Thursday, February 25, 2010

Spinach Risotto with JG's Tangy Tomatoes

I don't know that this is the best thrown-together meal I've ever had in my entire life, but it's definitely up there. This hot mess is comprised of earthy spinach [brown rice] risotto, tangy vermouth-glazed tomatoes and onions, crispy kale leaves, and a perfectly fried egg. Any of these are tasty by themselves, but the combination is killer.
You have no idea what this tastes like. I had no idea what it would taste like until it was in my mouth... it's really, reeeeally good. It does get a couple bowls, 3 pans and a baking sheet dirty, but it's totally worth it. [Methodology is in the header notes after the jump.]

Recipes: Spinach Risotto and JG's Tangy Tomatoes
Start with the risotto. Do the tomatoes while the rice is cooking and the kale once the tomatoes are finished. Scatter kale on a plate, mound risotto and then tomatoes, and then, once everything else is ready, fry up the eggs and place on top. JG always fries the eggs; I have no idea how he makes them so perfectly.

Spinach Risotto

1 recipe Brown Rice Risotto
1 lb block of frozen chopped spinach
1/2cup frozen lima beans (or edamame, different but good)

Thaw spinach in microwave or on stove. Save as much liquid as possible, pressing the greens into a strainer over a bowl. Include the spinach juice in the cooking liquid.
Add 1/2cup frozen lima beans to the onions at the beginning. Stir in thawed spinach at the end with the cheese, make sure rice is back to near boil before removing from heat.

JG's Tangy Tomatoes

olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced pole to pole in 1/8th" strips
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes sliced in half, pole to pole
1/2 cup vermouth (divided use)
1/t tsp ground coriander
salt and pepper

Sautee onions with ~1/4 tsp salt over medium high heat until just translucent. Add tomatoes, coriander and 1/4 cup vermouth and reduce heat to a simmer, stirring occasionally and adding a splash or two at a time to keep the pan from going dry, reserving a tablespoon for the end. Cook until tomatoes are soft and pan liquids are viscous. Adjust salt, add pepper and final splash, stir, and turn off heat.

Crispy Kale

3 leaves of kale, ribs removed and torn into ~1 1/5" pieces
spray oil
salt and pepper

Heat oven to 500F. [I use my toaster oven for this] Line a small baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with oil. Spread kale pieces in a single layer on pan. Spray with oil, the sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake ~3 minutes or until sizzle-y and edges are beginning to brown.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Whole Grain Almond-Poppyseed Biscotti

I'd drinking too much coffee so I switched to tea for a while, but my mexican chocolate biscotti just don't pair as well. I really love a dipping cookie with my steamy mug in the morning, so I needed a worthy substitute for my go-to chocolate.
I was trying to think of a less staid version of almond biscotti when the almond-poppyseed muffins of my youth popped into my head. They were from a box mix and were always cooked in a circular ring mold on top of a Coleman campstove -- my mom didn't make box muffins at home but my dad usually made breakfast for everyone when we were camping. He'd have a few flavors to chose from, but if I got to pick I always went for almond-poppyseed. You may not be as familiar with this combo as you are with almond/lemon, but these biscotti should make a tasty introduction.

Recipe: Whole-Grain Almond Biscotti
You can use 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract in lieu of Amaretto. I only had one tablespoon of poppy seeds left, but I wanted more and the recipe reflects my desired amount. You can also omit them for straight almond goodness. You can sub whole wheat pastry flour for half or all-purpose flour for all, if you choose.

1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 T Amaretto

1 cup white whole wheat
1 cup oat flour
1/2 c toasted or dry roasted almonds, coarsely chopped
2 T poppy seeds
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Line or grease a baking sheet and set aside. Beat wet ingredients just until frothy [don't go to ribbon stage]. Add all dry ingredients and mix until evenly combined with no flour pockets. [It's half oat flour so it won't get tough.] Scrape bowl into two roughly even logs on the baking sheet [this stuff is sticky, don't add more flour], wet your hands, and pat into shape.
Bake 35 minutes or until cracks form on the surface. Reduce oven to 325F and cool logs on a rack ~10 minutes.

