Monday, July 6, 2020

Artichokes with Easy Dipping Sauce

With the COVID-19 disruptions I have been less active with the food blog, and busier cooking for delivery dinners from our restaurant, Donderos’ Kitchen, in Athens. No home entertaining or cooking classes during this time has reduced the opportunities for posting recipes on line. But I explored and learned a lot while trying to create the dinners we sell and that I expect will start showing up on this blog when I can scale the recipes down to my target of six servings.

Meanwhile, however, I do some cooking at home, even if just for Christina and me. Here’s an appetizer I made today. When I occasionally see large, plump fresh artichokes available at a price more modest than what has been typical in recent years, I tend to get some for appetizers at home.

Boiled until tender such that the leaves (technically petals, since the artichokes are huge thistle flower buds) pull off easily, the individual leaves are then dipped lightly into a savory sauce and with the teeth the soft flesh on the upper end of each leaf is pulled off and the fibrous leaf discarded – ultimately at my house to the compost heap. When all the edible leaves are removed, pull off the fine remaining leaves and with a spoon, scoop out the fine fibrous “choke.” Cut the remaining tender “heart” into four pieces. Dip them in the sauce and enjoy possibly the best treat of the artichoke.

The recipe is for two large artichokes, which will serve as an appetizer for four to six people. Increasing the quantities is, obviously, easy.

3 tablespoons cider or wine vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
2 plump fresh artichokes

Bring plenty of water to boil in a large pot. Add the vinegar and salt.

Cut off all but about one inch of the stem of each artichoke and drop the artichokes into the boiling water. Cover the pot, and turn the artichokes from time to time as they cook. Simmer for 30-40 minutes, or until a lower leaf can be pulled off fairly easily (use tongs).

Remove to a plate to cool. Artichokes can be eaten slightly warm to room temperature or if stored in the refrigerator warmed up a little from cold. Place on a platter with a shallow bowl of the dip (see below) nearby, and another bowl for discarding the leaves into after eating the soft part on the upper part of the leaves.

1 small clove of garlic
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon cider or wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Peel then partially crush the garlic clove and rub the inner surface of a small mixing bowl well with the garlic flesh. Discard the remnants of the garlic.

In the garlic-rubbed bowl, place the sour cream, mayonnaise, vinegar, salt and pepper. Mix well until smooth. Taste, and add a little salt if desired. Transfer sauce to a small shallow bowl for dipping the artichoke leaves.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Red (or Green) Kale braised with Apple

Two days ago I harvested some decorative red kale from the little garden at the back of the restaurant. It had been a visual mainstay during the winter in the ornamental but edible garden that my son-in-law, Clyde, of Hungry Gnome, planted. Before it bolted to seed, and before it was overgrown by the snapdragons that were now bursting forth, I turned it into a savory braised vegetable.

Restaurant garden after red kale picked
This is the way I have been preparing kale for some time, in the northern European manner rather than stewed as a Southern US “pot herb” green. The leaves and stems of the kale are cooked just until they become tender and are not stewed. (The decorative variety this time, though very tasty, was tougher and needed a little more cooking to become tender.)

Regular curly green kale works well. But even better is the “Red Russian” variety grown locally around Athens by organic farmers in the colder months.

Using a smoked meat, such as bacon or ham is optional. I generally do not use it if the kale is to accompany a meat or cheese main dish.

The recipe serves six.

2 bunches (about 8 ounces each) kale, ideally locally grown such as “Red Russian”
1 large apple, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
1/2 of a small onion, minced
1 strip smoked bacon or 1 (1/8-inch) slice smoked deli ham, optional
2 tablespoons olive oil (3 tablespoons if bacon not used)
1/4 teaspoon salt plus to taste
A sprinkle of black pepper
Water as needed
1/2 teaspoon vinegar

Rinse kale well in basin of water to eliminate sand or grit. Cut stems, if tender, into 1/2-inch lengths and set aside. Cut leaves in half lengthwise, then cut across into 1 1/2-inch wide strips. Prepare apple and onion.

If using bacon, cut raw strip across very thinly (chill in freezer 5 minutes for easier cutting). For ham, cut into 1-inch wide strips, stack them up and cut across into narrow threads.

Heat large frying pan or pot to medium high. Add oil and bacon or ham, if used, and stir and fry 1 minute. Add apple and onion. Fry, stirring frequently, until they are softened.

Add kale stems, and stir and fry 1 minute. Add kale leaves, salt and pepper, and a tablespoon or so of water. Fry, covered but stirring very frequently, until kale is wilted and tender to the bite, adding a little more water as needed to keep a bit of liquid in pan.

Remove from heat. Taste and add salt, if needed. Stir in vinegar and toss to combine well.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Easy Cauliflower-Cheese Bake

As we suddenly spend lots of isolated home time with the coronavirus everywhere, cooking and eating are one of the freedoms we still have. But to minimize public exposure at supermarkets, we’re using everything in our fridges.

