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Archive for the ‘How to Cook Food’ Category

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Kale is the new “It” girl.  She’s popular (she seems to be on the menu of every restaurant I visit), she’s productive (she’s high in fiber, otherwise known as “nature’s broom”), and she’s sexy when paired with add-ins such as colorful currants, pine nuts and parmesan cheese.

Kale is a cruciferous vegetable, part of the family of veggies that is thought to have anti-oxidant effects.  She’s low in calories, high in fiber and a great source of vitamins A, C and K.

While you can certainly cook kale, my favorite recipe is a simple kale salad with citrus dressing.  The orange juice and the honey complement the sharp taste of the greens rather nicely.  This recipe is great for a party because you can make it ahead of time.

Kale Salad with Citrus Dressing

Citrus dressing:

¼ cup orange juice
¼ cup rice vinegar
¼ cup honey
¼ cup olive oil
Salt to taste
1 clove of garlic

Chopped curly kale (or a bag of pre-chopped)

Whisk together everything except the garlic.  Peel the garlic and press with the side of a knife to sort of flatten.  Drop the garlic in the salad dressing.  If possible, let the dressing sit for a few hours in order to enhance the garlic flavor.  If you are in a hurry, that’s OK. The dressing will still have a good flavor, but with a less pungent garlic taste.

Thoroughly rinse the kale and dry.  After I dry it in the salad spinner, I squeeze it in a paper towel to get any excess water out of the leaves.

Spoon the dressing over the kale.  Salt to taste.  Then, massage it through the kale with your (clean) hands.  If you have time, let the salad sit for a few hours.  Kale leaves are rather thick, so you don’t have to worry about them wilting.  Letting the salad sit for awhile allows the dressing to permeate those thick leaves.

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One year ago today, my Aunt Muriel passed away. 

I can still hear her voice, and I know that my mom misses her a lot.  They were only 14 months apart…some people even thought they were twins.  I think it was the small stature, the short haircuts and the identical gold-color Toyota Corollas that they each drove.

The two things I miss talking to her about are cooking and cats (but not cooking cats!).  She loved to be in the kitchen and was always clipping recipes and arranging them in binders.  I can only aspire to be as organized as her.  I bought some binders awhile back and organized some of my recipes, but many of them are still in folders, boxes and piles in the kitchen.

One of the recipes she gave me was for Cod and Shrimp Stoup with Salt and Vinegar Mashed Potatoes.  She clipped it out of a magazine, but I have no idea which one.  I finally got around to making it today and it is heavenly!  I especially like the “kick” from the vinegar and the lemon juice.

A light, summery, seafood stoup!

Cod and Shrimp Stoup with Salt and Vinegar Mashed Potatoes

(with a few variations from the original recipe at the end)

3 large baking potatoes, peeled and thickly sliced

Salt

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)

1 onion, thinly sliced

3 ribs of celery from the heart, chopped

3 to 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 large bay leaf

2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped

Grated peel and juice of 1 lemon

Pepper

½ cup dry white wine

1 cup chicken broth

One 14.5 ounce can diced or stewed tomatoes

1 ½ pounds thick cod fillets, cut into bite-sized chunks

1 pound large shrimp, peeled and de-veined

¼ cup white balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons butter

In a deep pot, add the potatoes and enough water to cover.  Bring to a boil, salt the water and cook the potatoes until tender, about 15 minutes.  Drain.

I boil my potatoes in the same pot my mom used to use when I was a kid. The pot is older than me!

In a Dutch oven or a large, deep skillet with a lid, heat the EVOO over medium-high heat.  Add the onions, celery, garlic, bay leaf, thyme and lemon peel; season with salt and pepper.  Cook until the onions are softened, 7 to 8 minutes.  Pour in the wine and cook for 1 minute.  Stir in ½ cup chicken broth (see notes below for my quantity) and the tomatoes with their juice; bring to a simmer.  Add the cod in a single layer, cover and cook for 3 minutes.  Gently stir in the shrimp; season with salt and pepper .  Cover and cook until the cod and shrimp are just opaque throughout, about 3 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice; discard the bay leaf.

The old and the new working side-by-side

Mash the potatoes with the remaining ½ cup chicken broth, the vinegar and butter; season with salt. 

