Collegeville

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This is my view this week.

Thanks to a generous grant and the support and encouragement of those who love me, I am spending a week at the Collegeville Institute learning, writing and living amongst some amazing women who also write.

Sometimes, the last three days have left my heart so full I’ve been…without words.  Which is not such a great thing to happen to a writer, but I’m sure words will come soon.

For now, let me leave you with a quote from something I read this morning, in an essay by Patricia Hampl. “I don’t write about what I know, but in order to find out what I know”

Here’s to finding out…

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There’s this hirse…

Thursday Night Special

Thursday is becoming increasingly my favorite day of the week.  Blue Eyes has a very long day on Wednesday, so lots of weeks we don’t see each other from bedtime on Tuesday until he gets home from work on Thursday. 😦

In those weeks, Thursday becomes celebration time, and I often want to plan a special dinner for the two of us.  Tonight is one of those times.  I:m planning the menus around what I found  on sale in the supermarket this week: asparagus, veal cutlets, Marsala wine, and mushroom.  Plus I am having some staples I happen to have in the pantry and fridge: some Yukon Gold potatoes and heavy cream.

Thus, the menu is Veal Marsala, Potatoes Gratin, Roasted Asparagus, and an Apple Cake I’ve been wanting to try for some time. Now, the recipes:

VEAL MARSALA (This is for two generous grown-up portions)

3/4 pound veal cutlets

1/4 cup flour

salt and pepper

2-3 T olive oil

8 oz sliced mushrooms (fresh, not canned)

1 large shallot, minced

3/4 cup Marsala wine

1/4  cup water

2T  chopped fresh parsley (can use 1T dried if you don’t have fresh)

2T butter

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large skillet, make sure the veal is very thinly sliced. (If it is not really thin, pound each piece between two pieces of plastic wrap with a mallet or even a rolling pin.) Salt and pepper the veal and coat it lightly in the flour.  When oil is hot, saute the veal on both sides until light golden brown.  Remove the veal to a plate.  Add the shallots and mushrooms to the hot pan an saute until the shallots are translucent and the mushrooms have given off their liquid.  Add the wine and water, scraping up any delicious brown bits on the bottom of the skillet. Add the butter and the parsley.  When the butter is melted and the sauce is deliciously glossy, add the veal back in and make sure the veal is heated through. This entire dish, once you turn on the heat under the oil should not take more than 10-12 minutes.

Pro tip:If you are making this with the potatoes and asparagus, do the veal last.

POTATOES GRATIN

I saw this recipe on a Jamie Oliver show years ago.  I never made those “Au Gratin” potatoes from a box again! This makes enough for two very hungry adults or two modest adults who sneak leftovers later.  Double or triple for a large family.

4-5 medium Yukon gold potatoes (or whatever kind you have, really!)

1 clove garlic, minced

8 oz heavy cream

1t dried thyme or 1T fresh if you have it

salt and pepper to taste

2 generous handfuls of shredded cheese, whatever kind you like (I use sharp cheddar).

Directions:

Slice the potatoes very thinly, use a mandolin if you have one. Put these in a large bowl and add the rest of the ingredients, reserving about half of the cheese for later.  Mix it all up–use your hands if you’re like me. Put it in a casserole dish.  Make sure the dish isn’t too large, or they will dry out and you won’t get the delicious sauce effect from the cream. Top with the reserved cheese and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 40-50 minutes until bubbly and lightly golden on top.

ROASTED ASPARAGUS

This is a favorite way to use asparagus, because you get a slight caramelization effect from roasting it that you don’t get from steaming.

You need:

asparagus

olive oil

salt and pepper

Directions:

Wash and trim your asparagus, lay it in a single layer in a sheet pan, drizzle with oil, salt and pepper it, roast it for about 15-20 minutes, depending on the heat of the oven.  Since I am making this with the potatoes, (at 350) it will take a bit longer.  If I were roasting it at a higher temp (400) it would be done in about 10 minutes.  You can turn the spears over about halfway through the time, if you want.

Pan-Asian Explosion

Doesn’t that sound like fun?  Like, an explosion of deliciousness in your mouth?

I think so.

Last night I made Chicken Lettuce Wraps and Thai Peanut Noodles for the first time ever.  I hate to brag, but it was really good.

