Monday, June 20, 2011

Grilled Carrots

In the essential kitchen bible, The Elements of Cooking: Translating the Chef's Craft for Every Kitchen, Michael Ruhlman states that carrots are good for grilling. This did not seem obvious to me. I Googled a recipe and came up with this video from Weber. I like that his glaze doesn't have sugar. Carrots are already sweet. A variety of spices could have been used instead of nutmeg; perhaps curry powder, cinnamon or a citrusy dry rub in melted butter?

Grilled Carrots

Carrots, peeled
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper to taste
freshly grated nutmeg

Simmer your carrots in salted water for 4 - 6 minutes, until beginning to get tender. Meanwhile, heat the butter over low heat until melted and add the salt, pepper and nutmeg. Remove from heat. When the carrots are just tender, shock in cold water to stop the cooking.

Toss the carrots in half of the glaze. Reserve the other half for when the carrots are done grilling. Grill carrots over hot coals, turning often, for about a minute, until the carrots have grill marks and the glaze is starting to caramelize.

Carrots from Friend Elisa's Dad's Garden!

Remove to a serving dish and pour the remaining glaze over the carrots. Pretty and delicious!


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Italian Sausage Simmered in Store Bought Sauce

This is not so much a recipe as how I doctor up store bought sauce and simmer some Italian sausages therein. We serve it/them with spaghetti and topped with freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano. It's one of my family's favorite quick weekday dinners served with a salad and crusty bread.

If you grate your cheese in advance, it's better to use the small side of a box grater than a Micro-Plane. The box grater shreds will have less surface area and will lose less of the volatile flavors of the cheese.

Italian Sausage Simmered in Store Bought Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 package Italian sausage links
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup or so red wine
1 jar of the simplest (few ingredients, no sugar or HFCS) store bought spaghetti sauce
Italian herb blend
dry oregano
1 pound dry spaghetti cooked to manufacturer's directions
freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano

Heat oil in a medium frying pan over medium high heat. Add the sausage links and cook, turning occasionally, until browned all over.

Add the garlic and cook for a few seconds. You want the garlic to be aromatic but not burnt. Add the wine and cook for a couple of seconds. Add the sauce and herbs to your taste. I like about a teaspoon of each.

Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes until the sausages are cooked through.

Plate the sausages and serve the sauce with the spaghetti. Sprinkle all with parmigiano-reggiano.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Lemon Caper Pasta

This Alfredo sauce recipe is based upon bechamel sauce (actually mornay sauce once the cheese is added) as opposed to an Alfredo sauce of cream and parmigiano-reggiano. It is perked up lemon zest and capers.

A capers is a tangy Mediterranean flower bud packed in brine or salt. The salted ones are considered superior but are more expensive and I don't usually see them in grocery stores. The brined ones will work just fine here. If you do use the salt packed ones you'll want to rinse them before using.

Lemon Caper Pasta

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons flour
2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 cups milk
salt and pepper to taste
the zest of one lemon
3 tablespoons capers
1 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano
1 pound pasta cooked to manufacturers directions

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly until the flour and oil come together and begin to bubble. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds more.

Add the milk and cook, stirring more or less constantly, until it just begins to boil. Add the salt, pepper, lemon zest and capers. Reduce heat and simmer for anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. It is said that the longer it simmers, the more refined it is. If it gets too thick, add milk or water. Too thin? Cook longer.

Meanwhile get your pasta water going over high heat. The water should be salted like you are seasoning soup. When your pasta is in the water. Take your bechamel sauce off heat and stir in the parmigiano-reggiano.

When your pasta is finished cooking, drain (don't rinse) and add the (now mornay) sauce to the pasta. Sprinkle with more parmigiano-reggiano and serve with lemon wedges and crusty bread.


Monday, June 13, 2011

Moroccan Cauliflower

I first saw this recipe when the author, @moroccan_food, tweeted about it. I had to improvise. Although I do normally have my own preserved lemons in the fridge, I was out. As you'll see I substituted the zest and juice of a lemon plus some additional salt. Not perfect but workable.

