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Archive for November, 2008

I completely forgot to post Barefoot Bloggers’ recipe for Herb-Roasted Onions chosen by Kelly from Baking with the Boys. I dont’ particularly care for onions unless they are in something else, so I have to go off of my guinea pigs’ responses. Supposedly two-thumbs up.

Click here for the recipe.

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When I made this Beef Bourguignon a few days ago it was one of those disastrous days in the kitchen. We’ve all had them: you burn yourself (in my case my right and left hands in separate incidents); you spill stuff (a canister of sugar and then water on my camera which, by the grace of God survived); and the recipe you are making just doesn’t want to cooperate. Being the klutz I am the spills and burns came as no surprise, but having one of Ina Garten’s recipes fail on me was just down right shocking.

The directions called for a few minutes on the stove top before an hour long trip into a low oven. After the requisite 75 minutes, I removed the Bourguignon from the oven, and while I knew the cooking time was on the short-side for chuck, I was expecting moist, tender, melt-in-your mouth cubes of beef. After all, this was an Ina recipe. But instead of a dish with juicy chunks of beef in a complex and flavorful wine sauce, I was met with wine soup studded with tough, chewy, pieces of meat. It tasted like it was destined for the dog bowl. Could this be? Had one of Ina’s recipes failed me? I could not resign myself to such a harsh reality so I wrangled the pot back onto the stove top (with my right hand, which wasn’t burned quite as bad) and let it simmer over ultra low heat for another three hours. After a day where everything went wrong, I thought the Bourguignon was doomed. But no, three hours later, the beef was perfectly tender and delicious.

Beef Bourguignon
Adapted from Ina Garten

  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil
  • 8 ounces dry cured center cut applewood smoked bacon, diced
  • 2 1/2 pounds chuck beef cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound carrots, sliced diagonally into 1-inch chunks
  • 2 yellow onions, sliced
  • 2 tsp. chopped garlic (2 cloves)
  • 1/2 cup Cognac
  • 1 (750 ml.) bottle good dry red wine such as Cote du Rhone or Pinot Noir
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • 2 tsp. butter
  • 1 pound frozen whole onions
  • 1 pound fresh mushrooms stems discarded, caps thickly sliced

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is lightly browned. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a large plate.
  3. Dry the beef cubes with paper towels and then sprinkle them with salt and pepper. In batches in single layers, sear the beef in the hot oil for 3 to 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove the seared cubes to the plate with the bacon and continue searing until all the beef is browned. Set aside.
  4. Toss the carrots, and onions, 1 tablespoon of salt and 2 teaspoons of pepper in the fat in the pan and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the Cognac, stand back, and ignite with a match to burn off the alcohol. Put the meat and bacon back into the pot with the juices. Add the bottle of wine plus enough water to almost cover the meat. Add the tomato paste and thyme. Bring to a simmer, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and place it in the oven for 3-4 hours or until the meat and vegetables are very tender when pierced with a fork.
  5. Add the frozen onions. Saute the mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of butter for 10 minutes until lightly browned and then add to the stew. Bring the stew to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Season to taste.

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I was just dying to make macaroni and cheese last week. There is something about cold weather and having to retire my flip flops and gauzy tops (ok, they should have been retired long ago) in favor of fleece hoodies and drawstring sweats that makes me crave pasta, butter, and cheese. Unfortunately for me, I had some deliciously tempting but not-as-much-craved-for shrimp and beef in the fridge. Well, I did have two delicious meals, but really, I just couldn’t plow through those perishables quick enough to get to mac and cheese.

I dug my nose into Foodgawker, Tastespotting, and some of my favorite food blogs in search of a fail-proof recipe. Well, I was a little overwhelmed and confused. Everyone seems to have their own protocol. Cold roux with warm milk; warm milk with cold roux; warm roux with warm milk; to preboil or not preboil; Velveeta as a stabilizer; American as a stabilizer; the decisions were endless. I threw up my hands in disgust and did what I always do when I am overwhelmed – turn to Ina.

I could just sing Ina’s praises all day long. Her recipes are always simple, easy to follow, and delicious. This recipe was no different.

