Friday, May 16, 2014

Summer Hummus

This version of my hummus is dedicated to my cousin, Aaron, because we were talking last fall about hummus with more flavor.  I had also been thinking about it, so last fall when he visited, I began my experimentation on making a wonderful tasting hummus.

Hummus is something that I eat a lot of because I feel that it is healthy, particularly when you make it yourself.  Another great thing about making your own hummus is that you can make it for much cheaper (and in larger quantity) than you can buy in the grocery store.  I like the plain hummus with few spices and flavors, but in the past year I have been trying to come up with a hummus that I can make at home, but changes up the original flavors.  The flavor of this hummus comes from the vegetables that are in it, which add a nice depth of flavor without getting it all from spices.  Actually, there are no spices in here except a little salt to make the flavor pop.

Summer Vegetable Hummus
2 cans garbanzo beans, shelled
3 oz. marinated artichoke hearts with juice
2 oz. fresh spinach
juice from 2 lemons
3-4 Tablespoons tahini
salt to taste (I used about 1/2 teaspoon)
1-2 Tablespoons sweet onion
3 cloves garlic
3 small sweet peppers
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2-4 Tablespoons water (as needed to be able to mix in a blender)

The recipe is the garbanzo beans, squeeze the lemons into a bowl, and throw everything into the blender.  I recommend starting with the liquids and spinach and a portion of the garbanzo beans.  Once you have a smooth consistency, then add everything else and add a bit of water as needed to get it to the texture you desire.  Then refrigerate for a cooler hummus or eat right away with pita bread or crackers.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Quick Beef Stroganoff

I can't remember eating beef stroganoff when I was growing up.  I remember other friends talking about it, and I know they had it in the school cafeteria.  I never heard anything very good about, so I was never inclined to make it.  Enter my husband...he doesn't cook very much, but this is one dish that he has always made.  When I saw the recipe in Keepers, I decided I should try my hand at it.  At the very least it wouldn't take up a long time to make, which is why I like this book so much.  I usually start by reading through the recipe which is what I did here.  Then I asked my husband about his ingredients to compare the two recipes.  I gathered the ingredients and started.  I like the mustard that is the Keepers recipe, which is a more traditional way of making stroganoff.  I also added some red wine to the sauce to add some flavor.  In the end, my husband liked the new recipe.  The mustard added some kick which ketchup does not.  Overall, I think this recipe will be made again to continue to refine it to our tastes.

Beef Stroganoff
Serves about 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound beef tenderloin, though I use thin cut beef as well (cut thinly), season with salt and pepper
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 red onion, chopped finely
1/4 cup red wine
8 ounces crimini mushrooms, cut into thin slices
2 teaspoon sharp mustard
1 1/2 cups beef stock
1/3 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons corn starch dissolved in about 1/4 cup water
1 package egg noodles (bring a pot of water to boil so the noodles will be done when the sauce is)

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil until it shimmers (medium high heat).  Add the sliced seasoned beef to the skillet and stir as it cooks.  This should just take a couple of minutes.  Remove beef and set aside.  Reduce heat to medium.  Add the butter.  Once melted add the onions and cook until softened (depends on the size of your slices).  Turn the heat back to medium high and add the mushrooms.  Season with salt and pepper.  Once the mushrooms have browned, add the mustard, beef stock and red wine.  Simmer for 2-3 minutes.  Then add the corn starch.  Continue to simmer until the sauce has thickened.  Add the beef and any juices and simmer just another minute or two to heat through.  Turn off the heat and add the sour cream (be sure that it is not bubbling or else the sour cream will curdle if it is too hot).  Check the seasonings and serve over egg noodles

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sugar Cookies - Roll Out Version

There are so many sugar cookie recipes out there in the blog-o-sphere that you might ask why should I even bother with this one.  The wonderful thing about this one is that there is some additional flavor to this one that just knocks your socks off.  Plus, since these are sugar cookie roll outs, they can take as much or as little time as you would like decorating them into edible beauties.

This is my favorite sugar cookie recipe, though I usually spend way too much time decorating the cookies, only to see them rapidly disappear.  I just wish these would last longer.  ;)  However, because I do like to make these so much, I also have collected quite a few cookie cutters, so now I don't just make them for Christmas, but I also use this recipe for heart for Valentine's Day or leaves in the autumn.

Sugar Cookie Roll outs
1 1/2 cups powdered (confectioner's) sugar
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond flavoring
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Cream the powdered sugar with the butter until light and fluffy.  Add the egg, vanilla extract, and almond extract.  Mix again thoroughly.  Add the flour, baking soda and cream of tartar.  Mix until just combined.  Refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours.  This dough warms up quickly, so only remove a portion at a time while you roll out the cookies, so that it remains easy to work with.

