Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Thai Corn Chowder

Sometimes I have to try a recipe just to satisfy my own curiosity. This one I have been playing with in my mind since last summer and finally got around to just making it. Fortunately, the result was good enough to share. As I've commented here before, I love corn chowder and make it often through the summer and fall, but I just can't resist different variations.

1-2 Tbsp canola oil
2 shallots, minced
1 1/2 lbs potatoes, cubed
Chicken/veggie stock and/or water
1/4 - 1/2 tsp fish sauce (optional)
3 cups roasted corn (grilled corn would also work well)
1 14-oz can coconut milk (lite is fine)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 - 1/2 cup chopped Thai basil
1-2 tsp lime juice

Heat the canola oil in a soup pot. Add the shallots and saute for about 2 minutes. Add the potatoes, then enough stock and/or water to cover. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the potatoes are tender.

When the potatoes are tender, add the fish sauce (if using), corn, and coconut milk. Add additional water if needed. Stir well, and heat through, then add salt and pepper to taste. Just before serving, add the Thai basil and lime juice.

Serves 4-6.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Roasted Corn

This is delicious on its own as a side dish, but it also makes a wonderful addition to many recipes in which you might want to use corn. Roasting enhances the flavor and brings out notes you don't get from a simple steaming or boiling. Particularly good added to soup, chili, etc. I roasted up a big batch this weekend and froze it in one-meal quantities to add to dishes through the winter.

12 ears corn
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Slice all the kernels off the corn. Toss them with olive oil and salt and pepper, place them in a large baking dish, then roast for 20-30 minutes, stirring once or twice.

Variations: Add dried or fresh herbs to the corn. Basil or sage would be particularly good choices.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Pizza with Fire Roasted Red Peppers and Goat Cheese

We've been enjoying the first sweet red bell peppers out of our garden lately. Tonight I roasted three of them on the grill and made this pizza. Grilling is an easy way to roast lots of peppers at once, so if you want to freeze some for later or puree some for romesco sauce (super highly recommended), it's a good way to go. Be sure to use thick walled bell peppers, not the thinner walled frying peppers, which are much harder to peel.

1 14-inch pizza crust
Olive oil
3 oz shredded mozzarella
3 fire roasted red peppers, sliced into strips
2 Tbsp chopped fresh sage leaves
3 oz crumbled goat cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Lightly paint the pizza crust with olive oil.

Spread the mozzarella over the pizza crust, then top with the peppers. Sprinkle with sage, then add goat cheese. Add a sprinkling of salt and pepper to taste.

Bake the pizza for 15-18 minutes, until the crust is done and the cheese begins to brown.

Serves 3-4.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Blanch and No-Blanch: A Quick Guide for Freezing

Some vegetables require a quick blanching before you freeze them in order to preserve their color and flavor, while others can go straight into the freezer. Here's a quick guide on what falls into which category.

Peppers (sweet and hot)
Zucchini/summer squash
Onion (chopped)
Fennel (chopped)
Parsley, cilantro, dill, chives
Rhubarb (pack in sugar)
Raspberries, blackberries
Currants, gooseberries

Green beans
Peas (shell, snow, or snap)
Leafy greens (alternatively, saute)

Cook first:
Winter squash, pumpkin
Sweet potatoes

Don't freeze:
Eggplant (unless it's in a dish like ratatouille)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Mac & Cheese with Roasted Tomatoes and Basil

It's a whole new level of macaroni and cheese. Here roasted tomatoes and onions are added to the classic along with a handful of chopped fresh basil. Yum! Cherry tomatoes work nicely here; leave them whole if small or slice in half if large.

1 large red onion, sliced or coarsely chopped
2 lbs tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups milk (room temperature is best)
8 oz. shredded cheddar
1 lb cut pasta (shells are good)
3/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place the onion and tomatoes in a baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Roast for about 25 minutes, until tender and rich in flavor. Remove from the oven.

While the vegetables roast, make the sauce. Start by making a classic white sauce: Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan or deep skillet, then stir in the flour. Keeping the heat very low, whisk it constantly as it browns and thickens, bubbling. Slowly whisk in the milk a little at a time, over low heat. Whisk constantly until the sauce thickens a bit, then raise the heat to medium until the sauce reaches a simmer. Turn the heat down again at that point and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently (you can switch to a spoon for this).

