprouts to garnish

In a sauce pan over medium heat, melt butter. Sweat onion until tender. Add sorrel and celery. Cook until leaves are mostly wilted. Add water and soup base. Bring to a simmer. In a blender, or with an immersion blender, puree soup.

Whisk together egg and sour cream. Ladle some soup into the egg mixture and whisk. Add egg mixture to the soup, whisking to incorporate. Bring soup back up to a simmer. Ladle into bowls. Garnish with a dollop of sour cream and a few onion sprouts.

Makes 2 servings.

Happy Eating!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

First Culinary Class

Had my first culinary class yesterday. Looks like Chef Joe will be exacting, and tough. I'm ok with that. I'm looking to be the best cook I can be. I'm just going to keep my head down, and work the program.

Have the book, need to get the knives and uniforms.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Shrimp and Bok Choy Stir Fry

As you may have guessed, I like versatile foods. Some foods just lend themselves to infinite variety and flexibility. Omelets, and quiche are two things that can be done with just about any combinations of flavors you like. Stir fry is something else that can be done any number of ways. Most vegetables are best lightly cooked, and lend themselves easily to stir frying. They remain crisp and brightly colored, and retain most of their nutrition. Meat can be added, or not, and there are all sorts of sauces you can do.

I've been meaning to stir fry this baby bok choy since I got it from my CSA. I had a bag of pre-cooked shrimp in the freezer, and thought that would work well with it. It was massively dirty, so I cleaned it the way I clean spinach. I cut off the root, the washed the leaves in a big bowl of cold water, agitating well. I then let it sit a couple of minutes, to let the sand settle. I then pull out the leaves, and drain them in a colander. Dump and rinse out the bowl, and repeat, until there is no sand in the bottom. It wasn't horrible, I only had to wash it twice.

I let the shrimp sit in a bowl of cold water a few minutes, until about 90% defrosted, then drained them.

I play around a lot with sauces. One of my favorite ingredients for stir fry sauce is date vinegar. Not remotely Asian, but it works wondrously well with soy sauce and honey, or sweet soy. I also used some of Auntie Arwen's Shy Panda Kosher Stir Fry Blend. It adds a nice zest.

I served it over jasmine rice. This rice is fragrant, with an almost floral scent. It matched well with the stir fry.

Shrimp and Bok Choy Stir Fry

12 oz. pre-cooked shrimp
3 small heads baby bok choy, cleaned, leaves split lengthwise
2 tbsp. sesame oil
3 tbsp. date vinegar
3 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. corn starch
1 tbsp. stir fry seasoning blend

In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, soy, and cornstarch until cornstarch is fully dissolved.

Heat a wok over high heat. Add oil, swirl around to coat. Add bok chow, stirring constantly until mostly tender. Add shrimp, mix in. Move bok choy and shrimp up the sides of the wok, out of the liquid. Cover, let cook for a minute, until shrimp are hot. Add soy mixture and seasoning blend. Stir until sauce thickens, and food is well coated.

Happy Eating!

Monday, January 28, 2013

First Pastry Class Today

Today was my first pastry class. Mostly just introduction, laying out the syllabus, and outlining what we need to buy.

I need to order my uniforms online. I expect to buy my pastry kit at Wednesday's class.

I'm excited. I can't wait to get to the labs. While I have made a lot (but not all) of the dishes in the syllabus, I look forward to learning the professional methods. There are also some things, like making puff pastry and souffles, that I haven't done, and would love to have in my repertoire.

Turkey and Stuffing Omelets

I love omelets. They are one of those blank slates one can do almost anything with. I first heard of the concept of a stuffing omelet from an appearance of Sam the Cooking Guy on the Dave, Shelley, and Chainsaw Show. I thought the idea was so intriguing, I had to try it. I love stuffing. It is my number one comfort food.

The omelet is both simple, and slightly tricky to do well. Getting the pan temperature just right is critical. Too hot, and it will burn on the bottom before the top cooks and the cheese melts.  Too cool, and it doesn't brown properly.

Turkey and Stuffing Omelet

2 eggs
1 tsp. milk
1/2 cup diced turkey
1/2 cup leftover stuffing
1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. water

In a small bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. Heat oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add egg mixture, swirl to get an even coating. Layer cheese, turkey, and stuffing on one half of the omelet. Put water in along edge of pan, and cover. Once top is cooked, cheese is melted, and filling hot, fold omelet and move to a plate.

Roast Turkey with Apple, Date, and Raisin Stuffing

I know what some of you are thinking. 'Why post a roast turkey recipe now?' Well, I firmly believe that roast turkey should not be relegated to just Thanksgiving and Christmas. Turkey is too good to relegate to once or twice a year. Besides, I had a bird I'd gotten for free taking up space in the freezer, and a potluck with plenty of people to feed.