Recipes were requested over at FB, so here goes:

CHICKEN LETTUCE WRAPS

2 T vegetable oil

1 lb of ground chicken breast

1 cup minced water chestnuts

1 cup minced mushrooms

1 cup finely chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 T rice wine vinegar

lettuce leaves–I used Butter Lettuce, but Iceberg would work, I suppose.

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large skillet, when it shimmers add the chicken and cook, breaking the meat into small pieces (as if it were ground beef).  When the meat is almost done, add the water chestnuts, mushrooms, and onion, and cook until the onions are translucent and mushrooms have given off their water.  Add the garlic, and cook for a couple more minutes.   Combine the brown sugar, soy sauce and vinegar until sugar is mostly dissolved and pour this sauce on the chicken mixture and cook until everything is well combined. This will take about 3-4 minutes.

To serve, spoon the chicken mixture in a lettuce leaf, roll up soft-taco style, and enjoy! Delish! (This dish could be vegetarian or vegan if made with TVP crumbles instead of meat)

THAI PEANUT NOODLES

5-6 cups boiling water

1/2 an 8-oz package of rice noodles, more or less (I used what was left of a partial box, sorry, it’s not a precise measurement) you could also use plain old spaghetti noodles

2 T vegetable oil

1 head of broccoli, cut into small florets

1/2 cup sliced water chestnuts , sliced into matchstick sized pieces. (This is the other part of the can from the above recipe.  I used 1 small can total in both dishes.)

1 medium carrot, cut into matchstick-sized pieces

4-6 oz snow peas, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces

2 cloves garlic, chopped

3 green onions, thinly sliced

1/4 chopped cilantro (optional)

(Here is the cheat to this recipe: I used bottled peanut sauce.  You can certainly make it easily enough, but I happened to have it in my pantry from a trip to TJ’s.)

1/2  of a 11.5 oz bottle of peanut sauce (See note above)

Directions:

Put the noodles in the boiling water, cover with a tight fiting lid, turn off the heat under the pan and set a timer for 8 minutes.  At the end of 8 minutes, drain the noodles and set aside.  Meanwhile…

In a wok or large skillet heat the oil until shimmering over med-high heat, add the vegetables (except garlic and green onion) and cook until tender-crisp. Add the garlic and reserved noodles, then the sauce and stir-fry until all combined.  Add the green onions and cook for about a minute longer, garnish with cilantro if desired. Try to keep from stuffing the entire pan of deliciousness into your pie hole.  Just try.

This dish is vegetarian if made with spaghetti, and is vegan if you use the rice noodles and make sure your sauce is vegan (mine was). If you are into that sort of thing…

 

Its all Greek to me…

I made  a pot of my new favorite soup today, to celebrate Fall.

I love to make soup.  My favorites are:

Chili, Chicken and White Bean Chili, Minestrone, Chicken Noodle, Vegetable Beef, Broccoli and Cheese, Potato,  White Bean and Sausage.

But my very new favorite is Avgolemono made with lemon, chicken, and rice. It is very delicious, fairly simple (although it involves a couple of steps) and does not require exotic ingredients–at least nothing more exotic than white pepper and lemons.  If you want to make a vegetarian version of this, use vegetable stock or soup base for the chicken soup base, and leave out the pieces of actual chicken.  As this recipe is egg-based, I don’t think there is a way to make it vegan.  This is so velvety and smooth, you will swear it is cream-based, but it is not.

Avgolemono

In a stock pot, combine:

10 Cups water

6T of chicken soup base or granulated boullion

1/2 large onion, finely chopped

2 carrots, grated (I do mine on the box grater)

1/2 t white pepper

Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer (also known as BTBRTS in the foodie world).  Simmer for 20 minutes.  In the meantime…

Blend 8 egg yolks in the blender until light yellow in color. Carefully and slowly add about 2 cups of the soup mixture to the blender while it is on a slow speed.  This is to temper the eggs.  If you don’t do this step you will end up with scrambled egges in the soup. I learned this one the hard way.

Combine 1/4 C melted butter and 1/4 C flour until very smooth.  Add the butter/flour mixture slowly to the soup, stirring constantly to avoid lumps.  Then slowly add the egg mixture, stirring constantly.

