Sunday, October 24, 2010

Green Tomato Pie?

Yes it is exactly that, and it is a sweet pie rather than savory. As odd as it may sound it is really delicious. It is similar to an apple pie in many ways. I followed the recipe from food network with a few exceptions. I omitted the raisins. I like raisins, I just don't typically like them in things. After tasting it tonight I can say they would have brought in nothing else but more sweetness which in my opinion this did not need at all. I also didn't use the pie crust recipe they had as a part of it. It looks like a good recipe but I have a family recipe I love and can make by feel so I don't mess around. If you are like many other people and don't make your own crust go ahead and use your favorite store bought brand. I won't judge. (much)

The taste was really quite unique, it definitely says "hey I'm and apple pie" and then it says "well maybe not quite, I have citrusy flavor and savory quality that is not quite apple" followed but "you really want another bite of me though."

As a way to use up a lot of green tomatoes, readily available this time of year I would definitely encourage you to try this. I am tempted to try dredging the slices in a completely savory spice blend and maybe tossing in some caramelized onions, or leeks or something because the texture was really delicious and I can see it working well as a savory pie.

Great stuff.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Tomatillo Chili with Pork

I was trying to figure out what to do with a mountain of tomatillos and decided the time had come to figure out a way to use them more than a few at a time. Enter green chili , chili verde or Colorado chili as it is also known.
I had heard of green chili but never made it. I knew it was made with pork (always a winner in my book) and a variety of green peppers both hot and not
I figured there had to be a way to make green chili with the abundance of tomatillos so a quick google search later and I found this recipe. A quick peruse of the other entries in the Meathenge repertoire and I was convinced this was going to be good.

I followed the recipe pretty closely other than I really backed down on the hot peppers since Kerrie is not a big fan of heat. In hindsight I should have gone for 5 or 6 poblanos instead of the 3 I had, to really bring the pepper flavor without the heat.

As I was making it and adding stock I was thinking "gee you know a beer would be great in this in lieu of some of the stock" I was right, beer would have been a nice subtle flavor.

As the recipe states it is very busy at the beginning if you follow those steps. I did not find any compelling reason not to get the tomatillos done first, then roasting the poblanos, then starting the pork while the poblanos rest. It was manageable but I don't see it as necessary to do all at once.  The flavor of this dish is outstanding, the tomtatillos have a great tartness and the sweetness of the peppers  really plays off of it nicely.The cumin and onions and chilies give you the traditional chili flavors you expect but at the same time it is something very different.
The pork was fall apart tender after 4 hours or so. We served it over a bed of rice to absorb some of the really fantastic broth. If I had let it simmer with the lid of it would have thickened up nicely and I am sure tomorrow it will be nice and thick and I can try it on a tortilla for lunch.

French Toast with toasted pecans and brie

Both kids have come to the realization that french toast is awesome and we are happy to oblige.

French toast is one of those things that there are a million variations on, I use Alton Browns recipe. It is a bit fussier than many recipes but I think the extra step for allowing the french toast to sit after soaking makes a difference, you really get the custard to soak all the way through making for that crispy outside but creamy in the middle goodness of french toast. For the bread we used Kerrie's oatmeal bread but Alton's recommendations are good as well. We used almost 2 loaves this morning so we can freeze a bunch for the kids breakfasts

For an added treat, when you put the pan cooked french toast onto a cookie sheet to warm in the oven, add a slice of brie to the top, once the brie melts top with some toasted pecans and drizzle with your favorite maple syrup (grade B syrup is my favorite) and serve. The flavor of the brie cuts some of the sweetness and the crunch of the nuts is a great contrast to the overall softness of the dish. We were served french toast with brie at a Bed and Breakfast in Ontario and have been loving it ever since.

Baked greens and beans

I really don't like sauteed greens. They're slimy, and gross me out. However, because they're so nutritious I still try.

We had escarole and turnip greens to use this week and I came across a recipe for baking them. I loved it! They're not that slimy and have a delicious roasted flavor and texture. I think you could use a variety of cooking greens in this recipe.

Clean your greens well, as they can be very sandy and gritty. I just fill the sink with cold water, dump in all the greens and swish them around for a while. Then pick them up from the top where they float (all the grit settles to the bottom), and drain in a colander or salad spinner. Stem and coarsely chop all of them (I probably had a good 8-10 cups of chopped greens).

