Monday, June 27, 2011

Hello again!

Wow, life can come at you fast! A whirlwind has been in the Curious Kitchen for the past....2 months. Another one is coming up, but I hope to get out a few more posts before then.  Thanks for visiting!!

I will be travelling to Crete soon, so I hope to have a special travel post or two.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

8 minute (or so) Pomodoro Penne with Herb-Garlic Compound Butter

A frantic lunchtime was the inspiration for this recipe today. A lightning-fast, full-flavoured pasta dish that can be made in no time, and it is so delicious!

The base sauce is halved cherry tomatoes (although wedges of regular tomatoes work too), sauteed with olive oil and shallots (or onions and/or minced garlic). The heat quickly breaks down the tomatoes, releasing juices and dainty seeds to make an instant rustic sauce. A dash of pasta water brings it all together, before adding the pasta. The compound butter was a last minute flash of an idea, it adds specks of green and a light garlic aroma (and the richness of butter!). I was able to do a first harvest of my herb garden - chives, tarragon, and parsley, making it even more tasty.

For a spicier sauce, add a dash or two of hot pepper flakes to the hot oil and shallots.

My camera has malfunctioned, so you will be treated to the worst photos in blogging history, courtesy of my Blackberry.

8 Minute (or so) Pomodoro Penne with Herb-Garlic Compound Butter
Serves 2, or more as a side dish

2 cups penne (or other pasta of choice)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small shallot (or half small onion), thinly sliced or minced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (larger tomatoes, quarter at least)
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
freshly grated Parmesan cheese


For the compound butter (makes extra, great for garlic toast; freezes well):
Combine together:
2 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon (or to taste) kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon (or to taste) freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh herbs (chives, tarragon, parsley, etc.)
1 small clove garlic, finely minced


Boil a larger saucepan of salted water, and cook pasta according to directions.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add shallots, a pinch of salt and pepper, and saute for 1 minute.

Add the tomatoes, and saute until tomatoes breakdown to make a sauce, about 5 minutes. Add a 1/4 cup of pasta water (from the currently cooking pasta), and simmer to reduce slightly. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Drain pasta and toss with sauce in pan to coat. Throw a nubbin (a tablespoon or more) of herb butter, and toss until it melts. The herbs distribute, and the sauce has a lovely glisten to it. Plate (or dish) and serve with Parmesan.
A delicate sauce in the making

Pre-butter toss - things are about to get real tasty!

Addendum to Addictive money saver

The new issue of Bon Appetit focuses on Italy and they have a very helpful guide to making quality stove top espresso. The key is to not overheat the water, nor brew too long. The result is a sweeter, smooth brew.  After following their tips, I have to concur!

1. Use heated (hot) water in the base - this prevents it from overheating and burning the coffee

2. Fill basket with coffee ground finer than drip coffee, but coarser than espresso. I use the first notch in the espresso option when grinding at the grocery store - not the finest grind. Fine grinds clog the pot.


3. Level grinds (don't pat) and screw top on tight to prevent leaking.

4. With lid open, heat over medium-low heat. Once there is a steady stream, close the lid and remove from heat.

5. Wrap base with a cold, wet cloth to stop the brewing process.

A cold wet hug for the Bialetti - it works!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Addictive money saver

I received for Christmas one 'Moka pot' - a small stove top coffee pot straight from Italy. It produces an espresso-like coffee (read: strong, dark, potent!) that has totally slowed my need to stop at the local coffee shop on an almost daily basis (which likely saved me about $400!).

Grocery store grinders usually have an espresso grind setting (wikipedia.org)
The heated water is pressurized upwards, brewing the grinds
There's some crema!


If you are looking for a beautiful thick crema on top, go to a high end model. I appreciate the finer qualities of an excellent barista (check out the Peace Coffee shop in Minneapolis - some of the best!), but I will not be too picky for the daily hit of caffeine that gives a warm and cozy feeling that lasts. And thinking of warmer weather, will be an easy way to make iced coffee this summer.

Lovely latte art - the espresso-tinged foam is so delicious! (wikipedia.org)

Cornmeal fried Onion Rings

Something new in the Curious kitchen - deep frying! I wanted a little adventure and a little sinfulness, even if it is still Lent. To take the chill off the early spring, the menu on a Sunday was grilled ribeye steak with fresh-fried onion rings. The recipe comes from Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten.

