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Archive for November, 2010

 

Pasta with Kale, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Bacon

Last weekend, we took the drive out to Olean to visit our farmer (I love the sound of that). We were picking up our pork share for the winter, as well as our Thanksgiving turkey. We are so lucky to have found Pierre and Sojourner Farms. The fact that every animal on the farm is pasture-raised and not pumped full of antibiotics and hormones means so much to us. I am so happy to support a wonderful place like that. It’s truly the only meat we buy.

After making the drive, it seemed wrong not to at least cook up a quick dinner with some of the delicious food we picked up. It was pretty late by the time we were ready to make dinner, so I decided to whip up a quick pasta dish for us (yeh, I know, more pasta!). The kale in my garden was still holding on and I had everything else on hand, so I thought this would be perfect. It was so perfect and delicious. Light but still hearty, it was a great quick dinner. The smokey bacon flavor was delicious and cooking the kale in the same pan as the bacon gave some of the edges that nice crisp as well. There are so many great flavors in this dish that you really don’t need much more than a pinch of Parmigiano-Reggiano on each serving, it’s that good. I am really going to miss my kale this winter, it is such a versatile green that really stands up to so many dishes. Here’s to next year’s gardening season!

Pasta with Kale, Bacon and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
serves 4

16 ounces organic gluten-free brown rice pasta
4 cups kale, stems removed and roughly chopped
3 slices pasture-raised farm fresh bacon (we get ours from Sojourner Farms)
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup of freshly shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Cook pasta in salted boiling water according to package directions. Drain.

While pasta cooks, cook bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat, 4-5 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, set aside. Crumble when cooled. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add kale to the pan and cook 3-5 minutes until tender and a bit crisp around the edges.

In a large serving bowl, add the cooked pasta, bacon, sun-dried tomatoes, kale, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Toss to combine. The little bit of grease from the bacon should be enough for the pasta, if it isn’t, add a drizzle or two of olive oil. Top the pasta with the shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Serve.

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Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup

I love my slow cooker this time of year. It is so fun to load it up with ingredients in the morning before a long and busy day at the studio. And it’s even more fun to walk through the front door after said busy day, to smell your delicious dinner, totally cooked and waiting for you. I always joke that it is the closest I will come to a personal chef.

I honestly haven’t had split pea soup in probably 10 years, my mom used to make it, but I have never made it myself. I saw a beautiful bag of organic split peas when I was shopping at Farmers & Artisans and thought I would buy them and give this a try. I also had two ham hocks in the freezer from our pork share from Sojourner Farms, that I hadn’t known what to do with, this seemed like the perfect dish to use them in. You can easily leave the ham hocks out to make this is vegan.

I have to say, this soup was deliciously filling and very satisfying. The perfect meal for a cool and damp Autumn or Winter night.

Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup
serves 6

1 lb of organic dried green split peas
Olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 organic celery stalks, chopped
2 organic carrots, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 ham hocks from a pasture-raised pig, hormone and antibiotic free (skip these to make this vegan)
6 cups of water
2 teaspoons of fresh thyme, minced
2 teaspoons fresh sage, minced
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper

In a large skillet, heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil over a medium-high heat. Add onion, celery and carrots. Saute until onions are translucent, about 5-7 minutes, add in the garlic, cook another minute. Remove from the heat.

Add the peas, cooked vegetables, water and ham hocks to your slow cooker. Stir to combine, add your herbs, salt and pepper.

Cover and cook on HIGH 4-5 hours or on LOW 8-10 hours until the peas are soft and the ham falls off the bone. Remove the bones and puree the soup with a blender. Use either an immersion blender or ladle the soup in batches, only filling the blender halfway. Hold down the lid with a towel while blending. Return the pureed soup to the pot. If you wish, add back the meat from the bones. Salt and pepper to taste, serve topped with freshly minced thyme. This soup would be great with homemade toasted croutons on top.

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Avgolemono Soup

This classic Greek soup reminds me of both my Mom and my late Yia Yia (Grandma), this is one of my all time favorite comfort foods. The perfect dinner on a cool night or when you have the sniffles. My husband, Mark, swears this is an acquired taste, I have been trying for 7 years to get him to like it, but he just isn’t a fan of the lemon. I personally think the lemon is what makes this soup and the more the better. Growing up in a Greek family, this soup was a winter staple and definitely something I would beg my Mom for when I was feeling under the weather.

