Friday, October 30, 2009

Cabbage braised with bacon and figs

The photo is of the leftovers of the braised cabbage. I'm making more of it tomorrow but I was anxious to get this recipe posted. It's that good! I'm not sure where the idea came from for this. Oh, yes I do. I was thinking about carrot raisin salad and then slaw and the notion for a braise with figs popped into my 5-watt brain. Peter added the idea of bacon. It's a 3-way made in heaven.

Cabbage braised with bacon and figs
2 strips thick-cut bacon or 3 thinner
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1/2 medium head cabbage, halved and stem removed
2/3 cup unsweetened dried figs (Sunsweet are what I found), in 1/2" dice
splash of Xiaoxing cooking wine (or dry white wine)
splash of Chinese black vinegar (or apple cider vinegar or wh. wine vinegar)
salt and pepper to taste

Cut the bacon into 1/2" pieces and cook in a large saute pan until crispy. Drain on paper towels.

While the bacon cooks, slice the cabbage into thin strips more or less as you would for a slaw. When the bacon is done add the garlic to the bacon fat and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the cabbage and toss thoroughly. Cook, stirring occasionally, just until the cabbage starts to wilt, about 3 minutes. Add the figs, wine and vinegar. Season to taste with salt and black pepper (I used white pepper). Toss everything together.

When everything is hot, serve it and enjoy it.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Roasted Cornish hens

What an easy solution to late morning musings about dinner. Peter wanted me to get turkey tenders. Safeway doesn’t carry them. They do carry whole turkey breasts – but – they’re frozen…Deal Breaker!

The idea was to use some sage pesto he made last month using sage from our garden. I thought about using chicken breast, not a bad idea…just boring. I hit on Cornish hens. They too were frozen, but thawed sufficiently in 2 hours for me to get them into a brine. (For brining enter “brine” into the search engine of blogspot.)

I’ve done chicken parts many times where I stuck fresh sage leaves under the skin. It’s really good. But the pesto idea would incorporate some parmesan cheese as well.

Once, in the first year we were together, Peter and I made Cornish hens stuffed with prosciutto and larded on the outside with fatback. God, they were good. However, nearly 30 years later, I have issues with weight and body image. I will never look like a GQ model, gut I don’t like to suck in my gut to get my pants fastened. I am 5’ 9” and weigh a skosh below 140 pounds. Doesn’t sound like much does it?

Well, I weighed 137 pounds a few weeks ago when I quit smoking. The last time I quit I gained 15 pounds over the course of several months. Never again! It took me 6 months to lose that 15, combined with the resumption of smoking. It’s a vicious cycle. Do I want to live longer as a fat man, or die younger as a smoker who could still get lucky at the baths? Sorry if I’ve embarrassed you.

Roasted game hens
2 Cornish hens
basil or sage pesto (or fresh sage leaves)
1 cup shredded carrot
olive oil
salt and pepper

Spatchcock the hens. Don’t know what that is? Just cut out the backbone and press down on the breast to flatten the bird. Cut off the end joint of the wings. Slice through the skin near the end of the legs and tuck them through it. Check the first picture above to get a good look at the results.

Preheat the oven to 400°.

If you have pesto, smear it under the skin in as many areas as you can get to. Don’t put it on top, it will burn. No pesto? Put sage leaves under there. Add grated carrot to the "pesto-ed" areas. Stretch the skin back into its original position.

Brush the birds all over with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast skin side up for 40-45 minutes until the internal temperature of the thickest meat is at 165°. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Ham and bean soup

I often make soup. The particular ingredients (which I know I've mentioned many times before) just happen to be what is in the fridge.

I on a new diet kick. For the past few years Peter and I have more often than not eaten sandwiches (grilled or on toast) for lunch. Having quit smoking recently my weight is inexorably increasing - about a pound a week. This in spite of no change in my eating habits and gym visits (4 times a week).

It occured to me the other day when Peter went off for the weekend to New Orleans that I should try skipping the sandwiches and getting "soup creative."

The one and only ingredient you absolutely must have for soup is liquid. I prefer low fat/low sodium chicken stock - often on sale at Safeway. Then just rummage around and see what you have. You could do something as simple as open a can of diced tomatoes, saute some onion and garlic, puree that with the tomatoes, add some broth and some seasonings and, voila, it's soup!

On Saturday I took the easy way out and bought one of Safeway's "Signature" soups, Italian wedding soup. I really like it and I was feeling lazy.