Preheat oven to 375 F.  Lightly flour a surface to roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thick.  Do not add too much flour while working the dough.  Bake the cookies for about 8 minutes; watch closely to adjust to your oven as you don't want the cookies to brown.  Remove from the oven and let cool for a minute on the cookie sheet.  After a minute, remove to a wire rack to continue to cool completely.  

Once completely cooled, make a powdered sugar, butter and milk frosting to frost the cookies...or you can cheat and buy pre-made icing and color with food coloring to achieve the colors you need to frost the cookies.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Indian Creamed Spinach with Chicken (Saag)

As long as I can remember, I have loved trying foods from different places.  I can't remember when I first tried Indian food, but I do remember trying creamed spinach.  Since that day I have been searching for a recipe to make at home that is as delicious as I have eaten in a restaurant.  (Next, I will have to master naan bread, but that is a recipe for another day.)  I stumbled upon a recipe that included tomatoes.  I have no idea what they would add to the dish, but I found that I love the complex flavor that they added to the recipe.  It was a pretty good recipe, but it wasn't as good as I remembered eating in a restaurant.  I continued the search until I found this recipe in Anjum's New Indian.  My recipe is adapted from this cookbook.  I recommend this book if you are interested in making Indian food.  This recipe freezes well and reheats well, too.

Creamed Spinach
Serves 6

12 oz. spinach
5 tablespoons olive oil
3 cardamom pods
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons cinnamon or 1 cinnamon stick
4 green chiles, pricked
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
12 garlic cloves, peeled
3 large tomatoes, cut into quarters to remove core
1 1/2 pounds of chicken breast, cut into 1 inch cubes
salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoon garam masala
3 tablespoon plain, unsweetened yogurt

Use a blender or food processor, make a puree of the spinach.  Add a few tablespoons of water to help to make the puree.  Set aside.  Meanwhile, heat the olive oil.  Add the spices (cinnamon, bay leaves and cardamom pods) and cook for 15-20 seconds or until fragrant.  Add the green chiles and onion and cook until they are browned.

Using the blender to make a paste of the ginger, garlic and tomatoes.  Add this to the cooked onion.  Add the remaining spices (coriander, garam masala and salt to taste).  Cook for about 10 minutes to thicken the sauce.  Stir occasionally.  Add the chicken and continue to cook over medium heat until the masala releases oil into the pan, about 10 more minutes.  Add the yogurt and cook until the sauce has evaporated a little.  Taste to ensure that the masala sauce has cooked through.

Stir in the spinach puree and cook for another 15-20 minutes over medium heat until the chicken has been cooked through.  Cover the pan and stir occasionally.  Taste and adjust seasonings.   Serve with rice or naan bread.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Sausage, White Bean, and Spinach Gratin

In the past couple of years, particularly in winter, I have grown very fond of white beans.  I usually stock up on three different kinds/sizes...white kidney beans (also called canneli beans), navy beans and great northern beans.  Any time I try a new recipe or start tweaking one I make frequently, I tend to add an extra can.  I can image one day my chicken chili will have more beans than it does now and probably no chicken.  Beans are a good source of protein, but they are also filling and stay nice and hot on a cold winter's night.  I see more experiments with beans in my future, especially in dips which will transition to summer well.

This recipe is similar to another one I make, but this one is a gratin.  I also like this recipe because of the addition of spinach as it adds more color and satisfies my desire for greens in winter.  The recipe is based on the Keepers cookbook by Brennan and Campion.  It is a simple recipe to put together and not very time consuming, so great for a quick meal.

Sausage, White Bean and Spinach Gratin
Serves 6

3/4 cup of breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
salt and pepper
3 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground sweet Italian sausage
1 small onion, chopped

6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
2/3 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 cans of white beans, drained and rinsed
several handfuls of spinach

Preheat oven to 425F.  Combine the breadcrumbs and butter in a small bowl.  Season with salt.  In a large skillet which can also transfer to the oven, heat the olive oil.  Add the sausage.  Break up the sausage while browning.  Once brown, transfer the sausage to a bowl and set aside.  Reduce heat to medium-low.  Add the onions and garlic, stir occasionally until onions are soft.  Add the tomato paste and thyme.  Stir until fragrant (about half a minute).  Add the wine and simmer to deglaze for about 2 minutes or until nearly evaporated.  Add the broth and simmer. Add the beans, sausage and any juices from the bowl.  Season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer until heated throughout and some of the liquid has been absorbed. (It still will be juicy, but not so much that there is more liquid than solids.) Remove from heat and add the 5-6 handfuls of spinach.  Check seasonings again.  Sprinkle the top with bread crumb mixture.  Bake until the bread crumbs are golden brown (about 15 minutes).  Remove from oven and let rest for about 10 minutes before serving.  This dish reheats well.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Green Curry with Shrimp