Add 1.5 Cups rice and 1.5 Cups chopped chicken. This is a great way to use leftover rice or chicken.  I have to be honest–I didn’t measure the chicken.  I just poached a very large chicken breast, and then shredded it.

Delish!

Out of Africa

There was quite a lively discussion this morning at my house about the origins of the dish pictured above, Chicken Tagine, which was our dinner last night, along with Pearl Couscous and Chickpeas.

Our son insisted that it must be Mediterranean.  I countered with “No, it is North African–Moroccan, to be exact.”  He did not see the difference, but there is one. The basic flavor profile of North African cuisine includes spices like cumin, coriander, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, paprika, and herbs like parsley and cilantro.  Flavor enhancements and aromatics include olives, garlic, onion, and preserved lemon.  Chicken, lamb, and goat are the usual proteins.

As this was my first time cooking North African food, I used a recipe from a respected Amercian source–someone who is also (like me) largely self-taught.  Someone who knows how to adapt other cuisines to the American market and kitchen.

Thus, this recipe comes from Ina Garten’s, show, “Barefoot Contessa: Cooking for Beginners”

Note: this dish takes overnight to marinate!

Moroccan Chicken Tagine

  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large Spanish onion, grated (about 1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons canola, grapeseed or olive oil (not a heavy olive oil)
  • 1 to 2 preserved lemons, depending on size (See recipe below)
  • 8 chicken thighs, with bone and skin
  • Stems from the parsley and cilantro, tied with twine
  • 1/4 teaspoon powdered saffron or 1/4 teaspoon powdered turmeric and 4 strands saffron
  • 1 cup pitted green Moroccan or Greek olives
  • 1/2 bunch Italian parsley, about 1/4 cup chopped
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, about 1/4 cup chopped

In a large bowl, mix the garlic, cumin, ginger, paprika, salt and pepper, 1/2 cup grated onion, and the oil.

Rinse the preserved lemons, and remove the pulp. RESERVE the lemon peel for later use.

Add the lemon pulp to the mixing bowl. Add the chicken. Mix everything together and place in a large plastic bag to marinate overnight in the refrigerator. (Twenty-four hours really gives the chicken the best flavor.)

In a large Dutch oven or casserole, place the chicken and marinade; add the stems of the parsley and cilantro, the rest of the grated onion, the powdered saffron and 1 1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil over high heat, turn down to a simmer and cook, partially covered, for 30 minutes.

Remove the cover, stir the chicken and continue to simmer for another 15 minutes or until the chicken is tender.

Remove the chicken to a serving dish and cover with foil to keep warm. Keep sauce on stove and begin to reduce.

Slice the preserved lemon peel into thin slices and add to the sauce along with the olives, parsley and cilantro. Reduce until the sauce is just a little thick. This shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes at most.

Uncover the chicken and remove the skin from the chicken. (It doesn’t look pretty and who needs the extra fat.) Pour sauce over chicken and serve.

Preserved Lemons, Extra Quick-Style:

  • 2 to 3 lemons
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

Cut the lemons into sixths, lengthwise, sprinkle with the salt and place in a non-corrosive dish (glass is good). Cover the lemons with water and cook in the oven for 3 hours. Allow to cool and then refrigerate.

Cook’s Note: The lemons can be refrigerated for up to 6 months as long as they are covered and stored in a glass canning jar.

You Just Might Smack Your Mama

Its that good.

And sooooo easy.

About a year a go I invested in a smallish slow-cooker, not the Lil’ Dipper, but the next size up.  It was on sale.

But you could make this recipe in a larger one, especially if you double it for a crowd.   This is very yummy.  Dangerously yummy.

You just might smack your mama. (Don’t worry; mine lives 350 miles away. She’s safe.)

Cheesy Corn

1 bag of frozen Corn (16 oz)

4 oz Cream Cheese ( I use reduced fat)

2T Butter

2T Milk

Salt and Pepper to taste

Put the corn in the crock pot, season to taste, add other ingredients, stir to combine.  Cook on low for several hours.

You can also melt cheese, butter and milk together and pour it on the corn in the crock.  But if you are in a  hurry you don’t need to.

There are a number of variations you could make to this recipe.  I’m thinking you could add diced green chilis, onion, other cheeses.  (Goat cheese might make it fancy!)  Wht ever you do to it, prepare for ZERO leftovers!

And be nice to your mama.