Saturday, January 6, 2018

"FOOD OF THE GODS"...OXTAIL SOUP!


How did OXTAIL SOUP get its name since it is generally made from beef tail? From what I learned an ox is a castrated bull, but any breed of cattle can be trained to be an ox. Generally the largest bulls are selected so they are able to accomplish the most work. I suspect that OXEN are a different breed from BEEF, but in the same family, but am not sure. Possibly when oxen were more prevalent as 'beasts of burden' used for plowing fields, etc. you truly were eating ox tail, but now beef is much more common and I am sure the flavors are similar. Please weigh in on this debate!

Oxtails weigh on average between 2 to 4 lbs. Mine came from my rancher friend, Duncan Blair, and were already skinned and cut into pieces weighing about 5 lbs. total. They are bony and rich with gelatin and marrow. They need lots of cooking, which is why they generally go into a stew or are used as stock. I used my new slow cooker. Turns out they are eaten in most parts of the world, and why not?...Great taste, lots of nutrition and accessible if you raise beef or know someone who does. I have become a huge fan of eating every part of the animal. (I love Fergus Henderson's cookbook, The Whole Beast-Nose to Tail Eating). I found 3 different recipes online and took the best of all to come up with this simple, but delicious version.

OXTAIL SOUP
Ingredients:
5 lbs. oxtail
1 qt. beef stock
2 bay leaves
3 stalks celery, roughly chopped, include leaves
4 carrots, roughly chopped
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 large sweet potato, peeled and roughly chopped
3 red bliss potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 cup good red wine divided in half
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp, allspice

14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup red wine
Several sprigs of fresh sage

Parsley for garnish
Our good neighbor Brian is an adventurous eater!
I didn't want to go too crazy with spices as never having eaten oxtail I really wanted to taste it, but you can add cumin, curry, scotch bonnet pepper, thyme, paprika, cinnamon, cardamom--these are all spices commonly found in other recipes. You can also add different types of beans--cannellini, kidney, shell, etc.; or grain, such as barley or faro. The spices vary regionally. I kept this dish more like beef stew.

Preparation:
I chose to cook over 2 days so I could skim off the excess fat after cooling overnight. Oxtail tend to be fatty.
Add all ingredients up to the diced tomatoes, second 1/2 cup of red wine and fresh sage to slow-cooker. Cover and cook on low for 5 hours. Let cool completely and refrigerate overnight. Next day remove most, but not all of the fat which will have hardened at top of dish. Return to slow cooker, set on low.

Add tomatoes, the second 1/2 cup of wine and several sprigs of fresh safe. Cook on low another 5 hours. Remove the sage. Adjust for seasoning. Garnish with parsley. You may either remove the meat from the bones or serve rustic style bones and all. That is what I did as picking up the bones and getting them very clean was half the fun. I served with a big green salad and hot French bread and lots of red wine. Next time I would cook for 13 hours. They were tender, but not completely falling off the bone.
Lori is about to dig in! We love dining with the Itule's!
I have some additional treats from Duncan Blair
including some beautiful hearts and kidneys
so stay tuned for more offal cooking!

THAT'S ALL FOR TODAY!
 
PLEASE JOIN ME AGAIN SOON
FOR ANOTHER EPISODE...
After a big day of cooking there is nothing like
lounging on our front porch enjoying the late afternoon January sun!
 




Friday, December 22, 2017

APPETIZING APPETIZERS!

I have been cooking up a storm this holiday season! I love to make appetizers so will share a few I have made lately.
Front and center are Beef Koftas. There are hundreds of variations on this tasty treat. They can be made with beef, lamb, pork, chicken or a combination of several meats as you would an Italian meatball. Popular throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa, they are similar to a meatball, but spiced very differently.

BEEF KOFTA
Kind of looks like a spaceship has landed!
This recipe combines several different recipes I found online. I like the sweet of the raisins with the rich spices. I served them with two different sauces: Cooling Mint and Hot and Spicy Harissa yogurt. I also like the fact that all can be made in advance broiling the meat just before your guests arrive.

