Tuesday, January 31, 2012
The Crispy Pork Medallions recipe was accompanied in Cooking Light by a basic roasted root vegetable medley, but that looked kind of boring. Still, I needed something to go with it and I love roasted vegetables, so I turned to Food Blog Search to see if it would bring me something more thrilling, and ding! This recipe from The Kitchn caught my eye immediately. I enjoyed a brief flirtation with roasted parsnips last winter, although I think it’s odd that I complained about them being hard to find, because they are plentiful at the farmers’ market right now; maybe they were out of season by March? If so, I’d better eat my weight in them right now, because I freakin’ love those ugly buggers. They’re not unlike carrots, but sweeter when cooked, with an addictive peppery undertone (Wikipedia describes this as “reminiscent of butterscotch, honey, and soft cardamom,” a description I’m not sure I would have come up with myself, but I adore all three of those things, so OK!) and the softer, buttery texture of sweet potatoes. The balsamic-glazed variety is still my favorite, but this one is a close runner-up, since it also has fennel, one of my other winter vegetable obsessions, plus carrots and oranges to brighten things up. The oranges are an especially nice touch; I generally hew towards lemon and lime when cooking with citrus, but oranges and carrots make very good friends. Roasting an orange felt strange, but it resulted in awesome flavor.
The first time I made this (yes, I’ve made it twice, along with the pork; I think these two recipes will become inextricably linked for me, because they really are perfect together) I followed the original recipe a bit too literally; I ended up with vegetable pieces that were too big and took too long to cook, which wasn’t helped by the fact that I had peeled and sliced my oranges, which meant they dissolved into puddles of juice and made my vegetables steam instead of getting crisp and brown. It all worked out in the end, but after practicing a second time I’ve made some changes: More parsnips, because they are awesome; smaller vegetable pieces; and oranges that are just quartered (as in this recipe, where I roast lemons) and then squeezed over the vegetables, once during roasting to create a glaze, and once just before serving for an extra burst of flavor. The result is a festival of warm, comforting, caramelized winter vegetables, with enough zips of color and citrus flavor to lift you out of the dark seasonal doldrums.
¾ pound carrots
¾ pound parsnips
1 medium fennel bulb
2 medium oranges
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup (I recommend Grade B)
Coarse salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Peel the carrots and parsnips, or just scrub them well. Cut them in half crosswise and then into quarters (or, if they are large, eighths) lengthwise, so they are in uniform chunks (sticks about 2 to 4 inches long and ½ to 1 inch wide worked well for me). If the parsnips have a tough, woody center, cut it out.
3. Cut the fennel into wedges (I did eighths).
4. Wash the oranges and slice them into quarters.
5. In a large bowl, toss the carrots, parsnips, fennel, and oranges with the olive oil and maple syrup and season generously with salt and pepper. Spread out evenly on a large rimmed baking sheet (line with parchment or foil for easier cleanup).
6. Roast, turning occasionally, until tender and browned, about 30 minutes. Five minutes before the end of cooking, use a tongs to squeeze the juice from half of the orange pieces over the vegetables, tossing to coat; return baking sheet to oven and finish roasting.
7. Remove vegetables from oven, use a tongs to squeeze the remaining orange pieces over the vegetables (discard orange pieces after squeezing), season vegetables to taste, and serve.
Time: 45 minutes
Leftover potential: OK; they reheat fine, if a bit less crisp, if you can manage not to scarf them all down immediately.
Monday, January 30, 2012
Hey, pork! Even though I came of age in the late 1980s, during the heady days of the famous “The Other White Meat” campaign (“the fifth most memorable promotional tagline in the history of contemporary advertising”*), it never really occurs to me to eat whole cuts of pork. I’m not tempted to order it in restaurants; I’ve only prepared it once at home—and that was really just because I had some wild rice to use up. I use ground pork on occasion, and I love sausage and bacon and prosciutto and pulled pork and carnitas and all that jazz, so I have no problem with the flavor; I just don’t gravitate toward big pieces of meat (not even steaks) and at this point, eight years into a food blog, I’m rather embarrassed that I don’t know how to buy or cook pork. I’m not even sure what made me dogear the page of Cooking Light that featured this recipe, except that it looked easy and tasty and involved the now-apparently-omnipresent-in-my-kitchen combo of Dijon and panko breading. Plus, it looked like something A would like, and I figured he deserved a break from all that quinoa.
I did what I always do when I see something promising-looking in Cooking Light, which was to flag the page in the actual magazine, wait a couple of weeks, and then go to the online version of the recipe to see what the ratings look like and whether there are any frequently-suggested tips, tricks, additions, or other edits. (There are a lot of loopy commenters out there, but in my experience, when nearly everyone says something like “Double the sauce” or “Halve the salt,” they’re usually on to something.) This one had a five-star rating with no real suggestions for improvement, which surprised me a bit because it looked so incredibly simple as to risk blandness. I figured it was time to take the plunge, so I went out and bought myself a pork tenderloin. And wow, those things are magical! Sure, they’re rather comically tubular, but they’re affordable ($4.99/pound at Trader Joe’s) and incredibly easy to deal with. The meat was moist and tender, and flavorful enough that I think I’d like it even if it weren’t enrobed in delicious mustard.
I’m not sure if I have a faulty meat thermometer (very likely) or I’m still getting used to my new oven or pork tenderloins vary or what, but I struggled just a bit making this even though the instructions are laughably straightforward. The first time, my pork simply refused to reach the correct temperature. Being so inexperienced as a pork cooker, I was paranoid about undercooking and ended up baking it more than twice as long as the recipe dictated. I’d gotten started later than I’d planned and the new side dish I was making also took much longer than expected, so by the time my pork finally registered 145 degrees, at about 9:30 on a Sunday night, I was thoroughly Over It. So convinced was I that the entire meal was going to be a disaster that I didn’t even take photos. Then, of course, everything was delicious, so I had to turn around and make it again so I could get photos for this site. The second time, I approached it with a Zen “this will take however long it takes” attitude, and I managed to overcook the pork—it was still just as tasty as ever, just a bit on the dry side. I’m contemplating sticking to 8 minutes next time, no matter what the thermometer says. But these are small matters; the important thing is that this recipe manages to get a lot of flavor out of just a few ingredients and a simple cooking technique. Also, I am now officially interested in pork, so pigs, hide your tenderloins! I’m off to troll the food sites for recipes.
*Hilariously to me, the National Pork Board now refers to “The Other White Meat” as its “heritage brand,” having switched to the vague and tepid motto “Be Inspired.”
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 pound pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 8 medallions
½ cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
¼ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Rub mustard evenly over pork medallions. Combine panko, thyme, parsley, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.
3. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat.
4. When skillet is hot, dredge pork medallions one by one in panko mixture and add them to the skillet. Sauté 2 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom. Turn pork over, then place skillet in oven and bake for 8 minutes or until pork reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees. Let stand 3 minutes before serving.
Time: 30 minutes
Leftover potential: OK, although breadcrumbs will not remain crisp.
Friday, January 27, 2012
Butternut squash and kale are like the peanut butter and jelly of the winter-vegetable world; the sweetness of the squash complements the bitterness of the kale so perfectly that as soon as I see one in a recipe, I always look for the other. Plus their colors look great together! So I’m a bit surprised that it took me so long to put them both on a pizza. I have kale pizzas and I have squash pizzas, but never have the twain met until now. Apparently I’d been secretly craving it, though, because I realized that I’d bookmarked two nearly identical pizza recipes—one with sweet potatoes and the other with squash—in the span of a couple of weeks. A hasn’t been wild about the sweet potato pizzas I’ve made in the past, so this squash version from The Way the Cookie Crumbles won out.
There’s nothing too surprising here—the squash is roasted with red onions, a nice touch, while the kale gets sautéed with garlic, also nice, and then they both get cozy together under a blanket of cheese. The only change I made was, upon stumbling on an orphaned cheese remnant in the fridge and remembering how well a sharper cheese worked on my last squash pizza—to swap in Gruyere for half of the mozzarella. It definitely made a good pizza even better, so I’m memorializing it in my adaptation of the recipe below.
I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of trying new pizza-topping combinations. I’m making up for 20 years of being strictly a plain cheese pizza eater.
1 pound pizza dough
1½ tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into bite-sized cubes (you could also use another kind of similarly textured winter squash, like acorn or delicata)
2 small red onions, cut into wedges
1 medium bunch kale, cut in thin ribbons
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded Gruyere or Asiago cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Transfer the squash and onions to a large baking sheet; season with a generous pinch of salt and pepper and coat with 1 tablespoon oil. Bake, stirring once halfway through, until softened and browned, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and increase heat to 450 degrees.
3. Meanwhile, heat the remaining ½ tablespoon oil with the garlic in a large skillet. Add the kale and a pinch of salt; cook, stirring constantly, until wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
4. Roll out the dough and place it on a baking sheet coated with cornmeal or olive oil.
5. Top the dough with the roasted vegetables, kale, and cheese. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the crust is browned around the edges.
