Posts Tagged ‘veggies’

Blog-checking lines: Jami Sorrento was our June Daring Cooks hostess and she chose to challenge us to celebrate the humble spud by making a delicious and healthy potato salad. The Daring Cooks Potato Salad Challenge was sponsored by the nice people at the United States Potato Board, who awarded prizes to the top 3 most creative and healthy potato salads. A medium-size (5.3 ounce) potato has 110 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, no sodium and includes nearly half your daily value of vitamin C and has more potassium than a banana!

OMG so laaaaaate….I saw that the challenge was potato salad, picked my recipe out, and then work immediately became a fiery whirlwind of stress and drama, and the potato salad never was made. But then Jenn was having a 4th of July pool party, and I said AHA! A time and place for a healthy potato salad, especially one that doesn’t have mayo in it!

I didn’t take any pictures…so I suppose you can’t really believe me when I said I made it. ūüė¶

Original recipe here. Bask in the authoress’s gorgeous photographing abilities. I’m jealous!

I am all about the Indian flavors this year — maybe because I’m working more closely than ever before with my subcontinental coworkers? These flavors were a big hit, both among those who tried it at the July 4th pool party and the neighbors who had it at the July 5th Leftovers Party I lugged it to. This was easy to make on the morning of the 4th while Jim deconstructed the tents in the backyard from our July 3rd party (can you tell our neighborhood takes the 4th of July very seriously?), and the kitchen didn’t even get too hot. Totally a plus.

Indian Potato Salad (no mayo)
4 cups potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes*
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
couple of shakes of cayenne
3 scallions, sliced thinly
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped*

*I think I used about 3 medium sized white potatoes? 2 1/2 pounds or so?
**As always, what did I do? I left out the cilantro! Yes, always. It tastes like soap. You’re welcome.

Bring water to a boil and add the cubed potatoes. Boil until just tender (about 5 mins). Test with a fork. You don’t want them too firm but you don’t want them falling apart in to mush either. Drain in a colander in the sink.

Heat the oil in a skillet and toast the cumin seeds for a minute. Add the salt and curry powder and stir until well mixed. The mixture will get amazingly fragrant as it heats up, this only takes a minute or so but be sure you don’t let it burn. Take fragrant spiced oil off the heat.

Place the potatoes, scallions, and red pepper in a bowl and add the spicy oil. Toss gently then add a couple of shakes of cayenne. Finally, add the cilantro if you are using it and toss gently.

And enjoy!


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Our January 2011 Challenge comes from Jenni of The Gingered Whisk and Lisa from Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. They have challenged the Daring Cooks to learn how to make a confit and use it within the traditional French dish of Cassoulet. They have chosen a traditional recipe from Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman.

Following up on the success of the Leek Confit (Daring Cooks Challenge Part 1), I thought, Hey, this cassoulet won’t be too difficult. I did have the vague apprehensions in the back of my mind that haunt me every time I attempt making a soup, and that is that the soup will taste exactly like food floating in water, instead of tasting like soup. But I swept those aside by saying to myself:

“It’s a recipe from Gourmet, it has to taste good.”
“It’s a Daring Challenge; I don’t have to be stellar the first time around.”
“If we don’t like it I never have to make it again.”
“If we don’t like it, maybe we can find ways to improve the recipe the next time around.”

Armed with such positive thinking, I embarked one Saturday evening on An Adventure in Cassoulet. What is cassoulet, you ask? That’s a very good question. Cassoulet originated in the southern, Occitan region of France, and is easily described as a slow-cooked bean stew or casserole containing meat (pork sausages, goose, duck, or mutton) and white haricots beans, which are familiar to us in America as cannellini beans. Occitan cuisine itself is mostly Mediterranean and shares similarities with Catalan cuisine to the west and Italian cuisine to the east, and indeed this particular cassoulet recipe reminds me strikingly of the Tuscan bean soup ribollita, which also features cannellini beans. The name cassoulet itself comes from the dish the meal is made in, a deep, round earthenware dish called a cassole. Think of American casseroles from the 1950s and you’re along the same track. Same etymology and same basic idea.

Despite the recipe being easy to read and clear in its instructions, my worst soup fears came true: It tasted like not much more than vegetables floating in a bowl of water. Even the herbs and spices, which smelled so divine during the cooking, couldn’t do much to make this taste like something other than a bowl of tender veg in boiling water. I don’t know where I go wrong with soup, but I have noticed one thing: Using only water, NOT stock, is not the way to go. To keep this vegetarian, a vegetable stock may well have been used; but if we use this recipe again, and we might, we’ll use chicken stock and toss in some chicken or turkey meatballs. It makes it a sort of Occitan Wedding soup, but what’s wrong with that? Nothing, I say. A part of me thinks that half the point of these challenges is getting our creative cooking brains jump-started, thinking about possibilities and tweaks and hacks and improvements. Maybe if we get a rainy spring I’ll revisit this cassoulet and make some adjustments to the recipe.

Vegetarian Cassoulet
serves 4 to 6
originally appeared in Gourmet March ’08; online recipe here

3 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only)
4 medium carrots, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch-wide pieces
3 celery ribs, cut into 1-inch-wide pieces
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
4 thyme sprigs
2 parsley sprigs
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
3 (19-oz) cans cannellini or Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 qt water

4 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs from a baguette
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1/4 cup chopped parsley

Halve leeks lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces, then wash well and pat dry. Cook leeks, carrots, celery, and garlic in oil with herb sprigs, bay leaf, cloves, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a large heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden, about 15 minutes. Stir in beans, then water, and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until carrots are tender but not falling apart, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350¬įF with rack in middle.¬†Toss bread crumbs with oil, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a bowl until well coated. Spread in a baking pan and toast in oven, stirring once halfway through, until crisp and golden, 12 to 15 minutes.¬†Cool crumbs in pan, then return to bowl and stir in parsley.

Discard the herb sprigs and bay leaf from the cassoulet pot. Mash some of beans in the pot with a potato masher or back of a spoon to thicken broth. Season with salt and pepper. Just before serving, sprinkle with garlic crumbs.

I put a dollop of leek confit on the top of the soup, since part of the challenge was incorporating our confit in to our cassoulet; but it didn’t do much to improve the dish.

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Our January 2011 Challenge comes from Jenni of The Gingered Whisk and Lisa from Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. They have challenged the Daring Cooks to learn how to make a confit and use it within the traditional French dish of Cassoulet. They have chosen a traditional recipe from Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman.

I’m noticing a trend with the latest Daring Cooks challenges…souffl√©…confit…cassoulet… Can we do something next month that pronounces ALL the letters? LOL! I’m definitely feeling the French cooking vibe going around in the Daring Kitchen lately. I never thought I’d be learning to do souffl√©s and confits and cassoulets, but really, I don’t think I knew what to expect. Just that I’d be challenged with “exotic” recipes. Some would turn out, some wouldn’t, and I’d probably learn something new. So far, so good.

Here’s the thing about cassoulet, though. I’d never heard of it before I read The Matchmaker of P√©rigord a while back, and let me tell you — it turned me off cassoulet forever. I didn’t even know what it was supposed to be, but in the book it’s a dish that’s been going for 40 or 50 years, and there’s a button in it, and GOD HELP YOU if you take the button out. And there’s a 40-year-old goose leg floating around in there somewhere. It’s incredibly unattractive. So my reaction to this challenge was “Ack! A cassoulet! Noo!” ūüė¶ But the helpful, wonderful hosts, Jenni and Lisa, included vegetarian options, and I embraced this. Not just because it avoided the abundance of duck fat necessary for the carnivorous confit, but because it was leek-based, and you know how much I love that particular vegetable. And as a BONUS, the Leek Confit was Molly Wizenberg‘s recipe.

Leek Confit
Makes 2 cups/480 ml.
originally appeared in Bon App√©tit Oct ’08; online recipe here.

¬ľ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
4 large leeks, white and pale green parts only, halved lengthwise, cut crosswise into ¬ľ inch thick slices (about 5 cups) and rinsed, rinsed, rinsed, rinsed.
2 tbsp water
¬Ĺ tsp salt

1. Melt butter in a large pot over medium-low heat.

2. Add well-rinsed leeks, stir to coat. 3. Stir in water and salt.
4. Cover pot and reduce heat to low.
5. Cook leeks until tender, stirring often, about 25 minutes.
6. Uncover and cook to evaporate excess water, 2-3 minutes.

Serve with Melba toasts and a thin smear of spreadable chevrie goat cheese.

First of all, my apologies to any other Hough’s Neck/Quincy Center-area Daring Cooks: It was I who pretty much cleaned out the Super Stop & Shop’s selection of leeks on the evening of January 7. There were exactly two bundles of leeks left after I was done stocking up for the confit and the vegetarian cassoulet.

Make sure your leeks are pre-approved by your local Welsh representative:

I personally approve this leek.


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Pasta alla Norma

Eggplant. A notoriously fickle vegetable (fruit?). I’ve always been wary of it because instructions for recipes always talk about soaking the eggplant in saltwater to remove the bitterness. What if I mess that up? Who wants bitter eggplant? And yet, so many recipes that catch my eye include eggplant in some form or another. It’s something I’ve just got to get over.

Pasta alla Norma
serves 4 (or more)

2 medium eggplants, about 8 oz each, diced small
3 Tbsp olive oil
10 oz dried macaroni or fusili pasta
2/3 c. grated Pecorino cheese
salt and freshly ground black pepper
shredded fresh basil leaves, to garnish

For the tomato sauce:
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 can (14 oz) chopped tomatoes or 1 jar (14 oz) passata

Soak the diced eggplant in a bowl of cold salted water for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Make the sauce. Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the onion, and cook gently for about 3 minutes, with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir the sauce and add a few spoonfuls of water occasionally, to prevent it from becoming too thick. Remove from the heat.

Drain the eggplants and pat dry. Spread the pieces out in a roasting pan, add the oil, and toss to coat. Bake for 20-25 minutes, turning the eggplants every 4-5 minutes with a spatula so they brown evenly.

Cook the pasta in a large pan of rapidly boiling salted water until al dente (about 10 to 12 minutes). Reheat the tomato sauce. Drain the pasta thoroughly and add it to the tomato sauce, with half the roasted eggplant and half the Pecorino. Toss to mix, and taste for seasoning.

Spoon the pasta and sauce mixture in to a warmed large serving dish and top with the remaining roasted eggplant. Scatter the shredded fresh basil leaves on top, followed by the remaining Pecorino. Service immediately, with generous chunks of crusty bread.

I know this recipe says 4 servings, but I think you could feed 6 or even 8 people, if you add a nice big salad to fill out the meal, or if you serve this as a side to a main course.

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Homestyle Potato Soup

Although I am not a big soup chef, I want to be. On the lookout for new recipes this week, I came across Home-style Potato Soup in Betty Crocker’s Cooking Basics, the first cookbook ever¬†given to me. It¬†is everything I like in a recipe: few ingredients, familiar ingredients, and straightforward instructions. It’s 85 degrees out today, which makes me wonder where autumn went, but it’s still a good potato soup day. Leftover soup will be not too bad chilled, I think.

Homestyle Potato Soup
makes 5 servings

3 medium potatoes (about 1 lb)
1 14 1/2-oz. can of chicken broth
2 (or more) medium green onions, with tops*
1 1/2 c. milk
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. dried thyme leaves**

*I used 4 green onions. I love them and they were in the fridge, leftover from quesadillas I made the other night.
**I thought I had dried thyme in the spice rack – doesn’t everyone? – but I couldn’t find it while I was cooking. I used dried tarragon instead and I am actually quite happy with the end result.

Peel the potatoes and cut in to large cubes.

Heat the chicken broth in a medium saucepan with the cubed potatoes over high heat, stirring occasionally with a fork to make sure potatoes do not stick to the pan. Once boiling, reduce heat to a gentle bubbling, cover and cook about 15 minutes or until potatoes are fork-tender.

While the potatoes are cooking, thinly slice green onions.

When the potatoes are done, remove saucepan from heat but do not drain. Break the potatoes into smaller pieces with a fork, but the mixture should still be lumpy. Stir in the milk, salt, pepper, thyme, and onions in to the potato mixture. Return to medium heat, stirring occasionally, until hot and steaming, but do not let it come to a boil.

