Sunday, November 29, 2009

And so it begins!

It's hard to believe that another holiday season is already begun! The last year has flown by, and I'm looking forward to a wonderful holiday season this year. It was off to a great start this past week, when Joe and I got to spend Thanksgiving with my family for the first time since 2003. My family moved overseas while I was in college, so I spent the last handful of Thanksgivings either with extended family or with Joe's family. I have yet to have a bad Turkey Day, but nothing compares to spending the day with my parents and siblings.

The master chef prepares the table.

I think Thanksgiving is a lot of foodies favorite holidays, and I can see why. My mom, sister, and I had been discussing menu ideas for weeks, and we ended up cooking quite a feast. My future brother in law is a vegetarian, so his dietary restrictions added a fun challenge to planning our meal. I planned two dishes to contribute-- a savory bread pudding (like stuffing on steroids), and maple glazed Brussels sprouts. The bread pudding was vegetarian and everyone seemed to love it. I couldn't resist making Brussels sprouts with bacon, because I really believe there is no veggie friendly alternative to bacon. They were amazing, and I think these will be a side dish that could fit in with any fall or winter meal. We also had 3 kinds of home brewed beer-- an E.S.B. from Dan, a Pumpkin Ale from Joe, and a Grand Cru from my dad. They are a talented bunch of brewers!

My Savory Bread Pudding is in the top right corner of the picture, and the Brussels sprouts are in the middle on the left.

Our after dinner tradition is a nice long walk around the neighborhood, and this year the weather in St. Louis was perfect. It wasn't warm, but the brisk temperature was the definition of great Thanksgiving weather. We finally invested in a copy of the movie Elf this year, and enjoyed that while eating apple and pumpkin pie. It was a relaxing day, full of fun family bonding, and I couldn't have asked for a better Thanksgiving! I hope everyone else had a great holiday weekend!

These recipes are all from Thanksgiving classes at The Chopping Block.

Sweet Corn and Gouda Bread Pudding with Gravy

Yield: 6-8 servings

1 sourdough loaf, cut into 1 inch pieces (about 8 cups)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, sliced thin
1 pound Tuscan kale, torn into 1 inch pieces
4 cups frozen corn, defrosted
Salt and pepper to taste
7 eggs
2 1/4 cups half and half
6 tablespoons dry white wine
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon thyme, rough chopped
3/4 pound Gouda cheese, grated
Salt and pepper to taste
Mushroom Gravy (recipe below)

1. Lay the cut up bread out to dry for about 2 hours.
2. Preheat the oven to 350° and butter a large baking dish.
3. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Sauté the red onion, stirring occasionally, until lightly caramelized. Add the kale and cook until wilted. Fold in the corn and season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, half and half, white wine, Dijon mustard and thyme.
5. Fold in the bread, kale mixture and cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Allow this mixture to soak for 30 minutes.
6. Pour into the buttered baking dish and bake on a parchment-lined sheet tray until the center is set and the top is golden brown, about 40 minutes.
7. Allow to rest for 10 minutes and then serve with the Mushroom Gravy.

Mushroom Gravy
Yield: 3 cups

1/2 stick butter
1/2 pound mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/4 cup flour
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1/4 cup red wine
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon parsley, rough chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat a saucepan over medium heat and add the butter. Sauté the mushrooms, stirring occasionally, until lightly caramelized, about 8-10 minutes.
2. Stir in the flour. The mixture will look very pasty. Cook the roux for about 2 minutes.
3. Whisk in the stock, wine and soy sauce. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 10 minutes.
4. Whisk in the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Glazed Brussels Sprouts
Yield: 4-6 servings

1/4 lb bacon, cut into matchsticks
1 1/2 lbs Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed & cut in half
3 Tbsp walnut mustard
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup chicken stock
salt & pepper to taste

1. Heat a heavy, wide pan over medium-low heat and add the bacon pieces. Cook, stirring occasionally, until just crisp.
2. Toss in the Brussels sprouts, and saute until lightly caramelized.
3. Add the mustard, maple syrup, and chicken stock, and mix well. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced to a glaze and the sprouts are just tender, about 5-7 minutes.

Ready for the feast to begin!

Lounging around, recovering from far too much good food.

I wish I remembered what was so upsetting ... either Elf of the black Friday deals!

A perk of my family living in St. Louis is that I get to see awesome friends like Danielle when I go back for the holidays! We had dinner and drinks in Lafayette Square, a really cute area near downtown. Miss you Dani!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A New Kind of Fajita

You know you've found a good recipe when you make the same exact thing for dinner two nights in a row. This is totally different from leftovers... I literally went back to the store and bought more of the ingredients to make the same exact dish again a day after trying it the first time. I can say this happened for a few reasons. First, it was stinking good! This taco filling was a twist on typical fajitas, with red onions, baby bella mushrooms, and poblano peppers. The flavors blended but still held their own, and the cumin sprinkled over top tied it all together. Adding slices of avocado and fresh pico de gallo put it over the top. I have to admit the other reason I made this was because the ingredient list is short and simple, and I was just not inspired to create anything that involved actual thinking. This recipe will be showing up in my kitchen again, I promise. Black beans on the side add protein and make it a well rounded meal, and I also think cut up grilled chicken would be amazing.

I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit when it first came out, but I have to give props to my friend The Kitchen Witch for inspiring me to actually try it. I owe you girl, because these were awesome!