Mac and Cheese
Adapted from

  • Kosher salt
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 lb. whole-wheat elbow pasta
  • 2 c. low-fat milk
  • 1 c. cream
  • 4 Tb. butter
  • ½ c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 c. grated Swiss cheese
  • 2 c. grated cheddar
  • ½ tsp. pepper
  • ½ tsp. nutmeg
  • ½ c. Italian breadcrumbs

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the milk and cream in a small saucepan, but don’t boil it. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a large (4-quart) pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cream and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Swiss, Cheddar, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and stir well. Pour into a 3-quart baking dish.
  4. Top with breadcrumbs bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.

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You can file this one under “cooking for dummies.” This scampi is the simple version, but feel free to add spinach, tomatoes, capers, etc. It is the perfect weeknight meal: satisfying, quick, and cheap. Most Italian restaurants would charge you at least $15 for a plate of scampi, but you can make a meal for four in under 20 minutes at the same cost.

The most time consuming part of this recipe is waiting for the water to boil. I must say, this is my least favorite part of cooking in general (aside from dirty dishes, of course). So, start by cranking up the burner under a big pot of water. Once the water comes to a boil, salt it, and drop in a pound of whole wheat linguine. After about 5 or so minutes of the pasta boiling, it is time to start the shrimp.

Over medium heat, melt butter and add in a pound of shrimp and a few cloves of garlic. Stir frequently and allow the shrimp to cook for about 3 minutes, until almost completely pink and opaque (cooking time will vary depending on the size shrimp you use).

Drench the shrimp with the juice of one lemon and a cup of dry white wine. Sprinkle in some salt and red pepper flakes. Let the liquid come to a boil and cook for about 30 seconds. By now, your pasta should be done.

Drain the pasta and then dump into the shrimp skillet and toss to coat. Stir in a big handful of parsley and pour onto a large serving platter. Top with lemon slices and a cup of grated Parmesan cheese.

That’s it! Serve with crusty bread (to sop up the delicious sauce) and a crisp, green salad.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined*
  • 1 lb. whole grain linguine
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 Tb. butter
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 lemon
  • salt and red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup chopped flat leaf Italian parsley
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

*(Hint: I use Target brand frozen shrimp and no one is the wiser. You may scoff at frozen seafood but a lot of the “fresh seafood” at the grocery store was previously frozen… and it is only $6 for a 1 lb. bag).

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt and add linguine.
  2. After pasta has cooked about 4-5 minutes, begin melting butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
  3. Add garlic and shrimp to skillet, stirring frequently.
  4. After about 3 minutes, shrimp should be almost opaque. Add wine,lemon juice, salt, and red pepper flakes and bring to a boil. Allow to boil 30 seconds.
  5. Strain pasta and add to skillet along with parsley. Toss to combine. Serve on a large platter topped with Parmesan cheese.

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I really hate brag, but someone should give me my own show. This black bean soup is just awesome flavored awesome. I know, black bean soup isn’t the sexiest meal around. It is humble, cheap, and earthy. Well, what’s wrong with that?

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. black beans, rinsed and soaked
  • olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 1 can diced green chiles
  • 1 dried red California chili, split with seeds removed
  • ½ c. cilantro leaves
  • 1 c. frozen kernel corn
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • ½ tsp. ground coriander
  • ½ tsp. curry powder
  • Salt and pepper
  • For garnish: sour cream, cheese, avocado, scallions

Directions

  1. In a large pot, simmer black beans 1½-2 hours in about 6-8 cups water with the lid tilted. Add water as needed so the beans stay covered.
  2. In a small sautee pan (once the beans are done), sautee the onion, carrots, and celery 2-3 minutes in olive oil.
  3. Add contents of sautee pan, chiles, split red California pepper (leave split, but seeded), tomato sauce, and spices to the black beans. Cover and cook over very low heat about 30 minutes.
  4. Remove the whole chili pepper and add cilantro. Using an immersion blender, blend some of the soup to thicken it. Or you can transfer about half of the soup mixture to a blender or food processor and puree it. Stir in corn and cook about 5 minutes.
  5. Serve topped with cheese, sour cream, scallions, avocado, etc.