Meanwhile, heat 1-2 Tbsp olive oil in a pan; cook a few cloves of chopped garlic until fragrant. I think shallots would be good in this too but I didn't have any. Add your greens and cook down for 5 minutes or so. They should still be a pretty bright green. Add a splash each of good white wine or white balsamic vinegar (helps to cut the bitterness of the greens), 1/8 tsp crushed dried rosemary, a dash of salt and some black pepper. Stir in a can of white beans, rinsed and drained, and heat through.

Pour into a 1.5 quart glass baking dish. Sprinkle a handful of whole wheat Panko bread crumbs and a handful of grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, and bake at 375 for 20 minutes or until the topping is browned.

You can serve as a side dish, or with a good crusty bread, or as we did: alone, as a tasty lunch.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Tomato Basil Butter, and some stuff to serve with it.

I just had a bunch of this sauce with my dinner, and as I think of it I still want more. The whole meal was pan seared scallops, broccoli stir fry, potato and parsnip puree, sourdough bread that we picked up at the market today and the sauce, the yummy sauce.

I made this sauce for the first time many years back after tasting it in a restaurant down in Virgina Beach. My friend Tom and I were eating dinner and it was a special on the menu, served on some kind of white steaky fish, mahi or swordfish perhaps.  I don't recall the fish, I know it was well prepared but the sauce was the star of the show. I went on a mission to recreate it. I nailed it pretty well the first time out (if I do say so myself) and have refined it a bit over time.

As with many dishes this recipe is not exact but it should be a good start. This takes a while to cook down. 40 minutes to an hour, however this sauce freezes great so feel free to make it up ahead of time. Just reheat in a pan and finish as described below.

1 stick butter
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 can whole tomatoes
12-14 large basil leaves
kosher salt

Today I varied from this recipe by replacing most of the tomatoes with a few cups of fresh tomato sauce I made previously. I used some fresh whole cherry tomatoes instead of the canned whole tomatoes.

In a large wide saucepan melt 3/4 of the butter. Once the butter has melted start adding the whole tomatoes by grabbing one from the can and crushing it on your hand then repeat. It is pretty therapeutic. If you are using fresh tomatoes slice them into quarters and cook until they soften a bit, about 5 minutes. Add the can of crushed tomatoes (or tomato sauce) stir well then reduce heat and simmer. After about 20 minutes or so take about 10 of the basil leaves and chop them. Add them to the sauce and add a fat pinch of salt. Stir and continue cooking until the whole tomatoes have broken down almost completely. The sauce should be almost smooth.Taste for seasoning. There should not be any raw tomato taste at all and the acidity of the tomatoes and the richness of the butter should balance each other out really well.

To finish the sauce, once the tomatoes have completely broken down chiffonade the last of the basil add the remaining butter to the pan, once the butter has melted toss in the basil and turn off the heat. Serve immediately on top of your food of choice.

Today that food of choice was pan seared scallops. There are about 95,200 recipes for pan seared scallops on the Internet. They all follow a similar format, for simplicities sake I usually go to Alton Brown
If you have not experienced the joy of a "Dry" scallop yet I encourage you to do so. If you like scallops already then I can assure you that you will never want to go back to the scallops you have known and loved. They just have the very essence of scallop.

Drizzle some of the tomato basil butter sauce on some seared scallops and you are in for a treat. It is also great on swordfish, mahi mahi, cod, haddock or any nice firm fish. 

I wanted to do some kind of a puree to work with the scallops and the sauce.I had turnips in the house, Kerrie is not a big turnip fan so I was going to do potatoes instead until we went to the market today and saw parsnips. Parsnips or one of my favorite vegetables, they are versatile as heck. Anyplace you might use a carrot you can replace with a parsnip. However comparing them to carrots just does not do them justice, they have a nutty earthy flavor that balances the sweetness of the parsnips. I love them pan roasted or roasted in the oven with chicken or beef, or pork any thing that you want to slow roast in the oven. For a puree you will need

3 medium sized parsnips
1 large potato
kosher salt
black pepper

Cut the parsnips parsnips and potatoes into 1 inch pieces then place in a pot and cover with enough water to cover them by an inch or so. Add a pinch of salt and turn on the heat. Once they come to a boil reduce heat and simmer until the vegetables are soft. Drain the vegetables and put them pack into the pot. Add about 1/2 cup of milk and 2 Tbsp of butter. The use a stick blender or hand blender to break them down. After they are smashed but not smooth, add some salt and pepper to taste. Then finish blending until smooth.

