Monday, January 28, 2008

Delicata Squash With Sautéed Greens, Pancetta And Honey Tangerine

When you've been driving all day, some of it under rather harrowing conditions, this is the perfect quick-to-fix meal to warm you up and calm you down when you arrive home. A glass of red wine helps. Of course I'm talking about me...

The first part of my 6-hour journey home yesterday was easy - a little rain, a little wind - then it began to snow. Big fat fluffy flakes falling slowly at first, just enough to marvel at, then falling faster and faster until before I knew it I was queued up behind a number of cars being led through the snowy whiteness by a highway patrol car, the road becoming too trecherous to allow for the errant fast driver yet not icy enough to require chains. All of this occurred on the 101 within 50 miles of my home - a very rare occurrence for my neck of the woods as I live on the northern California coast in a maritime temperate climate zone. Not used to driving through snow, especially without chains, you can imagine my relief at arriving home safe and sound, if a bit hungry.
Honey tangerines (also called Murcott oranges) are in markets right now and their sunny goodness is a welcome ingredient to the winter palate. Wonderful in vinaigrettes and simple sautés, honey tangerine juice will also brighten roasted meats and bring elegance to winter desserts. Last night it rounded out all the ingredients of this sauté and made them shine.

Delicata squash with Sautéed Greens, Pancetta and Honey Tangerine
Christine's original recipe
1 medium delicata squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 cups mixture of winter greens, torn (see Cook's Notes)
1 and 1/2 ounces pancetta, cut into small squares
3 tablespoons to 1/4 cup honey tangerine juice, squeezed and strained from 1 tangerine
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
olive oil spray for the pan

Spray a heavy skillet with olive oil spray and set over medium high heat.
Add the pancetta to the hot pan and cook, stirring to break up the pieces, until crisp and browned. Remove to a plate.
Spray the same pan again and lower the heat to medium.
Add the cubes of squash and sauté until it softens and begins to brown.
Add the minced garlic and stir until the garlic has become softened and aromatic.
Toss in the torn greens. This is usually a mixture of winter greens: Chard in its many colors plus several kinds of kale, mustard greens and beet tops.
Stir everything together gently and allow the greens to wilt. A bit of additional olive oil may be needed to keep the squash from sticking to the pan.
Pour the honey tangerine juice over everything and stir well to combine.
When the greens are cooked to your liking, season to taste with salt and pepper and remove from the heat.
Serve on warmed plates and sprinkle with the crispy pancetta.

Cook's Notes:
For this dish I tore the greens into smaller pieces so as not to overpower the small cubes of squash nor lose the pieces of pancetta among them.

Plus A Small Rant:
(Not too long ago, last week I believe, I came across a complaint on the Internet about long, descriptive recipe titles on food blog posts. I don't take this personally as I'm sure the person who wrote it doesn't know my blog exists, but it still prompts me share this small rant. I'm only sorry that I didn't bookmark where I read the complaint as I would have loved to share it with you.)
I know that I'm given to long recipe titles and obviously am among quite a group of others who do the same. And I guess that this drives at least one food blogger critic a bit nuts. Personally, besides liking to be more descriptive than less, I also like it that people searching the Web for recipes are more apt to land on one of my recipes if I use said descriptive titles. And, duh, that's what we want, isn't it? So get over yourself. These are blogs for crying out loud.

Copyright © 2005-2008, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Heart Healthy Lentil Vegetable Soup

I've got to be quick about this as I'm late for the roundup at Heart of the Matter. Brought to us by Joanna, Ilva, and Michelle, this great blog offers up healthy, low fat, good-for-you recipes from bloggers around the world. Our mission for HotM 11 was to come up with a heart healthy soup. Joanna will have the roundup posted in the next few days so be sure to visit. I know there will be some fantastic recipes there that you'll want to try for yourselves.

Lentils, one of the world's healthiest foods, celeriac, sunchokes, carrots, celery, rutabagas, onions, garlic and Meyer lemon juice for some pizazz. Fabulously healthy ingredients all gently cooked together in a vegetable stock. What more could you want on a cold winter's day? A hint of olive oil is used to sauté the onions and garlic, otherwise there is no added fat. The combined tastes of all the vegetables is so good that I didn't even add herbs - just a touch of kosher salt.

As you can see in this photo, I added some local canned albacore, a slice of whole wheat walnut bread, and topped the dish with grated parmesan but these can easily be left out without sacrificing taste. In fact if you left out the tuna and the cheese, this would be perfect for vegan friends and family.