I have not tried deep frying before because it seems to me it makes a great mess and maybe complicated too. To counter this, to fry I have used a deeper pot (a Le Creuset in this case) to prevent splattering, and had everything in place before starting the process. In the end, it was a simple recipe and the end result is addictively delicious!

Useful tools: deep and heavy pot, candy thermometer, metal tongs

Cornmeal-fried Onion Rings
Serves 4-6

3 yellow onions (or 2 Spanish onions) - peels and sliced to 1/2-3/4 inches
3 cups buttermilk or 3 cups milk and 3 tablespoons white vinegar (let sit 5 minutes)
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup medium cornmeal
1 quart (4 cups) vegetable oil

Heat oven to 200F and have sheet prepared with paper towel, when ready to fry the onions.

Combine buttermilk, 2 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl. Add onions and soak for at least 15 minutes (up to a few hours). In a separate bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
Soaking and dredging stations

Heat oil to 350F in large pot (use a candy thermometer or equivalent to measure). Working in batches, lift out some onions and dredge in the flour mixture. I found using a fork made this easy. The rings should be lightly coated - just this amount makes a crispy flavourful coating.
Ready to go in the fryer
Drop the rings into the oil (don't crowd), and fry for 2 minutes. Flip using tongs once, frying until golden brown.
Readjust the heat if the oil gets to hot or cools off
Put the finished rings onto the sheet and sprinkle liberally with salt.

Keep them warm in the oven until all the onions are fried. They keep for about 30 minutes. Serve them hot!

These were excellent with a hot grilled steak:

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Spring Vegetable pasta with Lemon-Saffron butter

Another dish to celebrate spring! It is a simple saute of vegetables, livened with a hit of citrus, and the exotic flavour of saffron.

Saffron derives from the crocus flower, and is worth more than its weight in gold. Don't be put off by its very different scent (said to be like hay). When it is worked into a dish in the right amounts, it is magic. I am loving the wiki on this spice! Check it out for lot of fun chemical information (if that's up your alley).

Saffron was originally cultivated in ancient Greece - like here in Santorini (sigh)


This recipe is inspired by one of my favourites in Fields of Greens, a great vegetarian cookbook. If you can't find saffron, substitutions can include chopped basil, parsley or mint, or just plain butter. The original recipe calls for Orange-Saffron butter (use 1 orange for the recipe), and this is very delicious too (I just don't have oranges!). I think this would make a lovely Easter side dish.

Ps: My camera battery died, so not a lot of visualization here!

Helpful tools: Colander, zester (like a Microplane brand zester)

Spring Vegetable Pasta with Lemon-Saffron Butter
Serves 2-4

4 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 generous pinch of saffron threads, soaked in 1 tablespoon hot water
Salt and pepper
1/2 pound asparagus, woody ends removed, in 2 inch lengths
1/2 pound English peas (shelled, about 3/4 cup), or substitute frozen peas
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 leek, white part only, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup wine or stock
Juice from 2 lemons
Zest of 2 lemons
1/2 pound fresh pasta or dry spaghetti or linguine
Grated parmesan cheese

Set large pot of water to boil on stove (this can be used for both the vegetables and pasta). Cream the butter with the prepared saffron, 1/8 teaspoon salt and a few pinches of pepper. Set aside.

If using fresh peas, boil for 1 minute, scoop from water and rinse with cool water in colander. Boil asparagus for 3 minutes, until tender crisp, and repeat as with peas. Frozen peas can be added to the saute (see below). Keep water boiling for pasta.

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan, and add shallots. Saute over medium heat for about 4 minutes, then add leeks (and frozen peas), saute for another 2 minutes. Add garlic, wine or stock and lemon juice, and saute for another minute.
A fragrant saute of leeks, asparagus and peas, hurray for google search (food.rlove.org)

Meanwhile, cook pasta until just tender. Just before adding pasta, reduce heat on saute pan, and add asparagus (and fresh peas), 1/4 teaspoon salt, and the lemon zest. Drain pasta in colander, shake excess water and add to saute pan. Quickly toss the vegetables and pasta, then add the saffron butter. The butter will combine with the pan juices to make a light sauce. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Green kitchen cleaner

A non-edible recipe to share. I have been using this rock star spray cleaner on everything in the kitchen: painted walls, wood, tile, countertops, sinks, my ceramic stove top, high chairs, and even some stainless steel appliances. It will cost you about 14 cents a bottle to make (move over Caldera!), and your kitchen will smell lovely, and be clean without a lot of nasty chemicals.
Who are we kidding? But at least it can smell nice!

