Saturday, April 30, 2011

More Food for Rainy Cold Days

As I said before, I hope that this batch of comfort food is last one this spring. It is May, after all! Even though my barbecue grill is under roof it is still opened on two sides and when it rains the wind always finds its way right where I’m standing. Murphy’s Law rules, what more can I say?
As you can see on pictures my oven was a busy appliance: Ribs, Oven roasted potatoes, Chicken wings

This is repeat of same recipe I’ve done last week. Ribs were on special and I wanted to test my new technique of roasting the ribs on parchment paper. It worked like a charm: the ribs didn’t stick to bottom at all. I love this technique!

Another repeat, but if your protein tastes like candy, what can I say? Perfect dessert for dedicated carnivore like me. This version of chicken wings was done with Char Siu sauce enhanced with  little bit of extra honey.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Lemon Grass Shrimp and Chicken Breast

To be honest with you, I am getting tired of preparing food that is perfect for rainy and cold days. This so called Spring is getting so depressing and I just can’t wait for nice warm sunny days when salads and lightly grilled food will be on my daily menu. Yesterday, I wanted to prepare grilled chicken breast strips and shrimps that were marinated in lemon grass, lime zest and juice, fish sauce and Sriracha mixture but because of steady rain I had to stir fry them instead. It would have been so nice if they were grilled and served with crispy lettuce leaves, rice noodles and fish sauce/lime juice dipping sauce. Since this meal was stir fried I added bok choy, red pepper and fresh shiitake mushrooms and garnished with corriander (cilantro).

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Veal Schnitzel and Rice

This is a classical version. I usually use pork tenderloin but since I bought some nice veal at local farmers market I just couldn’t resist and since we didn’t have a rice with schnitzel for a while it was a side dish of choice. And, of course, wedge of lemon and some pickles balanced the meal perfectly.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Oven Roasted Pork Ribs and Fries

Beside Dim Sum ribs I have never cooked ribs that were separated, I have always cooked whole slab, be it on BBQ or in oven. This time I have decided to separate all ribs, marinade them overnight and then cook them in aluminum foil covered baking pan. Also, since I didn’t want them to stick to the bottom of pan I have placed a sheet of baking parchment paper on bottom and sides creating sort of container that kept all the marinade inside. This way the ribs steamed at 375 °F for first 2 hours, covered, and another 30 minutes uncovered at 400 °F.
Potato chips went into oven 1 hour before ribs were uncovered, on a rack in one layer. Potatoes were cut and then soaked in cold water for 1 hour. Then they were drained, dried and tossed with olive oil and spice mix of 1 tsp. chili powder, 1 tsp. Hungarian Paprika and 1 tsp. coarse salt.
What a feast! The ribs came clean off the bone and chips had a nice crunch. This will be my favorite way to cook ribs. By the way, that parchment paper worked like a charm. None of the ribs stuck to bottom and the paper came out leaving fairly clean aluminum foil underneath. There was nothing to wash.

Ribs are placed on parchment paper to prevent sticking.

Potatochips are soaked, then dried and tossed with spices and oil.

Ready for plating.

No mess, no pots and pans to wash!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Are rabbits stupid, brave or ignorant?

This morning, Marjo was watching a rabbit from our deck sniffing daffodils about 20 feet away.  She clapped her hands to scare him away but instead of running away the rabbit came straight towards her and settled in a flower box just two steps away. She clapped again and, again, no response. Somehow, the rabbit didn’t care too much being watched. It was dismissed as “rabbits do what they do” and forgotten. Well, later this afternoon as we walked by the same flower box Marjo noticed small depression at far left corner of the box. The bloody rabbit was building a nest in the box! Not only that, she chomped down some of our beautiful corkscrew grass to line it with! She (it was a very pregnant rabbit) has no idea what these things cost! What to do? We have been through this before when another rabbit build a nest under our Japanese lantern. Anyway, I did fill up the box with soil and now I’ll be watching, but this time with a bamboo stick in my hand. You just have to wonder where her next den will be build. I will be watching! Last year they destroyed most of our coral bells.
Here are the pictures.

Marjo was standing just behind the white flower box and rabbit came up the stairs and into blue box.

The nest (den?) in progress. Notice the corkscrew grass in front.

She reduced the corkscrew grass to half its original size.

