Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Ingredient 12 - Parsnips

Not to sound cliché, but my life seems to be growing increasingly busy.  We are entering a busy time at work and David is entering his final month of graduate school.  Nobody's hair is on fire yet, but I am making a concerted effort to keep myself from filling my plate with way more than I can reasonably finish.  Thus, the blog will feature recipes that are simple, and hopefully relatively quick to prepare, for the next few weeks.

With simplicity in mind, this week I prepared parsnips.  Parsnips are similar in shape and size to carrots, but are are paler in color and sweeter in flavor.  In many dishes, parsnips can be substituted for carrots, turnips, or potatoes.  Parsnips are in season during fall and winter months.  When purchasing, select small to medium parsnips that are firm and blemish free.  Larger parsnips have a woody core that should be removed when cooking.  If kept in a non airtight plastic bag, parsnips can be stored in the fridge for up to a month.

Roasted Parsnips and Brussels Sprouts
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Serves 3 to 4 
1 lb brussels sprouts
1 bag parsnips  My bag had 7. 
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup pecan halves
Sea salt
Black pepper

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Begin by lining a baking sheet with aluminum foil and pre-heating the oven to 425 degrees.  Next, peel the parsnips and slice diagonally, medium thickness.

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To prepare the brussels sprouts, trim any remaining stalks from the end of the sprouts and remove any outer leaves that are brown or wilted.  Slice the sprouts in half lengthwise.  
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Combine the parsnips, sprouts, and olive oil in a medium bowl.  Season liberally with salt and pepper and gently toss to ensure sprouts are evenly coated.

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Spread the sprouts and parsnips on the baking sheet, single layer, and place in the oven for 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes, remove pan from oven, turn vegetables, sprinkle pecans on sheet, and return to oven for another 5 to 10 minutes.

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Note: I followed Martha Stewart’s suggestion of 450 degrees and nearly 30 minutes of roasting time and had to pick out some over roasted veggies and blackened nuts before plating the dish.  Thinly sliced parsnips yielded blackened disks.
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I really liked this dish and am looking forward to making it again with my suggested modifications.  The pecans take this dish from everyday to special.  Halfway through dinner I drizzled a touch of maple syrup on the veggies, it was a good decision.  Overall Grade: B+.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Ingredient 11 - Guinness

Happy belated St Patrick’s Day folks.  This week’s ingredient idea came from my beer loving husband David.  He was in the mood for some traditional Irish fare and I wanted to make something that would yield leftovers.

As you likely know, Guinness is a dry Irish stout.  It gets its distinctive dark color from roasted malted barley and its thick foamy head from an infusion of nitrogen.  Guinness is brewed in approximately 50 countries and sold in nearly 100.  However, all Guinness sold in the UK, Ireland, and North America is brewed at the St. James's Gate Brewery in Dublin.  According to the Guinness website, as of June 2004, Great Britain, Ireland, Nigeria, US, and Cameroon were the top Guinness consuming countries.

I based my shepherd's pie off of a recipe developed by Gordon Ramsey.

Guinness Shepherd's Pie
Serves 6
2 lbs ground beef
2 medium onions
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup frozen peas
2 garlic cloves
1 15oz can plum tomatoes
1 12oz bottle of Guinness
5 tbp Worcestershire sauce
1 and 1/4 cups chicken stock
2 lbs Russet  potatoes
2 tbp butter
3/4 cup Cheddar cheese – I used Dubliner, it was featured at Trader Joe’s over the weekend.
1 large egg yolk
2 tbp olive oil
Sea salt
Black pepper
5-6 sprigs thyme, leaves only

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Begin by peeling and chopping the potatoes, slicing the mushrooms, dicing the onions, carrots, and garlic, and pureeing the tomatoes with an immersion blender.  If you don't have any kind of blender or food processor, buy canned tomatoes.  I couldn't find canned pureed tomatoes at Whole Foods but I am sure diced tomatoes would be a good substitute.  

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Next, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a Dutch oven or large oven-safe pot (medium high heat).  Add the ground beef, season liberally with salt and pepper, cook till brown, 4 to 5 minutes.  When browned, drain the fat by emptying the contents of pot into a colander.

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Return the empty pot to the stove, heat another tablespoon of olive oil, and cook the onions and carrots for 4 to 5 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and thyme leaves and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes (medium heat).  Return the ground beef to the pot and add the tomatoes, stirring continuously for 4 to 5 minutes.  Add the Guinness and Worcestershire sauce and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half, 10 to 15 minutes.  When reduced by half, add the chicken broth and peas, and increase heat to medium high.  Cook for 25-30 minutes, stirring every few minutes.   

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After adding the Guinness to the meat, bring a large pot of water to boil, add a pinch of salt, and cook the potatoes until they are tender.  When tender, drain potatoes and add a tablespoon of butter to the pot.  Return potatoes to the pot and mash.  When fully mashed, mix in the remaining butter, 1/4 cup of cheese, and egg yolk.  Season liberally with salt and pepper.

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Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spoon the mashed potatoes on top of the meat mixture.  Score the mashed potatoes with fork and cover the potatoes with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese.  Bake for 30 minutes.

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This recipe was not overly time consuming for the amount of food it produced.  It is a great meal for a cold and dreary day.  That being said, I felt the dish lacked flavor.  To be honest, I find most traditional Irish pub fare to be bland, corned beef with mustard being the exception.  To jazz up my bowl of pie, I added some Frank’s Red Hot sauce.  It added some much needed pizzazz.  Overall Grade: B-.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Forbidden Rice for Breakfast

When searching for black rice recipes last weekend, I found a breakfast recommendation I had to try, coconut black rice pudding.   Yes, I know that sounds like a dessert, but the author noted that it could be made into a suitable breakfast by adding less sugar.

