Sunday, February 20, 2011

eat your veggies

creamy cauliflower and pasta

I love cauliflower.  Raw, cooked, in cheese sauce, and especially in this pasta.  Luckily, my husband, who is usually cauliflower-averse, also likes this pasta.  The cauliflower is meant to be creamy and fall-apart tender.  Really it just melts in with the pasta and Parmesan.  I made this once before, but didn't cook the florets long enough--trust me, you don't want the cauliflower tender-crisp in this case.  I also added in a can of diced tomatoes this time, which added to the pizza-type flavor of this dish along with the garlic, oregano, and cheese.  I used the end of a block of Wisconsin Parmesan to top the pasta, but recently I bought a chunk of Parmesan from Hook's cheese out of Mineral Point.  It's by far the best Parmesan I've ever tasted and would have made this meal even better.  Alongside a piece of baguette slathered with roasted garlic, the whole wheat pasta and cauliflower made this a hearty (and fairly healthy) winter meal.

Every time I browse through my favorite cookbook, Simply Organic, I find more to try.  This recipe is located in the "deep winter" section of the book, but I'm looking forward to trying it again when we can get local cauliflower from our CSA or the farmer's market.  And, as a side note, we signed up for the CSA through Amazing Grace once again.  So excited for spring to come!

Creamy Cauliflower and Pasta
from Simply Organic by Jesse Ziff Cool

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 lb whole wheat pasta, such as shells or rotelle
1/3 c olive oil
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 c dry white wine
15-oz can diced tomatoes, drained (optional, but recommended)
1 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano or 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 c kalamata olives, pitted and chopped (I omitted these--we're not olive fans.)
1 tsp red pepper flakes
4 sprigs fresh Italian parsley, stemmed and chopped
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c shredded Parmesan or Asiago cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat.  Add the cauliflower and cook for 5 minutes, or until tender.  Remove with a slotted spoon to a medium bowl, reserving the water.  Cook the pasta according to the package directions in the reserved water.  Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl.

While the pasta is cooking, in a large skillet heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic and cauliflower and cook for 5 minutes, stirring and breaking the cauliflower into bite-sized pieces.  Add the wine, oregano, tomatoes and olives (if using), and red-pepper flakes and cook for 3 minutes, or until the cauliflower is very tender.  Add the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Pour over the pasta and toss to coat well.  Top with the cheese.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

one pound

pork and lemon meatballs

I know I've mentioned before that when I'm not cooking meatless dishes, I try to stretch our meat to make several meals.  Whenever I buy a pound of ground meat (lamb, beef, buffalo, or pork), I plan to make two recipes with it.  This week the meat of choice was a package of wonderfully fatty ground pork from a local farm that supplies our bacon and the recipes were both knock-outs: pork and lemon meatballs and pork and scallion dumplings.  This is a two-for-one recipe post, outlining how well you can eat if you have just one pound of pork.

pork and scallion dumplings

First, a meatball recipe from a favorite Serious Eats column, Dinner Tonight.  I have two or three meatball recipes that I rotate, but this one stands out.  The pork is mixed with breadcrumbs, herbs, anchovies, Parmesan, and some lemon, then dredged in flour before frying in butter and olive oil to create a nice crispy coating.  Then chicken stock is added with the meatballs, which I thought might have made the meatballs soggy, but it actually had the effect of making the coating into a velvety glaze.  I want to try other meatball recipes with this technique!  The flavor was great too--the Parmesan and anchovy provided nice depth.  The citrus and pork combination reminded me a bit of the delicious Laotian lemongrass pork sausage I had at Lao Laan Xang awhile back.

Pork and Lemon Meatballs
from Serious Eats
serves 2

The recipe here is halved from the original since I wanted the other half pound of pork for dumplings later in the week.  Click the link above for the original recipe.

