Sunday, November 25, 2012

Ginger-Lime Beef Stir-Fry

Did you know that ginger is grown right here in the Valley?  The folks at Old Friends Farm in Amherst grow it and harvest it young.  Among other places, it's available for sale at Green Fields Market.

This quick stir-fry has the flavors of Southeast Asia.  Serve over rice, maybe cooked with coconut milk.

Canola oil
1/4 cup minced ginger root
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 red bell peppers, thinly sliced (frozen is fine)
1 1/2 - 2 lbs cooked steak, sliced thin
Salt to taste
1 medium lime, in quarters or eighths

Heat some canola oil in a wok or large skillet.  Add the ginger, garlic, and peppers and saute for 2-3 minutes.  Add the steak and toss to coat well with the seasonings.  Stir fry just long enough to heat through.  Add salt to taste, then sprinkle with the juice of one quarter of the lime and toss again.

Serve hot over rice.  Sprinkle with additional lime juice at the table, giving each diner a piece of lime with which to do so.

Serves 4-6.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cranberry Sauce with Lime

Just made this for Thursday.  Cranberry and lime make a nice flavor combination.  While straight up cranberry sauce is delicious on its own, I usually like to add a little dash of something - more ideas here.

1/2 lb whole cranberries, rinsed and picked over
Zest of one lime
1/2 - 3/4 cup sugar
Splash of water

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the berries have all popped and the sauce has thickened to a consistency you like.  Remove from heat, let cool, and refrigerate until ready to serve.  Sauce will keep for at least several days in the fridge.

Serves about 6.

Creamy Squash Soup with Roasted Garlic

This soup is simple and understated but rich, smooth, and elegant with a gorgeous golden color.  If you want to punch up the flavor some more, you can double the quantity of roasted garlic.  Cook the squash ahead of time by roasting or steaming and, of course, roast the garlic ahead of time too (I usually do a few heads at once and use it over the next few weeks).

Olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
6 cups cooked mashed winter squash
1 head roasted garlic, peeled
4-6 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock for a vegetarian version)
1-2 Tbsp dry sherry
1/2 - 1 cup cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a little olive oil in a soup pot.  Add the shallot and saute over medium head for 2-3 minutes.  Add the squash and garlic and mix with the shallots.  Add 4 cups of stock and stir well, then puree the soup with an immersion blender (or do it in batches in a regular blender, then return to the pot).  Add additional stock if desired, to reach a consistency that you like - bearing in mind that you will still be adding cream.  Stir in the sherry and cream until well blended, then add salt and pepper to taste.

For an elegant presentation, add a small swirl of cream to the top of each bowl for serving.

Serves 4-6.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Apple Cider Braised Beef with Celeriac

Tart apple cider makes for a sweet but not too sweet, tangy braising liquid, perfect for fall.  If you don't have access to a tart cider (I used the Vintage blend from Clarkdale Fruit Farms), substitute beef stock for part of the cider and add a little cider vinegar at the end if desired.  I used beef shanks, but the recipe would work for any good braising cut - short ribs, brisket, or anything else you'd use for pot roast.  While you could substitute other root vegetables for the celeriac, I recommend using it because the texture and flavor work really well cooked in the cider.  You can serve this over egg noodles or mashed potatoes, or serve it like a stew with some good bread for dipping.

2-3 lbs beef ( such as shanks, short ribs, brisket, etc)
Canola oil
Salt and pepper
1 large tart apple, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
1 medium onion, in wedges
1 large celeriac, peeled and cut into chunks
3 cups tart apple cider
Beef stock (if needed)
1 Tbsp spicy brown mustard

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.  Lightly coat the beef on all sides with oil, then sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.  Brown in the oven for 10 minutes on each side.  (You can also do this on the stovetop, but I personally find it too smoky.)

Heat a little more canola oil in a Dutch oven.  Add the apple, onion, and celeriac and brown them a bit over high heat, stirring often.  Add the browned beef, then pour in the apple cider.  Add beef stock if needed to bring the level of the liquid such that it covers the beef most but not all of the way.  Stir in the mustard.

Bring the braise to a boil, then reduce heat to very low and simmer for at least 2 hours.  When ready to serve, take the beef out of the pot and cut into serving sized pieces, removing any chunks of bone.  Mash the apple chunks with the back of a spoon.  Serve the beef with plenty of liquid and chunks of celeriac.

Serves 4-6.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pizza with Pear, Bacon, and Roasted Eggplant Sauce

An array of complementary flavors and textures here, yum!  If you don't have pureed eggplant available,  you can skip it.  You'll be missing a flavor and texture element, but the pizza will still be good.

1 14-inch pizza crust, preferably whole wheat
Olive oil
1 cup Roasted Eggplant Puree with Olive Oil
3-4 oz. shredded mozzarella
1 large pear, cored and sliced 1/8 - 1/4-inch thick
1 small shallot, minced
4 sliced cooked bacon, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

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

Spread the pizza crust with the eggplant puree, then the mozzarella.  Arrange the pear slices over the cheese, then sprinkle with the shallot and bacon. Lightly sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

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

Serves 3-4.