I am a huge fan of Alton Brown. He convinced me to brine my birds, and I am amazed at the difference that it makes. I base my brine off of of his recipe here. I change up the flavoring agents, though, pretty much every time. This time, I used star anise, juniper berries, black peppercorns, galangal, and cloves. I use a five gallon food safe plastic bucket to brine my bird in.

Of course, here is were Alton and I part company. Alton considers stuffing evil, I consider it the whole point of the exercise. Don't get me wrong, I think that moist, flavorful turkey meat is a wonderful by-product, but for me the star is the stuffing. Dressing (stuffing made outside the bird) never has the correct texture. Stuffing is my number one comfort food. Since this was not thanksgiving, I was free to experiment with the stuffing. So this time I made an apple, date, and raisin stuffing, flavored with celery, onion, celery leaf, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and clove. I like the giblets (except the liver) and the neck meat in the stuffing. I boil the giblets and the neck in enough water to cover, until done. The resulting stock is what I use to moisten the stuffing.  I was really happy with this stuffing, though it will not replace my sage - mushroom stuffing at Thanksgiving.

This 15 pound bird took about four hours at 325 degrees. I baked it covered for about half the time. I put some dry champagne in the roaster to start the cooking process.


Turkey Brine

1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 gallon chicken stock
1 tbsp. black peppercorns
2 tsp. juniper berries
3 star anise
5 whole cloves
2 2 inch pieces dried galangal
1 gallon heavily iced water

Place stock, salt, and spices in stock pot. Bring to a boil, making sure salt is dissolved. Remove from heat, let cool. When cool, place brine, turkey, and ice water in a large pot or food safe bucket. Refrigerate for 8 hours.

 Apple, Date, and Raisin Stuffing

5 cup dried bread cubes
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced onion
cooked meat from the turkey neck, heart, and gizzard, minced
1/3 cup chopped celery leaves
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 apples, peeled. cored. and diced
1/3 cup raisins
1/4 cup chopped dates
1 tsp.ground  cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
pinch ground cloves
2 cups turkey stock

Sweat onions and celery in the olive oil until tender. In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients. Pour stock into mixture a little at a time, until bread cubes are moist but not soggy.

Stuff bird, both main cavity and skin at the neck.

Happy eating!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Ancho Chile Polenta and Black Bean Hash with Poached Egg

A great way to use up leftovers is a hash. Generally it uses potatoes, but other starches will work. I still had a fair amount of the ancho chili polenta from the other day, and also some of the black beans. I diced the polenta in about 1/2 inch cubes, and fried it in olive oil until brown. I added some minced green onion and garlic, and the leftover beans, which had onion and cumin.

I've been trying to get the hang of poaching eggs. I've been incrementally getting better, but then I found this method, which I found worked quite well. I used a large (14") straight-sided skillet. I put in about 1 1/2" of water, a teaspoon of coarse sea salt, and 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar. Bring the water to a good boil, then remove from heat. I previously broke the eggs into ramekins. It is generally advised that it takes the freshest eggs to get them to poach right. When the water reduces to a simmer, gently pour the eggs in. I could comfortably get three eggs in the pan, I think with practice I can easily get in four. Cover the pan. I let it sit for 7 minutes, and my yolks were mostly solid. Next time, I will try 5 minutes. Shape-wise, these were the best poached eggs I've made. I will definitely be working this method again.

Ancho Chili Polenta and Black Bean Hash

2 cups Ancho Chili Polenta, cubed
1 cup cooked black beans
1 large green onion, minced
1 tsp. minced garlic
2 tbsp. olive oil

In a skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Fry polenta cubes until golden brown. Add garlic and onion, cook until tender. Stir in beans, cook until heated through.

Serve with a poached egg on top.

Happy Eating!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Jalapeño - Cheddar Sausage Soft Tacos with Chioggia Beet Salsa

I've been making a lot of comfort food lately, and I wanted to change things up a little. I had some jalapeño and cheddar sausages, and I thought they would make great tacos. I shredded some Napa cabbage to go on top. I made a salsa with chioggia beets, lime juice, cilantro, and onion to go with. I had made some ancho chili polenta the other day, so I sliced that thin and fried it up. I made some black beans with onion and cumin as a side. I warmed up some flour tortillas to wrap everything in.

The sausages were Johnsonville Jalapeño & Cheese Smoked Sausages. I liked them. They were moderately spicy, and the cheese kept them moist. I sliced the sausages in sixths lengthwise, then into thirds, to make little fingers. I fried them until brown over medium-high heat.

For the beans, I started with a can of Bush's Seasoned Recipe Black Beans, then added 1/4 onion, diced, 1 teaspoon cumin, and a pinch of salt.