Ingredients:
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 Tbsp. chopped onion
1 Tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. allspice
2 Tsp. fresh chopped parsley
1 Tbsp. fresh chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 piece white bread soaked in milk
1 egg

Preparation:
In a food processor or mini food blender finely chop the onions and raisins. Add the cumin, garlic powder and allspice and blend until a thick paste is formed. Remove from the blender and add half the beef (if using a mini as I did; otherwise add the full pound). Pulse it a few times until the grind becomes more smooth. Add the paste into the meat and pulse again until incorporated. Add the fresh parsley, cilantro, salt and pepper. And finally, add the bread that has been soaked in milk. The bread helps to bind the koftas so they don't fall off the stick when you eat them. Remove the meat to a bowl and add the egg mixing thoroughly with your hands. Form into oblong shape (about 2 oz.--think 2 bites) and keep chilled in fridge until ready to broil.  Bring to room temp before broiling. I made the mistake of skewering before broiling. I had soaked the skewers in water all day and figured they would not burn. Wrong. Because the meat is right under the broiler the wooden sticks 'catch' quickly. I did not start a fire, but it did come close. Very smoky! Next time I will broil and then skewer. As it was I had to remove all the burned skewers and re-skewer before serving.
Broil for 5 minutes then turn koftas over and broil for another 5 minutes. Skewer and serve.

KOFTA SAUCES

COOLING MINT SAUCE:
In a food processor or mini-blender combine 2 cups packed fresh mint leaves, 2 Tbsp. chopped onion, 1 clove chopped garlic, 2 Tbsp. lemon juice, a little lemon zest, and 1/2 tsp. (or more to taste) salt. Blend until well combined. In a slow stream add 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil. You may need more oil to achieve the desired consistency. Blend until smooth.

HOT AND SPICY HARISSA YOGURT SAUCE:
Harissa is a spicy pepper sauce from Northern Africa; Tunisia to be precise. In a bowl combine 1 cup plain Greek yogurt with 2 Tbsp. water to thin the yogurt to a dipping consistency. Add 2 Tbsp. (more if you want extra spicy) Harissa paste and 1 tsp. smoked paprika. Add 1/4 tsp. salt. Adjust seasoning.

RED PEPPER AND WALNUT DIP
I've had this recipe so long I can't remember where it came from, but most likely Gourmet Magazine. Easy to put together and very flavorful. Delicious with an assortment of crackers, toasted baguette, or toasted pita bread.

Ingredients:
2 (7-8 Oz.) jars roasted red peppers (or roast your own, which is what I did)
1 cup coarse fresh bread crumbs from a baguette
1 cup walnuts, toasted and then chopped
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Preparation:
Puree roasted peppers, bread crumbs, walnuts, vinegar, cumin, cayenne and 1/4 tsp. salt in food processor until almost smooth. With motor running, add oil in a slow stream, blending until well incorporated. This is also a "do-ahead" recipe and can be made several days in advance. Bring to room temp before serving.

DEVILED EGGS WITH CANDIED BACON
The Candied Bacon make these traditional Deviled Eggs very special!

To candy the bacon:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a sheet pan with foil. Lay strips of bacon on a rack on top of the foil-lined pan. Combine about a cup of brown sugar, 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, 1 tsp. cinnamon. Sprinkle the brown sugar mixture on top of the bacon slices. If you happen to have pure maple syrup on hand, drizzle the bacon with a little syrup.
Bake for 10 minutes. Flip bacon and repeat topping. Bake another 10 minutes or until bacon is crispy. Because of the moisture of the sugar and syrup the bacon may not get crispy until it cools. If you like extra crispy bacon, pop under the broiler for a couple minutes, but use caution as the sugar burns very easily.

Prepare your favorite Deviled Eggs (I use mayo, grainy mustard, curry powder, salt, white pepper) and top with large slices of the Candied Bacon. I garnished my eggs with freshly chopped parsley and smoked paprika.

My husband, Jerry had to "test" the Candied Bacon
to make sure it was alright for serving!

CREAM CHEESE WITH
RASPBERRY CHIPOLTE JELLY
This simple appetizer is one of my favorites and the easiest of all. Place a block of cream cheese on a serving tray. Cover generously with Raspberry Chipolte jelly. Our pomegranate tree bore fruit for the first time this year so I topped with pomegranate seeds which add a nice element of texture. Serve with assorted crackers.
This jelly is not as "AssKickin" as advertised, but it was the perfect complement to the smooth and mild cream cheese. I bought it at the Santa Cruz Chili and Spice, Co. in Tumacacori, (www.santacruzchili.com) but similar jellies are readily available at Trader Joes and many other locations.

ARE YOU FULL YET?
 
