Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Moroccan Fish Dinner

Jeannene is a great lover of seafood and this North-African-spiced grouper really wowed her. The recipe originally came from the Southern Living Cookbook, but I have altered it. I paired it with Martha Stewart’s dilled rice pilaf, a green salad, and basil peaches for dessert, a perfect light summer meal!

Moroccan Broiled Fish
2 cloves garlic, peeled & halved
2 tbsp. chopped fresh ginger
½ c. chopped parsley or cilantro
1 small jalapeño, quartered and seeded
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. smoked Spanish paprika
½ tsp. turmeric
½ tsp. coriander
2 tsp. oil
2 lb. grouper (catfish, snapper, or flounder may be subbed)
Lime wedges for garnish

Finely chop everything but the fish & limes in a food processor. Spread it all over both sides of the fish. Chill for half an hour, then broil about 10 minutes, until cooked through. Serve with lime wedges. 

Dilled Rice Pilaf
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 small red onion, minced
2 c. jasmine rice
¼ c. capellini, broken into pieces about 1” in length
2 tsp. salt
3 c. chicken broth
2 tbsp. chopped fresh dill (sometimes, I think subbing dry is fine. Here, I wouldn’t)

In a sauce pan, sauté onion in oil until softened. Add rice & pasta. Cook until pasta is golden brown, being careful not to allow it to burn. Add salt and broth. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on low 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Add dill and mix well. Serves 6-8.

Basil Peaches
4 peeled, quartered peaches
1 bunch basil
1 tsp. lime zest
½ c. sugar
½ c. water
Real whipped cream or crème fraîche for serving, if you like (you can also do this as a
shortcake or serve it with a crisp tea cookie, amaretti, or shortbread)

Put peaches and basil in a bowl. Bring the rest to a boil together (well, not the cream) over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Lower the heat and simmer 2 minutes. Pour over the peaches. Chill a couple hours. Serves 4-6.

If you can’t find crème fraîche, you can approximate it by mixing a cup of heavy cream with ¼ c. buttermilk in a glass jar. Cover it with a paper towel held on by a rubber band. Let it stand until it thickens, up to 24 hours. Cover with a proper lid and chill before using.

Fresh Stir-Fry

We love vegetables in our house and one of our favorite ways to eat them is in a stir-fry. Here are two good versions we’ve had at our house recently. I served the broccoli stir-fry with baked teriyaki pork chops, brown rice, and big hunks of pineapple. The pork & asparagus stir-fry got jasmine rice and mandarin oranges to accompany it. The notation beside it in my recipe binder says, “Really flippin’ awesome.”

Stir-fried Broccoli
2 tbsp. soy sauce or tamari
1 tbsp. sake (you can sub dry sherry, if you can’t lay your hands on sake)
1 tbsp. water
3 tsp. oil
1 tbsp. sesame oil
1 bunch of broccoli, divided into small florets
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1/2 c. minced basil leaves
½ tsp. sugar

Mix soy sauce, sake, & water in a small dish. Heat a large skillet or wok on high for about 4 minutes (I don’t recommend using a skillet with non-stick coating here). Add 2 tsp. oil and heat for a minute, until it just starts to smoke. Add broccoli and stir-fry a couple minutes (by which I mostly mean 2), until just tender. Push to the sides of the skillet and add garlic, ginger, and 1 tsp. oil to the center of the pan. Sauté about 10 seconds, remove from heat, and stir everything together. Return to heat and add soy/sake mixture. Cook 30 seconds. Add basil & sugar and cook 30 more seconds. Serves 4-6.

Pork & Asparagus Stir-Fry
1 lb. boneless pork loin, fat trimmed, cut into thin strips
¼ c. soy/tamari
1 tbsp. sake
2 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1 ½ lb. asparagus, broken into 3-4” pieces
½ c. + 2 tbsp. water
2 tsp. oil
Sliced scallion for garnish

Mix pork with soy, sake, and ginger. Marinate about half an hour (longer is okay, too). Cook asparagus and ½ c. water, in covered skillet over high heat, stirring occasionally, for 2-4 minutes. Drain. Wipe skillet dry and heat on high. Add oil and heat another minute. Remove pork from marinade and stir-fry 3-5 minutes, until cooked through. Add marinade and 2 tbsp. water. Stir until it comes to a boil. Add asparagus and heat through. Serve garnished with scallion. Serves 4-6.

A Twist on Salad & Sandwich Suppers

I am a big fan of really simple dinners when I am the only one home. Sometimes, I try them on Jeannene, too. She loved this combo. The salad came to me from a Red Hat cookbook, although I switched the dressing and tinkered with proportions, and the sandwich is courtesy of Rachael Ray. If you like the ubiquitous spinach artichoke dip, you’ll love this sandwich.

Asparagus & Raspberry Salad
1 bunch asparagus, lightly steamed but still plenty crunchy
1 pint raspberries
Fruity vinaigrette (the original recipe called for raspberry, but I had Maple Grove Farms Strawberry Balsamic Vinaigrette on hand and I love it, so that’s what I used.)

Once asparagus has cooled, arrange on plates and scatter berries over the top. Drizzle with dressing and serve. Serves 2-4.

Spinach & Artichoke Grilled Cheese
Butter 4 slices of your favorite bread on one side of each slice. Fill the sandwiches with deli turkey, sliced gruyère cheese, baby spinach leaves, and chopped, marinated artichoke hearts (well-drained, of course). Cook as with a regular grilled cheese sandwich. Serves 2.

Keema for Comfort

One of my favorite ethnic comfort foods is keema mattar, a scrumptious Pakistani/North Indian dish starring ground meat and peas. This is my adaptation of Shahnaz Ahmad’s recipe from One Big Table, a fabulous cookbook I recommend to anyone who likes something interesting on their plate.
Keema Mattar
2 lb. ground meat (I used beef, lamb is very commonly used, and I suspect you could
even use soy crumbles to decent effect with a little oil added for the initial step)
1 large onion, finely-chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cayenne
Pinch turmeric
¼ c. oil
2 c. peas (I just use frozen peas, thawed)
2 plum tomatoes, finely-chopped
1 serrano pepper, finely-chopped (I always de-seed peppers, too, to reduce the heat level)
1 ½ tsp. grated ginger
1½ tsp. cumin
1 tsp. coriander
Chopped cilantro or parsley for garnish (cilantro’s more authentic, but not for me)

Mix meat, onion, garlic, salt, cayenne, and turmeric together and cook on medium-high in a heavy pot, breaking up to create a fine texture. Cover and cook on medium-low for 15-20 minutes. Add oil and cook another 5 minutes, stirring. Add peas, tomatoes, serrano, and ginger. Cover and cook 5-7 minutes. Add cumin and coriander. Serve, over rice or with naan or bhatura, garnished with cilantro or parsley. A side of raita is nice to have on hand and I like a cucumber salad with it, too. Chop up a mango for an easy dessert. Serves 6-8.

Italian Night for Veggies & Carnivores

These two recipes are of the Italian ilk, involving a toss-together pasta dish in one case and a Giada-inspired pizza dish in the other, and it might be fun to pair dinner with a game of bocce out back.

Spaghetti with Ham, Caramelized Onions, and Asiago
1 lb. spaghetti, cooked
3 tsp. olive oil
1 ½ onions, thinly sliced
½ tsp. salt
½ c. chicken broth
8 oz. diced ham
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp. thyme
4 oz. crumbled asiago (you can sub parmesan or even manchego…if you use manchego, it would be cool to sub Serrano or Iberico ham)

Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the onion and salt. Cook for about 5 minutes, adding broth when the pan becomes dry. Cook and stir until the onion is soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Add ham, garlic, and thyme. Cook about 3 minutes. Toss with pasta and serve with cheese. Serves 4-6.

Pizzette with Goat Cheese and Ricotta
4 oz. soft goat cheese
1/3 c. ricotta cheese
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. finely-chopped basil
1 tsp. fine lemon zest
Pizza dough (I like to pick up a ball of it at Whole Foods…you can make your own, if
you’re into that)
12 oz. cherry tomatoes, halved (If you can only find red, do that, but if you have a variety of colors, it’s a much more lush feast for the eyes)

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Mix cheeses, 1 tbsp. olive oil, basil, and lemon zest together well. Add salt & pepper, if you think it needs some. Roll dough out into a couple of smallish, rough ovals. I actually didn’t even roll mine, I just pulled it into shape and patted it out. Giada would likely be horrified. Her original recipe calls for cutting the dough into 30 2 ¼” rounds---do that, if you have the time and inclination. It would be great for a party! Place the dough on parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush with olive oil, season with salt & pepper, and bake until golden, 10-12 minutes. Cool slightly before spreading with cheese and topping with tomatoes. Serves 2-4.

