Monday, March 12, 2018

More Eatin' O'the Green

A few more worldly ways to go green here at the Ides of March and start to rev up a system made sluggish by winter. Easy to find green veggies in glamorous form: green beans, spinach, kale, chard and collards.

Persian Green Bean Fritatta
Once you've chopped up the green beans, this is ridiculously simple to prepare. It's also delightfully delicious (long yea saffron! and hello tarragon) and perfect for kids. Unlike Italian frittatas and Spanish tortillas, this Persian version wants just enough egg to hold the green beans and onions together.  Unlike the frittata and tortilla, it looks great baked in a square pan and cut into squares instead of wedges. And if all this isn't enough to encourage you to try it, you can eat it hot, room temp or cold-- the next day as well. Perfect picnic and lunchbox fare. Good for brunch buffet, light lunch or dinner appetizer.

I got 9 squares out of this, cutting three lines both ways. The hungry could easily eat two squares.

1 lb green beans, cleaned and cut into 1/4" pieces
1 lg onion, diced
3 tbsp unsalted butter
pinch of saffron, soaked in 2 tbsp hot water
6 extra large eggs
2 tbsp milk or water
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp dried tarragon leaves
1/4-1/2 tsp Aleppo chili pepper (depending on if you want to taste it)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to your taste
3 tbsp breadcrumbs or fine corn meal
1/4 tsp paprika

 Preheat oven to 350º. Grease an 8" square baking pan with 1 tbsp butter. Sprinkle 1 tbsp breadcrumbs across the bottom.
Cook the cut beans in boiling salted water until tender, 8-10 minutes. Drain carefully.
Melt 2 tbsp butter in a frying pan or skillet and over med/low heat, sauté the onions until they are soft and translucent. Don't burn.

In a medium bowl--if it has a pour spout so much the better, beat the eggs with 2 tbsp milk. Whisk in the saffron with its water, nutmeg, tarragon, salt and pepper to your taste. Stir in the green beans and onions and thoroughly blend.  Pour everything into the buttered square pan and level the top. Sprinkle around 2 tbsp of breadcrumbs and the paprika.
   Bake at 350º 25 minutes or until the eggs are firm.  Cool at least 5 minutes before cutting.

Georgian Spinach "Pate"
How many this vegan splendor serves depends on how you serve it but it's hard to cut back the quantities. Also, WARNING: contains nuts.
Georgian here means from the Caucuses, not the South. Homecooks in that land on the Black Sea turn many vegetables into "paté" and offer several at once with flatbread as part of a mezze/tapas spread to start a meal. Since homecooks might not have access to a lot of molds, they usually form their paté in available bowls, so I did too and got this green dome. You can use a small loaf pan if you prefer. I topped it with a candied walnut to indicate it contained nuts. That's vital because to nuts can be lethal to those with allergies.

1 lb baby spinach leaves
1 lg garlic clove
1/2 c walnut pieces or halves
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
1/2 tsp ground chili (Aleppo works great)
1/2 tsp coriander seeds or 1 tsp ground coriander
2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
1/4 c chopped cilantro leaves
1 tsp cider vinegar
Black pepper to your taste
to garnish: walnut halves and/or pomegranate seeds or finely crumbled feta.

Blanch or steam the spinach until it wilts. Drain reserving 2-3 tbsp of the water and squeeze it as dry as possible. Chop it finely.
Put the walnuts, sea salt and garlic in a food chopper or processor and grind to an oil paste. This means grinding until the nuts release their oil. If it seems too thick add 2 tbsp spinach water to get it to the consistency of thick hummus. Grind in the chili, coriander, parsley and cilantro. Add the vinegar and push in the chopped spinach. Before you grind season with freshly ground black pepper. Grind everything into a smooth paté. (Note: this is my adaption using modern equipment. In Georgia cooks do a lot of pounding and pestling.)
Oil a small bowl and pack in the paté, pushing down and leveling the top. Put a pot lid or something
heavy the fits and put a weight on that. Wrap everything in a plastic bag to seal it, put it in the fridge overnight or for at least 6 hours. Using a small spatula to loosen the edges, unmold the paté onto a round plate. Garnish with walnuts and whatever else. Surround with bread and a knife for spreading.
This can also be a pitta sandwich filling which you can embellish as you wish with sour cream or cheese or chopped red onion and cucumber.

