Saturday, October 22, 2011

Corned Beef and Collards

Friday 21 October
We’d frozen a corned beef shortly after St. Paddy's day for a time of interest, and suddenly we were interested.  We defrosted it, and set it to simmer with its little flavor packet about 3 hours before we wanted to eat.  About two hours later, we put in six little Yukon gold potatoes and a basketful of de-stemmed collards we picked out of the garden.  The greens boiled on the top, soaking up the fat and spice, and made the whole dish either local or Southern, whatever we wished.

Courgettes Carbonara

Thursday 20 October
This was adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe. 
It was a clever idea, so we adapted it to use penne-sized batons of our own garden-grown (and still growing!) zephyr squash, sauteed instead of onions, in our own style of penne carbonara.
The zephyrs added a sweet note to the carbonara, and I bet it wouldn't be bad with both onions and squash.

Sole Fillets with Creamed Leeks

Wednesday 19 October
This was adapted from a recipe on Epicurious that used the microwave and so many pans that none of the reviewers actually made it, they just adapted it so it could be done in a single skillet.  We are so down with that.  So this is what to actually do.

Melt about 2 Tbsp. of butter in said skillet, and slowly cook down the white and pale green parts of 3 leeks, split lengthwise, washed well, and sliced thin crosswise (about 3 cups).  Add ca. 1/3 cup white wine, then 1/3 cup heavy cream and keep cooking down.
Take your sole fillets (a pound or less total), dust them on one side with 2 Tbsp. of fresh minced tarragon, fold over with herb inside, and lay them across the hot leek mixture.  Cover and poach until opaque/flaky, maybe 10 mins.  At end, remove cover and if necessary, remove fish to warm plate, and raise heat to thicken leek mixture. 
Serve with lemon to squeeze over the fish; or it's fine just as is.

Choice Strip Steak with Grilled Caesar Salad

Tuesday 18 October
Last Thursday we had the "select" strip steaks, okay but cut sort of thin.  This time, we managed to get the "choice" grade, an inch and a half thick.  We grilled them, and when they were resting, we grilled a split romaine lettuce, and made up a grilled Caesar salad.
The croutons were made with Holt's homebaked bran bread - since Mr. Pig closed, we haven't had so much duck bread.
Verdict: get the choice grade and the thick cut - they're worth it.

Poulet Célestine

Monday 17 October
One of our favorites, when we have chicken and mushrooms.  The cognac isn’t really necessary, it's just fun.

Crispy Pork Medallions with Eggplant-Potato Curry

Sunday 16 October
We dipped thin pork medallions in beaten egg, dredged them with seasoned panko, and just shallow-fried them on each side until crispy.  And the curried vegetables were left over from last Saturday.  

Branzino with Fennel and Orange

Saturday 15 October
The branzino we bought at Luken's at Findlay Market doesn't look like the same fish we see in the Mediterranean Seafood handbook, but it's still sweet and tasty.  We got two of them, and stuffed the cavities with fresh rosemary, thyme, and parsley.

For the accompaniment, we quartered a fennel bulb, cored it, and sliced horizontally.  Quartered four shallots lengthwise; cooked in olive oil in a cast iron frying pan on high, then turned down the heat to caramelize.  Added pared orange sections, fish on top of vegetables, and a few orange sections on top of fish.  Roasted at 400º for 20 mins. 

It was a piquant Pisces, with loads of savory Italian flavors, whether it was real branzino or not.

And we actually had a dessert: cored bosc pears poached in sweet wine and a touch of vanilla for 15-20 mins., sauced with reduced balsamic vinegar.  A suave concentrate of sweet and savory.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Are You Cookin' Beans and Sausages

Friday 14 October
The name refers to David Letterman's dumb-guy imitation of George W. Bush: "Are you cookin' beans?  Is Zorro on?"  But in this case, the beans are borlotti (cranberry beans) from Findlay Market, so very locavore and high-class, unlike our unlamented ex-president.