While the white sauce cooks, boil the pasta in a large pot of salted water.

After the sauce has simmered for its 10 minutes, remove it from the heat and stir in the cheese, a handful or so at a time, until it melts. Stir in the vegetables and the basil. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if needed.

When the pasta is done, drain it and return it to the pot. Pour the sauce over it and stir to coat evenly. Serve hot.

Serves 4-6.

Veggie-Heavy Tabouli

Tomatoes, cukes, and fresh herbs form the heart of this tabouli, which goes heavy on the vegetables. No cooking required. Serve as a side dish, or add warm pita and hummus to make it a meal.

1 1/2 cups dry bulgur wheat
1 large cucumber, peeled and diced (about 3 cups)
1 large tomato, diced (about 3 cups)
1 small red onion, finely chopped (optional)
3/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 - 3/4 cup chopped fresh mint
3 Tbsp lemon juice
3 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Soak the bulgur in cool water for 2 hours or so, until tender but still just a little chewy. Drain and place in a large bowl.

Add the remaining ingredients to the bulgur and mix well. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.

Serves 6-8.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Caramelized Fennel and Onion Pizza with Goat Cheese

I couldn't convince my almost 4-year-old to try this (his response: "I refuse that it's delicious!")...but hey, more for us grownups! It really IS delicious. Caramelizing brings out fennel's sweetness (and of course does the same for the onions) and mellows it a bit without losing all its flavor. Properly caramelizing fennel and onions takes a bit of time (25-30 minutes or longer if you like) but it's worth it.

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large or 2 medium fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 14-inch pizza crust
3 oz. shredded mozzarella
1 Tbsp minced fresh sage
3 oz. goat cheese

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven. Add the fennel and onion and stir to coat thoroughly with oil. Turn the heat to medium and cover. Uncover and stir well every 4-5 minutes or so, and adjust the heat downward if the vegetables are getting too browned (as opposed to caramelized). They will slowly cook down, getting soft and golden over the course of at least 25-30 minutes. If you have time you can continue to caramelize until they are much darker. Toward the end you will need to check on them more frequently and perhaps turn the heat even lower. When they are ready, stir in the red wine vinegar and add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.

As the onions and fennel approach doneness, preheat the oven to 450 degrees and lightly paint the pizza crust with olive oil.

Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella over the pizza crust, then add the caramelized veggies. Sprinkle with sage, then dot with goat cheese.

Bake the pizza for 15-18 minutes, until the crust is done and cheese begins to brown.

Serves 3-4.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Shiitake Beef Stew with New Potatoes

Good potatoes, especially freshly harvested new potatoes, are such a far cry from your typical Idaho russet as to be nearly a different vegetable altogether. Of course, you can also make this with storage potatoes when new potatoes are not available and as long as you choose good quality ones the stew will be delicious.

1 Tbsp olive oil
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, finely chopped
1/4 lb shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1 lb ground beef
1 1/2 - 2 lbs new potatoes, cubed
Beef stock and/or water
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the garlic and onion and saute for about 2 minutes, then add the shiitakes and saute for another 2-3 minutes. Add the beef and brown thoroughly. Add the potatoes along with enough stock and/or water to just cover them. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Add and salt and pepper to taste, then stir in the parsley.

Serves 4-6.

Dried Tomato Pesto

I suppose this is a little out of season, given that we are just getting into the full swing of fresh tomato season. But entering fresh season (for tomatoes or anything else) also means it's time to make sure all the preserved stuff has been used up before I start preserving again for next winter. This recipe took care of my last stash of dried tomatoes. Use this on pasta or pizza, or try it on grilled chicken or vegetables. Also nice on bruschetta, or as a dip for toasted pita.

1 cup dried tomatoes
1/4 - 1/3 cup good olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 - 1/2 cup grated Parmesan (optional)

Place the tomatoes in a heat proof bowl and pour boiling or near boiling water over them to cover. Let them soak for 10-15 minutes, until soft.

Scoop the tomatoes out, reserving the soaking liquid. Place them in a blender or food processor with the olive oil, garlic, a bit of salt and pepper, and Parmesan (if using). Blend until pretty smooth, adding a bit of the tomato water if you like. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed.

This will keep in the refrigerator for many days. It can also be frozen.

Makes enough for 1 lb of pasta or two 14-inch pizzas.