Friday, September 23, 2016

Warning: I've been hacked.

It seems that some time ago my site was hacked. I think I've removed the offending bits, but until I'm sure, surf at your own risk. It seemed to be a bit of malware that would redirect you to another site that would try and tell you your browser was at risk and insist that you enter  a  user name and call a toll-free  number. All of which is complete  nonsense. If you encounter anything like that while at this site, and you happen to know me, please contact me and let me know. Also, if you're in Windows, you may have  to open your task manager  to force quit  your browser. Never  respond to any kind of nonsense requests like user names, phone calls or passwords from this site.

 I'm sorry if this has affected anyone.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Cold Tomato Soup

With summer entering it's last weeks, fresh tomatoes are plentiful. Turning ripe tomatoes into a cold soup for these hot days is a sure winner. If you can, visit a local farmer's market and get the ugly tomatoes. Trust me. Heirloom tomatoes may be misshapen and have split tops, but they have the best flavor. Sometimes you can find nearly over-ripe tomatoes at a discount. If so, grab them up. They're perfect for this soup.

Inspired by a recipe by David Tanis, this chilled soup is a winner. I served it will grilled cheese sandwiches and it made a very nice, light, meal. Toast with avocado would be a nice accompaniment, as well. If you can't get good, fresh tomatoes, this soup also works well with canned tomatoes. Use a 24 oz can, with juice.

Makes 4 servings
Take about 1 hour, including time to chill.

For the soup
2 pounds ripe red tomatoes, cored and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbl extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbl sherry vinegar
Pinch of cayenne
1 tsp salt, more to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste

For the garnish
1/2 medium green bell pepper, finely diced
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1 Tbl extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 Tbl sherry vinegar
1 Tbl chopped fresh parsely, or 2 tsp dried
1 Tbl chopped fresh chive, or 2 tsp dried
Salt and black pepper to taste

Put all of the soup ingredients (not the garnish!) in a blender and blend on high speed for 1 minute or until very smooth. Add more salt, pepper, and cayenne, if needed to taste. Put in a non-reactive bowl and chill for one hour or more.

About thirty minutes before serving, mix the ingredients for the garnish together, and refrigerate until needed.

To serve, divide soup evenly between four bowls, and place about 2 Tbl of garnish in the middle. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Watermelon Gazpacho

In the midst of a heat wave the last thing I want to do is turn on my oven. Second only in kitchen aversion is using my stove. We don't have central AC in this tiny apartment, and so turning on the oven is akin to turning the entire kitchen into a sauna, and not the good kind. The ambient heat, having sapped my will to live, has come into conflict with my gluttonous desire to eat good food. Cold food is a must for these steamy days. Fortunately, both tomatoes and watermelon are in season.

Tomato and watermelon are surprisingly good together. This recipe, based on one by Anya von Brezmen, is surprisingly sparse on ingredients, for a gazpacho, but is perfect for hot summer nights. I think it works better as an appetizer, or aperitif, but it can pass as a light supper when served with cold sandwiches. Make sure you get fresh, juicy melons and tomatoes for this dish, and don't forget the celery. It's heightens the flavors and really brings things together. Don't worry, my friends. Flavorful refreshment is on the way.

Makes 4 servings.
Takes  10 minutes to make, and at least 2 more hours to chill.

4 cups cubed, seedless watermelon, about 1 1/4 lbs
1 lbs ripe tomatoes, cut into quarters
2 Tbl extra-virgin olive oil, more for dizzling
2 Tbl lemon juice, or more to taste
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 tsp Salt. more as needed
1/4 ground black pepper, or more, to taste
Thin celery sticks for garnish

Working batches, puree all of the ingredients except the garnish in a blender for at least two minutes, until smooth and frothy. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt, pepper, and lemon juice as needed to make the flavor pop. Transfer to a bowl and chill for at least 2 hours, and up to 24 hours. Serve in individual bowls or mugs, garnishing with celery sticks. If there are any leftovers, which there probably won't be, they'll keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Creamy Corn Pasta with Basil

Corn is at the height of it's season, here in Utah, and so I'm always on the lookout for new and tasty ways to prepare it. This summer pasta dish, based on a recipe by Melissa Clark, features corn in a surprisingly tasty way. The corn flavor, which takes center stage, is kicked up by green onions and basil. Off season, I would use frozen corn, because it's what I usually have on hand, but it would be even better with fresh corn, cut from the cob. If you do use frozen corn, thaw and drain it, first. I don't normally keep fresh basil hand, so I used dried. If you have it, though, use 1/3 cup and toss it in at the end, omitting the dried basil and parsley. This sauce cooks quickly, so you will be able to make it at the same time you're cooking the pasta. Just start on the sauce after you set the water to boil, keeping an eye on the pot so you know when it's ready to add the pasta.

