Saturday, June 25, 2016

SWEET SRIRACHA-GLAZED PORK SKEWERS

















While I mainly plan my menus around which vegetables I’m hungry for, A still thinks a meal isn’t really complete without some sort of meaty component, so I’m always on the lookout for easy carnivore-friendly preparations that I can make as a side dish to a big pile of vegetables. And having accumulated an overabundance of chicken recipes, I’m working to expand my horizons into other types of meat. Since my pork repertoire centers mostly on bacon, prosciutto, sausage and ground pork, tenderloin is a good area for new exploration, especially since it’s fairly healthy, inexpensive, versatile, and not hard to prepare.

All these criteria neatly converged in this super-simple recipe—seriously, we’re talking just five ingredients—from Cook’s Illustrated, which I stumbled upon via Pink Parsley. Bite-sized chunks of grilled pork in a sweet-spicy-salty glaze, with prep so quick and low-maintenance that I can focus my efforts on making a hearty salad or other veg-centric dish to serve alongside? Definitely a recipe for mealtime harmony.

The first time I made these, I used my George Foreman grill, and consequently spent the next week trying to scrape burnt sugary residue off the cooking surface. Then I remembered seeing a recipe for oven-broiled pork kebabs over at Budget Bytes, so I swiped the technique and it worked like a charm. You get a decent amount of char in a relatively short period of time, which means it might even be worth turning on the oven in the height of a summer heat wave. But if you prefer to fire up the grill, just follow the original method instead. Either way, you’ll get a big payoff for very little effort.

1½ pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons Sriracha sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
  1. If using wooden or bamboo skewers, soak 4 of them in water for at least 30 minutes to help prevent burning under the broiler.
  2. Toss the pork and salt together in a large mixing bowl and let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk together the brown sugar, Sriracha sauce, and cornstarch. Set aside 2 tablespoons of the mixture and add the rest to the pork, mixing well with a silicone spatula.
  4. Thread the meat onto the skewers. Arrange the skewers on a broiler pan, or on a wire rack atop a foil-lined sheet pan.
  5. Adjust the oven rack so that the top of the skewers will be 5-6 inches from the broiler. Preheat the broiler for at least 5 minutes.
  6. Place the skewers under the broiler and cook for 5 minutes, or just until the edges begin to brown. Remove from oven, rotate the skewers, and brush with half the reserved glaze. Return to the oven for an additional 5 minutes. Remove from oven, rotate again, brush with the remaining glaze, and broil 5 more minutes maximum, until evenly browned on all sides. (Be careful not to overcook!)
  7. Transfer the skewers to a serving platter, tent loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Serves: 4
Time: 50 minutes
Leftover potential: OK.

Monday, June 20, 2016

FRESHER ASPARAGUS SOUP

















I have a perfectly serviceable “fresh asparagus soup” recipe in my archives, although I’ll admit I haven’t revisited it for several years. Nowadays, it’s tough to rotate through my vast repertoire of seasonal vegetable recipes before I either get tired of said veggies or the season is over. Asparagus is particularly challenging because I love it so much I get tempted by new variations every year, but the season for the really good farmers’ market stuff is relatively brief, even in Southern California.

I was apparently in a highly suggestible mood when this recipe from A Cozy Kitchen struck my fancy. It’s not radically different from my old one, but a bit more nuanced—shallot instead of onion, crème fraiche instead of yogurt and milk, no roux, a higher asparagus-to-liquid ratio, and some always-welcome added garlic. It also turned out to be a great test of my fancy new high-powered commercial-grade blender, which I acquired for free from a friend and which is amazing. In fact, I fear this soup might be a bit tough to render smoothly with a less powerful appliance like an immersion blender, because the asparagus is only boiled for a few minutes before pureeing. This (along with the baking soda in the cooking water) gives it a shockingly bright green hue, along with incredible freshness. The flavor is simple, springy and asparagus-forward. The minimal cooking also makes it incredibly quick to prepare: Sautee the aromatics, blanch the asparagus, blend, heat gently and garnish.

