Saturday, November 19, 2011

Cannellini Fresca

Cannellini Fresca
Cannellini Fresca
People are amazed that simple white beans can taste so very good. This is an old and simple Tuscan recipe. It requires prior planning in that one must start with high quality dried cannellini beans and soak them overnight before cooking. I adore them as is – warmed or at room temperature.  Italians use them often in soups, as a side dish, or pureed as a topping for bruschetta.  They have a creamy texture and mild flavor that are perfectly suited to carry the flavors of fresh herbs and a finishing olive oil.  Give this simple recipe a try – you will not be disappointed and will have a wonderful new healthy protein source in your diet.
I recommend getting your dried cannellini beans from a source where you have confidence that they are not too old. Rancho Gordo beans are the best and becoming more available all the time. ( Or try an Italian market or organic health-food store as the turnover is likely greater so the beans will be freshly dried. Pick through 2 C dried cannellini beans and discard any discolored or broken ones and any stones. Rinse the beans gently but thoroughly under cold running water.  Place in a large bowl or pot with enough cold water to cover by several inches. Let them soak overnight or for at least 6 hours.
Soooooo…if you did not soak overnight, you can do the quick soak method. Put the beans in a large pot, cover with at least 2 inches of water.  Bring the beans to a boil over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Cover the pot and let them stand for 1 hour.
Drain the beans and place in a medium saucepan. Add 4 C water, 2 Tb chicken or vegetable bouillon, 3 sprigs of fresh sage, 3 crushed garlic cloves, 2 Tb olive oil.  Bring to a boil.  Then, lower heat, cover and gently and slowly simmer until beans are tender, about 1 hour. As beans do not all cook at the same rate, pull out 5-6 beans from random parts of the pot. If they are all soft, then they are done. Allow them to cool in their liquid.
Once cool, drain beans, reserving about ¼ - ½ C cooking liquid, and transfer to a bowl.  Add the reserved cooking liquid, 2-3 fresh sage leaves, minced, 2 Tb minced green onions, 2 TB olive oil and 2-3 tsp. salt & freshly ground pepper to taste.  Toss gently.
Drizzle a wonderful finishing olive oil over the beans before serving. Sublime!  Give this a try – you will not be disappointed and let me know your thoughts!

Fried Egg with Squash and Tomatillo

Fried egg with squash and tomatillo
 Fried Egg with Squash and Tomatillo

This taste explosion of this entrée comes as a surprise – the tangy tomatillo sauce creates the bed for the caramelized squash with the egg providing both a protein source and sauce to bathe the dish.  The recipe is surprisingly simple, taking less than 40 minutes to prepare – add a green salad, some bread and you are done. It will serve 4 and provide an elegant entrée.
Turn on the broiler.  Place 1-2 jalapenos halved lengthwise, ½ lb tomatillos and 2 peeled garlic cloves in an ovenproof dish and broil until the tomatillos are charred, about 7-10 minutes.
Roasted tomatilla, jalapeno, and garlic
 Swirl 2 Tb olive oil in a large skillet, heat.  Add 4 ½ C one inch diced yellow and green squash. (About 1-¼ lbs).  Add squash in a single layer in skillet – if necessary do 2 batches.  Salt and cook 4-5 minutes or until caramelized.  Stir and cook 4-5 min more, or until tender. Remove from heat; stir in 3 Tb chopped fresh cilantro. Season as needed with additional salt. Cover to keep warm.
Carmelized squash
Transfer tomatillo mixture from broiler to blender with 4-5 sprigs of cilantro. Blend on high until smooth.  Slowly add 2 Tb olive oil to blender.  Season to taste with salt and 2 tsp fresh lime juice.  Set aside, cover to keep warm.
Using a nonstick frying pan, add 1 ½ Tb olive oil and heat.  One at a time, crack 4 eggs into a small bowl. Tip the bowl gently, sliding the egg into the heated pan. Repeat with all 4 eggs.  Keep the heat low so you can control the cooking. Season with salt and fry 3-4 minutes, or until the whites are cooked and the yolks just begin to set (if you cook too long, you lose the “sauce” for the dish).  It is sometimes useful to put a lid on the pan to encourage the whites to set up.
To serve, spoon 4-5 Tb warm tomatillo sauce in 4 shallow dishes. Mound roasted squash in center. Top with fried egg. Garnish with cilantro sprig and lime wedge and serve immediately.  Sit back and take in the praise.  Really.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Turkey Soup

Popeye Soup

Popeye Soup = Turkey Soup
While it is possible that neither Popeye nor Olive Oyl made this soup, we sure used the reference to encourage our kids to eat the green leafy vegetable.  The popularity of Popeye the Sailor helped boost the sales of spinach with consumption reportedly increasing 33% is the US in the early 1930’s when Popeye was popular.  A more recent study in 2010 continues to show increased consumption after watching the cartoon.  I never had this experience and had to find a way to disguise the spinach to encourage consumption by our kids.  Popeye soup was our answer.  And, they loved it!
Sauté 2 chopped onions in ¼ C butter until translucent but not browned, about 10 minutes. Stir in 2 Tb flour and 1 ½ tsp curry powder and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add 3 C chicken broth, 1 C chopped potatoes, ½ C thinly sliced peeled carrots, ½ C sliced celery, 2 Tb chopped fresh parsley, and ½ tsp dried sage or poultry seasoning. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 10 minutes.
Add 2 ½ C cubed cooked turkey, 1 C ½ & ½, 10 oz. package frozen peas and/or 10 oz. package chopped frozen spinach. Simmer 15 minutes.  Season to taste with salt & freshly ground pepper. Serve hot, perhaps with some garlic toast, and watch the kids (and husbands) unknowingly devour a healthy serving of spinach!

