Fennel and Leeks

Fennel and Leeks

Monday, January 30, 2012

Eggplant and Chickpea Tagine

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

For the first time since the beginning of the new year, I was genuinely excited to cook. It was liberating to feel no pressure whatsoever attached to this project. I just wanted to cook for the fun of being in the kitchen. I also had plenty of time on my hands this afternoon so I was able to lollygag and play with Olivia between each step. What could be more perfect?

As I have mentioned in several prior entries, I love a good tagine recipe. When I happened upon this recipe for Eggplant and Chickpea Tagine, I was immediately enamored and couldn't wait to begin preparation.

1 small eggplant, cut into 1/2" dice
2 zucchini, thickly sliced
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups brown cap mushrooms, halved
1 Tbsp ground coriander
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground tumeric
8 ounces new potatoes, quartered
2 1/2 cups passata (tomato puree)
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp chili sauce
1/3 cup ready-to-eat unsulfured dried apricots
3 cups canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp cilantro, chopped, to garnish

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

Sprinkle salt over eggplant and zucchini and leave for 30 minutes. Rinse and pat dry with dish towel. Heat broiler to high. Arrange zucchini and eggplant on baking sheet and toss in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Broil for 20 minutes, turning occasionally, until tender and golden.

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

Meanwhile, heat remaining oil in large heavy-based saucepan and cook onion and garlic for 5 minutes until softened, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms and saute for 3 minutes until tender. Add spices and cook for 1 minute more, stirring to allow flavors to mingle.

Add potatoes and cook for 3 minutes, stirring. Pour in passata, tomato paste and 2/3 cup water, cover and cook for 10 minutes or until sauce begins to thicken. Add eggplant, zucchini, chili sauce, apricots and chickpeas. Season and cook, partially covered, for 10-15 minutes until potatoes are tender.

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

Add a little extra water if tagine becomes too dry. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve with cous cous if desired. Serves 4.

I have quite a few comments regarding this recipe. Let me start by saying that it has good bones but needs several tweaks. The first change I would make is to double the amount of zucchini and eggplant. These were two of the most flavorful elements (due to the fact they were salted and roasted in olive oil prior to adding to the tagine) but they seemed to be in short supply compared to other ingredients. The second change I would make is to half the amount of cinnamon. I could taste the cinnamon more than the other spices and I found myself wanting more cumin and tumeric. The next alteration would be to add cilantro to the tagine while the ingredients are simmering. I loved the flavor of cilantro in this dish but found that there wasn't quite enough.

My next two recommendations are changes that I made while preparing the recipe. The first is to add four tablespoons of chili sauce instead of one tablespoon. There are several types of chili sauce and I had the sweet variety on hand. Perhaps if I had used a spicier, less sweet chili sauce, I wouldn't have needed the additional three tablespoons. Finally, I found that for the timing of the potatoes to match the other vegetables, they should be diced into one-inch cubes. I purchased new potatoes but when I cut them into quarters, their scale was too large in comparison to other ingredients.

The end result of this recipe was tasty; I just believe that my recommendations would make it even tastier. With all of this being said, I thoroughly enjoyed both preparation and cooking. There is something about taking a long list of ingredients and turning them into a one-pot wonder. Brad and I both liked this dish, which is a good thing because we have ample leftovers for tomorrow night's dinner.

As a side note, I used all organic ingredients from PCC Natural Market.

Recipe Source:
"Complete Vegetarian", published by Hermes House
Page 263

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Spicy Chipotle Turkey Burgers

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

My choice for tonight's dinner was an easy one. A few days ago, I purchased ground turkey for the sole purpose of making turkey burgers. One thing I can openly admit about no longer eating beef is that I miss eating a juicy burger now and then. Although turkey does not make the same type of burger as beef, I have grown to enjoy this substitution.

I didn't know initially what type of turkey burgers I wanted to prepare, but I was excited when I came across the following recipe for Spicy Chipotle Burgers. I was in from the second I saw that chipotle and cilantro were two of the main ingredients. I happen to love the flavor that chipotle brings to a dish and I could eat cilantro every day. As a result, this recipe was a no brainer.

1 pound ground turkey (I used 99% fat free white ground turkey meat)
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 Tbsp cilantro chopped fresh cilantro
1 chipotle chile pepper in adobo sauce, finely chopped
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp seasoned salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
4 slices mozzarella cheese
4 hamburger buns, split and toasted

Preheat outdoor grill on medium heat and lightly oil grate. (I used my Le Creuset panini pan on the stove and it worked beautifully; I even had perfect grill marks). Place ground turkey, onion, cilantro, chipotle chile pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, seasoned salt and black pepper in a mixing bowl; mix well. Form into four patties.

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

Cook turkey burgers on heated grill until the turkey is no longer pink; approximately four minutes per side. Place mozzarella slices on patties two minutes before they are ready. Serve on toasted buns.

This recipe was quite tasty but I am not sure it qualifies as being spicy. I highly recommend doubling the amount of chipotle chile pepper to make the burgers truly spicy. Other than this one revision, I wouldn't change a thing. The cilantro was the perfect partner to the chipotle and provided the burgers with a burst of freshness. Because ground white turkey meat can be a bit on the dry side, I poured a few tablespoons of adobo sauce from the chipotles into the patty mixture to add moisture. This worked perfectly and the burgers were anything but dry.

Finally, I turned to my favorite ciabatta rolls from our local Macrina Bakery. I have used these rolls in prior recipes including Turkey Sandwiches with Hoisin Mayonnaise and Tarragon Egg Salad Sandwiches because they always elevate the end result. All in all, this recipe was tasty, easy and pleasing to my family. I would make the burgers again anytime.

Recipe Source: allrecipes.com

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Crispy Roasted Cauliflower and Baked Chicken

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

I am sure it has not gone unnoticed that I have been missing in action over the past few weeks. After spending the past year making two or three new recipes per week, I found myself in need of a break. The good news is, I took a break and now I am back. The other news is that entering this new year, I have made an executive decision to cook and post recipes only when I am moved to do so. I figure after a year of diligence, I deserve the luxury of preparing new recipes and writing about them as the mood strikes. I believe this will add a whole new element of fun to an already fulfilling project.

You will also see a change in the type of recipes I am preparing; at least for a while. As you can imagine, a cooking project like mine does nothing for the waistline. So, for the next 13 weeks, I will be featuring recipes that sway toward the healthy, less calorically loaded side. I devoted a good portion of last year to preparing healthy recipes but let's not forget the recipes that depended on butter and bacon to take their tastiness over the top. Much to my chagrin, I will be avoiding these recipes like the plague; bacon and all. Not to worry though. I'm sure these recipes will return to my repertoire in moderation come late spring. With this being said, the two recipes I chose for tonight are Crispy Roasted Cauliflower and Baked Chicken. I, of course, won't be eating the chicken but I will provide Brad and Olivia's feedback. I have put myself in charge of cauliflower feedback and I am looking forward to it.

Crispy Roasted Cauliflower-
1/2 head cauliflower florets
1 Tbsp olive oil
coarse salt
red chili flakes

Heat oven to 425 degrees. On a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle cauliflower with olive oil. Season with coarse salt. Roast, turning occasionally, until golden brown and tender, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with red chile flakes. Serves 2.

Healthy Baked Chicken-
2 boneless or bone-in chicken breasts, skinned
2 thin slices of butter
onion flakes
garlic salt
paprika (optional)

Place chicken breasts in baking pan. Place a thin slice of butter (I used very thin slices as to stick with my plan) on each piece of chicken. Sprinkle with onion flakes, garlic salt, parsley and paprika (if desired).

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

Bake at 425 degrees for 35 minutes. Serves 2.

I will first address the cauliflower. I should preface my reaction by saying that I can't remember the last time I purchased and prepared cauliflower. Maybe 10 years ago. What a shame! Cauliflower is quite tasty, especially prepared in this manner. The minimal use of olive oil kept the cauliflower flavor clean while helping it crisp up in the oven. I also liked the addition of red chili flakes. I used just enough to add a bit of spiciness without overpowering the dish. Brad gave the cauliflower two thumbs up and Olivia gave the "flower part, not the stem part" two thumbs up.

The chicken also went over well with both Brad and Olivia. Without becoming overly verbose, I will just say that they both really liked the flavor and texture. I will also state for the record that this dish was easy and quick to prepare. Finally, I roasted a handful of cherry tomatoes to add color to the plate but they ended up being delicious, not just pretty. I am learning that I can't really go wrong with roasted vegetables of any type. Just throw them in a pan with a drizzle of olive oil and bake for 25 to 40 minutes. Delicious!

Recipe Sources:
Crispy Roasted Cauliflower- Whole Living Magazine, January/February 2012
Baked Chicken- cooks.com

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Potato-Leek Soup with Kale and My One Year Blog Anniversary

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

Happy one-year blog anniversary to me! What a ride this first year has been. I have prepared approximately 130 new recipes and I can honestly say that less than ten of the recipes were flops. Pretty amazing for a girl that came into this project with only a few cooking skills. Before I move on to today's recipe, I would like to thank my wonderful husband for his support and beautiful photography. This cooking project ended up being consuming at times but Brad always took time to encourage me and to taste the finished products. I'm not saying that the tasting was torture, but he did have a lot of patience with me during some of my hectic recipe preparations. I would also like to thank my little blonde sous chef. Thank you, Honeys. :)

To commemorate my one-year mark in this culinary adventure, I decided to take a leap by creating my own recipe. I was inspired to do so when I was in my vegetable garden today and found that I had a bounty of potatoes in one of my pots. I wrote off the potatoes about four months ago so imagine my surprise when I realized that the pot was full of mature baby potatoes. I then looked around to find several stems of dark green kale, two leeks, one Walla Walla Sweet onion and fresh thyme.

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

I examined my winter garden haul and decided that I should use these ingredients to create a soup recipe for dinner. The following is my first original recipe.

2 leeks, white parts only, thinly sliced
1 small Walla Walla Sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp fresh thyme plus one thyme sprig
1 bay leaf
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
3/4 Tbsp kosher salt plus one pinch
5 cracks black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
4 cups kale, chopped into 1-inch pieces
4 cups potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
3 tsp white wine vinegar

In dutch oven or large soup pot, combine leeks, onion, garlic, one teaspoon thyme, one pinch kosher salt and olive oil. Saute for two minutes on low heat. Leeks will take on a burnt flavor if sauteed for too long. Add chicken broth, water, potatoes, thyme sprig, bay leaf, 3/4 tablespoon kosher salt and black pepper. Simmer on medium-low for 25 minutes. Stir in 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar. Remove from heat. Blend soup with immersion blender, leaving several small chunks of potato.

Place spinach and one teaspoon vinegar in medium saute pan. Heat until kale is slightly wilted while maintaining crisp texture. Add kale to soup and stir. Serve immediately.

I am quite proud of the end result. The soup was smooth and creamy but the kale provided a contrasting texture that kept the dish interesting. I tasted the soup as I created the recipe and somehow, I knew what to add at each step. My proudest moment was when I realized that the soup needed some type of acidity and I chose to add white wine vinegar, which was the perfect choice. If you had asked me what to add to this recipe a year ago, I would have looked at you with a blank expression. Oh, what a year can do!

The only aspect of the recipe I would alter is to crisp up a half cup of kale in the oven to use as a topping for the soup. This would add another contrasting texture and it would spice the dish up aesthetically. Other than this one addition, I would definitely make the soup as-is again. The best part, of course, is that all of the main ingredients were found in my garden...... in January. What a beautiful surprise.

Recipe Source:
Kiersten Lovejoy

Monday, January 2, 2012

Barbecue Pulled Chicken Sliders and Barbecue Pulled Pork Sliders with Reeni's Cole Slaw

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

It was time to host the annual Lovejoy New Year's party and I needed to come up with a menu of hearty food to serve to our guests. If you have attended our New Year's karaoke and pinball extravaganza, you know that the party tends to last for 10 to 12 hours. Because of the longevity, we need food with staying power. Last year Natalie and I chose to serve Greek cuisine but this year we decided that Barbecue Pork Sliders and Barbecue Chicken Sliders would be the highlight of our hour d 'oeuvre-heavy menu. I took the sliders on as my project and was able to locate this fabulous recipe via google. The original recipe was for full-sized chicken sandwiches but after a few tweaks, I turned it into a slider recipe. I also opted to prepare a pork version and cole slaw as well as the original chicken version.

Barbecue Chicken Sliders-
2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp molasses
1 Tbsp yellow mustard
1 Tbsp chile powder
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp Tabasco sauce
1 large onion, thinly sliced in half moons
3 to 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut in half or 1 rotisserie chicken
1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
24 slider buns or rolls

In medium mixing bowl, whisk ketchup, vinegar, Worcestershire, brown sugar, molasses, mustard, chile powder, salt, pepper and Tabasco together until well combined.

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

Pour into crock pot, add onions and chicken.

If using chicken breasts, cook on low for 4 hours or high for 2 hours. Remove chicken to large plate or cutting board and cool to the touch. Keep barbecue sauce warm in crock pot. When chicken is cool enough to handle, shred by pulling apart by hand. Return to crock pot and mix with sauce. If using rotisserie chicken, heat sauce in crock pot on low for one hour (the original recipe said to cook on low for 20 minutes but I found that the onions needed an hour to become tender). Add shredded chicken and heat through. Serve on buns with sharp cheddar.

If preparing pork sliders, use 3 to 4 thick pork cutlets in place of 3 to 4 chicken breasts and follow the above recipe for chicken sliders.

Reeni's Cole Slaw-
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp vinegar
2 tsp honey
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp thyme
pinch or two of celery seed
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 cracks fresh black pepper
4-5 cups cole slaw mix or shredded cabbage/carrot mix

In large mixing bowl, whisk together everything with exception of cabbage. Start by mixing in four cups of cabbage and add more if needed. Refrigerate until serving. Serve as side or use as topping for sandwiches.

These sliders were absolutely delicious and they went over like gangbusters with our guests! I chose to prepare the chicken sliders with rotisserie chicken, which I highly recommend due to the ease of preparation. Although I don't eat chicken, Brad and several guests commented that they preferred chicken sliders to pork. I happened to love the pork sliders so the chicken sliders must have been amazing.

The best part of this recipe for sure was the sauce. I was quite impressed with the deep flavors created by a from-scratch sauce. The only change I would make is to use 1/2 tablespoon chile powder instead of 1 tablespoon and to add another tablespoon of Tabasco. This is just a personal preference and it would only make a minimal difference to the final outcome.

The cole slaw was also tasty. I loved the combination of Dijon, thyme and apple cider vinegar with mayonnaise. The cole slaw was the perfect mix of tangy, creamy and acidic. I liked it so much that this may end up being my go-to cole slaw recipe. Most of us chose to add the cole slaw to our sandwiches but I took a few bites of it on the side as well and felt that it worked both ways. The slider and cole slaw recipes were such a success that I may end up preparing it for our 2013 New Year's party. Well, maybe I had better focus on 2012 before I start thinking about next year. :) Happy New Year to all!

Recipe Source:
adapted from cinnamonspiceandeverythingnice.com