Snapdragon and Garden Update

What a difference two months make! When I planted the snapdragon seeds in late January I found it hard to believe that they will take 120 to 140 days from seed to trailing stage. People at Johnny’s Selected Seeds know their stuff, I tell you that much. Their web site has the most detailed description of their seeds and growing instructions on the web and on top of it, their customer service is incredible. Every time I have sent a question by email I had answer within 24 hours. I will be their customer as long as I grow my flowers and veggies, for sure. Right now, I just wish that I could plant into the ground what I grew from seeds . What a weird spring. Anyway, here are some pictures of my winter and spring labor.

Tomato Mountain Magic in 2 Liter (2 quart) carton.

And, of course our Bougainvillea. Incredible plant.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Kassler with Pineapple and Grapes

Kassler is a cured and smoked pork chop that originated in Germany and is traditionally cooked with sauerkraut and potatoes. Since my better half is not crazy about sauerkraut like I am, she asked me to cook it with pineapple instead. Few years ago, I came up with a meal that was made with pork cutlet rolled with cheese and smoked bacon slices and cooked in white wine and with pineapple and green grapes. It was a hit at my dinner parties because at the table I poured in some hot rum and flambé the sauce. Real retro, I have to say.
If you can’t get your hands on a real Kassler you can sub with a regular thick cut pork chops, brined for 4 hours in salted water with few drops of liquid hickory smoke. After 4 hours, drain, rinse under running cold water and pat dry with paper towel.
2 Kassler chops
1 onion, chopped
1 Tbs. butter
1 Tbs. oil
14 oz. can of pineapple chunks, drained
1 cup green grapes, halved lengthwise
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 tsp Hungarian paprika
1/2 tsp chilli powder
White pepper to taste
4 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered

In medium hot frying pan heat oil and butter and sauté onions till light golden brown.
Add paprika and chilli powder, stir an push onions on side. Place pork chops in center of frying pan and brown on both sides, about 4 – 5 minutes each side.
Meanwhile, boil potatoes in salted water, drain when done, toss with chopped parsley and butter and keep warm.
Pour in wine and reduce to half. Add pineapple chunks and grapes, cover and simmer on low for about 30 minutes, turning once halfway through and at the same time stir the pineapple and grapes. Add more wine if sauce is too thick.
To serve, pour half the sauce on each preheated plate, place pork chop on top of sauce and potatoes on side.
I bought these chops at local farmer's market. No cash register, the wrapper serves as cash register tape. Check top left corner on photo.
Kassler and onions are cooked and ready for wine.

Another 15 minutes and it will be ready for plating.

I get hungry just looking at it!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Spaghettini with Clams and Cream Sauce

Another in series of comfort food recipes. This one is basically Spaghetti con Vongole recipe but without the shrimps.

1 Tbs. olive oil
3 or 4 shallots, finally chopped
3 Tbs. chopped parsley
1 can of baby clams, drained and separated
1 c. of white wine
1/2 cup 35% cream or whipping cream
Nutmeg, pinch
Hot pepper flakes, to taste
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1/4 tsp. dried tarragon
Truffle oil, dash (optional)

Cook spaghettini till al dente, drain, foss with 1 tsp of olive oil and keep warm.
Heat frying pan and when hot add olive oil and then shallots. Sauté for few minutes but don’t allow to brown. Pour in wine and cook off. Add clam juice and cook till only about 1/4 cup remains. Add clams and sauté for about 2 minutes. Add cream and cook under medium heat till sauce starts to thicken. Add parsley, tarragon, nutmeg, white pepper, chili pepper flakes and optional truffle oil.
When pasta is cooked al dente, drain and toss with the cream sauce.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Baked Penne with Bocconcini

This comfort food dish is based on Mac & Cheese recipe with few twists. Instead of boring macaroni I used Penne Rigatoni. The milk based cheese sauce was replaced with tomato sauce in which I have melted shredded Italian four-cheese mix and topped with sliced fresh bocconcini. The pasta and sauce mix was ladled into oven-proof dish and baked at 450 °F till sauce bubbled and bocconcini was melted. Absolute delight when served with crusty baguette and plain lettuce and arugula on side.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Pan Fried Salmon, Green Beans and Red Pepper.

Because of versatility and taste salmon is my favorite fish. This is one of the simplest versions I have made. It can be made in less then 20 minutes, including preparation, same time as rice takes to cook. I have to mention, though, that the red pepper was already cleaned from prep for previous meal so all I had to do was remove ends from green beans and slice them in half and prepare the wasabi sauce.
Again, this is so simple.