Southwestern Turkey Chili

Southwestern Turkey Chili

Southwestern Turkey Chili
Without fail, I always have more leftover turkey after Thanksgiving than is needed for several days of turkey sandwiches. But with minimal extra effort, you can turn these leftovers into a special meal…one that can be frozen and enjoyed even months later. I will be sharing my two favorite post-turkey day recipes – use white and/or dark meat.  The first, Southwestern Turkey Chili, is easy to make – has a bit of a southwestern twist with Anaheim chilies and black beans.  It’s nice to change up after a few days of sandwiches.
Melt 1 stick of unsalted butter in a large pot.  Add the following ingredients: 2-3 medium Anaheim chilies (seeded & chopped), 2/3 C chopped red onion, 2/3 C chopped parsley, 2/3 C chopped red bell pepper, 1 large chopped leek,(white part only), 2 minced garlic cloves, and 2 Tb dried oregano. Sauté in butter until vegetables soften, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. 
Anaheim chilies
Veggies ready to begin cooking
Reduce heat to low, add ¼ C flour, 1-2 Tb chili powder, 2-3 Tb ground cumin and 2 tsp salt – cook 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently until nearly all the liquid has evaporated and they begin to stick to the pan – you want to brown until crud starts to form on the bottom of the pan. Stir occasionally to scrape up the brown bits, then let the crud form again.  Be patient here and don’t rush it – this is where the big flavor develops.
The "crud"
 Add 4 C chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Scrap the crud and mix (dissolve) into your soup. Puree 1 ¼ C frozen corn with ½ C chicken stock in a processor or blender.  Add this puree to the chili.  Mix in 3 cans of rinsed and drained black beans, 4 C diced cooked turkey and 1 C frozen corn. Simmer chili 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Serve with assorted toppings: grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, chopped red onion and/or chopped fresh cilantro.  This is wonderful any time of the year – it freezes beautifully and travels well.  You, your friends and family will not be disappointed.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Smoked Salmon & Chevre Quesadilla with Cucumber Relish

Salmon and chevre quesedilla
Without exception, this little appetizer brings compliments and recipe requests. It is easy to pull together and fun to serve.  The relish should be made several hours in advance; the quesadilla can be assembled 1-2 hours before baking and serving.

To make the relish: Very thinly slice or cube one hothouse cucumber into a bowl.  Add 2 Tb chopped shallots and 1 Tb minced fresh dill. Set aside. In a small saucepan, combine ½ C white vinegar, ½ C water, ½ C granulated sugar and 1 tsp salt. Bring to a simmer and stir to dissolve the sugar and salt. Pour hot dressing over cucumber mixture and let cool to room temperature or chill.

To make the quesadilla: Divide 5 oz. montrachet goat cheese evenly among 5 medium sized flour tortillas.  Use your fingers to spread it around the entire tortilla. Top cheese with ¼ lb. thinly sliced smoked salmon divided among tortillas. Add a sprinkling of ¼ C chopped green onion and 1 ½ Tb fresh dill.  Place another flour tortillas on top of each one and gently press down.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Arrange quesadillas on a sheet pan, lightly oiled with vegetable oil. Lightly brush the top with oil and bake for 5 min or until crisp and golden.

Slice into quarters or eighths and serve with the cucumber relish on the side for guests to add as desired.  So great –It’s a tangy relish with slight crunch of the baked tortilla encasing the smoking salmon and creamy goat cheese. 


Friday, November 4, 2011

Shitake Crusted Halibut with Lemon Beurre Blanc

Shitake Crusted Halibut - serves 4
It was another football Sunday and my good friend, Joy, and fellow Cavalier dog lover, was joining us. My husband had put in a request several days before for Barbeque Ribs.  Sounds easy, right?  But Joy and her husband do not eat red meat. So I had to come up with a protein dish for them that would be super easy to pull together while still watching the game! (The ribs can be done well in advance and reheated on the grill at halftime)  If the shallots are cut in advance – this amazing little dish can be prepared during half time! The Beurre Blanc (white butter sauce) is also easy – not exactly dietetic but really compliments the earthy flavor of the shitake crust on the fish.

To serve 4: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Melt 2 Tb butter over medium heat.  Add ½ C finely chopped shallots and cook until softened but not browned. (about 2 min), Add ¼ C white wine and cook on medium- high heat until most of the liquid evaporates, about 3 min, being careful to not burn the butter.  Add ½ C heavy whipping cream and simmer gently until sauce thickens, whisking occasionally, about 4-5 min. Cover and set aside off heat.
Making beurre blanc
Place 1 ½ oz. dried shitake mushrooms (remove all stems) in a spice grinder (I use a dedicated coffee grinder for all spices and savory) or blender and grind to a fine powder. Transfer this powder to a plate. Rinse 4 6 oz halibut fillets in about 1-2 Tb of white vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Then press the fillet into the mushroom powder to coat it on all sides. Melt 4 Tb butter in ovenproof skillet over medium heat.  Add fillets and cook until golden brown on bottom – about 3 minutes. Turn over carefully and transfer to the oven and bake until opaque, about 7 minutes.
Rolling fillets in shitake mushroom powder
Cooking fillets until golden brown
While fish is baking, finish the sauce. Add 4 Tb butter, cut into small cubes, to the sauce, one at a time, whisking until incorporated before adding more. Heat on low if needed to melt butter and warm sauce. Do not let it boil. Whisk in 3 tsp. lemon juice and season with salt & pepper.  Drizzle fish with sauce and serve immediately.  Pass extra sauce at the table.  Bon Appetit!

P.S. If pressed for time or wanting to avoid the calories – a sprinkle of lemon juice works as a substitute for the sauce. If Halibut is unavailable, you could use cod, salmon or Tilapia  (cook tilapia on stove-top).