Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sauteed Whitefish with Spiced Orzo with mixed vegetables

A few days ago - maybe a week - someone on one of the cooking boards I frequent asked "What is the purpose of your blog."

Well, mine is being embodied right now - turning out fantastic meals using off the cuff cooking.

Right now I'm in a condo in Daytona Beach on vacation. We're having a night in rather than eating out and taking advantage of all of the wonderful fresh seafood. However, I'm cooking in a kitchen with:
  • no real chopping blocks - there is one that's being used for decoration and to chop limes for drinks....
  • no knives
  • no measuring cups or spoons
  • no grill
  • non-stick cookware (not exactly the best for making pan sauces...which would be my pick after the "no grill" situation)
  • a highly limited spice collection (we ADDED basil, garlic, ginger and cumin to make things at least palatable)
The first two would probably be enough to send most cooks to the phone for delivery - no chopping block and no knives? Well screw that! The rest are inconveniences - to be worked around. I managed to find a steak knife in a drawer, so I'm using that to chop for now (I did tell The Spouse, however, that, if he wants mushroom risotto, we're buying a basic chef's knife and chopping block). And I determined that the plastic cups we've been using for wine (since their crystal still has stickers on them....a la "for display only") hold about 7 oz to the top by pouring a small sample bottle of wine into one (small bottle of wine is 187mL, which is 6 1/3 cup and it went to about 1/2 inch from the top).

And yet - and yet - dinner tonight, without any of the accouterments of proper cooking, was delicious. The fish was perfectly done, the orzo flavorful and tender yet not mushy. The Spouse gave it an unofficial rating of "This is delicious, babe."

THAT is what this blog is about - great food under duress.

Sauteed Whitefish with Spiced Orzo with mixed vegetables

1/2 lb whitefish (such as tilapia)
1/2 oz lime juice (or the juice of 1/2 lime)
salt, pepper, cumin

olive oil
1 shallot, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
chile powder

olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup orzo
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup water
dash of red wine
1 pkg "southwestern" mixed vegetables (corn, red and green peppers)
salt, pepper, chile powder, cumin

For Fish: Place fish in a non-reactive container. Sprinkle both sides with lime juice, salt, pepper and cumin. Let marinade 2 hours, turning once. Heat skillet over medium heat. Spray with non-stick cooking spray, add 1 tsp olive oil. Add garlic and shallots and cook until soft. Add in fish, sprinkle with chile powder, and cook 3 minutes, flipping halfway thru. Plate and serve immediately.

For Orzo: Heat non-stick skillet. Add olive oil. Sautee garlic until lightly browned. Add orzo and sautee until orzo is lightly browned and fragrant. Add in chicken broth, water and red wine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover; cook until done (about 15-20 minutes). Add in vegetable and spices to taste, stirring until vegetables are warmed thru. Serve with fish.

Wine pairing: We had this with Domaine Laureau Savennieres Cuvee de Genets 2000, a wine we found at a shop down here. It was beautiful with the delicate flavor of the fish and the spices added in.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Lavender Chicken Chili with White Beans

I made this last night for the in-laws. Delish! A great, hearty meal on a cold fall day.

Lavender Chicken Chili with White Beans

1 lb great northern beans, rinsed and picked over
2 tbsp olive oil
2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced
2 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 lb ground turkey
2 jalapeƱo, seeded and diced
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp lavender
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp savory
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
dash of chipotle powder
6 cups chicken broth (or 3 cups chicken stock & 3 cups water)
3 cups grated White Cheddar cheese, divided
salt and pepper to taste

Place beans in a large bowl. Add enough cold water so they're covered by 3 inches. Let soak overnight.

Heat a large stock pot over medium heat. Add olive oil and warm thru. Add onion and garlic, sauteeing 2 minutes until fragrant. Add in ground chicken and brown, about 5 minutes. Add diced chicken breasts and continue sauteeing, browning the chicken on all sides, about another 5 minutes. Add in jalapeno, cumin and spices thru chipotle powder and stir to combine. Sautee for another 2 minutes.

Drain the beans and add to the pot. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Remove lid and simmer another hour or more, stirring occasionally, until beans are very tender and the chili has thickened. Season with salt and pepper.