Gleaned from the internet, Alice's Wonder spray, makes just over 32 ounces. Might be a nice idea for gifts too, if you find some fancy spray bottles and mix up your own signature scent.

Alice's Wonder spray
1 cup white vinegar (anti-microbial)
2 teaspoons borax (works with surfactants to increase dissolving 'power'; oxidative (bleaching property); anti-microbial) - look for "20 Mule Team Borax"
32 ounces hot water
20 drops essential oils (your choice - most are anti-microbial; I use 15 drops Tea Tree, 5 drops lavender)
1/4 cup dish soap (surfactant, dissolver of all that is junk), if you want to be as natural as possible, try to find a soap product that is too

* Mix vinegar and borax in hot water to dissolve.
* Combine dish soap and essential oils, then add to the vinegar-borax solution
* Adjust scent to your liking.
* Pour into a re-usable, labelled spray bottle

Some combinations I would like to try in the future are: grapefruit & mint, chamomile & lavender...hmm, lots to choose from.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Warming up to Spring, Tagine style; or: Toddler approved Tagine

It is still chilly here, but the shelves of the supermarkets are beginning to fill with signs of spring, like in season fennel bulbs, beets, and many others. I wanted to try an easy recipe that would incorporate these new findings with something still warming for the body and soul.

I need to get to Morocco ASAP!
This recipe is a stovetop 'tagine', a stew of meats, vegetables, herbs and spices. Traditional tagines (or tajines - from North African countries like Morocco and Tunisia) are made in conical clay pots, with a flat bottom. Inexpensive meats and additions gently bake and simmer; meat is tender and falling apart, vegetables are aromatic with a flavourful sauce.

For your kitchen (if you don't have said pot), a heavy sauce pan with a cover will work just fine. Also, there is no long baking required to get all the mentioned qualities (although that is not a knock against the traditional method!), just simmering on the stovetop.

Additional vegetables I would try next time would be artichokes, halved baby potatoes, asparagus segments and snap peas. Add the first two along with the fennel and carrots, the last two I would add to the last 15 minutes of cooking. I think lamb would be lovely here, as would pork! The beauty of tagines is the endless possibilities of deliciousness.

For stews and braises, I like to do these the day before. The flavours intensify and you get more bang for your effort, making a perfect do-ahead meal.

Chicken Tagine with Spring Vegetables
Recipe inspired from Bon Appetit, April 2003
Makes 8 servings
Serve with cooked pasta, or couscous

1/2 cup (about) olive oil
1 pound onions, chopped
8 large garlic cloves, chopped
3 tablespoons (packed) grated lemon peel
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons Hungarian sweet paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
8 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
8 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
8 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

4 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
4 cups low-salt chicken broth
2 beets, peeled, cut in 3/4 inch wedges
3 fresh fennel bulbs, trimmed, bulbs quartered vertically
5 large carrots (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled, cut into 1-inch lengths

Preparation:

Heat 1/4 cup oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes.
I crush the garlic clove with the flat of the knife, then mince away

Cumin and coriander powdered together - excellent scent
 Add next 7 ingredients and 6 tablespoons each parsley, dill, and mint; sauté 3 minutes longer. Scrape contents of skillet into heavy large pot (used a Le Creuset cast iron pot); reserve skillet .
Wow - the smell here is amazing

 Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1/3 of chicken and sauté until golden, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to pot with onion mixture. Repeat with remaining chicken in 2 more batches, adding more oil by tablespoonfuls if needed. Add broth to skillet; bring to boil, scraping up browned bits. Transfer broth to pot; add fennel and carrots.
Chicken thighs - cheaper and tastier

All the browning is perfect for adding flavor to the tagine

Deglaze the pan with stock (or water) 
I thought the yellow beet adds a nice touch of colour and sweetness

Bring tagine to boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until chicken is almost tender, about 20 minutes. Uncover and simmer until chicken and all vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes longer. Using slotted spoon, transfer chicken and vegetables to large bowl.
Ready to simmer away!

Just needs the sauce reduction and you are ready to go!

Boil sauce until reduced enough to coat spoon, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Return chicken and vegetables to sauce. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep refrigerated.)
Rewarm tagine over medium heat. Transfer to large bowl. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons each of parsley, dill, and mint.

Toddler and adult approved!