Moroccan Cauliflower

1 head cauliflower, broken into florets
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
1 big pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
pepper to taste
1 onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
the zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 handful Kalamata olives
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro

Mix the cauliflower with the cumin, ginger, salt, paprika, turmeric and pepper and set aside.

Heat the oil over medium high heat in a large skillet. Add the onion and garlic and cook for a few minutes.

Add the cauliflower, lemon juice and zest, a bit more salt, the olives, and water and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook ten minutes. Remove cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the water has evaporated.

Sprinkle on the cilantro and serve.


Friday, June 10, 2011

Summer Squash Casserole

Summer squash is big in southern cooking and especially in bakes with cheese and bread crumbs. This recipe is one of those. The recipe below is as I cooked it.

Summer Squash Casserole

2 pounds (about 5 each) summer squash (I used yellow and Mexican grey), cut into large dice
1 onion, chopped
salt & pepper to taste
1/4 cup water
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup crumbled saltine crackers
1/2 cup milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup panko crumbs

Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat a large pan over medium high heat. Add the squash, onion, salt & pepper and water to the pan.

Cover and cook until squash is tender, 4 to 6 minutes.

Drain off liquid and stir in butter until melted. Re-season with salt & pepper if necessary. Stir in the crumbled crackers.

Pour mixture into a greased baking dish. Pour the milk over the squash mixture and sprinkle with cheddar cheese and panko crumbs.

Put dish in oven and bake, uncovered, until the milk is absorbed and the mixture is bubbly. I served mine with lemon caper pasta (stay tuned for that one).


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Rice Pilaf Pancakes

These are like potato pancakes but made with cooked rice instead of mashed potatoes. In this case my cooked rice was leftover rice pilaf. This was convenient because it has onion, garlic and seasoning built right in. I was working toward a thick, potato pancake-y consistency so I am not sure about the measures. I cooked these in a pan that pork chops had just been sauteed in. Yum.

Rice Pilaf Pancakes

2 tablespoons oil, butter or lard
leftover rice pilaf (I think I had about 2 cups?)
flour (probably 1/3 cup or so?)
1 egg
salt and pepper to taste

Stir egg, flour, salt and pepper into the rice.

Heat fat or oil over medium high heat until shimmering. Spoon dollops of rice mixture into pan. Cook until browned on one side.

Carefully turn over with a large spatula (like boxty, they won't really hold together). Cook until other side is browned.

Remove to a serving dish.

I served mine as a side for the aforementioned pork chops and also had one on a bun like a hamburger (it kind of worked). It almost struck me as a cross between a potato pancake and egg foo yung.


Monday, June 6, 2011

Green Bell Peppers

On my way in on Big Orange this morning...

I was thinking about green bell peppers. Not red, yellow or orange ones are too sweet for cooking and best used to bring color to a dish.

I cannot bring anything new to the bell pepper canon. It's important to recognize the simple stuff and not always trying to innovate. Innovation does not bring the best tasting meal to the dinner table. Being able to use simple ingredients well does.

Bell peppers bring a grassy, vegetal note to the table. They are great raw in salads, as a pizza topping. They are part of the trinity (of 5, bell peppers, onions, green onions, celery and garlic) of Louisiana cooking.

They excel as part of a stir fry.

They are a fantastic addition to crudités, a great edible (no carb) scoop for dip, hummus or babaganoush. They are awesome on the grill.

They work great as an aromatic in stock or broth, in a braise or soup. They are great stuffed and baked. Charring them on a grill or over the open flame of your stove yields a different savory flavor good in all kinds of things. Sweat them in  a bag until cool and skin them before stemming, seeding and slicing.

