Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Smooth and Soothing Spilt Pea Soup

It's more comfort food- it's filling, flavorful and full of fiber. Do I have an alliteration problem? Yes.
1 and 1/2 cups dried split peas
3 cups stock
3 cups warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 ham hocks
2 large carrots, chopped
2 large celery stalks, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 small fennel bulb or 1/2 a large one, chopped
4 garlic cloves, whole
teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
4 bay leaves
Tabasco sauce
a splash of cream

In a large heavy bottomed pot, saute the chopped vegetables in the olive oil for ten minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the liquids, spices and ham hocks and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a brisk simmer (number 3 on my stove) and add the split peas. Cover and cook for at least one hour, up to two hours. Stir occasionally because split peas like to stick .

Remove the ham hocks and bay leaves from the pan. Use an immersion blender to blend it all into a smooth soup, or blend it in batches in your blender or food processor, CAREFULLY! If you don't have any of those gadgets, just make sure you chopped all of your vegetables very finely. Remove all of the meat you can  from the ham hocks, chop it up and add it to the now smooth velvety soup. Serve with a dash of Tabasco and a splash of cream on top, along with crunchy toasted bread or croutons.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

More Stuffed Peppers, With Kale Salad

Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar

4 red peppers, cored and halved
1/2 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup crumbled feta or blue cheese (you want a strong flavor)
1 sweet  onion, sliced into thick disks
2 eggs
1 heaping teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 large cup of finely chopped basil
1 clove of garlic chopped very fine
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat your outside grill to medium. Rub or spray your peppers and onion disks carefully with olive oil and grill about five minutes per side. If you don't have a grill put them in a VERY hot pan on the stove until you get browning on each side.
Salt the veggies, then chop the grilled onions very small and mix in with the other ingredients. Distribute the filling evenly in each pepper half and bake on a cookie sheet in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until you get good browning on the top of the cheese. Drizzle olive oil and vinegar on top and serve with warm kale salad.

Kale Salad:
Chop up a head of kale very small and simmer in salted water for 10 minutes. Drain the kale very well and then toss with one very finely chopped small garlic clove, one finely chopped level tablespoon of rosemary, 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, two tablespoons of Greek or Spanish olive oil and liberal salt and pepper.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Corned Beef Ravioli...Yeah...That Just Happened

I have Mr. Alan Hall of Cabool, Missouri to thank for this dish. I don't actually know Mr. Hall, but this genius of a man made an off-hand remark on Facebook that inspired this madness. When commenting on a friend's photo of a packet of hideous green St. Patrick's Day themed cheese ravioli from Costco, he opined, "It should at least have corned beef filling." 

May Saint Patrick bless you sir, yes it should.

Corned Beef Ravioli with Brown Butter and Mustard Glaze
Small package of corned beef with spice packet
1 rutabaga
1 large sweet potato (not yam)
1 sweet onion
2 carrots
2 celery stalks
2 bay leaves
4 juniper berries
1 long peppercorn (extra black peppercorns if you don't have long pepper)

Simmer the corned beef in plenty of water and the spices, covered, for three hours. Cut the rutabaga in half, quarter the large sweet potato and trim the ends of the carrots and celery. Throw them in the pot and continue the simmer for another hour.

After four hours the corned beef should be literally falling apart, it will fall into pieces as you lift it out of the pot onto a cutting board, which is okay. Put the cooked vegetables into a food processor and process with one stick of good quality butter. Taste the puree for salt, and season if necessary. Set the puree aside to cool.

At this point you can just tear off some corned beef and serve it over the puree with a little bit of the juices from the pot, which is fine because you are going to have more than you need for the ravioli filling:

Or continue to the ravioli making:

Finely chop about two cups of corned beef and about one cup of the corned beef fat. (Yep. Fat. If you eat bacon or sausage of any kind, I don't want to hear a word.) Set this aside to cool.