To serve, mound the potatoes into shallow bowls.  Ladle the soup around the potatoes.

Additional notes:

  • Since this is a quick-cooking dish, it’s best to have everything chopped and de-veined before starting.
  • I used Russet potatoes, but I would try the smaller white potatoes next time.
  • I used 4 sprigs of fresh thyme and threw them in the pot un-chopped.  Just remove them before serving.
  • I wanted the dish to be more soupy, so I added about 2-3 cups of chicken broth to the stoup.
  • They only white vinegar I had was regular, old-fashioned white distilled vinegar (the kind we used to put on our salads before the advent of all the designer vinegars).  It was delish in the mashed potatoes!

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Roasted Veggies

Valentine’s Day might be over, but I have a new love…roasted veggies!  My new suitor has been pursuing me for months.  And this is my idea of a perfect relationship…I don’t have to put a lot of work into it and I get all the benefits!

 

Vegetables roasted at high heat in the oven are easy to make and quite heavenly to eat.  The roasting process caramelizes the veggies and unlocks their natural sugars, turning dull or bitter vegetables into intense, full-flavored bites.

 

Most types of vegetables show their best side when roasted.  A few, however, don’t respond well to the high heat of the oven…such as veggies with a high water content (like celery) and leafy greens such as spinach or kale. 

 

Here are the basics:

 

1)      Heat is crucial.  Turn the oven to 425 degrees and pre-heat for at least 10 minutes before adding the veggies.

 

2)      Size matters.  In theory, all vegetables should be cut the same size to insure even browning.  However, zucchini and summer squash have a higher water content than say, carrots, so I cut my squash a bit smaller than the denser vegetables, like carrots and parsnips.  Generally, turnips, parsnips and carrots are cut into ½ to ¾ -inch chunks while squash is sliced into 1-inch rounds.  Onions brown nicely at the edges when quartered and then separated into individual layers.  Asparagus and string beans can remain whole.  Just make sure to break off the woody ends of the asparagus and remove any stems from the string beans.  If you find that you like your veggies crunchier, cut them a bit larger; if you like them cooked through a bit more, cut them into smaller pieces.  It’s OK to experiment!

 

3)       Place the cut vegetables in a large bowl and toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Make sure each piece is coated with the olive oil, as this will give you nice, evenly browned veggies rather than dry, burnt ones.  

 

4)      Respect each veggie’s personal space.  Spread the veggies out, in a single layer, on a baking sheet that has been covered with foil (unless you are opposed to measures that cut down on pot scrubbing time).  Don’t place the vegetables on top of one another.  Each piece of veggie needs to have contact with the baking sheet; the baking sheet conducts heat and facilitates the browning process.

 

Before

 

5)      Put the pan in the oven.  Stay in the kitchen.  This is not the time to fold clothes or sweep the bathroom floor (for those of you who do such chores).  I already made that mistake for you…and forgot that the veggies were roasting while I was folding clothes.  The result was still edible, but overcooked for my taste.  Besides, when you hang out near the oven, you can hear the wonderful sizzling sound of the little guys cooking away.

 

6)      After about 10 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and close the oven door to prevent the heat from escaping.  Check the underside of a few of your veggies; if they are still pale, return the pan to the oven for 1-2 minutes and watch carefully.  If they are a nice brown color, turn them over and return the pan to the oven to that they can roast evenly, for about another 10-12 minutes.

 

7)      This is the most important step…eat and enjoy! 

 

 P.S.  I like to drizzle mine with a little balsamic vinegar as soon as they come out of the oven…blissful!

 

Ready to eat!

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For me, soup is the ultimate comfort food. On a cold evening (that’s anything under 65 degrees for this native Angeleno), a good bowl of soup warms me from the inside out.

Soup is like a renaissance man – someone with a variety of skills and a broad knowledge base. It can be a healthy and filling start to a meal, and it is a lovely “significant other” to a grilled cheese sandwich. It provides a clever way to get some extra veggies into your diet and is easy to make. Even most doctors agree that the heat and steam from a savory broth can provide relief for congested noses and scratchy throats. I don’t know if there is any scientific proof on that one, but a nice bowl of chicken soup has worked wonders for me.

