Dinner for Two

Jan 25

Roasted Fennel on Flatbread + Olives and Raisins

My new favorite vegetable is fennel.  In my Christmas dinner, it appeared in a salad with oranges and an orange vinaigrette.    For  friends’ New Year’s Eve dinner, I brought a bean and roasted fennel dip.

Tonight, it’s Grilled Fennel Flatbread with Olives and Sultanas from Food52.  

This calls for making a yeast crust.  Mine is underway…dough is sitting and I’m waiting.  

What intrigues me about the flavors is the salty-sweet combination:  olives and feta, and sultanas or golden raisins and a drizzle of honey.  

 This was a big hit last might with M.  It was delicious.  Even my crust was good. (Yeast is something I’ve not really mastered.)

Next time I might slice the fennel a little thinner.  

Though as usual, I did make some changes to the recipe.

The topping is a paste of the Kalmata olives, raisins, some olive oil with fresh thyme - but I had no thyme.  Spread this paste on the dough.

The recipe calls for 2 bulbs of fennel — which is really a meaningless measure.  Bulbs vary in size/weight.   I used just one bulb and it was plenty.  Mix the sliced fennel with lemon juice, red pepper flakes (I didn’t include), Parmesan and more raisins. This mixture goes on top of the olive paste.

Top the fennel mix with more Parmesan, crumbled feta and then drizzle with honey.

Bake at 500 degrees for 15-20 minutes.  The crust gets very crispy and the fennel and cheese gets browned.

This is a nice choice over pizza.  It has great flavors and very sturdy crispy crust.  Loved it!   

Nov 26

Farro with Roasted Acorn Squash

For Thanksgiving, I bought squash and fruit to arrange in a bowl on the dining room table.  

That’s over.  

Time to eat them!

I found this recipe in Epicurious for roasted acorn squash mixed with farro.  I like this site because the reviews can be very helpful.  

While the recipe calls for cooking the farro for one hour, someone kindly points out that farro grain comes several ways. Thank you Happygoin for the following  explanation.

I cook with farro often and learned about it through trial and error. Farro is sold either whole, pearled or semi-pearled. It’s important to know what type of farro you’re cooking with. Whole grain farro includes the husk of the grain, and requires pre-soaking for several hours or overnight before using. If you use whole grain farro without soaking it, it will take much longer and signficantly more liquid than your recipe may say. Pearled or semi-pearled farro requires no soaking and cooks in about 20-25 minutes. The trade-off though is fewer nutrients.

by Happygoin on 06/21/12


Read More http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/reviews/Farro-with-Acorn-Squash-and-Kale-367135#ixzz2DN9yTHfk 

And I didn’t use fresh kale.  I have a bag of frozen, chopped kale from Trader Joes.  I banged the frozen on the edge of the counter top to break it up, and poured some into a bowl.  Microwaved it for a little bit,  then let it sit until I mixed it in with the squash and farro.  I’m sure fresh leaves would have a different texture, but these taste just as good.

The recipe is a bit like making risotto.  But since I have pearled farro, I’m not standing over the pot stirring slavishly.

The squash is soft but the grains of farro are a little chewy — nice contrast. Toasting the grains comes through in the flavor, too.  It’s worth doing. 

Nov 22

Happy Thanksgiving!

Nov 21

There Will be Tarts….and Potatoes — Thanksgiving

Again this year our friends RO and SRO invited us for Thanksgiving…a feast for 18.

Yesterday, I picked up C and her friend T from the train.  This morning with some of their help, I’ve been making my dinner contributions for tomorrow.

I started with tarts for desert.  These mini-tartlets are only 2-3 bites each.  This is a recipe from Fine Cooking from long ago.  I made three varieties: pumpkin, pecan and cranberry-pear.                                                                                                               

My desert contribution is complete.  Maybe I’ll whip some whipping cream for the pumpkin tarts tomorrow.

Next, the girls peeled the 6 pounds of potatoes for Melissa Clark’s 

mashed potato casserole.  I made this last Thanksgiving  It was a hit, and an easy way to have mashed potatoes without the last minute work.  Great to bring  when someone else is hosting the feast.

It’s not beautiful in the photo.  The specks are chopped chives.  No crumbs on top, and it hasn’t been baked yet.  It’s waiting in the fridge till tomorrow.  It will finish at SRO’s —  baking for about 30 minutes.  

For today my work is done!

Nov 15

Pasta with Dried Mushrooms & Asparagus

Another make-it-up-on-the-spot dinner.  I have the ingredients…just can’t find a recipe that uses them all!

I have some fresh asparagus, dried mushrooms, a shallot and dried pappardelle.

I’ve made a portobello mushroom creamy pasta, so I’m using that recipe as a guide.

Soak the dried mushrooms and save that mushroom water.  Blanch the asparagus then cut stalks into smaller pieces. 

Saute the re-hydrated mushrooms in butter and oil.  After a bit, add the sliced shallot.  Saute a few more minutes and then add a cup of beef broth and the mushroom water, about a cup of that, so two cups of liquid total.  Then add a small amount of sherry, salt, pepper and thyme — building flavor.  Let this simmer for about 5 minutes.  Add the asparagus pieces and let them cook till tender — a couple of minutes more. 

I’m adding a little milk and 1/2 & 1/2 to give the sauce very little creaminess. 

Boil the pasta until it is not quite done.  Strain and add to the pan of mushroom sauce to cook it till it’s tender.

From pantry to table - just under a half an hour.  Thinking on my feet tonight!

Seconds tasted even better — the pasta absorbed more of the sauce, delicious.

Nov 10

Curried Sweet Potato & Carrot Soup

I have to quickly put a dinner together.  It’s cold outside. So, it will be soup. 

I have lots of carrots.  (My 5 pound bag survived the Super Storm Sandy.)  And I bought a few sweet potatoes today.  

I’m working from this recipe from Food52. Curried Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup From my quick search of recipes online, many comments about sweet potato soup was that it was a little tasteless.   Curry is the answer.

I don’t have curry paste that the recipe calls for, just curry powder.  I’m using 2 heaping teaspoons with the onions.  I use Penzeys Spices Sweet Curry Powder, “spicy and rich, not hot.”

Carrots and sweet potatoes sauteing in with the onion and curry.

Surprisingly, I even have coconut milk!  A can has been lurking in the pantry for awhile.

I’ve got Trader Joes frozen Indian bread, Tandoor Naan, and a box of vegetable samosas.  Nice!  

Wonderful taste and texture!  Am adding this to the regular rotation!

Oct 29

Zucchini Bread

Monday, October 29, 2012

This morning waiting for the worst of Hurricane Sandy (aka Hybrid Storm, Frankenstorm, etc.).

Looking through the refrigerator with the possibility of loosing power, I saw a big zucchini from the farmers’ market.  How it got lost for so long, I can’t claim to not know.  It is my refrigerator after all!

First thing, I made a zucchini bread.  Two cups grated was needed for the Silver Palate recipe, and the one lone zucchini provided that and a tiny bit more. Perfect.

Fresh out of the oven.

Once it cools a bit, I’ll make a cup of tea and enjoy a slice!  

Oct 27

Roasted Chicken on Acorn Squash

A perfect fall dinner from Melissa Clark, New York Times Wednesday Oct. 24, 2012,  Roasted Chicken on Delicata Squash.   My vegetable bed is acorn squash.

This was soooo easy, and has lots of flavor.  I used thighs and drumsticks.  Put them in a bowl so you can mix them with the seasonings and oil.  Salt and pepper of course, sage and she called for coriander seed.  I had none, so did without.

Let this sit.  She says 30 minutes.  Whatever works for you.

She tops the chicken pieces in the oven with slices of lemon that are first blanched quickly (dropped into boiling water for a couple of minutes).  Doing this seems like it’s worth skipping, but it really does make the rind less bitter.  Strain and add them to the chicken in the bowl.

Next, do follow this other tip of her’s that does make a difference in the flavor.  She mixes the squash slices in maple syrup.  But first she boils it for a couple of minutes with butter and chili powder.  She says this is something chefs do to concentrate the flavor.  I thought it was worth it once I tasted the squash.

Ready to assemble now.  Spread the squash around as the bottom layer.  Put the chicken pieces on top.  Then put the lemon pieces on the chicken.

Roast at 425 degrees for 15 minutes.  Then put on top sliced scallions.  I had none so did without.  Then bake another 20 minutes.