Polenta Kale Layer Cake

One of my mid winter madness creations a few years back. This photo shows the kale and sweet potatoes in one filling between two layers of polenta instead of the three layer cake below. Your choice!
Serves 6

2/3 cup polenta
3 cups water
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tbsp minced roasted poblano pepper
Pinch of red pepper flakes
¼ tsp salt
¼ cup shredded or grated mozzarella cheese

for the kale filling
2 bunches kale
1 med white onion, diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp olive oil
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp pine nuts
¼ tsp salt
½ cup ricotta cheese (fat free is fine)

2 lg sweet potatoes
¼ tsp salt
2 cardamom pods, cracked or ¼ ground cardamom.
2 tbsp mascarpone

¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
pinch of nutmeg
1 tbsp olive oil for the pan

Grease an 8 or 9” springform pan with 1 tbsp olive oil and set aside.
Preheat oven to 375º.

Peel and coarsely chop the sweet potatoes. Put in a pot and cover with water. Add salt and cardamom pods. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat slightly and cook until potatoes are soft, 12-15 minutes. Remove cardamom pods. Using a slotted spoon or spatula to drain them, put the sweet potatoes in a food processor. Add 1 tbsp of the cooking water and hold the rest. Add the mascarpone. Quickly puree.  Set aside.

Remove kale leaves from their thick stems. Wash and drain carefully. Combine kale, garlic and pine nuts in a food processor. Using the pulse button, chop the kale into small pieces as though making pesto.
In a small skillet, heat 2 tbsp olive oil over medium/low heat. Add onions and black pepper. Sauté 5 minutes until onions are soft. 
Stir in the chopped kale mix. Sauté 3-5 minutes until kale is soft but still bright green. Remove from heat. Add salt and ricotta and blend well. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine 1 cup sweet potato water with 2 cups water. Add salt and bring to a boil. Whisk in the polenta and continue whisking until it is absorbed and the mixture starts to thicken, 5 minutes.

Add oregano, pepper flakes and minced poblano pepper. Continue cooking over low heat 2 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon. Add mozzarella cheese, stirring as you go and continue cooking 3 more minutes so all cheese is melted.  Polenta should be thick and creamy now.

Cover the bottom of the oiled springform pan with an even layer of 1/3 the polenta.
Cover the polenta layer with an even layer of the kale mixture. Top with another layer of 1/3 of the polenta.
Top with an even layer of the sweet potatoes and a final layer of polenta.
Top with the grated parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of nutmeg.

Cover the pan with aluminum foil. Bake at 375º for 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking 15-20 minutes until top is lightly brown. Remove from heat. Cool in the pan 10-15 minutes. Remove sides of the pan.
Serve cut in wedges like a cake.
*Carnivores can add ½ cup chopped chorizo or pepperoni to the polenta or ½ cup chopped garlic sausage to the kale.

Gratin of Hearty Winter Greens
serves 6-8 and freezes well

Enough extra-virgin olive or butter to generously cover the bottom of a large pan
3 medium onions, halved and sliced thin
1 bunch of kale
1 bunch of chard
1 bunch of collards*
4 cloves of garlic, smashed, peeled, and minced
pinch red chili pepper flakes
Sea salt
1 pint heavy cream
4 ounces grated cheese, such as Parmigiano-Reggiano or Gruyère
Plenty of freshly ground black pepper
*if you can’t find collards use two bunches of kale or different chards

Place a large heavy-bottom pot over low-medium heat, add the onions, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until they are very soft, 5-8 minutes.
Meanwhile, prep the greens. Remove the stems that run down the center by holding the leaf in one left hand and slicing down each side of the stem with a knife. By the time you're done, you'll have two piles: one of stems and one of leaves. Bunch the stems in a pile and slice them finely, crosswise. Set aside. Chop the greens and set them aside.
Preheat the oven to 350º.
Add the chopped garlic to the softened onions in the pot and stir for a minute or so, until the garlic has released its fragrance. Add the chopped stems, chili pepper flakes and a pinch of salt, stir to mix them with the onions and garlic, and cover the pot. Let them cook about five minutes, stirring occasionally. Now add the greens and another pinch of salt, using tongs to carefully mix in with the sautéed veggies in the pan. Add ½ c water (or stock) to the pan, and turn heat to high until the water begins to boil. When it does, turn heat down to low, and let the greens simmer, covered, stirring occasionally until they're nearly tender but still a little al dente. Uncover the pot cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid in the pan has evaporated.
Turn off the heat, taste, and add a little salt if necessary. Arrange the cooked greens in a casserole dish large enough to comfortably fit them all. Pour the cream over. Sprinkle the cheese all over the top. Season heavily with black pepper. Bake until the top is browned (30-45 minutes). Serve hot.