I LOVE TURNING APPETIZERS INTO DINNER, ESPECIALLY DURING THE HOLIDAYS WHEN WE (THAT'S ME!) TEND TO OVERINDULGE!
 
ENJOY THIS BEAUTIFUL AND FESTIVE SEASON!
 
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS
FROM MY KITCHEN TO YOURS!




Friday, December 8, 2017

IT'S PERSIMMON SEASON!

 
...And Acorn, and other squash season, too. Persimmon run a little longer--October to February, where squash is in-season October to December, although stores carry squashes almost year-round. So if you are buying in July know that it has been picked awhile. I was fortunate to receive this freshly picked bounty from our good neighbors, Brian and Lori Itule, who are in the food business. Thank you friends!
 
The first thing I decided to do was roast and stuff these beautiful squash.

SPICY STUFFED ACORN SQUASH

Ingredients:
3 squash cut in half
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
1/2 cup raisins
2 cups+ cooked Red Quinoa (or other whole grain, such as brown rice, farro, etc.)
1/2 cup cubed Gruyere cheese
1/2 cup thinly sliced leeks, sauted in butter until tender
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. clove
Salt/Pepper to taste

Preparation:
Cut the squash in half and scrape out the seeds and stringy pieces. If you want to save the seeds, rinse in a colander and pull off any remaining squash pieces. Spread the seeds on a foil lined baking sheet. Drizzle 2 Tbsp. olive oil and sea salt over the seeds. Roast for about 10-15 minutes at 375 until seeds start to pop. Remove. Cool. Enjoy!

Back to the stuffed squash...

If you decided to roast the seeds, reduce oven temp to 350 degrees. Rub the insides of the squash with olive oil and salt liberally. Place cut side down on a foil lined baking sheet. Bake for about 45-50 minutes or until squash is just tender. Timing will depend on the size of your squash.

Mix all ingredients together and fill squash. Either set aside or re-bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes until cheese is melted.

These squash are delicious filled with about any combination of grain, veg, nut, and dried fruit you can come up with. Have fun experimenting! I am going to try them stuffed with Persimmon!

Since the oven was hot and I had lots of squash I roasted the rest of the squash and made Acorn Squash Soup.


Here's a similar recipe I made a few years back using Butternut squash. http://cookwithcindy.blogspot.com/search?q=squash+soup

This time I kept the soup very simple. Bring 1 Qt. of chicken stock to boil. Add a diced carrot, diced celery stalk, and 1/2 diced onion. Simmer until veg is tender; about 20 minutes. Scoop out the roasted squash from the shells (cool first) and add to the stock. Cook another 10 minutes. Season with salt/pepper. Let cool and blend either in the blender or using an emulsion blender. It is so rich and creamy that no cream is necessary! It also freezes well.

And now on to the Persimmon. I found this recipe for Persimmon Bread on http://allrecipes.com/recipe/6964/persimmon-bread-ii/.  The only change I made to the recipe was to cut the sugar from 3 cups to 2. Now that my fruit is a little more ripe I will add 1 1/2 cups sugar. My batter easily filled 5 little bread tins, not 3.

There are several varieties of Persimmon that have different characteristics. These Persimmon are called Hachiya or Japanese Persimmon. When the fruit is not completely ripe it has a very astringent, pucker your mouth, kind of feel. Delicious taste, but mouth-feel not so nice, but once cooked they lose that mouth-feel and their delicious delicate flavor comes through. And once ripe, they lose most of that puckery feeling when eating raw.



PERSIMMON BREAD
Ingredients:
1 cup persimmon pulp (about 1 1/2 persimmon)
2 tsp. baking soda
2 cups white sugar (amount of sugar will depend on ripeness of fruit)
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 12/ tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup water
3 cups white flour
1 cup walnuts

I love the way these fruit look inside!

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 5 mini loaf pans (6x3"). In a small bowl, stir together the persimmon pulp and baking soda. Mix so the soda dissolves. Let stand 5 minutes to thicken the pulp.
In a medium bowl, combine sugar, oil, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Blend until smooth. Mix in persimmon pulp and water alternately with flour. Fold in nuts.
Divide batter into prepared pans, filling each pan 2/3 full.
Top the uncooked breads if you like with a sprinkle of Turbinado Sugar.
Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
That's all for today.
I hope you are doing lots of holiday baking
in preparation for the festive Christmas Holiday!
 
MUCH LOVE FROM MY KITCHEN TO YOURS!

