March 19, 2014

Chicken Legs in Tomato Gravy with Mashed Potatoes

I just finished reading (most of) Cooked by Michael Pollan. Like my experience reading other books by Pollan, I came away amazed, enlightened, and ready to change. (After reading a book a month for five years for a book club, I asked other members what book changed their life, if any. I don't remember if anyone else had an answer, but mine was In Defense of Food by Pollan, and I couldn't quite understand why no one else had been impacted like me.) In Cooked, I learned why wild yeast sourdough bread is the healthiest bread and all about the role bacteria plays in our bodies and why we should eat more of it, like fermented foods (the modern diet is almost devoid of bacteria). But those are topics for another day. The one for today is braising.

One section of Cooked is devoted to the power of water in cooking. Braising (to cook food slowly in fat and a small amount of liquid in a covered pot) can transform seemingly hopeless cuts of meat into divine morsels. I realized braising was not a technique I really use at all in cooking, so when I saw this recipe for a chicken braise, I was motivated to try it. I made this last night; my life is changed. I certainly have used similar ingredients (chicken, onions, carrots, celery, garlic, tomatoes, water) to create other dishes, but this has to be the tastiest one-pot dish I've made or eaten ever or at least in a long time. Really, it was quite amazing.

I need more braises in my life! If you have any to share, please do. I'll definitely be on the lookout. My next will be for a grass-fed chuck steak I just bought directly from a family farm. I just bought a little beef from him to make sure I liked it (I've had some grass-fed beef that was not worth repeating), but I'm hoping to be back for more soon. And since it's more expensive than run-of-the-mill grocery store beef, cheaper cuts are all I can afford. Braising is the process to turn those cuts into something magical.

Chicken Legs in Tomato Gravy with Mashed Potatoes
adapted from Food52

olive oil
4 chicken legs (drumstick and thigh attached or separated), skin-on
1 cup celery, diced
1 1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
1 1/2 cup carrots, thinly sliced on a bias
4 to 6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup dry white wine or chicken broth
2 cups tomato purée
1 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoon rosemary, minced OR 2 tsp. dried rosemary
2 bay leaves
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
mashed potatoes, for serving

Season the chicken on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat the oven to 375˚ F. Place a large sauté pan that is oven-safe over medium heat. Add enough olive oil to the pan so that the bottom is just coated. Add the chicken legs and brown them generously on all sides. Adjust the heat as necessary. Add the carrots, celery, and onions to the pan, and season with salt and pepper.  Make sure the heat is on medium or lower so that it takes a long time for them to soften. Don't let the vegetables brown. Once the veggies are very soft, add the garlic and rosemary. Stir the veggies around and once the garlic is fragrant nestle the chicken legs comfortably with the veggies.  Add the white wine or chicken broth and let it reduce to almost nothing. While the liquid is reducing use a wooden spoon to scrape up all the good bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add tomato puree, water, and bay leaves. Bring the liquid to a boil, cover with a "lid" made out of parchment, then slide it into the heated oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Serve over mashed potatoes.

February 20, 2014

Anise Butter Cookies

I love anise, but haven't run across many recipes that call for aniseed. These butter cookies were delightful, but with just a hint of anise.

Anise Butter Cookies
from Mediterranean Harvest by Martha Rose Shulman

12 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 c. sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon finely chopped lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons aniseeds, crushed in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder
2 1/4 all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter with the sugar until fluffy and pale, about 4 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and beaters. Add the egg, lemon zest, vanilla and aniseeds, and beat together.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. On low speed, beat into the butter mixture, just until combined. Gather the dough into a ball, then press down to a 1-inch thickness. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate overnight or for up to 3 days, or place in the freezer for 1 to 2 hours. Alternatively (if you don’t want to roll out the dough), remove spoonfuls of half of the dough and plop them down the middle of a piece of parchment paper to create a log about 2 inches in diameter. Fold the parchment up around the log to and refrigerate for 2 hours or longer. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Preheat the oven to 350 F with the rack adjusted to the lowest setting. Line baking sheets with parchment.

Cut the dough into 2 or 4 pieces, and roll out one piece at a time on a lightly floured work surface, to about ¼-inch thick. Cut into circles or shapes, dipping the cutter into flour between each cut, and place 1 inch apart on the baking sheet. Keep the remaining pieces of dough in the refrigerator or freezer.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, turning the baking sheets front to back halfway through. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.

Honey Peanut Butter Bars

I bought puffed rice for a recipe, but it really called for crisp rice cereal. I searched for a recipe using puffed rice and found this one. Since I made it I've been craving more and will make some soon.

Honey Peanut Butter Bars
adapted from She Bakes Here

1 cup natural peanut butter
2 tbsp maple syrup
1/4 cup melted honey
3 - 3 1/2 cups puffed wheat or rice cereal
1/4 cup chocolate, melted

Line a 8x8 inch square pan with parchment paper. In a large bowl, stir together peanut butter, maple syrup and honey with a wooden spoon.

Stir in puffed wheat or rice cereal and mix until the cereal is lightly coated. Using the back of the spoon, press the mixture evenly into the square pan.

Put the pan in the freezer for 25 minutes until the bars have hardened.

Grab hold of the parchment paper and gently lift the bars out of the pan. Using a sharp knife, cut the bars into even rectangles. Drizzle with melted chocolate.

Store bars in an airtight container in the fridge.

