Braised lamb shanks

Continuing my freezer clean-out, I discovered two lovely lamb shanks that I must admit, I had forgotten were in there.  The weather that we’re having now just begs for comfort food, so I decided to make braised lamb shanks and the shanks beg for white beans to accompany them.

Starting with a recipe for braised lamb shanks and white beans that I knew worked well I still perused recipes from some other reputable sources (Williams-Sonoma, Food and Wine, and The New York Times). My lazy side came to the front and I decided that I wanted to do this all in one pot–so I went with the New York Times recipe–except I used thyme instead of rosemary and scaled the recipe for two lamb shanks.

Then I decided to follow a favorite principle of mine in cooking: never do on the stovetop what you can do in the oven (extremely hot weather will modify this). After bringing the pot to a simmer on the stovetop, I popped the pot into a 275°F oven for a few hours–low and slow since this is supper for tomorrow, likely with a grilled (well, broiled given the weather) cabbage wedge for a side.

Even for two shanks, this comes out to be a lot of food, so I’m looking forward to putting some into the freezer for another rainy day meal when I’m feeling indolent.

Recipe: Apothic Dark Red Wine Cake

I like this wine–just for drinking, and can imagine that this will be awesome.

Wine by Ari

Apothic-Cake-2-3-620x775

 

I came across this amazing recipe for Apothic Dark Red Wine Cake from Chasing Delicious.

Apothic Dark Red Wine Cake

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces flour
  • 2 ounces cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 14 ounces vanilla sugar (or granulated sugar)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1⅓ cup sweet red wine (try Apothic Dark)
  • 1 cup cinnamon red wine sauce, recipe below

Instructions

  1. Preheat an oven to 350°F.
  2. Butter and flour or grease a bundt pan. Set aside.
  3. Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.
  4. Beat the sugar and vanilla together until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and then the vanilla, mixing well after each addition.
  6. Add half of the dry mixture and mix in well. Pour in the wine and mix…

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Trying a new recipe….

As much as I’ve talked about improvisation in the kitchen when you’re doing single-serving cooking, I do occasionally like to have a recipe, at least for starters.  Trying to cut a recipe serving six or eight to one-person size is really frustrating.  The major ingredients are not that hard to do–it’s the seasonings that are hardest.  You’ve a much smaller quantity so you do need to cut them, but usually NOT by the same proportions as the main ingredients, so I was excited to see that the editors at America’s Test Kitchen had come out with Cooking for Two 2013, in addition to the Cooking for Two 2011.

In perusing  these (Kindle editions), I though the recipes looked like a good starting place for single-serving cooking: many looked as if the second serving would freeze well, and that’s a bonus. (If you’ve read much at all here, you’ll know I don’t “do” leftovers, nor do I do the cook-one-thing-and-eat-it-all-week scene.) For me, having one serving to eat now, and one in the freezer is good. Other recipes looked as if I could prepare a single chop or chicken breast, with the full recipe, freeze that, and then just add the meat later after thawing the base.

One of the appealing things about the recipes in these books is that they are not terribly involved–like weeknight suppers, and not all-weekend cooking marathons–and shouldn’r leave you with a sink overflowing with dishes, pots and pans.  Definitely worth a try since I’ve always had good results with recipes from Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country.

When making a recipe for the first time, I do follow it–otherwise how would I know how I need to change it?  For my first exploration from the 2013 Cooking for Two I picked a dish that I though sounded tasty and fun, and that the second serving could be put in the freezer: “Moroccan-Style Quinoa with Chickpeas and Kale”.  I like quinoa, I like chickpeas, and kale so this seemed a good one to try.  I honestly did follow the recipe.  Really I did, despite some temptations to tweak the seasonings…like put in extra garlic–that sort of thing.

I’m going (since I’ve given you the attribution above) to reproduce the recipe here with a little adaptation (because I don’t want to key in the entire thing).  It was easy to follow, and –very little cleanup afterwards–all good points.

Moroccan-Style Quinoa with Chickpeas and Kale

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped fine
  • 1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed (if not prewashed)
  • 1-1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 3/4 can of chickpeas, rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons golden raisins
  • salt and pepper
  • 6 ounces kale, stemmed and chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest plus 1 teaspoon juice
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in medium saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add onions, carrot and cook until onion softens. Stir in garlic,  coriander, pepper flakes and cook until fragrant. Add quinoa and cook stirring often until lightly toasted.
  2. Stir in broth, chickpeas, raisins, 1/8 teaspoon salt.  Place kale (still wet from washing) on top and bring to a simmer.  Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until quinoa to  is transparent and tender (18 to 20) minutes.
  3. Off heat, add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, pine nuts, lemon zest and juice. Sprinkle with feta, season as needed with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve.

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I’m likely to make this again, because it did go together easily, and cleaning up afterward was easy; but there will have to be some serious modification! The quinoa and chickpeas part of it is okay–except for being  very bland–and I really, honestly did follow the quantities given in the recipe so I’d know. Well, now I do!

I’m not really familiar with Moroccan style seasonings, but I don’t think that this was it.  Even with the added lemon zest and juice, garlic, red pepper flakes, raisins, and coriander, it’s definitely not even approaching complexity. It’s missing something.

Then there was the kale. The recipe didn’t say anything about what kind of kale.  When I went to the  market, I did look for Toscano (Lancinato, Nero) or Russian red kale, but I could find only the curly, redbor kale; I picked out the smallest, youngest looking leaves in the bin. But it still wasn’t what this dish needed–at least for me. The kale completely overwhelmed the flavor of the rest of the dish–I had kale-flavored quinoa and chickpeas.  For me it  just did not fit with the quinoa and chickpeas.

I liked the idea of a one-dish meal (since it’s something I’ve posted about here a number of times), but I’ll not do it with that particular kale again.  I think I’m more likely to do spinach, or maybe arugula, though I might try it with Toscano or Lancinato kale, hoping that would be a bit milder.  (No pictures either–even with the smaller leaves, the kale was a rather icky green by the time it was tender.)

My other frustration with the recipe–supposedly for two–was that the servings were huge–I  have at least two more  servings sitting in the fridge now, even after having had a very reasonable portion for supper. Another piece of information for when I try another of the “for-two” recipes.

I know that when writing recipes public consumption, you do have to be moderate with seasonings, but this was downright bland, not something that I expect from recipes from this source–I’ll be looking out for that with other recipes. I guess I was expecting to taste and think that I’d need more garlic, or maybe more red pepper flakes next time, but I wasn’t expecting what I got from this.

You think I sound frustrated?

You’re right–because I have come to expect better from the recipes from American’s Test Kitchen–and now I have two more servings to try to make more palatable. I’ll try to add more seasoning when I reheat, but I don’t want the quinoa to be total mush.

I will do the quinoa and chickpeas combo again, but likely replacing the vegetable broth with at least part chicken broth, definitely increasing the coriander, red pepper, lemon juice and zest, and figuring out some other spices to add for more complexity–while trying to still keep it simple. (That’s my rationalization for going in search of a Moroccan cookbook now.)

Bottom line for me, it’s a starter–now to see where I can go with it. But, I’ll be trying another recipe from the book….but I’ll definitely feel free to make adjustments right from the start on a few things.

Garlic mashed potatoes

My assigned dish for the Thanksgiving dinner that I always have with friends is garlic mashed potatoes…I love them, but don’t make mashed potatoes for one.  One of the reasons is that I want my mashed potatoes to be unctuous, with lots of butter and (at least) half-and-half–not something I should be adding to my diet often.

This year, I made my Thanksgiving garlic mashed potatoes as described inCook’s Country recipe for garlic mashed potatoes–it’s a one-pot method that produced a lovely result–with less effort that the way I had done them.  It’s always been my contention that I don’t want to cook potatoes for mashing in the jackets–I hate having to peel them while still hot, and I certainly don’t want to boil peeled potatoes in water–I want all that lovely starch to be available to absorb cream and butter–so I’ve always steamed them and then let them dry out just a bit before I start mashing.

This recipe took a different approach:  the potatoes were cooked with the minced garlic (after it was sautéed in butter) and then cooked in the half-and-half with a bit of water added.  Once tender the potatoes were mashed right in the pot, adding some more butter, and half-and-half.

I’ve looked at this recipe and wondering if this approach could be adapted to making mashed potatoes (decent ones) for one, or maybe two.  It would certainly be faster than baking a potato and then making mashed potatoes, since the potatoes are cut into 1/2-inch cubes before cooking and you do the mashing right in the same pot that you cooked them in–less clean-up to do, as well.

Adapting this recipe for one seemingly would involve just a ratio adjustment–but that will take a test run to see if it is so simple.  Since the original recipe called for four pounds of potatoes (designed to serve about 6 or so), it might take some tinkering, but sometimes mashed potatoes (like risotto) are necessary even when doing single-serving cooking.

Fig and fennel caponata!

figs on tree

ripe and unripe figs on tree

My kitchen smells SO good right now–fennel, oranges, garlic…tartness of balsamic vinegar….

I’ve finished the most recent BIG indexing project, and I’m supposed to be deep in course preparation for my medical terminology courses that start a bit after mid-August.

I’m playing hooky from that for a bit.  I found a recipe for fig and fennel caponata that wouldn’t wait.  You’ll find the recipe at jjbegonia.com.

Caponata of any sort is one of my favorite summer things, no matter how served, and this was a combination I just had to try. Though mostly we think of caponata as a dish made with eggplant, tomatoes, etc., it is really a cooked vegetable salad–and as much as I love fennel and figs, I just had to try this one NOW.

I took a few liberties with the recipe, but I think that I kept to the spirit–the flavor was certainly good.  The only real modification I made was to substitute diced (drained) fire-roasted tomatoes for the crushed in purée since that’s what I had in the pantry, and after tasting, I added more figs. Whether my figs were less sweet, or my balsamic was more acidic, I’m not sure, but it seemed to need a bit more of the figgy-ness.  I held back most of the parsley since I’m not serving immediately.

Despite my liberties, it’s a fantastic recipe–obviously great on toasted bread just as a nibble (maybe with a glass of cava or prosecco), but I’m looking forward to it as a side for a grilled lamb (shoulder or leg) chop, though I’ll have some left to try on sandwiches as well, and maybe with pasta…and probably to share with neighbors and friends.

(Given that both the recipe from jjbegonia.com and mine were changes from the Barefoot Contessa, here is the link to that recipe for fig and fennel caponata as well. I’ll probably try this when fresh figs are not available, but I do like the freshness of this recipe.)

fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)

Foeniculum vulgare

Cauliflower-black olive gratin (for one)

I started with the recipe from The New York Times that I had mentioned in an earlier post–and adapted it for single-serving cooking.

cauliflower, black-olives, garlic, shallot

just a few ingredients

My first “adaptation” was NOT to buy a whole head of cauliflower–I like it but I usually waste some of it, so I purchased 250 grams from the salad bar at my local Harris Teeter store already cut.  This was about 1/4 of what the original recipe called for (900 to 1000 grams).

My second adaptation was to use the rice cooker to blanch the cauliflower!  Put water in, add salt, close the lid and set the “rice cooker” mode.  In just a few minutes when I opened the lid I had boiling water.  I added the cauliflower, close the lid and blanched for about 5 minutes, then proceeded with the recipe–faster than a pan of water on the stove top!

My third adaptation is one I use often in cooking for one–I used shallot instead of onion since I don’t like bits and pieces of cut onion loitering in the fridge–so one medium to large shallot, prepped as for the onion in the above recipe.

gratin dish with cauliflower

oven ready

That recipe called for 16 olives–well four olives just didn’t look like enough, so I used six. Garlic–well, I used two very small cloves. The rest of the ingredients were “measured” by eye: parsley, the Parmigiano-Reggiano were whatever looked like enough for the amount of cauliflower–maybe my adaptation is a bit cheesier than the original, but  that’s okay with me!

The results were fantastic, maybe even awesome! (Please note past tense–well, there was a tiny bit left, but that’s probably because of the rather large cod fillet–a leftover as I define leftovers–re-warmed in sugo alla puttanesca.)   This was one of the best things that I’ve ever done with cauliflower. It’s a keeper with lots of room to improvise: some red pepper flakes added to the shallot-olive mixture, or maybe some roasted red peppers.

browned gratin of cauliflower

ready to eat

I think that I might step down to 150 grams of cauliflower next time, and bake it in a slightly deeper dish–but it will definitely be made again. I do need to add more garlic, though. I can’t believe how easy it was.  This is my kind of recipe–not at all fussy and open to modification to fit my mood, the weather, and what else is served.

