Tag Archives: things that come in jars

plenty: multi-vegetable paella

To celebrate my new job(!!), my in-laws took Andrew and I to one of my absolute favorite restaurants, Jose Andres’ Jaleo. This is how I finished a memorable night of tapas:

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Back in our apartment days/my unemployed-days, I often stayed up to watch Chef Andres’ PBS show Made In Spain. His dishes looked remarkable, and I was especially envious of his children digging their forks into the paella he made on their backyard grill. Unfortunately for me, his paella consisted of many meat-lover’s ingredients, assuring me I might go my entire life without experiencing paella. Paella, meaning “frying pan”, is a saffron-flavored Spanish dish made with varying combinations of rice, vegetables, meat, chicken, and seafood. Those last three key ingredients just don’t fit in to my picky palate.

Then I bought this beautiful book last year that has rocked my kitchen over and over and over. To continue my series featuring the brilliant cookbook Plenty, I’m first going to tease you with this upcoming pistachio couscous recipe from said Cookbook-That-Delivers-Every-Time (then we’ll talk paella).

I did not have paella rice (though I realized yesterday I had risotto rice hiding in my pantry all along. Out of complete desperation I used long-grain white rice (you could use jasmine or basmati, though basmati has a strong flavor). I know using long-grain white rice means my chances of shaking hands with Chef Andres are now as slim as ever, surely I have embarrassed the entire country of Spain. But people: this is still the best damn rice you’ll have in your life, so don’t let a little grain get you down. Yes there are numerous ingredients, but this is very, very special. Bring this one out for company.

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Multi-Vegetable Paella

from Plenty, serves 6

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped

1 red bell pepper, cut into strips

1/2 fennel bulb, cut into strips

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 bay leaves

1/4 tsp. smoked paprika

1/2 tsp. ground turmeric

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 cup short-grain paella rice (however, I used jasmine)

6  1/2 tablespoons sherry (I used sherry vinegar)

1 tsp. saffron threads

2 cups low-sodium vegetable stock

3/4 cup fava beans (fresh or frozen)

12 plum tomatoes, halved

5 small artichokes in oil from a jar, drained and quartered

15 pitted kalamata olives, crushed or halved

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

4 lemon wedges

Saute the veggies.

Heat up the olive oil in a paella pan, or a large shallow skillet, and gently soften the onion for 5 minutes. Add the bell peppers and fennel and continue to cook on medium heat for about 6 minutes, or until soft and golden. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.

Add the spices and cook the rice.

Add the bay leaves, paprika, turmeric, and cayenne to the vegetables, and stir well. Then add the rice and stir thoroughly for 2 minutes before adding the sherry and saffron. Boil down for a minute, then add the stock and ⅓ teaspoon salt. Reduce the heat to the minimum and simmer very gently for about 20 minutes, or until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice. Do not cover the pan, and don’t stir the rice during the cooking.

(I omitted this step:) Meanwhile, pour plenty of boiling water over the fava beans in a bowl and leave for a minute, then drain well and leave to cool down. Now squeeze each bean gently to remove the skin and discard it.

Steam the vegetables.

Remove the paella pan from the heat. Taste and add more salt if needed, but without stirring the rice and vegetables much. Scatter the tomatoes, artichokes, and fava beans over the rice, and cover the pan tightly with foil. Leave to rest for 10 minutes.

Take off the foil with gusto to reveal this exquisite presentation. Scatter the olives on top of the paella and sprinkle with parsley. Remove the bay leaves and serve with wedges of lemon.

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Andrew and I haven’t been to Spain—yet—but this dish provided a divine cultural experience. We have been traveling abroad recently, more on that next time 😉

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pantry picnic

If you live on the East Coast, you know Mother N. hit the fast-forward button straight from winter to summer. I’m rocking sundresses on a daily basis these (80-degree) days and ready to eat outside. Andrew and I have re-opened Cafe Lindrew for the season—that is, our little stone patio looking out to the woods. This week has been barbeque with cousins and Mickey Mouse birthdays, and Happy Hour on the patio with the hubs (yuengling for Andrew, textbook for me).