This dish can be made a day or two in advance and reheated in a 350º just before serving. Vegan variation: Replace the cream with coconut milk and replace the cheese with bread crumbs (or slivered almonds) .

Monday, March 5, 2018

Greening up

Time again for a few words on the feng shui of food, the common sense science of eating what Mother Nature provides exactly when she provides it in your terrain. In other words Her hint hint for seasonal, local eating. Perhaps you've noticed how abundantly she provides vitamin packed, acidic citrus during the cold germ filed months of winter when she also brings up sinus clearing bitters like arugula, broccoli rabe and bitter melon. It's for the heat of summer when our bodies sweat and need moisture that she offers us water laden foods like cucumbers, tomatoes, berries and melons so where's the imperative to buy all that imported stuff? Put it back on the supermarket shelf.

Right now we're on a cusp. We've passed lunar New Year  (Feb 16) and just tripped over meteorological spring (March 1) as we head toward Spring solstice on March 21. In other words we're moving from the cold sluggishness of winter to the bright thaw of Spring. We need tonic foods to clear that sluggishness from our bodies and fuel them with more energy.  Well, bingo! Mom Nature's ready with handouts. All of her tonics (e.g. dandelion greens, spinach, asparagus, nettles. fiddleheads) are green, the color of sunshine stored in chemicals like chlorophyll. So just in time for that Spring ritual, the wearing of the green, here's a way to ease into the eatin' o' the green--and brighten your winter table.

Andalusian spinach with chickpeas
This vegetarian delight is in my new collection of 88 traditional, beloved chickpea recipes from all over the world and one of my favorites. I'm still trying to reproduce the nonchalant, exquisite version I had in Seville's oldest tavern and will post when I nail it. Meanwhile this version which I made from two differing recipes pleased a pile of people yesterday.
Serves 6 -8
1 lb spinach leaves, stems off, washed and coarsely chopped
1 can chickpeas, drained but reserve the water
1/2 c olive oil
2 slices day old bread, crusts removed and broken into pieces (you can use two small pitas too) or if you want to be gluten free you can try using 18 raw marcona almonds
3 garlic cloves
1 tsp cumin seed
1/3 c chopped tomatoes, juice included
3 tbsp sherry vinegar or 2 tbsp sherry and 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp smoked Spanish paprika
½ tsp chili powder (unless you are using hot Spanish paprika)
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to your taste

Heat the olive oil in a med pot/saucepan and over medium heat fry the slices of garlic and bread or almonds until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon, leaving the pot and oil untouched. Put the bread or almonds and garlic in a food processor, chopper or mortar. Add the smoked Spanish paprika (pimentón), the chili pepper, cumin seed, black pepper, and the coarse sea salt. Blitz or pound into paste. Add the vinegar and 2 tbsp chickpea water to thin the paste to the consistency of hummus.Add 1 tsp vinegar if necessary to thin it.

Put the tomatoes and chickpeas into the pot/saucepan with the oil. Stir in the paste, adding another tbsp. chickpea water if necessary. Warm over medium heat. Add the spinach to the pot, lightly pressing it down. Continue cooking until the spinach is totally wilted. Stir the spinach into the chickpeas and sauce and continue cooking on low heat 8-10 minutes so the spinach is very soft. Stir so nothing burns. Taste and add salt or sherry/sherry vinegar and/or Spanish paprika if necessary.  Serve warm with toasts or in bowls.

Lebanese/Syrian Chard Rolls, Mishi Waraq Sila
Also from my new chickpea recipe collection and pulled from several recipes as everyone seems to have their own version of this traditional favorite. Mine is a vegetarian version, mighty tasty! A caveat about the photo: I may have used chard leaves that were way too large because the photos I've seen of these look smaller and daintier, often like cigars. I'm going to have another go with smaller leaves and report back. Or you report to me.

