Category Archives: Comfort Food

TOMATO TIME :: Lemon Risotto with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

cherry tomatoes in the garden
Technically summer has come to an end, yet in the Bay Area the fall harvest summer is just beginning. Aaand, the cherry tomatoes keep on coming. I found this unique risotto recipe, which incorporates roasted cherry tomatoes. It is definitely strong on the lemon flavor, which I like, but be forewarned if you’re not a lover of lemon. This may not be the recipe for you. Recipe from Bon Appetit

Lemon risotto with cherry tomatoes

Lemon Risotto with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

Ingredients:
12 ounces cherry tomatoes
3 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
5 cups (about) low-salt chicken or vegetable broth
2 Tablespoons butter, divided
1/2 medium white or yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
2 cups arborio rice
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups (loosely packed) baby arugula
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350. Place tomatoes on rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Roast until skins begin to wrinkle, about 12 minutes. Set aside.
2. Pour 5 cups broth into small saucepan; bring to simmer. Cover and keep warm.
3. Melt 1 tablespoon butter with 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat in large saucepan. Add onion; saute until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add rice and garlic; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir 2 minutes. Add wine; stir until almost all the liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently and adjusting heat if necessary to maintain gentle simmer, about 5 minutes. Continue to add broth by cupfuls, stirring often, until rice is tender, about 25 minutes total.
4. Remove from heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon butter and all remaining ingredients. Fold in tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper.

cooking risotto

Advertisements

Pot o’ Beans for Salads and Tacos

PotOfBeans_2_FW_cr1

These Rio Zape Beans resemble pinto beans, but are larger and profoundly satisfying. A great element to have on hand for quick tacos or served with a green salad to add flavor and sustenance.

Ingredients:
– 1 or 2 cups dried Rio Zape Rancho Gordo Heirloom Beans, washed and soaked for six hours in 1-2 quarts water (if 6 hours pass, drain the beans, reserving the soaking liquid and keep both on hand covered for up to 2 hours until you’re ready to start cooking.)
– 1 large onion, cut in half
– 1 or 2 celery stems, cut thirds
– 1 or 2 carrots, cut in half or thirds
– 2 garlic gloves, lightly peeled
– 1 bay leaf
– 1 bouquet garni of a few large parsley stems with leaves (tied with string in cheesecloth, net, sachet or coarsely chopped and stuffed into a large tea strainer)
– 1 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
– 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions:
1. Place beans and soaking water into large saucepan. Add water if needed – the water level should be at least 1 inch above the top of the beans.
2. Add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, bay leaf and parsley bouquet and bring to boil.
3. Reduce heat, cover and simmer one hour.
4. Remove the parsley sachet and celery, then add salt to taste and simmer for another 30 minutes to an hour, until the beans are completely tender.
5. Drain through a strainer set over a bowl, reserving the liquid. Remove the remaining vegetables and bay leaf and discard.
6. Adjust salt to taste, add pepper.
7. Serve warm in tacos embellished to your taste or along with a mixed green salad with freshly chopped parsley /or cilantro & feta /or cojita cheese.

Notes: Beans will last for 3-4 days in the refrigerator. Store so they are just covered with some of the reserved liquid, which should be used to reheat them as needed. Save any additional reserved liquid in a canning jar – label/date and freeze for future use. Makes a fantastic “vegetable stock” for asian noodles or soup. Cooked beans can also be frozen in liquid for future use.

A Shakshuka Brunch – North African Fried Eggs

Ever since I received Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook for my birthday, Plenty, I’ve been obsessing. I think I could happily make a recipe from it each day until I’d made it through cover to cover. While I am not a vegetarian, I love cooking vegetarian fare and heartily believe it’s possible to develop deeply satisfying flavors without meat. It makes sense then that Ottolenghi’s book resonates for me as it is a “vegetables-only” cookbook (from a chef who is not a vegetarian) with recipes that combine unique flavors and techniques from around the world.

This recipe he calls Shakshuka, named for the man who served it in a tiny restaurant Ottolenghi found in Jaffa. This North African dish is fantastic and the author’s version shows once again his mastery of melding a multitude of flavors and spices such that no one flavor overpowers. That said, I think it’s the saffron that ultimately lends this fried egg dish a bit of an exotic aura.

