Sunday, October 26, 2014

Ginger Pear Crumble

Candied ginger is a wonderful foil for many fruits, and pear is one of the best. I made this with Asian pears from our tree, but European pears would work just as well. Be sure to serve this with whipped cream or ice cream - perhaps some Snow's Ginger.

6 cups peeled and cubed pears
1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
5 Tbsp butter

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter an 8x8-inch baking pan.

Place the cubed pears in the baking pan. Sprinkle the crystallized ginger over the top.

Combine remaining ingredients in a food processor and pulse a few times until nicely crumbly. Carefully spread the topping over the pears.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, until the pears are very soft. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.

Serves about 6.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Brussels Sprouts with Shallot Butter

There aren't too many savory things that can't be made better by the addition of shallot butter, and Brussels sprouts are no exception.

1 quart Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved or quartered if large
2 Tbsp butter
1 medium shallot, minced
Dash of lemon juice (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the Brussels sprouts in a saucepan of salted boiling water for 5-8 minutes, until tender. Drain.

Melt the butter in a skillet. Add the shallots and saute for 1-2 minutes, then add the Brussels sprouts. Continue to saute over medium heat until they have given up excess moisture from the boiling. If desired, add a small splash of lemon juice to the pan and saute for another moment. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve hot.

Serves about 4.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Broiled Polenta with Balsamic Vegetables and Chicken Tomato Sauce

If you have leftover chicken, especially grilled chicken, this would be a great way to use it. Otherwise, if cooking chicken just for this purpose seems like too much bother, skip it or throw in some chickpeas instead.

To do this properly, prepare the polenta ahead of time so it has time to chill and solidify in the refrigerator. If you don't plan that far ahead, though, you can serve it soft in bowls and spoon the topping over it for an equally delicious result. I usually make polenta in my rice cooker now - no fuss, no stirring, no getting burned by spattering polenta - but I've given stovetop instructions below.

4 1/2 cups water
1 cup coarse cornmeal
1/2 cup quinoa (or another 1/2 cup cornmeal)
1 1/2 tsp salt

Olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced lengthwide
1 medium summer squash, diced
1 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms
3-4 cups diced cooked chicken
3 cups tomato sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Crumbled feta for topping

Prepare the polenta: Bring the water to a boil. Whisk in the cornmeal, then add the quinoa and salt. Return to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, until it reaches the desired consistency (it should be quite thick). Oil a 9x13-inch pan and spread the polenta into it in an even layer. Cover with plastic wrap and let cool. Refrigerate when no longer hot.

When you are ready to prepare the meal, slice the polenta into squares. Spread them on a baking sheet and broil for 5-10 minutes, until crispy on the outside and beginning to brown.

Prepare the vegetables: Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion, squash, and shiitakes and saute until tender, about 5 minutes.

Prepare the sauce: Combine the chicken and tomato sauce in a saucepan and heat through.

To serve the dish, place squares of broiled polenta on plates. Top with a spoonful of vegetables followed by a spoonful of sauce (alternatively, stir the vegetables into the sauce). Top with crumbled feta at the table.

Serves 4-6.

Dried Tomato Risotto

I had some freshly dried tomatoes sitting on the counter, and they smelled so good I couldn't resist using some right away. This is a deeply savory risotto, and it is excellent topped or accompanied by Balsamic and Garlic Mixed Grilled Vegetables or Tomato-Balsamic Grilled Vegetables if you still have some fresh tomatoes around. Some balsamic-marinated grilled chicken would be nice as well.

Olive oil
1/2 cup dried tomatoes, finely chopped (rehydrate first if necessary)
1 large shallot, minced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
3 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock, preferably warm
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a little olive oil in the pressure cooker. Add the tomatoes and shallots and saute for about 1 minute. Add the rice, stirring to coat with oil, and saute for another minute or so. Pour in the stock and stir well. Cover the cooker and bring to pressure. Cook at pressure for 7 minutes, then remove from heat and release steam. When pressure is fully released, open the cooker and stir the risotto. If excess liquid remains, simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes.  Serve hot.

Serves 4-6.

Barley with Shallots and Summer Squash

This is a simple side dish using some of the season's last summer squash. Although the ingredients are few, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, as the flavors and texture of the shallots, barley, and squash play off each other.

1 cup pearl barley
2 1/2 cups water
2 Tbsp butter
1 small shallot, minced
1 medium summer squash, in very small dice
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the barley and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until the barley is tender and the water is all absorbed, about 20-30 minutes.

While the barley cooks, melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the shallot and saute for 1-2 minutes, until aromatic. Add the squash and continue to saute until tender. Remove from heat.

Combine the barley and the squash mixture, stirring to thoroughly mix. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4-6.

Grilled Steak with Shallot Butter

This is so simple it hardly counts as a recipe, but the shallot butter is addictively delicious while grilled steak is great all on its own, the shallot butter takes it to a higher plane. Should you end up with extra shallot butter, it's delicious on...well, almost anything savory that you can think of.

Grass fed steak of your choice to serve 4
Salt and pepper
4 tbsp butter
1 large shallot, minced

Blot the steak dry with a paper towel, then liberally season all over with salt and pepper.

Grill the steak over high heat for 4-5 minutes a side for medium rare.

While the steak grills, make the shallot butter: Melt the butter in a small saucepan or skillet, then add the shallots and cook over medium heat until tender. They will be mouth-wateringly aromatic.

Serve the steak and top each serving with a generous spoonful of shallot butter at the table.

Serves 4.