Thursday, February 21, 2008

Chicken Mushroom Soup

Yesterday was a cold (well 58 is cold for the LA area) and rainy wet until later in the afternoon. What better for a soup day?

I raided the pantry and put together this quick soup. Tasty. Filling. Doesn't get much better.

Chicken Mushroom Soup

  • 1 lb cooked chicken - coarse chop
  • 1/2 large onion - diced
  • 2 C coarse chopped carrot
  • 1 1/2 C coarse chopped celery (including tops)
  • 4 oz dried mushroom - coarse chopped
  • 2 cup fresh spinach leaves
  • 2 C wide egg noodles
  • 1 T chopped garlic
  • 1 t black pepper
  • 2 t thyme
  • 1 t rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 T parsley
  • 8 C chicken broth - low sodium
  • salt to taste

Coat bottom of large stock pot with olive oil. Heat over medium high heat. Add onion, black pepper and cook 4-5 minutes. Add carrots and celery cook another 4-5 minutes until oil is getting some browned bits. Add garlic, stir for a minute.

Add chicken, mushrooms and broth. Simmer 30 minutes until mushrooms are soft. Add noodles and cook another 10 minutes until al dente. Add spinach leaves and stir 1-2 minutes until wilted. Serve with some fresh parmesan grated on top.

I like this soup for a few reasons, first it is full of stuff. Second is it is big on flavor.

I keep several of the 1 lb bags of ready to use grilled chicken from costco on hand for quick meals during the week.

Costco also has these HUGE bags of dried shitake mushrooms that are so cheap. They are really handy to have around. Toss them into soups as is like I did here. Chop them coarsely in a food processor and add to your marinara sauce to help thicken it. Whirl them until fine and add to your beef stew instead of flour to thicken the sauce like a gravy for another layer of flavor.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Maraschino Cherry Cake

I've got a sweet tooth in case you have not with a wide range of expression. My better half however doesn't care for sugary things. Well, with the exception of one cake I make.

This isn't even a fancy from scratch cake, its all from mixes and pre-bought so the hardest part is getting the lid of the frosting can. Our VDay favorite is this cake and a requested item at the various "pot-lucks" that take place this time of year.

Maraschino Cherry Cake
  • 1 Vanilla Cake mix
  • 1 10 oz jar stemless maraschino cherries
  • 1/4 t almond extract
  • 2 cans French Vanilla or Fluffy Vanilla frosting
  • 3 heart shaped cake pans

Preheat oven to the mix recipe. Line the bottoms of the heart shape baking pans with wax paper. Spray with a "bakers release" type spray that has flour already in it.

Drain cherries, reserving liquid. Put 6 - 8 cherries aside. Drain well on a paper towel. Place the remaining cherries into a food processor and whiz them until you have a coarse chop. Do not puree.

Take reserved liquid add enough water to bring to the cake mix liquid requirement, add eggs oil almond extract and oil as per the mix directions. Mix well. Fold in the chopped cherries. Divide evenly between the cake tins. Bake per directions.

Cool completely. Trip tops. Assemble cake with a layer of frosting between each trimmed top.
Cut reserved cherries in half and arrange on top of the cake.

Sadly I goofed a little and didn't drain the cherries on this cake well enough as some of the liquid bled out on the top. Not picture perfect pretty, but still tasted just fine.

I really like the mini-prep bowl that came with my hand blender. It makes life much easier with the little processing projects. I do like the way the cherry liquid tints the cake without making it look like a bowl of blood that food coloring can do if you aren't careful.
And there you easy cake full of flavor. Now go for an extra walk around the block and enjoy with out worry.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Salmon Filet over Bulgar Wheat Pilaf

Anyone who knows me can tell you for years my motto was "if I can't do it in the M.O. it ain't gonna happen". M.O. is short for microwave oven. I got in the habit of using it when I was living in "The Valley" where it would be feaking 2oo bajillion degrees in the summer and my apartments either had no A/C or no A/C that would reach the kitchen. Regardless, it was to hot to consider traditional cooking so armed with a heavy duty JC Penney 1,200 watt unit, a couple of those new fangled corning "browning pans" and I was set to dine divine without heating up the entire apartment.

In time we got A/C and things got better. There are some things I still like done in the M.O. as it is just fast and fool proof. Tonights salmon was a classic done in the "Em-mo". Fish with sauces you don't want getting all gunked onto a pan in the oven is one example. Nicely heat then slow bake it to perfection minutes. So here we go, two recipes one in the M.O. and the other on the stove top.

