Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Lamb Chops, Insalada Caprese (with a twist), sauteed chard with onions & garlic

I have a great local source for lamb, and fortunately, everyone in the family loves it.
I will describe the preparation in the order I made it.  First up, Insalada Caprese:

We eat a lot of this in the summer.  I decided to add a new ingredient:  Japanese Eggplant.
one Japanese eggplant, skin removed and sliced into thin strips, cut in half
heirloom tomatoes (red and green)
fresh basil, stacked, rolled into a cylinder, and sliced crosswise
fresh mozzarella cheese
olive oil
salt and pepper
pesto (in this case, store-bought)

This is a Japanese eggplant.  They are long and skinny,
and seem to have less bitter juice than the large ones.

Using a vegetable peeler, remove the skin, then slice thin strips.  I cut them crosswise to fit into my pan.  Spray a release agent on the eggplant strips and saute them until the flesh becomes slightly transparent.  Mine started to brown quite a bit.  I like them that way.  Eggplants are very good at absorbing oil so I try to watch them carefully as they cook.  I don't like to add much oil to the pan.

eggplant strips after cooking
Slice the tomatoes and set aside the red one.  I have little experience with the green heirloom variety so I wasn't sure if I had unripe green tomatoes (how do you tell??) or if they are just particularly tart.  I wanted to use them so I decided to sautee them on the griddle to mellow their flavor.

aren't they pretty?
They look like a kiwi-tomato hybrid.
Here are slices of the red tomato and mozzarella cheese

this is a stack of basil leaves, rolled into a cylinder,
which makes it easier to slice them crosswise without excessive bruising

all of the ingredients before assembling the salad

starting with a slice of eggplant, folded over, a dollip of pesto,
a slice of mozzarella, basil slices, a tomato slice, then start over
(I'm a little obsessive)

I'm even alternating the red and green tomatoes.
That's just how I roll.

The end result:  a gorgeous salad that tastes as good as it looks.
The eggplant addition was really excellent!

Next up:   Lamb Chops
8 lamb chops (they are small)
chopped garlic
grapeseed oil (I use this because it has a much higher flash point than olive oil)
balsamic vinegar
apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper
smoked paprika

Place lamb chops in a pan or bowl.
Chop the garlic and place it in a small container that can be used for emulsifying dressing and marinade.  I added approximately 4 Tablespoons grapeseed oil, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 1-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, a dash of salt and pepper, a couple dashes each of tumeric and smoked paprika.  Shake the mixture to combine well.  Spoon over lamb chops, turning the chops frequently to assure good coverage of the marinade, and allow to sit at room temperature until ready to cook.

While these were marinating, I chopped half an onion, a shallot, and added the remainder of chopped garlic to a small bowl.  These will be used in the chard dish.  I washed and prepped the swiss chard yesterday and had it in a ziploc bag.  Here's a couple of pointers about prepping chard:

The stalks are crunchy and sometimes a bit "woody".  I usually remove the large central vein
Fold it to one side so the central vein is exposed
slice just next to the vein with a knife

This is what you have left!  Cut it crosswise into large pieces

If possible, spin it to remove excess moisture

store it with a folded paper towel in the bag to absorb moisture
Sorry, I digressed.  The chard was already prepped so that was one less step I had this evening. 
All my ingredients were placed near the stove.  
I wanted to cook the lamb first, then place it on a platter in a 225' oven to rest while the chard was prepared.

Lamb chops are very small so they don't need to cook long.  I think they are best on the grill, but since it is rainy and I'm too lazy to deal with firewood, I'm cooking on the stove.  No problem!  The main thing is: hot and fast.
I used a griddle this evening, but any good pan will do just fine.  My pan was a non-stick surface so I put a very small amount of grapeseed oil in it and allowed it to get really hot before placing the chops, 4 at a time, on the pan.  The lamb was cooked for 2.5 minutes per side!  See?  Really fast!

Here is my little cup (with lid) I used to mix the marinade.
Lamb chops in background.

Lamb chops were turned several times to assure a good coating of the marinade

The first set of chops hits the griddle
(can you see I am using the same one that was used for the eggplant and tomatoes?)
Less clean-up!

Here they are, resting in the oven until the meal is ready to be served.