I am feeling HO! HO! HO! festive.
So many parties...so little time!

www.cookwithcindy.com
 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!

THANKSGIVING MENU 2017

This is going to be a different Thanksgiving for my husband, Jerry and me. In September I was diagnosed with breast cancer and tomorrow (2 days before Thanksgiving) am having my third surgery. As odd as it may sound, I feel happy, strong and very confident that this will soon be behind me, but in the meantime was not sure I would be up to cooking my usual big holiday feast. So I have prepared the entire meal in advance, freezing almost everything except the turkey, which my husband will cook Thanksgiving morning. Here is our menu:

Cranberry Orange Sauce with Fresh Ginger Root
Don't you want to just dive into that sauce?!?
I made this several days ago. It keeps well in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. I make a variation of it every year. Go to: http://cookwithcindy.blogspot.com/search?q=cranberry+sauce for the original recipe. This year I used half the sugar and all freshly squeezed orange juice for the liquid.
Homemade Dinner Rolls

(Go to: http://cookwithcindy.blogspot.com/search?q=do+ahead+rolls and scroll nearly to the bottom to get this recipe. I make them every year because they freeze well and that is one less thing to prepare as the big day approaches.

Green Bean Casserole with Cauliflower Cream
 

This is a take on the old fashioned (and pretty horrible) Canned green bean casserole with canned mushrooms and canned shoestring onions on top. This one looks a little better and was fairly easy to put together. The cauliflower cream is really delicious! You still have time to do this before Thursday. Recipe follows.

Triple Onion Mashed Potatoes

I believe this will freeze well, but have never tried so we will see! The addition of sautéed leeks looked wonderful and topping with crispy shallots and chives put this plain mashed potato recipe over the top. The recipe follows.

Roast Turkey Stuffed with
Pear/Sage and Golden Raisin Stuffing
 
This was my Nanna's roasting pan. It has seen many a turkey!
The Pear/Sage Stuffing has complex flavors and will only intensify when cooked in the bird on Thanksgiving morning. I know most caution about roasting your bird stuffed, but I have been eating turkey that way since a child and cooking it that way all my life, as has my Mom long before I was born so I will keep that tradition alive! Stuffing recipe follows.

And finally, my "DO-AHEAD GRAVY" will also be on our Thanksgiving table. Here is the link: http://cookwithcindy.blogspot.com/search?q=do+ahead+gravy You will love this gravy recipe. So silky with rich, deep flavors.

This is a winner. I do not like making gravy day of the holiday. Everyone is anxious to sit down and you are still toiling in the kitchen trying to get lumps out. This takes all the tension out of making gravy.
These are the turkey legs I used to make this year's gravy.
Looks like something you'd see on the Flintstones sideboard.
Green Bean Casserole with Cauliflower Cream

Ingredients:
1 cup chopped yellow onion (I used white.)
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
7/8 tsp. Kosher salt (I used 1 tsp. by measuring in the palm of my hand.)
3/4 tsp. black pepper, divided
1 lb. green  beans, cut into 2 inch pieces
12 oz. shitake mushrooms, stemmed and halved
1 8 oz. container cremini mushrooms, stemmed and halved
3 cups chopped cauliflower, about 9 oz.
1 1/2 cups 2% milk (I used 1 cup 2% milk and 1/2 cup half and half.)
2 dried bay leaves
2 thyme springs (My thyme is done for the year so used 1/2 tsp. dried.)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 Tbsp. sherry (I used 2.)
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
Cooking spray
3 oz. whole wheat bread crumbs (about 2 slices or 2 1/2 cups.)
Here are the roasted onion, mushrooms, and green beans.
Preparation:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine onion, 2 Tbsp. oil, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper, green beans, and mushrooms on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for about 15-20 minutes.
Bring cauliflower and next 5 ingredients (through garlic) to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat; cook 25 minutes or until tender. Remove pan from heat. Let cool slightly. Carefully place cauliflower mixture in blender; blend until very smooth. Return puree to pan; stir in remaining 1/2 tsp. salt, remaining 1/2 tsp. pepper, and sherry and nutmeg. Place green been mixture in a 9x9 inch baking dish coated with cooking spray; top with bread crumbs that have been mixed with 2+Tbsp. oil. Sprinkle over dish. At this point, I froze, and will thaw completely before baking for 10 minutes at 425 degrees.