Cooked the beans as here, but with the added fillip of picking three big sage sprigs, taking the leaves off for later, and putting the twiggy bits in for the hour and a half simmer, removing them afterward.  Made the house smell nice and sagey (Ozawa?). 
Trader Joe's mild (read innocuous) Italian sausages went alongside.  One clever thing: after browning the sausages, we usually steam them with a little wine to get them cooked through.  This time, we did that with the juice from the beans.  It got nice and thick by the time the sausages were done.

Grilled Strip Steak and Zephyrs

Thursday 13 October
Usually we get the choice steaks cut thick at Kroger's, but they didn't have any, so these were the cheaper select, a mite stringier and more carelessly cut.  But when you want red meat, you want it. 
And since we were grillin', we halved four little zephyr squash, coated them in olive oil and salt, and grilled them too.  

Tuna Steak and Stringbeans Niçoise

Wednesday 12 October
We found a nice batch of yellow wax beans at the Farmers' Market, which inspired this take on the flavors of Salade Niçoise. 
The base (literally) was Lidia's Ligurian beans, first parboiled, then sautéed in olive oil with a couple of cracked garlic cloves and five or six anchovy filets.  After all, Liguria is just down the coast from Nice, so they have a lot in common. 

We set them aside, and in the same pan did a pair of 'ahi tuna steaks, previously marinated in Dijon mustard, olive oil, a splash of white wine, and fresh thyme.  We started them at high heat for about two minutes on each side, then flipped them over at medium a couple of times so that they would be perfectly medium rare rather than cold inside and charred outside. 
Deglazed the pan with white wine and a few oil-cured olives, and poured it over the steaks atop their mound of yellow, savory beans.  The dish had all the intense flavors of salade Niçoise, but simplified.

Yellow-Yellow Chicken

Tuesday 11 October
The chicken legs and thighs were left over from Wednesday, and Holt heated them up with his own preserved lemons, an onion, and one of the bigger Zephyr squashes, all sliced up.  The effect was very yellow, and also quite piquant and tasty.

Via Vite

Monday 10 October
Our department had some honored visitors this week: Elizabeth Meyer and Ted Lendon, who came up from Virginia to show us how exciting ancient history can be (and in their hands, it sure is).  Susan, their mistress of ceremonies, asked us out for dinner with them at Via Vite, in Fountain Square at the heart of Cincinnati.
It's a buzzy sort of restaurant, just a bit too loud, but they do try hard in both the service and the comestibles departments.  Our appetizers were one special (pork tonnato - a favorite of ours) and a regular, grilled wild (?!) octopus with potato purée and anchovy-lemon vinaigrette.  Both were fine, though nothing to write home about.
Our main courses were braised lamb shank with creamy polenta (soothing and savory); and seared beef filet with caramelized sweet onion-Parmigiano flan and Marsala sauce (nicely done, though a mite undersalted).  And for dessert, two for the table: a neo-neo rice pudding in a martini glass, and very thick glazed cheesecake.
Via Vite is pretty good, and quite a bargain when you consider that it was half-priced wine night.

Rigatoni à la Leftovers

Sunday 9 October
There was about one portion of the Boeuf à la Niçoise still left after all our depredations, and we also had four or five portobello mushrooms from last week's shopping that we hadn't found a use for.  So when in doubt, make a pasta sauce.  We sautéed the chopped portobellos in olive oil, then added the stew to the pan, and muddled in the rigatoni when they were done.  It had the hearty overtones of pappardelle alla lepre, without any of the same ingredients.

Red Poblanos Rellenos and Tomatillo Salsa

Saturday 8 October
Daisy Mae's at Findlay Market had some poblano chile peppers that were fully ripe and bright red.  So Holt grabbed four, and today we roasted them, peeled them, stuffed them with grated colby cheese, breaded them with egg and seasoned cornmeal, and fried them up.  We served them on our traditional tomatillo salsa, which made a nice contrast with the red peppers.