Makes about 12 rolls

2 bunches fresh chard (no torn leaves)

2 c coarse bulgur

1 medium onion, chopped

½ c chopped tomatoes (not juice if you can help it)*

1 1/4 cups canned chickpeas

¼ c chopped fresh mint leaves

3 tbsp olive oil

zest of one lemon

4 cloves garlic, mashed

¼ c lemon juice

salt and black pepper to taste

1 large onion, sliced

*I don't buy tomatoes in winter so I used whole canned tomatoes, drained and chopped

To make the stuffing:

Soak the bulgur well covered in water 30 minutes. Drain carefully in a sieve to get it as dry as possible. Put in a med bowl and add the onion, tomato, chickpeas beans, half the chopped mint, lemon zest, olive oil, pepper and salt. Blend.

Prepare the chard by cutting off the stem at bottom edge of the leaf. (Save those stems.) Bring lightly salted water to a boil. Dip chard leaves for a second and remove immediately so they don’t tear. Drain and cool. Place each on a flat surface, spoon a heaping tablespoon the stuffing at the stem end, and lightly spread it a little bit up the stem. Fold in the sides of the leaves over the stuffing, then from the stem end roll the leaf like a jellyroll or cigar.  

Cover the bottom of heavy cooking pot with those chard stems and top them with slices of a large onion. Arrange the stuffed chard rolls tightly over the onion slice. Repeat if you need to make layers. Place a pot lot of flat china plate over the rolls to hold them down and put some sort of weight on top for good measure. Pour enough water into the pot to cover the top of the plate. Bring the water to boil. Reduce heat to low and cook 25 minutes.

While that’s happening, in a food processor or chopper or mortar, mix the mashed garlic with lemon juice, little salt and remaining mint leaves into a sauce.

With potholders, remove the weight and the plate. Using a spatula, carefully remove the chard rolls, place on a large serving platter. Pour the garlic sauce over the cooked rolls. Cover and allow to sit 15 minutes before serving.

Lima Bean Plaki
I'm including this hot or cold vegetarian dish from Veggiyana, the Dharma of Cooking because it has a cup of fresh parsley in it. This seemed a perfect transition for right now because I got to use up hoarded dried beans and clean out the cupboard for spring. I've also changed the recipe from the original.

Serves 6-8 
2 cups dried lima beans or 21/2 cups frozen cooked lima beans (depending on how much time you have)
½ cup olive oil
2 onions, peeled and finely chopped (the food processor can do it)
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 med/lgcarrot, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 tsp dried marjoram or thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried sage
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1½ cup chopped tomatoes (from the box or a can is fine)
1 tsp salt
½ tsp fresh ground or cracked black pepper
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

If you are using dried lima beans, put them in a medium size pot, cover with water and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to low and boil three minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let stand one hour. Drain and rinse. Check beans for tenderness. If they are feel slightly tender, move to the next step. If they still feel hard, put them back in the pot, cover with water, and cook over medium heat for 15-20 minutes until they feel almost tender to a fork.

In a medium large casserole or large covered pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and garlic, carrots, celery, marjoram/thyme, oregano, and sage. Sauté 5-6 minutes until vegetables are soft and golden.
 Add 1/2 c parsley, tomatoes, lima beans (either variety), salt and pepper. Add 1cup water. Cover and simmer over low heat for 20-25 minutes until the beans are very tender and so are the carrots. Stir in lemon juice. Let sit covered for 3-5 minutes. Adjust salt and pepper to your taste.

To serve: garnish with a splash of extra fruity olive oil and the remaining cup of chopped parsley. This can be served hot or cold the next day.  

Arugula and Fennel Salad
And finally, some crunch....This salad does not have salt in the recipe because it calls for fresh slices of parmesan cheese which if it's the real deal is salty. But feel free to add some if you prefer.
serves 6

2 fennel bulbs
2 cups arugula
1 lemon, juiced
2 oz Parmesan cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Loosely arrange the arugula on the bottom of a shallow salad bowl. Season with freshly ground black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
Cut stems and leafy tops off the fennel bulbs, Remove the core, Slice the remaining bulb into thin rounds/strips and spread over the arugula. 
Pour the lemon juice on the salad, then drizzle more olive oil and grind more pepper. Using a peeler, shave strips of Parmesan cheese on top of the salad. Serve

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Going Nuts and then some

Here in winter's nadir with not much left in the farmers' markets and not much in the wings, we can turn to protein, vitamin packed staples like beans and nuts. And we can make them so tasty, vivid and hearty, nobody will miss the sprightly freshness of farm food. There are still great conversation pieces you can bring to the table right now.

Before we go completely nuts though, I want to share again the delectable recipe for my favorite winter soup because it's such a cure for the late February blahs: colorful, lip-smacking delicious, hearty, very nutritious, pretty and best of all ridiculously easy to make. It's also for those allergic to nuts.