Salmon Filet with Honey Mustard and Dill
  • 2 6-8 oz salmon filet not more than 3/4" thick
  • 1/2 t dill weed
  • 4 T prepared whole grain honey mustard
  • salt

Pat filet's dry with a paper towel. Lightly salt each side. Sprinkle dill over both sides of filet's. Spread 1 T mustard on one side of each filet. Put into 8" square glass pan mustard side down. Spread remainging mustard evenly over each filet. Tightly cover dish with saran wrap. Let sit to marinade for 15-30 minutes.

Put covered dish into the M.O. (I have a 1,200 watt unit, if yours is lower adjust your times accordingly to your power output). Microwave on high for 4 minutes. Turn dish 180 if not on a turntable. Microwave 4 minutes at 30% power. At end of cooking cycle leave film on and let stand for 2 minutes of carry over cooking. Serve over rice or pilaf, spooning some of the pan sauce over the filet. Do not remove plastic wrap until ready to serve as that will help steam the fish during the carry over time so it remains moist.

Tonight was the first time I used Bulgar Wheat. I have seen the Ina Garten use it a few times on her Food TV show and figured it would be a nice change from rice. I'm glad I tried it as it is quite tasty with a nice soft earthy taste with just a bit of an al dente bite. Tonights pilaf is my own invention so bear with me.

Bulgar Wheat Pilaf

  • 1 C Bulgar Wheat
  • 1 14 oz can low sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 2 medium zucchini sliced 3/4 inch thick.
  • 1 C sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 1/2 t onion powder
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1/2 t montreal steak seasoning

In small sauce pan bring broth to simmer. Toast Bulgar wheat in a nonstick skillet over medium heat, stirring often until just starting to brown approx 5 minutes. Remove from heat and slowly whisk in wheat a couple of tablespoons at a time. Cover. Remove from heat and let stand 15 minutes.

Heat sautee pan over medium heat and add olive oil. Toss zucchini with onion powder. Add to hot oil. Cook 2-3 minutes and then turn over browning other side 2-3 minutes. Add mushrooms stirring often, cook until starting to brown. Add steak seasoning and cook another couple of minutes until mushrooms cooked through and edges starting to brown. Remove from heat. Fluff wheat with a fork and then fold into the sautee'd vegies. Use as a side dish or as base for seafood or chicken.

Note to do not add the Montreal Seasoning until the end. As it has so much salt in it it will draw out moisture from the vegies too fast and they will turn to mush before they brown.

There you go two simple dishes on the table in minutes with little fuss. My idea of cooking, especially on a hot day or I am pressed for time.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Pear Crumb Tart

As I mentioned a few posts back I made another run to Surfas in Culver City and I was amply rewarded with toys for my kitchen. Among them a real tart pan in genuine stainless steel complete with removable bottom for a grand total of $9.15 for the deluxe 10" model. Such a deal when you compare it to what those guys in the mall charge.

Tonights dessert was inspired by a 10 pound bag of pears I grabbed at Costco last week. I didn't have much else to toss with it so I did the KISS routine and moved on. Since I never made a tart before I didn't want to push it too far but they strike me as thin pies. Perfect for dieting?

Pear Crumb Tart

  • Pie crust for a 10" pie (your favorite or premade)
  • 4 firm ripe pears
  • 1 lemon
  • 1T flour
  • 2 T raw sugar
  • 1/4c chopped walnuts
  • 1 C flour
  • 1/4 c packed brown sugar
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/4 c oatmeal
  • 1 stick butter

Preheat oven to 375.

Roll out pastry dough to fit into the tart pan. Place pan on baking sheet.

Put pears, flour, sugar in bowl. Zest one half of lemon and add to bowl. Squeeze in the lemon juice to the bowl. Toss and let stand 5 minutes. Arrange pears in the prepared tart pan. Sprinkle any remaining walnuts over the fruit.

For the topping, in a food processor, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Pulse several times until fine crumbs form. Crumble lightly over the fruit.

Bake 30-35 minutes until lightly golden brown. Serve warm.

The hardest part is filling in the center then using a few pieces cut to fit into the bigger gaps along the outside edge. Not hard but it helped to pay attention in puzzle making class in kindergarden.

See...pulsed just until it was fine crumbs and still clumpy. Over processing the topping you get an unusable dough.

Quite tasty treat for the onto filling experiments.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Beef Bourginon aka French Beef Stew

Being part carnivore I can say I do like my beef, more so than some of the other "red meat" options. Stewed is common and so many cultures have their own version.