I had never eaten, nor heard of curry until I was a high school exchange student to New Zealand.  Several people talked about curry, but I didn't have any idea what I was in for the first time I tried it.  I am pretty sure the first one I tried was a yellow curry, but to be honest it didn't leave an impression in my mind until much later.  Then I remember my first job out of college.  A coworker and I would go out to eat for Indian food as there was a restaurant not too far from work.  I tried all sorts of different dishes, but again only had yellow curry.  It wasn't until much later, when I was living in Germany, that I began to eat curries on a regular basis.  I think it may have been there that I tried red and green curry for the first time.  At least there it was memorable, but I never had the inclination to try to make it.  The local curry place was cheap and delicious, so why would I bother to try it out?

So with the memory of these two really good curries in my brain, I searched for a good curry near where I live.  There are a few that are decent, but I never realized how easy it is to make at home.  This autumn I stumbled upon the cookbook Keepers.  I read reviews and changed my mind about buying it, but finally around Christmas when I was experimenting with quicker dinners to prepare on weeknights, I decided to buy it.  It is by Kathy Brennan and Caroline Campion.  This Green Curry recipe is based off the one in their cookbook.  If you like curry at all, I would give this recipe a shot as it is a quick weeknight meal, reheats well and tastes great.

Green Curry
Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 1/2 tablespoons green curry paste
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1 (13 oz) can coconut milk
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined
1 red pepper, diced
2 scallions, sliced
1 lime

Steamed rice (prepared, or at least started to cook before beginning the curry)

In a large skillet heat oil over medium heat.  Add the curry paste and anchovy paste, cook until fragrant.  Add the coconut milk and brown sugar.  Stir to combine.  Bring to a simmer and stir occasionally until the sauce starts to thicken.  Add the red pepper and bring to a simmer.  Add the shrimp and simmer until shrimp are nearly cooked.  (Do not over cook the shrimp.)  Stir in the scallions and a squeeze of lime juice.  Recheck the seasonings.  Serve with the steamed rice.

I have plans to add more vegetables to this curry as well like zucchini, and sugar snap peas.  This also reheats well.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Roasted Leg of Lamb

I once took a cooking class and part of that class was making a roast leg of leg.  Since there were about 8 students and one chef, we divided the recipes up, which meant I did not get to participate in making the roast leg of lamb.  I have had rack of lamb and helped prepared that, but I was thinking about things to cook for a Christmas gathering while walking through the grocery store.  I thought about all the mutton I ate in New Zealand.  Then I stumbled upon this awesome leg of lamb which I decided was what had to be made for my group of friends who were coming over in the not distance future.  They had all been to my house before, but their significant others had not.  I had never served lamb before, so it was decided; I would roast the leg of lamb as the center piece to the meal.  I served the leg of lamb with a variety of roasted vegetables which worked out very well in the end as it meant a bunch of preparing in advance, but then left little to be done once everyone arrive, with the exception of carving the lamb.

This is a simple recipe, which only takes time to actually roast the lamb and afterwards let it rest.  This is based off the Roasted Leg of Lamb from Richard Bertinet's cook Cook in a Class of your own.

leg of lamb (I think mine was about 6 pounds)
olive oil (4-6 tablespoons)
salt and pepper (about 1 tablespoon each)
garlic cloves, about 6, cut into quarters, but depends on how many slits you make
rosemary and thyme, fresh sprigs
red wine to make a gravy (about 1/2 bottle)

Take out lamb a little before roasting so it can warm up before baking.  I took mine out about 1.5 hours before roasting.  Preheat the oven to 375 F.  I usually do this 20-30 minutes in advance.  Rub with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  I sprinkle it on first to be sure I have enough salt and pepper, and then I add the olive oil.  Use enough to coat, but not drip off Cut into the skin and meat at an angle so that you can stuff a sliver of garlic and rosemary and thyme into each cut.  Place the leg of lamb into a roasting pan and place in the oven for about 2 hours (or 20 minutes per pound).  You can check the temperature so you don't over cook it (about 135 F for rare and 145 F for medium rare).  The last 30 minutes it is a good idea to cover so it doesn't brown too much.  Remove lamb from oven and let it rest on a warm plate or cutting board for about 20 minutes, covered with the foil.  When the lamb is resting, you can make the gravy.  Use about 1/2 a bottle of red wine and cook on the stove top until it has thicken a bit.  If you like a thicker gravy, you can add cornstarch.