Monday, September 1, 2014

The Great Zucchini Basil Caper!


Summer's winding to a close, and while I'll readily say sayonara to the mind-melting heat, I find myself in premature mourning for the produce.

Especially when I happen upon a gem like this, adapted from Food52. A flavorful mélange of herbs, garlic, and pickled flower buds acts as a delicate, gauzy shawl to Madame Zucchini. Nothing fried or heavy. No cheesy blanket to stifle your summer vegetable. Just a quick sauté, a "knife pesto," and a finishing sprinkle of fresh herbs and pecans.

So let's accent our zucchini, shall we? 







Sautéed Zucchini with Basil, Mint, and Capers (adapted from Food52)
Serves 2–3.

Ingredients:

2 medium zucchini, sliced (1/4-inch thick)
Olive oil (for sauté)
4 cloves garlic
1 heaping tablespoon capers
5 leaves basil
10 leaves mint
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
Salt
Pepper
2 tablespoons chopped pecans
Fresh basil and mint leaves, torn (for garnish)

Method:

1. In a medium skillet, heat up 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add half of zucchini slices and sauté, flipping occasionally, until golden-brown on both sides (about 10 minutes). Reserve slices to the side and add in second batch of zucchini. Cook in same manner.
2. Meanwhile, combine garlic, capers, basil, and mint on cutting board and chop together, creating a sort of "knife pesto" (quoting from Food52). Set mixture aside.
3. Once second batch of zucchini is browned, add back in the rest of the zucchini, along with the red wine vinegar and the herb mixture. Turn off heat and toss gently, until zucchini is coated.
4. Serve, sprinkling each plate with pecans and torn herbs. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Stuffed Tomatoes à la Grecque


Here's another outing with Indie Plate ingredients. Indie Plate is a Baton Rouge, La.-based grocery delivery service, sourcing from farms and artisans all around the regions and then bringing that bounty straight to your doorstep.

Rotten tomatoes you toss at things you find odious and offensive (like bad movies, for instance). Fresh, local tomatoes...you treasure those babies. You find a way to spotlight that natural sweetness and bright color.

And then I guess you eat them or whatever. Your mileage may vary!

To glorify my lovely tomato babies (which came from Morrow Farm out of Ponchatoula, La.) I turned to the masterful Gastronomique. French cooking can be daunting, no lie, but the recipe for stuffed tomatoes à la grecque was simple enough and served my aim to make something simple, well-spiced, and pleasing to the eye.

My one problem: someone stole my damn saffron. I am just mad about saffron (that is, my kitchen's current lack of it)! (It is probably not stolen. I misplace things.) So anyway, I substituted turmeric and the world moved on.

Ultimately, I produced two tomatoes teeming with toasted, spiced rice and golden raisins. And now you'll be able to as well! Recipe follows.






Stuffed Tomatoes à la grecque (from LaRousse's Gastronomique)
Serves 2 as side or appetizer.

Ingredients:2 homegrown tomatoes
1/2 cup jasmine rice
1/2 cup golden raisins
Pinch of powdered saffron (I used turmeric as a less costly substitute)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Pinch of cayenne
Bouquet garni (mine consisted of 1 stalk celery, 1 medium carrot, 1/2 medium white onion, all chopped, and two sprigs thyme—tied up in cheesecloth which was folded over just once)
Olive oil

1. Soak the golden raisins in 1 cup lukewarm water until they swell, then drain.
2. Heat two tablespoons olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add rice and toast, stirring frequently, until the grains become transparent.
3. Add 1 cup boiling water to saucepan, stirring to make sure rice does not stick to bottom of pan. Add saffron, salt and pepper, cayenne, and bouquet garni.
4. Return rice to a boil and then cover and simmer until rice is all the way cooked (about 20–30 minutes).
5. Preheat oven to 475. Slice the tops off the tomatoes (reserving tops) and remove pulp and seeds. Season the inside of the tomatoes with salt and then turn them upside down to drain in colander.
6. Once the rice has cooked, drain and cool before stirring in raisins. Taste and reseason as desired.
7. Dry the hollowed tomatoes and then drizzle 1 teaspoon olive oil inside each tomato. Fill each tomato with mixture and then replace the sliced top.
8. In an ovenproof dish coated with oil, place each tomato, nestled closely together. Bake for about 15–20 minutes or until tomatoes have started to soften.
9. Serve immediately.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Kale Tabbouleh


Boy, I love a colorful dish. And it's a good thing that this was supposed to be served cooled, because I was photographing it till the sun went down. (That is not a figure of speech.)