Triple Onion Mashed Potatoes
Ingredients:
1 1/2 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup half and half
1 1/2 oz. cream cheese, softened and cut into pieces
3/4 tsp. Kosher salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 1/2 Tbsp. unsalted butter (I used 2 1/2.)
1 cup chopped leeks
1 1/2 Tbsp. canola oil (I used olive oil.)
1/2 cup sliced shallots
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives

Preparation:
Bring potatoes to a boil in a large Dutch oven or saucepan filled with water. Reduce heat to medium; simmer 20 minutes or until tender. Drain; return potatoes to pan. Add chicken stock, half and half, cream cheese, salt, pepper. Mash to desired consistency.
Melt butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add leeks; saute 5 minutes. Stir leek mixture into potato mixture. Do not wipe out skillet.
At this point I froze the potatoes and will finish the crispy shallots and chives on Thanksgiving morning, but if you are making on the spot...return skillet to medium-high. Add oil and shallots; cook 3 minutes or until shallots are browned and crisp. Spoon mashed potatoes into a serving dish and top with crispy shallots and chives.

Pear/Sage and Golden Raisin Stuffing

This is a recipe from Cooking Light, which I have changed up a bit, so not quite so light.

Ingredients:
1 loaf homemade or bakery style white bread, sliced and cut into 3/4 inch cubes
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup hot water
2 thick-cut bacon slices
2 cups onion
1 cup chopped celery
2 Tbsp. Bell's seasoning
3 Tbsp. fresh sage, chopped
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
5 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups chopped ripe Bosc pear (about 2 large)
Cooking Spray

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss bread cubes in various herbs and spices: finely diced fresh rosemary, fresh sage, Bell's seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, Salt. Arrange bread cubes in single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes or until golden, stirring after 10 minutes. Place bread cubes in a large bowl. Reduce oven  temp to 350 degrees.
Place raisins in 1/4 cup hot water to plump. Let stand 10 minutes. Drain.
Cook bacon slices in a skillet over medium heat until crispy; about 10 minutes. Remove to paper towel-lined plate; crumble. Add 1 Tbsp. butter to bacon drippings, onion, celery and saute for 8 minutes. Add 1 Tbsp. sage and garlic; cook 1 minute more. Remove pan from heat.
Combine stock, butter, pepper, and eggs in a large bowl. Add stock mixture, drained raisins, bacon, pear, and veg mixture to bread. Toss to combine. At this point I froze and will thaw completely before stuffing the bird. You may also coat a 2 quart baking dish with cooking spray and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, if you do not want to stuff it in the bird. If you cook it separately it should be called Un-Stuffing.


I have so much to be grateful for and even though currently experiencing cancer, believe that cancer can provide many gifts--
The outpouring of love from friends and  family has been overwhelming. The love and devotion from my husband has served to strengthen our wonderful relationship. And I truly feel this has brought me closer to God.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING
FROM MY KITCHEN TO YOURS!
My husband, Jerry and I, celebrating his birthday
at Hacienda del Sol in Tucson. Fabulous, elegant, and understated Ranch.
November 13, 2017







Monday, October 30, 2017

SOUP SEASON!

It's finally beginning to feel like fall here in beautiful southern Arizona and time to start making soup!
MINESTRONE SOUP
The Minestrone is all cooked. I will reheat and drop in the
meatballs when the soup is served and top with chopped
fresh parsley and a little parmesan cheese.
An Italian classic, you do not really need a recipe for Minestrone Soup, but it generally contains seasonal vegetables--carrot, onion, celery, potato; beans-cannellini or some other type of bean; pasta or rice. This soup dates back to 30 AD where a recipe appears in Marcus Apicius's ancient cookbook De Re Coquinaria (which translates to On The Subject of Cooking) described as polus, a Roman soup made up of farro, chickpeas, and fava beans, with onions, garlic, lard, and greens thrown in...that sounds a little heavy to me, and in fact, over time the recipe has changed quite a bit to include more veg and depending on the season and availability meat or chicken. 

I like to add meatballs to Minestrone, either beef or chicken, and this morning decided on spicy chicken meatballs. Again, completely up to you. Here is the recipe I came up with.