§    Salmon fillet portion, skin on or skinless, 1 per person
§    Salt and White pepper
§    Green Beans, ends removed and cut in half lengthwise and pre-cooked in microwave for 1 minute.
§    Red Pepper, julienned
§    1 tsp. olive oil
§    1 tsp. butter
§    1 tsp. wasabi powder mixed with 1 tsp. water
§    1/3 cup Mayonnaise
§    2 Tbs. Maple Syrup
Mix all ingredients till smooth

Season salmon with salt and pepper (for that little extra I use smoked sea salt).
Preheat frying pan with butter and oil on medium high. Add salmon skin side up together with beans and peppers. When salmon is opaque 1/3 up, about 2 minutes, turn over skin side down and stir beans and peppers. When salmon is almost flaky, about another 2 – 3 minutes, remove from heat and serve on preheated plate with rice, beans and red pepper. Spoon wasabi/mayo/maple syrup sauce on side or on top of salmon.

This will be our post golf game lunch, I think. So tasty and fast.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Beef Rouladen (Hovězí Ptáčky)

As far as I know most European country has a version of this meal. In some places pork is used but mostly very thin piece of beef roast is the traditional cut.
The filling varies from place to place, not only between countries. In North Bohemia traditional filling is smoked bacon, sausage, onions, hard boiled egg and pickle. This time I made half sized version but recipe is for a full sized Rouladen.

4 slices of rouladen beef (see note bellow)
4” piece of Polish Kielbasa, skin removed and cut into 4 pieces, lengthwise
1 hard boiled egg, quartered
4 pickles, cut in half, lengthwise
4 slices smoked and pre-cooked bacon or ham
1/2 chopped onion
Dijon mustard
Hungarian Paprika
Black pepper and salt
Note: Rouladen beef is cut from rump or round roast and is about 1/4” thick and about 6” wide and 10” long and is tenderized with mallet. This makes the beef quite larger and tender.

2 slices smoked bacon, chopped fine
1/2 chopped onion
Dijon mustard
Hungarian Paprika
Black pepper and salt
1/2 cup of red wine or Marsala

Place beef on cutting board with wider end closer to you.
Spread about 1 Tbs. of mustard on front half ob beef and season with paprika, pepper and salt.
Place bacon or ham on top, followed by sausage, pickle, onions and egg.
Make sure that all toppings, except bacon, are on a nice pile. Start rolling away from you. After 1 and 1/2 turns fold the sides over to enclose the filling and finish rolling. Make sure the roll is tight. Secure with butchers twine around and across.

This time I did half size rolls.

Heat frying pan with 1 Tbs. of oil and 1 Tbs. of butter on medium high. Brown rolls on all sides and set aside. Do not crowd in pan.
When all rolls are browned discard the oil and butter. Add 1 tsp. of fresh butter and chopped bacon. Brown bacon and then add onions and sauté till golden brown. Pour in wine and scrape all fond from bottom of pan. Add chopped pickles and return beef rolls into pan, bring to gentle simmer and cook for 45 minutes. Add wine as necessary if sauce is too low.
Add mustard and chopped eggs and simmer for 5 more minutes. Do not boil or mustard will become bitter.
Remove rolls from pan, cut the twine and slice into 1/2” thick slices.
Serve on preheated plate with the sauce and rice.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Dinner Ideas or My Week in Kitchen

Actually, this is what I have prepared last week J.
Last week I prepared our meals using first item that caught my eye in fridge, freezer or pantry.  Basically, I was just improvising all week long. Most meals were sort of inspired by weather. It was all over the board, one day it was sunny and in mid 20s and next day the temperature stayed in single digits.

Bok Choy and Noodle Chicken Soup
Nice comfort food. With Long Asian egg noodles it is nice vegetarian lunch. Beside bok choy I have added julienned carrots and green onions.

Pork Tenderloin Schnitzel with Potatoes.
As usual, I used Panko instead of traditional bread crumbs for that extra crunch. Served with wedge of lemon and gherkin on side. Leftover schnitzel is great with rye bread as a sandwich.

Beef Rouladen with Rice.
I will post full recipe later today.

Green Beans, Red pepper, Hot Italian Sausage and Potato Sauté.
Nice peasant meal and simplicity itself. Start boiling potatoes cut into serving pieces. Meanwhile, sauté sausage with skin removed, add green beans and julienned red pepper and drizzle little white wine over it to create some steam. Cover and cook about 3 minutes. Mixed in boiled potatoes and serve. Because the sausage is so strongly flavored you don’t really need additional herbs or spices.

Thin Crust Pizza
I used my own pizza dough and sauce. For topping it was 4 cheese mix and toped with zucchini, red pepper, sweet onions, Cremini mushrooms and hot Italian sausage. Our favorite and I bake it almost every week.

