Friday, January 31, 2014

Cavala Ki Khira - January 31, 2014

Namaste!  Last week I had the opportunity to cook an Indian dinner for almost 100 people who attended a concert by Kiran Ahluwalia (check her out at at my husband's venue, the Clifton Center.  I made creamy eggplant, cauliflower with potatoes, lentils (dal), bread (naan) and yogurt (raita).  It was a big hit but I made WAY too much rice because I was afraid it would run out.

Soooo....rice pudding (cavala ki khira)!  It was really easy.  So easy in fact that I made it at 11:00 that evening when I returned from the event. It makes a great dessert, but I ate it for breakfast the following week after warming in the microwave and sprinkling a little cinnamon sugar on top.

Rice Pudding

2 c. milk
1 c. left over rice
2 eggs (beaten)
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
1/3 c. raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Heat milk and rice, stirring frequently on simmer.  In separate bowl, mix eggs, sugar and vanilla.  Add to the milk and stir for a few seconds. Add raisins and cinnamon if using and put pan in oven for 20 minutes.  Remove and allow to cool.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Essence of Mushrooms - January 25, 2014

On October 12, 2013 I blogged about preserving beautiful Shiitake mushrooms we grew in the community garden.  We preserved them in jars in olive oil and sat on the shelf.  I decided it was time to take advantage of them a couple weeks ago when it was time for pizza night.  We have a fabulous pasta place in town where we buy all our pasta fresh as well as pizza dough.  I also had a jar of pizza sauce and some banana peppers canned in the summer and my husband thinks pizza must have pepperoni so we bought that too.  The pizza with was delicious, but I think the best part of the meal was the salad.  We used the oil from the mushroom jar with a few mushrooms and mixed with rice wine vinegar and a bit of sugar to make the dressing.  It had all the flavor of the mushrooms, peppers and herb from the canning.

I didn't want to waste the rest of the mushrooms, so the next day I made a pot of lentils and added the remaining mushrooms.  It was earthy and rich and hearty and made great lunches for the week. Here is what I did:

Lentil Stew with Mushrooms and Spinach

1 chopped onion
4 diced carrots
1 T. olive oil
4 cloves minced garlic
2 tsp. oregano
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. basil
14.5 ounces crushed or chopped tomatoes
2 c. dry lentils (I used the French green ones, but brown or Indian also work)
1/2 c. chopped preserved mushrooms
8 c. water (using the water from the tomato cans or broth if you like)
1 small bag frozen sinach
2 T. lemon juice (or vinegar)
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil on medium and saute onions and carrots.  Stir in garlic and herbs.  Cook for 2 minutes. Stir in lentils, water, tomatoes and mushrooms.  Bring to boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 1 hour.  Add spinach and cook until warmed.  When ready to serve, stir in lemon and season to taste.

One Year Ago - Bloody Mary Bar

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Strata - The Best Way to Wake Up with Day Old Bread - January 18, 2014

My husband's family has a strata tradition on Christmas and New Years mornings.  I had never heard of strata which is a breakfast casserole using bread usually soaked in egg and milk.  The best two things about strata in my opinion are that you actually have to make them the night before so there is no fancy cooking in the morning and that they are a great way to use up both day old bread and eggs if you have too much of either.  Once you see these recipes, you can also riff on them and find ways to use up other things like various cheeses, milk or cream and meats or veggies you think would be good.  I can imagine roasted peppers and corn as a great additions for example.

I'll start with the Harris family traditional strata.  It is sausage cheese and while I am not a fan of fake sausage, you can replace the sausage with it or turkey sausage.  This year, we also added a crab strata.  I actually thought it was a bit too rich, so I have adapted the recipe here to replace some of the half and half with milk.  You can go the other way of you prefer.  Because it is in a smaller deeper casserole, it had little of the bread sticking up to get cripsy, so you might want to add a little less of the egg/milk mixture also to allow some more bread to stick up.  I hope you enjoy both.  If you're having a brunch or opening presents, it is a great breakfast to just pop in the oven and it's ready when you're finished getting dressed.  We serve it with a big fruit salad.

Sausage Cheese Strata
1 lb. browned hot breakfast sausage
8 slices day old white bread, cut in cubes
3/4 c. grated Monterrey Jack cheese
4 large eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Dijon
pinch Cayenne
1/2 tsp. Worchestershire sauce
3 T. melted butter

Grease 9 x 13 casserole dish.  Put in half the bread followed by half the sausage and cheese. Add another layer of each in the same order.  Whisk all remaining ingredients except butter and pour over casserole.  Drizzle with butter.  Cover and chill overnight.  

In the morning, remove from fridge and let sit 45 minutes while preheating oven to 350 degrees. Bake in water bath for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes.