Sauteed Chard:
7-8 large chard leaves
garlic, chopped
onion, chopped
shallot, chopped
olive oil

In a large wok, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Add onions and shallots and cook until transparent, then add garlic.  Cook for one minute, then add all the chard.  It looks overwhelming at first.  Turn frequently with tongs and chard will begin to wilt.  You may want to cover for a couple of minutes to allow some steam to assist with the wilting.

Remove from wok.  Garnish with slivered almonds, if desired.

Here is our meal!  
I served mixed berries for dessert.
Note the dog-dish on the table (lower right)
She gets served dinner on the floor next to the table while we eat.
I guess everyone, dog included, likes to socialize during a meal!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Baked Egg Casserole

We eat eggs for dinner when I can't come up with anything else to prepare.  Sometimes, nothing else sounds as good as an egg dish.  I default to omelets, but this is a slightly different way to prepare eggs that is easy, tasty, and can be served in easy portions.  This would make a perfect item on a brunch menu.

I like to use whatever I have available in the refrigerator and pantry, so no two are the same.

In today's casserole I used:
6 eggs
approximately 2/3 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup goat cheese spread
1/3 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped Japanese eggplant
1/2 cup sliced yellow squash
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered and seeds removed, then chopped
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of Herbs de Provence (or, a bit of oregano, thyme, and a pinch of culinary lavender, if you have it)
1/4 cup toasted, lightly salted shaved coconut*

Preheat oven to 325'F.
Place 2 Tablespoons olive oil in saute pan.
Add onions, eggplant, squash, and saute until transparent.  Add tomatoes and cook until moisture evaporates.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Mix eggs in a medium bowl.  Add part of the cheese (in this case, the goat cheese spread and part of the shredded cheese, reserving at least half for the top of the dish).

Once the vegetable mixture has cooled, fold it into the egg mixture.  Pour it into a 9-inch glass baking dish that has been sprayed with a release agent.  Sprinkle remaining shredded cheese over surface, finish with the coconut pieces.

Bake in oven for approximately 30 minutes.  Watch carefully toward the end.  The edges will rise during baking.  Remove with the center is no longer "giggly".  It will continue to cook after removal from the oven.

Leftovers may be refrigerated and reheated.  It is very tasty the second time around!
toasted coconut, lightly salted

*Although we think of coconut as a sweet item, it is actually quite delicious when used as a savory snack or added to a dish.  Coconut is very high in fiber, and therefore a healthy addition to this low-carb dish.

Addendum:  This dish is even more delicious on Day 2.  I reheated a portion for lunch and noticed that the coconut had a more notable presence in both taste and texture.  It added a rich quality to the taste that, unless you knew it was coconut, you would wonder what it is.  Yummy!
The consistency is tender.  No one will miss a crust!

Serves 4-6

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Central Market "Hands-On" cooking class: Canning 101

I grew up in the midwest with 2 diabetic family members.  Canning and freezing fresh produce was a way of life for us because, in the 50's, sugar-free and low-sodium canned produce didn't exist in the grocery stores.  We always kept a garden and preserved what we didn't consume during the summer, and in August, we rode on a hayrack into the peach orchard and gathered bushels of peaches to can and freeze for winter.
With all that annual activity you would think I could remember more than the basics of canning, but I didn't.  When I saw that Central Market was offering a class on basic canning techniques I signed up, and took my two youngest daughters.  
Over the years of living near a wonderful cooking school I have learned a lot.  I'm delighted that my daughters are interested in cooking and want to expand their skill set whenever possible.  
The class allowed participants to prepare 4 types of preserves:  pickled watermelon rinds, peach chutney, strawberry-lemon preserves, and blueberry jam.  We took turns mixing and cooking the ingredients, then each of us ladled a portion into jars to preserve and take home.  
I'm so enthused about this that I purchased a set of tools and a couple of books.  We intend to do some items that we will not only use, but offer as holiday gifts.  Stay tuned for our first experiments at home!
My daughters, Natalie (L) and Claire 
ladle watermelon rind pickles into jars

finished items (left to right): pickled watermelon rinds,
peach chutney, strawberry-lemon preserves, 
blueberry jam

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Parmesan Crisps

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper
using Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, place the cheese in circles similar to pancake; 325 degree oven - bake for 8-10 minutes, till they brown on the edges - watch carefully, so they don't burn. The recipe called for a clean egg carton, but since I didn't have one, I used these reusable tin mini muffin containers.  When the cheese comes out of the oven, carefully remove from parchment and place into the cup, making sure that you indent them into each cup.