So here is my recipe for basic chicken soup. I like to make up a large batch (you can easily double it) and freeze some for later. You can certainly add your preferred starch (cooked noodles, rice or whatever you like) to the pot after the chicken is cooked; but if you wait and add the starch when you serve it, you can have a different soup every time you defrost a batch.

Basic Chicken Soup

1 small onion (or ½ large onion), finely chopped
3 celery stalks, sliced into ½ inch pieces
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 chicken breasts (with bone and skin on – this is what flavors the soup)
4 cups chicken stock or chicken broth
4 cups water
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried thyme
½ tsp dried parsley
¼ tsp pepper
4 carrots, peeled and chopped into ½ inch pieces
Salt
Cooked rice, noodles, orzo or couscous

Place onions, celery, garlic, chicken breasts, stock, water, oregano, thyme, parsley and pepper in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes. Add carrots and cook for another 10-15 minutes, until the chicken is fully cooked and the carrots are slightly cooked. Add salt to taste (about ½ to 1 tsp). Remove the chicken from the pot, place in a large bowl, cover and let it sit until cool enough to handle. Pull the chicken from the bone and shred or dice. Return the chicken to the soup mixture.

To serve, place ½ cup of cooked rice, pasta, orzo or couscous in a bowl. Top with soup and enjoy!

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I am in love with broccoli slaw.  The first time I had it was at a Team in Training potluck after a practice run.  Someone brought this marvelously crunchy and slightly sweet mixture of shredded broccoli stalks, mayo, nuts, raisins, onions and bacon. 

 

Hate is such a strong word.  So I’ll say that I “severely dislike” cooked broccoli.  As a matter of fact, I “severely dislike” most cooked veggies.  My mother, being from Louisiana, can cook a vegetable to death!  Even though it has already stopped growing and is technically “dead” once you cut it from its roots in the ground, I guess Mom figured that she needed to finish the job.  Or maybe she’s afraid of getting sick from undercooked veggies like she is afraid of eating undercooked meat.  Yes, I know I am in big trouble.  Or at least I would be if my mom was on the Internet!

 

So this thing called broccoli slaw was a true find.  I could eat this crunchy mix of savory and sweet every day!  After scouring the Internet for recipes, I found that a lot of recipes call for mayo and bacon, two foods that I love, but that don’t love my scale. So, I fooled around in my 1940’s kitchen until I came up with a recipe that cut out my two high calorie friends. 

 

 “I Hate Cooked Broccoli” Slaw

10 or 12 oz bag of broccoli slaw (available in the refrigerated section of the grocery store)

½ cup broccoli florets, roughly chopped

Dried cranberries

Slivered almonds

¼ red onion, finely chopped

Dressing:

3 TBS salad oil

3 TBS white vinegar

1 TBS sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

 In a large bowl, combine broccoli slaw, cranberries, almonds and onion.  In a separate bowl, combine the ingredients for the dressing: oil, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper.  Whisk together.  Taste the dressing before pouring it on the slaw.  That way, you can adjust the oil and vinegar accordingly.  Toss well.  Best if refrigerated for 1-2 hours before eating; this allows the flavors to blend and the cranberries to plump up a bit.

Optional additions:

If you are serving this at a party, top it with extra chopped broccoli florets and slivered almonds to make a nice presentation.

You can substitute any type of dried fruit and nuts…I also like to use currants and walnuts.

 Tip #1:

Use a large bowl so that you have enough room to easily toss the broccoli slaw without it flipping out of the bowl.  It’s a pain to have to pick up all those little slivers of broccoli off the floor!

 Tip #2:

To save on dishwashing time, blend the items for the dressing in a large bowl and whisk thoroughly.  Then add about 1/3 of the broccoli slaw and other items and toss.  Repeat until you have added all the contents of the bagged slaw. 

 Tip #3:

If you are making a large amount for a potluck or party, you can double or triple the recipe.  However, I have found it easiest to make a single recipe, toss well, pour into a large serving bowl, and then repeat the process.  I already made the mistake of trying to quadruple the recipe in one bowl.  That’s how I ended up picking up broccoli slivers off the floor (see Tip #1).

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