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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Veggie Deee-Lites

As friends come and go...I first remember laughing hysterically with someone I no longer know at our table in the cafeteria where we had communed, back in high school. Later we lived together for one wildly wonderful and reckless, altogether too brief summer in Portland, Maine when we were still in college in 1989. I will never forget our...youthfulness. When we cooked, if we did, when we weren't highly caffeinated and chatty from Green Mountain Coffee or more than slightly inebriated from the pints of beer at Gritty's, these veggie pitas are what she used to make for me. I recently pulled out this old chestnut from what seems a hundred years ago now. How I still love these delicious pitas and pity about the rest of it.

Veggie Pitas
Serves two

2 pieces pita bread
1 sliced onion
1 sliced green pepper
1 package sliced mushrooms
Several slices of Swiss cheese
Brianna's Poppy Seed Dressing
Wheat germ

Set your oven to the broiler function.
Saute the onion, pepper and mushrooms stove top in a little olive oil, until softened. While this is happening, place your pitas on an oven-appropriate tray and slather them with some hummus. I like making my own hummus, but Sabra Classic is also very good. Top the pitas with your saute, cover with Swiss cheese and put in the oven on the top rack. When the cheese has melted to your satisfaction, remove from the oven, spread with some sprouts and elicit a gentle stream of Brianna's Poppy Seed Dressing on the whole thing. The wheat germ we used to use to further dress our pitas is entirely optional.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Chicken Cacciatore with Chloe

Nigella Lawson wrote up an "easier version" of Chicken Cacciatore a few years ago and although it was quite good, Chloe Rossa, Baby and I have since tweaked it a bit. Instead of the skinless chicken breasts that Nigella used, we've subbed breaded boneless chicken thighs and more recently I made the dish with bone-in thighs, which really imparts the flavor. We've alternately added sizzled bacon strips or revolutionary bacon salt and red pepper flakes to the mix, switched red wine vinegar for the white wine vinegar Nigella suggests and once as there weren't any onions lurking in the larder, we used scallions from our crisper and furthermore dispensed of the cherry tomatoes entirely. This recipe is indeed very easy to pull together--and chicken thighs are so inexpensive!

Chicken Cacciatore
Serves 4

4 bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed
2 28 oz. cans whole San Marzano tomatoes or the like in their juice
1 small chopped onion
1 Tb fresh chopped rosemary or just throw a few stems in
Several cloves of garlic, smashed
1 or 2 bay leaves
1 glass of dry white wine or vegetable stock
1-2 Tb white or red wine vinegar
Salt, bacon salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste
1 lb pasta

With a little olive oil in a capacious frying pan over high heat, brown the thighs on all sides, drain and set aside. Add more oil then attempt to saute the onion and garlic on lower heat. Add in the wine or stock and let it reduce properly, as Nigella says until "almost to a syrup." Add everything else in, including the chicken and keep at a fine simmer for about 20 minutes while tenderly breaking down the tomatoes occasionally. In the meantime, boil your pasta and reserve 1/2 cup of cooked pasta when draining. Stir this in until it binds the sauce, about another 20 minutes. Toss your pasta with the marvelous sauce and then eat it for goodness sake!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Blackeye Pea Sloppy Joes

To me, Sloppy Joes add an immediate air of festivity to any luncheon or dinner. I loved them when I was a kid and indeed have made the canned Manwich version with ground beef or turkey for my young niece (who is quickly burgeoning into womanhood) many times on butter-grilled buns, served right along with Fritos and a bunch of zesty pickles.

Special thanks to Reba Dolch for this vegetarian homemade recipe that incorporates blackeye peas, adapted here on Evenings With Peter. Should you find yourself short on time and unable to soak dried beans overnight as Reba suggests, this recipe is a snap with a can of Goya. Drain your beans and pulse gently in the food processor as they have already endured the rigors of soaking to soften them.

Here's Reba's recipe--but I don't really understand what it means to saute vegetables in water, perhaps braising is what is meant, so I just used good old fashioned olive oil for the saute and a fine conclusion.

