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Monday, December 29, 2008

Vietnamese Halibut

I went out on a limb with this one. I found it in Food and Wine and wasn't sure it was going to be good. IT IS! You may have to pick up a few extra ingredients but everything can be found in the Asian section of your grocery store. Don't be thrown by the pork in the sauce - make sure you have it and use it, you'll love it!

2-4 6oz halibut fillets, seasoned with salt & pepper (you can also use haddock or cod)
2 cups chopped cilantro
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tbsp white balsamic
2 tsp dijon mustard
3/4 tsp honey
1 tbsp peanut butter
3 tbsp peanut oil
1 medium shallot - finely chopped
1 clove garlic - minced
1/2 lb ground pork
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp mirin
1 tsp tamarind concentrate
1 1/2 tsp lime juice

1. In a blender or food processor, puree the cilantro, olive oil, vinegar, mustard, and honey. Add salt and pepper.

2. Saute the shallot and garlic in a medium saucepan with peanut oil until softened.

3. Add the pork and cook until browned. Stir frequently - you'll want the pork in very small bits.

4. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, mirin, tamarind, peanut butter and 1/2 cup water. Add the mixture to the pork. Simmer over moderately low heat until thickened. Add lime juice and keep warm.

5. In a separate pan, heat peanut oil. Add the fish and cook over moderately high heat until browned and just cooked through (about 4 minutes per side).

6. Spoon the pork ragu onto plates and top with the fish. Serve with the cilantro sauce on top.

Italian Spicy Sausage Soup

I love soup. And I love it more now that I know how incredibly easy it is to make. I also love the Food Network, which is where I get a lot of ideas for the stuff I make. During a snow storm last year, Paddy and I were procrastinating - not wanting to shovel out the cars. We watched the Food Network for several hours with this soup as the grand finale. Giada DeLaurentis made this - I couldn't believe the amount of spices she used, but go for it. Me and Paddy added our own touch with a few extra's one of our favorites!

3 hot italian sausages
1 medium onion - diced
1 carrot - diced
1 celery stalk - diced
3 cloves garlic - minced
handful of cremini mushrooms - roughly chopped
1 zucchini - diced (if you have one)
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp - 1 tbsp chili pepper (depending on how hot you like it - I use 1 tbsp!)
1 tsp basil
1/2 can tomato paste
1 14oz can of crushed tomatoes (use fire roasted if you can)
1 14oz can of chick peas or white beans
1 32oz box of chicken broth
1 to 1 1/2 cups dried pasta - cook al dente (shells work best, rotini also good)

1. Saute the onions, carrot, celery, zucchini in a large pot with a few tbsp of olive oil. Cook on medium high heat until tender.

2. Add all of the spices and stir well.

3. Add tomato paste and stir well.

4. Add crushed tomato, chick peas, and chicken broth.

5. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low and simmer for at least 20 minutes. Add pasta about 5 minutes before serving.

*Make enough pasta for what you'll eat. If you freeze it or fridge it, leave the pasta out and add to soup the next time you have it.

Mushroom Barley Soup

I worked at a restaurant when I was in grad school in Ann Arbor. I wasn't eating much while lived there - I think it was a combination of chronic nausea caused by my awful Biostatistics class, not having time to make anything, and not having any money to buy something that someone else made. I'd speed walk the 2 miles home from school in the afternoon, put on my black outfit, and then backtrack a mile to the restaurant. Sometimes I'd jam a piece of bread down my throat while waiting downstairs in the dungeon for my first table. But once and while, when the mushroom barley soup was on the menu, I'd sneak a cup. Whether it was my long-term hunger or the soup goodness, I don't know. But I loved it and I needed to recreate it. I think I came close. Thank you to the West African chefs Dady and Mory for making this yummy soup and for making me feel like I was back in Senegal everytime I went in the kitchen.

