Tuesday, July 20, 2010

For Beet Lovers Only (Beet Risotto)

Disclaimer: Seriously if you are not a fan of beets, you might want to skip this recipe. There's a macabre like quality to the finished product that might be a little too much for those unfamiliar with the aesthetic effect that beets and beet juice can have on things. That said, this would be a great dish to make for a Halloween party.

Things get a little dicey around here right before we leave to go out of town. I like to play a little game with myself where I try to get the fridge down to empty and use up all the perishables without going to the grocery store and buying any more stuff. Of this desire to not be wasteful is born my beet risotto.

Beet Risotto
5 medium beets
3 small to medium onions
3 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup arborio rice
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup grated parmigiano reggiano
several sprigs of thyme
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
salt and pepper
I clean and peel the beets, onions and garlic and cut them into pieces that will fit through the tube of the food processor.

I let the food processor do the work on this one. Attempting to grate beets by hand would be a huge mistake. Unless you are into the crime scene look for your kitchen.

Once all the vegetables are shredded, I add them into a pan with the olive oil, butter, thyme and some salt and pepper. I cook on a medium high heat for about 5 minutes or so.

Then I add the arborio and cook for another 5 minutes or so.

Add the wine, and stir til absorbed. Add stock a half cup at a time, stirring until absorbed after each addition.

After about 30 minutes, the stock should be gone and the rice should be cooked, but firm. Remove from heat and add cheese and parsley.

Despite its odd appearance, it's pretty yummy, and a little on the sweet side.

Another Gardening Story

I try to keep things organic in the garden. I think I like the challenge of fighting nature with nature. It's a fair fight. There's a huge infestation of cucumber beetles on my plants this year. They're all over my cukes, tomatoes, beans, and basil. So I'm trying to clean up some basil plants that have been eaten and pooped on and I say to The Captain, "What (besides humans) eats herbs? I thought only people ate herbs" and I notice that my hands (and plants) are dripping with these guys. Now I'm not saying that the cucumber beetles are the guys that are eating and pooping on my basil, but it was kind of like a wake up call to finally rid myself of these pests.

So I make myself a hot pepper smoothie. I throw a couple habeneros, a couple Caribbean reds, a couple jalapenos and a couple tabascos in the blender with some water. I strain it out, add some rubbing alcohol and put it in a spray bottle. I'm out in the garden spraying like a crazy person. What I have failed to consider, until it is too late, is that I have created a pepper spray. And I have surrounded myself in a cloud of it. That was fun. An exercise for my lungs. But not the end of my homemade pepper spray adventure.

Flash forward about an hour and a half later. I have changed out of my shorts and flip flops into work out gear. I'm at the gym and after about 20 minutes on the treadmill, I notice the tops of my feet are beginning to tingle. At the 55 minute mark the capsaicin burn on the tops of my feet is so intense that I have to abandon the treadmill and Judge Judy to seek relief. Apparently a fair amount of pepper juice landed on them during the spraying and the friction from running/walking activated the heat.

I love learning new things that are most likely totally obvious to the rest of the world.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Roasted Heirloom Tomato Soup

I've often said (when looking at flower arrangements) that we can't have nice things. We have cats. Three of them. And because I deprive them of the joy of living dangerously and experiencing the great outdoors, whenever I bring something inside that would occur in nature outside, the cats freak out. And chew. And knock over. For example: last year, my friend Andy ordered a bunch of cool heirloom tomato seeds. He gave me some of them. I went to Lowes and picked up a kit to grow them in and sprouted little tomatoes on my kitchen counter. One night, while I was sleeping, one (or all) of the cats decided that the torture was too much and consumed the tops of my new plants. Hearing my tale of woe, Andy was kind enough to give me twelve of his seedlings. I grew some absolutely gorgeous tomatoes last year. I was dealing with several bowls full of tomatoes when one afternoon, Tyler Florence was on the Food Network suggesting that I make a Roasted Tomato Soup out of my late summer bounty. BRILLIANT. The first time around, I followed his recipe. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/roasted-tomato-soup-recipe/index.html
Of course now I just make roasted tomato soup like I made any vegetable soup. Simple, simple.(Although reviewing his recipe made me realize I could have used a bay leaf or two in this batch.)

Roasted Heirloom Tomato Soup (<-Liar there are hybrids in here too!)
10 decently sized tomatoes
3-4 decently sized sweet onions
olive oil
several stems of fresh oregano
several stems of fresh thyme
salt & pepper
4 cups of chicken stock
fresh basil (to taste)
parmigiano reggiano (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut tomatoes and onions into uniform sizes (think big). Add several stems of thyme (no need to remove leaves from stems) and oregano (go ahead and remove those leave from the stems.) I used the oregano flowers too. I think they look cool. They taste just like the leaves anyway. Throw a couple of healthy pinches of sea salt into the mix and several grinds of pepper. Add about 1/4 of a cup of olive oil over the top and mix it all together. I put it all into an enamelized pan and roast for 1 hour.
After an hour, I remove from the oven and let it sit for a minute. Now if I weren't cheap, I would spring for a food mill, but because I am cheap, I instead use a fork and some tongs to remove the skins and ooky seed chunks from the tomatoes. Also any stems from the herbs.

I put the pan on the stove between a couple of burners and turn them both on. I add four cups of chicken stock and let it cook down for about 30 minutes.

Then I puree it with an immersion blender. I taste and adjust salt and pepper. It ALWAYS needs more pepper.

To serve, I tear up some fresh basil and stir it in. A little sprinkle of parmigiano reggiano makes it absolutely heavenly.