Blackeye Pea Sloppy Joes
1 C dried blackeye peas (soaked over night, should make about 2-3 cups)
1 C chopped onion
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 C chopped green pepper
1 jar barbecue sauce

1) Drain soaked peas, cover with fresh water, bring to boil and cook for 15 minutes. Rinse in cool water
2) Grind peas in food processor until peas are the consistency of rice or bulgar. (peas should have nutty texture) Set aside.
3) In a large sauce pan, saute onion, garlic and green pepper (in water)
4) Add peas and add barbecue sauce to saute mixture and heat in sauce pan for 5-10 minutes.

Serve on buns, add sauce as needed (depending on how sloppy you like them)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Everything But The...Scrimshaw Serving Tray, Part Two!

CSN Stores recently sent me this charming little fellow for review on Evenings With Peter--the Thomas Paul Scrimshaw serving tray with the whale on it, not the lobster! However the tray is perfect for serving a few freshly steamed crustaceans heaped upon it, as the durable melamine can well withstand heat and is also dishwasher safe for easy clean up. But do not put it in the microwave! If you are still skeptical, just use it as a platter for sliced meats or cheese and crackers--and check out the corresponding dinner and dessert plates which also happen to be suitably sized for salads and appetizers.

Here's a recipe for a Spicy Lobster Boil that I found on a dish towel by Kay Dee Designs over the summer in Damariscotta, Maine--Scrimshaw serving tray not included.

Spicy Lobster Boil
3 gallons of water
A bunch of lobsters, say 4-6 depending on size
2 large onions, quartered
10 cloves peeled, cut garlic
2 lemons, sliced
2 sliced oranges
5 stalks celery, chopped
6 fresh jalapeno peppers
4 tblsp. seasoned salt
4 tblsp. black pepper

Fill a large stock pot with water. Add all the remaining ingredients and bring to a rolling boil for 20 minutes. Add the lobsters and cover pot. Boil for 15 minutes then remove the lobsters. Rinse them with cool water and serve with melted butter, of course.

Do enjoy and don't forget to check out CSN Stores and their other websites too: the company offers links to more than 200 web sites featuring swing sets, cookware, modern furniture and just about anything else one could imagine!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Try To Remember

Soubise! Duxelles! Brunoise! Mirepoix! As simple as these classic French vegetable mixtures are, I can't seem to keep them inside the rattletrap I call my head. Maybe I should try to remember them by creating one of those systems that help you remember, but at the moment, I can't remember that either. Ah yes, a pneumatic phrase--no, that's not right--a mnemonic phrase.

A friend and I were trying desperately to piece together the ingredients for each mixture over our New Year's in a remote locale on the Jersey Shore, alternately merging some elements that didn't belong with one another, summoning up generously admitted probable falsehoods and otherwise becoming progressively irritated as we tried googling back and forth with what limited online access we had available to us. None of it sounded exactly right to me. I emailed her when I returned home, having pulled out The French Chef Cookbook by Julia Child as I so often do, once again beseeching it to come to any rescue. I've forgotten it all again now, so I'm writing it down with the fervent hope the exercise will help me remember on my own!

Various Mixtures
Adapted from The French Chef Cookbook by Julia Child

This is a stuffing of braised rice and onions that JC paired off with the duxelles (see that recipe below) to make Veal Prince Orloff, but soubise is quite good on its own. For now at least, I leave you to track down the Prince yourself.
1/4 cup dry raw white rice
4 Tb butter
3 1/2 to 4 cups thinly sliced yellow onions
1/2 tsp salt

"Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Drop the rice into 3 quarts of boiling salted water, bring rapidly back to the boil, and boil, uncovered, for exactly 5 minutes. Drain immediately. Melt the butter in a casserole or baking dish, stir, in the onions and salt to coat with butter, then stir in the rice. Cover and cook for about an hour in pre-heated oven...onion juices contain enough liquid to moisten the rice. Soubise is done when both rice and onions are tender and lightly golden. Set aside until needed. (If served as a vegetable rather than a stuffing, you may wish to stir in a few tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese, and some cream along with salt and pepper to taste.)" Sounds good to me!

Here we have sauteed mushrooms that make about one cup to serve as a stuffing with a fancy name. How is this hard to remember?
2 cups finely diced fresh mushrooms (about 1/2 lb.)
2 Tb butter
An 8-inch no-stick or enameled skillet
Salt and pepper

"A handful at a time, twist the mushrooms in the corner of a towel, squeezing out as much juice as you can; this is so the mushrooms will be as dry as possible, and will not dilute stuffing. Then saute them in hot butter, stirring frequently for several minutes, until pieces begin to separate from each other and to brown very lightly. Season to taste and set aside. (Any leftover mushrooms may be frozen; use in soups, sauces, or other stuffings.)"