Prior to serving, stir in 1 cup of the cheddar cheese, stirring until melted. Ladle into bowls and serve with various garnishes (remaining cheese, cilantro, salsa, lime wedges, etc.).

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Daube de Boeuf

The Spouse wanted beef stew for dinner. We had initially planned on just crocking it but someone forgot to pick up the beef in time. So, rather than trot out the boring old recipe, I thought a fancier twist would be nice. I served this with Buttermilk Drop Biscuits, the better to soak up all the delicious broth

Daube de Boeuf

2 teaspoons olive oil
12 garlic cloves, crushed
1 (3-pound) boneless chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 2-inch cubes
1 1/2 teaspoons lavender salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 cup red wine
2 cups chopped carrot
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1/2 cup less-sodium beef broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
Dash of ground cloves
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf

Heat large stock pot over medium heat. Add oil and heat thru. Add garlic and sautee 5 minutes until gently browned and fragarant. Add beef, sprinkle with 1/2 tsp lavender salt and 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper. Sautee another 5 minutes, browning on all sides.

Add wine, remaining salt and pepper, plus remaining ingredients (thru bay leaf). Stir to combine thoroughly and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low, simmering for 2 hours or until beef is tender. Discard bay leaf. Serve immediately.

Wine Pairing: If you can find one without taking a second mortgage out on your house, pair with a nice burgundy. Otherwise, a rhone-style wine should pair well.

Buttermilk Drop Biscuits

I made these 2 years ago for Thanksgiving and they were quite a hit.

Buttermilk Drop Biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
4-5 tbsp butter
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400.

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cut in butter until flour resembles crumbs. Using a wooden spoon, mix in buttermilk until combined.

Line a baking sheet with parchment. Drop heaping tablespoons of the batter onto parchment. Bake at 400 for 12-15 minutes or until biscuits are done (insert a toothpick to test).

Sukuma Wiki

This is a dish I "got" from my sister. At the beginning of the summer I gave her a bunch of collards and kale, which she said she'd turn into Sukuma Wiki. It's a staple in Kenya, where she and her husband served in the Peace Corps. Literally translated, sukuma wiki means "stretch the week".

I asked what all went in it and she said "Take a bunch of greens, a chile or two, some tomatoes, some other things and stew it all day long." Recipes aren't quite as accurate when you have to make due with what you've got.

I just finished harvesting the last of the collards today, so I've got this going in the crockpot.

Sukuma Wiki

12 large collard leaves
1 onion, chopped
1 green chile, seeded and minced
4-5 tomatoes, cored, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 cup water
salt and pepper to taste

Remove the stems from the collards. Chiffonade the greens.

Combine all ingredients in a crock pot or stock pot. Turn heat to low and let stew several hours or until greens are tender.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Black Bean and Artichoke Burritos

Quick and easy vegetarian dinner.

Black Bean and Artichoke Burritos

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 can artichoke hearts, coarsely chopped
1 pkg fajita seasoning
1/4 cup water

Heat skillet over medium heat. Add black beans to pan and sautee, stirring frequently, until beans begin to take on the texture of refried beans. Move beans to one side of the pan. Add olive oil to pan and heat thru. Add onions and garlic and sautee until soft, about 5 minutes. Combine onions with beans and add in artichoke hearts. Sautee 3 minutes until artichoke hearts become aromatic. Add fajita seasoning and water, stir to combine with veggies. Bring to a boil then reduce heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until water is boiled off. Serve immediately with cheese, salsa and other garnishes as desired.

Asian-Spiced Tilapia with Stir-Fry Veggies

Admittedly, the stir-fry veggies are a cheat - they're frozen ones in a bag. I know, I know. But it was still tasty.

Asian-Spiced Tilapia with Stir-Fry Veggies

4 tilapia filets
1/2 tsp chinese five-spice powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

1/4 cup soy sauce
dash of mirin
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 tsp garlic
1/4 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp wasabe powder
1 pkg frozen stir-fry veggies

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Spray with cooking spray and add 1/2 tbsp olive oil.

Mix together the five-spice powder, salt, pepper, and sprinke both sides of the tilapia filets with the mixture. Add to pan and sautee 1 minute each side. Remove fish from pan; keep warm.

