Thursday, March 17, 2011

Spicy Parchment Hake with Mixed Vegetables

We adore fish around our house. The feller comes a running when he smells it cooking as do the cats waiting for their special treat. As part of Clean Out the Coffers March, I went through the bits and pieces that were left in my hydrator for this one. There's a list of additional vegetables you could easily use or substitute with if you had them lying around.

It's a fast dish to make, with cutting of the vegetables taking the most time. I made this, 4 servings, start to finish, including the 25 minutes of cooking, in 50 minutes. This is the sort of dish where I'll prepare the vegetables in the morning, refrigerate them and throw it together upon walking through the door at the end of a long day. Served it with steamed rice and a nice Sancere. Fabulous!

Printable version of Recipe

Serves 4


Spicy Sauce:
3 tsp kecap manis (sweet soy sauce*)
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp sriracha hot chili sauce
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice (bottled may be substituted)
2 tsp Shaoxing Chinese cooking wine*

Vegetables & Fish:
1 leek, cut into matchsticks, soaked in cold water to remove sand/grit
1 red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
2-3 scallions, white and green parts cut lengthwise into matchsticks
1 small zucchini, thin lengthwise slices
6pc (1/2 bunch) Chinese choy sum
4 filets (2 pounds) wild Hake fillets (cod would be a good substitute)
sesame seeds
fresh ground pepper

lime zest
large flake kosher salt

Steamed Rice (I use a rice cooker)

Special Equipment:
2 jelly roll pans (Cookie sheet with sides)
parchment paper

Preheat oven to 350F.
Mix all of the sauce ingredients together well and set aside.

Cut a rectangle of parchment paper 3x the length of the fish fillet. Place parchment on the jelly roll pan. In the center of one half of the parchment, place one quarter of each vegetable in a pile on the parchment paper. Place a fillet of the fish on top. Pour on one quarter of the sauce, spreading over the fish fillet. Sprinkle sesame seeds over the top of the fillet and grind on some fresh ground pepper.

Fold the Parchment in
half. Starting at the folded corner, fold/roll small sections of the parchment upwards, one on top of the next, all around the three open edges. (I'll take a photo of what it looks like next time, I can't believe I didn't this time!) Once all edges are rolled, take the edges at the both ends of the folded side and tuck them under to hold the parchment in place
and keep it from unrolling.

Bake in parchment for 25 minutes. You can either serve in the individual parchment packets or slide it all out onto a plate. Before serving, grate on some fresh lime zest and sprinkle on some large flake kosher salt to taste. (Less is more with the salt.) You may also want to mix some additional kecap manis and sriracha hot chili sauce if anyone wants more of a sweet kick to dip in.

I serve with a side of steamed rice.

A few additional/ substitutable vegetables include:
pea pods
summer squash
shredded carrot
green/yellow bell pepper
bok choy

* May be found in your local Asian market or may be ordered online from your favorite Asian supplier.

Monday, March 14, 2011

COOKING LESSON: Roast Beef with Potatoes and Garlic

I love to teach. What a wonderful way to spend a Sunday. Teaching cooking is always a pleasure. Especially when you those learning take their first bite and it's come out PERFECT!

Enter Miss Dana. She'd had a run in with a roast beef when she was first married... and she lost the hard rubbery fight. It's been four years since she had let a roast beef enter her oven.
Today it was time to thrown off the gloves, shake off the fear and get down to the meaty gritty.

I had no worry that with a little encouragement and a few tricks, she'd make one heck of a roast.

She certainly didn't disappoint!! Look at THIS:

The Roast Beef was cooked PERFECTLY. Thin slivers of garlic slipped in on all sides... potatoes and garlic roasted to equal perfection and the juices, Wow!

The roast was served with an easy and spicy chimichurri sauce and a salad.

Dessert was a basic "what fruit have you got" crumble.

Rating for the meal? An A of course!! Her husband is thrilled to have the possibility of the return of MEAT to his house again.

I know she's already made the crumble again. I may make it today for the folks coming by tonight. Let's see... what do I have left in my coffers?

The Perfect Roast Beef

boneless beef roast (we used eye round): 3-4lbs (we used 4lbs)
olive oil
garlic (1-2 heads plus)

cotton kitchen twine
meat thermometer

Preheat oven to 250°F degrees.

Rub olive oil, salt & pepper into the roast. Tie up the roast with kitchen twine lengthwise first then in rings about 1" apart using the butchers knot. Your goal is to tie the roast so that it's an even size around for even cooking.

Cut slits in roast every 1.5" and slip slices of garlic into slits. Do this on all sides of the roast.