Time: 1 hour
Leftover potential: Good.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
The more quinoa I eat, the more I love it. Unfortunately, after an initial favorable response, A seems to like quinoa less and less every time I serve it, no matter how alluringly it’s prepared. He tolerates it, but unenthusiastically, and I’m stuck with all the leftovers. The man does love fritters, though, as do I, so when I saw this recipe for quinoa cakes at Annie’s Eats, I bookmarked it right away. In truth, I mainly fell in love with the photograph, which presented just the kind of colorful, healthy, light, simple-but-not-spartan food I feel like eating after ODing on holiday cookies. It didn’t hurt that the quinoa cake was crowned with a lovely poached egg, and after some early skepticism about them (I was a runny-yolk-phobe for years), I am becoming quite infatuated with poached eggs, to the point that I’ve started craving them. Never mind that I’d never made one before; it’s a new year and time to face new challenges! As a bonus, maybe I could interest A in quinoa if it was packaged in a different format, or at least placate him about the fact that I was trying yet another new quinoa recipe. (I presented them as “fritters” instead of “cakes” because I thought it would attract him more, but as you’ll see below, “fritter” also turned out to be the more accurate term for my rendition.)
I’m so glad I took the plunge, because first of all, quinoa tastes great when it’s formed into a patty with cheese, herbs, and seasonings and pan-fried until crispy and browned. A devoured his happily, declaring it to be his favorite quinoa preparation by far (this may be damning with faint praise, but I’ll take it), and even ate the leftovers the next day without prompting. I had a little trouble executing the original recipe as written; it said I should be able to form the quinoa mixture into patties before placing it in the skillet, but mine was so wet and loose there was no way that was going to happen. I noticed that a few of the recipe commenters had also encountered this, and some had increased the quantity of breadcrumbs to thicken the mixture, but I didn’t feel like making more (since the recipe didn’t specify whether they should be dry or fresh*, I had made fresh ones out of some stale bread). So I did what I always do with my troublesome falafel recipe and treated it like a fritter, dolloping the batter into the hot oil with a measuring cup. I’ll admit that little pieces of quinoa crumbled everywhere when I tried to press the dollops into rough patty shapes, and I thought for sure we’d end up eating some sort of pan-fried quinoa hash-like mess, but luckily the eggs worked their magic, and by the time the patties had gotten nice and brown on their undersides (probably overbrowned, as you can see in the photo, because I was so scared about what was going to happen when I tried to turn them over that I kept delaying the inevitable and letting them get good and firm, but luckily overbrowned quinoa still tastes good, maybe even better for all I know), the cakes were holding together well enough to be flipped over without coming apart. And the little scattered crumbs of quinoa in the pan made a great snack for the chef; quinoa develops the most addictive nutty flavor and crunchy-chewy texture when fried, which is what really makes this recipe wonderful.
*Just today, I looked back at the recipe comments and saw that someone had asked which kind of breadcrumbs to use, and Annie had replied that she used dried ones—specifically, panko. Perhaps if I’d done that, my patties would have been more like cakes and less like fritters, but I’m not sure how much I care, because once I’d overcome my initial anxiety that I’d bungled the recipe and made a giant mess, I liked them just the way they were, all blobby and unphotogenic—er, I mean, “rustic” and “free-form”—and most importantly, tasty. Next time I’ll try panko, though, just for comparison.
Also, poaching eggs turned out to be not as difficult as I’d feared, at least as long as you’re not a perfectionist. I’m not going to give you instructions on it yet, because I’m still honing my method—the first time I used this helpful tutorial from the Smitten Kitchen, but I’m not really coordinated enough to make that nice little whirlpool in the water and my eggs whites scattered a lot, so the second time I turned to Simply Recipes and employed canning jar rings (why not? I have so many!) to help the eggs stay in one place. This worked pretty niftily, but I didn’t really get that fluffy height so many of the best poached eggs have, plus the egg-encrusted rings are devilish to clean. Clearly more practice is needed, because I haven’t made a perfect poached egg yet; sometimes I overcook them a bit and sometimes I undercook them a bit, and most of the time they’re unsightly, but luckily, even an imperfect poached egg tastes great, so I’m not to worried. Once I’ve got it down to a science, I’ll let you know, but in the meantime, the experimentation is fun and tasty. I’m already daydreaming about other meals that could be topped off with eggs.
The original recipe directed you to make six patties, but I was pretty hungry, too impatient to go through frying two separate batches, and unsure how the quinoa cakes would reheat as leftovers (well, as it turns out), so I just made four. For us, one of these larger fritters turned out be the perfect quantity for one meal, so I’m sticking with four in the future. For a breakfast, brunch, or light lunch, you could serve the fritters atop some spinach or arugula; it adds some color and nutrients, and the egg yolk coats the greens delightfully. Since we were having these as a dinner entrée, I served a generous salad on the side instead.