Makes 4 servings.
Takes 30 minutes to make.

12 oz. dried pasta such as farfalle, orcchiette, or small shells
1 Tbl neutral oil, such as canola
1 bunch green onions (about 8), trimmed and thinly sliced, keeping the greens and whites divided
2 cups fresh corn kernels
3 Tbl butter
1 1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1 Tbl fresh minced flat leaf parsley leaves
1 Tbl lemon juice, or more, to taste
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, or more to taste
Extra-virgin olive oil (optional)
Salt and pepper, as needed

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add 1 Tbl salt and the pasta. Cook until just 1 minutes shy of al dente, according to the package directions. Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.

In the meantime, Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat, until shimmering. Add the scallion whites and a pinch of salt. Cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup of water, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper, and 1 3/4 cups of corn, reserving the remaining 1/4 cup. Simmer until the corn is heated through and almost tender, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool, slightly. Puree the mixture in a blender, adding more water as needed to form a thick, but still pourable, sauce.

In the same skillet, add the butter and melt over medium-high heat. Add the reserved 1/4 cup of corn, along with the dried basil and red pepper flakes, if using.  Cook until the corn is tender, about 2 minutes. Don't stir it more than once. Letting the corn, and the butter, brown will make it all the more flavorful, just don't let it burn. Add the corn puree and heat through for about 30 seconds, just to combine the flavors.

Once the pasta is cooked and drained, returning the pasta to the same pot it was cooked in, if needed, add the sauce to the pasta along with 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking water. Toss to coat and cook over medium heat for 1 minute more. Add more of the reserved water as needed if the mixture seems too thick.

Off the heat, stir in the parsley and lemon juice. Add additional salt and black pepper, to taste. Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese, remaining sliced green onion, and a drizzle of olive oil, if using.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Black Bean Burgers

Hamburgers are one of my favorite foods. Melt some cheese over it and I'd fall in love with you. (No, my wife didn't do that when we were courting. More's the pity.) But when two of your kids are vegetarians, more or less, you need to think about expanding the range of ingredients beyond just good ground beef. In fact, you've got to find some way to keep that rich meaty, charred, flavor without using meat.

There are plenty of high-sodium, low-flavor, variants available at the grocery store these days. I'm not a huge fan of processed cardboard, but if that's your thing, go right a head and spend more money on them that you would on ground beef. Which is saying something, these days. I've found several recipes for veggie burgers online, and black beans seem to stand out as a favored ingredient for many of them. Oh, there are others, for sure, but black bean burgers seemed like an interesting choice. That and the ingredients are all pretty common to my pantry.

This recipe is my take on a black bean burger recipe from America's Test Kitchen. I modified a few of the ingredients, and their ratios, to better fit my pantry, and my taste. I use rolled oats in this recipe because they're easy, and I like the added flavor. Bread crumbs, or any type, will do just fine, though. Cilantro can be substituted for the parsley, if desired.

Takes 35 minutes to make.
Makes 6 servings.

2 (15-oz) cans black beans, rinsed and drained well
2 large eggs
1 Tbl olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1 cup rolled oats
1 red or green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and finely chopped
1 green onion, finely chopped
1 Tbl dried parsley, or ¼ cup minced parsley
4 Tbl vegetable (or canola) oil for frying
6 hamburger buns
Favorite hamburger toppings

Place 2 ½ cups of beans in a large bowl, setting aside the rest for later. Mash them with a potato masher until mostly smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, olive oil, cumin, salt, and cayenne, if using. Add the egg mixture, the remaining beans, oats, bell pepper, parsley, and green onion to the mashed beans and stir until just combined. Let stand for 5 minutes so the oats can absorb some of the liquid.

Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions. Pack, lightly, into 1-inch-thick patties. These patties can be delicate, so take care when handling them.