Ideally, you can use a roasting pan that goes stove top to oven and sear the roast then roast in oven in the same pan. Miss Dana had not yet invested in a roasting pan, so we roasted the tied beef in a frying pan on the stove top, searing roast on all sides, and transferred the roast to a 9"x13" pan that we had sprayed a little cooking spray into.

Place the meat thermometer into the roast so the tip will be in the center-most part.

Next you will add the potatoes/garlic around roast (see below.)

Cook until a meat thermometer registers 110°F. (Approx. 45min-1hr)

Once it reaches that temperature, increase oven temperature to 500°F degrees. Do not take the roast out while the temperature rises in the oven.

Cook until the meat thermometer registers 120°F - degrees for Medium rare (approx. 10-20 minutes more.) NOTE: Watch the temperature on the meat thermometer. It will rise faster than you will expect now that the temperature is at 500°F. An internal temperature of 130°F = Medium and so on.) BEWARE: The meat will continue to cook as it rests. ALWAYS rest your meat to allow the juices to settle back into the meat or you will have some very dry bits. (Same goes for poultry, pork, lamb, goat...)

Transfer only the beef to platter. Tent with foil and rest 20-30 minutes.

While the meat rests, reduce oven temperature to 350°F.
Shake pan still containing potatoes and garlic to distribute evenly and return to oven. Cook 20-30 minutes further until a fork
inserted into the potatoes inserts with ease.

Slice beef. Add potatoes to the platter and enjoy with the Chimichurri Sauce (see photo.)

Roast Potatoes & Garlic

1-1.5 lbs small to medium red potatoes
2 heads of garlic, whole cloves
olive oil
salt & pepper

Cut red potatoes into quarters (or halves depending on how large they are to start with) and place in bowl. Peel whole cloves of garlic and add to bowl. Chop rosemary (discarding tough center stem.) Slip the leaves off of the thyme stems and give a quick chop.

Drizzle olive oil over along with salt & pepper. Toss to coat all evenly and add to roasting pan around the roast.

Printable version of Recipe

COOKING LESSON: Chimichurri Sauce (for the Roast Beef)

This sauce is served with the perfectly cooked Roast Beef. (Also great as a dipping salsa on a fresh crusty bread for my vegetarian friends.) So simple to make. Be sure to throw it together as soon as you put the roast in the oven to give enough time for all of the flavors to mix. This version has a small kick to the flavor. Feel free to increase the spice levels to your own taste.


1 cup parsley - flat leaf - packed well
6 med cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1-2 thai chilies (more or less to your taste)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup red onion, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more or less to your taste)

Process garlic, parsley, onion and chili in the bowl of a food processor with about half of the red wine vinegar until finely chopped.

Pour into a bowl and whisk in the remaining ingredients.

Let sit at least 30 minutes for the flavors to mix and serve.

Printable version of Recipe

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Strawberry Butter

We've all had it happen... that box of strawberries that gets lost in the back of the fridge only to surface when they've grown softer than we'd like. They aren't bad... but they don't look so good.
This is the perfect recipe for them! You can OF COURSE use gloriously fresh and perky berries too.

This was used in place of maple syrup on our French Toast for dinner night. I had to focus on finishing the gift for my nephew rather than spending loads of time in the kitchen - both were a success!! Yum!

Quantities in this recipe are all to taste. It can be changed in all quantities to suit your own taste.

Printable version of Recipe

Serves 2-3

4 tablespoons salted butter, softened to room temperature
6 strawberries, bad spots cut off if there are any
1 tablespoon confectioners sugar (10x powdered sugar) You may need more or less.

Into the bowl of a small food processor put the strawberries and process until well chopped. There will likely be some chunks larger than others. That's OK. They'll break down.

Add the butter and continue to process, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed.

Add the sugar, a little at a time. The amount you will need all depends upon the sweetness of the berries. The sugar seems to bind it all together providing the needed texture, so I wouldn't cut it out all together.

Printable version of Recipe

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sausage Minestrone Soup

Continuing with Clean out the Coffers March, this is a delicious clean out the fridge soup! It makes a substantial amount. There is just enough of the sausage to give a great flavor. I made it for dinner and enjoyed it during lunches the next few days while sharing it with friends and even sent a bowl home for a friend's sick brother. I'm sure the garlic alone will do him some good!!

The smells coming from your kitchen as it cooks will certainly bring folks to the kitchen asking when will it be done!

This version was inspired by this Minestrone recipe on Food52.

