02 December 2016: Baked Mushroom-Polenta Pie (my way)

2016-dec-02_fournightsaweek_0131What happens when you can’t locate instant polenta in the market? You improvise!  I most definitely would try this one again after I locate the polenta; for this version, I used the rolls of pre-made polenta as the base and piled the mushrooms on top.

Adapted from Whole Foods Market

Ingredients

  • 1 pound mixed mushrooms (halved if small and sliced if large)
  • 3 shallots, sliced
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3/4 oz (about 2/3 cup) dried porcini mushrooms, ground in a spice grinder or food processor to a fine powder (not used because of the pre-made polenta)
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons instant polenta
  • 4 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, divided

Method

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine mushrooms and shallots in a large skillet and place over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms and shallots have released their liquid and browned, about 12 minutes; add wine 1 TBSP at a time if necessary to keep mushrooms from sticking. When mushrooms are very tender and browned, add thyme, soy sauce, pepper and any remaining wine. Cook, stirring until liquid has evaporated.

[Because I used the roll of pre-made polenta, I skipped this step. Sliced the pre-made roll and cover the bottom of a baking dish, pile the mushroom mixture on top]. Combine 3 cups water and salt in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir in porcini powder. Add polenta in a thin, steady stream stirring constantly. Cook, stirring constantly until polenta is thickened and bubbles, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in mushroom mixture, 3 TBSP of the parsley and 3 TBSP of chives. Pour this mixture into a 9-inch pie plate and smooth the top. Bake until just browned on top, about 30 minutes.

Cool for 20-30 minutes. Run a table knife around the edge of the pan. Sprinkle pie with remaining 1 TBSP parsley and 1 TBSP chives. Cut into wedges.

To make the pie ahead, pour the polenta mixture into the pie place and cool, then cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Add about 15 minutes to the baking time.


05 Sep 2016: Granola

2016-Sep-05_FourNights-Granola_1299Granola recipes are nearly a dime a dozen, and once you’ve read through one (or baked it), you can pretty much adapt that recipe to suit your personal taste or to suit whatever you have in the house for fruits and nuts.  This past June, we traveled to Waikiki and I was reintroduced to a granola variation when I ordered an Acai Bowl. The granola in the bowl had a definite local tropical influence – macadamia nuts, dried tropical fruits, ginger. It was stunning and I’m still working to duplicate it.

Usually I end up making a batch of granola about once a week. While I no longer follow a recipe, if you’re more comfortable using one, here’s a good granola recipe from Alton Brown of the Food Network. The following is – and should be – readily adapted according to taste preferences.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups rolled oats (NOT quick!)
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 3/4 cups pecan pieces, chunked up macadamia nuts, or other nut meats
  • 1 cup dried fruit (dried ginger, dried pineapple, raisins – or any combination you prefer)
  • scant 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 TBSP cinnamon (have also used ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon – the ginger is strong so go easy!)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted (oil of preference; use something light & neutral tasting if you don’t have coconut oil – safflower for example)
  • About 1/2 cup of real maple syrup

Method

  1. Mix all the dry ingredients together first. My suggestion is to use your hands and toss everything together as you add each ingredient.
  2. Add the oil and maple syrup. Combine thoroughly – this time I’d switch to a spoon! The mixture should just appear to be moist – not soaked.
  3. Spread on a cooking sheet lined with parchment.  Pop into a 300 degree oven for about 15 minutes – stir the mix around at that point so it will toast evenly.  Return to the oven for about another 15-20 minutes. At this point, you want to keep an eye on things so the granola doesn’t burn. It should be toasty golden brown, not burned looking or tasting.
  4. Cool on the sheet and store, refrigerated, in an air tight container.

 


02 September 2016: Gazpacho

2016-Sep-02_FoodGazpacho_1264I recently happened upon the perfect empty-nester cookbook: The Complete Cooking for Two Cookbook, from America’s Test Kitchen. What could be more perfect – the detailed testing of every recipe fro ATK paired with recipes built for two? 

This Gazpacho recipe found on page 37 comes with complete instructions for seeding raw tomatoes and a soup variation using shrimp. With summer tomatoes at their peak and an abundance of sweet peppers and cukes, this was tonight’s winner for supper.  

For subscribers to ATK’s website, the Gazpacho is available online.

 


14 August 2016: Tuscan Kale Salad

Here in the Northeast, local farmers have had a lot of difficulty bringing greens to market 2016-Aug-14_kalesalad_1194throughout this prolonged drought. So when I scored some kale at this week’s market, I wasn’t too particular whether or not it was Tuscan, Lacinto, or any other tasty variety; I was just happy to be able to purchase some locally grown greens! 

This tasty salad comes from Melissa Clark, a contributor to the New York Times Cooking Column. The original recipe can be found here and downloaded from the Times on the web. The only change I would make is a personal one: both of us found the lemon juice a bit overpowering. Our adjustment would be to use the juice of half a lemon, but keep all the other proportions the same.

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch Tuscan kale (or any other variety you enjoy)
  • 1 slice country bread OR 1/4 cup homemade bread crumbs (coarse)
  • 1/2 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely grated pecorino cheese, more for garnish
  • 3 TBSP extra virgin olive oil (more for garnish if desired)
  • Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon (see above suggestion to halve this amount)
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Method

  1. Trim bottom 2 inches off kale stems and discard. Slice kale, including ribs, into 3/4-inch-wide ribbons. You should have 4 to 5 cups. Place kale in a large bowl.
  2. If using bread, toast it until golden on both sides. Tear it into small pieces and grind in a food processor until mixture forms coarse crumbs.
  3. Using a mortar and pestle OR with the back of a knife, pound garlic into a paste. Transfer garlic to a small bowl. Add 1/4 cup cheese, 3 TBSP oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper flacks and black pepper, and whisk to combine. Pour dressing over kale and toss very well to thoroughly combine (dressing will be thick and need lots of tossing to coat leaves).
  4. Let salad sit for 5 minutes, then serve topped with bread crumbs, additional cheese and a drizzle of oil.

02 August 2016 Curried Carrot Soup

Adapted from Mayo Clinic Diet2016-Aug-02_FourNightsAWeek_soup.

I love the combination of spices in this carrot soup – and with just 80 calories per 1 1/2 cups it is a perfect way to counteract the food treats I experienced at the Lowell Folk Festival this past weekend.  This tasty soup comes from the Mayo Clinic recipe resources. Most of the spices I already had in my stash, so it was one tasty meal that came together quickly and with minimal shopping.

Ingredients

  • 1 TBSP Olive Oil (substituted coconut oil)
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 pound carrots peeled and cut in 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 TBSP fresh ginger + 1 tsp (peeled and chopped)
  • 1/2 medium jalepeno pepper, seeded
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 5 cups chick stock or vegetable stock/broth
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (save some leaves for garnish if desired)
  • 2 TBSP fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt (omitted)
  • 3 TBSP sour cream, light or fat-free (I used fat-free plain Greek yogurt)
  • 1 lime (grate the zest + use the juice in last steps)

Method

  1. In large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the mustard seed. When the seeds just start to pop (after about 1 minute), add the onion and saute until soft and translucent (about 4 minutes). Add the carrots, ginger, jalepeno and curry powder and saute until the seasonings are fragrant (about 3 minutes).
  2. Add 3 cups of the stock, raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the carrots are tender (about 6 minutes).
  3. In a blender or food processor, puree the soup in batches until smooth and return to saucepan. Here’s where I make use of my immersion blender. Stir in the remaining 2 cups of stock. Return the soup to medium heat and reheat gently. Just before serving, stir in the chopped cilantro and lime juice. Season with salt if desired.
  4. Ladle into warmed individual bowls. Garnish with a drizzle of yogurt, a sprinkle of the lime zest and additional cilantro leaves.

24 July 2016: Minty Bulgur Salad with Salmon & Cucumbers

Adapted from Real Simple.

2016-Jul-24_bulgarsalad_0794We find ourselves making use of the diverse and fresh locally grown produce available in our local farmers’ markets throughout the summer. Here’s a way to take advantage of parsley, mint, and an abundance of cucumbers.  

I first learned how to combine bulgur wheat with veggies back in 1980 through a course at Cambridge Center for Adult Education.  This recipe, from Real Simple, was the base for simply roasted salmon combined with bulgur salad with a few modifications, of course.

Ingredients

  • 1 TBSP plus 1 tsp olive oil (in place of the oil in the salad, I used 2 TBSP of Tahini)
  • 1 pound piece skinless salmon fillet
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 cup bulgur
  • 2 Kirby cucumbers, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 1 cut flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup torn fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 small red onion (I used a sweet onion)
  • 3 TBSP fresh lemon juice

Method

  1. Here’s where I deviate from the recipe: I line a flat sheet pan with foil and spray with coconut oil). Salt and pepper the salmon fillet – I use skin on and skin-side DOWN), cook in preheated 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes or until salmon is fully cooked. Continue by cooling the salmon fillet. When ready to use, simply take a spatula between skin and underside of the salmon and lift off the sheet.
  2. FROM Real Simple:  heat 1 tsp oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Season the salmon with 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper. Cook the salmon until opaque throughout, 4 to 6 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and refrigerate until cool, about 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the bulgur with 2 cups boiling water. Let stand until tender (about 25 minutes). Drain and return to the bowl.
  4. Toss the bulgur with the cucumbers, mint, parsley, onion, lemon juice and remaining tablespoon of oil (here’s where I substitute 2 TBSP of Tahini). Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Using a fork, flake the salmon into large pieces. Gently fold into bulgur salad or serve on top.

23 June 2016 Poke Bowl

2016-Jun-23_Poke_0581.jpgThere are as many versions of the bowl of deliciousness as there are cooks in Hawai’i. And honestly, nothing beats enjoying a bowl of Poke on Waikiki Beach, unless of course,  you happen in to Ono Seafood on O’ahu.  Even so, I was able to find some of the more common additions to Poke and decided that, since it wasn’t likely I’d be able to get back to O’ahu in time for dinner, I’d give it a run here at home.  

A suggestion: if you’re looking for a recipe, look for ones that originate with Hawai’ian chefs.  Here’s one I found from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt on Serious Eats.

Ingredients

  • 3 teaspons (about 1g) dried wakame (I found this at Wegmans)
  • 1 teaspoon (about 0.5g) dried hijiki (also at Wegmans)
  • 12 ounces (340g) raw sashimi-grade tuna, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3 ounces (85g) sweet onion, such as Maui or Vidalia, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon (about 3g) white or black sesame seeds, or a mix
  • 4 teaspoons (20ml) soy sauce, more or less to taste
  • 2 teaspoons (10ml) toasted sesame oil, more or less to taste
  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) honey, more or less to taste
  • Crushed red pepper, to taste (optional)
  • Kosher salt
  • Steamed rice (if eating as a meal)

Method

Place wakame and hijiki in separate small bowls. Cover with boiling water and let rest until rehydrated and tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and press with paper towels. Roughly chop wakame. Add wakame and hijiki to a large bowl.

Add tuna, onion, scallion, sesame seeds, soy sauce, sesame oil, honey, and optional crushed red pepper to bowl. Season with a small pinch of kosher salt and gently fold to combine. Taste and adjust with more soy sauce, sesame oil, honey, or crushed red pepper as desired. Let sit 5 minutes at room temperature, then serve on its own or on top of steamed rice.

I garnished ours with seaweed salad (purchased at the sushi bar of Wegmans), ginger, sesame seeds and a bit of chopped macadamia nuts.

Serves 4.


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