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The cod fillet was a “leftover”–meaning planned.  The method of the “rerun” was unplanned.  After several days of intensive course preparation for online courses, I suffered a serious case of cabin fever.  On impulse, I called a friend, and we went out to dinner at one of my favorite causal places, Meelo’s Ristorante, here in Durham, since I had a serious craving for Andre Chabaneix’s spagetti alla puttanesca.  There was a bit of the puttanesca sauce left in the bottom of my plate, so I brought it home with me.  I used it to gently re-warm the cod fillet for supper this evening–now I’m going to have to see if I can match his sauce so that I don’t have to go out every time I want puttanesca sauce.

cod with puttanesca sauce

cod with puttanesca sauce

Cucumber mango salad

Photograph of 7 mangoes in case with PLU stickers

mangoes

Yesterday I had a minor food crisis–fruit overload.  I went to Costco (for cat food and laundry detergent) but while walking past the huge stacks of produce I smelled first peaches, and then pears–and then there were the mangoes. The difficult decision was pears or peaches, and/or mangoes.  The pears won over peaches though the peaches smelled as good as the pears, but the price was such that I brought both mangoes and pears home with me. Both were much more reasonably priced than in the supermarket. So it was a no-brainer–I eat all the pears and mangoes that I want and share some with friends and I’m still ahead on the cost. (The pears were absolutely luscious–every bit as good as they actually smelled!)

bartlett pears in case (from costco)

Bartlett pears

That quantity of fruit does have you looking for some things to do other than just eat it out-of-hand.  I had some mangoes that needed to be used; I had eaten lots and shared some, but I needed to eat some more! (Not that eating big, juicy, ripe mangoes is really any hardship.) Saved by inspiration that struck when I started smelling my supper cooking.

I was roasting some pork (on which I’d used a dry adobo seasoning rub given to me by a friend as a birthday present)–just a single big meaty spare rib for supper. This was one that was extra from making the chili con carne--simply would not fit in the pot so it became a small pork roast for one with just a tad left over.

I couldn’t think what to have with it until I smelled the roasting pork with the spicy adobo seasoning, something said “sweet and cool”–I thought of mangoes and cucumbers (which were sitting right there in the refrigerator just waiting to be used).

Not being particularly inspired about what to do with these two things, I headed for my laptop and Google!  As I was entering the “cucumber and ma….” the instant search which I’ve enabled popped up “cucumber and mango salad”.  That sounded just right with spicy roast pork.

I perused a number of recipe sites and blogs and found several interesting ones for cucumber and mango salads (and somehow I thought I was being very original when I visualized that combination):

  • from Daily Bites blog mango and cucumber, lime, ginger, honey (or coconut nectar–something new to explore), and optional cilantro.
  • from Eating Well which added avocado, brown sugar, rice vinegar, canola oil, and fish sauce as well as red pepper flakes.
  • from Herbivoracious  using Thai sweet chili sauce, rice vinegar, mint and cilantro leaves, and toasted sesame seeds.
  • from My Recipes  the simplest of all–cucumber, mango, lime juice and ground red pepper.
  • from Rookie Cookie with the addition of jacima, red bell pepper, honey, rice vinegar, and chile powder.
  • from The Full Plate Blog those basics but with champagne vinegar in the dressing, and suggestions for optional pea shoots (yum!), and slivered almonds, with romaine lettuce.

Those certainly gave a place to start for concocting for what I needed that night’s supper.  Then I found recipes with suggestions for adding grilled shrimp…seems like these need to be explored  much more carefully next time I’m that flush with mangoes.

rosy-cheeked bartlet pear and mango on blue/purple print towel.

pear and mango

Since my adobo rub had given me quite a spicy seasoning for the pork, I decided that I did not want to add chile powder, or even ginger–anything at all spicy to the salad–I wanted something cool and contrasting with the spicy meat.

I opted for the bare basics: cucumbers (the little baby ones), mango, shallot (no red onion in the house),  and since I didn’t have fresh mint (I’ve now killed my second plant), I used frozen cilantro (from Dorot) in the dressing which was just a simple vinaigrette made with olive oil and sherry vinegar (drat–no lime or champagne vinegar) and I didn’t think that rice wine vinegar would stand up to the adobo seasoning of the pork).

Even one mango and cucumber gave me some extra, so I dressed only what I was going to eat right then.  (What was left became another salad, with very thinly sliced pork right in with the fruit, and I added some of those luscious Bartlett pears to it as well–threw that over some mixed greens and it made an awesome lunch. I dressed with a fig-infused white balsamic vinaigrette since I added the pear.

The combination of mango, or other sweet fruit, and cucumber is definitely one that I’ll be playing with in the future–probably with chicken, shrimp  or maybe even crab, or scallops to “bulk it up” a bit for a complete meal.

(I know, it’s not a beautiful plate, but I was too hungry to go outside in the dark to find garnish–I almost didn’t even take a picture.)

A son goût!

pork, cucumber-mango salad

supper