I find some soups taste good enough made with store-bought stock, if you don’t have time to make your own, this soup isn’t one of those. It needs homemade stock, made from scratch, cooked for a few hours. It’s the only way. Whenever we make a whole roast chicken, I freeze the bones for stock, I love being able to make my own stock. I usually go very simple with the spices on my roast chicken so whatever is leftover is perfect for making stock with. I personally prefer to make each stock specific for each soup I make, since most times the ingredients that I add to the stock varies to each recipe. 

This soup is a very simple to make, only a few ingredients. I like mine with a lot of fresh ground pepper and the perfect amount of rice. Too much rice and it isn’t brothy enough, too little rice and it’s just not quite right. Some people prefer orzo to rice, but I like the classic white rice much better. If it were possible, I would always have a fresh pot of this soup in the fridge, ready to be warmed up whenever I wanted it. Thickened with eggs and brightened with the lemon, there is really nothing like this. This is my family’s recipe and honestly, have tried other people’s Avgolemeno before and it just isn’t nearly as good, in my opinion.

Chicken Stock

2-3 quarts of water
Bones from a whole roast chicken 3-4 lbs (I prefer organic, free range and without hormones or antibiotics)
1 large onion, quartered
2 garlic cloves, halved
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons pepper

In a large stockpot, (use the strainer that fits in your stock pot if you have one) combine all the ingredients and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 2 1/2 hours, skimming the surface occasionally to remove any foam that forms on the surface. I added a bit more water as it was cooking to keep the chicken and vegetables covered. The longer you cook the stock, the stronger the flavor will be, but 2 1/2 hours was more than adequate and the stock had a fantastic flavor to it.

Remove the meat and bones and reserve, any meat on the bones can be separated and added back to the soup. If you didn’t use the strainer when making the stock, strain the stock to remove all the vegetables and other bits and add back to the pot. Throw out the bones and vegetables. Use the stock immediately or let the stock cool completely, and refrigerate overnight. Skim any fat that forms on the surface. Keep refrigerated in airtight containers until ready to use, up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 2 months. Since I was using the stock immediately, I skimmed any visible fat off the top, made sure that it was strained of everything, and kept it on a low heat while I prepped everything for the soup. You will probably end up with about 48 ounces of stock when making it homemade (give or take). Use all of it.

Avgolemono Soup
serves 4-6

6 cups homemade chicken stock*
1/2 cup rice
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
2 eggs
juice from 2 lemons

Bring the stock to a boil, stir in rice, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover and cook for 20 minutes, or until the rice is cooked.

Meanwhile, separate the eggs. Beat the egg yolks in a small bowl, set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whip the egg whites until peaks form. Add in the egg yolks, stir until well blended. Add lemon juice, barely mix, just enough to combine (you don’t want to break the whites).

Slowly ladle the hot soup into your egg mixture until the mixture is warm, stir constantly. You want to do this slowly so as not to cook the eggs to fast. Pour the mixture back into the pot of soup very gently. Taste the soup, salt and pepper to your liking. Ladle into large soup bowls with a lemon wedge on the side, top with freshly ground black pepper.

*If you absolutely must use store-bought chicken stock, you most definitely can. The soup is still very good.

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Chili

 

I have found chili to be one of those dishes that is so different, no matter where you have it and who makes it. Each pot is as unique as the fingerprints of the person making it. I myself don’t follow this recipe exactly, my spice measurements always vary (I almost never measure) and it changes depending on what I have on hand and what I am in the mood for. I am pretty certain each pot of my chili is different from the last, though the core flavors tend to stay the same. I prefer a spicier chili and I have fallen in love with the smokiness from the chipotles, the sweetness from the chocolate and the unique spicy flavor from cinnamon. These are the three things I added to the recipe I originally got from my mom to make this chili my own and that I include every single time I make it. I usually make a vegan chili and I just double or triple my beans and go with 2-3 cans of different beans or sometimes just all black beans. This time around I went with the classic, ground beef. I had stopped at Farmers & Artisans, a local food market that carries a wide selection of locally grown and produced foods and I was able to get some pasture-raised, hormone and antibiotic free ground beef from Librock Farms in Gasport, NY.

I tend to like my chili spicy, so if you are a bit heat shy, go with fewer chipotles, less crushed red pepper flakes and add more if you like. If you go too spicy, too fast, it is very hard to off set it and get it back. I would prefer to not have to use canned tomatoes and canned beans, but my garden (once again) didn’t yield enough tomatoes for canning and the frozen roast tomatoes I do have, wouldn’t have been enough for a pot of chili. I do go with a good organic canned tomato, but if you have homemade canned tomatoes and dry beans that you have time to soak, by all means these are both better options. I know there are a lot of things going around about canned goods and the risks from BPA, but at this point, I personally believe it is much better to be cooking from scratch and getting the nutrients and benefits from things like tomatoes and beans (from a can, if that is how I have to get it), then skipping it all together for the fear of BPA. There are more risks in a can of Coke and I haven’t had a soda in forever. Beans and tomatoes are the only two things I buy canned and both are staples for winter cooking in our house. I am hoping by next year, I will have mastered canning, even if it means canning tomatoes from the farmers market and then canned tomatoes can be skipped altogether.