Other than doubling the recipe, the only change I made was to add a squeeze of lemon juice at the end, because lemon and asparagus were made for each other and I think nearly every soup needs more acid. I was trying to use up a previously-zested lemon, but if I’d had any to spare, I think lemon zest would have been an even better addition. The original recipe showed this served with grilled cheese, but that seemed to be gilding the lily a bit, so I opted for garlic bread instead.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 shallots, peeled and minced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 pounds asparagus, ends trimmed off, cut into 2-inch pieces
3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons creme fraiche, plus more for topping
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
Optional: Lemon juice and/or zest to taste
  1. In a small sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until softened. Remove from heat.
  2. Prepare an ice bath for the asparagus and set aside. Fill a large pot with a few inches of water, set over medium heat, and add a few pinches of salt and the baking soda. When the water reaches a simmer, drop in the asparagus and cook for 2 minutes, until crisp-tender. Drain and transfer to the ice bath. Drain again and press out any water in the asparagus.
  3. Add the garlic-shallot mixture and asparagus to blender, along with the chicken stock. Blend until very smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the creme fraiche and 1 teaspoon salt. Give it one more mix and adjust the salt to taste.
  4. Transfer soup back to the pot (if you like, you can run it through a sieve first for extra smoothness) and warm over low heat. Ladle into bowls and top with a dollop of creme fraiche and chives, plus a squeeze of lemon juice or sprinkle of zest if desired.
Serves: 4-6
Time: 30 minutes
Leftover potential: Good.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

ROASTED SAUSAGE, BROCCOLI, AND FENNEL

















I was totally on a roll with nifty one-pan dinner solutions this spring. This one from Food52 was a particularly casual-throw-together way to satisfy both the carnivore and the vegetable fan in our household. Chunks of sausage make an easy shortcut meatball; broccoli roasted in mustard, lemon and red pepper flakes is always a beautiful thing; and fennel adds a bit of extra flair. Even though I upped the sausage to 1 pound and probably the broccoli quantity as well by adding all the stems and leaves (thanks to this recipe for showing me how delicious that can be), I did feel the four servings it yielded were a bit on the scanty side, and was happy that I’d decided to serve a poached egg on top, which I will now consider essential. (I still might consider using even more broccoli next time, though.) I also threw on a little Parmesan cheese, because it plays so well with all these ingredients, and garnished with some fennel fronds for freshness. A good reminder that there are still really simple yet innovative weeknight meals to be discovered, beyond the same old boring options.

2 small to medium heads of broccoli
1 medium fennel bulb, plus a few tablespoons of chopped fronds
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
Finely grated zest and one 1 teaspoon of juice from 1 small lemon
½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper, or ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes or cayenne (omit if using spicy sausage)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
12-16 ounces (4-5 links) good-quality pork sausage, hot or mild
Grated Parmesan cheese for serving (optional)
  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Break down the broccoli into bite-size florets. Don’t throw the stalks and leaves away—peel the thick outer skin off the stalks and slice them lengthwise, then into ¼-inch pieces. You can use the leaves as well. Place all the broccoli in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish (broiler-safe if possible).
  3. Trim and core the fennel and cut into thin slices, about ¼ inch thick. Add to the baking dish with the broccoli.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, whole-grain mustard, lemon juice and zest, Aleppo pepper, and salt and pepper to taste. Add to broccoli and fennel and toss well to coat evenly.
  5. Remove sausages from casings and cut into ¾-inch pieces. Nestle the sausage pieces among the broccoli and fennel.
  6. Roast for about 20-30 minutes, or until the broccoli and fennel are tender and the sausage is no longer pink. Toss about halfway through to ensure even cooking.
  7. Optional but highly recommended if your baking dish is broiler-safe: Heat broiler, and place the pan under the broiler for a few minutes to crisp the sausage and slightly char the broccoli and fennel in spots.
  8. Taste and add more salt, pepper, or lemon juice if needed. Garnish with reserved fennel fronds, and grated Parmesan cheese if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature. Great with a poached egg on top.
Serves: 4
Time: 45 minutes
Leftover potential: Good.

Friday, June 10, 2016

SHEET PAN CHICKEN TIKKA AND ALOO GOBI

















The year may not even be halfway over yet, but I’m calling it: This is going to be one of my favorite recipes of 2016.

I was suspicious of the sheet-pan supper trend, just as I was leery of the one-pot pasta craze and am pretty skeptical of the current mania for calling every one-dish meal a “bowl.” (Sometimes a salad is just a salad, people.) I love convenience, but not when it’s overly contrived, so it seemed like throwing a bunch of random things together on a baking sheet and roasting them all at the same time might just be a recipe for a lot of unevenly cooked food. But at the same time, pairing main dishes with sides can be a real puzzle, and I’m always looking for more of those magical dishes that give you everything you need in one simple package. So when this genius solution appeared at Smitten Kitchen, a beam of light may just as well have shone down from the heavens onto my brain. Easy Indian-spiced chicken with roasted vegetables is the dream meal I didn’t even know I was looking for.

You’re going to glance at the lengthy three-sectioned ingredient list and think it doesn’t look very easy, but it’s mostly spices that take only a fraction of a second to measure out, and everything really does come together pretty quickly. The chicken has the best Indian flavors of anything I’ve ever tried to make at home, and after a winter spent embracing cauliflower, I was thrilled to see it (spangled with cumin seeds, just like in that soup recipe I love) cleverly joining the roasted potatoes to round this out into a legitimate vegetable-full meal. Whatever you do, don’t skip the quick-pickled red onion and yogurt-herb toppings, which really make all the spicy, roasty flavors sing with their bright, fresh top notes (my one innovation was stirring together the yogurt and herbs with lemon into a single sauce, mostly for convenience in transporting the leftovers).