Add a mound of your puree to the plate, lay the seared scallops on top and drizzle with the tomato basil butter sauce. Tasty stuff.

All of the components for this dish are really versatile and I encourage you to try the sauce with different kinds of fish or even as a pasta sauce. Try the puree instead of mashed potatoes with a roast and you can do anything with seared scallops.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Oatmeal Bread, or French Toast Bread

Usually I just go ahead and call it "French Toast Bread" because while it's delicious by itself, it makes AMAZING French Toast the next day.

I got this recipe from my friend Jill a few years ago and it's still a favorite.

I use molasses instead of honey, as it provides a great flavor and dark color. You could also use maple syrup. Just don't use white sugar, that's way too boring. :)

2 cups boiling water (I like to use milk, just for some added nutrition)
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons salt
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
4 cups bread flour

2 tablespoons honey, warmed slightly
2 tablespoons rolled oats


In a large mixing bowl, combine boiling water, oats, 1/2 cup honey, butter and salt. Let stand for 1 hour.
In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
Pour the yeast mixture into the oat mixture. Add 2 cups of flour; mix well. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 20 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into two equal pieces and form into loaves. Place the loaves into two lightly greased 9x5 inch loaf pans. Cover the loaves with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for about 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Remove loaves from pans, brush tops of loaves with 2 tablespoons honey and sprinkle with oats.

To make it into French toast, slice it the night before and let it get stale. It's going to break my heart, but it must be done.

French toast recipe tomorrow!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Baked Cauliflower and Broccoli Cannelloni

We got turned on to this Baked Cauliflower and Broccoli Cannelloni recipe last year from our CSA and were excited to have the right produce and the cooler weather to bake this really incredible dish.

We made a couple of substitutions from the original recipe.Mostly done for ease.

First off we used sour cream instead of creme fraiche,  I know they are not really the same but I can always find sour cream even at our little tiny Wegmans so we substitute them a lot.

The other is with the cannelloni tubes themselves. I can't bring myself to buy store bought manicotti shells or cannelloni shells, not when they are so darned easy to make. I had to look up what the difference truly is between the two other than manictti is usually stuffed with cheese and cannelloni is usually seen with meat.
This explains it really well. Apparently I have been making crespelle my whole life and I am OK with that. Crespelle are fantastic.

So on to the recipe. Really the pan is the key. I keep a pan around that I don't use for anything but crepes. I don't use a traditional specialized crepe pan, I've never owned one so I can't compare them. I use an 8 inch non stick frying pan with a very heavy bottom. You will need

3 eggs
1 cup flour
1 1/4 cups water

Whisk together all three ingredients and set aside.

Heat up your frying pan and spread a very thin layer of butter on the bottom. I just run a stick of butter around the hot pan. This is where practice comes in, put one hand on the handle of the pan and pour in somewhere between a 1/4 and 1/3 of a cup of batter with the other. I use a 1/3 cup measuring cup not filled to the top. As you pour you want to swirl the batter around in the pan until the bottom of the pan is covered. Don't worry if you have some little holes in the crepe. The crepe will be done when the batter fully sets and the edges just start to pull away from the side of the pan. Then flop the crepe out onto a clean kitchen towel and return the pan to the heat. There is no need for more butter after the first one, just keep repeating one at a time until the batter is gone. This recipe covers a 9 x 13 baking dish with no trouble.

Using these hand made crepes saves you the trouble of having to let the filling cool all the way and you don't have to use a piping bag. you can just spoon in the filling and fold over, lay them seam side down in the pan. and proceed with the recipe as normal.
I can't tell you how tasty this cannelloni is. The fresh basil really makes the dish, though last year we used fresh sage instead with equally delicious result. If you are squeamish about anchovies, well, get over it. In a dish like this they melt and disappear leaving behind nothing but a briny flavor that really adds depth to the dish.

If you want to make my family version of manicotti you can find the recipe here