I halved the recipe, and it serves a 4 or a generous 2. I don’t have more than one large cast iron dish, so was unable to fry up the portions individually as described in the recipe, but it was no problem to do all the eggs in one pan. I also didn’t have fresh tomatoes since they’re no longer in season, so I used a jar of my own canned tomatoes, plus I threw in a handful of cherry tomatoes I’d recently frozen (slightly defrosted in the microwave first). I didn’t have muscovado sugar on hand, so threw in a couple pinches of demerara sugar. Don’t let the list of ingredients deter you. Most don’t take long to prepare and you can start cooking down the onions while you prep the herbs. Serve with fresh hunks of toasted, crusty bread. Combined prepping and cooking time is about 40-45 minutes.

Recipe Ingredients:
Serves a generous 2.
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
Generous 1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil
1 large onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch strips
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch strips
2 tsps muscovado sugar (or 2 pinches of demerara)
1 bay leaf
3-4 sprigs thyme, leaves picked and chopped
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro, plus extra for garnish
3 ripe tomatoes roughly chopped (or 1 jar canned organic tomatoes chopped)
1/4 tsp saffron threads
pinch of cayenne peppers
salt and black pepper
up to 1/2 cup water
4 eggs

Directions:
1. In a large cast iron pan, dry roast the cumin seeds on high heat for 2 minutes. Add the oil and onions and saute for 5 minutes. Add the peppers, sugar, and herbs and continue cooking on high heat for 5 to 10 minutes to get a nice color.

2. Add the tomatoes, saffron, cayenne and some salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. During the cooking keep adding water so that the mix has a pasta sauce consistency. (I didn’t add much water here, but the canned tomatoes were already quite watery.) Taste and adjust the seasoning. It should be potent and flavorful. (You can prepare this mix well in advance.)

3. Remove the bay leaf, then divide the pepper mix among four deep frying pans, each large enough to take a generous individual portion. Place them on medium heat to warm up, then make two gaps in the peppers mix in each pan and carefully break an egg into each gap. Sprinkle with salt and cover the pans with lids. Cook on a very (!) gentle heat for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the eggs are just set. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

Yum! Below a photo from the cookbook showing the individually cooked portions.

Lamb & Flageolets Stew with Cilantro Relish from “Heirloom Beans”

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m enamored with the cookbook, Heirloom Beans. In perusing the recipes, I had to resist bookmarking every other page. Given the cold winter days we’re experiencing in San Francisco right now, somehow a lamb stew seemed to make the most sense, and I knew this meant I could break out the new Le Creuset. I’m embarrassed to admit, however, after all my excitement for cooking with heirloom beans I ended up using cannellini beans that I already had in my pantry. (Hey, I’m trying  to honor my recent vow to use up the stores I already have.) So, I can’t really vouch for the wonder of flageolet beans, although I swear the next time around I will use the beans according to the recipe. After all, what’s better than an excuse to head down to Bi-Rite? (Even more ridiculous is I bought the lamb at Bi-Rite, but didn’t realize they sold Rancho Gordo beans there at the time. Argh!)

Steve Sando has made me reconsider the non-soaking methods of cooking beans. He is a strong proponent of soaking the beans for even an hour before cooking, but recommends 2-6 hours of soaking. Apparently this helps the beans keep their shape, and I figure this guy knows his stuff. I soaked the beans for 5 hours and was very happy with the results. I recommend making this recipe on a weekend snowy/rainy day. First thing in the morning, throw the beans in cold water to soak, catch up on the news and your laundry, start the simmering in the early afternoon, and you’ll be eating a fabulous early dinner.

I usually associate lamb with rosemary or mint, but I was looking forward to trying this recipe since it calls for a cilantro & lemon relish. Intriguing! I wasn’t disappointed. I also sauteed some chopped Swiss chard with shallot and garlic to serve on the side, but ended up adding it right in along with everything else. Since I normally squeeze a touch of lemon on sauteed chard anyway, the flavor profile fit right in with the relish.

Prather Ranch Spring Lamb with Flageolets and Fay’s Relish
Serves 6.