So one more time,
Turkish Red Lentil Soup
  Serves 4-6
3 tbsp olive oil
1 lg onion, diced
2 lg garlic cloves, minced
1 fresh red chili, seeded and minced
1/8 tsp ground chili powder
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp ground coriander
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 tsp fenugreek (seeds or ground?)
1 tsp celery seeds
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 ¼ cup split red lentils
5 cups vegetable stock and water
½ tsp freshly ground or cracked black pepper
½ tsp salt or more to your taste

for garnish
 1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
 1 bunch flat leaf parsley leaves only, chopped
 juice of ½ fresh lemon (or lemon wedges for each bowl)

In a heavy gauge medium size lidded casserole or other such pan, heat oil over medium. Add onion, garlic, chili, chili powder, cumin seed and ground coriander, stirring to blend. Sauté over medium heat until onion is soft, 3-5 minutes. 

Add carrot and cook another 2 minutes. Add fenugreek, celery seeds and tomato paste, pepper and salt. Stir in the lentils, blending everything.

Pour in the stock and water in any combination you prefer. Bring to a boil.
Immediately cut heat to low, partially cover the pot and simmer 35-40 minutes.
The lentils should now be mushy and the soup thick.

Serve garnished with chopped scallions and parsley and lemon juice or wedges.

If you prefer a smooth soup, puree before garnishing.

AND NOW let's go completely nuts!

Georgian Kidney Bean and Walnut Salad
I just found this homey recipe from a Georgian grandmother, the Caucuses' Georgia, not the South's.
It really does need to be dressed with a lot of cilantro to keep it bright. The taste is unusual and likeable. Also, because some people are allergic--life-threatening allergic--to walnuts, I like to announce they're in a dish by throwing a few whole ones on top where everyone can see them.
Serves 4 heartily
3 tbsp corn, olive or sunflower oil
3 med onions, halved then thinly sliced
7 oz (1 3/4c) walnut pieces
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp sumac (don't fret it you don't have this)
1/2 tsp ground cloves
3-4 tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed (13-14oz cans)
1 bunch cilantro, leaves chopped
2 tbsp pomegranate arils
salt to your taste
1/2 tsp mild chili powder (Aleppo or chipotle pepper works fine)

Heat the oil in a large skillet and over medium/low heat sauté the onions until soft and translucent, 5-8 minutes. Try not to burn them.
almost walnut paste
Grind the walnuts in a food processor or chopper into a smooth paste. This will take a few minutes as the first efforts will be grainy and you want smooth. Part way add the spices and vinegar. Process to the consistency of thick yogurt, adding a few drops of water or/and oil if necessary.
   Put the beans in a large serving bowl and stir in the cooked onions. Salt to your taste. Carefully stir in the walnut paste to coat everything evenly. Season with the chili powder. Garnish with chopped cilantro and pomegranate arils.
   You can serve this right away or put away in the refrigerator for tomorrow.

Italian Pasta with Walnut Sauce
Something a little different yet very familiar.
Serves 4
½ c walnuts, shelled
2 pieces day-old crustless bread
¼ c whole milk
1 garlic clove
¼ c flat leaf parsley leaves
½ c extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp heavy cream or crème fraiche
¼ c parmesan cheese grated
salt and freshly ground black pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes
¾ lb cavatelli (thin twisted 2” long) pasta

Soak the walnuts in boiling water about 15 minutes. Drain and remove as much of the skins as you can. It’s a pain but this will keep the sauce from being too bitter.
Preheat the oven to 225º.
Break the bread into small pieces, put it in a bowl and pour the milk over it. Let it sit 5 minutes, then squeeze out the milk. In a food processer, combine the bread with the walnuts, garlic and parsley leaves. Blitz while pouring in the oil to make a smooth sauce. Transfer the mixture to an over proof serving bowl. Mix in the cream, cheese and pinch of red pepper flakes. Season with salt and a bit of freshly ground pepper. Place the bowl in the warm oven while the pasta cooks.

Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain, reserving some of the water.  Stir in into the warm bowl of walnut sauce, add 2-3 tbsps of the reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce. Serve at once with an extra bowl of grated parmesan.

