Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Swiss Chard Sandwich with a hint of German

Tomato, lightly fried German Speck (cured pork, in spices like juniper berries, nutmeg...), Swiss Chard sautéd in Riesling wine, Altemburger (semi-soft German cheese from goat's milk), fresh Basil... on toasted rustic German bread....

Oh I so suffered making this one... sigh... such a labor of love. ;-)  Glass of wine?  I say, if you want white, go with a Chardonnay, unless you come across a gem of a dry Riesling.  Red?  Pinot Noir.  Beer kinda guy?  In the summer, go with a Weißbier (Wheat beer).  In colder temps, perhaps a Bock.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Simple Curried Lamb with Eggplant Caviar, Roasted Vegetables and Naan

Lamb chop (leg center slice)
Curry powder (two good palm fulls)
Garlic cloves (smashed)
Rosemary sprigs
Red wine
Olive oil
Salt, pepper, cayenne pepper
(Put in plastic bag, mush around and let sit for at least an hour in the frig)

Brown mushrooms (baby bellas, shiitake)
Garlic cloves (whole)
Paprika, turmeric, cumin, pepper, cayenne pepper
Olive oil
Salt, celery salt

Preheat oven to 450

Wash the veggies    

Trim the asparagus, cut the ends off the leeks and slice lengthwise to wash, trim mushroom stems and cut in half.  Cut the eggplant into 2 inch chunks.  Drizzle olive oil on a baking sheet.  Arrange the asparagus, leeks, and mushrooms on one half, eggplant and garlic on the other.  Drizzle more oil.  Sprinkle all with spices (no salts on eggplant and mushrooms).  Cover with foil and put in the oven.  Turn the temp down to 350.
Put a few pieces of garlic naan (Trader Joe’s has a variety) on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt (course sea salt, if you have it).  Set aside.

Take the lamb out of the frig and let sit at room temp for 10 min. Heat a grill pan or skillet on med-high and add a little olive oil. Cook the lamb 5-7 min on each side (depending on thickness). When you flip the lamb, put the naan in the oven next to the veggies and turn the oven off. When the lamb is done, set it on a board to sit for 5 min. In the mean time, remove veggies. Put the eggplant and garlic in a Cuisinart with salts, pepper and little olive oil. Pulse until almost smooth. Place it in a bowl as side for the naan.

Remove the naan.  Slice the lamb.  Plate with the remaining veggies!  

Might be nice to serve this dish with strained yogurt, diced cucumber, and your hot sauce of choice.

I would go with a spicy Zin for this one....


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mango and Prosciutto Figs in Sparkling Spiced Honey Bath

My aunti Alberta taught me how to cut a mango. She ran the only hotel on Lanai – cooked, cleaned, did the books…. When we visited, she allowed me to hang out in the kitchen. There was always a lesson though – never a free ride. One morning, as my sleepy eyes tried to look over the stainless steel table, she said “go out to the back, pick a mango, and cut it for the guests.” I was stunned – my brain was in overload: Do I need a ladder? I know I need a knife! How fast do I have to do this? I’m only 10!

So I composed myself and stated, “How do you want me to cut the mango?” She gave me the “let me help you” aunti look, and went to a basket of already picked mangos. As she held one she said, “Cutting a mango is instinctive… you have to feel it. You cannot see the pit – so you have to follow your heart and cut down each side. The sweetness left around the pit is for you to munch on over the sink after you are done. The little squares you make are for the guests.”

A mango pit is oval in shape, with flat sides. The trick is to cut the “cheeks” from it. Stand it on end, and cut on either side lengthwise, leaving about an inch thick strip in the middle…. Here, lets make this easy:


1. Start with the Mango "cheek"; Fillet off its pit lengthwise. 2. Cut 1/2" squares by scoring mango with a sharp knife. Do not cut through skin. 3. Turn mango half "inside out," separating cubes. Slice off squares with a knife.

With the courtesy of www.freshmangos.com

Although, for presentation sake, I usually don’t slice off the squares unless I am using them in a compote, sorbet, or sauce. I know your produce guy has shown this on air before, and it is widely known. However, it is one of the dearest memories I have – because I felt like she was sharing a secret with me that not many people knew….

The kitchen is a neutral zone – no judgment, fear, anger, worries. Just your own magic.