For the chicken:
1 ¾-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
½ cup whole-milk yogurt
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ to ½ teaspoon chili powder or cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¾ teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon garam masala*
2 pounds skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs, drumsticks and/or halved breasts

For the vegetables:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1¼ pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into ¾-inch chunks
1¾ pounds (1 small or half a very large head) cauliflower, cut into ¾-inch florets
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon cumin seeds

To finish:
½ red onion, thinly sliced
Freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt
Yogurt
A few tablespoons roughly chopped cilantro, parsley or mint, or a mix

*No garam masala? No problem. Mix ½ teaspoon ground turmeric; ¼ teaspoon ground coriander; 1/8 teaspoon each ground cumin, cardamom and mustard; 1/16 teaspoon each ground black pepper and fennel; and a pinch each of ground cloves and cayenne.
  1. For the chicken, combine ginger, garlic, jalapeno, yogurt, salt, spices and sugar in a freezer bag, bowl or container. (I pureed them into a paste with my immersion blender first, but you can skip that if you want.) Add chicken pieces and toss to coat evenly. Let marinate for 15 minutes or up to a day in the fridge.
  2. When you’re ready to cook, heat your oven to 425 degrees. Line a half-sheet (13×18-inch) pan with foil and coat it with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add potatoes, cauliflower, salt, cumin, and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and toss together with your hands until evenly coated.
  3. Remove chicken from marinade, leaving excess behind. Make spaces in the vegetables for chicken parts throughout the pan. Roast in oven for 20 minutes, then toss the potato and cauliflower to ensure they’re cooking evenly, and return the pan to the oven for 20 to 30 minutes more, until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are tender and browned.
  4. Meanwhile, toss the sliced onion in a small bowl with a squeeze of lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Stir the yogurt, herbs, more lemon juice and salt together in another small bowl. Serve the chicken and vegetables with the pickled onion and the yogurt sauce on top.
Serves: 4
Time: 1½ hours
Leftover potential: Good.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

BRUSSELS SPROUT, LEEK, AND GOUDA PIZZA

















 OK, here’s the deal: I’ve fallen really far behind on posting recipes, and am in danger of losing control and just giving up entirely, which is exactly what happened last year, leaving me with a whole mess of tried-but-not-posted recipes in dimly recollected limbo and lingering icky, disorganized feelings all around. So I’m going to try to bang out a bunch of them, keeping the writeups short and sweet. We’ll see how that goes… First up, a flashback to early spring!

How do I make a new vegetable feel at home in my kitchen? Put it on a pizza. This recipe popped up on Annie’s Eats right in the middle of my annual “I should get into Brussels sprouts” mood, looking irresistibly fresh and spring-green. I haven’t quite been brave enough to try a shaved Brussels salad yet (next year!), but this is clearly a gateway drug, starting with shredded sprouts dressed with oil and lemon (which get delightfully frizzled and roasty in the oven), then adding leeks for sweetness, Gouda for smokiness, red pepper flakes for a kick, and plenty of creamy mozzarella. In A’s view, this pizza is crying out for some bacon, but I liked it just fine in vegetarian mode, with the smoked Gouda filling in that touch of savoriness. Of course, you could coat just about anything in lemon and red pepper flakes and I’d be into it, but this is still an objectively great pizza combo.

8 to 10 ounces Brussels sprouts, ends and outer leaves trimmed away, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons olive oil, plus more for brushing
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Zest of ½ lemon
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 pound pizza dough
3 ounces shredded Gouda, preferably smoked
3 ounces shredded mozzarella
½ cup thinly sliced white/light green portion of a leek
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl, gently toss the sliced Brussels sprouts with the olive oil, salt and pepper, lemon zest and lemon juice.
  3. Roll out the pizza dough on a baking sheet and lightly brush the perimeter of the dough with olive oil. Sprinkle the shredded Gouda and mozzarella over the dough. Top with the Brussels sprouts in an even layer, followed by the leeks. Sprinkle with the red pepper flakes.
  4. Transfer the pizza to the oven; bake until the cheese is melted and bubbling and the crust and toppings are lightly browned, about 10-12 minutes. Remove from the oven. Let cool slightly before slicing and serving.
Serves: 4
Time: 35 minutes
Leftover potential: Good.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

PASTA WITH BROCCOLINI AND ITALIAN SAUSAGE

















And still another veggie makes its Bookcook debut! Clearly, I’ve been feeling experimental lately. (Is it sad when one of the biggest thrills in your life is trying a new vegetable? Not to me.) I had tried broccolini (which is not baby broccoli, but a hybrid of broccoli and Chinese broccoli that my spell-checker doesn’t yet recognize) a few times on and off over the years and liked it, but it’s started making more reliable appearances at our farmers’ market, so I figured I’d better give a shot for real.