Crab Strata
8-10 slices of day old French Bread (cut in 1/2 inch thick cubes)

3 T.  butter, softened
4 shallots, minced
10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c. dry white wine
1 to 1 1/2 c. lump crab meat
6 oz Gruyere cheese, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
6 large eggs
1 3/4 cups half-and-half (or one c. milk and ¾ c. half and half)

Heat 2 T. butter in nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Saute shallots 3 minutes.  Add spinach and salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes.  Set aside.  Add wine to skillet, increase heat to medium high and simmer until reduced to 1/4 cup.  Set aside.

Butter 8 inch square baking dish with remaining T. butter.  Arrange half the buttered bread slices in single layer in dish.  Sprinkle half of crab and then spinach mixture, then 1/2 cup grated cheese evenly over bread slices. Arrange remaining bread slices in single layer over cheese; sprinkle remaining spinach mixture and remaining crab and another 1/2 cup cheese evenly over bread. Whisk eggs in medium bowl until combined; whisk in reduced wine, milk and half and half, 1 tsp. salt, and pepper to taste.  Pour egg mixture over bread layers, cover  and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, take strata out of fridge and let stand at least 20 minutes while preheating oven to 325 degrees.  Uncover strata and sprinkle with remaining cheese.  Bake 50-55 minutes.  Cool and serve.

One Year Ago - Green Soup and Potato Soup

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Stock In Action - January 11, 2014

So last week, my biggest cooking success was a fridge and freezer full of delicious chicken broth made in my crockpot.  I decided to build on what worked and make risotto. Risotto is one of those things that my husband and I never make at home, but when we do, we both look at each other and say, "Why don't we make this more often?"  This was definitely one of those cases.  We usually make seafood or saffron risotto, but I decided to check what we had and see if we could use the risotto to make use of more than just the chicken broth.  A search of the fridge and freezer resulted in about a cup of sweet corn frozen back in the summer, a cup of shredded Monterey Jack cheese leftover from Christmas strata making and an open jar or roasted red peppers.  I then found three recipes from my box of family recipes, Cooking Light and the side of the risotto box and created the following:
Sweet corn, roasted pepper risotto
5 c. chicken broth
1/2 c. white wine
2 tsp. olive oil
1 c. Arborio rice
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. coriander
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. chopped green onions
¾ c. shredded Monterey Jack cheese
½ tsp. tobasco sauce
2 c. corn, cut from cob
¾ c. chopped roasted red peppers
Salt and pepper to taste
Place broth in pan and warm on stovetop (do not boil).  Keep warm through cooking.  Heat oil in saucepan over med-high.  Add rice, cumin, coriander and garlic and sauté 1 minute. Stir in wine and cook while stirring until absorbed.  Then, start adding broth ½ c. at a time stirring each time until absorbed and adding more.  Continue until all broth used.  Stir in the onions, cheese, hot sauce, corn and peppers while a bit soupy and cook 3 minutes until heated and correct consistency.  Salt and pepper to taste. 

While I was at it, I decided to make great use of one more thing in our pantry.  This Summer, I made butternut squash augre-doux (see previous blog).  It was put away in lovely pint jars.  I dumped a jar into a pan and heated.  Then, I added a tablespoon of butter and a bit of salt and simmered until the liquid in the jar thickened around squash. Before serving, I added a bit a nutmeg.  It had this fabulous savory sweet Winter taste.  It would make a great Thanksgiving side.

One Year Ago - Chicken Peanut Stew

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Back to Making Stock - January 4, 2014

I have taken a few weeks off from the blog and cooking as well.  I made great use of past cooking through Christmas baskets filled with cakes, candy and jars put away during the Summer and Fall. Also, we shared pickles on cheese plates and salsa with chips and banana peppers on pizza with friends and family between traditional meals.  Mostly, we took turns cooking big warm meals with our group of friends who get together annually; this year in Tennessee.

On our return, I found very little in the fridge, but remembered a whole chicken in the freezer.  I did an InterNet search and found many people raving about cooking a whole chicken in the crockpot.  I admit I must have done something wrong because mine was tough and overcooked instead of falling off the bone moist as all the reviewers I read described.  BUT, I did have another success in this effort I thought worth sharing.

After removing the chicken from the crockpot and cutting the meat off the bones for our meal, I placed the bones back in the pot along with the onions, apples and lemons I had used for seasoning. Just to add more flavor, I also added the carcass of the turkey breast we had frozen after a fabulous Christmas Eve lunch and then, I added:

2 crushed cloves garlic
an onion cut in half
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. Mural of Flavor seasoning from Penzy's (choose the seasoning of your choice)
1 bayleaf
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper

I then filled the crockpot with water and turned it on low.  I left it on during dinner and a movie and poured it into 1/2 c. cupcake pans and plastic containers before going to bed.  This morning, I popped those in the cupcake pans out with the help of hot water and dropped them in a freezer bag for later.  The rest will make great corn risotto tomorrow night!

One Year Ago - Pineapple Vodka