Slice into logs on a diagonal, being careful the length of your biscotti doesn't exceed the height of the jar in which you intend to store them. Lay cut side up on the cooling rack [It's a ventilated baking sheet !] and bake for another 20 minutes.
[You can also bake them on a normal sheet, but you'll need to flip them after 10 minutes.]
Cool completely before storing.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Everyone's got snow pictures now...

... and here's another one.JG took this from our kitchen window. I really like the snow tracks in the lamplight. I think I like snow, period.

Who'd've thought?

Clicking on the image will give you a better view.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Simple Trick for Better Pasta

I heartily recommend throwing a bay leaf in your next pot of pasta water. [1 per lb of pasta, remove after draining.] It lends an extra savory note in a "Wow! This sauce is better than I remember it being!" sort of way. See for yourself.
I won't make you eat whole-wheat pasta if you don't want to [even though I think food with actual flavor and texture is vastly superior].

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Cannellini Dip

Need a quick dip for your Superbowl party? This one's a tasty variation on bean dip that pairs equally well with chips or veggie spears... and takes about two minutes to make.

It's based on an appetizer JG and I had at a restaurant in the North End. The bartender called it a white bean-tomato dip and it was served warm with crusty bread. I made mine a bit thicker and limited the seasonings to garlic and black pepper so it'll be a more versatile party dip

Recipe: Cannellini Dip
The stock adds complexity, but you can substitute the liquid from the canned beans.

1 32oz can cannellini beans, drained (aka white kidney beans, Great Northerns or Navy beans would work, too)
1 6oz can tomato paste
3 cloves garlic
1/3 cup chicken stock
1/4 tsp salt

1/3 cup high quality olive oil
2 tsp cracked black pepper
In a food processor or blender, puree beans, tomato paste, garlic, stock, and salt until smooth. Slowly pour in olive oil. [Start with a dribble, never pour faster than a thin stream. Once oil is incorporated and emulsified, adjust salt to taste, add black pepper and pulse to combine.
Transfer to a bowl and serve; refrigerate any leftovers.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Leftover Frittata

The frittata is a very versatile dish and is equally good for a leisurely breakfast or a quick dinner. [It does require a brief encounter with the oven.] You can saute onions and veggies or meat -- whatever you'd put in an omlette or quiche -- specifically for the frittata, but its greatest glory is its ability to transform leftovers just by dumping beaten eggs over the top and baking it off. The frittata method also allows for a much higher ratio of filling to egg than an omlette or scrambled-eggs-with-X... and any leftover frittata can be eaten cold like a slice of pizza. I intentionally make enough to have leftovers of my leftovers so I can enjoy them one last time. See?
This particular frittata used about a cup and a half of a hearty diced turkey breast stewed with squash, roasted bell peppers, and tomatoes [sorry, no pictures], but it works just as well with a leftover veggie medley [succotash frittata is a personal favorite] or even plain old steamed broccoli.

Recipe: Leftover Frittata
If using raw meat or veggies for a non-leftover version, turn heat a little lower and cook completely before adding eggs. I prefer to use a smaller cast iron pan that fits in my toaster oven, but you can use a standard 10-inch skillet as well. [Make sure you have a non-melting cutting board big enough to flip the skillet onto before you get started.]

1 tbs olive oil
1 1/2 cups meat and/or veggie leftovers
6 eggs
~1 oz shredded , crumbled, or cubed cheese [optional]
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 350F. Dice/ chop leftovers into smaller cubes, strips, or wedges, ~ 1/4" to 12" thick. Crack eggs into a medium bowl and briefly whisk with a fork. Stir in salt, pepper, and cheese [if using] and set near stove. Heat oil in a well seasoned cast iron or non-stick skillet over medium high heat and add leftovers, stirring occasionally, until pieces are heated through and begin to brown, ~2 minutes. Spread contents as evenly as possible around the skillet. Pour in eggs all at once and DO NOT STIR. Run a spatula around the edges, pulling the cooked edges in and tipping the pan to let the raw egg fill the gap. Transfer to the oven and bake until opaque on top ~3-5 minutes. [If you use cheese, it often rises to the top and makes it look a little runny. If you shake the pan and it doesn't slosh around on top, it's set.] Using oven gloves, place a wooden cutting board over the pan and flip both over. Let it cool for a minute, then slice into wedges. Refrigerate any leftovers.