Saturday, April 21, 2012

Organic Blue Cheese Burger

For several days, I kept thinking about spaghetti with meat sauce.  Every time I thought about it, I immediately thought about pink slime, which has been all over the news.  Yuck.  I don't eat much meat and what I do eat I am very particular about. Sadly, I have probably eaten pink slime. However, now that I am aware of the insipid practice, I won't knowingly eat pink slime again.

Because I kept wanting to cook and eat spaghetti with meat sauce, I went to Earth Fare, which is very close to my workplace, on a quest for pink slime free ground beef.  On my way there I thought that if I really wanted to compare the organic ground beef to what we had been eating, I should simply make a hamburger. I did both.

The taste of the ground beef in the meat sauce, even with the tomatoes, onions, and garlic, was outstanding. Apparently I had become accustomed to the bland taste of commercial ground beef (and I don't want to think any further about that closed chapter).

And then there was the burger. THE Burger. Here, the taste of the locally sourced, humanely raised, organic beef was clearly superior. I'll never go back.

I gently patted the ground meat into patties, cooked them in my black iron skillet, and melted blue cheese over the top. They were dressed with lettuce, tomato and onion, sprinkled with Celtic sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, and served on whole wheat buns.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Senate Bean Soup

After a mild winter and an unseasonably warm spring, we had a cold snap. It happens every year, so it wasn't a big surprise. But still, cold is cold. With a ham bone I had leftover from Easter dinner, I made a warming pot of Senate Bean Soup. 

When I was a Girl Scout, our State Senator hosted my troop on a tour of Washington D.C.  We went to the Pentagon, the White House, and of course, The Capitol. We got to witness a live session of Congress (from the balcony). 

But the most memorable part of the trip, for me, was riding the underground rail to the Senate Cafeteria and enjoying a steaming bowl of Senate Bean Soup. I still love a simple bean and ham soup. 

The Famous Senate Restaurant Bean Soup Recipe
2 pounds dried navy beans
four quarts hot water
1 1/2 lbs. smoked ham hocks
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper to taste
Wash the navy beans and run hot water through them until they are slightly whitened. Place beans into pot with hot water. Add ham hocks and simmer approximately three hours in a covered pot, stirring occasionally. Remove ham hocks and set aside to cool. Dice meat and return to soup. Lightly brown the onion in butter. Add to soup. Before serving, bring to a boil and season with salt and pepper.

Serve with a squirt or so of hot sauce and homemade bread with sweet butter.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Roasted Cod with Warm Tomato Tapenade

Here's an easy and healthful recipe for you. The Mediterranean flavors of the warm tomato tapenade brightens all kinds of white fish as well as chicken or baked tofu. It is also delicious served over brown rice.  The dish comes together very quickly for a pretty and elegant presentation.

I served it with orzo and freshly grated Parmesan plus braised baby bok choy.

Roasted Cod with Warm Tomato Tapenade
(Eating Well Magazine)
1 pound cod fillet
3 tsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 Tbsp. minced shallot
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped cured olives
1 Tbsp. capers
1 1/2 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Rub cod with 2 tsp. oil. Sprinkle with pepper. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Transfer to the oven and roast until the fish flakes easily with a fork, 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillet.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tsp. oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and cook, stirring, until beginning to soften, about 20 seconds. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring, until softened, about 1 1/2 minutes.  Add olives and capers; cook, stirring, for 30 seconds more. Stir in oregano and vinegar; remove from heat. Spoon the tapenade over the cod to serve.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Apricot Chutney

The thing I love most about the Indian cuisine is the sophisticated and endlessly varied ways of cooking vegetarian fare--grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables with the help of complex blends of herbs and spices.

And I love the accompaniments to the meal, the delicious breads, sauces, raitas, chutneys, and pickles.

Over the weekend, I made this scrumptious Apricot Chutney, using a variety of dried fruits, along with generous amounts of both fresh garlic and ginger. If you enjoy the ubiquitous Major Grey's Mango Chutney, this rich sweet-sour blend will have even more appeal.

Apricot Chutney
(recipe by Madhur Jaffrey)
1 pound dried apricots
10 large cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
A 1-inch-by-three-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 1/4 cups red wine vinegar
2 cups sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 to 3/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (I used 1/2 tsp.)
3/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dried currants

Put the apricots in a bowl. Pour 4 cups of hot water over them and let them soak for an hour.

Put the garlic and ginger into the container of a blender or food processor (I used a mini-prep) along with 1/4 cup of the vinegar. Blend until smooth.

Empty the apricots and their soaking liquid into a heavy stainless steel or porcelain lined pot. Add the garlic-ginger mixture, the remaining vinegar, sugar, salt, and cayenne.  Bring to a boil.  Simmer on medium heat, stirring frequently, for about 45 minutes. Do not let the chutney stick to the pan; lower heat if necessary.  Add the raisins and currants and cook, stirring, another half hour or until chutney takes on a thick, glazed look.  It will thicken slightly as it cools.

Let the chutney cool and store, refrigerated, in lidded glass jars.

Don't limit yourself to using this as a condiment to Indian meals. I love a peanut butter and chutney sandwich.  I've used it on a grilled cheese--delicious! cheese and chutney quesadillas, in chicken salad, spread cream cheese on crackers or toasted baguette slices and top with chutney.

What other ways to use chutney can you think of?