1 mango
2 large figs
2 slices prosciutto
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp honey
5 aniseed stars
½ tsp fresh grated ginger
Baby arugula
Pinches of: ground coriander, nutmeg, cinnamon
pomegranate seeds
chopped fresh mint tossed with sugar
Sparkling wine

Prepare mango in the traditional scoured method.  In skillet, heat butter on medium high.  Place mango halves squares down in skillet.  Wrap figs with prosciutto and place in pan, bottom down.  After a minute, turn mangos over.  Drizzle honey over figs and mango, add ginger, aniseed, spices, and a splash of sparkling wine.  Cover for 2 minutes.  Remove figs and mango halves, and arrange on a deep dish.  Deglaze the pan with a little sparkling wine.  Drizzle the sauce over the fruit.  Add a fresh splash of sparkling.  Sprinkle with baby arugula, pomegranate seeds and a pinch of sugared mint.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Five Bean Fagioli all'Uccelletto

The diversity and richness of legumes aren't appreciated nearly enough, as far as I am concerned.  Their nutritional content, texture, hardiness in the garden as well as in dishes....

Faglioli all'Uccelletto, basically beans, tomato, and herbs, is a Tuscan staple that has the potential for greatness in every pot.  It is what I consider a white canvas dish, begging for color, expression, and excitement.  I could do a whole chapter on just variations of this dish, as I could with Pot-au-Feu or Paella.  This "little bird" bean dish grants attention.....

1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 onion, diced
1/4 lb prosciutto, bite size rough chop
2 ounces cleaned and chopped wild mushrooms (stems trimmed)
1/2 cup white wine
3 tomatoes, par boiled, peeled, rough chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 Tbsp fresh sage leaves, chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
1 sprig rosemary
32 oz chicken stock
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 Tbsp capers, with juice
1 Tbsp brown sugar
3 cups beans (directions below)
Salt and pepper to taste


The bean thing.....

Black turtle beans
Blackeye peas
Great northern beans
Red kidney Beans
Baby lima beans
(of course others can be substituted)

The night before….
In a large sealable plastic container, combine five one pound packages of dried beans. Retrieve 3 cups of the mixture, and place in a large pot. Cover with 8-10 cups of water and let soak overnight.

In the morning….
Drain the beans. Add another 8-10 cups of water, 2 bay leaves, and bring to a slight bowl, turn to low, simmer with lid cracked a bit for 30 min to 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally and testing the softness. Skim off any foam. When desired tenderness is accomplished, keep the liquid in the pot and continue with the recipe…..

In a separate pan, saute onions, prosciutto, and mushrooms in the olive oil and butter until onions are translucent and mushrooms have wilted. Deglaze with the white wine. Add a bit of the bean cooking liquid, and scrape the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen ingredients. Add to bean pot. Turn pot on medium. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer for 15 minutes.

If you can get your hands on a Vernaccia di San Gimignano, you will be walking on clouds....


Friday, August 20, 2010

Nightshade and Lamb Napoleon

Plants in the Solanaceae family are commonly referred to as “Nightshade” plants.  There are a variety of genera in the family, including some highly toxic plants.  However, I promise you, we won’t be cooking with any of those!  Today's ingredients in this family are eggplant, potato, peppers, paprika, tomato, and tomatillos.

1 medium eggplant
1 cup of tomatillos, cleaned and halved
1 chili pepper, seeded
1 lime (juice and zest)
2 large tomatoes
1 clove garlic
½ lb ground lamb
2 potatoes, grated
1 yellow bell pepper, finely diced
1 egg
1 teaspoon paprika
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

  • Slice the eggplant into ½” thick rounds, about 6 slices.  Coat in salt and olive oil, place on baking dish and bake for 15min or until soft but slightly crispy.
  • In a Cuisinart or blender toss in the tomatillos, chili pepper, lime juice and zest, garlic, salt and pepper. Pulse until smooth (simple salsa verde). Place in refrigerator.
  • Slice the tomatoes in ¼” thick rounds.  Top with salt and pepper, and place in refrigerator.
  • Form 4 lamb patties, about the same size in diameter as the eggplant rounds.  Add salt and pepper and set aside.
  • Grate the potato, squeeze excess water with a paper towel, place in a bowl. Dice the yellow pepper and add to bowl (retain a little yellow pepper for garnish). Whisk up the egg, and add it to the bowl with paprika, salt and pepper. Mix together and form 4 patties slightly larger in diameter than the eggplant. Set aside.
  • In one skillet, add a healthy dose of olive oil and place on medium high heat.  After it is brought up in temp, turn it down to medium heat.  Cook the potato pancakes until dark golden on either side. Set on paper towels and salt.
  • In another skillet, drizzle a bit of olive oil and place on medium high heat.  Cook the lamb patties until cooked through (3-5 min each side).