Naturally, I turned to pasta. The sausage-and-broccoli/broccolini/broccoli rabe combo is a classic one, but I had to comb through a surprising number of variations on Google that weren’t quite what I wanted before I found something near enough. I used this recipe from the Weekend Gourmande (adapted from Cook’s Illustrated) as a jumping-off point, doubling it and adding lemon zest and juice for a springy zip (what even is the point of a green vegetable without lemon?). I garnished with basil because I had some that needed to be used up, but it isn’t necessary. While hardly groundbreaking, this is a straightforward and delicious meal that lets the broccolini shine but gives veg-skeptics (ahem, A) enough meaty-spicy-cheesy-savory elements to sink their teeth into.

If you don’t want to shell out for broccolini (or just can’t find it), regular broccoli would work here. I’d love to try it with broccoli rabe sometime, but I’ve never spotted it at our farmers’ market. Broccolini does seem to be an up-and-comer, so maybe its cousin will be next to join the club.

1 pound orecchiette (or a short, curly pasta like rotini)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound Italian sausage (hot or sweet), casings removed
4 large cloves garlic, minced
¼ to ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 to 1½ pounds broccolini (about 2 bunches), cut into 1-inch pieces, stems halved lengthwise if thick
1 to 1½ cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra to taste
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta water before draining.
  2. Meanwhile, set a large skillet over medium heat. When it’s warm, add the olive oil and the Italian sausage. Cook until browned, breaking up the chunks with a spoon. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add the broccolini, ½ teaspoon salt, and broth to the skillet. Cover for 2 minutes to steam, until broccolini is bright green. Remove lid and cook until broccolini is tender and most of the stock evaporates.
  4. Add drained pasta, lemon juice, lemon zest, and ½ cup Parmesan to the skillet and stir well, adding pasta water as needed to loosen the sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve with additional Parmesan on top.
Serves: 4
Time: 45 minutes
Leftover potential: Good.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

ROASTED POTATOES AND BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH BACON

















Another new vegetable addition to my palate’s palette. Brussels sprouts have, of course, been rehabbed from their bad rap and served at the cool-kid tables for years, but I was slow to pick up on the trend because they’re basically tiny cabbages, and up until last year I wasn’t a fan of the full-sized version either. But you can’t throw a stone anymore without hitting a gastropub, and you can’t throw a stone in a gastropub without hitting a bowl of roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon, usually the only green vegetable on the menu, so eventually I tried them and enjoyed them. I did roast them at home a few times, but apparently none of the recipes I tried were especially notable, because they never made it to the blog. This year I vowed I’d get better acquainted with Brussels sprouts.

I chose this recipe from The Kitchn because I knew the bacon would mollify A (as well as being a natural pairing for sprouts), mustard improves almost everything, and the addition of potatoes makes this an easy way to cover two-thirds of the protein + starch + veg meal formula (a template I don’t usually feel compelled to follow, but I needed something to serve with lemon garlic chicken and this seemed like a properly substantial side). It was effortless and excellent. I used a slightly higher sprouts-to-potato ratio because I like green things, but otherwise followed the recipe exactly. I do think I should have put the sprouts in earlier, because my bacon was a little too toasty by the end (and I say this as someone who likes it extra-crispy) and my sprouts not quite dark enough for my taste, but that’s easily remedied next time.

So: Brussels sprouts: yes. Not sure if I’m ready to level-up and try them in raw salad form, but roasted, I’m on board with.

1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1¼ pounds small Yukon Gold potatoes, quartered
¼ pound (about 3 slices) thick-cut bacon, diced
¾ pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together the ½ tablespoon olive oil, mustard, salt, and pepper to taste. Toss the potatoes and bacon in the bowl until evenly coated.
  2. Spread the potato mixture evenly on a large, heavy baking sheet. Roast for 25 to 40 minutes, or until potatoes are tender but not too browned, stirring every 10 minutes.
  3. Turn the oven up to 475 degrees. Toss the Brussels sprouts with the remaining ½ tablespoon of oil. Push the potatoes to one side of the pan, and arrange the Brussels sprouts on the other half of the pan, cut sides down.
  4. Continue roasting for about 15 more minutes, or until the sprouts are tender and browned, and the bacon is crisp. Salt to taste.
Serves: 4
Time: 70 minutes
Leftover potential: Good.