Christina and I were given a slightly old cauliflower by one of our kids in Athens as they headed off to spring break camping ten days ago, back before everything changed in our lives. This evening I quickly turned it into our vegetable dish for dinner, using a simplified cauliflower gratin approach and taking advantage of items on hand.

If I had more interesting cheese available, this could have been even more special. But even using a fairly dull mild cheddar, the dish still turned out very tasty. My “breadcrumbs” were matzoh meal left over from a cooking class (Hanukah latkes in my holiday food class in December). Here’s my impromptu “Cauliflower-Cheese Bake.”

The recipe serves three to four.

1 medium head of cauliflower
1/4 pound or more cheese, grated (Gruyère or sharp cheddar preferred)
Grated nutmeg, optional
2 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs, cracker crumbs, or matzoh meal
2 tablespoons olive oil

Cut the cauliflower into small flowerets and place in a microwaveable dish, such as a glass pie plate or a small casserole. Sprinkle lightly with water and cover with a sheet of waxed paper. Heat in a microwave until cauliflower becomes crisp-tender, about 5-6 minutes, testing every two minutes.

Remove waxed paper. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, plus optionally a little grated nutmeg. Mix well to distribute seasonings. Spread shredded cheese over the cauliflower, then breadcrumbs (etc.) and finally the olive oil.

Bake in a hot oven (375 degrees) until cheese is well melted and cauliflower browns a little on high points.

Serve hot.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Homemade Turkey Breakfast Sausage

Recently at the restaurant I had to make turkey sausage meat to put into a breakfast casserole for a catering order. It turned out to be a more chaotic process than expected, but that story is below.

The sausage itself worked out well. I based it on the pork sausage meat I make for the traditional sausage dressing we prepare every Thanksgiving for customers and family. The main difference with the turkey sausage is that since ground turkey has much less fat than ground pork, I add some olive oil to add that rich juiciness.

I made my first casserole, a breakfast strata with added sausage meat, on an already busy day several days before the early-morning catering. It got over-baked. I was out of the kitchen when the timer went off and no one else mentioned the timer and I was distracted. The flavor of the casserole was fine, but the top and bottom crusts were too crisply baked to send out to a customer. (One of our staff and his family enjoyed it for dinner that evening.) The next day I made another batch of sausage meat and another casserole, and it was looking good. But then the customer cancelled their catered breakfast for the next day since their visitors from the corporate office in Michigan were grounded from flying due to corona virus travel restrictions.

Ah well. I at least had the chance to refine my recipe, and subsequently also made sausage patties from the recipe at home and had them with dinner.

Here’s. It can be made as fried crumbled sausage meat for adding to a casserole or turkey dressing or sprinkled on mashed potatoes or maybe a homemade pizza. Or fry it up as small patties for breakfast sausage.

1-1/8 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dry marjoram
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon crushed dry red pepper
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground celery seed (not celery salt)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground turkey (85% lean)

In a large bowl, mix all seasonings plus olive oil. Add ground turkey and mix well with a fork so the meat is evenly seasoned but not compacted. The mixture can be refrigerated for up to a day at this point, or cooked now.

For crumbled sausage meat, fry in a frying pan, stirring and breaking the meat up into small lumps as it fries. For sausage patties, form into six large or up to 12 smaller patties, and fry over medium heat on both sides, turning several times during frying.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Vegetarian Cheese-Potato “Meatballs” for Spaghetti Sauce

My granddaughter Clara has tended away from meat for some months now. These cheese-potato “meatballs” are what I developed recently for her and those others in the family who eat some meat but also seek out vegetarian dishes. Using a double batch of the same sauce as for meat meatballs (which was in an earlier blog post on 7/30/2019), but splitting it and cooking the meatballs in the one half of the sauce in another pot, I made a pasta dinner for the crowd with options of beef-pork meatballs or cheese-potato “meatballs” to cover the preferences.

Cheese-potato balls with "trotole" pasta
These are a somewhat firmer variation on potato dumplings or matzo balls, and contain cheese for extra flavor and protein. I poached (cooked) the veggie balls in water before putting them in the prepared sauce.

The recipe for the cheese-potato balls and sauce serves six, enough for a pound of pasta.

Make cheese-potato “meatballs” first:
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup milk or water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
2 cups matzo meal (from Kosher or International section of supermarket)
1 cup dry instant mashed potatoes (such as Idahoan, from supermarket)
1/4 cup dry unseasoned breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons grated or finely minced onion
1 medium clove garlic, finely minced or put through press
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon dry oregano
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg or allspice
Pinch of cayenne

In large bowl, beat eggs and mix in liquid ingredients. Add remaining ingredients and mix then knead well to make a dry dough. Shape and roll into 1-inch balls, moistening hands from time to time, setting the balls on a baking sheet or large platter.