The polenta I had made earlier in the week, thinking I would use the sausages, when a friend called and wanted to do dinner before flying out of  town. So, the polenta got stored in the refrigerator for later. I'm inherently lazy, so wanted to find a method to make polenta in a rice cooker. I found this recipe, which was my inspiration. I mixed water, polenta, cumin, ancho chilies, and salt in the rice cooker. It cooked perfectly. Since I could not use it the day I made it, I stored it in a rectangular container, and it firmed up nicely. I popped it out of the container, and sliced it thin. I fried the slices in a tiny bit of olive oil over medium-high heat, until golden brown.


Ancho Chile Polenta

1 cup polenta
3 cups water
3 dried ancho chilies, de-stemmed, de-seeded, and chopped
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. coarse sea salt

Place all ingredients in a rice cooker. Switch to cook. When the cooking cycle is complete, let stand on warm 10 to 15 minutes, until it is the consistency you want. The longer you wait, the thicker it gets. If stored in the refrigerator, it will firm up enough to slice.

Chioggia Beet Salsa

3 small chioggia beets, finely diced
1/4 medium yellow onion, diced
2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
3 tbsp. lime juice
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. coarse sea salt

Place diced beets in a small sauce pan with enough water to cover. Simmer over medium-low heat until tender, about 3 - 5 minutes. Drain, run under cold water to cool. Mix all ingredients, let stand in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Happy Eating!


Smoked Turkey Navy Bean Soup

Wednesday is a tough day for us to do dinner. The spouse has a scouting meeting in the afternoon, and I have fencing practice in the evening. Often, she's just headed in the door, as I am headed out. Sitting down to a meal together is often impossible. This is where a slow cooker is very handy. I can put a meal in the slow cooker, have some before I leave, and it's there when the spouse is ready to eat. The slow cooker is a great multi-tasker.

Navy bean soup is serious comfort food for me. As a kid, I remember going with my grandparents to a chain of dinners, where you didn't have a waiter, but called in your order over a phone at your booth. The best thing on their menu was navy bean soup, which I had just about every time I ate there.

For this soup, I used smoked turkey neck, instead of the traditional ham hock. I like using smoked turkey, as it gives the soup the great smoky taste, with less fat than you get with a ham hock. This soup is flavored with onion and fresh cilantro. I also added a cup of the chicken stock from the other day.

An important note: Beans must be cooked without salt to become tender. Salted beans will remain hard, no matter how long you cook them.

Smoked Turkey Navy Bean Soup

1 lb. smoked turkey neck
1 lb. great northern white beans
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 large yellow onion, diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
salt to taste

The night before, rinse beans in a colander, discarding any spoiled beans and inedible material. Place beans in a large stock pot with 2 quarts of water. Place over medium-high heat. When water just comes to a boil, turn off heat, allow beans to sit over night.

The next day, drain and rinse beans. Place in slow cooker with 2 quarts fresh water. Turn on high, cook covered until beans are tender, about 5 hours. Once beans are tender, add smoked turkey neck, cilantro, and diced onion. Allow to cook for several more hours. Remove necks, strip as much meat as possible from them. Dice the meat, return to cooker. Add salt to taste.

Happy Eating!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Greens Revolution

Today was the last basket from our CSA subscription. I hope we can find money in the budget to re-up, spring is usually an exciting time for produce.

We got a lot of greens today. We got lettuce(3 heads!), red frill mustard, Savoy cabbage, chard, baby turnips(with greens), kale, cilantro, onion sprouts(luv 'em!), escarole, baby Chioggia beets(with greens), and sorrel.

Any good recipes for sorrel? I've never worked with it before. One of the joys of a CSA, always trying something new.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Chicken Sausage and Napa Cabbage Soup with Lebni -Cheddar Biscuits

The spouse is fighting a bit of a head cold. I thought soup, salad, and hot biscuits might help her feel better. I spent the day making stock. For the soup, I added green onion, carrot, chicken sausage, and Napa cabbage. The sausage I used was Hillshire Farm Gourmet Creations Chicken Apple with Gouda Cheese. I've used these twice before, once grilled, another time in upscale beans and weenies. Okay, so I really like these sausages, and the spouse is really good at finding them on sale.
For the salad, I used fresh arugula, with julienned baby turnips and baby candy cane beets. I made a date vinegar, sesame oil, and zatar vinaigrette.
The biscuits are made with lebni, a Middle Eastern yogurt cheese, and shredded cheddar. It produced a wonderfully tender biscuit, with a bit of the yogurt tang. I was very happy with results. I like to use shaped cookie cutters, to add a bit of whimsy.


Chicken Sausage and Napa Cabbage Soup

1 quart chicken stock
1 lb. chicken sausage, sliced into 3/4 inch slices
1 cup diced carrots
2 large green onions, sliced thin
3/4 small head Napa cabbage, shredded
salt to taste
In a large stock pot, heat stock over medium low heat to a low simmer. Add carrots and onions. Let simmer until carrots are tender. Add sausage, simmer another 15 minutes. Add salt to taste. Add cabbage, simmer two minutes. Serve.

