Sunday, August 29, 2010

Pork and Peaches (Moving Day, the Mother of Invention)

My family has been living in two places simultaneously for the past month. We've been painting and moving small things (read: books) since late July. Between moving the majority of our furniture last weekend during a tropical New Jersey monsoon and moving the remaining furniture (read: bookshelves) this weekend - as well as a three full day orientation at the Archdiocese for my new job- , there hasn't been much time to do any thoughtful cooking. Or anything else. However, yesterday after finishing the move, we decided to go with husband's parents to the orchard and do some light apple- and peach/nectarine-picking.

I returned to the old apartment in the evening to clean the bathroom and try to move some straggling items (read: mainly books) over to the new place. After such an evening, one wants to cook with as much on hand as possible and spend minimum time in the grocery store and kitchen. So one brief run to the store later, I improvised the following meal using our fresh peaches and nectarines, with inspiration from Angela's pairing of the pork chops and sauteed peaches:

1. Sauteed chopped shallots in olive oil for a couple minutes. Added some fresh thyme and salt. Then added about 2 cups chicken stock, brought to boil; added 1.5 cups couscous, stir. Covered and took off heat, let sit undisturbed about 15 minutes.
2. In cast iron: in a little olive oil, cooked four Italian sausages, cut into pieces. Once browned, added one peeled sliced peach and one peeled sliced nectarine (I maybe would have used two peaches instead of a nectarine, but I used the fruits which had been bruised during picking). I let these soften and get a little caramelized, then I added some roughly chopped spinach only long enough to wilt.
3. Fluffed the couscous and served as a bed for sausage-fruit-spinach mixture. Great with a few generous squeezes of lemon.

As we ate dinner, we watched Iron Chef, Battle: Suckling Pig (I have cable now, for the first time in my life). I felt pretty proud of myself when one of the chefs did a speck and peach pairing: hey, pork and peaches! I did not, however, make a scrambled egg/pig brain snack, or anything with trotters; although husband and I have devised the most brilliant (seriously) idea for a restaurant that involves offal and would be a huge hit in Manhattan. I decline to elaborate here, suffice to say it would be titled Simply Offal.

Did I mention I love my new kitchen? 'Cause I do. Counter space and cabinet space are a novelty.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Life by Chocolate

I am pretty sure I'm addicted to ice cream.  However, maybe it is chocolate I can't live without, because whenever I'm shoveling my daily dose of Blue Bell into my mouth, it's usually smothered in nutella.

So of course I want to make these.
 And maybe cover them with ice cream.

They're from the Pioneer Woman's website, and she puts a Hershey's kiss in each one.  I'm something of a chocolate person, so Hershey's doesn't always cut it, but a little kiss in each bite size cake?  That's a concept I could go for.  I bet you could use Dove chocolates instead, if say, those are something you buy whenever you're at the grocery store, or little ritter sport squares.  Really, the possibilities are endless.  And look at how that ganache almost winks back at you.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Simple Pork Chop Follow Up

This is just to say Eliese's recipe for pork chops reminded me of everything great about cooking-- simple ingredients, little to no prep time, one pan for clean up, and something delicious in the end.  Here's a photo in honor of this delectable recipe.  Thank you for teaching me the secret to these chops.

Chicken Marbella

This is such an easy, earthy dish to toss together and then throw in the oven for an hour.  It looks much more complicated than it is, and the sauce--you'll want to have something to sop it up with.  I recommend polenta or cornbread, but rice or potatoes would pair well.  Serves 4-5

2 chickens, 2 1/2 pounds each, quartered (Or about 5 lb chicken parts. I've used thighs, and legs, but I'd imagine chicken breast would work great)
1/2 head of garlic, peeled and finely pureed 
2 tbsp dried oregano
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil 
1/2 cup pitted prunes
1/4 cup pitted Spanish green olives
1/4 cup capers with a bit of juice 
3 bay leaves
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white wine 
2 tbsp Italian parsley or fresh cilantro, finely chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl or ziploc bag combine chicken quarters, garlic, oregano, pepper and coarse salt to taste, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers and juice, and bay leaves. Cover and let marinate, refrigerated, overnight.

Arrange chicken in a single layer in one or two large, shallow baking pans and spoon marinade over it evenly. Sprinkle chicken pieces with brown sugar and pour white wine around them.

Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, basting frequently with pan juices. Chicken is done when thigh pieces, pricked with a fork at their thickest, yield clear yellow (rather than pink) juice.

With a slotted spoon transfer chicken, prunes, olives and capers to a serving platter. Moisten with a few spoonfuls of pan juices and sprinkle generously with parsley or cilantro. Pass remaining pan juices in a sauceboat.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Most Amazing Appetizer Ever

I've eaten some amazing food, but this--hands down--is the best appetizer I have ever had. I visited my friend, Tabaitha, in California last May, and we ate dinner at this quaint Italian restaurant on the coast near Santa Barbara. This was our appetizer, and since then, I have recreated it about 10 times. It's just that good. After living in Italy I thought I'd tasted the best mozzerella-not so until you have tasted Burrata mozzerella. It looks like a plain mozzerella on the outside (ball shaped) but when you cut into it, it's creamy, almost like a cheese curd. We can only find this at Central Market, but if you can find That's what makes this dish the most amazing appetizer ever.