The French version is called "Beef Bourginon" or "Beef Burgundy" which indicates the braising liquid of choice is a good burgundy wine. I've picked up a few versions over the years with odd bits here and there tossed in making it that particular chef's version to suit his tastes. What you get here is my version with a lot of the same additions and a few deletions. Enjoy....

Beef Bourginon
  • approx 3 lbs boneless beef short ribs
  • 6 strips bacon
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2T butter
  • 1large onion - coarse chopped
  • 2 large carrots - 1" slices
  • 2 large stalks celery with leafy tops, coarse chopped
  • 2 T Garlic - chopped
  • 1 c flour
  • 1 Orange
  • 1/4 c Steak Seasoning Salt like Lawry Montreal brand
  • 2 whole clove sticks
  • 6 whole allspice berries
  • 1 t rosemary
  • 1 T thyme
  • 2 whole bay leaves
  • 2 T parsley
  • 1 bottle good red wine
  • 1-2 cups beef broth
  • 2T flour and 2T butter

Using vegetable peeler remove orange zest in long strips. Avoid getting pith. Take the large strips of orange peel, stack and tie with a piece of kitchen string. Set aside.

Cut short ribs into large 2" cubes and dry . Mix flour and steak seasoning. Roll beef cubes in flour. Heat the largest dutch oven you have. Add olive oil and heat over medium flame. Dice bacon and add to oil. When bacon edges are starting to brown add enough of the beef to do a single layer in the pan. Stir often until all sides of beef are seared and brown. You will need to do the searing in several batches. As each batch is seared put aside in a bowl until all beef is seared.

In hot pan add butter, onion, celery, carrots, clove and allspice. Cook stirring often and scraping up browned bits for about 10 minutes until onion is translucent. Add garlic and stir 2 more minutes.

Slice the orange and squeeze the juice into the pan. Pour in about 1/2 bottle of wine to deglaze the bottom of the pan. Scrape up all brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add beef, orange peel bundle, thyme, rosemary, parsley and bay leaves. Add the browned beef and any juices from the bowl. Add remaining wine. Add enough of the beef broth to just cover the meat.

Cover and simmer 1 1/2- 2 hours on stove top. In the alternative you may put in oven and slow cook at 300 for the same time period. (I use the latter on cold days when the extra heat is welcomed in the house).

At end of cooking remove lid and bring to low boil on the stove top. Remove the Orange peel bundle. Mix the remaining 2T butter and 2T flour with a fork to make a beurre mange. Add bits of the beurre mange and stir constantly but softly to thicken the "gravy" for your stew.

Serve with either smashed potatoes or boiled small red potatos on the side.

Now for the fun bit. For the wine I used good old "2 Buck Chuck" merlot. When it first came out all those years ago it was a drinkable wine, a bit sharp on the tannins but still a decent wine. For kicks and giggles I bought a case and stuck it in a cool dark place to see what would happen.

Flash forward to the end of 2006 we popped open that case of 2000 Merlot and found it aged beautifully. Full round fruity flavors, not a bit of tannin left. Who'da thought "2 Buck Chuck" would age so well. For this Beef Bourginon I used that Merlot and it was wonderful. Now I wish I had bought a couple of cases worth at the beginning as it really does age well and is simply a wonderful old red.

This is "stew season" so the next version will be a traditional Irish Beef Stew.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Seared Salmon, two ways, two nights

I'm a big fan of making enough of something so I can use it another time in something different. Life is frantic and eating out just isn't always the indicated option. I got the idea for this from a recent cooking magazine and a trip to Surfas where I found some affordable smoked paprika.
I opted for a sweet smoked paprika as I don't usually care for things to bitter on the entree. Just me on that decision. I am going to eventually try the bitter and hot versions and will drop a note on how I like them.

Seared Salmon Steaks
  • 6 oz salmon steak
  • 1/2 t steak seasoning salt blend (I use Lawry's Montreal)
  • 1/2 t onion powder
  • 1 t smoked paprika

Divide the seasoning for each side of the salmon steak. Heat nonstick pan over medium heat and add olive oil. Heat to shimmering. Add salmon and sear about 3-4 minutes, flip and cook another 3 -4 minutes until just cooked through.

I served the ones for the first night over steamed rice and green beans on the side. The next night with the extra small filets I warmed just a bit, sliced them and put them on a tossed salad of mixed greens with a light vinaigrette