Sunday I got creative. I opened a package of ramen noodles and thawed out 4 oz. shrimp, removing their shells. Now, I wanted flavor but less sodium than one gets using the ramen flavor packet. So...I started with 1 cup chicken broth and one cup water, brought it to a boil, added the noodles and, one minute later, the shrimp. Ramen noodles take 3 minutes and the end of which you add the flavoring. I used only half. That's all there was to it.

All right, I'm going on a bit about this. Today's soup is something I dreamed up in a matter minutes early today. Everything that went into this was stuff that was on hand. If you have a trip planned to the store you can, or course, pick up whatever you might want to add to the soup. But I hate to go to the store for just one or two items.

Anyhoo, kohlrabi is unusal. But we had 3 "heads" of it. Also had leftover the jalapeno from a few days ago.

I'd love to take on the challenge of making a soup, Iron Chef style, from a list of ingredients provided by you the readers. (What readers? Nobody comes here.) Bring it on.

Ham and bean soup
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped celery (with leaves if possible)
1 kohlrabi, peeled and diced
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 lb. smoked pork chops
1 14.5 oz. can beans (absolutely any kind)
4 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp chili powder

In a large pot heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, kohlrabi, jalapeno and garlic. Saute, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. Don't allow the vegetation to take on color.

If your pork chops have bones, remove them and add them to the pot for flavor. Cut the pork up into 1/2" cubes. Add the pork and the beans to the pot. Stir and then add broth. Bring to a simmer and then season with salt and pepper and chili powder to taste. Let the soup simmer very slowly for maybe 10 minutes. That's all there is to it.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Shrimp and grits

Back on July 17, I posted an excellent recipe for shrimp and grits with chorizo. The other day I made shrimp and grits without the chorizo. It was so good I'm sharing it again.

Shrimp and grits (serves 2)
10 oz. shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup clam broth
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup medium grind cornmeal
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
2 scallions, green and white parts cut into 1/2" pieces
1 large clove garlic, minced
lemon juice to taste
chopped parsley to garnish

Keep the shrimp in the fridge until ready to cook.

Add the stock, clam broth and tomato paste and bring to a boil. Whisk in the grits and adjust heat so that the mix simmers gently. Cook, stirring often, for 10-15 minutes until the corn meal is no longer crunchy. It can remain somewhat al dente.

After the grits have been cooking for 10 minutes, heat the oil and butter in a medium saute pan over medium heat until the butter is melted. Add the scallions and garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the shrimp and cook, turning once until just barely cooked through, about 4 minutes total.

Stir the shrimp mixture into the grits, mount with 1 or 2 tbsp butter, drizzle with lemon juice, garnish with parsley and serve in heated bowls.

Just a thought about ravioli

This is not a recipe post. I found this image in my camera and it reminded me of how good some ravioli was that I made a few weeks ago. The stuffing was a squash mixture that Peter made. I used wonton wrappers, the 3" or so sized squares. I trimmed the corners because that enabled my getting 6 pieces in a saute pan at one time.

Most of the time I steam ravioli, or simmer them in salted water. For some reason I decided to fry them this time. It takes only 1/4" of oil in a 10" skillet. Time? About 2 minutes per side.

The accompanimensts are a homemade tomato soup and a chopped salad.

BBQ pork ribs

It’s not exactly kosher to post a recipe for which I made no precise measurements; nor did I stick to a consistent oven temperature, or even remember exactly how long the fruits of my labor were in the oven. Now that I think of it, it's not exactly kosher to say kosher when speaking of a pork product. Oh well, too late for that now.

But there’s a life-lesson here: it’s not necessary to follow a recipe all the time. I guess it’s ironic of me to say that and then go ahead and post, what else, a recipe!

Everything below is approximate. However, no precision is required. Brine a bit longer or shorter, set the oven temp a little higher of lower, reduce cooking time (after all, what matters in the end is that the meat is falling off the bones), etc.

A word about the type of ribs: they were merely labeled “pork ribs,” definitely not spare ribs, perhaps closer to St. Louis-style ribs. This recipe would work for any of these and as well for “country” pork ribs.

BBQ pork ribs
2 ¾ pounds pork ribs
Chicken stock as needed

Brine: (well-dissolved)
4 cups water
4 tbsp kosher salt
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper

Dry rub:
2 tbsp cumin
2 tsp cayenne
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
black pepper to taste

Wet rub:
1 cup catsup
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 heaping tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp liquid smoke
1 tbsp soy sauce (dark if you have it)

Brine the ribs for 2-6 hours in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 300°.