Mix together soy sauce, mirin and chicken broth. Add to pan and whisk, loosening the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add spices and whisk more to combine. Add veggies and stir, coating them thoroughly in the sauce. Let cook about 5 minutes. Add fish on top of veggies and continue to cook, about 10 minutes, until fish is done. Plate and serve immediately.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Lavender Chicken Breasts in Champagne Sauce

It seems to me that so many people don't cook with champagne enough. Maybe it's the concept that champagne should only be uncorked to celebrate.

IMO, any day is a good day to have champagne. Why wait for New Years Eve or a wedding? Champagne is actually a wonderful wine to cook with and to pair food with. It's excellent with tapas, fried foods (think egg rolls), a variety of seafood and chicken dishes and sushi!

Which is why it really shines in this dish. A light sauce, chicken delicately seasoned and prepared, and mushrooms (mushrooms and champagne are classic pairing). It's based off of a recipe from The Lavender Cookbook, though I didn't quite follow all instructions. I paired it with Mushroom Risotto.

Lavender Chicken Breasts in Champagne Sauce

1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried lavender
sea salt
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1/2 tbsp evoo
2 tbsp butter
1 cup thinly sliced button mushrooms
1/4 cup shallot, minced
1/4 cup Champagne
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 tbsp chicken stock (not broth!)

Combine the herbs in a pestle and grind with mortar until aromatic. Combine with lemon juice in a bag, add chicken breasts and marinade for 20 minutes. Discard marinade.

Heat skillet over medium heat. Add in olive oil and butter and heat until butter is melted. Add chicken breasts and brown on both sides, about 7 minutes. Remove chicken from skillet and keep warm.

Add the mushrooms and shallot to skillet. Sautee for 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the Champagne, broth and stock. Simmer for 10 minutes. Return chicken to skillet and simmer for 15 minutes or until chicken is done.

Wine Pairing: Champagne, of course!

Mushroom Risotto

I don't make risotto as often as I'd like to since I don't like to do a lot of cooking that requires constant supervision. But, once in a while I get the itch.

Mushroom Risotto

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely diced
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
1 tsp saffron
4 cups hot chicken stock
8 oz mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Heat skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and butter and cook until butter is melted. Add in onion and sautee until onion is lightly browned. Add rice and sautee until translucent. Add wine to pan, stirring constantly until absorbed. Combine saffron and 1 cup chicken stock. Add stock mixture to pan, stirring constantly until absorbed.

Continue adding liquid in 1/2 cup intervals until rice is al dente. When rice is nearly done, add in mushrooms and stir until well integrated with the rice. Add in parmesan cheese, stirring constantly until completely incorporated to the rice. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Andouille Pizza

The combination of the roasted tomato and pepper sauce, spicy andouille and fontina cheese was exquisite! This would also be excellent grilled (it was pouring tonight).

Andouille Pizza

whole wheat pizza dough

1 cup roasted tomato and pepper sauce
1/4 lb fontina cheese, shredded
1/4 lb mozzarella cheese, shredded
6 oz andouille sausage, sliced 1/4" thick
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes

Preheat oven to 400F.

Gently sautee andouille (about 1 minute each side) to lightly cook. Roll out pizza dough. Add sauce, cheese, andouille and sun-dried tomatoes.

Bake pizza at 400F for 20 minutes or until the sausage is done and the crust is crispy.

Roasted Tomato and Pepper Sauce

Yet another use for the myriad of tomatoes and peppers from our garden. It could easily be used for a pizza or pasta sauce.

Roasted Tomato and Pepper Sauce

4 tomatoes, cored
1 pepper, cored, seeded and quartered
1 onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 tbsp dry white wine
kosher salt
2 cups tomato sauce

Heat oven to 450F and place rack on top position. Line a baking sheet with tin foil, spray with cooking spray. Place tomatoes and pepper on sheet, lightly season with kosher salt and pepper. Place in oven and roast for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile heat a small pot over medium heat. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and heat until shimmery. Add onions and sautee for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in vinegar, wine and a pinch of both the salt and sugar. Continue sauteeing until golden brown, about 10-15 minutes.

Add roasted tomatoes and pepper, plus sauce. Stir to combine and heat thru. Puree in pot or in blender. Taste and season as needed.