A combination of aromatic vegetables such as this works very well when simmered with a white wine sauce to pour over a light, white fish. While the grocery list of items needed for the brunoise may be a little longer, the preparation time is still very short.
Cut these very thinly, such as a 1/16th-inch dice, making just shy of 2 cups total: 2 medium onions, 2 medium carrots, 1 medium celery stalk, 8 parsley stems
A smallish sauce pan which may be heavily covered
2 Tb butter
1/2 bay leaf
1/4 tsp tarragon
1/8 tsp salt
Pinch of pepper
1/4 lb. fresh mushrooms cut into 1/16-inch dice

"After cutting the first group of vegetables into the finest possible dice, cook them over low heat with the butter, herbs, and seasonings for about 20 minutes. They should be perfectly tender and the palest golden color. Then add the mushrooms and cook slowly for 1o minutes more."

Suggested as an integral part of a roast beef casserole, the final mixture here is the easiest of the lot. I believe the ham is optional.
2/3 cup each of finely diced celery, carrots, and onions, and 1/4 diced boiled ham

"All [ingredients] cooked together in 2 Tb butter until very lightly browned."

Use these mixtures as a base for your favorite dishes or follow the recipes for Veal Prince Orloff, Sole Filets de Sylvestre, or Roti de Boeuf Poele a la Matignon found in the extraordinary pages of The French Chef Cookbook. What ever you do...try to remember!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Baking Beans

"Beans, beans! Good for your heart! The more you eat the more you..." Well, you may know how the rest of that jaunty rhythm goes. I thought it was hysterical when I was growing up, but conversely I never liked beans. I love all kinds of legumes now and have tried to make baked beans several times from different recipes without much luck. However, I now believe, ladies and gentlemen, that I have a winner! Baby and I were at Chelsea Market over the weekend, where among other things, there was a chili fest. Bark from Brooklyn had a table and they had recipe cards for sweet and sour onions, cole slaw--and baked beans. I set to it right away, soaking my beans overnight before letting them slowly simmer for 12 hours (I've included the shorter version too, below)! This recipe calls for marfax beans (which I had never heard of) or cranberry beans but good luck finding either of those--I used the red kidney variety instead for this wonderful pot of soupy beans. As the rest of the bean anthem draws to its fairly gaseous conclusion, "The more you eat, the better you feel. Eat beans at every meal!"

Bark Baked Beans
Adapted from Bark of Brooklyn
Serves 8

To soak the beans:
1 lb. marfax, cranberry or red kidney beans
1 gal. water
1 pc. smoked ham hock

Seasoning mixture:
1 1/4 cup ketchup
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
2 oz. molasses (4 T)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
2 tsp. salt

To start:
2 tsp. grape seed oil
1/2 lb. smoked bacon, diced large
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Spanish onions, diced small
Pinch of salt

Soak beans with water and hock for at least 8 hours, or alternatively you can bring the water, beans and hock to a simmer, simmer for 5 minutes, then let sit for 1 hour.

Heat oven on low to about 250 degrees.

Cook bacon stove top in grape seed oil in an oven ready pan, then add garlic and onion and cook slowly. Add seasoning mixture and mix through. Drain the beans and add them to the bacon-seasoning mixture pan, reserving the bean soaking water. Add bean soaking water to cover by 2 inches, then add smoked pork.

Bring to a simmer and bake in oven for 8-12 hours until cooked through.

Alternately, precook the beans and add to the seasoning mix to reduce cooking time in oven. If beans are precooked, bake in oven for 1 hour.

Do enjoy!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Chocolate Raspberry Clafoutis

An old friend asked me the other day what she should serve her husband for Valentine's Day. Baby and I had given her an enameled heart-shaped Le Creuset Dutch oven and she wanted to utilize it to make something suitable for the occasion. I responded almost immediately with "Clafoutis!" This elegant, perfectly easy dessert is mostly done in a blender and what's more, summons the cherubs!

Chocolate Raspberry Clafoutis is adapted from Gourmet, March 2009.