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Kitchen garden

Like the compost bin, starting seeds has become my way of welcoming spring (or what there is of it) this year. In past times, I would purchase plants later in the season that will be a source of fresh produce once the summer hits.
This year I think (!) it will be fun to start a few select plants from seed. Figure out your last frost date, and you will be able to determine when to start your plants indoors (check with your local extension service).
The first round of seeds will be my 'Mexican medley' - all vegetables that I can't wait to make into salsas, add to carnitas, and top onto tacos: jalapeno, tomatillos, habenero, ancho gigantes. In there is also broccoli, an early grower. Next up will be tomatoes, cucumbers....and more!

I simply planted as instructed into peat pots, and followed the instructions on the seed packets for soil depth. Keep 'em damp, and watch them grow! Now where to plant them.....
This kit comes with a see-through lid, to keep everything happy

4 days in, and the broccoli sees the light!

Parsley-Nut Pesto

This impromptu condiment came about as I was preparing gluten-free sweet potato gnocchi. I wanted to give the buttery-fried dumplings a little hit of freshness, and a touch of bitterness too, to counter the rich texture of the gnocchi.

Traditional pestos contain basil (excellent here too), but I don't have basil! I do have Italian flat-leaf parsley, and this will work very well. In fact, pestos can be made with a number of different ingredients (like peas!), but that is for another post. I also used leftover hazelnut meal (see the gnocchi recipe) to complement the flavour of the nut in the dumplings. I like parsley stems (high in nutrients), but you can leave them out if you don't.

Helpful tool: food processor

Parsley-Nut Pesto
Makes about 1/2 cup pesto

2 cup loosely packed fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
1/8 cup hazelnut meal
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (optional), heat in frying pan over medium heat, tossing until browned lightly
1 small garlic clove (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

In food processor, add first 6 ingredients. Process for 10-20 seconds. With processor running, pour oil slowly until pesto is smooth. Fini!





Gluten free Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Quite the mouthful! A lovely reader requested this recipe - one I have never tried, but since this is a curious kitchen....

Gnocchi (nee-yo-kee), a soft Italian dumpling made of traditionally flour and potato, can be as delicate as a fluffy pillow, or as heavy and dead as its name implies (nocchio, knot of wood). The key is to have as little flour as possible, enough to hold the dough together, otherwise the gnocchi becomes leaden in the mouth. The wonderful thing about these dumplings is they can be dressed as you like, fried in butter, tossed in pesto, coated in your favourite pasta sauce with any variety of vegetables or meats, even broiled like a gratin. They can be a main course or an appetizer for a party; either way, gnocchi are versatile and delicious!

So what of our friends who must stick to gluten-free diets? Are they left out of the party? No way! With increasing understanding of food allergies, there are more products on the market catering to people afflicted with a gluten allergy. Supermarkets carry a wide variety of flour alternatives that do not contain gluten (Bob's Red Mill have a number of products). If you are making these for a 'GF' friend, check if you need to clean your utensils properly to remove any residual gluten (just in case!).

Here is a recipe I gleaned off the internet, adjusted to my specifications. In place of potatoes, are sweet potatoes (not as starchy and more moist than regular potatoes) - adds an additional sweet flavour and hit up of vitamin A etc. And in place of flour are a 'Gluten-free all purpose baking flour' from Bob's Red Mill, and hazelnut meal. To hold the dough together, whole milk ricotta cheese (do not substitute skim milk ricotta).

Helpful tools:
*food processor or blender
*food mill, or potato ricer, or potato masher


Gluten-free Sweet Potato Gnocchi
2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 2 medium-large)
2/3 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cup Bob's Red Mill All Purpose Gluten Free Flour, plus generous amount for the work surface
1/4 cup hazelnut flour/meal (can purchase, or make by processing to a fine powder, whole hazelnuts. See below for pictures)

Makes approximately 100 gnocchi.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Slice sweet potatoes in half. Bake the sweet potatoes until tender and fully cooked, between 40 to 55 minutes depending on size. Cool slightly. Cut in half and scoop the flesh into a large bowl.


Handy food mill - a potato masher is just as effective

Finished product - any extras can go straight to baby!
I processed the sweet potatoes through a food mill, which is highly effective for drier potatoes, but perhaps for these, may not have made a difference. Measure out 2 cups of sweet potato puree, and place in large bowl.
Add the ricotta cheese, salt, and pepper and fold in until well mixed.