Heat 2 Tbl oil in a 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Working with three patties at a time, carefully lay them into the skillet and cook until well browned on both sides, about 5 minutes per side.

If you want to turn these into cheeseburgers, which I often do, drop a slice of cheese on top during the last 2 to 3 minutes of cooking.

Transfer cooked burgers to a plate and tent loosely with aluminum foil, repeat with the remaining three patties. Serve on hamburger buns with your favorite burger toppings.

Black Bean Burgers with Corn and Chipotle Chile varation:
To change things up a little, substitute 1 Tbl minced chipotle chiles (canned in adobe sauce) for the cayenne, reduce the red pepper to ¼ cup, and add ¼ cup of fresh or frozen corn, thawed and patted dry, to the bean mixture. I've tried it both ways and like them both, equally.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

American-Style Broccoli Calzone

A great calzone, with a satisfyingly crisp and chewy crust, with plenty of flavorful fillings, is a treat worth the quest. The trouble is, most calzones I've found turn out with a soggy filling and have a crust more akin to bad bread than pizza dough. Not so with this recipe. Even better, this one gets you eating your vegetables in a way that is so tasty you won't mind. The cheese inside doesn't hurt, either.

This recipe does require some work and time, but not as much as you might think. While I braise fresh broccoli, you could substitute frozen, if you want to skip cooking the broccoli. It won't be as flavorful, but it might say you a little time and effort. Just make sure to thaw, drain and chop it, first. In this case, add the garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes along with the cheese.

My wife and kids like cheddar cheese, and so that's what I used, making this very American. For a more authentic Italian-style, use 1 1/2 cups of mozzarella and a 1/2 cup of feta, instead, replacing the cottage cheese with ricotta cheese.

The cooked broccoli makes a great side dish unto itself, if you're so inclined.

Equipment needed
Chef's knife
kitchen shears (optional)
measuring cups and spoons
mixing bowl
parchment paper
baking sheet

2 Tbl light cooking oil (vegetable or canola)
1 head of broccoli, trimmed and cut into 1-inch florets (about 1 pound)
3 Tbl water
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper as needed
1 cup cottage cheese
2 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
1 large whole egg, plus 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten with 2 Tbl water
1 pound pizza dough
Cooking spray

Heat cooking oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add broccoli and a pinch of salt. Cook, without stirring, until the broccoli begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Add the water, cover, and cook until broccoli is bright green, but still crisp, about 2 minutes more. Uncover and cook until the water has evaporated and the broccoli is crisp-tender, stirring occasionally, about 2 more minutes.

Push the broccoli to the sides of the pan to clear a space in the center. Add the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, and stir into the broccoli. Season with salt and pepper to taste and transfer to a serving plate, to cool a bit.

Place an oven rack in the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 450 degrees. Cut two pieces of parchment paper into 9-inch squares. These will be used to make rolling and moving the calzones, easier.

In a large bowl, stir the broccoli mixture, cottage cheese, and cheddar cheese together.

Divide the dough in half. Working with one half of the dough at a time, transfer the dough to a piece of parchment and roll into a 9-inch round. Spread the broccoli-cheese mixture evenly over one half of the dough, leaving a 1-inch border. Fold the other half over the filling, leaving a 1/2-inch border of the bottom half uncovered. Brush edge with egg wash. Press the edges of the dough together, pressing out any air. Fold the bottom dough edge over the top, and press and crimp to make a pretty seal. Using a sharp knife, cut 5 steam vents, about 1 1/2-inch long across the top layer of dough, starting at the folded edge and cutting toward the crimped edge. Brush the tops with more of the egg wash. Using the parchment paper, transfer the calzone, along with the paper, onto a rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough half.

Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes or so, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer the calzones to a wire rack to cool for about 5 minutes, before cutting each in half, for serving.

Makes 4 servings.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Roasted Carrots and Kale Rice Bowl

This healthy combination of flavorful roasted veggies over rice, topped with an egg, is a great example of what a vegetarian rice bowl can be. Nutty brown rice is perfect for this dish, but plain white rice is good, too. The flavors in the original recipe come from a bold Middle-eastern spice mixture called za'atar, a mixture of thyme, ground sesame seeds, and powdered sumac. I can't get za'atar, or sumac, at my local grocery store, and it seemed kind of pricey online, so I did some research and come up with my own faux blend. To be honest, I have no idea how close this is to the real deal, but it was pretty tasty.