Both are good served with a green salad, fresh fruit, and a nice bottle of Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc.

Mango Madness

Friday night, we had an impromptu (okay, planned a week in advance, which counts as impromptu in my world) game night & potluck supper. It was a small crowd, but some delicious food and much hilarity during several rounds of Scattergories. Since I have a tendency to be rushing about like a crazy person minutes before guests arrive, trying to get food finished, so that I answer the door all sweaty and flushed and breathless, I decided it would be wise to do something in the slow cooker. Riffing on a Gooseberry Patch recipe, I popped a pork roast in the pot, poured a jar of Newman’s Own Medium salsa and a 4 oz. can of chopped green chiles over the top, and let it cook for 8 hours on low. Shredded, it made lovely little soft tacos. I thought we had sour cream, but we didn’t, so one of the guests offered a quick improvisation, handing me the goat cheese that went on his spinach & strawberry salad. It turned out to be a great accompaniment. We did have scads of tomatoes, but everyone wanted their tacos pretty plain.

Since I wasn’t sure if everyone would be up for spicy, and since Boot was in town, I made my chicken pot pie, too. It was always his favorite as a kid, his chosen dinner for more than one birthday, so I wanted to make it while he was back from college. I learned it from my friend, Teresa, who lives near Nashville. It’s incredibly simple:

Teresa’s Chicken Pot Pie
1 double-crusted pie shell (I never make my own)
1 can cream of chicken soup (reduced fat is perfectly fine)
1 can cream of mushroom soup (as above)
1 can Veg-All, well-drained (I expect you can use another brand of mixed veggies, but I never have)
About a pound of cooked chicken, cut in bite-size pieces (I am often lazy and just get a couple packages of the pre-cooked kind)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the bottom crust in a 9” pie plate. Mix the soups, veggies, and chicken together. Put in pie shell. Top with the other crust, seal, vent, and crimp. Bake until golden brown on top, about 45 minutes. Serves 6-8.

I also made my favorite Tuscan kale salad and picked up a cherry pie from the grocery. I think the biggest hit of the party, though, was Steve and Jeff’s Mango Madness cocktail. They first discovered it on a trip to Aruba and have tinkered with possibilities until they’ve come up with a swoony concoction of Daily’s Mango Mix, Captain Morgan Mango Rum, and Bacardi Coconut Rum, all blended with ice. Mmm!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Tomato Bounty

Today, our church office administrator stuck her head in my office to ask if I had quit blogging. My immediate response was a rather surprised no, but when she mentioned that she couldn't seem to access anything later than March, I realized that I kind of have quit blogging. I've been cooking, certainly, and have even been putting colorful little flags in all my cookbooks. The flags all say, "Blog!" and every time I place one, I think, "I really have got to sit down and catch up." It will happen. One of these days, you'll be sticking your head in to check for new recipes and there they will be! For now, a quick, delicious Italian dinner for the cooler August weather we've been having. 

Yesterday was Jeannene's half-birthday. I love half-birthdays and always make sure to celebrate mine at least in some small way---a cupcake, a pedicure, looking at some favorite art or poetry. Jeannene hates them. Well, at least her own. But, she was happy last night to get to copse her own dinner. When she said she wanted to make chicken Alfredo (one of her favorites and always a hit with Boot, who is visiting), I excitedly insisted on finding the Alfredo recipe I tried and loved once when she was away. The Sandra Lee haters among you need to put aside your prejudice and give this a try. It's my favorite Alfredo sauce, hands-down, and it's her recipe. I have doubled it here, to serve 4 people, and have slightly adapted it.

16 oz. fettuccine, cooked and drained
1 & 1/2 c. butter, cut into small pieces
2 c. whole milk
2 c. grated Parmesan cheese (good quality, please, for the best results)
Salt, to taste

After draining, return noodles from pot and turn heat on low. Add butter and milk to noodles and toss until butter is melted. Add cheese, a little at a time, an stir just until melted with each addition. Adjust seasonings and serve hot.

I made a romaine salad and tomato bread inspired by the current issue of Martha Stewart Living to go with it. I sliced a loaf of cheese bread lengthwise, rubbed it with garlic, drizzled it with olive oil, and broiled it crisp and brown around the edges. I then topped it with yellowy-orange and red tomato slices and sprinkled it with Maldon sea salt. Deliciousness!