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Isn’t it clear it’s time to get outside for some Vitamin D? In keeping with our humble canned-food quest, here’s a two-minute slaw to take on your next picnic—even if it’s in your backyard. Yes, I realize the contradiction: canned food + a $150 food processor? A big ol’ food processor makes this salad lightening-fast. In case you don’t have a large food processor, you could make this in batches in a small $14 food processor, or just chop up all the ingredients and stir in a big bowl! I never have luck with these hand choppers, but this slaw is the perfect use for one if you’ve got it!

I was missing several ingredients (indicated below) and this was still delightful—like the chicken salad solution for vegetarians. A surprising hit in both the teacher’s lounge and my hubby’s sneak taste-test. “Wow, that smells awesome,” he said over my shoulder. “Am I allowed to have some?” Don’t mention it’s missing meat 😉

Chunky Artichoke and Chickpea Salad

Vegetarian Times, serves 6

For a spring picnic or lunch, serve this dish as a dip with crackers or spread on pumpernickel and top with tomato.Or enjoy with your favorite sandwich (apple and cheddar). Don’t freak out at the number of ingredients until you see how many steps follow.
1  16-oz. can / jar artichoke hearts packed in water, drained
1  12-oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
¼ cup chopped onion
¼ cup chopped cornichons (French baby pickles)—I used a bread & butter spear
¼ cup chopped green bell pepper
¼ cup chopped fresh celery
¼ cup vegan mayonnaise (I used regular Hellmans)
2 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. capers (I omitted)
1 clove garlic, minced (1 tsp.)
1 tsp. seafood seasoning, such as Old Bay (I omitted)
1 tsp. Dijon mustard (I omitted)

Pulse all ingredients in food processor until chunky. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Chill at least 30 minutes, or overnight.

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Thank you Vegetarian Times for the nutrition facts! Per 1/2-cup serving (note the majority of the fat is not saturated):

Calories: 148, Protein: 5 g, Total Fat: 9 g, Saturated Fat: 1 g, Carbohydrates: 17 g, Cholesterol: 2 mg, Sodium: 435 mg, Fiber: 6 mg, Sugar: 3 g

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the can-can gratin

My food snobbery diminishes by the day. I like to think.

In the past eight months, I visited six food banks—even as recent as yesterday. I’m learning how they operate, feed, support, and educate the hungry working poor they serve. In two weeks, I get to demo “creative cooking with canned spinach” at an incredible food bank in Maryland with a strong Nutrition Education emphasis. It has me thinking about canned food—where and how it has a place in the American diet.

In my blog profile, I reference my soggy canned corn/green bean childhood. (Allow me to mention here that I was raised in a loving, stable, incredible family and blessed to have canned vegetables as my main complaint). Indeed, my fresh-food-filled adulthood has thus far proven crunchy and delightful. I love witnessing how many food banks are providing seasonal produce to their clients when there are abundant markets. They wisely save canned products for colder seasons. Some local food banks are even sorting canned produce by nutrient priority: orange vegetables, beans, low-sugar fruit, low-sodium soup.

Canned vegetables are not ideal: fresh and frozen are more nutrient-dense and contain less sodium. However, my feelings here resemble my feelings toward the organic-local movement. That’s great if you have access to fresh, local, organic foods. That’s seriously awesome you can afford it. I, in fact, envy this privilege—my farmer’s market has been beyond our budget for the past two years. Hunger is a real and prevalent problem for more Americans than we imagine. Yes, canned vegetables are more susceptible to BPA and sodium. But for thousands of families living within ten miles of me, rent payments and medical bills take precedence over seemingly invisible issues like BPA.

It’s important to note that I don’t believe for a minute economically disadvantaged families should have to choose between nutrition and every other financial matter. I find it appalling it’s often acceptable to donate our leftovers and junk food to “the poor”.

As I am turning my own home into a novice test-kitchen for interesting and healthy canned-food recipes, it only seems appropriate to revisit this dreamy artichoke gratin I made in Brennan and Alejandro’s kitchen. Oh yes, a gratin—pronounced gre-tan—from a can.

Artichoke Gratin

from Plenty, serves 4-6

2 pounds frozen artichoke hearts (sold out, so I used 32 oz. canned in water, rinsed well)
4 lemons, grate zest and reserve juice
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons thyme, chopped (the thyme is crucial!)
6 tablespoons flat-leafed parsley, chopped (I omitted the parsley)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 cups milk (lower fat is great)
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup ricotta
6 tablespoons parmesan, grated 

Place frozen artichoke hearts in a large pot and cover with water. Add the lemon juice to the pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes or until tender. If using canned artichokes, no need to boil just rinse well. Drain.

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While artichokes are cooking, heat saute pan over medium heat and add olive oil. Add onions and some salt and pepper. Saute 15 minutes or until golden, stirring occasionally. Add cooked onions and artichoke hearts to a bowl and mix with lemon zest, thyme and parsley. Add salt and pepper as needed.

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Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat and then add the flour. Stir mixture constantly for 2 minutes. Add milk slowly, whisking as you pour. Add salt and whisk on low heat for 10 minutes or until sauce is thick and creamy. When the sauce coats the back of a spoon, it’s good to go—give it a taste (I like to add an extra tablespoon of parmesan into the sauce at this point).

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Mix bechamel—the groovy french word for the white sauce you just made—with the artichoke mixture.

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Lightly grease a medium-sized casserole dish and pour in mixture. Make small holes in mix and drop in teaspoons of ricotta. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

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Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees and remove foil. Top gratin with Parmesan. Continue baking for 20 minutes or until golden brown and bechamel bubbles. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes. Serve warm. Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

The thyme is a surprising match to the artichokes—and believe me canned vegetables deserve to be featured in such a decadent meatless entrée. Even Andrew and Alejandro—carnivores of carnivores—scarfed up spoonfuls. The best part? Company in the kitchen.

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For more recipes from the cookbook Plenty, check out this zucchini pasta and this unforgettable yogurt-pomegranate eggplant.

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plenty: color splash

The long blank wall behind the couch has had me stumped for the 11 months Andrew and I have lived in our suburban condo. Of course we all find things when we’re not looking (like yesterday when I hunted 10 minutes for my ipod that was smack in the middle of the empty kitchen table). I spent last week catching up Mom and Pops in Delaware, and the hot weather had us exploring air-conditioned antique stores throughout the week—the very place I found Mastisse’s “The Parakeet and the Mermaid”, framed decades ago in Belvedere Square where the hubs and I spent much time in Baltimore. The print is my perfect mix of sophisticated and quirky. Hello, wall funk.

Matisse, Parakeet and the Mermaid, Living Room

Pasta is another blank canvas enriched by bright color, and plenty of it. It’s the perfect excuse to return to our Plenty reader’s series, where I interpret select recipes from Yotam Ottolenghi’s enchanting new cookbook.

The printed recipe calls for deep-frying zucchini and whipping up a homemade herb puree. Time limitations and nutrition concerns had me adapting this recipe to a faster, lower-fat version well worth sharing with friends this summer.

plenty, yotam ottolenghi, pasta and friend zucchini salad, crate and barrel bowl, sweedish

Please, if you can, pick up some beautiful buffalo mozzarella (in brine) for this one—it’s where the magic resides. I accidentally grabbed Burrata mozzarella, which has a creamy center, and is easily the last cheese I ever need eat on this good earth.

Pasta and (Not) Fried Zucchini Salad

from Plenty, serves four

3 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch slices (a mandolin makes this a breeze)

1  1/2 tbsp. red wine vinegar

3/4 cup frozen edamame

1 cup basil, shredded coarsely

1/4 cup pesto (I used storebought)

9 oz. strozzapreti or penne (I used rotelli)

grated zest of 1 lemon

7 oz. buffalo mozzarella, torn by hands into chunks

1  1/2 tbsp. small capers (optional)

1 cup heirloom baby tomatoes (my addition)

squash, yellow squash, mandolin, crate and barrel cutting board

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Heat a grill (or stovetop grill pan) to medium high—heat a cast iron/heavy skillet over high heat if you do not have a grill. Using a pastry brush, brush both sides of the zucchini slices with vegetable/canola oil. Grill the thin zucchini slices two minutes on each side, or until charred and slightly tender. Transfer the grilled zucchini to your serving bowl, pour over the red wine vinegar, stir, and set aside.

staub, staub grill, french blue, grill pan, zucchini

Blanch the edamame for 3 minutes in boiling water; drain and toss into the zucchini and vinegar bowl. (I only had frozen shelled edamame, so I blanched, cooled, and then popped the beans out of the pods into the zucchini).

Cook the pasta until al dente; drain and rinse under cold water. Add the pasta to the zucchini, vinegar and edamame; add the pesto, lemon zest, capers, tomatoes (if using), and mozzarella. Stir gently together, then taste and season with  coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Before serving, stir in the torn basil.

basil, plenty cookbook, mozzarella, zucchini, pasta saladStick around and check out another of Yotam Ottolenghi’s exquisite recipes: Eggplant with Buttermilk Sauce. You’ve never seen anything like it.

What is the best cookbook on your shelf?

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the food of our forefathers

Let’s close our eyes and imagine this monumental moment in American history: It’s July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress closes its session for the day and John Adams takes a moment to write his dear Abigail:

The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, curried quinoa salad, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.

Yes, from our remarkable forefather, and determined by the democratic votes of dear Pear readers, this Fourth of July was one of cornhole, fireworks, and curried quinoa salad. You voted, I made it, neighbors loved it.

While a number of new foods and flavors crossed the Atlantic in the late eighteenth century, the combinations here were likely uncommon. If only I could time travel to Mr. Adams’ day and gift him with a subscription to Bon Appetit

curried quinoa salad with mango, bok choy, fourth of july

Curried Quinoa Salad with Mango

from Bon Appetit, makes 2 servings

1 cup quinoa (about 6 ounces)

1/4 cup canola oil

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon mango chutney, chopped if chunky

1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

2 cups chopped peeled mango (peaches are a perfect substitute)

1 cup chopped unpeeled English hothouse cucumber

5 tablespoons chopped green onions, divided

2 cups baby spinach, chopped

Note: I bought mango slices in the deli section, having not planned ahead for ripe mangos. I also recommend adding any or all of the following for extra sweet crunch: diced peaches, dried fruit (apricots or cranberries), red bell pepper.

It is important to rinse quinoa well before cooking. (I used the steam method and found it makes the quinoa too gummy). Cook quinoa in medium pot of boiling salted water (I used chicken broth for flavor) over medium heat until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes. Drain well and cool.

curried quinoa salad with mango, quinoa, le cruset, purple

Transfer to medium bowl.

curry powder, mango dressing

whisk, whisking dressing, blue bowl

Whisk oil and next 4 ingredients in small bowl to blend. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.

chopped mango, spring onion, scallion

diced cucumbers

dried apricots, chopped

Add chopped mango, cucumber, green onions, any other fruits and veggies you are including, and 1/4 cup dressing to quinoa; toss to coat. Divide spinach between 2 plates. Spoon quinoa salad over spinach. Drizzle with remaining dressing and serve. Or, toss it all together in a big bowl and serve the next day!

curried quinoa salad, mango, red pepper, scallion, dried apricot

I spent my Independence day crying to Mao’s Last Dancer, painting furniture for my music room, and serving this salad to new friends. (Even my father-in-law loved this salad!) How did you celebrate?

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street food: fritters!

I didn’t like meat growing up. I thought this surely meant a life of alternating peanut-butter and grilled cheese sandwiches. Then in college, Anna introduced me to the wonder that is Indian food–only to be followed by my love and exploration of many ethnic foods. Hellllllllo falafel.

One bite of this fried chickpea patty and you’ll understand why I planned my entire budget birthday around this delight. Serve it traditionally in pita (the “Israeli hamburger” said my friend Johanna) and drizzle with a store-bought yogurt sauce like tzatziki. Or let it accompany a knockout mixed grain dish.

A food processor is best for making this dish in a pinch: mix, chill, fry. That’s it!

My Favorite Falafel

tweaked from Joan Nathan, The Foods of Israel Today 

1 cup dried chickpeas OR 2 15-oz. cans

1/2 large onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro

1 teaspoon salt

1/2-1 teaspoon dried cayenne

4 cloves of garlic

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon baking powder

4-6 tablespoons stone-ground white corn meal (or flour)

Grapeseed or vegetable oil for frying

Prep the Mixture

Put the chickpeas in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover them by at least 2 inches. Let soak overnight, then drain. Or use canned chickpeas, drained.

Place the drained, uncooked chickpeas and the onions in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the parsley, cilantro, salt, cayenne, garlic, and cumin. Pulse until just evenly chopped.

Sprinkle in the baking powder and 4 tablespoons of the flour (or cornmeal—I found the cornmeal achieves the perfect crunchy exterior), and pulse. You want to add enough cornmeal or flour so that the dough forms a small ball and no longer sticks to your hands. Do not overmix, or the falafel will be tough. Leave a little chunky.

Turn into a bowl and refrigerate, covered, for several hours. I’ve found one hour sufficient, but you could also prep the mixture the night before.

Fry the Falafel

Form the chickpea mixture into balls about the size of walnuts—squashing into a disc fries faster and makes for easier sandwiches. Heat 3 inches of oil to 375 degrees in a deep pot or wok and fry 1 ball to test.

If it falls apart, add a little flour. Then fry about 6 balls at once for a few minutes on each side, or until golden brown. I find they fry well if lowered gently into the oil with a chinese strainer. Drain on paper towels. Falafel does not absorb oil, so it is not a greasy food—despite being fried.

Joan Nathan’s tips:

Stuff half a pita with falafel balls, chopped tomatoes, onion, green pepper, and pickled turnips. Drizzle with tahina thinned with water.

Tahina is an oily paste made from ground sesame seeds. It is available in Middle Eastern markets and at www.ethnicgrocer.com.

To garnish your falafel in true Israeli style, try adding one or several of the following condiments: harissa hot sauce, pickled turnip (both also available at www.ethnicgrocer.com), mango amba (pickle), or sauerkraut.

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March 12, 2012 · 2:53 pm

five out of five

My college dining hall had very few vegetarian entrées, and I ate vegetable lasagna at least four days a week in my undergraduate years. It was one of those carrot-zucchini lasagnas with white sauce and cheese, and it was so comforting. The Mongolian grill installed during my senior year increased the variety in my dining hall diet, but I couldn’t resist the creamy lasagna every once in a while still.

I have always been intimidated by lasagna—making it, that is. The layers and the prep and the waiting all that time for it to bake just seemed like too much work—this from the gal willing to make homemade pasta. But I’m conquering all kinds of new dishes these days. You can, too.

Here’s what makes my adaptation of this lasagna simple in preparation: use packaged artichoke hearts, no-boil lasagna noodles, and pre-trimmed leeks. Trader Joes even has pre-chopped leeks in their freezer section! (Click here to watch a demonstration on cleaning and slicing leeks).

I came across this 5-star recipe and said to myself, This sounds amazing. and it’s screaming to be simplified. and I wonder if it would work with mushrooms?

The Ultimate Vegetable Lasagna

simplified a smidge from williams-sonoma.com

serves 8-10

1 box no-boil lasagna noodles

2 cups ricotta cheese

3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

2 Tbs. olive oil

5 leeks including 1 inch of  green, rinsed well and cut into 1/2-inch dice

1 cup artichoke hearts (frozen or jarred), chopped

about 10 baby bella mushrooms, brushed clean, stems removed, and sliced

5 garlic cloves, minced (on a microplane)

3 cups milk

4 Tbs. unsalted butter

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

a pinch of nutmeg

1/2 lb. shredded mozzarella cheese

Make the vegetable filling

In a fry pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the leeks and sauté until very soft and lightly golden, about 15 minutes.

While the leeks are cooking, heat 1 tbsp. butter in a medium pot (large enough to use for white sauce) over medium-high heat. Sear the mushrooms by adding them in batches, leaving plenty of room between the slices. Set aside.

Once the leeks are tender, drain the artichokes and add to the fry pan with a pinch of salt and pepper. Continue to cook over medium heat until the artichokes are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Add the mushrooms, stir, and transfer the mixture to a bowl. Set aside.

Make the cheese filling

In a small bowl, stir together the ricotta, parmesan, salt and pepper; set aside.

Make the white sauce

In the buttered saucepan (from the mushrooms), melt the remaining 3 tbsp. butter over medium-high heat.

Whisk the flour into the butter and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. It should look like this.

Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the hot milk. Set over medium-low heat and cook, stirring, until thick and smooth, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Remove the sauce from the heat.

Assemble and Bake

Position a rack in the upper third of an oven and preheat to 375°F. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with olive oil.

Cover the bottom of the prepared dish with a layer of the noodles. No-boil lasagna noodles just go into the pan straight from the box; it’s fabulous. Spoon one-third of the ricotta mixture over the noodles—this doesn’t need to be neat.

Top with one-third of the leek-artichoke mixture and then with one-third of the sauce. Repeat the layering twice.

Sprinkle the mozzarella evenly over the top. Bake until golden and bubbling, 40 to 50 minutes. Let stand for 15 minutes (painful, I know!), then cut into squares and dig in.

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pears well with meals

I promise you would not need a fancy-schmancy pot to make the following, but it adds a little fun if you do. Allow me to introduce my birthday and Christmas surprises, Mademoiselle Plum and Monsieur Pesto:

 

I grew up on applesauce, and that’s not a criticism. Sometimes on our drives home from Grammy and Pop-pop’s house, we stopped at Catoctin Orchards for jars of cider, applesauce, and other fresh goodies. I’ve had a thing for homemade applesauce ever since.

Tried the peel, slice, core, simmer with juice technique—it’s a long wait. If you have a casserole dish with a tight lid, this apple-pear sauce will make itself. With a friend and two peelers, this is especially fun.

A quiet New Year’s Eve with close friends just screamed for roasted pear sauce, and here it is, dear readers, a side dish for the years to come. Because this is ideal for breakfast, dessert, and an accompaniment to of each course, double the recipe below, as we did.

Roasted Apple and Pear Sauce

from Ina Garten, makes 2 quarts

zest and juice of 2 large navel oranges

zest and juice of 1 lemon

3 lbs. sweet red apples (8 apples, any kind will really do)

3 lbs. ripe Bosc pears (7 pears; do use Bosc)

1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed

2 tbsp. unsalted butter

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

peel leisurely at the kitchen table with a friend, you would never believe this is work

Place the zest and juice of the oranges and lemon in a nonreactive Dutch oven (or large covered casserole). Peel, quarter, and core the apples and pears and toss them in the juice. Lindsey’s note: I core the apples very quickly by peeling, quartering through the stem, and—with the quarter flat on the board—making a diagonal slice just beyond the seeds and stem. This preps the fruit in one swift step.

Add the brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon and cover the pot.

Bake for about an hour and a half, until the apples and pears are tender. Mix with a whisk until smooth, but still a little chunky. Serve warm or at room temperature. Or eat right from the fridge.

this pear sauce isn't so bad with beef brisket, grilled haricots vert, and potato-brie gratin

 

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best of 2011

Drumroll please… the most delicious, memorable, must-make dish from our kitchen in 2011…

Asparagus Ravioli with Brown Butter Sauce

 

In case you didn’t catch it the first time around, here is the post again. Here’s to a healthy and delicious 2012!

 

There are things only some of us can do. Things that require unique talent and skills few possess (unless you’re my friend Mark, who actually has one of these rings at home).

Homemade ravioli is not among these feats.

A Pear to Remember is the place, after all, for deliciously do-able cooking. Homemade ravioli is impressive, elegant, divine in every way, but not impossible. Not even hard. Not even hours of work.

Pasta from scratch?? Not today. Won ton wrappers are these magical pre-cut pasta sheets Giant stores carry adjacent to the bagged salads. They are ever more common at grocery retailers, and Asian specialty stores would surely carry them, too. You can also make this without a food processor so it’s not such a fussy equipment endeavor. There are several steps, but few take more than a minute and a half. With a friend, these could easily be ready to go in 40 minutes. (Trader Joes, where speciality cheeses are not overpriced, also makes this an affordable meal).

This marks our most special meal to date. And, in my book, the most delicious by far. Here’s to memory-making on Monday nights!

Asparagus Ravioli with Brown Butter Sauce

Fine Cooking (April/May 2011), serves 4

1 lb. thick asparagus, trimmed, spears cut into 1-inch pieces, tips reserved

6 tablespoon marscarpone

1/3 cup whole milk ricotta

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano; more for serving

1 tsp. anchovy paste (optional)

cut the tips at an angle for topping at the end

1/2 tsp. minced garlic (must be fresh, the jarred stuff is too harsh)

Pinch cayenne pepper

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

36 wonton wrappers

4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter

1/2 cup blanched almonds, chopped

finely grated lemon zest to taste

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat (using this same water for the pasta later maintains nutrients!). Have ready a medium bowl of ice water (if you have a colander to rest inside, this is one less draining step). Boil the asparagus tips until tender but still bright green, about 2 minutes. With a slotted spoon (thanks, Kathy!), transfer to the ice water. When cool, transfer with the slotted spoon to a small bowl and set aside. Cook and cool the asparagus spears in the same manner; dry them on paper towels.