Circassian Chicken
The Circassian people lived between the Black and Caspian Sea until the Ottomans dispersed them. Most moved south into the Middle East, bringing this dish with them--to the delight of the Ottoman Turks who immediately put it on their own plates. There are two ways to present this: one as a chicken salad, one as layers of chicken topped with layers of the walnut sauce. First is the room temperature salad which can be made a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator.
serves 4-6

One 4 lb chicken, quartered
1 onion, halved
4 allspice berries or 1 tsp ground allspice
4 whole cloves
4 black peppercorns
3 bay leaves
1 tsp coriander seeds
Salt to your taste
1 pita bread, torn into pieces
1/2 c milk or half-and-half
2 cups walnuts (6-7 ounces)
2 garlic cloves, smashed
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro leaves
1 tsp ground Turkish red pepper, such as Aleppo or Urfa or ½ tsp chili powder
Put the chicken in a large soup pot. Add the onion, allspice, cloves, peppercorns, bay leaves and coriander seeds. Add enough water to cover the chicken and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and simmer until the chicken is tender, 30-40 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and when it is cool enough to handle, discard the skin and pull the meat off the bones in shreds. Put the shredded chicken in a large bowl.
Strain the fragrant chicken broth and transfer 3 cups to a small saucepan. Boil until it’s reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Season with salt to your taste.

In a small bowl, sink the pita in the milk and mash it down until it is completely soaked. Transfer the pita to a food processor. Add the walnuts and garlic and process to a thick paste. While the machine is on, slowly pour in a thin stream about 1 cup of the reduced chicken broth until a sauce as thick as Greek yogurt forms; add more broth if necessary. Season the sauce with salt and pepper.

Fold half the walnut sauce into the bowl with the chicken. Add the cilantro and half the ground red pepper. Mound the chicken on a plate, sprinkle the remaining Turkish red pepper all over and spread half the remaining sauce on top.  Garnish with a few whole walnuts and pass the extra walnut sauce at the table.
It isn’t authentically Circassian but you could put the chicken on a bed of arugula for a dazzling presentation.

AND of course you knew there'd be more chickpeas. So here's the easiest one perfect for right now if you are allergic to nuts, or even if not!
Chickpea Mushroom Loaf

serves 4

1 large Portobello mushroom, rinsed and chopped
1 red onion, chopped
1 can chickpeas, rinsed
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese 
2 tsp tomato paste
1 tbsp cumin
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 eggs , beaten
3 tbsp olive oil
¼ c cilantro leaves, chopped
1/2 cup breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 325º. Combine all ingredients except breadcrumbs in a large bowl and mix together. Use a hand blender or a food processor to roughly blend them together (don't create a perfect paste). Then add breadcrumbs, thoroughly blend, and spoon into a greased loaf pan.
  Bake at 325º degrees 45 minutes or until the edges are crispy. Serve hot with barbecue sauce or raita.

Next time: in honor of March St Patrick's Day, the annual eatin' o' the greens!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Warming the heart and stomach

Nothing carries more comfort to the table here in midwinter than an eye popping pot pie. Dig in, steam out. It warms the room and the soul. It's cool on cash. It gives plain food glamour and bulk. It's old fashioned yet gleefully new, a tradition to savor. So here are a few potpie recipes with ingredients good to go right now:

Chili Pot Pie
 serves up to 6

1 lb ground beef
1 med onion, finely chopped
1 med green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 sm poblano pepper, finely chopped
2 c (15oz can) red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
28 0z can whole tomatoes
6 oz tomato paste
3 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
1 sm hot green pepper, seeded and diced
1 tsp chili powder (I like chipotle for the smokiness)
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried sage
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 c red wine vinegar
1 bay leaf
Salt to your taste
2 tbsp corn oil (or more if needed)

for the crust:
6 tbsp unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c + 2 tbsp cornmeal
1 egg white
2 tbsp melted butter
1/2 c milk
2 oz shredded Jack or mild Cheddar cheese

Coat the bottom of a med/lg skillet with the corn oil and get it hot over med heat. Add the onion, bell and poblano peppers. Sauté 5-6 min until soft. Add the beef and garlic. Continue cooking until all the meat is brown. Stir in the kidney beans, tomatoes and paste, spices, Worcestershire sauce and hot pepper. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 1 hour. Add vinegar and salt to your taste. Cover and cook another 1/2 hour.

Meanwhile make the crust: In a small bowl, combine all dry ingredients and blend.
In a med bowl mix together the egg white, melted butter, milk and cheese.
Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet mix until just combined. Do not overblend.

Heat oven to 350º.
Get out a 2 qt ovenproof casserole and fill it evenly with the warm chili. Level the top.
Spread the crust mixture evenly over the top.
Bake at 350º 20 minutes, until the crust is crisp.

New England Clam Pie
for 6
Some put clam chowder into bread, this recipe puts it into a pie!

3  8oz. cans minced clams OR 36 clams in their shell
6 tbsp unsalted butter
6 oz, fresh mushrooms, washed and sliced thin
6 scallions, minced
1/4 c unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp chili powder
Sea salt to your taste
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 c clam broth
1 c evaporated milk (full fat) or half-and-half
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley
3 tbsp pimientos, chopped
Pastry for one crust 9" pie or 3 cups mashed potatoes
1 egg, beaten or 1 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 tsp paprika

If using fresh clams, wash thoroughly and put them in a large pot totally covered with water. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer 10 minutes until all the clams are open. Remove clams from water, saving 1 cup of the cooking water. Remove clams from their shells and cut in half.
   If using canned clams, drain but reserve 1 cup of the broth in the cans. If you don't have enough use a can of clam broth.

In a med/lg skillet, melt the butter. Add the mushrooms and scallions. Sauté 5 minutes until mushrooms are tender. Using a sifter or strainer, carefully stir in the flour. Stir in the celery seed, dried mustard, chili powder, salt and pepper. Now gradually add the clam broth and milk product, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens. Stir in lemon juice, parsley, pimientos and finally the clams. Remove from heat.

Heat oven to 375º.
Pour the clam mixture into a buttered 9" round pie plate that's at least 2" deep.
If using pie crust, roll it out and fit it on top of the pie, crimping and sealing the edges as tightly as you can. Using a fork, cut tiny vent holes in the center. Brush the crust with the beaten egg and shake paprika all over it.
   If using mashed potatoes, carefully spread them across the top of the pie being sure to seal the edges tightly. Chop the butter in bits and distribute evenly over the potatoes, sprinkle with paprika too.
Bake 20-25 min until the pie crust or mashed potatoes are crisp and golden brown.

Root Vegetable and Chickpea Pot Pie
This colorful and nourishing dish is from Veggiyana, the Dharma of Cooking with chickpeas added.

Serves 6

1 lg onion, peeled
1 small rutabaga, peeled and coarsely chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 white turnip, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
3 carrots, peeled and cut crosswise into 1” pieces
1 parsnip, peeled and cut into ½” disks
1 sweet potato, peeled and sliced into thin disks
1 leek, washed and cut into ½” disks
1 sm daikon, peeled and cut into thin disks
1 small celeriac bulb, peeled and coarsely chopped
6 purple or red round potatoes, washed and quartered
1 shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
2” piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
4 lg garlic cloves, peeled and minced
½ tsp ground turmeric (this is a rhizome)
3 tbsp olive or peanut (a ground nut) oil
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp ground chipotle powder or smoked paprika
2 tsp dried marjoram leaves
1 tsp ground coriander (this is the root of the plant)
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1 ½ c vegetable broth or water
½ c chopped tomatoes
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
½ c fresh parsley sprigs, chopped
for the crust
1 cup dried polenta meal
½ cup buttermilk
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp
¼ c grated parmesan, romano or asiago cheese
4 c water
pinch of nutmeg
Slice the onion into thin disks, then slice each disk in half and in half again.

Heat the oil in a large casserole or small soup pot over medium heat.  Add the garlic, ginger, black pepper and turmeric and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the shallot slices, the onion and the leek. Sauté 3-5 minutes until they are soft. (The turmeric will color them.)Stir in the ground coriander, chipotle or smoked paprika and marjoram. Put the remaining root vegetables in the pot. Add the salt and broth or water. Raise heat to a boil. Cover, lower heat to simmer and cook 20 minutes.

Preheat an oven to 350º.  Get out a large deep-dish pie pan.
 In a large saucepan, boil the 4 cups of water and salt. Stir in the polenta and 2 tbsp of butter and stir rapidly to blend, so the polenta doesn’t lump up.  Continue stirring and cooking the polenta for 4-5 minutes, until it starts to release large bubbles.  Remove from heat and stir in the buttermilk. Stir the tomatoes, chickpeas and chopped parsley into the vegetables.

Fill the pie dish with the vegetables and their juice, leaving about ¼” at the top. Using a large kitchen spoon, spoon the polenta over the top to create a crust, up to ½” thick is okay. Be sure to cover the edges and smooth the top. Cut 1 tbsp of butter into tiny pieces and scatter on top of the cooked polenta. Sprinkle on the cheese and the pinch of nutmeg. Put the pie in the center of the oven and put a large cookie sheet on the rack below it to catch any spills.  Cook for 20-30 minutes, until the top vaguely starts to brown and crisp.  Remove and let it cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Greek Island Lamb Pie 
Here's a warm reminder of summer days to come.
serves 6

1 1/2 lb lamb, diced into bite sized pieces
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 c diced Yukon gold potatoes
1 lg onion, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1/4 c flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp crushed dried mint
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb phyllo
1/2 c melted unsalted butter
1/2 c feta cheese
Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 350º.
In a med skillet, melt 1 tbsp butter and brown the lamb in it. Season with salt and pepper.
In a med bowl, combine the cooked lamb with the potatoes, celery, onion, garlic, cinnamon, parsley, mint, feta and olive oil.  Blend well.  
Butter the bottom of an 8x8" or 9x9" square baking pan. Line it with one sheet of phyllo. Brush the dough with melted butter. Repeat this process to get half the box of phyllo in the pan. (6-8 sheets) Pour the mixture into the pan, even and level it. Season with salt to your taste. Cover with two sheets of phyllo and brush melted butter all over the top. Add another sheet of phyllo, brush with butter and continue until all the dough is used up. Brush the top with butter, sprinkle a pinch of cinnamon over it and a pinch of nutmeg. Bake at 350º 1 hour. Allow to cool at least 5 minutes before serving in squares.

British Cottage Pie (meat and potatoes)
serves 6-8

1  9-10" cold pie crust or you can try pizza dough if you roll it thin enough
2 lbs ground sirloin
1 lg yellow onion, chopped
1 pkg frozen peas, rinsed
2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
salt and pepper to your taste
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
6 boiling potatoes (red skin) 
1/2 c milk
1 tbsp unsalted butter
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of paprika

Peel the potatoes, cut into quarters, put in a saucepan and cover with water. Cook until just tender. Drain and put in a large bowl. Add milk and butter and whip or mash until fluffy mashed potatoes. Season with salt and pepper.  

Heat oven to 350º. Butter a 2" deep, 9" wide pie pan. Line it with the pie crust, crimping the edges around the top. 
In a large bowl, mix together the ground sirloin, chopped onion, peas, parsley, Worcestershire sauce, salt and freshly ground black pepper.  (It isn't British but it you want to toss a bit of chili powder in, go ahead.) Fill the pie pan with this mixture, spreading it evenly, and level the top. Using a spatula, spread the mashed potatoes over the top and swirl into a pattern of waves. Sprinkle with nutmeg and paprika. Bake 1 hour.  

Broccoli Cornbread Pie with mushrooms and tomatoes
serves 8

2 onions, chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 lb button or shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and halved
3 garlic cloves, minced
28 ox can plum tomatoes, drained and chopped--reserve the juice!
1/4 c sherry
1-2 bunches broccoli rabe, cleaned and chopped (you'll need 7 cups)
1/4 c pine nuts
for the crust
1 c stoneground cornmeal
1 c unbleached flour
 2 tsp double-acting baking powder 
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 c (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 c milk
1/2 c sour cream
3 tsp honey
1/2 c sharp Cheddar, grated
1 c corn kernels, thoroughly drained

 Heat oven to 400º.
In a large skillet warm the olive oil over low heat. Add the onions and sauté 3-5 min until softened. Add mushrooms and sauté stirring occasionally, until the mushroom liquid has evaporated. Add the pine nuts and brown them. Add the garlic and broccoli, salt and pepper. Cook 2 minutes, then add the sherry, the tomatoes and their juice. Bring to a boil, cover the pot, reduce heat to simmer and cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Strain the liquid and pour the broccoli mixture into an 11 1/2" x8"x2" baking pan. 
Put the liquid into a sauce pan, boil hard to reduce it to 3/4 and pour over the broccoli.

In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Using a wooden spoon, add the eggs, butter, milk, sour cream, honey, corn kernels and Cheddar, stirring just to combine evenly. Spread this batter over the broccoli mixture, leveling the top. Bake 30 minutes at 400º or until a cake tester inserted into the cornbread crust comes out clean.

 There's also of course chicken pot pie--use a whole roast chicken for greatest effect-- and the famous Tourtiere, Quebec pork pie.

Some of these photos are borrowed.