Blend flours together in a separate bowl. Add the flours, 1/2 cup at a time, mixing gently each time. This dough does not become a solid dough like the regular potato-flour gnocchi, so look for the 'dough' to come together, but still quite wet.
A lone hazelnut on a field of his fallen comrades

Ready to go, mise en place

Folding in the flour - it is becoming 'dough-ier'

After becoming alarmed at how wet this dough was, I took a breath. Should I add more flour to this dough? So instead of likely ruining the batch, I generously floured the work surface before beginning the next step. The outer coating of flour helped the dough from sticking and helped with its shape very well.

Scoop out a handful of dough. On the floured surface, roll out each ball into a 1-inch wide rope. Cut each rope into 1-inch pieces. Re-flour surface in between each scoop.
Roll dough, moving hands from the center out, taking the dough gently with you


Still sticky! Just sprinkle a bit more flour and keep going

If you like, roll the gnocchi over the tines of a fork. This dough does not handle it very well, but the ridges formed help to hold sauce, and it just looks cute! I tried a few, but left the rest plain.Transfer the formed gnocchi to a large baking sheet. Continue with the remaining gnocchi.

I left the extras on the tray - pop them in the freezer , bag when solid. Instant supper!

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.
Salting the water after it has boiled gives the gnocchi a hit of flavour
Add the gnocchi in 3 batches and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 5 to 6 minutes. Drain the gnocchi using a slotted spoon onto a baking sheet. Tent with foil to keep warm and continue with the remaining gnocchi.

From here: you can do any number of methods to finish the gnocchi. I fried these darlings in butter (over medium-low heat) until crispy and browned, turning occasionally (about 5-7 minutes), and tossed with a Parsley-nut pesto. This browning caramelized the sugars in the sweet potato and gave that 'extra' something. The resulting gnocchi went as follows: bite, crispy-sweet-savoury, soft-gentle-light texture, smile.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Composting kitchen

Nitrogenous green goodness




In hopes that snow will disappear, and the days become warm, the kitchen compost has started up again for the season. If you are both a kitchen and garden person, the twains meet in many ways. The output of the kitchen goes into the compost, the compost goes into the soil, the vegetables grow happily, and then return to where their ancestors came from. Compost adds nutrients and aerates the soil, making it the perfect soil amendment at the beginning of the growing season (and throughout the year).

The compost can accept most any food product that is not protein (meats, bones), or fat (grease, oil). All fruit, vegetables, coffees and teas, cooked pastas and grains, rinsed egg shells, are great additions. These are considered 'green' materials (nitrogen-rich), and to make optimal compost have to be balanced with 'brown' materials (carbon-rich yard waste such as leaves, grass, garden soil). 30:1 ratio of carbon to nitrogen allows for effective heating and decomposition into 'black gold'.

Check out this blog and this site for lots of the science and how-to behind composting.

While I am preparing dinner, a bowl on the counter is ready to accept scraps, which goes straight to a stainless steel lidded compost container. I used to just use a plastic container (which is great), but the lidded container is forgiving if you don't get out to your compost bin right away. Whether you use a larger contained compost bin outdoors, or a worm compost bin, you will be secure in the knowledge that you are building great soil, one carrot peel at a time.




Hidden love in the loaf

Got a picky vegetable eater (i.e., doesn't eat vegetables)?. Do they happen to love meatloaf? Here is something I whipped up last Sunday that is not only mouthwatering comfort food, but you can be comforted to know that you are giving multiple vegetables and healthy fiber in each serving to the one you love. This meatloaf has a slightly sweet, savoury flavour, with a hint of smokey bacon - a nice change of pace. Perfectly paired with mashed potatoes or polenta.

My inspiration was a fridge full of leftover Swiss chard (from the fantastic recipe from last week), and other vegetables just languishing in the crisper. The great thing about this recipe is that you can pull out anything in this category, as it will be finely chopped beyond visual recognition. So before we get into an ethical debate on non-disclosure ingredients, I pull the desperate times desperate measures card.

Useful tool: food processor or chopper (I just put all the vegetables in at the same time and finely chop)

I apologize for no photos for the next couple posts - it has been a busy couple weeks!