So let's get to it. This recipe is easy as pie: You count the ingredients in the photo above and use that much for a very large pot of soup. Cut the amount in half and you will still have enough for two plus leftovers for your workday lunch.

Heart Healthy Lentil Vegetable Soup
Christine's original recipe
6 Celery stalks with some leaves, sliced thin
4 Rutabagas, peeled and cut into chunks
4-6 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 large celeriac, peeled and cut into chunks
5 or so sunchokes, peeled and sliced
1 onion, peeled and chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped fine
1-2 teaspoons olive oil for the pan
3 quarts good, organic vegetable stock
1 heaping cup lentils, washed and picked through for debris
1 can gourmet canned albacore tuna (optional)
juice from 2 Meyer lemons
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
shavings of parmesan cheese (optional)
Have a heavy skillet and a large soup pot on the stove.
Put the soup pot on a back burner, put in the vegetable stock and bring it to a simmer, covered.
Heat the olive oil in the skillet over medium heat and sauté the onions until they are soft. Add the garlic and sauté a few minutes more until the aromas come up and they are softly cooked then add them to
the vegetable stock.
Add the lentils to the stock and cook for about 15 minutes until beginning to soften.
Add the rest of the prepared vegetables to the stock and bring to a simmer. Allow to everything to cook gently until all the vegetables are tender and the lentils are done.
Add the Meyer lemon juice then the kosher salt and pepper to taste
To your good health!

Copyright © 2005-2008, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Cocoa Spice Encrusted Seared Wahoo

The very same wonderful neighbors who grow our lamb every year and often bring us fresh-caught crab are also known to go on a fishing trip or two after which they share the bounty of their catch with us. Yes I do know how lucky we are.
Last summer neighbor Chris went on such a trip to Baja and brought back a number of different kinds of tuna. In the bunch that he shared with us was this loin of Wahoo, a relative of the King Mackerel. While this fish is not in the tuna family, you could've fooled me: It looked like a tuna, seared like a tuna and tasted delicously like a tuna only really, really juicy. All the fish caught on Chris' trip were loined and flash-frozen on-site making this the freshest thawed fish I've ever tasted.
Michael Chiarello's NapaStyle Cocoa Spice Rub was the perfect base for the thick coating on the loin. The spice rub has cardamom in it so I embellished it with more cardamom and extra salt to bring out the flavors. You don't have to try to find a loin of Wahoo to make this dish; albacore or yellow-fin tuna would work just fine.
Seared Wahoo with Cocoa Spice Rub
Christine's original recipe
(print recipe)
3 tablespoons NapaStyle Cocoa Spice Rub
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon fine Kosher salt
1 loin of Wahoo or tuna
2 teaspoons olive oil for the pan
1 teaspoon butter for the pan
Grind the spice rub, cardamom and salt in a mortar and pestle until it becomes a very fine powder.
Pat the loin dry with paper towels and then roll in the spice mixture, coating the fish entirely. Use up all the spice powder by patting it on with your fingers to make a thick coating.
Place the oil and butter in a heavy skillet over high heat.
When the butter has melted, add the coated loin and sear quickly, turning the loin with tongs until all the loin is seared and browned.
You can serve the loin at this point if you like your fish very rare. Otherwise, place the pan in a hot (400 degree) oven for 2 more minutes to cook the fish a little longer. The center will still be rare.
Remove the loin to a cutting board and allow it to rest for 2-3 minutes then slice it into rounds with a very sharp knife.
Serve with steamed green beans tossed with a small amount of butter and a sprinkling of toasted chopped pecans.

Copyright © 2005-2008, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sautéed Kale With Pancetta And Shiitake Mushrooms

In keeping with my less-is-more baby-step resolution number two, here is a light yet filling plate of healthy greens and fiber-filled lentils. The kale is sautéed until the stalks are just tender, leaving the leafy part with a bit of substance. The crisp pancetta and the softly sautéed shiitakes give interesting texture. I usually cook my own lentils but these organic, ready-cooked babies from Trader Joe's make putting dinner on the table a snap. Just heat them and serve. Perfect after a day at work.

