Tuesday, 28 February 2012

ROTW, Week 9: Greek Inspired Meatballs

Hello!  This week, I am going to be MIA after this post, because...its moving week!**  Oh how I loathe moving: the packing, the inevitably needing something 1 day after packing it away, the husband swearing as he stubs his toe constantly while moving through piles of boxes (I swear, the man has absolutely NO CONCEPT OF HOW LARGE HE IS.)  Add to this fun that I have a lot of client work going on right now, and you get a recipe for disaster.

So: here is this weeks recipe.  Take it and be grateful.

Greek Inspired Meatballs - this one is from my head.  Please to enjoy :)
May I suggest that you serve them with the warm couscous salad I mention here?

For the meatballs:
1lbs-ish lean ground beef (perhaps would have been more appropriate to use lamb, but we used beef because we had beef.)
1 shallot (I have just realized that we forgot this from our meatballs, and that explains why their texture felt off to me.)
2 cloves garlic
handful mint leaves (fresh), chopped
handful oregano leaves (fresh), chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1tsp fresh ground pepper
1 egg
3/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of 2 lemons
1/4 white balsamic vinegar (which I used because i have some.  NO idea what to substitute for this except maybe white wine vinegar)

Combine the beef, shallot, garlic, half of the chopped herbs, and salt and pepper in a bowl, mix well, and cover with plastic wrap.  Place the bowl in the fridge to let the flavors mingle, at least 30 minutes but preferably 2-3 hours.

Pulse remaining herbs, lemon juice, olive oil, and vinegar in a food processor.  Set aside for use as brushing sauce.

Remove the bowl from the fridge, and add the egg and breadcrumbs.  Gently form into 2inch meatballs.  Heat a large skillet with 2 tbsp olive oil over medium high heat, and add the meatballs.  Carefully brown the meatballs on all sides so they don't break apart, 5-6 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium low, brush with lemon juice and herb dressing every few minutes to keep the meatballs nice and moist, and continue to cook for another 10-12 minutes, or until the inside registers desired doneness on a meat thermometer.

Serve with couscous salad, fresh grilled vegetables, as the main event in an over-the-top Greek salad, or anything else that strikes your fancy.

** I love how I pretend that I post regularly.  Hahaha.**

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

ROTW, Week 8: (Meyer) Lemon Curd Tart

Guess who didn't make this tart with Meyer lemons?  Perhaps next year the resolution should be to try new recipes written by another person, and actually follow them.

Delicious tart.  Brandon ate almost a quarter of it on the first night it was served.  Coming from a household in which the only man in our family scoffed at our collective efforts at dessert, I have discovered "wants seconds of homemade dessert" is a quality I value highly in my husband.  Great Grandma C would be proud.

I almost followed this recipe exactly.  Almost in that I did more than I usually do.  I happened ot have pastry flour, so I substituted that for the all purpose called for.  I also used regular lemons, and topped the tart with raspberries because they are delicious.  I had extra pastry, so I filled some muffin cups with the dough and made tarts.

From Food Network.com, Secrets of a Restaurant Chef by Anne Burrell

For the crust:

  • 1 stick cold butter, cut into pea size pieces
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling dough
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons cold water

For the curd:

  • 3/4 cup freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
  • 3 Meyer lemons, zested
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter, cut into pats

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
For the dough:
Put the butter, sugar, flour, egg yolk and salt in a food processor and pulse for 30 to 60 seconds or until the mixture has a grainy consistency, or what I like to call the "Parmesan cheese" stage. Add half of the water and pulse the food processor 2 to 3 times. The dough should start to come together, add the remaining water if needed. Check the consistency of the dough by clenching a small handful in your fist. If the dough stays together it is the proper consistency. If not, pulse the dough with a little more water. When the dough has reached the proper consistency, dump it out on a clean work surface. Using the heel of your hand, schmear the dough straight forward and roll it back with your fingertips. Repeat this process 1 to 2 more times, dust with flour if needed. Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough out to 1/8 to 1/4-inch in thickness. Lay the dough in the tart pan. Push the dough into the sides of the tart pan by rolling a small scrap of dough into a ball and pushing it into the dough. Roll over the top edge of the tart pan with the rolling pin to cut the extra dough from the pan and create a crisp edge. Cover the dough with aluminum foil and gently poke the foil into the side edges to fit the pan. This will help to keep the sides of the tart tall and straight as it cooks. Fill the tart shell with the dried beans and place in the preheated oven. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, remove the foil and beans and bake for 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove the tart shell from the oven and cool. The dough should be golden and crisp.