Holt had the forethought to get some local apple cider at the market, so the drink of the evening was Chimayó cocktailsthe original version as we had them at Rancho de Chimayó, with the rims frosted with Demarara sugar and cinnamon.  But we think that it could be simplified to just apple cider and tequila, and still be good.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Neela's Eggplant and Potato Curry

Friday 7 October
It's good to have a recipe from that nice Dr. Neela on ER.  No really, this is based on a recipe in Madhur Jaffrey's World of the East vegetarian cookbook - but that makes far too little for a main dish for two, and is surprisingly bland.  We had to double the amounts and quadruple the spices.
1 lb. eggplant (can be more; we used 2.3 lbs. of Indian eggplants)
1 lb. yukon gold or other boiling potatoes
4 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. black mustard seeds
2 1/2 Tbsp ground coriander
2 Tbsp ground cumin
1/2 Tbsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. or more cayenne or (if you're fortunate) Chimayo chile pepper
1 Tbsp. salt
handful cilantro leaves, chopped
Peel the eggplant, and cut it and the potatoes into half-inch cubes.  Heat the oil to medium-high in a skillet.  Add mustard seeds; after a few seconds, when they begin to pop, add eggplant and potatoes.  Stir it around and add spices to a clear spot in the center; stir fry it all for a minute.  Slosh in about a half cup of water, cover, and lower heat; simmer 10-20 mins., checking occasionally to see that it isn't sticking. 
Serve sprinkled with chopped cilantro.  

Bluefish Cakes and Sweet Potato Cakes

Thursday 6 October
The leftovers from Monday were too small to make a full dinner in their original form, so we made them into crabcake-like cakes.  The Indian-spiced sweet potatoes and half a roast onion were chopped small/mashed into four patties, and the bluefish was flaked and mixed with diced red bell pepper, red onion, a touch of Dijon, and mayonnaise, to make another four.  Both types were rolled in panko and fried in butter and oil.  The bluefish cakes were especially good and bluefishy, so it will be a nice thing to remember to do with leftover bluefish.

Chicken with Roast Turnips and Onions

Wednesday 5 October
As promisedwe tried another of Thomas Keller's secrets for roast chicken with crisp skin: letting the carefully-dried bird sit uncovered in the fridge for two hours before salting it liberally and roasting at 450º F.
Again, we couldn't resist adding vedge to the pan: oiled and salted onions and turnips this time.    
Results were excellent, though I want to go back to slutting the chicken up with herbs and lemon and garlic soon.

Leftover Stew and Mash

Tuesday 4 October
The leftover stew from Sunday, poured over a bed of creamy, buttery mashed potatoes.  You can't find a more comforting dish.

Big Bluefish and Roast Root Vedge

Monday 3 October
Barbara and Julie took a fun day's excursion out to Jungle Jim's for the first time in what, years.  We got lots of essentials (good olive oil and red wine vinegar in bulk) and non-essentials (Demarara sugar, huitlacoche).  And just as we'd hoped, we scored a bluefish - but the smallest one they had was over 5 pounds.  Julie couldn't stay for dinner, and we'd meant to have Eleni and our new colleague Valeria over, so Holt grabbed them and asked them over to help us eat the fish.  And of course, Dora helped set the table.

The weather just got beautiful, so we had mezedes out on the patio: salami, manchego, olives, cherry tomatoes, cornichons, artichokes, cashews, and a nice bottle of red wine that Eleni brought.

We'd roasted some vegetables in advance: peeled and chunked sweet potatoes tossed with ground coriander and cumin, plus sliced half onions, and parsnips.
Usually we like to do bluefish like thisBut this was a big buster, so Holt found this recipe and took some hints from it.