1 medium onion - diced
1 large carrot - diced
2 stalks of celery - diced
3 cloves of garlic - minced
1 10oz package of baby bella mushrooms - cut in quarters
*a handful of dried shitake mushrooms, soaked in 2 cups of hot water for 20 min. When soft, remove stems and chop into very small pieces. Save the water.
1 cup white wine (something dry - chardonnay works well)
1 14 oz can of crushed tomatoes
3-4 tbsp flour
2 32oz cartons of beef broth
1 cup dried barley
1 tbsp oregano
1 tsp basil
salt & pepper

*you don't need the dried shitakes but if you can get them, they're worth it!!)

Also - this recipe makes about 6 servings (maybe more). I usually make the whole thing and freeze half. It freezes and heats up well on the stovetop with a little extra broth.

1. Heat enough olive oil on medium high to cover the bottom of a large pot (the largest you've got!).

2. Add onions, carrots, celery, and garlic. Stir frequently and saute until soft.

3. Add chopped mushrooms, oregano, basil, and lots of salt and pepper.

4. Once all vegetables are tender, add the white wine, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Reduce almost completely.

5. Add flour and stir frequently (enough to form a light paste with the vegetables).

6. Add the canned tomatoes, the beef broth, and the water that the dried shitakes soaked in, if you used them. Stir well so that all of the flour is incorporated.

7. Add the barley and bring soup to a boil. Once it boils, return to low/medium low, cover and let it simmer for about an hour. Stir occasionally.

I like this soup thick, not too brothy. Start with this proportion and if you want it thinner, you can always add more broth'll want to give the barley a good hour to do its thing. You also might have to add some more salt and pepper.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Fool Proof Pie Crust

My mom and I felt a little bad about tossing Grandma's crust recipe and switching to this one but it's a keeper. An old World Education colleague, Kim, brought in an apple pie to work one day. It was the best crust I've ever had. I was surprised by the vinegar but it's the key to this perfect crust. Even better, no butter! This usually yields about 1 1/2 apple pie's worth so I keep the extras in a ball in the freezer - perfect for pumpkin pie, chicken pot pie or for a crusty top to beef stew.

4 cups flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups vegetable shortening/Crisco
1 tbsp vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 egg

1. Blend flour, sugar and salt.
2. Cut in shortening.
3. Measure 1/2 cup ice water, beat in egg, and add vinegar.
4. Add the water mixture a little bit at a time, use a potatoe masher to cut in.
5. Mix until all flour incorporated. Put in fridge until ready to use.

Paddy-Approved Shepard's Pie

You'd think that with a very hungry Irish boyfriend I would have made this a long time ago. But I just tried it a few weeks ago and it was officially approved. A very easy meal to make and so good on a snowy winter day like today - we've got more than a foot and it's still falling!

~1.5 lbs of ground beef (1 package makes enough for about 4 people) - I like using sirloin
1/2 large onion - diced
1 celery stalk - diced small
1 carrot - diced small
3 cloves minced garlic
1 cup beef broth + a little more if needed
2-3 tbsp flour
2-3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp steak sauce if you have it (like HP or A1)
4 yukon gold potatoes
1 leek - just the white sliced thinly
1 cup frozen peas
Grated chedder &/or mix of mexican shredded cheese

Preheat oven to 375

1. Chop the potatoes into quarters and boil with lots of salt until a fork is easily inserted.
2. Drain the water and mash the potatoes.
3. Add 3/4 cup of milk and 2-3 pats butter (add more milk to make a little smoother but not soupy! - you want to be able to spread them on top of the meat later). Keep potatoes covered.

4. Saute the beef in a little olive oil over medium heat. Stir frequently and make sure to mash the beef into small bits. Once just cooked through, remove from pan and set aside in a bowl.

5. In the same pan, (add a little more olive oil if you need to but there should also be some juice from the meat) saute the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic over medium high until the onion is translucent and other veggies soften.
6. Add the meat back into the pan with veggies and season with lots of salt and pepper.
7. Add a tiny bit of steak sauce if you have it and keep on low/med low heat.

8. In a saucepan, melt 3-4 pats of butter.
9. Add the flour and stir until it forms a roux/paste.
10. Add the beef broth and turn the heat to medium high. Stir/whisk until it becomes a medium thick gravy.
11. Add salt and pepper and Worcestershire sauce.

12. Pour the gravy into the meat mixture and stir together.
13. Add the peas. Keep the meat mixture on medium.

14. In the empty gravy saucepan, add a little more olive oil, a few more pats of butter and the leek. Saute until very tender (~5-10 min).
15. Pour into the mashed potatoes and mix well.

16. Pour the meat mixture into a large baking dish. Spread the mashed potatoes on top (don't be afraid to use your hands!) and top with a thin layer of shredded cheese.
17. Bake in the oven until the cheese is melted and/or a little browned.

Bake until cheese is melted and potatoes are a bit crusty.


My Red Sauce

I totally abandoned jarred tomato sauce a few years ago. I just can't do it anymore. I use this sauce with pasta, lasagna, in soups, with fish, etc. I usually have some in my fridge at all times.

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
3 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup white wine (chardonnay is best)
2 large cans of Contadina crushed tomato
1/2 chopped fresh basil
1 tbsp oregano
2 tsp crushed red pepper (more if you like it hot!)
salt & pepper

1. Saute the onion in olive oil until soft.
2. Add garlic and saute for another couple of minutes.
3. Add wine and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and reduce to 1/2.
4. Add cans of crushed tomato, basil, and the rest of the seasoning.
5. Let simmer for at least 15 minutes.

Korean Style Pork Tenderloin

I made this Bobby Flay adaptation last week and we loved it. The pork was very juicy and extremely flavorful. To all my friends who like to cook but feel like it takes too long to make something good - this requires minimal effort. It's a good excuse to make sure you have dark sesame oil in your pantry because it's one of the best flavors on earth! It's also a good reason to buy some chili garlic sauce. This is a staple condiment in West Africa and I used to pile it onto my rice and fish. It's a big one in Asia as well. I was probably burning holes in my stomach rather than getting parasites but whatever the problem - it was worth it because this stuff is amazing. I put it on just about everything. One other tip - buy the jarred minced ginger. It keeps forever and is so much easier than dealing with the root.

1 1/2 lb pork tenderloin

1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp dark/toasted sesame oil (must be dark!)
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp minced ginger
1 tbsp canola/veg oil

Mix the marinade and pour into large ziplock with the pork. Refrigerate and marinate for up to 2 hrs but no more! If you don't have time, even 15-20 will do.

The pork goes great with Jasmine rice. I like to put some chopped green onion in with the rice while it cooks. I also served this with broccolini. Sautee it in a little bit of oil, 1 tbsp of minced ginger and a little garlic if you like. Cook covered for about 5-7 min.

Grill the pork on med-high for about 8 min each side. Discard the marinade.
When finished, let rest while you make the sauce:
2 tbsp hot chili sauce (I like the red chili/garlic combo - found in the Asian foods section)
4 tsp honey

Cut the tenderloin into medallions and drizzle with the chili-honey sauce...good on the rice too!

The Favorite Cookie - BTBs

I've never been a fan of the small cookie. I like them big, so that you only have to eat one. I like them as a meal. Even better, the cookie that can be eaten for breakfast...which is why these are my absolute favorite. I came across this recipe about eight years ago and I have made countless batches since. Reebs, Per, and the World Ed and JSI folks know them well!

2 sticks butter (I prefer salted)
1 cup dark brown sugar
6 tbsp granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt (use 1/2 if you use unsalted butter)
1 cup flour
2 1/4 cups rolled oats (the big ones - I used the rolled oats from Whole Foods bulk bins)
1 1/2 cups of shredded coconut (must use dried coconut - again Whole Foods)
1 12 oz package of good chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped pecans (almonds also a good substitute)

Preheat oven to 375

1. Melt the butter so it's very soft to completely melted (NOT boiling!).
2. Mix butter with sugars.
3. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well.
3. Add flour and baking soda.
4. Stir in oats, coconut, pecans, and chocolate chips.
5. Spoon about 1/4 cup batter onto sheet for each cookie and leave plenty of room in between.
IMPORTANT! Be sure to flatten the batter so that they're thick discs, not balls. This will help you avoid burnt edges.
6. Bake until light brown in color. For crunchy cookies, leave in an extra minute.