Big Yummy Bowl

This salad is absolutely delicious. My toddler loved it too - she cleaned her plate in record time. This photo is after her second plateful. Doesn't she look happy? The original recipe was called Big Vegan Bowl, but the fact that it is vegan is irrelevant. It's a big YUMMY bowl!

Big Yummy Bowl
from Oh She Glows

1 large sweet potato, chopped into 3/4-inch cubes
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (about 1.5 cups)
olive oil
spices: garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, cayenne
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 large carrot, peeled and julienned
purple cabbage or vegetable of choice, shredded
couple handfuls of greens for the base (optional)
lots of hummus
sliced avocado
hulled hemp seeds (optional)

Preheat oven to 400F and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
Spread out the chopped sweet potato on one sheet. Drizzle with 1/2 tablespoon of oil or so and toss the potatoes until coated. Sprinkle with fine grain sea salt.

For the roasted chickpeas: Drain and rinse the chickpeas and then place on a large tea towel and pat until completely dry. Discard any skins that fall off. Transfer the chickpeas to the baking sheet and drizzle with 1/2 teaspoon oil. Rub them around with your hands until lightly coated. Generously sprinkle with fine grain sea salt and your favorite spices, like garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, cayenne, and salt. Toss gently to combine.

Place both the sweet potato and chickpeas into the preheated oven. Roast for 15 minutes at 400F and then remove both. Flip the sweet potatoes and gently roll around the chickpeas. Place back in the oven for another 15 minutes or so, watching closely during the last 5 minutes. When the chickpeas are golden and the sweet potatoes are lightly browned on the bottom and fork tender, they are ready to come out.

Meanwhile, cook the quinoa while the roasting is going on. In a fine mesh sieve, rinse the quinoa and then place in a medium pot. Add in 1.5 cups of water and stir. Bring the mixture to a low boil and then reduce the heat to low/medium and cover with lid. Simmer, covered, for about 14-17 minutes (you can check after 13 minutes), until all of the water is absorbed and the quinoa is fluffy. Remove from heat and leave the lid on to steam for another 5-10 minutes or longer if needed. Fluff with fork.

Assemble the bowl: Add a couple handfuls of greens into a large shallow bowl. When the roasted veggies and chickpeas are done, allow the chickpeas to cool for 5 minutes and then add them on the salad followed by the sliced avocado, hummus, shredded veggies, and hemp seeds. Serve immediately.

January 30, 2014

Bolognese Sauce

This sauce is delicious and easy, and served over pasta with cheese is the kind of meal I crave on a cold winter night.

Bolognese Sauce
adapted from The Pioneer Woman

1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup carrots, grated
1 onion, diced
1 pound ground beef
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
1 Tbsp. dried basil
4 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup vegetable or chicken stock
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire or soy sauce
1 can (28 ounce) whole tomatoes
1/2 cup milk, optional
salt and pepper, to taste
freshly grated Parmesan or Romano Pecorino cheese

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven or skillet over medium heat. Add grated carrots and onions and cook for a few minutes. Make a well in the center of the mixture, and then add in the ground beef. Cook for a few minutes until brown, gradually stirring it into the carrot mixture.

Add oregano and basil. When the meat is browned and combined with other ingredients, make another well. Add tomato paste and let it heat. Add garlic and stir to combine.
Make a well in the center of the mixture and add stock. Stir together. Add Worcestershire or soy sauce and stir. Add canned tomatoes. Finally, pour in milk, stir, and let simmer for 30 minutes, up to 2 hours.

Serve with pasta and Parmesan or Romano Pecorino cheese.

January 16, 2014

Broccoli and Cheddar Frittata

I don't use broccoli nearly enough in my cooking and was pleasantly surprised with this frittata. Broccoli and cheddar really are a delicious classic flavor combo.

Broccoli and Cheddar Frittata
adapted from Ellie Krieger

6 large eggs
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small red onion, sliced (about 1 cup)
2 cups chopped cooked broccoli (steam for a few minutes)
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar (2 ounces)

In a medium bowl, add the eggs and whisk until combined. Set aside.

In a medium ovenproof nonstick skillet heat the oil over a medium flame. Add the onion and cook until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the broccoli and cook for another 2 minutes. Season with salt and a few turns of pepper. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables in the skillet covering them evenly. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and let cook until the egg mixture has set around the edges but is somewhat liquid in the middle, about 8 minutes. Sprinkle with the cheese.

Meanwhile, preheat the broiler. Place the skillet under the broiler about 2 inches from the heat until the surface is set and golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Be careful not to overcook or the egg mixture will become tough.

Spritz Cookies

I have a cookie press, but have only used it a few times. This Christmas I thought it would be fun to decorate cookies with my toddler. She did think it was fun, but all she could really do was sprinkle on the coconut. I kept the cookies mostly out of her reach except for the one we were decorating, but she still managed to snatch two and put them in her mouth before I could stop her.

Spritz Cookies
adapted from Wilton

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

In bowl, combine flour and baking powder. In large bowl, beat butter and sugar with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg, milk, vanilla and almond extract; mix well. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture; beat until combined. Do not chill. Fill cookie press with dough and with desired disks, press cookies onto ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 10-12 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool 2 minutes on cookie sheet on cooling rack. Remove from sheet; cool completely.

1 egg white
3 c powdered sugar
2-3 Tbsp water, if needed

Whisk egg white till frothy. Add powdered sugar and water (if needed) till thick and smooth. Add coloring as desired. Use shortly after making as the frosting will harden in 1 to 2 hours.