6 oz Goat Cheese, 4-6 T heavy cream, 1 T minced Italian parsley, Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.  For the Goat Cheese mousse - combine all ingredients in a food processor until creamy.   Put mixture into a pastry bag to pipe into the cups.  I used a baggie to make a pastry bag.  You can top with with a little chopped green onion, caviar or even capers.


Wine Tasting in Washington & Oregon

A little wine trip to Walla Walla, Washington and along the Columbia River in Oregon.  We went to some fabulous wineries.  This bronze dog was on a street corner in downtown Walla Walla, a charming little town.

L'Ecole is the home of one of my favorite Merlot's

Basel Cellars - The Earth Series - Red Wine - Volume One; couldn't taste it at the winery, so we bought a bottle and shipped it home.  Delicious, easy drinking wine for while you are cooking dinner or making art - truly an inspiration!

Maryhill was by far my favorite winery - on a hill out in the middle of no where with the most amazing views.  Their Reserve Zinfandel was amazing.  Shipped a few bottles home! 

All of the wines on the counter - enlarge the picture to see the variety of wines we drank during the week in Walla Walla.  Some great wine discoveries!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Rhubarb (as my mother cooked it) and Mango Lassi: 2 simple summer desserts

I'm still in the kitchen, but have been forgetful about photographing what I'm cooking.  I apologize in advance that I do not have images to accompany this post.
This evening for dessert I served small portions of both rhubarb and mango lassi.

The garden of my childhood had rhubarb.  Many people dislike it because it can be quite tart.  Others associate it in a pie, all by itself or combined with strawberries.  My mother prepared and served it very simply and everyone in my own family loves it this way:
8-10 stalks rhurbarb, minimum, washed and chopped into 1 inch segments
sugar or sugar substitute

Place the chopped rhubarb in a pan along with the sweetener of your choice.  More sweetener or sugar may be added during the cooking, so add to taste.  I didn't list an exact amount, but keep in mind rhubarb is very tart.

As the saucepan heats the rhubarb will begin to sweat, then disintegrate into a mush that resembles porridge.  Once this has occurred, check for sweetness and allow to cool.

Cooked rhubarb may be served with a dollop of creme fraiche or milk.
Mango Lassi

Mango Lassi is a popular Indian drink.  It is best when prepared with fresh mangoes and a high quality yogurt.

Wash and skin 2 ripe mangoes.  Slice the mangoes into thick strips.  The size and shape of the slices does not matter. Place them in a blender.
Add 2 cups of plain Greek yogurt.
Blend until smooth, then add about 1 cup ice cubes and blend until these are dissolved into small shards.
Add sugar or sweetener to taste.  Ripe mangoes are very sweet so you won't need much, if any.

Serve immediately.

Another idea is to place the blended mango mixture in popsicle molds and freeze.

Very tasty and healthful!  I hope you enjoy these summer treats.  Let me know if you try them.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Bleu Cheese Bliss

A friend who lives on on Bainbridge Island, WA brought this amazing bowl of Bleu Cheese heaven to dinner when we were on our trip.

1 - 9oz crumbled bleu cheese
1/2 cup olive oil - best quality
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup minced red onion
1/4 cup minced parsley

Mix up the olive oil, vinegar, onion and parsley.  Add the bleu cheese.  Stir gently to combine.  I like it best after it has been refrigerated an hour or so. 

You can spoon it onto a slice of good sourdough bread or even over your steak!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Can't get enough of those roasted veggies!

I just never get tired of roasted vegetables.  Roasting brings out the flavor of any vegetable and it is so easy to do!  Prior to roasting, I prep my vegetables but cleaning & slicing, then I toss them in a bit of olive or grapeseed oil before laying them out in a roasting pan.  After lightly seasoning them with salt and pepper I roast for approximately 30 minutes in the oven @ 350 degrees F.
Leftovers are served cold as part of a lettuce salad at the next meal.  Yummy!
Top to bottom:  onions, green beans, carrots, and yellow squash

Top to bottom:  golden, red, and candy-striped beets