Serves 8 to 10

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 hot italian sausages links without their casings
3/4c onions, chopped (I used shallots as I was out of onions)
10-15 cloves garlic
1 35 oz. can of diced tomatoes (mine was diced with basil)

6 cups water
1 15 oz. can of cannellini beans, rinsed well
1 15 oz. can of chick peas, rinsed well
3 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped
3 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped
1/4-1/2 teaspoon of the chili powder of your choice (I used 1/4 teaspoon extra hot chili powder)
1/2 head of cabbage (4 cups, sliced/shredded), I prefer nappa cabbage
1 9 oz. box of frozen green beans (fresh is OF COURSE A-OK!)
1/2 cup orzo
3/4 cup red wine (I used Malbec)
1-2 teaspoons kosher salt (start with 1 and add to your taste)
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper

Shredded Parmesan Romano (garnish)
cilantro/parsley, chopped (garnish)
scallions (garnish)

In a dutch oven, heat the olive oil until hot and add the sausage. Cook sausage breaking up as it cooks. Remove the sausage from pan once cooked and set aside. In the same pan, add the onion (shallots) and garlic, cooking over medium heat until the onions grow translucent. Feel free to add a little water to loosen the browned sausage bits as the onion cooks.
Once cooked, add the can of tomatoes, water, cannellini beans and chick peas along with the fresh chopped herbs and the spices. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes.

Add the remaining ingredients, including the sausage, and cook for 15 minutes until the orzo is just cooked. This will be a rather thick soup. Not quite I stew, but a thick and hearty soup.

Serve in bowls with shaved Parmesan Romano, chopped cilantro/parsley and scallions on top.

The vegetables above can be changed out for others including peas, pea pods, zucchini, summer squash, pinto beans, kidney beans etc.

The wine adds a little richness to the flavor of the broth, but you can omit if you haven't any handy. (Or my preference, pop a bottle open and use the rest for dinner!)
Drop a comment by letting me know how your version of this came out!

Printable version of Recipe

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Three Cup Chicken with Thai Basil & Green Beans

Over the last 12 years I spent a significant amount of my time working and living between New York City and Asia, including China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. I was fortunate enough to be able to take the time once in a while and get into a kitchen with Fu, the woman who most often cooked lunches and sometimes dinners for me, allowing me to work more hours without interruption. Some times I would teach her recipes (I taught her to bake her first cookies!) and other times she taught me about Chinese cooking. I miss the travel terribly. I miss Fu too. The baking soda trick below is something she taught me. The sauce has been developed by trial and error reading many recipes and tasting many versions in Taiwan and China (an amazing one in a Taiwanese restaurant in Shanghai I still dream about!) I added the green beans after reading the San Bei Gi recipe in the book the art of EATING IN by Cathy Erway. Thanks for that tasty suggestion Cathy!

This recipe was part of my Cleaning out the Coffers March, save for the Thai Basil which I bought fresh, but used the entire bunch in this recipe - so I allowed it for the rule bending.

Printable version of Recipe

Serves 4-6 servings depending upon their appetites

2.5 lbs chicken thighs, skinned, fat removed, bone-in preferred (best flavor)
2.5 tablespoons baking soda
1.5 tablespoons cornstarch
5 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/3 cup dark sesame oil (has a better flavor than regular sesame oil)
4 dried birds eye chilies, chopped and crushed (optional)
25 cloves of garlic, cut into quarters
25 slices of peeled fresh ginger
5 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)* <-- this gives the authentic flavor I taste when eaten in Asia
1/3 cup Shaoxing cooking wine*
1 pound green beans, ends removed, cut into 3 inch pieces
4 scallions
1 entire large bunch of Thai basil leaves**

Steamed white rice

* I have had this recipe made with squid as well. Delicious!
* Once I had this dish with eggplant (no green beans). It was also wonderful, but I've yet to try it.

Begin by cutting the large portions of chicken off of the bone, leaving some on the bones. This will allow it to cook faster later and will be easier to tenderize. Rinse and dry the chicken. Put chicken and baking soda in a bowl making sure the chicken is well coated. Let sit 15-20 minutes then thoroughly rinse. This is to help tenderize the chicken.

Combine the cornstarch and soy sauce in a bowl, and pour over the tenderized chicken. Marinade in the refrigerator for a minimum of 45 minutes (or longer.)

As the chicken marinades, you can prepare the vegetables.

In a dutch oven (some prefer non-stick pans, but I adore my All-Clad dutch oven), heat the sesame oil over medium heat. When hot (not smoking), add the chilies, ginger and garlic. Cook until the garlic and ginger grow fragrant.
DO NOT put your nose directly over the pan and breath in if you have used the chilies as the steam may well sting your eyes and nose.