Ingredients:
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
2 pounds bone-in lamb shoulder steaks
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 small carrots, peeled and chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves
1 pound flageolet beans, rinsed thoroughly and soaked 2-6 hours (can also substitute with cellini or runner cannellini beans)

Directions:
1. In large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Season the lamb generously with salt and pepper. Working in batches if necessary, add the lamb to the pot and cook, turning once, until well browned on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Remove from plate.

2. Reduce the heat to medium and add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic and stir to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add more oil if the vegetables stick and splash of water to help release the browned bits.

3. Add the beans and their soaking water to the pot. bring to a boil, skimming off any impurities that rise the top, and cook for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and simmer slowly until the beans and lamb are tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Fay’s Relish Ingredients:
1 large bunch of cilantro, chopped
1 medium shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

To make the relish: In a small bowl, stir together the cilantro, shallot, garlic, lemon zest and juice, and olive oil.

Remove the lamb from the pot and cut into bite-sized pieces, trimming off excess fat and removing the bones. If you prefer a thicker stew, transfer 1 cup of beans and broth to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth and return to the pot. Return the lamb to the pot, stir and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook for an additional 10 minutes and adjust the seasonings.

Serve in warmed shallow bowls and garnish with the relish.

For the sauteed Swiss chard:
1 bunch Swiss chard, thoroughly cleaned, de-stemmed and leaves cut into small pieces
1 shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2-3 Tablespoons water
Salt and pepper
Splash of fresh lemon juice

Directions: Heat olive oil in large frying pan over medium-high heat. Saute the shallot and garlic briefly, 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Mix in the chard well into the oil and stir for 1-2 minutes. Add the water, cover, and cook for 6-8 minutes until softened, but still bright, dark green. When cooked, remove from heat and push chard to the side, squeezing and pouring out excess water. Season well with salt and pepper and a splash of lemon juice. Serve on the side or mix into serving bowls of stew.

Prather Ranch Spring Lamb with Flageolet Beans

Prather Ranch Lamb with Flageolet Heirloom Beans

Turkey, Farro and White Bean Soup

Turkey, farro and cannellini bean soupIt’s post turkey-time, and we all know what that means. Turkey soup! I decided to use up some of the sneakily and steadily growing grain stockpiles in my pantry by adding farro into the mix. What with the cannellini beans in the fridge, the soup practically made itself. Soup is the perfect way to use left-over ingredients from all the Thanksgiving shenanigans. Yet one more thing to give thanks for.

Serves 6-8.
Preparation time: ~20 minutes.
Cooking time: ~30 minutes.

Ingredients:
1 cup farro, thoroughly rinsed
2 quarts homemade turkey or chicken stock
1 Tablespoon olive oil
A few dashes cayenne pepper
1 yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, sliced
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups cooked cannellini beans (or one 15 oz can, beans rinsed)
1 zucchini sliced or diced
2-3 cups bite-size cooked turkey bits
Leaves of one large sprig of thyme
4 sprigs parsley
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
Freshly chopped chives for garnish

Directions:
1. Heat olive oil in large sauce pan over medium-high heat along with the cayenne pepper. Add onions and saute about 5 minutes. Add celery and saute another 5 minutes or so, until the onion is translucent and the celery is softening.

2. Add garlic and saute briefly until garlic smells fragrant, about 30 seconds to a minute. Stir in the tomato paste and keep stirring until well integrated with the vegetables.

3. Add stock and bring to a boil. Add farro and reduce heat to a low simmer. Stir in sliced carrots, and add the bay leaf and thyme. If using freshly made cannellini beans, add now as well. (If using canned, wait until step 5.) Add a dash of salt.

4. Cook at low simmer, partially covered 25 minutes, or until farro is cooked through.

5. Remove bay leaf and parsley sprigs. Add zucchini and turkey and heat until zucchini is just cooked and the turkey is warm, about 6 minutes.

6. Add salt if needed, and add generous fresh cracked pepper. Serve with chopped chives along with slices of toasted rye bread.

Turkey with Farro and Cannellini Beans Soup

Herbed White Bean and Sausage Stew

White Bean and Sausage Stew

I decided to try this recipe I found on the NY Times website. It’s a very hearty and comforting stew. The recipe doesn’t require soaking the beans in advance- you can throw the dried beans directly in the mix, and they’re flavored by the vegetables and broth- a nice plus. I made a few modifications, such as using 4 cups homemade chicken stock and 4 cups water (as opposed to 8 cups water) and opted for spicy Italian sausage. I used cannellini beans because I didn’t have Great Northerns on hand. Cannellini beans are a bit larger, so the cooking time was slightly longer than 2 hours. I also threw in some coarsely chopped spinach at the last minute to add a little green to the mix. The suggestion to serve the stew with a splash of olive oil and balsamic  is a great touch. I also added a bit of freshly grated parmesan cheese on top, which brought it all together.

Time: ~ 2 1/2 hours (mostly unattended)
Serves 4.

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, more for serving
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, sliced 3/4-inch thick
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 medium carrots, finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 pound dried Great Northern beans, rinsed and picked through
2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
2 thyme sprigs
1 large rosemary sprig
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, more for serving
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, more to taste.

Directions:
1. Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and brown until cooked through, about 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel.

2. Add the tomato paste and cumin to the pot. Cook, stirring, until dark golden, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the beans, 8 cups water, salt, thyme, rosemary and bay leaf. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to low and simmer gently until the beans are tender, about 2 hours, adding more water if needed to make sure the beans remain submerged.

3. When the beans are tender, return the sausage to the pot. Simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the vinegar and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning. Ladle into warm bowls and serve drizzled with additional vinegar and olive oil [and grated parmesan cheese.]

Original recipe here.

Nourishing Asian Soup for Two

This modified post originated from EcoSalon:

Soba Noodle Soup

I never tire of experimenting with Asian noodle soup. It’s one of my favorite go-to’s for a steamy, healing meal, and it works well when you have leftover vegetables from other recipes that you’re looking to use before they spoil. In fact, it has become a weekly event. I like to vary the noodles, sometimes soba, sometime wide or thin udon. The broth of course is a major component. In this recipe I used homemade chicken stock. Other times, you can basically create the broth through the simmering of vegetables. Or possibly give it a miso spin. Also key is loads of fresh herbs to throw on top- my current favorite is fresh, chopped basil.

This version of soba noodle soup requires very little cooking time. Most of the active time is spent preparing and sauteing the vegetables while bringing water to boil for the noodles and heating the stock. The vegetables don’t need to cook long at all- 3 minutes tops, excepting the onion. Overall time is about 30 minutes.

I often heat two bowls with hot water while preparing so the soup stays hot when serving.

Serves two.

Ingredients:
2 – 3 oz. bundles soba (Japanese buckwheat) noodles
3 cups homemade chicken or vegetable stock
1 teaspoon peanut oil
1/2 onion, sliced
1 generous inch ginger, peeled and minced
1/2 – 1 serrano pepper, minced (seeds and all)
6-8 dried shittake mushrooms*
1/2 – 1 zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 cup spinach leaves, chopped
8-10 basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/8 teaspoon sesame oil
freshly ground pepper

Directions:

1. Heat water in large saucepan to boil for noodles. Prepare all vegetables.

2. Meanwhile, in a second saucepan, bring chicken stock to a boil. Rinse off dried mushrooms and place in boiling water. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer 5 minutes. Remove mushrooms with slotted spoon and slice when cool enough to handle. Return sliced mushrooms to pot, and keep stock at a low simmer. Add 1/4 cup soy sauce and 1/8 teaspoon sesame oil to stock.

3. Heat oil in a frying pan or skillet. Saute ginger and half of the minced pepper, about 30 seconds. Add onion and saute until softening and becoming translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add zucchini and saute about 1 minute. Put sauteed vegetables into simmering stock.

4. When water is boiling, cook the soba noodles. (Follow directions for cooking, usually about 3 minutes cooking time.) Once cooked, drain and rinse noodles and set aside.

5. Add spinach leaves and the rest of the minced serrano to stock and turn up heat slightly, cooking briefly (1-3 minutes) while the noodles cook.

6. Serve noodles in two bowls, cover with hot stock and vegetables, topping with freshly ground pepper and generous basil.

* You can use fresh mushrooms instead of dried ones, depending on what you have on hand. Dried mushrooms help add flavor to the stock, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to buy them. If using fresh, slice 4-6 mushrooms and saute about 3-4 minutes in Step 3. (First saute onion for 3-4 minutes, then add the mushrooms and saute for 2-3 minutes, then add the zucchini.)

Enjoy!