In a shallow bowl, layer:

  • Potato pancake
  • Tomato
  • Eggplant
  • Lamb
  • Salsa verde
  • Eggplant
  • Lamb
  • Salsa verde
  • Tomato
  • Potato pancake
Drizzle with salsa verde and sprinkle with remaining yellow peppers.

The acidity of the vegetables balance the richness and pungency of the lamb, and the slight crispiness of the potato pancakes adds texture. I wouldn’t pair this with a whimpy wine – a Bordeaux or Pinot Noir would partner nicely, unless you prefer a full bodied Zinfandel on the blackberry and pepper side. If you prefer white, a rich Pinot Gris. If you miniaturize them and make them an appetizer (using Japanese eggplant and small tomatoes), you could have fun and serve with a dry sherry.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Thai Mushroom Soup

Cleaning out the spare bedroom in order to make it a rental.  It is going to need one hell of a makeover.  I need a Clean Sweep team!!!  Donning my Tazmanian devil costume for the next few days. In between twisters, I wrote a new recipe for Thai Mushroom Soup -- for a visually impaired cook.  

Thai Mushroom Soup

1 portabella mushroom
½ lb button or crimini mushrooms
½ lb shitake mushrooms
1 Leek
1 fresh jalapeno ribbed and finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp fresh ginger
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup coconut milk
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 stalk lemongrass
2 scallions
1 lime

  • Remove the stem from the portabella, and scrape the dark brown gills out with a spoon.  Cut into 1 inch cubes.
  • Trim the stems of the other mushrooms and medium chop
  • Leeks have quite a bit of dirt caught up in them, so need a thorough wash.   Trim off the root.  Feel the fat somewhat tough leaves, and follow them down to where they all meet, and cut them off there.  What you have left is the white edible part of the leek. Cut in half lengthwise, and run under cold water, fanning the leaves.  Place each half flat side down and cut into 1 inch half moons.
  • Cut the cap off the jalapeno and cut it in half lengthwise.  Clean the seeds and ribs out with a small spoon.  Rinse under cold water.  Finely dice.  Wash your hands thoroughly with soap, as the compounds which produce the heat transfer to your skin.
  • Give the garlic cloves one strong pound using the flat side of the knife.  This makes it easier to remove the skins.  Then give a few more pounds, and roughly chop.
  • With a vegetable peeler, remove the skin from about two inches of the ginger root.  Cut off about an inch, and finely dice, until you get about a tablespoon.
  • Heat the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan or deep skillet on medium high heat.  
  • Add the mushrooms, leek, and jalapeno.  Saute for five minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the garlic and ginger, and saute for another minute
  • Add the chicken broth, coconut milk, soy sauce, and lemongrass (not to be consumed, but for flavor).
  • Reduce heat to medium low, cover, and let simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Wash the scallions, cut off the root tip.  Feel the top of the leaves, and follow down until they feel firmly hollow. Cut there and discard what should be only an inch or two.  Chop into quarter in rounds.  Add to pot.
  • Zest the lime and juice it.  Add to pot and stir.
  • Turn off the stove, and let it rest for 5 minutes with the lid on.
  • Remove the lemongrass and serve.

Note: This would be a good accompaniment to a chicken and rice dish.  

It is my goal to write at least one a day.  

I made myself a sweet potato chimichanga, which was actually outstanding, and decided on a Chardonnay -- Sauvignon Blanc would have been too whimpy.  Now I am watching a new episode of House (the one show on television I make it a point to watch).    

My tomatoes need support, and the artichokes need to be watered and fed.  I have two big boxes of paperwork to go through.  I need a vacation, but would ultimately feel guilty if I even had the means to take one….  I’ll just veg out listening to classical for a half an hour in the tub every once in a while -- that’ll work for now.