The amount of ingredients would be based on the number of people to whom you are serving the appetizer.

Tomatoes (we've used big and small, all varieties)
Fresh Basil leaves
Good olive oil
Burrata mozzerella
Toasted pine nuts
salt and pepper

On a medium sized platter, artfully arrange prosciutto in slices. Then, stack tomato and basil, and scoop the mozzerella on top (like you would a caprese salad). Sprinkle with salt (Kosher salt adds a nice flavor), pepper, and pine nuts, and drizzle with olive oil. We usually eat this with a knife and fork, if that gives you an idea of how to stack the ingredients.

Without the amazing mozzerella, this really is like a caprese salad, but with that cheese...simply amazing.

Roasted Mustard and Rosemary Pork Tenderloin

I don't start teaching for another week, so I have some time to post good recipes before the daily grind starts again. What I love about this pork recipe is that it is super easy to prepare and I can let it sit for a few hours in the refrigerator and it just gets better. We used a lean pork tenderloin, but I'm sure you could do this with any cut of pork, or chicken for that matter. I stole the recipe from Epicurious and paired it with Angela's easy risotto.

6 T coarse ground dijon mustard
1 T fresh rosemary (I added more because our rosemary plant is huge)
2 T balsamic vinegar
2 T olive oil
6 cloves garlic
1/2 t crushed bay leaves
1 to 1 1/2 lb pork tenderloin

Preheat oven to 375. Mix first 6 ingredients in a small bowl. Pat pork tenderloin dry. Salt and pepper pork. Rub marinade on pork.

I let the pork sit in the refrigerator for two hours, but you can bake it right away. I baked the pork right in the baking dish as you can see above but you could also put it on a rack in the baking dish--that would probably give you a better crust.

Place pork in oven. We baked ours for 45 minutes and it was perfectly done, but depending on the size the time would need to be adjusted. The internal temp (we are food thermometer people) should be about 150.

As I mentioned before, this was wonderfully paired with Angela's easy parmesan risotto.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Grilled Peach and Prosciutto Salad

I recently visited my best friend from high school, Stephanie, in Ft. Worth. She, her husband, and their adorable 4 month old live 5 minutes from Central Market, and I am constantly inspired by her fresh, easy cooking. This is her recipe that I tried out as soon as I came home from vacation. I used Parker County peaches, peaches grown right outside of Ft. Worth and available only 2 months a year. Needless to say, they were the best peaches I've ever had! Sorry, no pictures this time.

3 peaches, sliced
2 slices Prosciutto
Goat cheese (as much or as little as you want on your salad)
Arugula, or whatever type of salad you would like to use--I used mixed spring greens
1/4 C balsamic vinegar
2 T honey
1 T olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Put balsamic vinegar in small sauce pan on medium high heat until boiling. Then, turn down and simmer balsamic until reduced to about 2 tablespoons. Once reduced, remove from heat and add 2 T honey and stir. Set aside and let cool.

In a large salad bowl, add olive oil and salt/pepper. Add salad greens and mix until coated.

Put sliced peaches on oiled grill surface. Grill until you hav grill marks but peaches are still firm. Remove from grill. Trevor likes the peaches diced after removing them from the grill, but the plate is prettier when the peaches are kept in large slices.

Arrange salad on plates and top with goat cheese, prosciutto, and peaches. Drizzle balsamic/honey mixture over the top.

Simple but Very Decadent Potatoes

I am so inspired every time I see this blog, and I will be making the easy risotto tonight! Trevor has been out of town on business for most of the summer, so when he comes home, I start to cook again. I just hate cooking for one person, and I guess I go overboard and want to cook everything when there are 2 people in my house again. Here is a recipe for gruyere potatoes; they are very rich but very easy to make. We have also substituted a good sharp cheddar for gruyere as gruyere can be pricey.

2 C grated Gruyere cheese

1 lb baby new potatoes (I have used Yukon gold and baby red potatoes)

1 C heavy cream

1/8 t pepper

Salt to taste

Heat oven to 375.

Put whole potatoes into cold ice water. Bring to a boil and cook until a knife can be inserted and potatoes are firm, not falling apart. Drain potatoes. Mash potatoes with a fork like you are making smashed potatoes but not mashed potatoes--leave chunks to give substance to the potatoes. Add cheese, heavy cream, and pepper and mix well. I usually divide the mixture into ramikins but I have also made one big casserole dish. Put into oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown. When you take them out, it's best to let them sit for about 10 minutes to solidify and cool.