Add the chicken and brown it on all sides. Add the kecap manis and cooking wine and bring to a boil. Once boiling reduce the heat to medium-low and cover cooking until the chicken is done, approximately 10 minutes. Stir occasionally, loosening up the browned bits.

Add the green beans and basil, stirring well, and cook an additional 5-7 minutes (until the green beans are cooked al dente.

Serve with steamed white rice. Sprinkle scallions on each plate prior to serving.

* Available in your local Asian market or online at your favorite Asian market retailer.

**Thai basil is NOT the usual basil found in most supermarkets that you use in a typical pesto. It is more peppery and is extremely fragrant. It is worth finding this special basil, available in Asian supermarkets if not in your specialty market, for the authentic flavor.

Printable version of Recipe

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Sour Cream Chicken Quiche

Continuing along on Clean Out the Coffers March, I had a bag of chicken breasts from the live chickens I had butchered two weeks ago. I don't care so much for chicken breasts. They are my least favorite part of a chicken. They dry out easily. They don't absorb flavors as nicely as dark meat. What to do with them?

Cook them to almost fully cooked and put them in a quiche you'll bake!

I have to admit that I didn't like the crust texture when I was making it. I let it get too soft when using the food processor and should have chilled it slightly before rolling. It didn't look like my usual pretty work... but with this much butter... it tasted GOOD! I'd have used a sour cream crust like this crust if I'd had some cream cheese in the fridge.

Printable version of Recipe

Serves 6-8 depending on how large you cut the slices.

1 9-inch pie crust (recipe below)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup yellow, red or green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup cooked chicken, stripped from bones, fat and skin removed and chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (1/4 teaspoon iodized salt)
1/4-1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup of shredded cheese (I used a Mexican blend containing Monterey Jack, Cheddar, Asadero & Quesadilla cheeses.)
2 eggs, slightly beaten
3/4 cup milk (lowfat milk is fine)
3/4 cup sour cream (you can use low fat sour cream)

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in your favorite medium-sized frying pan. I love my 12" cast iron pan for this. Add onion and peppers and cook, stirring as needed, until the onions begin to turn translucent. Add the flour and stir for 2 minutes. Add chicken, salt, pepper and nutmeg and heat through.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix the eggs, milk and sour cream until smooth.

Pour the chicken mixture into the pie crust and spread evenly across the bottom. Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the chicken in an even layer. Pour the egg mixture over the shredded cheese layer carefully.

Bake for 20 minutes at 400°F.

Reduce heat to 350°F and continue baking for another 30 to 35 minutes. (Do not take the quiche out of the oven as the temperature reduces.) Quiche is finished when a knife inserted near the middle comes out clean.

Let cool for 10 minutes prior to cutting. Serve.

Basic Crust I Used:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon chilled butter, cut into cubes
1/2 tsp salt
1 to 2 tablespoons of ice water

Can be mixed by hand, but I mixed in my food processor. In the bowl of the food processor, pour the flour and salt. With the blade spinning, drop in cubes of butter one at a time until the flour resembles cornmeal.

Slowly add the ice water as needed until the dough is moistened. Turn out into a bowl and press together firmly into a ball with your hands. If the dough doesn't hold together, add 1 to 2 teaspoons of additional ice water.

Turn out the crust on a flour rubbed surface and flatten into a disc.
Using a flour rubbed rolling pin, roll from center outwards until the dough is about 1 1/2" larger than the inverted 9" pie plate.
Lift up the pie crust half way onto your rolling pin for assistance in transferring crust into the pie plate. Crimp your edges (better than I did. I was in a rush, boy did my crust edges look sad here!) Refrigerate until ready to use.

I served the Quiche along side the Quinoa Asparagus & Black Bean Salad. Delicious!

Printable version of Recipe

Quinoa with Asparagus & Black Beans - Quinoa Fridge Clean Out #1

I love Quinoa. It's far under utilized. This needs to change! It's so good and HEALTHY to BOOT!! We like things spicy around this house, so feel free to reduce the chilies (fresh and dried) if you desire.

I was inspired by this recipe over at Food52.

This is version #1 for March is Coffers Clean Out Month. I'd say you could substitute blanches peas, pea pods, green beans and many other vegetables for the asparagus if it's not what you have left in your fridge.