Boil a large pot of water, at least 3 inches deep, and salt it with a tablespoon of salt. Drop the balls into the boiling water. They will sink to the bottom initially then start to float after a few minutes. Stir them gently from time to time. Once they float, reduce heat and simmer them 15 minutes. Lift them out of the water with a slotted spoon.

When sauce is made and still simmering, add the cooked cheese-potato balls and heat a few minutes. Serve over pasta as you would for real meatballs, adding some sauce and sprinkling with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.

Use a favorite tomato “Marinara” sauce, or the one below:
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon whole fennel seeds (optional)
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 large (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes (I prefer Hunts or Kroger, among American brands)
1/2 cup water (rinse the tomato can with it before adding it to the tomatoes)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Large pinch thyme or oregano
6 fresh basil leaves (optional)

In large wide pot (not cast iron), gently fry garlic and fennel seed, if used, in oil until garlic is softened but not golden. Stir in tomatoes, water and all other ingredients except basil. Bring to a simmer and let cook for 5 minutes. Stir occasionally, scraping bottom of the pan well. Taste and add salt if needed.

Add the cooked, drained cheese-potato balls. Heat to simmering, stirring carefully.
Taste sauce. Add salt if needed. Stir in basil leaves, if used. Remove from heat.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Lima Beans prepared like Greek Fava Beans

This dish, based on a traditional Greek way to prepare fresh fava beans, works extremely well with frozen Fordhook limas, which are available at supermarkets. I’ve compared the limas side by side with true favas, and they come out very close.

Bowl: Nancy Green, Watkinsville, GA
True fava beans are Old World beans common in the Mediterranean, while limas are New World beans (from Peru originally, indicated by their name). Favas are tediously difficult to shell from their pods, need to have the skins individually removed from around the beans, and are limited in season plus expensive. Fordhook style lima beans can be bought frozen relatively inexpensively in the supermarket.

I’ve taught the recipe several times to classes in Athens (GA) that had pretty extensive international experience, and the dish was very popular.

The recipe serves six as a side dish.

3 tablespoons minced onion
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup water
3/4 teaspoon salt
Large pinch black pepper
1 (12-ounce) bag frozen Fordhook (large) lima beans
1 tablespoon tomato paste or 1 Roma tomato, diced
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon snipped fresh dill (strongly preferred) or minced flat parsley

In cooking pot, gently fry onion in oil until it softens but does not start to brown. Add water, salt and pepper.

When mixture boils, stir in frozen limas. Bring back to a boil, stirring frequently. Then cover pot and simmer, stirring occasionally, until beans become tender, 15 minutes or so.

Add tomato paste or diced tomato, plus a little water if becoming dry. Simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, five minutes. Taste a bean. It should be fairly tender and creamy. If salt is needed, add a little. Add a little water if too dry.

Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and dill or parsley.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Meatloaf, Large and Gluten-Free

This meatloaf, which I the kind I would make for a crowd or to have many meatloaf sandwiches over subsequent days, is based on a French meatloaf with finely chopped olives in it. But it has a variation from the usual meatloaf, and includes neither eggs nor breadcrumbs. And since it is eggless, the baking temperature does not need to be as high for safety as if eggs were used (unless part ground chicken or turkey is used with the meat).

Chickpea or channa dhal flour (“Besan”) is used in Indian cooking and replaces egg in batter for religiously vegetarian dishes. But it also by coincidence replaces wheat flour in the batter, conveniently making the batter gluten-free. I recently used this chickpea flour in a Pakistani meatball curry, where it replaced the usual egg for binding and breadcrumbs for extending the meat. It worked so well that I tried besan in meatloaf. I and members of the family who tried the meatloaf, thought the results were great.

Here’s the recipe, for a large (three-pound) gluten-free and eggless meatloaf. The recipe can be halved to use 1-1/2 pounds of meat for a smaller roast.

Besan or chickpea flour is available at Indian grocery stores or at some health food stores

3 pounds ground beef (or 2 pounds beef plus 1 pound ground pork or lamb)
1 cup pitted green or stuffed olives, very finely chopped
1 small onion, finely minced
3 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup ground chickpea flour (“besan”)
1/2 cup water
2-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and knead well to mix everything evenly.

On a large baking pan or cookie sheet that has edges, shape mixture into a loaf about 2-1/2 inches high and fairly flat across the top. Pat this well so there are not air pockets.

Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes until an internal temperature of 155 degrees is reached on a meat thermometer (or when oils come out from the loaf, the surface browns somewhat, and a skewer stuck into the top does not cause pink juices to flow out).

Serve hot, or cool and refrigerate for later use (slices can be microwaved) or for meatloaf sandwiches.