Ingredients:
1 Qt. chicken stock (I had some in the freezer, which made things easier.)
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 potato, peeled and chopped
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. dried sage
Bay leaf
1 cup chopped canned tomatoes, in their broth
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 15 oz. can Cannellini beans, rinsed and drained well
1 cup pasta (I used cellentani which is a thick curly pasta and holds up well in soup.)
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
4 Tbsp. fresh oregano (or 1 tsp. dried)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt/Pepper to taste
You don't have to chop the veg too finely.
I like them kind of chunky because this is a rustic soup.
Preparation:
In a large stock or soup pot bring chicken stock to a boil. Add celery and onions. Reduce heat to a gentle boil (medium-low). Cook for 10 minutes. Add carrots and potatoes. Continue cooking another 10 minutes. Add 1 cup diced tomatoes, tomato paste, thyme, sage, bay leaf and cook another 10 minutes. Add beans and cook another 10 minutes. Add pasta, garlic, fresh parsley and oregano. If you are eating the soup right away cook for 10 minutes. If not, only cook the pasta for 5 minutes or it will get mushy. Take off heat, let cool, and either package for fridge for the next couple days or freeze to have down the road.

And, next is my recipe for SPICY CHICKEN MEATBALLS. Make these meatballs as mellow or spicy as you like. Just reduce red pepper flake and black pepper to get a milder ball.

Ingredients:
6 chicken tenders
1 large or 2 small cloves garlic, minced
4 Tbsp. minced onion
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. hot red pepper flake
1 Egg
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 tsp. dried Italian herb mix
2 Tbsp. plus more for frying meatballs

Preparation:
To start remove any chewy white tendons. This is kind of a pain, but you will be happier with the end result...a much more tender ball.

Next, chop the chicken breasts. I used my gorgeous meat clever that my husband, Jerry bought me earlier this year, but any very sharp knife will work. Mince the chicken.
Add garlic, onion, salt, peppers, 1 egg, panko crumbs and parmesan. Gently work all ingredients using your hands until well mixed. Form balls (the chicken will be quite loose and moist) and let the balls sit for about 15-20 minutes to help them firm up and dry out a bit.
This recipe made 17 balls so you may not
need all for the Minestrone, but they freeze well.
Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet until smoking. By starting on a high heat you get a nice crust on the ball. Gently drop a few balls in, lower heat, and brown well on all sides rolling around in the pan. Cook only 6 balls at a time to give yourself room to turn the balls. Reduce heat further and cook for another 10 minutes. Remove and repeat with uncooked balls.

Many soups, including this one, offer a license for total creativity. Please let me know what you come up with!

Here's another soup I put together that turned out really well. I recently learned that wild mushrooms, especially these Asian mushrooms are really good for you. Healthy + Tasty = GOOD.

WILD MUSHROOM AND LENTIL SOUP

This is another recipe where you can take many liberties, but here are the basics.

Ingredients:
1 Qt. rich chicken stock*
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, minced
1 package each of, all roughly chopped:
Bunashimeji-I think these were the Enoki variety
Maitake aka Hen-of-the-Wood
Bunapi or white beech mushroom (I have so much to learn about Japanese mushrooms and cuisine in general!)
1 Tbsp. Yuzo** (You don't really need this, but I do think this paste gave a great flavor and depth to the soup. You can get it online or it might be equally good without out it and choose other flavors of your  choice.)
1/2 cup roughly chopped Thai (or regular) Basil
2 cups cooked lentils
Preparation:
Bring 1 quart of rich chicken broth to boil in a large soup pan. Add minced onion and garlic and slowly simmer for about 20 minutes. I wanted this soup to be all about the mushrooms so did not want to heavily season with other herbs.
Lower heat to a very gentle boil and add Yuzo and all the mushrooms. Simmer for another 20 minutes. Add the pre-cooked lentils and basil and simmer for another 15 minutes. Delicious on the spot or holds well in the fridge for 10 days.

*To make rich chicken stock: Make a regular chicken stock and then re-cook with another batch of bones and herbs. Yum! Yum! Yum! Very rich and so much better for you because of all that collagan, but most importantly the taste.

** A quick word about Yuzo Kosho. I am still learning about yuzu, but this spice is amazing! This paste is made from fresh chiles, fermented with salt along with the zest and juice of yuzu, a tart, fragrant East Asian citrus. It's lemony, limey, luscious and delicious! I will try it in many different recipes.

IS THAT ALL FOR TODAY?
 
I COULD GO ON ALL NIGHT TALKING
ABOUT FOOD, FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD!
 
HOPE YOU ENJOYED THESE COUPLE OF SOUP RECIPES AND PLEASE REMEMBER...SOUP IS NOT LIKE 'BAKING'...YOU DON'T HAVE TO MEASURE AND YOU CAN GET VERY CREATIVE.
 
HOLIDAY SEASON FAST APPROACHING WITH MY HUSBAND'S BIRTHDAY (NOVEMBER 13th)
BEING THE KICK OFF FOR US!
 
GOOD TIMES AHEAD IN THE KITCHEN!
 
WITH LOVE
 
 
STAY TUNED FOR MANY FUN FOOD ADVENTURES.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

MY NEW MOROCCAN TAGINE!

I received this lovely North African cooking vessel from my good friends, Dennis and Diana Makes 3 years ago, and I have been hesitant to use it. Why, I am not sure, as I generally am not shy about anything in the kitchen. I have never cooked in a Tagine and am still perplexed I did not do the research right away to see how easy (and fun!) it is to use. I am so glad I finally did. What a great night we had cooking together. If cooking in your Tagine for the first time, you have to "cure" or "season" it.
First, soak both top and bottom for several hours or overnight in water. I have a round prep sink that was the perfect size for soaking both pieces. Dry well. Next, place in a cold oven set for 300 degrees and "cook" for 2 hours. Turn the oven off and let the Tagine cool in the oven. When cool, gently hand wash in soapy water. Dry and rub lightly with olive oil for storage. Now you are ready to cook!

Now that I have used it I can see the possibilities for great combinations of spices, herbs and flavors; meats, sauces, fish, are endless! Here is the first recipe we tried, which I found online at Simply Recipes. I followed fairly closely, with only a couple variations, since it was my first time.
MOROCCAN CHICKEN
WITH LEMON AND OLIVES
Ingredients:
2 tsp. paprika (I also added 1 tsp. smoked paprika)
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground ginger (I also added some fresh ginger root zest before cooking.)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 chicken, 3-4 lbs., cut into 8 pieces (I used 4 large chicken thighs, bone in, skin on)
Salt
3 cloves minced garlic
1 onion chopped
The rind from 1 preserved lemon rinsed in cold water, pulp discarded, rind cut into thin strips (Recipe says regular lemon works, too, but it is easy to make preserved lemon*.)
1 cup green olives (I used Castlevetrano.)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped (Had no parsley so used more cilantro.)
Preparing the green beans, which accompanied our meal.
 
Preparation:
Diana prefers to set all the ingredients out before beginning her cooking so that is what we did. I go back and forth, but was happy to do it that way since she was the guest in my kitchen. It does help you to NOT forget an ingredient.
Make the spice rub by combining all spices--paprika, cumin, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper--in a large bowl. Pat the chicken pieces dry and put in the bowl, coat well with the spice mixture. Let the chicken stand for one hour in the spices. I like to put the pieces in a zip lock bag so every so often you can turn them easily to ensure that all pieces get the benefit of the spice rub.
Add the olive oil to the Tagine. Brown the chicken on medium heat in your Tagine (you can also use an ordinary skillet, but this is much more exotic!). If you are using a clay Tagine on top of the stove you must place a heat diffuser underneath to prevent it from cracking.  Sprinkle the chicken very lightly with salt (both olives and preserved lemon are salty). Cook for 5 minutes or until lightly browned.
All ingredients together.
Ready to cook for the last 30 minutes.
Here I am adding the onions.
Add garlic and onions, (and freshly grated ginger root if you are using it) and water, then cover and simmer: Turn chicken pieces over. Add the lemon slices, olives, raisins, and 1/2 cup water.
Bring to a simmer on medium heat, then lower heat to low, cover, and cook for an additional 30 minutes until chicken is cooked through and tender.
Stir in parsley and cilantro. Adjust seasoning to taste.
Served with lightly steamed green beans seasoned with
a tbsp. of butter and fat tsp. of Dijon mustard
and farro cooked in rich chicken broth topped with fresh cilantro.
 
To make preserved lemon:
 
Place 3 to 4 lemons in a container large enough to cover with water. Add 3 Tbsp. Kosher salt, a few peppercorns and the juice of 1/2 lemon.
 
I am tasting this delicious dish all over again. Wish it was on the menu tonight! I will let you know what I come up with next using my beautiful Tagine.
 
Until next time...
 
Besseha and Ma-saa Al Kh-ir!
 
(Bon Appetit and Good night!)
 
Tune in again soon for another episode of: