Friday, October 24, 2014
WHEN I DRIVE, I LOVE LISTENING TO audio books though I have to be careful with this habit sometimes. Recently, when I was driving to Alabama to visit my Mother, I was listening to the beautifully narrated novel, Ripper by Isabel Allende.
It is an engaging, well written, thrilling page turner. If I were sitting in the comfort of my own home, I would have been riveted to this book. At one point, a particularly intense part of the story coincided with my navigating through the sprawling hellscape of Atlanta.
I found myself tensed, gripping the wheel, heart palpitating, barely breathing. . .and I stopped the book. Whew!
I lowered my shoulders and focused on my breath. Once I was all the way through the city, I took a pit-stop. Then I returned to my book, but now I was driving through unruffled and serene parts of Georgia and Alabama.
Last week, I was driving home from an unpleasant yet necessary medical appointment. The day was gloomy and it was pouring rain. I was listening to a novel based in London. Two of the characters were extolling the virtues of a proper pot roast. It suddenly hit me as the most delicious sounding thing in the world. I stopped to buy a roast.
I cooked a chuck roast which becomes juicy and extremely tender in the slow braising process. I shredded the leftovers to make enchiladas. I even made my own enchilada sauce and the recipe for that will follow. Of course you can used canned enchilada sauce if you prefer. I also roasted a couple of poblano peppers, but you can use a can of green chilies instead. And I added some sliced black olives, which are completely optional. Yellow corn tortillas are traditional in Tex Mex style encliladas, so that is what I use.
Both the roast dinner and the enchilada dinner were delicious and now that I've had a meat fix, I'm ready to go back to our mostly vegetarian diet.
Shredded Beef Enchiladas
Leftover Pot Roast, shredded (I had about 3 heaping cupfuls)
2 poblano peppers, roasted and diced (How to Roast Poblano Peppers)
1/4 cup sliced black olives (optional)
8 oz. Monterey jack cheese, shredded, divided (more to taste)
2-3 cups red enchilada sauce
10 - 12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine shredded beef, roasted peppers, and olives in a mixing bowl. Toss together with a handful or so of the shredded cheese. Stir in just enough enchilada sauce to coat everything well.
Pour about a cup of the enchilada sauce into an 11x13 inch baking dish. Spread the sauce to cover the bottom.
Warm stacks of 4 or 5 tortillas, wrapped in a clean kitchen towel, in the microwave, for about 45 seconds, until soft and pliable.
Place about a fourth cup of so of the beef mixture on each tortilla, roll tightly, and place seam side down in the prepared baking dish. Continue in this fashion, warming the tortillas, filling, and rolling. Pour remaining sauce all over the top of the enchiladas and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.Cover with foil and bake for 20 - 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 5 minutes.
Serve with shredded lettuce, sliced avocado, sliced tomatoes, and sour cream.
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
REMEMBER WHEN I TOLD YOU ABOUT MY FIRST RISOTTO experience a few months ago? I had been thinking about it again and I still had aborio rice on hand, so I made it again. This time, I used butternut squash.
I looked at many recipes for butternut squash risotto and wound up incorporating elements from several different ones. Some call for roasting the squash, some cook the squash right along with the rice, but that method seemed a little risky. Another recipe I saw called for grating the butternut squash! I'm sure that would work beautifully, but I sure don't want to grate one of those things.
And of course, what has practically become my nemesis in modern cookery, chicken broth, was well represented amongst risotto recipes. I did not want my butternut squash risotto to taste like chicken.
I used spring water, seasoned with bay leaves and thyme, to make my risotto. Vegetable stock would be good and if you like chicken broth--go for it. I used both poached and roasted butternut squash, as well as onion, celery, and garlic.
I was very happy about the results and believe this is one of the best things to come out of my kitchen in a while. I will be making this again--probably for Thanksgiving, and I won't change a thing about the recipe other than adjusting for number of servings. As given this is enough for 2 to 3 people to have as an entree, or 5 to 6 as a side.
Butternut Squash Risotto
1 (approx. 2 lb.) butternut squash
4 Tbsp. olive oil
3 cups spring or filtered water
1 or 2 bay leaves, to taste
1 or 2 sprigs fresh thyme, to taste
1/4 cup butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup aborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated, plus more for serving
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Peel squash and separate the bulbous end from the slender end. Cut the slender end into cubes, toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil, and sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast in the oven until golden brown on the outside and tender inside, about 30 minutes.
Cut the bulbous end of the squash in half. Use a spoon to scrape out the seeds, and cut squash into half-inch pieces. Heat the water, bay leaves, and thyme over medium heat. Drop in the squash pieces and leave to poach.
Over medium-low heat, warm a skillet then add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onions and cook until they become transparent, about 3 minutes. Stir in the celery and garlic. Cover and cook for 2 minutes. Increase the heat slightly and stir in the rice. Stir uncovered for about 5 minutes as this helps develop the toasty aroma of the rice.
Stir in the wine and let it bubble away to almost nothing. Reduce the heat and begin added the warm water, a ladle at a time, stirring gently and constantly during each addition. It will take about 20 minutes to reach the final ladle. By then, the squash in the water will have softened. Remove the bay leaf and thyme and using the back of the ladle, smash the squash, then stir into the risotto.
Dot the top of the risotto with butter, add a few grinds of black pepper, and sprinkle over the Parmesan cheese. Cover, remove from heat, and leave to rest for about 3 minutes, then stir through, checking the seasoning.
Spoon the risotto into shallow bowls and sprinkle with the roasted squash and additional grated Parmesan.
Tuesday, October 7, 2014
I USED TO BAKE HOMEMADE BREAD ROUTINELY. For one thing, I love delicious bread. For another, good bread used to be almost impossible to find commercially and I have never lived in Paris.
However, over the past few years, good artisanal quality loaves have become easy to find in almost every grocery store. I look at them and admire them and want to eat them. So many delicious flavors and combinations, olive oil and rosemary, roasted garlic and kalamata olive, multi-grain, sesame tahini, tomato basil, sour dough, cinnamon raisin. . .
Now I only bake bread for special occasions--because homemade is still the best.
I do still enjoy baking quick breads--biscuits, cornbread, banana bread, and this easy and delicious cheddar cheese loaf. This recipe welcomes many add-ins, diced apple, olives, spices and herbs, black pepper is good as is rosemary. Mustard powder works well and cayenne give a nice punch. Garlic is always good. I have made it with different cheeses, but cheddar is my favorite (and good with apples).
Here, I have used an extra sharp Vermont white cheddar and refrained from any additional ingredients. It depends really, on what you will use the bread for. The day I baked it, I was making omelets for supper. The next morning, I made toast and spread it with apricot jam. Then I used it as a base for Kentucky Hot Brown Sandwiches. And the next morning, because I had secreted away a thick slice of bacon, I had a bacon sandwich. Mmmm.
White Cheddar Cheese Bread
2 cups flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom only of a standard loaf pan with shortening or cooking spray.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
In another bowl whisk together milk, melted butter, and eggs.
Add the wet ingredients into the flour mixture, and stir until combined. Stir in cheese. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 50 - 55 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.
Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove bread from pan to cooling rack. Cool completely about 1 hour.