For the pasta portion:

200 grams regular flour
200 grams semolina flour
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of cinnamon

For the sauce portion:
Grainy brown mustard
Cream sherry or white dessert wine
Salt and pepper 
  Mix the pasta ingredients together until you have dough, knead it for a bit, then cover the dough and let it rest for about 20 minutes before you try to start rolling it through your pasta maker. 

Lay down a sheet of pasta and use a teaspoon to distribute blobs of root veggie puree topped with blobs of chopped corned beef mixture. Dampen the pasta around the blobs with water and then lay the second sheet of pasta on top. Press down around each blob then use a ravioli cutter to cut out the ravioli.

Boil the ravioli in salted water for about two minutes, then drain and set aside.

Heat butter in a non-stick pan on medium high heat and fry the ravioli on each side about two minutes until golden brown, you can add more butter as you do different batches if you think you need it. When all of your ravioli are done frying, add about 1 part grainy mustard to 4 parts sherry in the pan, still on medium high, and then turn down the heat right away. Add salt and pepper to taste and pour immediately over the ravioli. If the glaze gets too thick, you can thin it with just a small amount of water. Sprinkle fresh chopped herbs on top, I used flat leaf parsley.

Drink a lot of beer with this, I recommend a Harp lager. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Herbed Sweet Pea and Tomato Stew

I would just like to say right off the bat, that normally I don't really eat peas, but this is one of the few ways of preparing them that I do like. Anyway, if you are neutral about peas, this recipe might get you more excited about them.

Now, yes, of course you can sit there and shell peas all day, but you'd better get really fresh-picked ones or they will be all starchy and mealy instead of nice and sweet. What I recommend is that you use a good quality brand of frozen peas (canned are right out).


1 16 ounce bag of organic frozen sweet peas
1 large 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes (I like San Marzano)
1 large sweet onion, roughly chopped
1/2 a small head of green or red lettuce, roughly chopped
a big handful of Italian parsley, chopped
2 garlic cloves, each cut in half
1/3 cup olive oil
1 heaping tablespoon of dried dill (you can use fresh if you have it, but use lots more)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon butter

In a medium saucepan, fry the onions and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat along with the salt and pepper until the onions look soft. 

Add the frozen peas and continue to stir for a minute or two. 

Add the can of crushed tomatoes, sugar and the dill, then taste for salt and pepper to make sure there's enough. Let it come up to a bubble, then turn the heat down to medium low and cover. Cook for five minutes.

Take the cover off and add the lettuce and parsley and butter. Stir them in, then turn down the heat to a lower simmer and and cook for another five minutes. 

Serve the stew with french baguette and cheese, or you can serve over buttered rice or pasta. You can also just puree the whole thing in the food processor and serve it over thick crunchy pieces of buttered toast with fresh parsley and cheese sprinkled on top.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Perfectly Piquant Piquillo Peppers

Don't bother making any other appetizers. Maybe have a few thick chunks of chewy Italian bread and a few olives around, but these peppers and a big glass of red wine are all you need before dinner, or, if you're by yourself, instead of dinner. Actually today I had them for lunch. For crunchy texture, serve on pita chips or throw toasted pine nuts in the filling.

1 16 ounce jar whole roasted Piquillo peppers, I used Italbrand
1 small celery stalk, chopped fine
1 carrot, chopped fine
1/2 sweet onion chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Japanese eggplant, chopped fine
4 large Shitake mushrooms (or Baby Bellas), chopped fine
1/2 cup Cream Sherry, I like Lustau, plus pour a glass for drinking while you cook
1 small handful chopped Italian parsley
A good sweet balsamic vinegar- (I used a fig flavored) 1 tablespoon  plus more for drizzling
plenty of extra virgin olive oil, at least three tablespoons
1 slice of thick cut bacon, or two thin, diced
2 ounces goat cheese
generous salt and pepper
a pinch of red pepper flakes
1 rounded teaspoon of dried thyme
1 egg
1/3 cup whole wheat flour, or other flour of your choice, for grain-free I recommend almond meal.