To make this fully vegetarian, you could substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth. Otherwise, you could add some cubed ham for flavor and texture and to make a slightly more filling meal, although just the way it is I think it would make an excellent meal with a green salad.

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I’ve been wanting to make this for a while now, and somehow I felt that the onset of a hurricane would be a good opportunity. The zucchini is a summer vegetable, but with the sausage and stuffing this dish is redolent of autumn just around the corner. Jim & I decided that this would make an excellent side dish at a Thanksgiving feast. We also call it “hurricane food.”

Zucchini-Sausage Casserole
serves 8

1 lb. bulk pork sausage
4 medium zucchini
1 10 3/4 oz. can of condensed cream of chicken soup
1 8 oz. carton of sour cream
4 c. chicken stuffing mix
1/3 c. butter or margarine, melted

In a stovetop skillet, cook sausage until browned. Drain off fat. Return sausage to skillet.

Meanwhile, quarter each zucchini lengthwise and cut each quarter crosswise in to half-inch slices. Add zucchini to the sausage in the skillet.

In a small bowl, combine soup and sour cream. Add to the sausage and zucchini. In a separate large bowl, combine stuffing mix and melted butter.

Lightly coat a 3-quart (I actually used a 2.5 qt dish and thought it was perfect) baking dish with non-stick spray. Spoon half the stuffing in to the bottom of the dish; layer the zucchini-sausage mixture evenly over the top; spoon the rest of the stuffing over the top. Bake, covered, in a 350-degree oven about 30 minutes or until heated through.

The next time I make this I think I am going to try turkey sausage; to me the sausage flavor was very strong and salty, and I think a non-pork sausage will help mitigate this. This is definitely an excellent dish to throw together in an oncoming late summer storm: warm, savory, with the crunch of vegetables and the crisped, crumbly stuffing mix. It even reheats well, and the stuffing didn’t get overly soggy in keeping.

for 4 servings
8 oz. bulk sausage
2 medium zucchini
1/2 10 3/4 ounce can of condensed cream of chicken soup
1/2 c. sour cream
2 c. stuffing mix
3 Tbsp. butter or margarine, melted

Prepare as above in a 2-quart square baking dish.

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A vegetarian dish that even a carnivore can enjoy. The original recipe from Chow.com indicates a homemade crust, of course, but for the sake of ease, speed, clean-up time, and my sanity, I went with a deep-dish frozen crust from the freezer section in my grocery store. You can do your own crust if you have a crust to be proud of, or you can choose a frozen crust without shame.

Broccoli, Mushroom, & Gouda Quiche

2 c. broccoli florets and tender stems (about 6 oz.), large dice*
1/4 c. olive oil
2 c. portobello mushroom (about 4 oz.), large dice
1/2 medium red onion, minced
3 large eggs
1 c. half and half
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 c. shredded young Gouda cheese (about 4 oz.)**

*I cheated a bit again and got frozen florets from the freezer case, then thawed and diced them as needed.
**Do try to get Gouda which is not smoked, just plain Gouda.

I spent about half an hour in the mid afternoon prepping my ingredients. When I was ready to start cooking at dinnertime, I had a bowl of diced broccoli, a bowl of diced mushroom, and a bowl of minced onion in the fridge and all ready to go. While the broccoli was blanching, I shredded the Gouda. While the mushroom mixture was cooling and the crust thawing, I washed up dishes.

Prepare the crust, either homemade or frozen. If frozen, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for thawing and preparing the crust for a one-crust pie or quiche. If you are using a frozen crust and it only needs to be thawed, as mine was, then keep the crust in the freezer until you are about 15 minutes away from filling and baking it, about the time you finish cooking the mushrooms in the step below.

First, bring a medium saucepan of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, add broccoli and cook until fork tender, about 2 minutes. Drain and let cool in a single layer on a large plate.

Then, heat olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add mushroom and onion and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook until vegetables are soft and mushroom edges are golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly, about 10 minutes.

Whisk together eggs, half-and-half, salt, and pepper in a large bowl until incorporated and smooth. Stir in broccoli, mushroom mixture, and cheese.

Pour custard into pie shell and bake in a 350 degree preheated oven until puffed and golden brown, at least 45 minutes. Let cool at least 20 minutes before slicing.

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