1/4 c flour 
3/4 c fresh breadcrumbs 
1/2 lb ground pork
Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon 
2 tbsp parsley leaves, chopped
6-8 springs thyme, leaves removed
3 tbsp grated good-quality Parmesan 
5 anchovy fillets, minced (or about a tbsp anchovy paste, if you keep that on hand like I do)
salt and pepper 
1 tbsp olive oil 
1 1/2 tbsp butter
3/4 cup chicken stock
1 pound cooked couscous or pasta (I made couscous with butter, salt, and chicken stock.  Yummy!)
Sprinkle flour on large baking sheet. Combine breadcrumbs, pork, lemon zest and juice, parsley leaves, thyme, Parmesan, and anchovy filets (or paste) in large bowl. Add good pinch salt and pepper and mix ingredients thoroughly by hand. Shape into 18-20 balls, about heaped tablespoon each, and put on floured baking sheet.
Heat olive oil and butter over medium heat until butter melts and foam subsides, then roll enough meatballs that will fit comfortably in skillet in light coating of flour. Cook until golden all over, in batches if necessary, 10-12 minutes total. Avoid moving unless necessary to promote caramelization.
Pour off most of fat from skillet and add chicken stock. Bring to a boil and reduce for 2-3 minutes. Serve with pasta or couscous and juices from pan.

*  *  *
Tonight we enjoyed the following pork dumplings.  Recently we've tried a couple different methods of cooking dumplings.  I made gyoza which were meant to be fried, then doused with water to steam.  Those fell apart when we added the water.  On New Year's Day, I made shrimp and cilantro shu mai, which were very tasty, but stuck to the basket when I tried to steam them (should have sprayed the basket first!).  This recipe called for the dumplings to be simmered in a pot of water, which has been the most successful technique yet.  The directions say to fish the dumplings with a slotted spoon, but I seem to have lived on my own for 6 years without picking up that kitchen tool.  We tried just dumping the contents of the pan through a strainer, but the force of the water tore some of the dumplings.  I finally just pulled them out with a regular spoon.  Needless to say, I will be purchasing a slotted spoon soon, plus one of those handy little wire skimmers.

In any case, these were very flavorful and pretty easy.  If you're like me, you'll have most of the ingredients on hand and will only have to pick up a few items.  I actually had half a package of dumpling wrappers left over from the New Year's shu mai, so I really only had to pick up scallions.  I love it when I can use up what I already have in the freezer or cabinet!  I served them on a bed of red cabbage for a bit of freshness and crunch.  I could see serving them the same way for a party--they can be frozen in advance and cooked as needed which would be ideal for entertaining.

Pork and Scallion Dumplings
from Epicurious
serves 2 as a main dish (24-30 dumplings)

We had a bit of pork leftover, which made yummy a few meatballs with some panko thrown in.

1/2 lb fatty ground pork
1/2 tbsp Shaoxing wine (I substituted sherry)
1/4 tsp Asian sesame oil
1/2 tsp Vietnamese chile-garlic sauce (preferably Huy Fong brand)
1 1/2 tsp finely grated peeled ginger
1/2 tsp rice vinegar (not seasoned)
2 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Pinch of white pepper
3 tbsp finely chopped cilantro stems
3 tbsp finely chopped scallions, flowering chives, or flat Chinese chives (garlic chives)
24 to 30 round dumpling (gyoza) wrappers

Make the dipping sauce by mixing all the following ingredients and let it sit while you make the dumplings.

1/2 c soy sauce
1/3 c water
1/2 tbsp Shaoxing wine (or sherry)
1/8 tsp Asian sesame oil
1 garlic clove, smashed
3 (2-inch) dried red chiles, wiped clean
1/8 tsp sugar

Combine all filling ingredients (except cilantro stems, chives, and wrappers) in a large bowl, then stir in cilantro stems and chives. Set bowl in a larger bowl of ice to keep chilled while forming dumplings.

Place a slightly rounded teaspoon of filling in center of a wrapper and moisten area around filling with water. Fold in half to form a crescent and press to seal. Moisten one corner and bring corners together, pressing them, to form a tortellini-shaped dumpling. Repeat with remaining filling and wrappers.

Cook dumplings in a large pot of gently simmering water until pork is just cooked, about 3 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a platter.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

meatless with mushrooms

This week was a pretty good week for animals.  We had several vegetarian meals, which were all very yummy.  This meal will be my first official "Meatless Monday" link for the Midnight Maniac blog (whose author I was delighted to discover is a fellow Wisconsinite!).  Our vegetarian attempts have recently become even more appealing, as our trip to Japan helped Matt and I both get over our mushroom "issues" once and for all.  Their earthy, meaty qualities were perfect for these flavorful meatless tacos.

I was able to whip this up fairly quickly since I had roasted and peeled the hot peppers earlier in the week to make our own rendition of this decidedly meat-ful torta (I'll leave description for another post).  I am about ready to start roasting up a huge batch of peppers--poblano, red, yellow, orange, and otherwise hot--on the weekends to have on hand all week for sandwiches, salads, soups, and the like.  I could also use a vat of roasted garlic in the fridge at all times.

