Sunday, May 31, 2009

Fun with sand dabs (or, a little dab’ll do ya)

I’m not posting a recipe today, just a report on our exposure to a new variety of fish, the sand dab. The pictures make them look larger than they are. When trimmed of spines, head and tail, they weigh in at 5-7 oz. The skin is thin and dissolved off them when sautéed.
I need to mention that the sand dab is a flounder-like fish, flat, dark on one side and white on the other. Like flounder they swim on their sides. The white side is down, making it difficult to see them from underneath. The brown side is the top, making them difficult to see from above.

Bruce, my fish monger, gave me two of them to try a couple days ago. I sautéed them in butter and olive oil and pulled the meat off the central skeleton. Unfortunately there are some pin bones in what I’ll call the shoulder. When the dabs are cooked, they aren’t much more annoying than eating the bones in a canned sardine. I let the meat cool and turned it into a fish salad, much like the one I’ve posted about in the past. It was delicious.

When I went back to Bruce’s store the next day he had a fresh batch available. I bought 4, made a shrimp stock using shells I had in the freezer and chicken stock, poached the dabs and removed the meat from the bones. I got the peculiar inspiration to make a one-dish meal with wheat berries (simmered for 2 hours in broth), sautéed artichoke hearts (from frozen, perfectly viable), and some seasonings and lemon juice. It was swell.

Today we cobbled together lunch with the leftovers, serving it up on toast with some crispy bacon and a poached egg.

End of lecture. Just bear in mind that this is another example of how to use disparate ingredients that have been languishing in the larder or the freezer.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Lasagna roll-ups

I take a substantial amount of credit for tweaking this idea I got from somebody on Food Network (don't remember who).

This was incredibly good, if I do say so myself. I used the odd amount of 8 noodles just because that's what we had left in the lasagna box. If you make it with more noodles, just proportionately increase the quantity of each of the ingredients.

Lasagna rollups
8 lasagna noodles
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or pressed
½ tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste
10 oz. sausage (any kind, removed from casing)
20 oz. tomato sauce
3 oz. tomato paste
1 stalk Fresh sage
1 stalk Fresh thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
red pepper flakes, to taste
salt and pepper to taste
½ cup warm water
4 oz. baby arugula
6 oz.Ricotta cheese
6 oz. Provolone cheese, grated
1/8 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Cook the noodles according to package directions, leaving them al dente. Drain, rinse and set aside.

In a saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes until softened but not colored. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook 1 minute more.

Add the sausage, another pinch of salt and pepper, and cook until browned, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Add the tomato sauce and tomato paste and stir to combine. Add the sage, thyme and oregano. Add the water. Bring to a simmer and check for seasonings adding salt and pepper as needed. Simmer for 20-30 minutes or until slightly thickened.

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Grease a 9x12 lasagna pan. Spread a thin layer of the sauce on the bottom.

Lay the noodles out on a flat surface. Leaving a 1” area at one end of each noodle clear, spread about 1 tbsp of the sauce on each one. Lay arugula leaves on the sauce. Top that with a bit of ricotta and provolone (using no more than half). Roll the noodles up toward the clean end. Place the rollups in the baking pan with the seam side down.

Spread the rest of the sauce over the top of them along with the remaining ricotta and provolone. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 30 minutes, Remove the foil and top with parmesan. Continue baking 10 minutes ot until the top begins to brown. Remove from the oven, tent with the foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Garlic gravy

For several months I have contemplated making a dish that is garlic, garlic, and more garlic. Finally last night I did it. The idea of so much of the pungent little heads of goodness may be appalling to some. In the end, it was exactly what I had hoped for.

Garlic gravy
3 heads garlic
olive oil, as needed
1 tbsp butter
1 cup chicken broth
1 stalk fresh thyme
1 serrano chile, halved but not seeded
1 cup corn kernels, thawed if previously frozen
¼ cup heavy cream
salt, to taste
white pepper, to taste
1 tsp corn starch
2 tbsp parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 350.

Cut one garlic head in half across the middle drizzle with olive oil, wrap in foil and roast in the oven for 1 hour.

Peel 8 cloves from another head of garlic. Set aside.

Peel 3 more large cloves from another head of garlic. Slice them across to about 1/16”.

In a sauté pan, heat 1 tsp olive oil and 1 tbsp butter over medium heat. Place the garlic slices in the oil and cook until golden but not brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel. Save the remaining butter and oil in the pan to saute a piece of meat or something else.

Put the chicken broth, thyme, serrano pepper and peeled whole cloves in the sauté pan and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer until the cloves are very tender, about 30-40 minutes.

Remove the garlic to a small bowl with a slotted spoon. Discard the serrano pepper.

Add the corn to the broth and simmer until very tender, about 10 minutes. Remove to a food processor. Add the cream and puree thoroughtly.. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, pressing with a wooden spoon. Discard solids.

Return this liquid to the processor, add the roasted garlic (squeeze it) and puree. Put this back in the saute pan. Add the whole peeled garlic cloves, corn starch (dissolve it in a little water first), season with salt and pepper, and bring to a simmer for 5 minutes.

Serve over your favorite kind of rice.

Shrimp salad

I’m back! It’s fun having a digital camera, especially to take snaps of my own dishes.

With Peter away this weekend, I’ve been experimenting in the kitchen. (There are some things I don’t want to inflict on him without a test run.)

My lunch today: a shrimp salad concoction I dreamed up this morning.

Shrimp salad
8 oz. cooked shrimp, cut into ½” pieces
2 tbsp peppadew peppers, finely chopped
2 tbsp chopped celery, with leaves if you have them
2 tbsp cubed mozzarella
1 green end of scallion, chopped
1 ½ tbsp olive oil
1 tsp white wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Toss all this stuff together, cover with plastic and stick in the fridge for an hour.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Thai beef and wild rice salad

I forgot to take a photo of today's recipe. Sorry.

Yesterday I posted my harangue about making soup from bits and pieces of stuff you find on hand. Today I will compose a salad, again using small amounts of miscellanea sitting in the fridge, the pantry, the crisper drawer (another excellent hideout for stuff).

The problem with the crisper drawer is that everything in there is in a plastic bag. So it can take a bit of doing to get a clear picture of what you’ve got. This is where the inventory system I talked about yesterday re-emerges today.

Ironically enough, Mark Bittman (the “minimalist”) in today’s NY Times food section goes on at some length about lists so that things don’t get lost. I’d almost think he read my blog.

But seriously, folks, in our house Peter and I have finally begun to exhibit some discipline and keep frequently updated lists on hand for the contents of the fridge and freezer. I simply stick a piece of paper (actually from a notepad) on the door of the fridge and write and cross off whatever goes in or comes out. You can do it. Once you get a sense of how much more efficiently you use the food you’ve paid good money for, you’ll be patting yourself on the back (as we are now doing frequently).

Today’s recipe used only items I had on hand and fell into the category “use it, or lose it.” Here’s what the inventory led to:

Thai beef and wild rice salad
Juice of ½ lemon
¼ cup finely diced celery (with leafy parts if possible)
2 scallions, green and white parts diced fine
3 tbsp fish sauce, or to taste
2 tbsp chili/garlic paste
¼ cup Italian parsley, chopped
2 cups cooked wild rice
6 oz. cooked steak

Put the first 6 items in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Stir in the rice, mixing everything thoroughly. Give it a taste and add more of anything you think it needs (for me it was a bit more fish sauce).

Cut the steak into thin slices across the grain. Over medium-low heat, warm the steak in a non-stick skillet for a few minutes. Sprinkle with a bit of soy sauce. Serve the rice in bowls topped with steak slices.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Pork milanesa with rice and beans

NPR did a daily feature this week in which celebrity chefs gave recipes for feeding 4 on less than $10. They also offered the opportunity for us out here in listening land to send them similar recipes. So I did.

I think that beef is the most common meat used for milanesa, but I make it with pork and chicken as well. It's extremely simple to do, and very satisfying.

Milanesa with rice and beans

4 Thin cut boneless pork chops
1 egg
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup unflavored bread crumbs
salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups brown rice
3 cups water
1 15 oz. can black beans
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
hot sauce, to taste
½ head iceberg lettuce, shredded

Brine the chops if you have time. Season with salt (only if you didn't brine them), pepper and paprika. Pound them very thin, dredge in flour, dip in egg, coat with breadcrumbs.

In a large skillet, heat 1/8" vegetable oil until nearly smoking. Fry the meat exactly 90 seconds per side, no more, no less! If you have to do this in batches, kept the cooked pieces warm on a plate on paper towels.

Cook the rice according to package directions. I usually like to use broth for this, but water is fine. Drain and rinse the beans and combine them with the cooked rice along with the jalapeno, cilantro, salt and pepper to taste, and hot sauce to taste.

Serve the milanesa on a bed of lettuce with the rice and beans on the side.

The last 65th birthday lunch by Stevie

I got real busy making preparations for my 65th birthday lunch, a nine-course feast I prepared for a dozen folks using 65 ingredients. In attendance were some of my favorite people. One them is Jason Sheehan, restaurant reviewer for Denver's alternate weekly, Westword. Jason blogged about my lunch. Want to read it? Go here:

The recipes are too daunting to post here. Some of them are for things I've blogged about before. Some of them were never written down. In any case, I'm going to put the menu in here with pictures.

The Last Annual 65th Birthday Party by Stevie
Wednesday, April 29, 2009 – chez Russell/Crout

(65 ingredients)

beverages (1)*
(beer, wine, soft drink, or clamato bloody Mary)

gravlax with beet carpaccio; olive tapenade; Caesar-style salad (7)
dill-cured salmon over shaved roasted beets garnished with sesame seeds; a blend of olives and chick peas on an endive spear; radicchio with a lemon/parmesan dressing

le soup; le pb & jello sandwich (5)
carrot and fennel soup with grains of paradise; pistachio butter and home-grown grape jello mimic the traditional sandwich flavor

quesadilla estilo Esteban (7)
tortillas with chorizo, asadero cheese and epazote, with a piquant salsa and guacamole

les oeufs quatre façons (7)
eggs 4 ways: quail egg on a mushroom cap; smelt roe (masago)in a ramen noodle nest; “deviled” potato with cured pollock roe (mentaiko); regular hard-boiled egg

pomegranate granita (1)
with which to cleanse the palate

shrimp mac and cheese; celeriac/celery slaw (6)
Israeli couscous with poached shrimp, mascarpone and a mild, creamy bleu cheese; a variation on traditional slaw

corned beef with Thai kraut; whiting salad and black radish(4)
a pair of deli-style favorites along with something weird (inspired by sauerkraut, green papaya salad, and kim chee)

tref cones with hummus; slumdog wings (3)
soy bean hummus in roasted bacon cones; tandoori-style roasted wingettes

creamsicle ice cream with fudgesicle sauce (3)
tastes from youth

*indicates the number of main components (total = 44, corresponding to my birth year); additional 21 ingredients: salt, pepper, onion , butter, broth, paprika, mayonnaise, sesame oil, garam masala, wasabi, cumin, olive oil, cream, gelatin, grains of paradise, scallions, soy sauce, onion, lemon, capers, xanthan gum

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