Rinse and dry thoroughly.

Apply dry rub all over ribs.

Place on baking rack in a baking pan with at least 1” sides. Add some chicken stock to the pan (1/2 cup or so).

Cover tightly with foil and bake for 2 ½ - 3 hours, checking each hour and adding stock if it has evaporated.

Reduce oven to 250°.

Remove foil from the ribs and slather them with the wet rub all over. Return ribs, uncovered, to the oven to ½ to 1 hour. Recover with foil and let the ribs rest for 10 minutes. Cut between the bones and serve.

Shrimp soup w/ preserved black beans

I got on a preserved black bean kick due to an episode of Ming Tsai's show, "East Meets West," in which he combines a western ingredient with an eastern one. Putting butter and preserved black beans together may sound a bit strange, but I've done a couple of things with this idea and guess what, it's good. Having had preserved black beans on hand for at least the last year, they provided a unique taste touch to the soup.

Clockwise from top left: the mushroom liquid from rehydating, chicken broth, garlic, chopped yellow jalapeno-style pepper, diced zucchini, ramen noodles, preserved black beans, rehydrated shiitake mushrooms.

Shrimp soup w/black beans (serves 2)
6 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp butter
1 inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
½ cup diced zucchini (1/2” dice)
2 tbsp fermented black beans, lightly chopped
1 cup clam broth
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 3/4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 packages ramen noodles (shrimp flavored)
10 oz. shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 scallions, white and green parts chopped
Rehydrate the mushrooms in 3/4 cup hot water. Put something on top of them to keep them submerged. When finished (about 30 minutes), slice them into 1/4" pieces. Reserve the liquid.

Heat the oil and butter in a large sauté pan. Add ginger, shiitakes, jalapeno and garlic and cook 1 minute. Add zucchini and black beans. Cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, combine the clam broth, mushroom liquid, soy sauce and broth. Add to the sauté pan and bring to a boil. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Add ramen noodles and shrimp. Reduce to a simmer and cook 3 minutes.

Transfer to soup bowls, garnish with scallions and serve.

Pork chops with preserved black beans

If you can get to a good Asian market, pick up some preserved black beans. They last forever in the fridge and, used in small amounts, provide a nicely different take on many dishes.
The squash is delicata, the skin of which can be eaten.

Pork chops with preserved black beans (serves 2)
2 bone-in or boneless loin pork chops
2 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp black pepper, plus more to taste
2 cups water
1 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
½ tbsp butter
1 tbsp preserved black beans, lightly chopped
1 tsp ginger, minced
1 tsp garlic, minced

Brine the pork for 1-3 hours in the fridge in the water, in which you've dissolved the salt and sugar and to which you've added the pepper. One hour before cooking rinse the chops thoroughly, dry them, and allow them to come to room temperature.

In a saute pan large enough to hold the chops without crowding, heat the olive oil and butter over medium high. Add the beans, ginger and garlic and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly so that nothing burns.

Add the chops to the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes per side, until just barely pink in the center (cut a little slit in order to take a peek). Serve at once.

Broiled chicken thighs

The photo is of the chicken during prep, showing how I stuffed the thighs with carrot and oregano. It didn't seem important to include a photo of the cooked chicken - for heaven's sake, you know what that looks like!

This is such a simple recipe, I have to post it, even though I think I did something similar a ways back. Truth be told, I never do anything exactly the same way twice. (Just looked it up in this blog - it was almost a year ago.

The carrot and oregano under the skin were a last minute inspiration caused by my discovery of part of a carrot in our fridge's veggie drawer.

Broiled chicken thighs (serves 4)
4 bone-in chicken thighs
2 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp black pepper, plus more to taste
2 cups water
4 tbsp grated carrot
2 tsp dried oregano

Start by brining the chicken for at least an hour or for several hours, up to you. Just dissolve the salt and sugar in the water, add the pepper, and refrigerate in a freezer bag.

An hour before cooking, thoroughly rinse and dry the thighs. Loosen the skin and put 1 tbsp carrot and 1/2 tsp (or to taste...this amount is pretty agressive) oregano under it.

Preheat the broiler, leaving the door ajar so that it won't cycle off and on. Place the oven rack in the second highest position under the broiler heat source (the topmost position will cause the chicken to burn.

Add a bit more pepper to the chicken, place the thighs on a rack over a shallow baking pan, skin side down and slide under the broiler. Broil for 10 minutes. Turn the chicken over and broil for 8-10 more minutes, until cooked through.

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