Anyway, I digress.  I simplified the taco recipe a bit by switching out fresh epazote for dried oregano and omitting the coxita cheese.  I also used some frozen fresh salsa I stored away last fall instead of making the salsa quemada, though it sounds quite tasty as well.  Next time we thought we'd add a bit of Greek yogurt (our go-to sour cream substitute), but overall this turned out very well.  But look out--for us this made a ton of filling.  I'll be eating this as a salad topping all week!

Mushroom, Rajas, and Corn Tacos with Queso Fresco
adapted (slightly) from Epicurious

2 Anaheim chiles
1 poblano chile
1 c frozen or fresh corn kernels (about 1 ear)
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
Kosher salt
1/2 white onion, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 lg clove garlic, thinly sliced
6 oz cremini or white button mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
1 tsp oregano, preferably Mexican
Fresh-ground black pepper
1/2 c queso fresco, cut into small cubes
6 warm corn tortillas
Salsa quemada or your favorite salsa
Cilantro sprigs

Roast the chiles as for rajas.  If you have a gas stove, it's simple to quickly char the skin on the peppers directly over the gas flame.  If you're like me and are stuck with electric, it's not much more difficult.  I roast the peppers under a hot broiler in a small pan lined with foil for about 5 minutes on each side, staying nearby to check every so often, until all sides are blackened and beginning to blister.  Put the peppers in a plastic zippered bag and seal for about 15 minutes, or until the chiles have cooled and the skin is readily peeled.  Pull the stem from the top and strip the skin from the peppers, then remove the seeds and cut into 1/2-inch dice.

Heat a heavy pan (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat until very hot.  If using frozen corn, place corn in colander and rinse until thawed.  Allow to drain and dry somewhat before the next step.  In a bowl, toss the corn with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil and a sprinkling of salt. Spread the corn in the hot pan and let it blacken slightly, without stirring, for 30 seconds. Have a lid ready in case the kernels begin to pop. Remove the roasted corn from the pan.  In the same pan, heat 2 teaspoons of the olive oil. Add the onion and diced chiles and cook, stirring often, until the onion is soft and beginning to brown. Season lightly with salt and remove from the pan.

Reduce the heat and add the remaining olive oil. Add the garlic and mushrooms. Cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms are cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. Return the corn and chiles to the pan and stir to reheat.  Turn off the heat and stir in the oregano, black pepper, and queso fresco.
To assemble the tacos, spoon some vegetables onto a tortilla. Top with a generous tablespoon of salsa. Top with cilantro and sour cream or Greek yogurt, if desired.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

six new-old things

Over my break from grad classes, I finally put inspiration from Casey's blog to work and made this jewelry holder. 

I painted an old bulletin board with an old off-white paint on the cork, then taped the cork off and spray-painted the frame glossy black.  Then all I had to do was screw in some inexpensive gold cup hooks and I had a much more attractive and organized way to keep my jewelry.  The cork holds my brooches and pins as well as extra pendants on straight pins.

Next up is a new Madison spot we like that is not really all that new to the city.  In the past year or so, Madison Sourdough opened a restaurant featuring their yummy breads.

I got a the bacon/goat cheese deal, which I liked better than Matt did.  He got the chicken salad, which he liked better than I did.  Both were really solid sandwiches with tasty side salads.  Plus we ordered a chocolate croissant, too quickly inhaled to be photographed.  We will be returning. 

bacon with fig marmalade and goat cheese on five grain sourdough

chicken salad with apple, pine nuts, red onion, aioli, and greens on country sourdough

Right after the holidays, Matt and I had a very successful trip to Good Style Shop, which has just changed hands but will likely still be providing a great deal of my vintage wardrobe.  I found this lovely spring coat.  Let's hope the groundhog was right so I can wear it soon!  It has a nice houndstooth wool lining, but it's not nearly heavy enough to tackle these below-zero windchills.  And, since I've been practically living in my boots this winter, I was thrilled to pick up this cute new-old pair.  Apparently, I've got a thing for camel-colored clothing right now.


Below is a video of my favorite new song, played live.  It's from Ty Segall's last full-length, Melted, which came out last summer.  I'm just a little slow on the uptake sometimes.  (I'm working on getting the sizing of the video right...) Edit: I finally got the size of the video right!

Finally, just for fun, is a brand-new picture of my old dog.  Not all the white on that face is snow!
Stay warm!