I always buy one or two at the market when they are in season and reasonably priced and a bunch when they are cheap. They are among the first vegetables of the week to leave the crisper drawer.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Shrimp13 Review; True Lemon

True Lemon is crystallized citrus made from the juice and oil of the fruit. Their company mythology includes a chef who evidently found citrus fruit inconvenient. It's not. But it is a fresh agricultural product. The quality is inconsistent (read a lime with no juice in it or lemon with not enough acidity) and given time, it will go bad. A lot of fresh fruit goes to waste.

My box from True Lemon arrived a couple of days ago. It contained shakers of True Lime and True Lemon for cooking, packets of True Lime, Orange and Lemon for beverages and cooking, packets of True Lemon and Orange for water and packets of True Lemonade, original and raspberry.

The lemonade is sweetened with stevia. I tried stevia in my coffee once and never gave it another chance. Like honey, stevia does not complement coffee. Not true for lemonade. This stuff is totally convincing and nicely balanced.

True Lemonade in a Tru Blood glass. Poetic, no?
If low calorie, all natural water add-ins are your thing, you'll like this.

The True Lemon packets for water were less thrilling but I might have ruined my palate tasting all the other products. It is indeed a citrus flavoring for water. I don't flavor my water with citrus so this product is not not aimed at me.

We compared the packets for beverages and cooking with lemon and lime juice and zest. It was fun.

Lemon and lime zest was more vegetal, especially the lime. The juice had more zing in the fresh version in both cases. That being said, for culinary use the True Citrus products really shine. They are more consistent and than fresh fruit and they don't go bad in the fridge. I will always use key limes in my salsa and lemons in my lemonade but for adding some citrus flavor at the end of a dish to peak up the flavor, this product is great.

If you know me IRL, you know that I eschew processed foods as much as I can. I buy ingredients as much as I can. I don't drink soft drinks other than the occasional iced tea. On the other hand I am always down for a product that can add some flavor to an other wise bland and grey tasting dish. Bouillon cubes, bouillon, season salt and various fermented soy or fish based things are all part of my larder. If there is a True Lemon product I will continue to keep in my pantry, it is the shakers. The best thing about them is that True Lemon tastes like lemon, not like Pledge.

Bobby Flay has said that when he thinks a dish is still missing something, it's usually chipotle. I could see the shakers being that thing for me. (Now I'll have to be careful I don't become the "lemon guy") I used it on chicken, baked and fried, before cooking.

Chicken baked with season salt, pepper and True Lemon
Mr. Flay also has said that when you use an ingredient in the name of the dish (lemon chicken), it better taste like that ingredient. True Lemon allows you to make sure it does.

I used True Lemon at the end of assembling my tomato chicken salads.

It added a great lemon note that complimented the oregano and garlic nicely.

To sum up;

- You'll like True Lemonade if you're that way. It is totally convincing.

- The packets for water are fine.

- The packets for beverages and culinary taste great if not exactly like fresh citrus. Plus they are way more consistent and don't go bad.

- The shakers are a great product that I would use in my kitchen for peaking up dishes and any citrus use when fresh ones are not at hand.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Fried Zucchini

My friend Helene mentioned that her Grandma made fried zucchini sandwiches. The zucchini was fresh from her garden. This sounded too good not to make. Fried zucchini did make a great sandwich in fresh bakery bread with marinara sauce. Helene says she always used ketchup.

Fried Zucchini

vegetable oil to come halfway up the side of your frying vessel, I use a cast iron dutch oven
zucchini or other summer squash, cut thin lengthwise
eggs, beaten
panko crumbs or whichever breading you prefer
season salt
Italian seasoning

Heat oil over high heat. Meanwhile set out your flour, eggs and breadcrumbs in individual pie plates.

Season to taste with the season salt, Italian seasoning and salt.

Dip the zucchini slices first in the flour and shake off the excess. Then into the egg and finally the breadcrumbs.

Carefully slide the slices into the hot oil (should be about 375°F which is about as hot as my little stove will get it). Cook, turning once until golden brown on both sides.

Remove to a draining rig.

My wife, Yvonne, ate (and enjoyed!) hers dipped in marinara sauce. I made a sandwich with mine.