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This is not your typical chicken salad. I have a strong aversion to mayonnaise and a natural predilection for anything with black beans and cilantro, so of course this is my go-to sandwich filler. Moist, plump, baked chicken is simply tossed with cilantro, lime juice, salt, pepper, avocado, corn, and black beans. After marrying the flavors in the fridge for a few hours you will have a flavorful, healthy, packed-full-of-fiber mixture to fill yesterday’s whole wheat pitas.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ lbs. boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
  • 2 Tb. onion, minced
  • 1 14 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • ¾ c. frozen kernel corn, thawed
  • ½ c. chopped cilantro
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350.º Season chicken with salt and pepper and bake for 25 minutes, or until juices run clear. Cool, then cut into 1″ cubes.
  2. In a large bowl, toss together chicken, corn, black beans, cilantro, onion, lime juice, salt and pepper.

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Whole Wheat Pitas

Perhaps I am naive, but I had always thought pitas got their characteristic pouch by placing one solid round atop another and then pressing them together just around the edges (like an empty ravioli maybe?). It’s not that I had given too much thought to the process, but it wasn’t until I saw the puffed pitas baking in the oven on The Kitchen Sink that I realized this bread was the result of cooking wizardry.

Though there are several steps, the recipe is quite easy to follow. Step one is to proof the yeast. Then, a portion of the flour is mixed in and rested until doubled in bulk.

The remaining flour is mixed in and then the dough is kneaded for about 10 minutes before resting for an hour, or until doubled in bulk.

Next, the dough is punched down and divided into eight balls. Each ball is rolled out into a 7″ round and placed on a baking sheet. Yet again, the dough must rest.

After 30 minutes, the rounds are ready to be baked in a 500 degree oven. After two minutes on one side, they are flipped and allowed to cook for just another minute. You really need to watch the clock though. I think my first batch stayed in just one minute extra and the result wasn’t a bread, it was a chip (don’t worry, they still got consumed with my favorite spicy hummus).

(Sorry photo is blurry. I was rushing so the heat wouldn’t escape!)

I don’t think I will ever buy store bought pitas again.  Oh wait, you would like to know what the glorious mixture is spilling out of the pita in the top photo? That, dear reader, is my Southwest Chicken Salad. I will tell you how to make it if you come back tomorrow!

Whole Wheat Pita Bread
Gourmet found via The Kitchen Sink

Ingredients

  • 1 (¼-oz) package active dry yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1¼ cups warm water
  • 2 c. bread flour
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • Cornmeal for sprinkling baking sheets

Directions

  1. Stir together yeast, honey, and 1/2 cup warm water in a large bowl, then let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, discard and start over with new yeast.)
  2. While yeast mixture stands, stir together flours in another bowl. Whisk 1/2 cup flour mixture into yeast mixture until smooth, then cover with plastic wrap and let stand in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk and bubbly, about 45 minutes. Stir in oil, salt, remaining 3/4 cup warm water, and remaining 2 1/2 cups flour mixture until a dough forms.
  3. Turn out dough onto a floured surface and knead, working in just enough additional flour to keep dough from sticking, until dough is smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes. Form dough into a ball and put in an oiled large bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise in draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
  4. Punch down dough and cut into 8 pieces. Form each piece into a ball. Flatten 1 ball, then roll out into a 6 1/2- to 7-inch round on floured surface with a floured rolling pin. Transfer round to 1 of 2 baking sheets lightly sprinkled with cornmeal. Make 7 more rounds in same manner, arranging them on baking sheets. Loosely cover pitas with 2 clean kitchen towels (not terry cloth) and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.
  5. Set oven rack in lower third of oven and remove other racks. Preheat oven to 500°F.
  6. Transfer 4 pitas, 1 at a time, directly onto oven rack. Bake until just puffed and pale golden, about 2 minutes. Turn over with tongs and bake 1 minute more. Cool pitas on a cooling rack 2 minutes, then stack and wrap loosely in a kitchen towel to keep pitas warm. Bake remaining 4 pitas in same manner. Serve warm.

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