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Coconut Black Rice Breakfast Pudding
Serves 3 to 4
1 cup black rice
1 cup coconut milk
2 cups water
2 tbp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup coconut flakes

Combine rice, water, and coconut milk in a medium saucepan and bring to boil over medium high heat.  Once the mixture is boiling, reduce the heat to medium low and let simmer until the liquid has absorbed, approximately 45 minutes.  Stir every few minutes. 

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While the rice is simmering, toast the coconut.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spread the coconut flakes out on a cookie sheet and place in the oven for 4 minutes.  The flakes will turn medium brown and smell amazing. 

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When nearly all the liquid in the pot has absorbed, add the salt and sugar.  Stir the rice for another 2 to 3 minutes and remove from heat.  Place pudding in bowls and garnish with toasted coconut.  If consuming later, store rice and coconut in separate containers.
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This pudding was delicious and nicely filling.  The toasted coconut added a nice crunch, while the salt helped balance out the coconut milk and sugar.  Overall grade: A-.  

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Ingredient 10 – Forbidden Rice

This week I decided to cook forbidden rice because I have long been intrigued by the name and felt it was time to acquire some knowledge on the subject.  In ancient China, black rice was considered the finest grain, and its consumption was reserved for the Emperor, hence the name, forbidden rice.  Today Forbidden rice is a registered trademark of Lotus Foods.   

Black rice gets its dark color from its high concentration of anthocyanins.  Like brown rice, black rice is high in fiber and has a nutty flavor.  However, black rice has a chewier texture than white or brown rice.  Black rice can be substituted for other types of rice.  Though several of the food blogs I read recommended black rice for salads and desserts.

Because it is still gaining popularity in the United States, my Google search did not return a plethora of black rice recipes.  I opted to make Ellie’s Krieger’s black rice risotto because I was looking for something to pair with salmon; Whole Foods had a great deal on wild salmon over the weekend. 

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Black Rice Risotto
Serves 2
3/4 cup black rice
3 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 medium onion, diced
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tbp fresh basil, chopped
1/2 tbp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper

Begin by chopping the onion and basil.
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Next, heat the chicken broth in one saucepot, low heat.  In another saucepot, heat the olive oil, medium heat, and cook the onions until soft.  Once the onions are soft, add the rice and cook for one minute, stirring continuously.
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Once the minute has elapsed, reduce the heat to medium low and add the white wine.  Stir until the wine has been absorbed, 2 to 3 minutes.  Once absorbed, add a ladle of the warm chicken broth and continue stirring until mostly absorbed.  Repeat this process until all the broth has been added.  This will take roughly an hour.  Con someone into helping you stir the pot; your arm will get tired.

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While Dave took a turn stirring, I prepared the salmon.  I opted for a simple preparation, salt, pepper, butter, and lemon slices.  I always cover my salmon to keep it nice and moist while baking. 

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Once the last of the chicken broth has absorbed, stir in the salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese.  Plate the rice and garnish it with additional parmesan and chopped basil.

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The risotto was pretty delicious.  The rice was chewier than regular rice, but the chewiness wasn’t unpleasant.  I thought the rice had a slightly earthy flavor which was nicely complimented by the sweet and anise (licorice) flavor of the basil.  The risotto would be a nice accompaniment for scallops or chicken, but I don’t see it pairing well with pork or beef.       

Overall grade: B+.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Ingredient 9 – Black Eyed Peas

Did you know black eyed peas are beans, not peas?  This tidbit didn’t really surprise me, but I never really gave the subject much thought.  Originally cultivated in West Africa, the black eyed pea was brought to Virginia in the 17th century.  The black eyed pea became popular across the South after the American Revolution and its consumption on New Years’ Day is thought to bring prosperity in the coming year.         

I decided to cook this week's ingredient in my Crockpot.  In my humble opinion, the Crockpot is a glorious invention.  During winter months, I routinely use mine to make copious amounts of chili.  I love coming home from work to a warm meal that is ready for my immediate consumption.  

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Black Eyed Peas and Ham
1 lb dried black eyed peas
1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 ham steak
3 cups water
1 medium yellow onion
1 jalapeno pepper
1 clove garlic
2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
3 bay leaves
Fresh ground pepper

Begin by soaking the peas for approximately 6 hours.  In the spirit of full disclosure, this was the first time I had ever soaked my own beans and it was embarrassingly easy.  To soak, rinse the peas in a colander and place in bowl.  Cover peas with two inches of water and place in refrigerator.  Once in the refrigerator, go do something fun.  I went and saw Argo.    
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Once the 6 hours have elapsed, wander back into your kitchen and remove the beans from the refrigerator and gather your ingredients.  Fry the ham steak in a touch of butter, 3 minutes per side (medium heat).

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While the ham is cooking, chop the onion, jalapeño, and garlic.

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Next, cut the ham into bite sized pieces.  Place the ham, beans, diced tomatoes, chopped vegetables, and water in the Crockpot.  

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Add the cumin, cayenne, salt, and pepper and gently stir with a spoon or spatula.  Once combined, place bay leaves in pot, cover, and cook on low for 7 hours.
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My Crockpot switched from low to keep warm about the time I left for work on Monday.  When I returned home the contents were warm but not dried out.  A few weeks prior, I made a Crockpot sweet potato breakfast casserole that was a real pain to clean up after, so I was happy to discover an easy clean up was in my future.

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I served cornbread and steamed spinach with my peas and ham.  The peas had a fair amount of spice.  You could reduce the cumin and cayenne by half, if spicy dishes aren't your thing.  If you need more heat, Tabasco sauce would be a good addition. 

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I am looking forward to another bowl of this hearty dish tonight.  Overall grade: B+.