To make faux za'atar, combine 3 tsp dried thyme, 1 1/2 tsp lemon pepper salt, and 1/4 tsp toasted sesame seeds in a spice grinder and pulse into a powder. This should make about 2 Tbl. Use what you need for the recipe, and then keep he remainder in an airtight container.

Now let's get started on the dish.

5 carrots, peeled, halved crosswise, then halved or quartered lengthwise to create uniformly sized pieces.
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 tsp za'atar
8 oz. kale, stemmed and chopped into 1-inch strips
2 Tbl red wine vinegar
1 green onion, finely sliced
4 eggs
Salt and pepper
2 cups cooked rice, or more if desired

With an oven rack in the upper middle position, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Toss the carrots, 1 Tbl oil, za'atar, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper together in bowl. Spread the carrots onto the prepared baking sheet and cover with foil. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes.

In the meantime, toss together the kale, 1 Tbl oil, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/8 tsp of pepper together, using the same bowl as the carrots. (Why dirty more dishes than you need to?) Next, whisk together the vinegar, green onion, and 3 Tbl olive oil in a bowl to make a quick vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

When the carrots are done roasting, remove the foil and spread the kale evenly over the top. Return the carrots and kale to the oven and continue to cook, uncovered, until the carrots are spotty brown and tender and kale is crisp, about 15 minutes.

In the meantime, divide the cooked rice into individual serving bowls, about 1/2 cup per bowl. Top with the roasted vegetables and drizzle the vinaigrette over the rice and veggies. Cover and set aside. 

Heat the remaining oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Crack the eggs into two small bowls, 2 eggs per bowl, and season with salt and pepper. Working quickly, pour the eggs into the skillet, cover, and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and let sit, covered, for 1 to 2 minutes more, depending on how runny, or set, you like your yolks. Top each bowl with one egg, and serve.

Makes 4 servings.
Takes about 45 minutes to make.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Vegetable Pot-Pie

The only kinds of pot-pie I think I ever had as a kid were the frozen ones from the grocery store. I can understand why my mom would opt for this. From scratch, a pot-pie can be a lot of work. The frozen ones cook up pretty quick in the microwave. I confess, those frozen ones are still guilty pleasures for me, from time to time.

As I started doing more vegetarian cooking, I became intrigued by the idea of a vegetarian version of the pot-pie. How would we create the savory flavors and stew-like filling I wanted, without meat? This recipe, modified from the America's Test Kitchen recipe, hits the mark pretty well. It's got surprising savoriness, and was easier to make than I thought it would be.

The original version of this recipe only used a top crust. I like crust on top and bottom of my pot pie, thank you, so that was the first change. I'm also a bit lazy. They make their own pie crust. I can do it, but I don't like to so, I used store bought crusts. Not as good as homemade, but I'd rather have pie than not. I prefer the rolled up dough, where you just thaw and unroll it over a pie plate. The only kind I've been able to find at my local grocery store, recently, is the kind that's already in a foil plate. You either use what you've got, or you go home so, I used those this time around. They come with two crusts per package, so I needed to thaw them and remove one of them from the pie plate for the top crust. You're more than welcome to make your own pie crust, though.

Equipment needed
9 1/2-inch pie pan (depending on your pie dough source)
paring knife
chef's knife
measuring cups and spoons
large spoon
Dutch oven or other large sauce pan with lid
mixing bowls
rimmed baking sheet
aluminum foil
pastry brush

2 frozen pie-crust doughs
4 Tbl butter
1 onion, finely chopped
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
salt and pepper
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium turnip, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 Tbl lemon juice
8 oz. Swiss chard, stemmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 Tbl all-purpose flour
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbl dried parsley
1 large egg
1 tsp water
cooking spray

Thaw the pie crusts (unless you're using fresh). For the top crust, roll one dough smooth between two pieces of parchment paper. Put it in the refrigerator until needed. For the bottom crust, if using loose dough, gently center one in a 10-inch pie plate, leaving about a 1-inch overhang. If not, just leave it in the provided pan. If there are any cracks, smooth them together with a drop of water and your fingers. Lightly spray the bottom pie crust with cooking spray. (My mom says this helps keep the bottom dough from getting soggy.) Refrigerate until needed.

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Melt 2 Tbl butter in a Dutch over or other large saucepan over medium heat until the foaming stops. Stir in the onion, mushrooms and 1/2 tsp salt. Cook until the mushrooms release their liquid, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the sweet potato and the turnip. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until potato and turnip begin to soften, about 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic, lemon zest, and parsley and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the chard and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes more. Transfer everything to a bowl and set aside.

Now to make the roux. Melt the remaining butter in the empty pot over medium-high heat, until it stops foaming. Stir in the flour and cook for one minute. Gradually whisk in the broth, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer and cook until it starts to thicken, about 1 to 2 minutes. Off the heat, whisk in the Parmesan, lemon juice, and 1/2 tsp salt. Stir in the reserved vegetables, along with any juice that's accumulated in the bottom of the bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and place the prepared bottom pie crust/plate in the center. This will help keep your oven clean in case the filling boils-over, ease clean up, and makes it easier to put the pie in the oven if you happen to be using a foil pie plate. Transfer the vegetable mixture into the bottom crust of the pie, and smooth the top. Place the top crust on top. Fold up the bottom edge of the dough around the top dough, and crimp together. Cut four 2-inch slits in the top, with a paring knife, to vent the steam. Lightly beat egg and water in bowl, and brush over the top of the crust. Put the whole thing into the oven. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Remove and let cool, on the baking sheet for 10 minutes or so before serving.

Makes 6 servings.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Homemade Vegetable Broth Base

If you've read this blog much, you'll know I prefer to make my own stocks. Vegetable stock has always seemed like a waste of vegetables, though. Meat broths makes sense. Just a few vegetables and some left-over bones, that I'd otherwise throw away, and a bunch of water. Very frugal. Using up a huge amount of yummy veggies only to toss them in the trash after I've boiled them to death just to make vegetable both? I don't think so.

With that in mind, I've generally used the “Better-than-Bullion” vegetarian broth base in the past. (No, that is not an endorsement. It's just what I like and can easily get a hold of.) Not anymore. With the help of America's Test Kitchen, and some recipe tweaking to make it fit my budget and available vegetables, and still taste great, now I have an amazing recipe for my own vegetable broth base. Yes, it still uses a bunch of vegetable, but, I get a lot more yield from my grocery money than making traditional vegetable stock, or buying either kind at the store. This recipe will make about 1 3/4-cups of base, which translates to about 1 3/4-gallons of broth. Very cost effective, and much more flavorful.

This recipe calls for kosher salt. Don't be tempted to cheap out and use table salt. It will ruin the broth base.

Equipment needed
Chef's knife
Food processor
Freezer-safe, airtight container
Wax paper (or parchment paper)

2 leeks, white and light green parts only, chopped and thoroughly rinsed
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 stalks celery, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2-cup fresh parsley, leaves and thin stems
3 Tbl dried minced onion
2 Tbl kosher salt
1 1/2-Tbl tomato paste
3 Tbl soy sauce

Process the leeks, carrots, celery, parsley, minced onion, and kosher salt in a food processor until the whole turns into a fine past. You'll need to scrape down the sides of the processor bowl periodically, and will take about 3 or 4 minutes. Add the tomato past and process for 1 minute more, scraping down the sides of the processor bowl about every 20 seconds. Add the soy sauce and process for one more minute.
Transfer the mixture into an airtight container and tap it firmly on the counter a few times to remove any air bubbles. Press a small piece of wax paper flush against the surface of the mixture (this helps prevent freezer burn and ice crystal formation) and cover tightly. Can be frozen for up to 6 months.

To make one cup of broth, stir one Tbl of either fresh or frozen broth base mixture into one cup of boiling water. There will be veggie particles floating around, which I think add more flavor, but if you want a clear broth, steep the broth for 5 minutes, like tea, and then strain.

What I do: I re-purpose a used, and cleaned, 16 ounce dairy container, like you find for cottage cheese or sour cream, along with it's lid. The broth base will fill it almost to the top. Then I cover the base, as described, with a square of wax paper so it touches the broth base, and trap the excess wax paper between the lid and the rim of the container. When I need some vegetable broth, I use a large tablespoon to scrape the frozen base off the top. I'll add it, just as if it were a spice mix, along with the needed about of water, when I make soups, or whatever I need a bit of vegetable broth for.