It's cool. It's crunchy. And, wonderfully enough, it fits in with the vegetarianism I'll be trying for the next month. I'm hoping to re-inspire myself in the kitchen, and to spend some time getting more ambitious with ingredients. My ambition has fallen away!

Here we have a dish that's fairly simple: a little chop-chop-chop with the various ingredients, cook your quinoa and let it cool, and then toss it all in a simple dressing.

But the variety of ingredients and the hushed beauty of how they tumble across the plate...it's the perfect summer dish, I think. One you'll want to eat in the evening light with a chilly, crisp vino. Anyway I'm getting silly just staring at these colors again. Try it out for yourself!


Kale Tabbouleh (adapted from the glorious Food52)
Yield: 4–6 servings.


Ingredients:
1/2 bunch curly kale
1 bunch flat leaf parsley
1/2 cup quinoa
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
2 Persian cucumbers, diced
1/4 red onion, diced
Juice from two limes
1/4 high-quality extra-virgin olive oil
Salt
Pepper

1. Cook quinoa according to package directions. Set aside to cool.
2. Meanwhile, wash the parsley and kale and pat dry. For each, chop off stems, then slice into 3/4-inch ribbons. Rotate bunch clockwise, then repeat process. Slice until greens are very finely diced, but do not form a paste.
3. In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, cucumbers, and red onion. Add parsley and kale. Drizzle in lime juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Add quinoa and toss until fully combined.
4. Serve!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Punjabi Eggplant with Potatoes


I adapted this recipe from Anupy Singla's Vegan Indian Cooking, which is filled with earthy, exciting opportunities to improve my health. And I fully intend to turn to it more often!

For now, we've got this Punjabi eggplant and potato dish, or—as Singla has dubbed it—"Babaji's Eggplant with Potatoes," called so after her paternal grandfather.

I made a few adjustments, but Singla's recipe does a fantastic job of emphasizing the simple wonder of the eggplant. Meaty and juicy, a ready canvas to whatever array of seasonings you choose to sprinkle on it.

Let's go ahead to the recipe then!


Punjabi Eggplant with Potatoes (adapted from Vegan Indian Cooking)
Serves 4.

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1, 2-inch piece of giner root, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch-long matchsticks
4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 medium potato, peeled and roughly chopped
1 large yellow onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 Anaheim chile, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
2 large eggplants with skin on, roughly chopped, with woody ends left intact (Note: the author recommends the woody ends as the meatiest part of the eggplant, to be cooked along with the rest of the dish)
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped (for garnish)

Method:
1. In a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high.
2. Add the garlic and onion powders, cumin, and turmeric, along with the ginger root. Cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes.
3. Add the potato and cook for 2 minutes.
4. Add the onions and chiles and cook for 2 more minutes, until the potatoes have begun to brown.
5. Add the chopped tomato and cook for 2 minutes.
6. Fold in the eggplant, then add salt, garam masala, coriander, and cayenne. Cook for another 2 minutes.
7. Reduce heat to low, partially covering the pan, and allow the ingredients to continue cooking for 10 minutes.
8. Turn off the heat. Cover the pan completely and let set for 5 minutes as the flavors blend.
9. Garnish with cilantro and serve.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Confit Beets with a Garlic Feta Spread


We don't have much time left with beets (the season wraps up here in July, I think), so I'm inclined to go a little crazy. Stained hands be damned.

On Father's Day, I made a roasted beet and carrot salad to accompany the delicious steaks my dad grilled up. And now just two days later, I'm back on the beet wagon.

This confit beet crostini comes courtesy of Indie Plate ingredients again. I'm partnering with the Baton Rouge grocery delivery service to demonstrate the myriad mouthwatering morsels you can craft up with their offerings. I find the recipe, do the shopping, and take the pictures. But I need a good jumping-off point.