Sautéed Kale with Pancetta and Shiitake Mushrooms
Christine's original recipe
1 large bunch kale lacinato, washed (see Cook's Notes)
4 ounces pancetta, diced
6 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup vegetable broth
juice from 1/2 of a Meyer lemon
small amount of olive oil for the pan, if needed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Brown the pancetta in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Remove to paper towels to drain and set aside.
Saute the mushrooms in the pancetta drippings in the same skillet until softened. Add the garlic and saute until the aroma comes up and the garlic is softened.
Tear or cut the kale into medium-sized pieces and throw into the skillet with the mushrooms and garlic. Stir to coat with the oil.
Add the vegetable broth and simmer until the kale has softened but still holds its shape and all the liquid has evaporated from the skillet.
Remove the skillet from the heat and squeeze the lemon juice over the kale. Toss lightly and season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper if desired.
Sprinkle the kale with the crispy pancetta and serve.

Cook's Notes:
Kale is one of the world's healthiest foods with some studies claiming strong anti-cancer properties.
Kale is growing in my winter garden right now and will be ready to cut as the days get longer, hopefully by March.

Copyright © 2005-2008, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Friday, January 4, 2008

Mincemeat Eggnog Pie And A Few Resolutions

I staunchly don't make new year's resolutions. Too many failed promises to myself have made a non-believer of me. As is often done with the optimism of beginning a new year, we (I) set the barr too high, setting ourselves (myself) up for failure.

However, not only to contradict myself but in spite of my staunchness, two resolutions crept quietly into my brain on January 1st. Quiet being key. If I'm going to make resolutions that I never make, why would I let someone else know about them only to break them yet again or admit I made them in the first place?

So I let those resolutions sit there for a few days to see if they, or my mind, would change. Nope. I scrutinized them for built-in failure and found them to be sound. Baby-step resolutions I call them. I think I can do this. And now, in true blogger fashion, I will share.

The photo above is just one of the reasons I will be sitting around less (blogging), moving around more (gardening), and eating smaller, smarter portions in 2008. That's resolution number one. Notice I did not say "lose weight."

Resolution number two is to divest myself of clutter. The first step here is to admit that I'm a pack-rat -- and a rather messy one at that.

I'm happy to say that I've already begun the clutter-clearing endeavor: food that we won't be using has been delivered to the food bank; clothes that will no longer be worn have been delivered to the thrift shop with more to gather; a few cookbooks from my enormous library have been gifted as have a few knick-knacks that I find I can live without. As soon as I finish this post I will start on my very cluttered office.

As for resolution number one, sticking to resolution number two will keep me moving for quite some time this year, right into the gardening season. The smaller, smarter portion size? My new mantra is: If you're hungry you must be losing weight. Ok, I said it. Really though, eating less is the goal.

And the pie? Well, my sister made up the recipe and it was delicious, if a bit (alot) rich, sweet and gooey, so I'm putting it here, adapted to my preferences, to remind myself of my baby-step resolutions.

May you all enjoy sweetness and light in the new year and may all your resolutions be small ones.

Mincemeat Eggnog Pie
recipe adapted from my sister Cynthia's original (Thank you!)
for the filling -
1 27-ounce jar good mincemeat pie filling
1 cup low-fat eggnog
1/2 cup egg substitute plus 2 egg yolks slightly beaten, or 3 whole eggs
1 Granny smith apple, peeled cored and chopped
1/2 cup slivered almonds
for the pie dough -
2 cups organic whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup Earth Balance Buttery Sticks, or butter, cut into small pieces
pinch salt
1/4 cup Splenda-Sugar blend or 1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons ice water
Make the pie dough first.
In a food processor, pulse the flour, salt and Splenda-sugar blend a few times until blended.
Add the EB to the flour mixture and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
While pulsing, add the ice water, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough starts to come away from the sides of the bowl. It will still be crumbly.
Pinch the dough to test it. If it holds together, dump it out of the processor and gather it all together into a ball then press into a disk shape. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for about 20 minutes.
While the dough is chilling, combine all the filling ingredients in a large bowl, mixing well.
Roll the pie dough into a round big enough to drape over the sides of a glass pie plate. Trim and flute the edges.
Pour the filling into the prepared pie crust and bake in a 425 oven for 15 minutes then lower the temperature to 350 and bake an additional 45 minutes or until the filling has set.
Allow the pie to cool on a rack to room temperature. The filling will set further as it cools.

To serve:
Cut into very tiny slices and serve with Splenda or sugar-sweetened whipped cream (or not) to as many people as you can so you don't eat too much yourself. When the pie is all gone, resolve to not make it again for at least 1 year.

Copyright © 2005-2008, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved