This Moment

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This Moment  –   A single photo, no words – capturing a simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment you want to pause, savor and remember . . .

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Tagines, Preserved Lemons and iPad Cooking Apps

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Isn’t that just the prettiest little jar of sunshine? Having no experience with preserved lemons, I got impatient to try them in a recipe and found just the thing in Food & Wine’s Healthy Issue -a great little iPad app.   It’s hard not to go onandonandon about my iPad, so I’m going to get it out of my system.  Although it wasn’t on my list Christmas list, my darling husband knew I’d love one and got it for me . . . and  I have grown to love this little toy madly.  (It recently made the short list of things to grab if there’s a fire.)  I was a huge skeptic of tablet computers, but I keep finding more and more to love.  The Food & Wine Magazine app is my newest, delightful discovery.  You can only buy individual issues so far, but I just know that subscriptions will come along eventually.  These electronic magazines are bright, beautiful and interactive and I love the ease of tapping a picture for the recipe.  

I knew tagines were those big crockery vessels with domed lids, but I learned that Moroccan tagines are also flavorful stews made in those pots.  While I do not own a tagine, my enameled iron pot worked perfectly.   This recipe calls for broth or stock which you can add from a carton but, since it was the weekend and I was in a cooking mood, I went large and made my own stock.  I bought a whole bird and made stock from the leftover chicken after cutting away the legs, thighs and breasts.  I simmered the carcass with the onion ends and peels, a few carrots, several cloves of unpeeled garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns and some thyme.  After a couple of hours I had over a quart of delicious stock – more than enough for this recipe and another.

 

I’ve never tried Moroccan food but if this is an example of their cuisine, I’m a new fan.  The stew is brothy,  but hearty, with robust chunks of chicken and vegetables.   The artichoke hearts are a superb addition and I’ll be adding them to other recipes.  Next time, I’ll cut the chicken up before adding it back to the stew – though this presentation was unique. While editing the ingredients, I realized I used about 4 times as much turmeric as it called for . . . which explains the yellow chicken.  🙂  (oh well)  I’d say I adapted this recipe, but the stock was my only personal touch.  I love it just as it was written.  It’s bursting with flavor and the diced, preserved lemon gives it that certain something. 

I’m looking forward to using these little goodies for other dishes and just know I’m going to have fun experimenting with this new flavor.  If you’ve tried preserved lemons, I’d love to hear how they were prepared and what you thought. 

Chicken Tagine with Artichoke Hearts and Peas

from Food & Wine  – serves 4

Ingredients

  • One 4-pound chicken—legs separated into drumsticks and thighs, breasts halved crosswise, skin and visible fat removed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 medium onions—1 coarsely chopped, 1 minced
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth (or make stock from the carcass of the chicken, a few veggies and some herbs)
  • 6 saffron threads, crumbled
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 medium tomatoes, cut into eighths
  • 1/4 preserved lemon, rind only, minced
  • 1 box frozen, quartered artichoke hearts
  • 1 cup frozen petite peas, thawed

Directions
Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. In a medium, enameled cast-iron casserole, combine the chicken with the coarsely chopped onion and the chicken stock and bring to a boil. In a small bowl, mix the saffron threads with the ginger, coriander, cumin, paprika and turmeric. Stir the spice mixture into the broth. Cover and simmer over low heat, turning the chicken pieces once, until the breast pieces are just white throughout, about 25 minutes; transfer the breast pieces to a bowl and cover. Continue to simmer the drumsticks and thighs, covered, until done, about 15 minutes longer; transfer to the bowl with the breast pieces and keep covered.
Add the minced onion, the tomatoes, preserved lemon and artichoke hearts to the casserole and simmer over moderate heat until the broth is richly flavored, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add the peas. Return the chicken to the casserole and simmer gently, turning a few times, until heated through. Serve the tagine in shallow bowls.

When Life Gives You Lemons . . .

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When live gives you lemons, I hope they’re Meyers.

Dana got back from a California trip last week and he brought home a big string bag full of delicious Meyer Lemons he’d picked the day before.   My hubby knows how to make his gal smile and  I was giddy about this gift.

I’d never even heard of a Meyer Lemon until I went to my first farmer’s market in California.  They’re a delectable little soft-skinned lemon with orangey yellow fruit.  They’re not as tart as the bright yellow Eureka lemons that get shipped all over the country and they taste somewhat like a lemon crossed with an orange.   I love both types, but Meyers are harder to come by so they are such a treat.  I cut one up and added a slice to my cup of tea while I pondered those lovely lemons trying to decide what to do with them. 

First I made some Limoncello because we’re almost out of the batch I made for Christmas.  I heard from our chef brother-in-law that these make a superb limoncello, so I’m excited to try this after they steep for a few weeks.    That only used 9 lemons which left me with 9 naked lemons. .   

 These were squeezed into two full cups of juice.  It’s sitting pretty in my fridge – ready for a lemon vinaigrette dressing, Meyer lemon syrup or maybe I’ll freeze some cubes to use this summer.   

Next I made a batch of marmalade using this recipe  from Simply Recipes.  I used the 4 cup option.  That was 8 more lemons.   I used organic sugar with this recipe and had trouble getting the sugar to reach the stage described.  I think it got a little too done and , coupled with the naturally amber color of the organic sugar, made the maralade look pretty dark.  Still, it’s sweet and tangy and I look forward to tasting it on a hot biscuit or English muffin.  I’ll force a jar on friends and they’ll tell me it’s divine – that’s what friends, do (right)?   

The last 8 lemons are going to be used for Moroccan Preserved Lemons.  I think I want to try this recipe from David Leibovitz or  this one from Epicurious.  Meanwhile, we have the last batch of limoncello to sip while we look out at the snow and dream of spring.

Ramen Noodles

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I recently joked with my friend Lea Ann, that I was going to have to blog about Ramen Noodles after splurging on a new (to me) camera lens.   I started thinking about that and remembered a salad recipe I used to love that had those crunchy little noodles crumbled in.  When I searched through my recipes, I couldn’t find it, but a quick peek on the magical interwebs turned up a recipe that sounded even better.   The recipe called for baby spinach, but several commenters said that you could substitute cabbage and, since I happened to be out of spinach, the cabbage version was a go. 

This version was really good!  The textures and flavors worked well together.   I LOVED the dressing – it was a perfect combination of sweet and salty and the toasted sesame oil gave it a nice Asian flavor.  I will definitely make this again and would like to try it with spinach as it was originally created in Bon Appetit 10 years ago.    The original recipe calls for slivered almonds, but I had whole almonds, so chopped almonds were substituted.   Next time I make it I will add a more moderate amount of dressing for the initial tossing.  This was a little juicy for my liking . . . but I ate every delicious bite. 

Asian Spinach Salad

 -adapted from Bon Appetit

Dressing

  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil + 2 tablespoons of toasted sesame oil  (or 6 tablespoons olive oil )
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce

Salad

  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame or olive oil
  • 1 3-ounce package Asian noodle soup mix (such as Top Ramen), noodles coarsely broken.
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds (I used whole chopped almonds)
  • 1 small head of Napa Cabbage or 10 oz  baby spinach leaves
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped

Preparation

Whisk 6 tablespoons oil, honey, vinegar and soy sauce in small bowl to blend. Season dressing with salt and pepper if desired.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Break the noodles up and add them to the skillet with the almonds. Stir until noodles and almonds are toasted and brown – approx 5-8 minutes. Pour contents of skillet into large bowl and allow to cool  about 10 minutes.  Add cabbage and green onions to the bowl and toss with just enough dressing to coat.   The excess dressing can be added to  individual servings as desired. 

So tell me, what’s your favorite way to eat Ramen Noodles?  😉

Bacon Wrapped Brussels Sprouts

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Just in time for Super Bowl – it’s brussels sprouts!  I hear you nay-sayers out there but trust me . . . when you wrap food in bacon and spear it with a toothpick, it becomes perfect for noshing during the game.  We discovered this simple treat while wandering through the downtown art galleries during the monthly art walk.  Being an adventurous eater,  I didn’t even know what it was when I popped it in my mouth (hey, it was bacon for goodness sake) and I had to ask what I was tasting.  It took willpower to walk away after a couple of these little darlings. 

Fast forward a couple of months.

I’ll admit right here and now that I’m not a big football fan, but I love Super Bowl Sunday, because I adore a party with a food theme like “sport’s-bar-appropriate-dishes-that-go-well-with-beer.” When I was brainstorming for something new to fix, these came to mind. A quick search turned up the recipe source, Southern Living Magazine.

This delicious combination makes a fabulous appetizer and the creamy mustard dipping sauce is a perfect accompaniment.  I made these to test the recipe and the biggest sport’s fan in the house gave them an enthusiastic thumbs up as he was loading up a second plate.   Easy as can be, you have to give these a try – they’re a find!

This is after the simple prep – before popping them in the oven.

 

Twenty short minutes later – just look at them!

 

Bacon Wrapped Brussels Sprouts

Southern Living Magazine – November 2008

Prep: 15 min., Bake: 25 min.