½ cup uncooked quinoa
1 cup water
2 large eggs, plus 4 large eggs for poaching
½ teaspoon coarse salt, plus extra to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
⅓ cup minced fresh chives
2 large shallots, finely chopped
⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup breadcrumbs (I used fresh, but just discovered that the original recipe used dried, so…whatever)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Fresh arugula or spinach (optional)
1. Place quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer, rinse thoroughly with cold water, and drain. Place quinoa in a small saucepan with 1 cup water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until all liquid is absorbed. Spread quinoa on a platter or baking sheet and let cool to room temperature. (You can do this up to a few days before making the fritters, if you want; just refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to use.)
2. In a medium bowl, lightly beat two eggs. Add the quinoa, ½ teaspoon salt, chives, shallots, Parmesan, and garlic, plus pepper to taste, and stir to blend. Mix in the breadcrumbs and stir gently until evenly incorporated.
3. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and swirl to coat. When the oil is hot, press about one-quarter of the quinoa mixture tightly into a ½ cup dry measuring cup (it will be a heaping ½ cup) and then drop it out of the measuring cup into the skillet, pressing down slightly with the back of a spatula to form a patty. Repeat with the remaining quinoa mixture, for a total of four fritters. Let cook until the bottom side is well browned. Carefully flip the patties with a spatula and let the second side cook until golden brown.
4. While the fritters are cooking, poach four eggs.
5. Serve each fritters atop a bed of greens, if desired, and top each patty with a poached egg. Season with salt and pepper to taste; serve immediately.
Time: 40 minutes
Leftover potential: The fritters keep quite well in the refrigerator and, when reheated with a short zap in the microwave followed by a short stint in a dry skillet over medium heat to regain their outer crispness, are nearly as good as new. Poached eggs don’t keep at all, however, so if you plan to have leftovers, don’t poach the eggs for the leftover portions until it’s time to reheat the fritters.
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Happy New Year! I know that at 19 days old, 2012 is already losing that new-year smell, but please suspend your disbelief…and try to graciously overlook the fact that I’m still catching up on posting recipes from the end of 2011. Luckily, this one fits in perfectly with the detox/diet/healthy eating narratives that dominate the food blogs—and, let’s face it, pretty much all media—every time January rolls around. (I love my fruits and vegetables, but if I see one more green smoothie recipe pop up in my Google Reader, I’m going to—well, strenuously roll my eyes, at least.) Sure, it’s lean and low-carb, packed full of greens and protein, but what drew me to this warm salad-ish dish at The Kitchen Sink Recipes was how thoroughly it combines nearly all my food obsessions into a single tidy package: Roasted vegetables, lemon, red pepper flakes, arugula, quinoa, feta, and mustard (my new bestie!) are all keywords that make me sit up and take notice when reading an ingredient list, so imagine my joy to see the whole passel of them hanging out together at one big party.
Not surprisingly, then, I loved this. A hasn’t taken to quinoa the way I have, and as much as I’d hoped he would like this one, I was secretly comforted by the thought that I’d have all the leftovers to myself. Light but filling, virtuous but boldly flavored, it makes a perfect workday lunch, and tastes equally good eaten warm or cold. I think there was maybe supposed to be red onion in the mix (the original post mentions it and I think I can spot it in the photos, but it’s left out of the recipe), but I didn’t miss it. The recipe is easy and straightforward; the only change I’d be tempted to make would be to add the zest of the lemon as well as the juice, for a little extra hit of citrus. Otherwise: perfection. If you haven’t tried quinoa yet, what are you waiting for? Make it your new year’s resolution, and start with this recipe.
POSTSCRIPT: I made this again last night, with the following additions: 1 small minced shallot and the grated zest of the lemon, both added to the Dijon-lemon juice mixture in Step 4. I'll definitely be including those in the recipe from now on.
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
Kosher salt to taste
1 large head broccoli
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon coarse-grained Dijon mustard
1 lemon, freshly squeezed
2 cups baby arugula
¼ cup crumbled feta
1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
2. Place quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer, rinse thoroughly with cold water, and drain. Combine quinoa, water, and a big pinch of salt in a pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, until the quinoa has absorbed the water. Remove from heat and set aside (keep covered).
3. Meanwhile, prepare the broccoli. Cut the florets into bite-sized pieces Trim the woody end from the stalks, and, using a vegetable peeler, trim the tough outside layer from the stalks; slice the stalks into coins. Toss the florets and stalk slices in 1 tablespoon oil, a pinch of salt, and red pepper flakes. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until the broccoli is browned in spots.
4. In a large bowl, whisk together the mustard and lemon juice. Whisk in the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the arugula. Add the quinoa and broccoli, when they are cooked, and toss to wilt the arugula and coat everything with dressing. Top with feta.
Time: 1 hour
Leftover potential: Good.