Printable version of Recipe

Serves 4

1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup water
juice of one line
zest from 1 lime
5-7 spears cooked asparagus, chopped (I'd have added more but it's what was left in the fridge!)
Kosher salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
2 dried birds eye chilies, chopped
2 fresh thai chilies, chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 scallions, white and green part chopped
1/4 cup roasted red peppers, chopped (it's what I had left in the fridge)
1/2 cup fresh yellow bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup black beans (you can use more if you like, this is what I had left after making the Beany Egg Tortillas)

Put quinoa and water into a small pan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover and turn heat down to simmer for about 15 minutes until most all water has been absorbed. Fluff up with a fork and spread into a bowl to cool. (You can put it into the fridge to help cool down.)

In a large bowl, mix the spices, chilies, lime zest and lime juice. Mix in the olive oil until well blended.

Stir in the asparagus, beans, cilantro and scallions.

I served it on top of mixed salad greens aside the Sour Cream Chicken Quiche. Perfect!

Printable version of Recipe

March is Coffers Clean Out Month

I am a lucky lucky gal.

I have a full (too full?) freezer. A full pantry and time on my hands while I continue to look for a job. I've deemed March as Clean out my Coffers Month. The bulbs are begining to bloom, the local CSA will start in a few months as will the farmers markets. Time to eat through what we've got!

I've been aiming to use as many ingredients from my fridge/freezer/pantry as possible in each meal. I am allowing the purchase of fresh veg/dairy when I absolutely need them. I had a good amount of veg in the fridge from social events I'd cooked for, so this has meant very little.

What's on the clean-out list:
Quinoa Tossed Salad
Grammy's Date Bars
more to come...

I'll continue to add links to the above recipes as they are made.

I'm also lining up some teaching cooking classes over the next weeks, so keep an eye out for those reports!

March will continue to be YUMMY! Can't you just taste it?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Beany Egg Tortilla (my version of Huevos Rancheros)

I have a bag of avocados, a little bit of salsa and a can of organic spicy black beans that was time to use up and had all of the fixings for an easy and tasty tortilla lunch. It's also great for breakfast brunch or dinner!

This recipe is per serving. Easy enough to double or triple. You can, of course, make two or three eggs rather than one per serving to your taste.

Printable version of Recipe

1 serving

1 egg
2 tortillas
1/3 cup salsa of your choice (I love Green Mountain HOT myself)
1/3 cup canned black beans (I prefer to make them myself, fresh, but in a pinch these are great!)
1/2 fresh avocado, mashed
*(see avocado tips at bottom of post)
1/8 cup shredded cheese (I used a Mexican blend containing
Monterey Jack, Cheddar, Asadero & Quesadilla cheeses.)
salt & fresh ground pepper to taste

I love my cast iron pan for this dish. It's well seasoned and the eggs don't stick with only a small amount or no oil sprayed on. You can substitute with your favorite frying pan if you haven't a cast iron pan.
A broiling pan with a sheet of foil on top large enough to hold the tortilla.

I began with making my favorite sunny side up egg. Cracking the egg into the cast iron pan, immediately cover it and let the egg begin to cook. I love a good runny yolk (you may not), and this allows the entire white portion of the egg to cook leaving the yolk nice and runny.

While the egg cooks, mash the avocado and spread it onto one of the tortillas.

When your egg is cooked to your desired doneness, add a little salt and pepper and slide the egg(s) onto the non-avocado covered tortilla that you have placed onto the foil covered broiling pan. I use the broiler in my toaster oven if I'm making only one. I use my regular oven if I'm making multiples at once so they are all ready at the same time or in batches.

While the pan is still hot, toss in the salsa and black beans to warm them up. If you are not using a cast iron pan, you may need to turn the heat back on to do this. I've found when I turn off the heat from cooking the egg in my cast iron pan, it's still hot enough to do this job without any more flame. Pour the salsa/bean mixture over the egg and top with the avocado covered tortilla.

Sprinkle the cheese on top of the mashed avocado and pop under the broiler. Heat until the cheese has melted. Keep an eye on things under the broiler as they can go from yummy and melty to burnt and destroyed in a flash.

With the help of a spatula if needed, slide your finished tortilla onto your plate. Sprinkle on additional salt and pepper to your taste. I added some heated leftover cooked asparagus and a mescaline salad before serving.

* When selecting avocados in the market, if you can easily remove the stem base (brown woody looking spot on the end of the avocado) with your fingernail, the avocado is ripe and ready to eat now. Keep your avocados out on the counter to ripen fastest rather than in the refrigerator.

* After slicing the avocado in half lengthwise (as shown in photo), firmly whack a sharp knife blade into the pit and gently twist. The pit will come out easily. Scoop the avocado out with a spoon and mash away. I use the now emptied avocado skin to hold the slippery pit and wiggle the knife back out of the pit. Be careful to not cut yourself. Slow and steady here.

Printable version of Recipe