Sharing your chili recipe is an interesting thing, for some reason it feels like you are sharing a secret, since everyone has their own special way of making it and the recipe is always continuing to evolve and become this one-of-a-kind, special thing. So, now I have bared my soul and my recipe. My secret it out. It’s time for you to share yours. Tell me about your chili, how do you make yours, what makes it unique, what one ingredient can you not live without in your chili?

Chili
serves 6-8

Olive oil
1 and 1/2 lbs pasture-raised antibiotic and hormone free local ground beef (make it vegan by doubling or tripling the beans)
1 large onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 large green bell pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2-3 dried whole chipotle peppers (I usually have a can of chipotles in adobo sauce on hand, so I sometimes use 1 or 2 dried and 1 or 2 from the can and I also include a tablespoon of the adobo sauce)
2 cans (28 oz) organic diced tomatoes in juice (if you homemade diced canned tomatoes you can also use those)
2-3 ounces of a good quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped (many dark chocolates are vegan, so have at it)
1-2 cans (15 oz) organic black beans, drained (more if you are making this vegan)

 

Topping options:
Cilantro
Green onions
Lime
Avocado
Cheddar cheese
Sour cream
Corn tortilla chips
Fritos (A must for Mark)

In a large pot, heat a drizzle of olive oil over a medium-high heat. Add your ground beef, stir gently and cook until it begins to brown about 7-10 minutes. Drain off a decent amount of the excess fat, but not all. (If you are going meatless, just skip this first step and go right to cooking the vegetables in the olive oil) Add your onion, celery and green pepper and cook about 5 minutes until the onion becomes translucent. Add your garlic, cook another 2-3 minutes. Add in salt, cumin, chili powder, cinnamon, red pepper flakes and chipotle peppers, cook for a minute. Add in tomatoes and stir for about 2 minutes. Stir in your chocolate and beans. Lower the heat and simmer for at least 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, taste the chili and adjust your seasons to your taste. Feel free to allow it to simmer longer, the longer it is left to simmer, the better the flavors. Once you are ready to serve, ladle into large soup bowls and top with your favorite accompaniments. I love cilantro, green onions, a squeeze of lime and a good shredded sharp cheddar cheese. Mark loves all of these and a huge handful of crushed Fritos.

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Pumpkin Hummus

 

I had a bit more fresh pumpkin puree leftover from all my pumpkin creations, so I thought this sounded like another delicious and savory way to enjoy fresh pumpkin. I have to say, I am pretty excited about how this came together. The pumpkin flavor is subtle and it doesn’t overpower, but it is there and it is delicious. The nutmeg compliments it perfectly and the hint of spicy heat is perfect. Add as much or as little of the pepper blend as you like, I prefer a spicier hummus myself, but if you don’t like heat, dial it back a little. The toasted hulled pumpkin seeds on top are a must, they bring a nuttiness that just finished it off nicely. I think this would be just as nice with a butternut squash puree as well, I may have to try that next. I’ve been enjoying this on organic corn tortilla chips, but it would be great on veggies or even a sandwich.

Pumpkin Hummus
Makes about 3 cups

2 cans (15.5 ounces each) organic garbanzo beans
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup tahini
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/4 teaspoons coarse or kosher salt
1 T olive oil
1 cup fresh pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 – 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper and black pepper blend (I love Penzeys Black & Red mixture)
1/2 cup hulled pumpkin seeds, raw

Preheat your oven to 375º, place hulled pumpkin seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake 7-10 minutes or until golden brown and toasted, stir occasionally. Set aside to cool.

Rinse and drain 2 cans of chickpeas, reserve 1/4 cup liquid. Place chickpeas and reserved liquid in a food processor. Add 1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice, 1/4 cup tahini, well stirred, 2 garlic cloves, pumpkin, nutmeg, cayenne and 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt. Process until smooth. I drizzle in just a bit of olive oil while its processing, it makes it even smoother and gives it a bit of a better taste. Taste the hummus, add more seasonings to taste.

Sprinkle a bit of cayenne and/or nutmeg and toasted pumpkin seeds on top when serving. To store, refrigerate in an airtight container up to 1 week. Serve with pitas, tortilla chips, crackers, raw veggies, on a sandwich and more.