My Version of the BLT

When I start getting tomatoes, my mind immediately goes to BLTs. Unfortunately, when my T's start producing, my L's are long gone. L doesn't like the heat that that T's like. Anyway, to keep it all fresh and homemade-y, I use basil from the garden instead of lettuce from the store. Gives it a nice Italian feel. Come to think of it, I should grab some pancetta and make PBTs next time.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Herb Crusted Chicken

Hippies make delicious mustard. Well, actually, I probably shouldn't make generalized statements like that. The hippies at Sandhill Farm make delicious mustard. And honestly, I don't know that the people at Sandhill Farm are really hippies, but statements like the following, found on their website http://www.sandhill.org/ make me think they might be:

" Sandhill emphasizes work that members enjoy; if something isn't getting done we either change our attitude or stop doing it. We operate without work quotas and with few schedules. Instead, we talk regularly about what needs doing and ask for help when we need it."

All I can say for certain is that I hope the members of Sandhill Farm enjoy making mustard. Because as long as they are selling, I'll be buying.
When I think of summer, I think of grilling. And summer grilling is so much better with fresh herbs from the garden. I've become somwhat addicted to grilled chicken that's been slathered with grainy mustard and herbs. I just kind of pick whatever looks good (in this case, clockwise from the top, oregano/rosemary/sage/thyme) and then I do the following:

Smoosh the herbs into a ball and finely chop. Add some freshly cracked pepper and sea salt.

Put a couple tablespoons of mustard in a prep bowl so you don't get chicken fingers all over the jar. One the slathering of the chicken begins, things might get a little messy.

Butterfly the chicken to maximize surface space, then spread the mustard over both sides of the chicken.

Divide the herbs amongst the breasts and press them into the mustard.

Grill on a medium high for about 5 minutes a side or until the chicken is cooked throughout.

The flavor on this one is amazing. The mustard/herb crust works well with pork too.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Pasta with Early Summer Vegetables

I find myself making this recipe when the fridge is getting too full. It's a great way to clear out space when you know another box of vegetables is coming in. Or to make myself feel less bad for buying a bunch of Swiss chard at Soulard when I already have vegetable coming out the wazoo. (I love Swiss chard.) The thing about the recipe is that you can use pretty much whatever you have.

Pasta with Early Summer Vegetables

half a box of penne rigate
zucchini, quartered and sliced
bunch of Swiss chard, roughly chopped
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
2 onions, bottoms chopped, tops sliced and reserved (I grew those!)
1 purple pepper, julienned (that one's from my garden too)
1 tabasco pepper, chopped (yep, I grew it)
1 14.5 ounce can of whole tomatoes with juice
handful of basil (mine too)
couple sprigs of oregano (this plant is 3 years old!)
olive oil
salt and pepper
parmigiano reggiano

I chop all my veggies while waiting for my pasta water to boil. Once I drop the pasta, I add the onions, garlic, zucchini, peppers and oregano (stripped from the stem) to a pan that's been heated to medium high with a little bit of olive oil in it. I season with salt and pepper. Sometimes I also add the chopped stems of the chard, but the chard stems were dirty after I rinsed and spun it, and I was lazy and didn't feel like doing a detailed recleaning.

After about 5 minutes, I add the tomatoes with juice. I am not a huge fan of the stem parts, so I remove them and crush the tomatoes before I add them to the vegetables. I add a little more salt for the tomatoes and crank up the heat to high to reduce.

After 3 minutes have passed, there should be about 2 minutes left on the cooking time left for the pasta, I add the Swiss chard to the pasta water. Cook til the pasta is al dente (about 3 more minutes).

When the pasta is almost done, I add torn basil to my sauce.

Drain pasta and Swiss chard. Grab a big bowl.

Add pasta. Top with vegetables. Garnish with parmigiano reggiano, cracked black pepper, the onion tops, and more fresh basil.

This is one of my favorite foods. And it's even good heated up in the microwave the next day.

Stole This One from Martha

I was reading Everyday Food the other morning and saw this terribly cute idea. Ice cubes made with fruit juices, or fruit purees that had berries and mint suspended in them. The idea is that ice cubes made of tasty things won't melt and dilute your drink. They'll only make it tastier.

Berries? Check. Mint? Check. Lemonade? Check. This one's easy.

Wash and dry some berries and mint.

Place in ice cube trays and fill with lemonade. Freeze.

The hardest part of this recipe is finding ice cube trays. I put my cubes in iced tea this morning.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Smashed and Fried Potatoes

I love tiny potatoes. (Well, to be fair, I love big potatoes and medium sized potatoes too.) At Family Harvest this week, I picked out the smallest potatoes I could find so I could make this recipe. Although it's not really a recipe. More of a technique.

Smashed and Fried Potatoes
Tiny Potatoes (as many as you want to eat)
Olive Oil
Fresh Rosemary
Salt & Pepper

I place the potatoes in a pan of cold water and bring to a boil. I boil them for about 10 minutes or until easily pierce with a knife.

Drain and place on a towel to dry/cool.

After they have dried and slightly cooled, smash them with a flat bottomed glass. The Microfest glass worked nicely for me today.

Don't smash them into oblivion. Just a nice, even, gentle smoosh.

Place potatoes in a medium high non-stick pan that has been coated with a thin layer of olive oil. Fry until the edges start browing (around 3-5 minutes). Flip and add a generous amount of fresh rosemary. Fry for another 3-5 minutes or until browned.

Work in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan and steaming the potatoes.
Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Fried rosemary has an unbelievable flavor. Good luck getting these to your plate. We normally stand around them and snack on them while the subsequent batches are frying up.