Date Vinegar, Sesame Oil, and Zatar

1/4 cup date vinegar
2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. zatar
1/4 tsp. course sea salt
Whisk together all ingredients.

Lebni - Cheddar Biscuits

2 cups flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 tsp. course sea salt
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup lebni
4 tbsp. milk
1 cup shredded cheddar
Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. In a large bowl, stir together flour baking powder, sugar, cream of tartar, and salt. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles course crumbs. Make a well in the center, add lebni, milk, and cheddar. Stir in until flour mix is just moistened. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead 10 strokes, re-flouring board as necessary to prevent dough from sticking. Roll out to 3/4 inch thick. Cut out biscuits, place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes, until golden brown. Makes about 15 biscuits.
Happy Eating!

Garbage Stock

There's nothing like homemade stock. There are good commercial stocks out there, and I use them, but they never are as rich and flavorful as the stock I make myself.

I have spoken before about thrift in cooking. I save old bread, and find recipes for radish and carrot greens I would otherwise throw away. For my stock, I save the vegetable trimmings, rib bones, poultry carcasses, and ham bones.

Whenever I work with vegetables, I save the trimmings in a sealable bag in the freezer. Potato, carrot, turnip, and parsnip peels are obvious. The outer layers from onions, as well as the fibrous part of leeks and green onions adds much flavor. The ends trimmed off of celery, and whole stalks when they go rubbery, go into the bag. The woody ends of mushroom and asparagus stems are particularly good for adding richness to a stock. I like to include bell pepper trimmings as well.

I do not use trimmings from the cabbage family, including broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. They can add a bitter and sulphurous taste and odor. Also I only use peels from white or very pale candy cane beets. While I actually like the flavor added by red beet peels, using them turns the stock pink, which can be a visual turn-off for some people.

Many of the grocery stores in my area have deals on roasted chickens on Monday. It's not unusual for the spouse to pick one up, as it is cheaper than doing it myself, and Monday's I often don't feel like doing elaborate cooking. After removing the bulk of the meat, the carcass gets frozen. If I roast a turkey, the leftover carcass gets the same treatment. Same with the bone from a roast or a ham.

Today I'm making chicken stock. I had three chicken carcasses, and a gallon bag of vegetable trimmings. I use a large stock pot with a strainer. I put the carcasses and trimmings in the strainer, and cover with water. I let it simmer on medium low heat, occasionally adding water to keep , everything covered. I lie to let it go at least three hours, if possible, then remove the strainer. I generally leave the stock unsalted, and add salt to whatever it gets used in.

As I think I have mentioned before, I play in a Medieval and Renaissance re-creation group, the SCA. This is where I learned to value garbage stock. Some friends and I were competing in a cooking contest. The idea was that you were being besieged, and you have scrounged up the last of the food. How good a meal can you make? Well, the people running contest really didn't give us much to work with. One small turnip, a couple of small carrots, one leek, a small onion, and one chicken breast (skin on, bone in, thankfully) were typical of the quantities available. We could not afford to waste edible vegetables to make stock. So, the peels, and inedible parts, plus the chicken skin and bone, made our stock. And you know what, that stock was fabulous. It made a very solid foundation to build a number of dishes on. We ended up winning that contest, and we all felt that the stock was a significant part of that victory.

So, now I never use vegetables I could eat in a stock. I use the parts I otherwise would have thrown away, making a better use of the resources available to me. I highly recommend it.

Happy Eating!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Pasta with Radish Green - Walnut Pesto

I love my CSA. It challenges me to make the best use of the ingredients. We had gotten some marvelous radishes, with luxuriant greens. I hate to just throw things out, so I look for ways to use everything. I have previously used the carrot greens we've gotten to good effect.

I had a package of tri-color spinach and cheese tortellini in the freezer. I love tortellini with pesto. I made a pesto of radish greens, walnuts, garlic, olive oil, and salt. Hard to describe the radish greens. They have a rich herbaceous taste, with a little bite and some bitterness. They paired well with the walnuts.

I just prepared the pasta as directed, then drained it and tossed it with the pesto.

To go with, I sauteed some beautiful Savoy cabbage with some strips of green pepper and green onion.

Radish Green - Walnut Pesto

3 cups radish greens
2/3 cup walnut pieces
1 tbsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. coarse sea salt
2 -3 tbsp. olive oil

Place radish leaves, walnuts, salt, and garlic in a food processor. While processor is running, drizzle in olive oil until pesto has a smooth consistency. It may be necessary to stop and scrape down the sides of the processor bowl once or twice.