In a food processor (or by hand), chop 1-1/2 cups of the spears very finely and transfer to a medium bowl. Add the remaining spears to the tips.

Add the marscarpone, ricotta, Parmigiano, anchovy paste, garlic, and cayenne to the chopped asparagus; mix well. Season to taste with coarse salt and fresh pepper.

Let’s stop for a sec to talk minced garlic.

I knew nothing about fresh garlic growing up; if this is your first encounter with it: welcome!

To mince garlic well, whack a single clove with the side of a wide knife—makes peeling a snap. To chop the garlic very, very fine, slice the clove a few times, sprinkle with a big pinch of coarse salt, and chop away. Just keep running over the clove with your knife; the salt will help mash it into a paste to blend beautifully into your dish.

You can also rub your garlic clove on a microplane for the same, quicker, effect! (Use the same zester for the lemon at the end; no need to clean between).

Arrange 18 wonton wrappers on a work surface (a cookie sheet is perfect for both prepping and post-boiling) . Put 1 level Tbs. of the asparagus filling in the center of each wrapper (don’t get too caught up in measuring).

Using a pastry brush, moisten the edges of each with water. Top each with another wrapper and press the edges firmly to seal, expelling any air bubbles as you seal. If you don’t plan to cook the ravioli immediately, cover them with a damp cloth.

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a rolling boil over high heat (ideally, the same pot with the blanched asparagus water).

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat and add the almonds, shaking the pan. Cook until the butter turns light brown, about 6 minutes, and then immediately transfer to a small bowl.

Add the ravioli, about 5 at a time, to the boiling water (I lowered the boil so the pockets would not explode; it worked). When they rise to the surface, after about 1 minute, use a slotted spoon to transfer them to warm plates or pasta bowls. Spoon the brown butter mixture over the ravioli. Top with the reserved asparagus pieces, a grinding of pepper, a sprinkle of Parmigiano, and a little lemon zest, and serve.

Thanks to the Bitten Word for inspiring me to try (and conquer) this recipe!

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scary good

new kitchen, good witch

On Halloween, my school held a sweet Dress Like Your Favorite Book Character day. Maybe walking around both my workplace and the grocery store as Amelia Bedelia inspired this fun, casual dinner. But this was one of those meals where the first, divine bite was this melting moment of, “That’s the best taste in a looooooong time.” Really, it’s just a sandwich, jarred pantry ingredients, nothing fancy. And you need to grill it this week.

I should also mention that you really don’t taste the artichoke, if that’s a dealbreaker for some Andrews readers out there.

Artichoke and Eggplant Panini

from Gourmet 2009, serves four

1 (6 oz.) jar marinated artichokes, drained and chopped

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 small garlic clove

1 (3/4-pound) eggplant

olive oil

1 (1-pound) loaf Italian bread, 8 (1/3-inch-thick) slices cut from middle

1/4 pound Fontina, thinly sliced or shredded

1/3 jar roasted red peppers (optional)

1 tablespoon drained capers (optional)

Prepare a gas grill (or stovetop grill pan) for direct-heat cooking over medium-high heat. (If you do not have a grill, brown both the eggplant and sandwich in your oven broiler).

Pulse artichokes, mayonnaise, capers (optional), and garlic in a food processor until coarsely chopped.

Trim off a thin slice from 2 opposite long sides of eggplant, then cut eggplant lengthwise into 4 thin slices. Brush both sides of slices with olive oil and season with 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.

Grill eggplant slices, covered, turning once and brushing grilled sides with olive oil, until golden-brown and tender, about 4 minutes, then transfer to a tray.

(Since Andrew isn’t “into” eggplant, I hammered one chicken breast into an even piece and grilled along with the eggplant. Literally, with a hammer).

Brush both sides of bread with olive oil and grill, covered, without turning, until grill marks appear, about 2 minutes. (We used regular hearty sandwich bread).

Top each of 4 bread slices, grilled sides up, with cheese, peppers, and an eggplant slice. Spread artichoke mixture on remaining 4 bread slices, grilled sides up, then assemble sandwiches.

Put sandwiches on grill and press down with a metal spatula, then grill, turning once, until heated through and grill marks appear, about 4 minutes total.

Enjoy with pickles, maybe some soup, and a slightly spooky movie. We love Young Frankenstein. What’s your pick?

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