Not one of my finer pictures.  I was busy eating and lost track of the need for one!

Check out the video embedded int the article, it is very helpful, too. 

I totally recommend this dish.  The squash was delicious.  It was very flavorful. Yes, the flavor is maple syrup, what’s not to like!  Because these are thin slices - 1/4 inch or so, the flavors really penetrate the squash. 

I think I’m going to get more chicken tomorrow.  Have plenty of squash.  Want to make this again on Sunday, before the hurricane hits!

Oct 26

Sofrito

This is just a building block for a future dish.  

I discovered this a couple of years ago when I was making dinner for a dozen  friends to celebrate MS’s birthday.  I knew I want to make  a Porto Rican pork shoulder that is slow roasted, covered in a mash of garlic and seasonings.  Easy and delicious.  

Then I went hunting for the right side dishes.  It had to be rice and beans, but I wanted something authentic.  It couldn’t be just boiled white rice and heated up canned black beans.   

From Daisy Martinez, I found a recipe for Yellow Rice with Corn.  Lot’s of flavor additions: Achiote oil (you make it by heating oil with annatto seeds), pimento stuffed olives, cumin, bay leaves, and Sofrito. 

Don’t know that you can buy Sofrito, I’m sure I’m wrong, but the recipe is included with the rice recipe.  

Sofrito is fresh ingredients chopped up in your food processor.  Store in your refrigerator if you’ll use it right away - up to 3 days.  Or freeze it.  

Sofrito Ingredients:

onions

Italian frying peppers or cubanelle

lots of garlic cloves

a bunch of cilantro

ripe tomatoes

a bell pepper

And if you’re wary of cilantro, don’t be.  It’s taken me a long time to get used to the flavor.  But once everything is chopped up, it isn’t overpowering.

When you use Sofrito in a dish, you will saute it first which takes down the taste of the cilantro, too.  

Six cups of Sofrito in individual containers are ready for the freezer, and the next time I make Yellow Rice and Corn with a pork roast.  Soon, very soon!

Oct 22

BOO! I’m Back - Dinner and Halloween Dessert

It’s been way too long, I know.  

I’ve heard from many of you, “How’s your blog?”  ”Are you eating anymore?”

Well, since it is fall, I’m making my first squash soup.  The recipe is from our friend SD.  I know I posted this before, but you might be inclined to give it a try now.

Butternut Squash Soup

Cut in half and clean out the seeds.  Season generously with salt and pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg and top with a pat of butter or so.  Roast in a 400 degree oven, till tender.  Anywhere from 45-60 minutes.  This will depend on the size of the squash.

While that’s roasting, dice half an onion, and a whole Granny Smith apple.  I used a Jonathan tonight, that’s what I had. Sautee with a little butter or olive oil.  

After squash is done and cool enough to handle, cut it into chunks and put into a blender.  Add the sauteed onion and apple, and a cup or more of vegetable or chicken stock.  Blend till smooth.  Return to the pot, add more stock, heat and eat.

Candy Corn Sugar Cookies

Last Friday, my dear friend SRO and I made these Candy Corn Cookies to send to the daughters at college.

 

They are really easy.  They may look complicated, but you don’t need lots of baking expertise.

Make sugar cookie dough.  I like Alton Brown’s. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/sugar-cookies-recipe/index.html

Divide the dough into thirds.

I use paste food coloring. Dye 1/3 orange, and 1/3 yellow.  Keep the last third just as it is.

Use a loaf pan to layer the dough and let it chill in the refrigerator, or fast track in the freezer.

Line the empty loaf pan with plastic wrap, wax paper, parchment, whatever you like. This will help you lift the dough out after it has chilled.  

Start with the plain white dough, press it into the bottom of the pan.  Next do the same with the orange, and finish with the yellow.

We did a version substituting the yellow with brown.

Chill the dough till it’s firm enough to cut into ¼ inch slices.

Take a slice and cut it into triangles – candy corn pieces!

Here’s the link to the Land O Lakes recipe and video where you can see exactly how to layer and cut the dough. http://www.landolakes.com/recipe/1542/sparkling-candy-corn-cookies

After they’re baked and still warm, roll in sugar.  They really look nicer with the sugar. 

Waiting to hear how the girls like them!