Friday, June 24, 2011

stuffed portobello mushrooms

Stuffed mushrooms are infinitely variable and they're great for using up odds and ends of everything you don't really have enough to do anything with in the fridge. Eg: I had kale and shredded cheddar leftover from last night's colcannon, half a red onion I needed to use up, and about half a cup of panko bread crumbs and some bulk pork sausage hanging around. I browned the sausage in a small pan, drained it, and tossed it in a bowl. I squeezed the excess water out of the kale and chopped it, and added it along with a handful of cheese to the bowl. In went the chopped half a red onion and the bread crumbs, I gave it all a couple tosses with my hands to combine, and then smooshed it all into / onto two big portobello mushroom caps (I pulled the stems out and scraped the black gills out with a spoon - this keeps them from getting really watery and mushy and gross). I set them on a foil-lined cookie sheet lightly rubbed with olive oil, and baked them in a 425 degree oven for 20 minutes.


The panko bread crumbs combined with the cheese made for a really nice crunchy crust but the filling underneath stayed moist. The sausage gave a nice little fatty, salty kick to the greens and the onions softened and mellowed nicely. All in all, not bad for just throwing everything in the fridge into a bowl and seeing what happened.


Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish made of mashed potatoes and kale or cabbage. Often onion and some cheese is added, as well. I decided that I'd make mine extra fancy and add some linguica sausage. It became sort of a crazy Irish / Portuguese fusion much of the state of Massachusetts! :D

This was a great use of leftover mashed potatoes and kale. It was fast and tasty and while probably not terribly healthy, it definitely did give us a couple servings of kale apiece, which (as fervently as my husband may try to deny it) is never a bad thing. It also made stellar leftovers for lunch.

Note: Measurements on the recipe are very approximate, as I was totally making it up as I went along. As usual. ;)

Colcannon with Linguica

1 lb mashed potatoes
3/4 lb kale
1/2 lb linguica sausage, diced
two big handfuls shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 bunch of green onions, finely chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten

Rinse kale, trim off stems, roughly chop. Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil and submerge kale (you'll have to use a spoon to really push it down because it likes to float) in boiling water for 2 minutes. Dump kale in a colander and let drain while you ready the rest of the ingredients.

In a large bowl, combine mashed potatoes, cheese, chopped green onions, diced sausage, and egg. Mix this to a uniform consistency.

When kale has cooled enough to handle, pick it up out of the colander and squeeze as much of the moisture out of it as you can...and there will be a LOT, so keep squeezing. When you can't squeeze much more water out of it, add it to the potato mixture and stir to combine.

Heat a cast-iron or heavy-bottomed pan on medium heat. Add potato mixture and cook, stirring frequently, until hot through. Serve!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

asian cucumber salad with seared flank steak

The recipe for this salad came from Mark's Daily Apple. I wanted lots of veggies but not another lettuce-based salad, and this totally delivered. It's super easy to make, pretty inexpensive if you already have stuff like sesame oil and rice vinegar on hand, and it's super tasty. The recipe calls for black sesame seeds but I couldn't find any, so I just toasted some white ones and it worked fine.

For meat to go with the salad, I wanted to stay kind of in the same flavor area, so I got some flank steak, brushed it with some hoisin sauce, and let it marinate for a while. When I was ready to cook, I preheated the oven to 450, then I got a pan ripping hot and seared the meat off for 1.5 minutes per side. The meat came out of the pan and onto a foil-covered cookie sheet in the hot oven, where it cooked for about 7 more minutes, total. The result was flank steak with a nice sear outside, still mostly rare in the middle, with a nice smoky hoisin crust.

I topped the meat with a little more hoisin, some chopped scallions, and served it alongside a big pile of the cucumber salad.


a perfect carrot cupcake

Just for me...I MEAN, you. :D

I've talked about carrot cake on here before, usually for birthday cakes. It is undoubtedly my family's favorite. I've been using the same recipe from an old Better Homes and Gardens cookbook (the first cookbook I ever got. My dad got it for me for Christmas one year) for years. Lately though, I've been playing with the recipe a little, just to see what I can get away with, basically. I can't ever leave well enough alone. For example:

- The original recipe calls for a cup of vegetable oil. I started substituting half of that with plain low-fat yogurt a couple years ago, and I've now stopped using vegetable oil and switched over to coconut oil (far healthier, and better for the environment to boot!),

- The original recipe calls for a teaspoon of cinnamon and no other spices. I now use a tablespoon of cinnamon (which might be partially because I'm using store-brand cheapo stuff and it's pretty weak), plus ground ginger, cloves, and nutmeg,

- The original recipe calls for a whopping 2 cups of sugar! I've been going more and more scant on the 2nd cup of sugar the last few times I've used the recipe and never had any trouble.

This time, I decided to really monkey around and cut half a cup of sugar out. Not only did it not even remotely effect the texture of the cake (as I feared it might), but it actually made the whole thing more balanced, taste-wise. It wasn't a super-sweet cake with super-sweet frosting anymore. It was a spicy cake with a little sweetness and a cloud of tangy-but-sweet cream cheese frosting on top.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

antipasto salad

You know that limp, salty, overly vinegary antipasto salad you get at the local deli counter? It's really easy to make your own and it's like 100 times tastier than something that's been sitting around a deli case for days. So, why don't you try it? Enjoy it with a big glass of red wine and a nice slab of semolina bread to sop up the juices, toss it with cooked pasta, or even just enjoy it as-is, as a nice first course to an Italian meal. Or, you can scoop it onto a bed of romaine like I did!

For mine, I combined the following:

2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
4 tsp good extra virgin olive oil (the more peppery, the better)
3 jarred roasted red peppers, roughly chopped
8 marinated artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
8 kalamata olives (not really Italian, I know, but it's what I had in stock), pitted and chopped
2 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, diced
half of a small red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 lb of thinly sliced hard (Genoa) salami, cut into quarters
a couple shakes of black pepper

I tossed this all in a big bowl to combine, then spooned some of it over a bed of nice crisp romaine lettuce. It's SO much better than the deli stuff, I promise you! It actually tastes like, you know, artichokes and red peppers and salami, not just salt and vinegar.

stuffed zucchini

Zucchini, like rhubarb, is another omnipresent summer produce item in New England. Zucchini grows so quickly and gets so huge that it's often impossible to use up all the zukes that one's garden produces in a summer. This leads to the time-honored small-town tradition of The Gifting Of The Squash. It starts with a co-worker or family member announcing that they have a zucchini surplus and would be happy to share. You might offer to take a couple but they'll give you half a dozen. It will eventually progress to the point where your friends and neighbors stop offering the surplus - you'll just find mysterious zucchini waiting for you on your porch when you come home at night or in your car at the end of the work day. And not one or two at a time, either. We're talking plastic shopping bags full. Ask any New Englander you know. I'm willing to bet they've experienced the Gifting Of The Squash phenomenon, or know someone who has!

At the risk of amassing a large pile of gifted squash this summer, I will publicly admit that I enjoy the hell out of zucchini. I like it boiled, steamed, mashed, stir-fried, au gratin'ed, incorporated into bread and cake, pickled, you name it. Stuffing it like this is one of my favorite preparations, and it's super simple to do.

For this batch, I took 4 smallish zukes, halved them lengthwise, and scraped the seeds out with a spoon to make "boats". The filling was comprised of 8 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped fairly small, a couple teaspoons of white wine vinegar, 5-6 stems worth of fresh thyme leaves stripped off the stems, and 3 links of sweet Italian sausage that I browned beforehand. I spooned the stuffing into the zucchini boats and baked them at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes, then removed the pan from the oven and turned the broiler on. I sliced some fresh mozzarella cheese and laid it on top of the baked zukes, then put the pan under the broiler for about 5 minutes until the cheese was nicely browned and bubbly. The finished product looked like this:

The bland squash makes a perfect vehicle for the combination of salty, creamy, cheesy, meaty and acidic stuffing. It was easily as good for lunch the next day as it was straight out of the oven. It would also be veg-friendly if you omitted the sausage...but I don't understand why anyone would want to do that, really. ;)

rhubarb berry pie

Rhubarb has factored heavily in my summer eats as far back as I can remember - rhubarb pie, rhubarb cake, rhubarb sauce, rhubarb compote, rhubarb conserves. Maybe it's just a Vermont thing, I don't know...but rhubarb seems omnipresent around here in the summer. Thus, summer officially arrives for me when I get the first call from my dad that the rhubarb is ready to cut!