I try to be a from-scratch cook as much as possible, and a key part of that is fresh produce. And I like knowing for sure that it's coming from local farms, where it might not be the prettiest or most pleasingly shaped, but it's the real deal.

So here's what came inside my Indie Plate parcel.




And so I trimmed them. Placed them in a pan.

Heart beets.
And here's where the confit part comes in: I covered the beets with about an inch of oil (maybe a little less) and in the oven they went. When they came out, I let them remain in the oil until they were cool enough to handle and peel.



Then I sliced the beets and assembled the crostini, using a whipped garlic feta spread I made with feta from Indie Plate (sourced from Rockin' R Dairy in Tylertown, MS). 



Finished with a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette and served!

Confit Beet Crostini
Makes three crostini
[Ingredients from Indie Plate in bold]

5 beets, trimmed (if beets are on the large side, they should be halved)
Olive oil (enough to cover beets in a high-sided pan—about 1 1/2 cups)
4 oz. feta (room temperature)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Salt
Pepper
Curly green leaf lettuce (for garnish)
Balsamic vinaigrette (I made mine with Fresina's balsamic vinegar)
Toast (for serving—seasoned with dried herbs and drizzled with oil before toasting in oven)

1. Preheat oven to 300. Place the trimmed beets in a high-sided baking pan and cover with one inch oil. Roast for 45 minutes until fork-tender.
2. Make whipped feta topping by placing feta, 2 tablespoons olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper in a mixing bowl. Use a hand mixer to whip feta until it's the consistency of a spread.
2. Take beets out of the oven and allow to cool under the oil. Once you're able to handle the beets (about 20–25 minutes), peel them and slice them into 1/2-inch thick slices.
3. To assemble: Spread feta on toast. Top with curly lettuce, then beet slices. Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette. Serve.








Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Pot o' Neck Bones: Make Your Own Ramen


It wasn't that long ago that I was a college kid, subsisting mainly off of Hot Pockets, Easy Mac, and heaping late-night bowls of cereal. What's a skillet? Is that the one you put the bacon in?

And now here I find myself making ramen again. But stay with me! This is a good one.

Let's start with the ingredients. The style of ramen I made has a tonkotsu (pork bone) broth. I actually arrived at this recipe by way of pork bone. I recently subscribed to a new delivery service in Baton Rouge, and I'll be partnering with them regularly to whip up some seasonal and delicious things. Indie Plate is a pipeline to all that's fresh, seasonal, and delicious. Not just vegetables either! The site traffics in meat, fish, pantry goods, and more, all from local farms and artisans, for a small flat delivery fee too.

Ordering online, I'm at a much lower risk of loading up my cart with things I don't need or won't use in time. And I won't shop just for one recipe, which I am sadly prone to do. If you're in the area, I surely recommend it. And if you're not a Baton Rouge reader, fingers crossed that you've got something similar in the area—otherwise, start clamoring!

Back to pork neck bones: I found them on Indie Plate's site and, since I'd never made my own pork broth before, I was intrigued. And the recipe grew from there. Onions and carrots, summer vegetables for a stir-fry, leaf lard for the vegetables and frying the egg I set on top of the ramen. All from Indie Plate. I rounded up the rest from the neighborhood grocery once I had firmed up my ingredient list.

Most pork neck broth recipes I found involved simmering for about twelve hours. While I definitely wanted the punch of slow-roasted flavor, I was concerned with leaving the burners on, and I haven't yet used the crockpot I have in my closet. So when I found this alternative take from Seattle Magazine, I was relieved.

Let me take you through my adaptation—as well as the stir-fry I served on the side.