Beef Congee
It never stops amaze me what you can do with just one half cup of rice, some stock and 1-1/2 to 2 hours of your time. For topping I used shredded flank steak marinated with soy sauce, white pepper and sesame oil, freshly roasted peanuts, green onions and arugula. Arugula was a substitute for coriander that I didn’t have. Congee has to be cooked very, very slowly, just a little bubbles coming up, or it will burn.

Salmon with Green Beans and Red Pepper.
This meal deserves its own post. I will post full recipe right after the Rouladen recipe.

Beef and Mushroom Stew with Dumplings
The stews are so difficult to photograph. Anyway, this is regular beef stew with about dozen quartered cremini mushrooms added just 10 minutes before plating. Short cooking time doesn’t shrink them and they don’t release all their juices. This stew had more mushrooms then meat and tasted great.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Seedlings update, April 15, 2011

Three weeks to go to plant most seedlings outside and our sunroom looks like a nursery already. I have spotted first flowers on tomatoes already but they are sturdy and healthy. This is a Mountain Magic variety from Johnny’s Seeds and they will grow in containers so no worries here. Eggplants are coming along nicely and so are peppers and basil. They all will be right size when the time comes to see the outdoors. As far as flower seedlings go they are ready but have to stay for a while. It looks like that some will have to be moved to a bigger pot and others into final basket or container. Trailing Snapdragons are doing extremely well and so are Lobelia, Black Eyed Susan Vine, Petunia, Zinnia, Cosmos, Nasturtium and Salpiglossis. Yes, there is a jungle in our sunroom. Only plants still under lights are Peppers, Basil, some Tomatoes and Salpiglossis.
Some pictures are few days old.

Mountain Magic tomatoes.

Black Eyed Susan Vine.

Snapdragon Rocket.

Snapdragon Lampion.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Update of The Weekly Menu – April 10, 2011

Western Beef Stir-fry.
The rice was cooked like a regular fried rice with vegetables but the beef steak was cook in a hot frying pan till medium rare and then sliced into 1” wide strips on bias and then tossed with BBQ sauce. Since no knife is necessary in order to eat it, it makes it a good branch meal where all you need is a fork or chopsticks.

BBQ Chicken Wings.
Yah, I know, I had it last week and maybe week before that but hey, they are so good! Sweet and hot and sticky…heaven on the plate. As is usual for me I served it on bed of chopped Napa cabbage.

The Chicken Vegetable & Rice Soup.
This was a nice light lunch. It was just a previously made chicken stock with meat, carrots, celery, potatoes, garlic, tomatoes, rice and topped with Parmigiano cheese. I put a Parmigiano cheese rind in the stock and simmered it for 30 minutes and it gave the soup such a complex flavor! Since I have so much rind from the cheese I will use it in every soup base.

Seafood-Mix Risotto.
Rice was the last staple that I didn’t use with frozen seafood mix. Week ago I saw on Food Channel tip for using frozen scallops and squids. As anybody that used them knows that they have a sort of metallic after taste that is hard to get rid off. I think it was on America’s Test Kitchen, they suggested to use lemon juice. I went one step farther: I have marinated the mix with grated zest and juice from 1 lemon. Did it work? Not a trace of any chemical preservatives. Not exactly like fresh stuff but pretty good. This trick will be in my repertoire from now on.

Risotto Cakes with Bocconcini.
Many restaurants cook risotto for a sole purpose of having it for cakes and I can understand why. When you bite into one first sensation is the super crispy Panko coating. Then you feel the cheesy and creamy rice followed by melted, stringy Mozzarella Bocconcini. Then you take a bite of crispy Napa cabbage. Wow! This is not a leftover meal, this is a meal worthy to be on a banquet menu. I did make one change since I cooked my last risotto: before forming the patty or cake, I mixed in a lot of grated Parmigiano cheese to help in binding it and hold shape. Great move! After all, I bought so much cheese at a basement price J !

Stove-top Chicken Teriyaki.
In my opinion this version is so much juicier, tender and quicker to prepare then traditional cooking method over barbecue. Even though I have marinated for 6 hours skinless and boneless chicken thighs cut into 1 inch strips, I am not sure that it is necessary when cooked in non-stick frying pan. The chicken pieces are basically sauted in the marinade and when I turn then over after about 10 minutes I add the green onions and cook another 10 minutes, partially covered. At the end of cooking time the marinade turns into a thick sauce. Served over rice along with cucumber salad makes it a summer delight.