(If you want to make these vegan, use a heaping tablespoon of whole wheat flour instead of the egg, a squeeze of lemon juice and Tofutti cream cheese instead of goat cheese and a tablespoon of pine nuts instead of bacon.)

Drain the peppers in jar, but don't rinse them. 

In this recipe, I want you to sprinkle salt lightly as you cook each ingredient. In a large skillet, heat the tablespoon of olive oil on medium high heat. Add the onions, carrot, celery and garlic first and let those cook for about five minutes, stirring occasionally, until you get browning on all the edges of the little pieces. Then add the finely chopped bacon, eggplant and mushrooms (about a cup chopped each) red pepper flakes, black pepper and thyme. Stir around for another several minutes until the bacon looks cooked.

Add the 1/2 cup sherry and stir around until all of the sherry is either cooked off or absorbed. 
 Remove the mixture to a bowl and mix in with the chopped parsley and tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. Let it cool for few minutes, then add the egg and crumbled goat cheese (or other tangy cheese of your choice) and mix well.

Now it's time to stuff the peppers with this filling. These little guys are slippery, so this is probably the most difficult part. If you have large fingers, you might want to use your pinky to shove the filling down to the bottom of each pepper. Just use a light touch and be as careful as you can. It's okay if the peppers are a little torn, the egg in the filling is going to help keep it all together. I laid them out on a sheet of parchment paper as I went along (or wax paper or foil is fine). I had just enough filling for all 14 peppers in my jar.

Next, you can just wipe out your skillet that you've already been using, and heat up a few more tablespoons of olive oil in it, again over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the whole wheat four over your stuffed peppers, and ever so gently kind of roll or flip them over to lightly coat them with flour. Fry them in the pan about 2 minutes per side, I gently flatten them slightly so they cook evenly. I use a small fork to gently flip them (without scratching the pan) but if you have one of those tiny spatulas, that would work nicely.

Serve these hot or room temperature with an extra sprinkle of chopped fresh parsley and an extra drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

These are so freakin' good. Really. 

 Oh and if people claim they don't like eggplant or mushrooms, unless they're allergic, just don't mention what's in them- the flavors take on a different character here because of the cheese and bacon so I think you have a chance of sneaking these past the vegetable haters. 

Roasted Chicken, So Basic and SoTasty

I was puttering around the kitchen last night, hungry, eating pita chips out of the bag and periodically swiping globs of buttercream filling out of a foil covered bowl, trying to get inspired to cook dinner. A half a cup of buttercream and a stomach ache later, I decided I'd better not stretch myself since I was obviously making strange eating choices

Sometimes it's good to stick with the basics. In my house growing up, basic was always delicious and usually meant dishes like pan grilled pork or lamb chops with Greek salad, homemade french fries with fried eggs and sliced tomatoes, or lemon garlic chicken with roasted potatoes and oregano. 

Since I had a nice unfrozen organic chicken in the fridge that needed to be cooked ASAP, I went with the last one.
1 organic chicken
3 or 4 large potatoes or sweet potatoes
olive oil, I would guess about 1/3 cup
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 large lemon
1 whole head of garlic, peeled (or a handful of cloves out of the pre-peeled bag)
1 rounded tablespoon of oregano (or more if you feel like it) 
1/2 cup water or white wine or stock

Dry your chicken with a paper towel. Cut the potatoes into quarters lengthwise. Put them all in a roasting pan along with all of the garlic cloves and rub everything with the olive oil inside and out. Throw some of the garlic cloves inside the cavity of the chicken too. 

Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice over everything and throw the lemon in the pan too. Sprinkle everything with salt and pepper and oregano and then cook in a 425 degree oven for 30 minutes. 

After the first 30 minutes, pour the half cup of liquid into the pan and tilt the pan so it goes everywhere, then put it back in for another 50 minutes on 375 degrees. If your chicken is more than 5 pounds, cook it for an extra 10 minutes per pound over.

Serve with crusty bread to soak up all of the lemony-garlicky chicken juices, or mash the potatoes a bit and pour the juice over them, and drink a nice cold beer or white wine with it.