 Yield: Makes about 6 to 8 appetizer servings

Ingredients

  • 10  bacon slices
  • 10  Brussels sprouts
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Creamy Mustard Sauce

 Preparation

Preheat oven to 400°. Microwave bacon slices, in batches, between paper towels, at HIGH for 1 1/2 minutes. Cut slices in half crosswise. Cut Brussels sprouts in half lengthwise. Wrap 1 bacon piece around each Brussels sprout half; secure with a wooden pick. Place sprouts, cut sides down, on a lightly greased wire rack on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with pepper to taste. Bake at 400° for 20 to 25 minutes or until bacon is crisp and Brussels sprouts are tender. Serve with Creamy Mustard Sauce, if desired.

 Creamy Mustard Sauce 

Stir together 1/2 cup sour cream, 2 tsp. whole grain mustard, 1  tsp. brown sugar, salt and pepper to taste in a bowl.

Makes 1/2 cup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

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I’ve been meaning to share my recipe for tortilla soup for  some time, but then I got “scooped” by Pioneer Woman.   Her recipe sounded so good and her pictures looked so yummy, I started to second guess my little recipe.  After a bit of hand wringing, I decided to make mine and see if it was as good as I remembered . . . yup, deee-licous!

This recipe has been tweaked here and there and it’s terrific – piquant and flavorful.  Add to that, it’s quick enough to make on weeknights.    

You are going to love it! 

Ingredients

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into cubes
  • oil to saute
  • 3 or 4 cloves of garlic – diced finely
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 quart low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 small chopped white onion
  • 1 cup salsa (I use La Victoria Ranchera  which is HOT, but use your favorite)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 1 lime (juice and zest)

Garnishes

  • diced avocado
  • 4 – 12 corn tortillas sliced in thin strips and fried until golden and lightly crisped – remove to a platter and add a pinch of sea salt (I DARE you not to nibble these)
  • Shredded Jack cheese or crumbled Cotija cheese
  • Cilantro

Method

Coat the bottom of a skillet with oil and heat over a medium burner.  Saute the cubed chicken for a few minutes to lightly brown. 

Add cumin and garlic and saute another minute or two before adding the remaining ingredients. 

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes until onion is tender and chicken is done.

While the soup is simmering, prepare the toppings. 

Ladle soup into bowls and garnish as desired.

Now, play some nice music while you eat  – maybe the Gipsy Kings or a little Getz and Gilberto.  The conversation stops when you have a bowl of this soup in front of you, and a little background noise is nice to cover the slurping.  🙂

Easy Spaghetti Carbonara

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Whew!  I adore the holidays, but I also enjoy putting away the tinsel and the lights, packing the boxes under the stairs and getting back to the comfort of routine.   It gives me time to do some lovely things like sit back with a hot cup of tea and blog.   

There’s nothing like this quick and easy dish to accompany the dismantling of Christmas.  I found the recipe when I was reading an article Rachel Ray wrote.  Now I know there are some Rachel skeptics – especially when she posts things like  Late Night Bacon .  If you read this recipe for bacon, be sure to click the ratings and reviews tab. God bless her, she took a beating for this one. 

Now back to her delicious Carbonara recipe.  This recipe taught me how to temper the eggs so they don’t break when you add them to the hot pasta.   (And learning technique is where it’s at, right?)   I could never depend on my Carbonara to come out right before learning this foolproof method, so my hat is off to Rachel.  I use her recipe except I substitute bacon for pancetta.  If you’ve read many of my posts, you’ll understand why I have to simplify ingredients due to a lack of Whole Foods, Wegman’s, Italian grocers, etc. up here in the middle of nowhere.  I buy the big bag-o-bacon pieces from Costco and keep them in the freezer for dishes like this. 

One last note.  Lea Ann from Mangos Chili & Z  has been on my back  encouraging me to post this for some time – I shared it with her some time ago and she loved it.  That’s all the recomendation this recipes needs!  🙂

Carbonara

Adapted from Rachel Ray

Ingredients:

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 pound pasta, such as spaghetti or rigatoni
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (enough to coat bottom of pan)
  • 1/2 – cup pre-cooked bacon pieces (this is approximate – I use a couple of handfuls)
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (use less if you aren’t keen on spicy foods)
  • 5 to 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • Freshly grated Romano cheese
  • Handful of finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

Directions:

1. Put a large sauce pot of water on to boil.  Add a liberal amount of salt and the pasta.  Cook to al dente, about 8 minutes.

2.Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the olive oil and bacon pieces and heat until good and hot, but don’t crisp the bacon.   Add red pepper flakes and garlic and cook 2 to 3 minutes more.  Add wine and stir up all the pan drippings.

3. In a separate bowl, beat yolks, then add 1 large ladleful (about 1/2 cup) of the pasta cooking water. This tempers the eggs and keeps them from scrambling when added to the pasta.