This pie is actually my dad's idea. The first time he added blueberries to a rhubarb pie, I thought he'd done lost his mind, but it was SO. GOOD. Now berry-rhubarb pie is my favorite! I've never actually measured anything except the sugar in this "recipe". I basically just peel and chop what looks like 2.5 cups of rhubarb, add about a cup of frozen mixed berries, add about 3/4 of a cup of granulated sugar (you may want to use more - I like my pie pretty tangy), 2 Tbsp of flour, and toss to combine. I dump it into a prepared, docked pie crust (no, I don't make pie crust from scratch. It's one of the few things I've decided is more of a pain in the ass to make at home than it's worth. HAH!), then roll out a top crust and use cookie cutters to cut some decorations out. The top crust goes on, the edges get crimped, the decorations get stuck on, and the whole thing gets brushed with a beaten egg and sprinkled with a little bit of granulated sugar, and it goes into the oven for about 45 minutes.

herbed chicken breast and sauteed kale

Pretty simple, really. I took boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, rubbed them with a little olive oil and sprinkled them with black pepper, dried rosemary, and dried thyme. They went into a 425 degree oven for about 25 minutes. Meanwhile, I washed a big bunch of kale, trimmed the stems off and cut into bite-sized pieces. In a large pot, I browned a little bit of chopped bacon. Once it was crisp, I removed it and added a chopped Vidalia onion. The onion cooked until it was softened somewhat, then I removed it and set it aside, and added the kale, tossing well to coat. I added about a half cup of low-sodium chicken stock, covered the pot and let the kale cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. When the kale was almost tender, I added the onion and bacon back in and cooked for another couple of minutes, then removed from heat and tossed with a splash of apple cider vinegar before serving.

leeky potato salad

We don't eat potatoes that often anymore, but I had a wicked potato salad craving last night (to go with my T-bone steak that was super on sale...score!), so I found a recipe in my latest issue of "Real Food" magazine (it's the little Martha Stewart one) and it was fantastic, semi-healthy, and the (unaltered) recipe is veg-friendly to boot! Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to take a picture of it because a) I was drunk and b) I was hungry. Sorry about that...;)

Anyway, here's the recipe as it was in the magazine:

2lb red potatoes, washed and chunked (bite-sized pieces, or quartered / halved if you're using little potatoes)
1 bunch leeks (about 2lbs, white and light green parts only)
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup or so of roughly chopped parsley

Boil potatoes in salted water for about 15 min or until tender. Trim leeks and split length-wise, cut into 3/4 inch chunks, rinse well. When potatoes are cooked, remove from boiling water with a slotted spoon and drain. Meanwhile, add rinsed leeks to the boiling water and let boil for about 10 min or until tender. When leeks are done, remove with slotted spoon, drain a little, then transfer to a blender. Add mustard, oil, vinegar, and a little of the water. Blend until smooth, adding water to thin if necessary. Pour warm dressing over potatoes, add chopped parsley, and toss to combine. Serve warm or room-temp.

Now...two things happened while I was making this. The first was that I somehow ended up with cilantro rather than parsley, so I skipped that. The second was that, as previously mentioned, I had been drinking wine since I started cooking. In my inebriated state I had a mini-epiphany and decided to crisp up some bacon and crumble that into the salad as well. The result reaffirmed yet again my personal mantra that Bacon Makes Everything Better.

Also, I would point out that unless you drain the ever loving crap out of the leeks once they're cooked, you likely won't need anywhere near the amount of water the recipe calls for. I used 1/4 cup and my dressing was quite thin. Next time I'll start with no additional water and just eyeball whether or not the dressing needs thinning once it's been blended.

And just to prove that it's not just a merlot-induced memory, I'm having the leftover salad for lunch today (sadly not drunk), and it's still REALLY friggin' good. In fact, I warmed it up a little in the microwave and added a packet of tuna packed in olive oil to it, and my mouth is very happy.