Pork bones from Iverstine Farms

A little more of my bounty from Indie Plate
Loveably ugly heirloom carrots
Roasted pork bones






Tonkotsu Ramen and Summer Vegetable Stir-Fry

Yield: 2 servings ramen and stir-fry; 2 cups of broth left-over

Ingredients:
For pork broth:

4 small meaty pork neck bones (I used a 1.26 oz. package, but ideally would have used more)
3/4 cup water and 4 cups water, divided
1/3 of a white onion, not chopped or sliced, just segmented
2 medium carrots, stemmed and chopped
Kosher salt
Soy sauce

For ramen:
2 cups Pork Broth
1 package Top Ramen noodles (seasoning packet discarded)
1 egg
2 inches leaf lard, diced
Sliced scallions (for garnish)
2 teaspoons sesame oil
Pulled pork from roasting pork bones

For summer stir-fry:4 inches leaf lard, chopped
1 medium zucchini, sliced
3 grape tomatoes, halved and chopped
One fourth an onion, sliced
Sesame oil


Method:
For the broth:
1. Preheat the oven to 400. Place the pork bones in a large, high-sided roasting pan. Roast for 70–90 minutes, turning the bones over halfway through, until bones are browned all over.
2. Immediately after removing the pan, pour 3/4 cup water inside and use a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits. Transfer bones and liquid to a large stockpot.
3. Add four cups water, onion, and carrots. Bring to a boil and then simmer for two hours. Then cool to room temperature (about an hour).
4. Strain out the solids and set aside. Refrigerate the liquid overnight (I placed it in two mason jars.) Pick the meat out of the bones and refrigerate it in a separate container with carrots and onion. Discard the bones.
5. The next day, as you prepare to make your ramen, bring two cups of the broth to a simmer and season with kosher salt and soy sauce to taste.

For the ramen:
1. Add noodles to simmering broth and cook for 3–4 minutes. Meanwhile, heat up chopped leaf lard in a medium non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, rendering fat. Fry egg—seasoning with salt and pepper—until white is set but yolk is still runny.
2. To serve, ladle noodles into each bowl, draining excess broth. Top with fried egg, scallions, reserved pork from neck bones, and a drizzle of sesame oil. Serve!

For the summer stir-fry:
1. Heat up a large skillet to medium-high. Add chopped leaf lard and cook for five minutes, pushing down on lard to render fat. Set aside lard.
2. Add zucchini, tomatoes, and onions to skillet, drizzle with sesame seed oil, and cook, stirring, until golden brown.
3. Serve alongside ramen.







Monday, May 19, 2014

Creole Pickled Squash: A Perfect Summer Topping

Credit where credit's due: I first had pickled squash on a burger at Toups' Meatery in New Orleans. And ever since, I've been in love. These briny morsels have a certain je ne sais quoi that brings the burger home. And with that sharp, juicy flavor, you wouldn't be blamed for snacking straight out of the jar.

When I was searching around for a great recipe, I was thrilled to happen upon Acadiana Table, whom I recognized from their recent SAVEUR nomination. And I was even happier when I adapted their recipe (with a few tweaks) and found it to be fantastic.

So here's how you do it—picking, canning, and all.




Creole Pickled Squash
(adapted from Acadiana Table)
Yield: two 16 oz. jars


Ingredients:
3 yellow squash, thinly sliced
1 large yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1/8 cup kosher salt
1 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1 1/2 cup cider vinegar (couldn't find sugarcane vinegar, despite living in Louisiana...)
1/2 tablespoon brown mustard seed
1/2 tablespoon black peppercorns
1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup sugar
2 16-oz jars
1 medium saucepan
1 large saucepan

1. Combine squash and onions in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle salt over the vegetables. Stir, then cover and refrigerate for one hour.
2. In a medium saucepan, bring vinegars, spices, and salt to a boil (stirring to combine). Take squash and onions out of refrigerator. Rinse off salt and add to vinegar mixture. When the liquids have returned to a boil, turn off heat and let sit for thirty minutes.
3. Meanwhile, remove lids and rings from the jars and place all components in the large stockpot and cover with water. Bring water to a boil, sterilizing jars for five minutes.
4. Use tongs to remove the jars from the stockpot and place upside-down on a clean dish towel.
5. Once the squash is done pickling, lade it into the sterilized jars. Twist on lids. Return the water in the stockpot to a boil. Use tongs to return jars to the water. Lower heat to a simmer and process jars for ten minutes. Remove jars using tongs and let cool.

Recommendation: Burger topping! I made my patties with a 4-to-1 ratio of ground beef and pork sausage, and included shallots, thyme, oregano, and egg. Served on a kaiser roll with herbed aioli. It was delicious.