Here's the full recipe, and if you're like me you can just make the filling and put it into plain soft tacos, or even make bigger burritos. Do follow the Kitchen Witch's advice to add avocado, and other yummy taco toppings you have around. Sky's the limit here! Also, I discovered that the leftovers are quite tasty over some brown rice, topped with cheese of course :)

Poblano and Mushroom Tacos
Makes 4
from Bon Appetit Magazine

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 fresh poblano chile, halved, seeded, thinly sliced into long strips
1/2 small red onion, sliced
3 ounces crimini(baby bella) mushrooms, thinly sliced (about 1 1/4 cups)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
4 corn tortillas
4 thin slices Monterrey Jack cheese
chopped fresh cilantro
crumbled feta or Cojita cheese
Assorted toppings (such as shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, and hot sauce or salsa)

Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add poblano chile, red onion and mushrooms; saute mixture until brown, about 5 minutes. Mix in ground cumin. Season to taste with salt. Transfer mixture to medium bowl.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add tortillas in a single layer, draping up the sides of skillet to fit. Divide mushroom mixture among tortillas, mounding on only 1 side. Place slice of Monterrey Jack cheese atop filling in each tortilla. Fold plain tortilla halves over filling and press firmly. Cook until tortillas are brown, about 1 minute per side. Transfer tacos to plates. Open tacos; sprinkle with chopped cilantro, crumbled feta or Cojita cheese, and toppings.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Revolution Worth Joining!

After drooling over the new Jamie Oliver cookbook, Jamie's Food Revolution, for about a week, I broke down and bought a copy of my own. I really like Jamie's overall approach to food... for one thing, he's all about seasonal, local, and natural food and cooking. His recipes aren't overly fussy, and he really seems to practice what he preaches. This cookbook is a bit different from his others, though, because it's got a huge (maybe revolutionary?) message behind it. If you read much in the online food world, maybe you've already heard about it. Jamie's twittered about his project, and I've read about it on Tasting Table last week. His goal: by having people "pass on" recipes and cooking advice to friends, family, coworks, or other people they know, maybe we can get huge portions of our population into their kitchens to start cooking for themselves and their families.

The recipes in this book are based around the idea that everybody can cook. They're simple, with tons of beautiful photographs, but Jamie has mastered the idea of keeping flavor and some sophistication even in simple recipes. I strongly agree with Jamie's point of view, and I love the idea of sharing recipes and inspiring other people to cook. Both of my part time foodie jobs are related to this mentality-- assisting with classes at The Chopping Block and working as a chef instructor for Common Threads. Jamie is actually a member of the Chef Advisory Board for Common Threads! So, overall, I love this book not only for the yummy recipes and adorable Britishness, but I also really support the message Jamie is trying to spread. He's actually taping a TV show about the Food Revolution in America right now, which will be airing on ABC in early 2010. If you want to know more, you can check out this New York Times article.

Also, if you are my friends and family that have been inspired by my blog, know how much it means to me! Every time one of you mentions trying a recipe I posted, I get so excited. I guess I see this blog as my version of the food revolution :) If you ever want any more recipes, or if you want to come over to my house and cook together some time, just let me know! Ask my friend Christie... we made homemade pasta a couple weeks ago, and it was so fun!

And now, how about a recipe? This is the first recipe I have made from Jamie's Food Revolution, and it was awesome! Joe and I were blown away by this version of meatloaf. Take everything you've ever thought about meatloaf and throw it out the window, because this one is totally different and a fantastic departure. The original recipe was for ground beef, but as you know by now I don't eat beef, and the ground turkey in our fridge made a great substitution. The tomato-chickpea sauce is what really made this dish, and Joe and I talked about potentially just making the sauce and spooning it over rice sometime. We did skip the bacon, to be slightly healthier, but obviously it would be delicious with some pieces of bacon to top it off!

There was enough sauce to drown our meatloaf, so we cooked some of it in a separate container.

Pot-Roast Meatloaf
by Jamie Oliver, in Jamie's Food Revolution

2 medium onions
olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 heaped tsp ground coriander
12 plain crackers, such as saltines
2 tsp dried oragano
2 heaped tsp dijon mustard
1 lb good quality ground beef or turkey
1 large egg
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 to 1 fresh red chili, to taste
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 15 oz can garbanzo beans
2 14 oz cans of diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
12 slices of smoked bacon (I omitted)

Preheat oven to 475. Peel and finely chop on of the onions. Place in a large frying pan on medium high heat with 2 lugs of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Add the ground cumin and coriander, and fry, stirring every 30 seconds for around 7 minutes. When the onions are softened and lightly golden, put them into a large bowl to cool. Put the crackers into a plastic baggie or kitchen towel and smash until fine. Add the crackers to the bowl of onions with the oregano, mustard, and ground meat. Crack in the egg and add another good pinch of pepper and salt.

With clean hands, scrunch and mix the meat up well. Shape into an oval shape, rub with a little oil, and place the meatloaf into a dutch oven or baking dish. Put into the preheated oven and turn the temperature down immediately to 400 degrees. Bake for 30 minutes.

To make the sauce, first peel the other onion and chop into 1/4 inch pieces. Peel and slice the garlic, and finely dice the red chili. Place these three ingredients into a large pan on medium high heat with 2 lugs of olive oil, the paprika, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook for around 7 minutes, stirring often, until softened and lightly golden. Add the Worcestershire sauce, garbanzo beans, tomatoes, and balsamic vinegar. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and slowly simmer for 10 minutes. Taste the sauce, and season with salt and pepper as needed.

Pick the rosemary leaves off the stalks and put them into a little bowl (next time I'll mince them first). Remove the meatloaf from the oven and pour all the fat from the pan over the rosemary leaves and mix well (not much fat from Turkey, so I mixed the rosemary with olive oil). Spoon your sauce around the meatloaf, and lay the bacon over the top of the meatloaf and sauce. Scatter the rosemary leaves over the top. Put the meatloaf back into the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until the bacon turns golden and the sauce is bubbling and delicious.

This was great served with Liz's Twice Baked Broccoli Stuffed Potatoes, which you can read about here. They were really good, especially if you add some cheese like she recommends!