For the curd:

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
In a bowl, combine the lemon juice, zest, sugar, eggs and salt and whisk to a homogeneous consistency. Place in saucepan and bring to a medium heat. Cook, whisking, constantly until the mixture has thickened, about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter, 2 pats at a time until it's incorporated and has a silky consistency.
Pour the lemon curd into the prepared tart shell and bake in the preheated oven until the lemon curd has set, about 15 minutes. Let cool completely before cutting.

I topped the thing with some fresh raspberries and dusted on some powdered sugar.  Gets the husband 2-slice seal of approval!

You know what goes great with lemon tarts with raspberries?  Champagne with raspberries.  yummm :)

Monday, 20 February 2012

My dog's day out

This photo is reasonably indicative of the time Tootsie and I spent together

This past weekend, as part of the run-up to Brandon and I actually achieving dogdom, I decided I would volunteer at an animal rescue group's adoption fair.  I wanted to do this partly to help out the organization and partly to further my own selfish needs: I want there to be no drama when we decide we can have a dog, because they will already know me.

So, I read the instructions, and was there early as requested.  Because I was the first one there, I want immediately assigned the dog being fostered by one of the PetSmart trainers - a cutie by the name of Tootsie.  Tootsie is a 15ish lb Chihuahua mix, but mixed with something interesting because she had some awesome ears.

She was a real sweetie with some major issues.  First and foremost, she had clearly bonded with her foster, and had no interest in any of the other people who gave her affection for more than a fleeting moment.  There were people there who would have taken her home if she had just given them a little more attention.

Her other issue was only that she needed more training. She was agile and energetic, and would have been awesome for any person with a background in training. She was smart and highly motivated by food, and already had some tricks under her belt. Any time she was allowed near her foster, Tootsie greeted her by running up and literally achieving a 5ft vertical, jumping up to around this woman's shoulder.

That being said, I have a sore arm today and a bloody finger from where the leash was wrapping around every time she pulled...which was constantly. For four hours. Despite my running her around the back of the store, to try and get a little energy out so she could be calm enough to walk a little nicer on the leash.

In the few moments where she was not pulling looking for her foster, Tootsie made it clear she had no real affection for me, but was willing to suffer my scratching her ears. I felt so helpless that I was not able to distract her enough, able to train her in the right way to get her interested in other people, to help her get adopted.  And I wonder if she ever will find another family, given that in her mind she already has a home.  She's just trying to get back to it.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

ROTW, Week 7 - Boeuf Bourguignon a la Julia

Week 7!  A little late getting up here, but here we go.

I have been wanting to cook something from the Julia Child cookbook ever since Mom and I both bought it for Dad for Christmas a few years ago.  Guess who got the extra copy? :)

Whenever I sit down to make a beef stew, I never have the Burgundy I am supposed to use for the fancy recipe, so I always just make up what goes in.  This time, I was ready: saw a Burgundy at TJs a few weeks ago and snatched it up in preparation.  Because I had the right wine for once, I decided to go all out and follow the real recipe (mostly.)  I even used the pearl onions!

Boeuf Bourguingon

modified from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking

Serves 6, or created a ton of leftovers if you make it for 2.

for step one: brown the beef and veggies
1tbs olive oil or cooking oil
6 oz bacon, cut crosswise into strips
3lbs lean stewing beef cut into 2" cubes
1 sliced carrot
1 sliced onion
2tbs flour
1tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

for step two: deglaze the pan and start the stew simmering
3 cups full-bodied young wine, such as Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone, Bordeaux, or Burgundy.
2-3 cups beef stock
1tbs tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
1/2 tsp thyme (I used 4 or 5 springs fresh)
a bay leaf

for step three: garnish and serve
2 tbs butter
1 tbs oil
1/2 cup beef stock
18 to 24 pearl onions

2 tbs butter
1lb mushrooms

fresh chopped flat leaf parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Step one:
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

*Ok, so at this point in the "real" recipe, you would take a chunk of bacon, remove the rind, and simmer the rind and pieces of cut up bacon in water for 10 minutes before frying everything.  I just did what I always do with bacon - I cut chunks off the frozen package into little strips, and fried it up to render the fat.  It worked fine.*

Cook the bacon in an stove-top safe ovenproof casserole over medium low heat, to render the fat.  When it starts to brown slightly, use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon from the pan.  Turn up the heat to medium high and, working in small batches, brown the beef cubes in the bacon fat. Remove the beef from the pan and cook the onions and carrot in remaining bacon fat.  At this point, if there is any bacon fat remaining, pour it out (for me, there was not, and I actually had to add a touch of olive oil to cook the veggies.)

Return the beef and bacon to the pan with the veggies, and toss with the salt and pepper.  Sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef.  Put the dish in the oven, uncovered, for 4 minutes.  After 4 minutes, again stir the meat and veggies, and return to the oven for an additional 4 minutes.

Step two:

Turn the oven down to 325 degrees.

Add all the ingredients in step 2, starting with one of the liquids and scraping to deglaze the crispy delicious bits from the bottom of the pan.  Bring the pan to a simmer on the stove before covering the dish and putting it in the lower 2/3 of your preheated oven.  Let it cook for 2.5 to 3 hours (or longer if needed for the meat to become nice and fall-apart-on-your-fork tender.

While this is cooking, after you've relaxed from all the work listed above, you can move on to
Step 3

To prepare the onions:
Peel the pearl onions.  This might take years.  I am sorry, but they taste good and look pretty, so you just have to suck it up and do it.

Heat the oil and butter in a saucepan with a lid, over medium heat.  Add the onions and saute for about 10 minutes, gently rolling the onions in the skillet so they don't fall apart and brown all over.  Add the beef stock and cover, simmering, for 40-50 minutes until tender. Set aside.

To prepare the mushrooms:
Quarter the mushrooms, and saute in butter over medium high heat.  Set aside.

To serve:
I like to serve been stew with a starch like roasted potatoes, or over a bed of delicious polenta.  I leave this up to you based on your preference, but you could certainly serve this dish with no accompaniment at all, or just a nice slice of good bread.

*Julia's recipe here has some nonsense about straining out the veggies etc so you can thicken the sauce.  I do not believe in discarding the cooking veggies, personally, but if you feel strongly about following Julia's instructions, you would strain out the veggies here, and reduce the sauce on its own.*

Remove the casserole from the oven, and put back on the stovetop to reduce the sauce.  On medium high heat with the lid off, simmer the stew until the sauce is rich and opaque.  Then add the pearl onions and mushrooms, stirring gently to coat, and serve with a garnish of flat leaf parsley.

Monday, 13 February 2012

If you wanna know if he loves you so...

Valentines Day is right around the corner. Want to know how you know your spouse really loves you?

This photo has nothing to do with the post, but you should check out the awesome
work of the talented Liz of Betsy Ann Paper

When they are willing to climb inside a dumpster for you.

A month and a half ago, as part of my "get my life in order" week between Christmas and New Years, Brandon and I went to the Container Store.  I LOVE the Container Store, because it is really good (like Ikea) at offering me the illusion that if I just had more things for storage/organization, I would actually be organized.


Ok now that we're done there, seriously I adore the Container Store.  And it is not exactly an inexpensive habit... (I can't actually name a single habit of mine that IS inexpensive, so there's also that.)  So we don't go very often, unless there is something I can actually justify that can only be found at this mecca of keeping-your-shit-in-order-ness.  But, new year + new business + new income (thanks honey!) = lets buy ALL THE THINGS.

So when we got home, I promptly and predictably lost interest in actually starting the immense task of putting things inside all the containers I had just joyously bought.  So we unpacked some of them (read: we unpacked the ones Brandon unpacked or forced me to unpack) and left some of them where we always leave stuff like this: in our little 3x5' rectangle of "foyer."

Weeks went by.  Brandon had a Thursday off work, and did a lot of cleaning up around the house.  Which I am very thankful for.  I had kindof a week from hell, so I did not really pay much attention to this other than enjoy that it was now clean(er) around the apt.  Until that Saturday, when I decided to get my ass in gear, and unpack some stuff into the canisters.  Yay canisters!  Except....where are the canisters?

Thats right, my lovely spouse had taken the bag of brand new Container Store items TO THE RECYCLING ROOM.  Because in front of the bag of Container Store Items, I had left a bag of paper recycling, and he was confused.  Because they were both paper bags, and there was no way I was honestly so lazy that I still hadn't unpacked our expensive containers, right?

Cue my total and complete meltdown.  I cried for at least 20 minutes.  And my spouse, who loves me very much, found the bag inside the dumpster, and brought it back upstairs to me none the worse for its little adventure.  Phew.  Glad that's over.  

**Any and all comments in the vein of "that will teach you not to leave all your stuff around!" will be ruthlessly deleted (MOM.).  Thank you.**

Thursday, 9 February 2012

ROTW, Week 6 - Shrimp Quinoa Salad

Is it week 6 already?  Crazy.  And crazy is just what my life has become these days, so while I will do my best to keep up with the recipes, the rest of life blogging is rapidly falling by the wayside.  But here goes.

I was inspired to make this salad after an uh-MAZING salad I had at Sweetgreen last week.  The ladies I was with know that I was unreasonably obsessed with it, and insisted on wolfing down every last bite before we could leave.  This salad was not as good (but could have been!  Next time I make it, because I know I will, I will make sure I have some key ingredients on hand, and it will be blow-your-mind good.) but as a perfectly acceptable weeknight supper, it was still a success.  And reasonably healthy to boot.

It is possible I totally forgot to photograph this before I just dove in.  Please forgive me my lame photo this week.

Shrimp Quinoa Salad (for 2, with leftovers)

15 or so shrimp, large (21-30 per lb is great) (I use frozen - yay Costco!.)
1 cup quinoa, dry
2 cups chicken/vegetable stock, or water
3 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots or one red onion, diced
4 cloves garlic (I like garlic.) minced
1 yellow squash or zucchini, chopped to roughly 1/2" pieces
handful butter lettuce
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled or cubed
1 avocado
1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

*I cannot for the life of me now remember if I used bacon, or didn't.  I am going to assume I did not, and that that was why this salad was not quite as epic at the Sweetgreen one.*

If like me you used frozen shrimp, defrost them.  In either case, peel them, clean as necessary, and pat dry with paper towel.

In a medium saucepan, cook the quinoa according to its instructions.  I have found its pretty much exactly like rice: twice the liquid as grain, bring liquid to boil, add grain, turn to low, simmer for 20 minutes until fluffy and liquid is gone. Bam. (Sorry Emeril.)

In a saute pan, heat 2tbsp olive oil over medium, and saute the shallots.  After 3 or 4 minutes, add the garlic and coninue cooking until both the shallots and garlic are a light golden brown.  crank the heat up to medium high/high and add your squash pieces, stirring frequently to keep the garlic from burning.  Cook for 3-4 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat and add contents to the pot of quinoa.

Line your bowls with butter lettuce, town into bitesize pieces.  Spoon the quinoa mix on top, then top with sliced cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, avocado.

Put your saute pan back on the stove, and heat another tbsp of olive oil on medium high, and add the shrimp when it is very hot.  Sear the shrimp until they are opaque, maybe 3 minutes.  Add the freshly cooked shrimp to the top of your salad, and drizzle the whole mizture with fresh lemon juice, and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.  Enjoy warm (with your beverage of choice.  You guys know that goes without saying, at the end of all these recipes, right?)

Friday, 3 February 2012

ROTW, Week 5: Rosemary Maple Pork Chops with Quinoa Black Bean Cakes

That's a mouthful, huh?

So the birthplace of this recipe came at our local Trader Joe's, last weekend.  I thought to myself, "Hmm quinoa.  I've never made quinoa.  Recipe of the week!"

Seriously, this is the best resolution ever.

Oh, you want to see what it looks like?

Ok fine.  I give you the plate of (delicious) brown:

Not going to lie, I put those tomatoes on there just to jazz up the photo.  It was worth it though, they added a great layer to the cakes.

For the chops:

6 thin cut pork chops
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary, 11/2 teaspoons dried
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
generous sprinkling of salt and pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a shallow dish and let marinate for at least 1 hour.

For the quinoa cakes, adapted from the back of the quinoa package:

1 cup rainbow quinoa
2 cups chicken broth
2 tbsp olive oil
1 can black beans, drained
1 egg
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 shallot, finely diced (I used 2, because I am a glutton.  Shallots are awesome.)
3 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup panko
1 lemon
spray canola oil

Cook the quinoa in the chicken broth by bringing the broth to a boil, then adding the quinoa and turning down to a simmer.  Once all the liquid is absorbed, take the quinoa off the heat and cool it down by placing it in the refrigerator.

While the quinoa is cooking, heat the olive oil in a shallow pan.  Cook the shallots and garlic for a few minutes, until they begin to turn golden brown at the edges.  Then take them off the heat, and add them to a food processor with the black beans. Pulse until chunky but do not puree.  Stir the mixture into the quinoa, and add the cilantro.  Flavour with salt and pepper to taste.  Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425.  Spray a non-stick baking pan with canola oil. Once the quinoa mixture is cooled, add the egg and stir.  Gather the mixture into large mounds and roll in the panko.  Flatten the cakes onto the baking sheet.  Spray cakes with canola oil, and bake for 15 minutes.

Prepare a grill or grill pan.  The chops should grill up in 10-13 minutes on medium heat, with a nice sear on each side.

When the cakes come out of the oven, drizzle with lemon juice before serving nice and hot alongside the pork chops.  Feel free to add a handful of chopped tomato for an additional burst of freshness!