Roasted Eggplant Puree with Olive Oil

Toward the end of eggplant season I decided to experiment with pureeing and freezing it.  I didn't post the recipe then because I wanted to see how good the results were.  Straight cooked eggplant freezes terribly - the resulting texture is awful - but I had heard that eggplant puree produced better results.  It's true!  This is definitely good enough to be worth doing.

Whole eggplants
Olive oil
Salt and pepper (optional)

Start by roasting whole eggplants in a 500 degree oven (on baking sheets) or on the grill.  Roast until the outside is fairly well blackened and the eggplant is nice and soft all over.  Let them cool until you can handle them comfortably, then slice them open and scoop out the flesh.  Puree the flesh in a food processor, adding a generous quantity of olive oil, until very smooth and silky in texture.  Add salt and pepper to taste if desired.

To freeze, scoop desired quantities into freezer bags (I froze in 1 cup amounts).  Spread out flat and freeze.

To thaw, place the bag in a bowl of warm water for 10 minutes or so.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Slow Cooker Lentil Tomato Soup with Bacon

Simple and hearty, really almost more of a stew than a soup.  You can, of course, make this on the stovetop instead of the slow cooker.  Saute the onions first instead of last, then add the other ingredients and simmer until the lentils are tender.  But if you start it in the slow cooker, this can be ready in 20 minutes once you get home from work.

1 1/2 cups brown lentils
4 cups cubed potatoes
3 cups crushed, ground, or chopped tomatoes (canned or frozen)
4 cups beef stock
Salt and pepper to taste
8 slices bacon
2 medium onions, chopped

Place lentils, potatoes, tomatoes, stock, and salt and pepper in the slow cooker.  Cook on high for 4-5 hours or low 7-9 hours.

Just before you are ready to serve the soup, cook the bacon until chewy (I do this under the broiler, using a rack over a pan, for about 6 minutes) and saute the onions until slightly browned.  Stir bacon and onions into the rest of the soup.  Add additional stock if desired.  Serve hot.

Serves about 6.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Brown Rice Risotto with Shiitakes and Mustard Greens

White Arborio is the classic rice for risotto, but you can actually make it with virtually any short grain rice (longer grain rices don't have enough starch to make it creamy), including short grain brown rice.  The trick is to parboil it first (thanks to Mark Bittman for this tip), then you cook it much as you would a standard risotto.  In this recipe, the slightly chewier brown rice is a nice match to the silky shiitakes--I made sure to grab some at the last farmers market of the regular season--and greens with a little bite--in this case, mizuna from my garden.  (If you don't care for mustard greens, you can substitute something milder, such as spinach or Swiss chard.)

1 1/2 cups short grain brown rice
Olive oil
3 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
4 cups thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms
2 cups well chopped mizuna or other mustard greens
2/3 cup grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste

Parboil the rice for 20 minutes in plenty of water, then drain.

Heat a little olive oil in the pressure cooker, then add the parboiled rice.  Saute for 1-2 minutes, then add the stock.  Cover and bring to pressure, then reduce heat to medium so that it just maintains pressure but won't burn the rice.  Cook for 9 minutes, then release pressure.  If there is still liquid with the rice, simmer it over low heat, stirring periodically, until it reaches the desired consistency.  (If you don't have a pressure cooker, you can also cook the risotto the old fashioned way, adding liquid a little at a time and stirring until absorbed.)

While you cook the rice, heat a bit more olive oil in a skillet.  Add the shallots and saute for 2 minutes, then add the shiitakes.  Continue to saute until the shiitakes are tender.  Add the mustard greens and cook, stirring frequently, until nicely wilted.  Add salt and pepper to taste and remove from heat.

When everything is done, stir the shiitake-mizuna mixture into the rice.  Add the Parmesan and mix well.  Taste and add salt and pepper as desired.

Serves 4-6 as a side dish.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Chili-Lime Beef and Sweet Potato Stew

We picked up our cow from the slaughterhouse today and split it up among our selves and five other households as usual.  It was a big animal this year, with a share amounting to about 80 pounds, our largest ever.  I had only a handful of cuts left from last year's share in the freezer and am in the process of using them up.  This was our last package of 2011 stew beef.

The flavors of chili and lime give this a flavor of points south, but they are not overwhelming.  Feel free to add more if you like.

1 lb stew beef, cubed
1 Tbsp all purpose flour
2 tsp chili powder
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
Beef stock
2 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 lb), peeled and diced
1/2 cup pearl barley
2-3 tsp lime juice

Place the cubed beef in a bowl with the flour, chili powder, and a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Toss to coat thoroughly.

Heat a little olive oil in a soup pot.  Add the beef and brown over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until well browned, about 5 minutes.  Add the onions and garlic and saute for 2 minutes or so.  Add enough beef stock to cover a bit generously.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Add the sweet potatoes and barley, bring back to a boil, then again reduce heat and simmer for another 20-30 minutes, until the barley is tender.  Turn off heat and add lime juice.  Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

Serves 4-5.