We stuffed the fish with fresh rosemary, oregano and thyme, layered its surface with lemon slices, and put it on a bed of coriander seeds and bay leaves on our biggest tray.  We set it on the rack in the middle of a cold oven, then turned on the oven to 500°F.  It roasted until cooked through, 40 to 45 minutes. Cut into fish along backbone with a small knife to check doneness; the flesh should have turned from translucent to opaque.

While we portioned the fish, the vegetables went back into the oven to reheat.  We also served our daikon, carrot, and apple slaw, to add a fresh smack of acid.
For dessert, we introduced Valeria to Graeter's: coconut chip and peach, which Eleni had never had because she's never here in the summer.  Luckily we stockpile it, as it's our favorite flavor. And Valeria brought some Rocher chocolates to crunch on too.
We love these unpremeditated dinner parties.

Boeuf à la Niçoise

Sunday 2 October
It's been really chilly this week, so we wanted a big beef stoo to warm us up.  Scrabbled in the freezer, and found a 5-pound beef round we'd bought on sale and saved for just this kind of situation.  Of course it took two days to defrost, but that gave us a little time to buy the orange and olive that make this recipe special.
Though we admire Mireille Johnston's Cuisine of the Sun, we generally simplify her recipes.  For example, her version of this one takes three whole days.  We slice that down to two - one to marinate, and one to cook AND eat (she lets her stew sit for a day so she can skim off the fat that she introduced by putting salt pork and pork rind in.  We skip both, so that step's not needed).  But of course, we try to make plenty, because stew is so much better the second time around anyway. 
Step 1: Marinating
4 lbs. (approx.) boneless beef, trimmed, cut into inch cubes
olive oil
3 large onions, chopped
1 carrot, sliced
1 stalk celery, chopped
3 cups red wine
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
several sprigs thyme
several sprigs parsley
Salt the beef (with about a teaspoon).  In a pan, heat some olive oil and sauté onions, carrot, and celery for 5 mins.  Stir in wine, garlic, and herbs, and cook 20 mins.  Let cool, and combine with meat in a big bowl.  Cover and put in the fridge overnight.
Step 2: Cooking
olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 large onions, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 tsps. fresh thyme
rind of a small orange (avoid the white pith)
2 cloves
6 carrots in large slices
1/2 cup black oil-cured olives (we use Moroccan)
2 Tbsp. parsley, chopped
Start in the morning of the day you want to eat.  Drain the beef and reserve the marinade (we put a wire rack over a bowl and pour the marinade into it, while the rack catches the solids).  Pat the beef cubes dry, and sauté them in olive oil in a Dutch oven or large pan, turning them so each side browns evenly, about 10 mins.  Add the garlic and sauté 5 mins.; then add onions, tomatoes, thyme, the orange rind stuck with the two cloves, the carrots, and the marinade with all the vegetable solids.  You can then simmer it covered for 2 hours in the Dutch oven, or pour it into a crockpot and let it go all day. 
When it's done, pick out any woody bits you don't like, stir in the olives, and simmer a half hour more.  We leave in the orange rinds, which are soft now, but pick out the cloves, bay leaves and thyme wood.  Serve with a sprinkle of parsley over it, and a big glass of a big red.
Step 3: Eating.
Self-evident.  And there should be enough for at least another dinner of leftovers.

Fettucine with Pesto

Saturday 1 October
It just struck me that it's been 5 years and a month since we started the blog, on September 1, 2006.  That's pretty amazing, considering how short a time most blogs seem to last, and how intermittent they are.  So how come they haven't offered us a TV show or a book contract, like that Pioneer Woman or the Julie and Julia girl?  I guess we need a gimmick, like living on a ranch or having our marriage break up.  On second thought - no thanks.

We haven't made fresh pesto since back in 2006 as well.  Didn't need to - we had so much frozen.  And there's still a stubborn block of it still, waiting for a crowd of 20 or so.
This summer, Barbara planted basil seed from two old packets - genovese and purple ruffles - and since the germination from old seed is tricky, only 3 plants came up.  The green genovese made about a cup for storage, and we whizzed up the purple (which is less succulent) for tonight's dinner, to be served on fresh pasta.

Before pestoizing, we consult Barbara's favorite recipe for pesto, from the 1985 Fourth Annual "Oh Boy, Basil! Festival" in Parma, Michigan, the only thing purely Italian about which is the name Parma.  We've adopted/adapted the winning recipe, by Barbara Herman of Fort Wayne, as published in the Philadelphia Inquirer that year; a xerox has followed us all the way to Cincinnati.
Besto Pesto
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 tsp. fresh-ground white pepper
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 oz. grated Asiago cheese
2 oz. grated aged Provolone cheese (okay, use pecorino romano)
3-4 cups fresh basil leaves
In the food processor, whiz up garlic with salt, then add both types nuts, pepper, and half the oil; blend to a paste, 30 seconds.  Add all the cheeses and the rest of the oil, blend for several seconds.  Finally add all the basil and blend until it's pesto. 
When the pesto is fresh from the garden, you might as well make fresh pasta to honor it.  So Holt mixed up a batch, and we rolled it out into fettucine.  That's all you need for a summer banquet.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Turnips and Greens with Ham

Friday 30 September
Last summer when we were in Padova, Barbara saw some end-of-season seed packets at a florist's, and picked them up for a euro apiece.  Among the ones she planted this summer was Italian white and purple turnips, and she is now getting a bumper crop.  So today she picked out seven of the largest (still only the size of a plum, though) and we made them for dinner using this recipe.
Despite the bacon, and the shavings of a butt-end of Schad's ham we threw in to flesh it out, the result was pretty bland, but benefited from extra showers of Tabasco sauce and salt.
We both think of the primary turnip as the root, so we talk of "turnip greens."  But Cincinnati is southern enough to use the greens more, and specifies "turnip roots."  We like both and hate to waste either, so we're on the lookout for recipes that combine the two.

Leftover Chili and Cornbread Muffins

Thursday 29 September
We set out to walk home from the office at 7 PM, but the sky in the north looked livid and ominous.  As soon as we got to Dixmyth Ave., we were hit by a wind so stiff our umbrellas flew inside-out and Holt had to hang onto Barbara's arm to keep her from blowing away.  Then a pelting rain soaked us to the skin, the street flooded, and we looked like drowned rats (VERY interesting to Dora) when we finally got in the door.
After we'd squished upstairs, changed, and warmed up with a little red wine, Sunday's chili went onto the stove to reheat and lose some of its extra liquid; also we threw in a few roasted green peppers we had in the fridge, just to give it body. 
And to get even warmer, Holt whipped up a batch of cornbread muffins from this recipe in New Joy. 
Northern Cornbread
While the oven preheats to 425º, grease two six-muffin pans (and from now on, don't use the black one - it sticks, no matter how much Crisco you use). 
In a large bowl, mix thoroughly:
1 1/4 cups stoneground cornmeal
3/4 cup unbleached flour
1 to 4 Tbsps. sugar (be sparing)
2 tsps. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt.
In another bowl, whisk up:
2 large eggs
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup buttermilk.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring just until moistened.  Fold in:
2 or 3 Tbsps. warm melted butter
Pour the batter into the tins until each is evenly filled with space to rise in.  Bake 10-12 minutes, until a toothpick stuck into the center of one comes out clean.
Let's hope Holt's family doesn't disown him for making such a Yankee cornbread.  But this, as well as the southern version, will Rise Again.

Beef Stroganoff

Wednesday 28 September
The recipe is herebut tonight we used 4! onions, caramelized on low heat and covered until the last 10 minutes, instead of any mushrooms.  You'd be surprised how the onions cook down, but the result is slightly sweet and luscious.


Tuesday 27 September
After a hefty lunch of Floyd's spit-roasted chickenwe thought we'd have a light meal in the evening.  After all, the Germans have just cold cuts and bread (Abendbrot) - and we've seen our German-department colleagues here lining up (and chatting in German) at Krause's for all the right ingredients, even to the bread made with springwater.  
We had something even better: Holt's rosemary focaccia, to go with Krause's own manchego cheese, salami, and Schad's ham, and Barbara's caponata.  Oh, and the usual olives, cornichons, and a quick slaw adapted from Joel's daikon pickle recipe that we had prepped for last Monday but not had room for on the table.  Here's how that goes:
Daikon, Carrot, and Apple Slaw
1 1/2 cup daikon, benrinered or sliced into juliennes/matchsticks
1/2 cup matchstick carrots, ditto
1/2  cup rice vinegar
a scant 1/2  cup sugar (be sparing)
2 1/2  teaspoon  salt (you need the extra salt to cut the sweetness of the carrots)
Place the carrot and daikon matchsticks in a jar. In another bowl stir together vinegar, sugar, and salt until sugar is dissolved. Pour in the jar, to cover.  Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.
So far, it's what they put on or alongside Vietnamese sandwiches, banh mi.  Should be good on steak or barbeque sandwiches too.
To make the final slaw, slice up two granny smith or honeycrisp apples - they should be larger matchsticks, not so small that they disappear next to the daikon - and toss them with all the jar of pickled vegetables.  Make sure that the apple slices get mixed in quickly with the vinegar from the vegetables, so they don't brown on exposure to air.  
Okay, our English-speaking Abendbrot sounds like a lot of food.  But it was actually just snacks of everything, and what we didn't finish went back into the fridge.

Napa Sausages with Grilled Zephyrs

Monday 26 September
As all our reader knows, we love the locally-made Napa sausages from Kroger and sons in Findlay Market.  But sometimes they put a little too much salt and fat in them, which sadly proved to be the case this time.  The skins split too, so we deglazed the pan with a little wine for some pan sauce. 
The side dish proved to be the best part: little zephyr squashes from the garden, just halved, brushed with oil, and grilled.  

Chili con carne

Sunday 25 September
The weather is getting cool, so a long-simmered bean dish is appealing, especially when it can go in the slow-cooker and be ready when we get home from the office. 
The classic chili con carne needs little elaboration.  We soaked pinto beans overnight, and this morning we fried up a pound of ground beef and a couple of chopped onions seasoned with tablespoons of ground coriander, cumin, and the beautiful chile de Nuevo Mexico that Phoebe brought us.  That got poured in with the beans to simmer all day, but unfortunately we forgot to change the soaking water, which was at too high a level.  The result was a little soupy, especially after we added the large can of crushed tomatoes and the shot of red wine vinegar when we got home.  But who cares - it was damn good chili soup.

Spanish Potato Salad

Saturday 24 September
As herebut with roasted red bell peppers from Monday.

Chicken Paprikash

Friday 23 September
We haven't done this since we started the blog!  But it's easy as Hungarian pie, and comes from the Larousse Treasury of Country Cooking. 
We used two chicken breasts, salted and peppered, but any part will do, or just the cut-up chicken.  Heat a pan with some oil in it, and brown the chicken pieces on all sides until golden; remove and reserve. 
In the same pan, sauté a chopped onion for a couple of minutes; then add a minced clove of garlic and about a half tablespoon of Hungarian paprika (to taste), and stir to toast a bit.  If you want more vegetables, as we generally do, you can double these amounts. 
Stir in a quarter cup of chicken broth until thoroughly mixed, return the chicken to the pan, cover and simmer around 30 minutes.  
When the chicken is tender and done, remove and keep warm.  Stir in a quarter cup of sour cream and simmer 5 mins., until softly bubbling.  Taste and correct the seasoning.  Serve the chicken napped with the sauce, sprinkled with a touch of parsley or a little more paprika.