Hidden Love Loaf
Serves 6
Total Time: 1.5 hours
Inspiration recipe from Gourmet, February 2008




  • 1 cup fine fresh bread crumbs (from 2 slices whole wheat bread)




  • 1/3 cup whole milk




  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped




  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (optional)




  • 1 cup swiss chard (or other greens: kale, spinach), finely chopped




  • 1 pepper (sweet bell, poblano, anaheim), finely chopped




  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped




  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter




  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce (or 2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, skip the pom. molasses)




  • 1/2 tablespoon pomegranate molasses (optional)




  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar




  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice




  • 1/4 pound bacon (about 4 slices), chopped (I try to use brands without nitrates)




  • 1/2 cup pitted prunes, chopped




  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef chuck




  • 1/2 pound ground pork (not lean)




  • 2 large eggs




  • 1/3 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley (optional)






  • Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
    Soak bread crumbs in milk in a large bowl.
    Meanwhile, cook onion, garlic, greens, pepper, and carrot in butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Cover skillet and reduce heat to low, then cook until carrot is tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in soy sauce, molasses, vinegar, allspice, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper. Add to bread-crumb mixture.
    Finely chop bacon and prunes in a food processor, then add to onion mixture along with beef, pork, eggs, and parsley and mix together with your hands.
    Pack mixture into a 9- by 5-inch oval loaf in a 13- by 9-inch shallow baking dish or pan.

    Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of meatloaf registers 155°F, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Let stand 10 minutes before serving, with a secret smile of satisfaction.




    Thursday, March 17, 2011

    Vegetable of the Week: Swiss Chard

    Taken on a stroll in Richmond, outside London (sigh) - thanks E!
    A lovely reader in London, England sent in a suggestion for an excellent recipe. Spring is sprung in many places (even in these snowy climes!), and one of the vegetables soon to be truely in season is Swiss chard. A member of the beet family (in fact descends from the native English sea beet), it is not only green and leafy, but has a tasty and colourful stem.

    Whether you pan fry, stream, bake or broil, it will add the flavour of 'green' to your dish. The leaves can be used like cabbage, and wrapped into Gołąbki (cabbage rolls), with a juicy center of meats studded with sweet raisins, or meaty mushrooms. You could use them in place of pasta sheets, and make a very healthy lasagna. I very much love to use them in wintery or early spring pasta dishes, in combination with red onions, currants, and walnuts. The stems also add flashes of white, yellow, and red (try to find 'rainbow chard') to a quiche (or anything else), and might spark the interest of a young (or old) eater. Chard is also very high in vitamins A, C, and K, so why not? This vegetable is at the top of my 'to plant' list, and I can't wait to try some baby chards - would make a lovely salad!


    Onto the recipe, from the famous Mark Bittman, who has come to embody (to foodies) everything simple in food (think simple chop+heat=hearty, healthy meal). Swiss Chard with Citrus and Shallots - earthy, green chard; bittersweet shallots (small purple onion); tangy, bright orange; and a complex splash of sherry vinegar (highly recommend adding this to your pantry, wonderful for salads). Makes a standout side or filling vegetarian main course. 



    Chard with Orange and Shallots   


    Recipe from How to Cook Everything.


    Chard with Orange and Shallots


    Makes: 4 servings


    Time: 25 minutes


    A perfect winter dish, this warm salad has vibrant color and tangy sweet-sour flavor. The skin of the orange or tangerine becomes almost candied and provides a nice chew, but if you’d rather not eat it, simply peel before chopping.


    Other vegetables you can use: any chard, bok choy, kale, or any cabbage. For the citrus, use kumquats (quartered) if available.


    1 pound chard, washed and trimmed


    2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil


    2 shallots, thinly sliced


    2 tablespoons sugar


    1 small orange or tangerine, seeded and coarsely chopped


    2 tablespoons sherry vinegar


    Salt and freshly ground black pepper


    1. Cut the stems out of the chard leaves. Cut the leaves into wide ribbons and slice the stems (on the diagonal if you like); keep the leaves and stems separate.


    2. Put the oil in a large skillet with a lid over medium heat. Add the shallots and sugar and cook for a minute, then stir in the orange or tangerine bits and reduce the heat to low. Cook, stirring frequently, until everything is caramelized, about 10 minutes. Stir in the vinegar.


    3. Return the heat to medium and stir in the chard stems. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they soften a bit, just a minute or two. Add the chard ribbons, cover, and turn off the heat. Let the chard steam for 2 or 3 minutes, then stir and re-cover the pan for another couple of minutes. Sprinkle with salt and lots of pepper and serve immediately or within an hour or two at room temperature.