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Warm Millet and Apple Salad with Curry Dressing

Yes, another millet salad. This is great warm, cold or room temperature. I ate it warm, just after the millet was done cooking. I have to say, tossing millet with fruits, veggies, nuts, etc, to create a salad, has to be one of my new favorite things. It works perfectly as a starter, side dish or in this case, a main course. I came home and wanted to throw something together quick for a dinner for just myself and I didn’t have a huge appetite. This has the perfect combination of so many great things, spicy, sweet and crunchy. The colors on this dish are perfectly beautiful. The curry flavor isn’t overpowering and is perfect with the fresh mint, which I was happy to be cooking with, we still have so much of it growing in the yard. This is another great vegan dish to take to a party to share or maybe even a Thanksgiving side.

Warm Millet and Apple Salad with Curry Dressing
Serves 4
adapted from Martha Stewart Living, October 2004

1/4 cup raw sliced almonds
1 cup organic whole millet
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup dried currants
1 small apple, cut into 1/8-inch-thick wedges
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped, plus more for garnish

Preheat oven to 375º. Spread almonds on a rimmed baking sheet; toast in oven until lightly toasted and fragrant, about 7 minutes.

In heavy skillet heat 1 tsp of oil, add the millet and toast gently until the grain is tan. Bring the water to a boil in saucepan, add remaining oil and grain. Stir; cover and simmer gently for 25 to 30 minutes to desired texture or until all of the water is absorbed.

Whisk together honey, shallot, curry powder, salt, and lemon juice in a large bowl. Season with pepper. Whisking constantly, pour in oil in a slow, steady stream; whisk until dressing is emulsified. Add millet, currants, apple, mint, and almonds; toss well. Garnish with mint.

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Pumpkin, Ricotta & Gruyere Pasta Casserole (gluten-free)

For some reason the word “casserole” reminds me of being a kid and it always makes me laugh, it just seems like such an 80’s dinner. That being said, the world needs more casseroles. A hearty, one-dish meal, that provides leftovers for days to come, how can you go wrong? I came across this recipe on the kitchn last week and I was excited to try it out. I am still on my major pumpkin kick, and I have been having so much fun trying out all the different things I can make with pumpkin. The original recipe calls for a 15-ounce can of pumpkin puree, but I had baked a beautiful fresh sugar pumpkin over the weekend to make muffins again and I have enough leftover for this recipe. I also still had some Gruyère leftover from these muffins I made a few weeks back, so I decided instead of just parmesan cheese as the original recipe called for, I would go with both Gruyère and a little bit of Parmesan Reggiano. This casserole (still making me giggle), is the perfect cool Autumn night dinner, definitely filling but not too heavy. The sweetness from the pumpkin is so perfect with the cheeses, the sage is a party in your mouth and little bit of crispiness on the top and around the edges is just amazing. This is a perfect vegetarian weeknight meal that can be whipped together, very quickly. The original recipe called for pecans, I decided to leave them out, but they would be great in the recipe.  Do you have any favorite casserole recipes?

Pumpkin, Ricotta & Gruyère Pasta Casserole
serves 6
adapted from The Kitchn

Olive oil
1 pound gluten-free organic brown rice pasta, such penne, small shells, or elbows
One 15-ounce container organic whole milk ricotta cheese
2 cups fresh pumpkin puree
2 farm fresh free-range brown eggs (We get our eggs from Painted Meadows Farms)
1/2 cup yogurt (I use plain yogurt from White Cow Dairy)
2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
3/4 cup grated Gruyère, divided
1/2 cup grated Parmesan Reggiano, divided

Heat the oven to 375°F. Lightly oil a 9×13-inch baking dish with olive oil. Set aside. Bring a 4-quart pot of water to boil over high heat, and stir about 1 tablespoon of salt. Add the pasta, and turn the heat down to medium. Cook for a slightly shorter amount of time than specified by the package. (For example, if the package specifies 10 to 12 minutes, cook for 9 to 10, or until just barely al dente.) Drain the pasta.

In a large bowl, whisk together the ricotta, pureed pumpkin, eggs, and yogurt. Whisk in the salt, pepper, nutmeg, and ginger.

Stir in the pasta and coat completely with the pumpkin mixture. Stir in sage, and garlic. Stir in 1/2 cup of the Gruyère and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan.

Spread the mixture evenly in the prepared baking dish and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cups of Gruyère and Parmesan over top. Bake uncovered for 35 minutes or until golden brown on top. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Pumpkin, Ricotta & Gruyere Pasta Casserole (gluten-free)

sorry, not the best photo in the world, but I didn’t have my good SLR when it came out of the oven

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