4. Drain pasta well and add it directly to the skillet with pancetta and oil.  Pour the egg mixture over the pasta.  Toss rapidly to coat the pasta without cooking the egg.  Remove pan from heat and add a big handful of cheese, lots of pepper, and a little salt.  Continue to toss and turn the pasta until it soaks up egg mixture and thickens, 1 to 2 minutes.  Garnish with parsley and extra grated Romano.

This recipe goes together so quickly and is a favorite for impromptu dinners guests.   Plus, the ingredients are usually on hand.    Just add a tossed salad or some garlicky green beans and you’ve got a delicious dinner.  Enjoy!

Fish Tacos

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When I lived in Texas I’d never even heard of fish tacos.  Then Dana, who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area,  came into my life and started introducing me to some new tastes.  I remember raising my eyebrows at the thought of fish in a taco and was sure that he was messing with me.  But he took me to some California taquerias and taco trucks (the best food ev-var)  where I grew to love those warm tortillas full of fried fish, shredded cabbage and tangy, lime-zested sauce.   Through experimentation I came up with my version using sautéed or grilled fish, as opposed to breaded and fried. They were pretty good, but every once in a while, it was so satisfying to eat the full monty with breaded, fried cod topped with cabbage and that zingy sauce.   When we moved up here, I mourned the loss of taco truck fare and the little taqueria dives I’d grown so fond of.   Then I read this recipe and saw all the positive reviews . . . I got a very good feeling.  I tried it and the guys were went wild.   This recipe is now safely stored in my keeper file – the beer batter is perfect, the sauce is bossy and together they are soooo good.  The only problem I had with it, is that it doesn’t photograph worth a darn.  Please don’t let the photo turn you off – this is a “must try” recipe.  If nothing else, whip up a batch of that sauce to try with your own fish recipe – it’s incredible! 

Fish Tacos

(Slightly Adapted from Allrecipes)  Full Recipe Serves 8

 Sauce

  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (I’ve substituted sour cream and it works equally well)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced capers
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (this can be cut back to 1/2 tsp, if you just can’t take the heat)

Puree all in the food processor.  Put in a small dish and cover.  Set aside and let the flavors blend.  May be made ahead and refrigerated. 

Beer Batter

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup beer

To make beer batter, combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Blend egg and beer in a measuring cup, then quickly whisk it into the flour mixture.

Remaining Ingredients

  • oil for frying
  • 1 pound cod fillets, cut into 2 to 3 ounce portions (I like to cut mine in smaller portions which makes more breading – you choose)
  • 1 (12 ounce) package large corn tortillas
  • 1/2 medium head cabbage, finely shredded

Directions

  • While the recipe gave instruction for a deep fat fryer, I adapted it by using an iron skillet with a good 1/2″ of canola oil heated at slightly higher than medium heat.  (The deep fryer direction is  – 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).  
  • Dust fish pieces lightly with flour. Dip into beer batter, and fry until crisp and golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Lightly fry tortillas; not too crisp. To serve, place fried fish in a tortilla, and top with shredded cabbage, and white sauce.  

Serve these with lime wedges.

Linguine and Clams

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Wednesdays are one of my late days when I don’t get home until nearly 7:00.  The other night when I got in the car to head home, I found a texted proposal from my sweetie that read,  “bring home some parsley, and I’ll make clams.”   When that husband of mine wants to feed me some delicious carbs bathed in olive oil  and spiced with chile peppers and bacon, my willpower goes fishing.  I gave it no thought before texting back an enthusiastic, “DEAL!”

Even though this dish is simple, it’s sassy and the flavor is exceptional.   The only trouble with posting this recipe is that there is no real recipe.  Things aren’t measured, they are sort of estimated.   So use the following as a guideline and tweak it to suit your taste.  We would probably use fresh clams if we lived near the coast but the little cans of chopped clams are delicious and convenient. 

Dana’s Linguine & Clams

Ingredients

  • Linguine (or spaghetti) for two
  • 1 small can of chopped clams, drained and rinsed (Dana adds the strained clam juice to the pasta water)
  • a lot of olive oil – 1/2 – 3/4 cup
  • 3 or 4 Tbsp.  cooked bacon, chopped (we use real bacon bits)
  • 2 or 3 Tbsp. chopped parsley (divided)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes
  • 2 cloves garlic – finely chopped

While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil on fairly low heat (clams are juicy and will splatter oil if the heat is too high).  Add the bacon, clams, garlic, chile flakes and half the parsley to the oil and simmer while the pasta cooks.  When the pasta is done, divide it between two pasta bowls and ladle the clam mixture over the hot pasta.  Add a sprinkle of parsley and serve with chewy rustic bread that can be dipped in the deLICOUS oil.   A tossed green salad rounds out the meal perfectly. 

Of all the dishes my hubby cooked for me when we were dating, this is the one that convinced me to marry him.  Its perfection is in its simplicity.