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Posts Tagged ‘bay leaf’

Another year means another Passover Seder. Well, that’s not entirely true. Since Yuki is about 2 weeks from her due date we decided that it’s not a good idea to spend the holiday with my family. Being 3 hours from our OB/GYN at this point isn’t the best thing we could do (or at least that’s what we tell my family!). What makes it easier is the fact that I’m not a religious man by any stretch of the imagination. So, if I missed another recital of the 4 questions or the 4 sons or Elijah I wouldn’t lose any sleep. I do, however, love a good matzo ball soup and brisket. I decided that I would make a few of the traditional Passover delicacies for the first night. My younger bro also lives in Chicago and did not go to the Quad Cities, so he came over for dinner last night.

To keep with tradition, I started the dinner off with some matzo ball soup. You can ask Alpana Singh my thoughts on the perfect matzo ball. I made my typical chicken soup on Sunday and then put it in the fridge overnight. In the afternoon I took it out and let it come to room temperature. About 20 minutes before my brother got here I made the matzo balls.

I used 2 eggs, about 3 tablespoons of chopped parsley, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, 1/2 cup of matzo meal, a few cracks of white pepper, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

In a small glass dish I mixed together all of the dry ingredients. In a seperate bowl I beat the eggs with the olive oil and parsley. Then, I poured the egg mixture into the dry mix until it was evenly mixed. I covered it in plastic wrap and let it sit in the fridge for about 15 minutes.

With the soup boiling I took the mix out of the fridge, wet my hands, and dropped walnut-sized balls into the soup. I let them boil for about 20 minutes to make sure they cooked through. That’s all there is to it, soup is ready. I will say that these were by far the best matzo balls I’ve ever made, and some of the best I’ve ever eaten as well.

While the rest of dinner was heating up I brought out some charoset and matzo. Side note, everything we ate was prepared ahead of time so that all I had to do was re-heat for dinner.

For the charoset I used 1 gala apple, 1/3 cup of walnuts, 1 tablespoon of red wine, 2 tablespoons of honey, and a few dashes of cinnamon which didn’t make it into the pic. In a bowl I crushed the walnuts into small chunks then poured the wine and honey in. Then I grated the apple into the bowl, seasoned with the cinnamon, mixed it up real well, covered with plastic, and let it sit in the fridge for at least an hour.

For the entrée I made a horseradish brisket (the recipe was adapted from a Gail Simmons recipe), wilted spinach with raisins and toasted soy nuts, olive oil mashed potatoes, and roasted radishes.

I made the brisket in the morning to make sure it got enough time in the braising liquid. I used 2 cups of beef stock, 1 cup of red wine, 1/2 cup of prepared horseradish, 3 carrots chopped, 3 celery stalks chopped, 7 garlic cloves minced, 1 small onion sliced, and a 3.5 pound brisket.

In a large heated skillet I poured in a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil and browned the brisket. I gave each side about 7 minutes.

Then I transferred the brisket to a foil braising pan and scattered the carrots and celery around it. In the hot skillet I added half of the garlic and the onions and let them sweat down for about 6 minutes. Then I poured in the wine. I let the wine boil down for about 7 minutes and added the beef stock. When the liquid came back to a boil I poured everything around the brisket.

I mixed together the rest of the garlic with the horseradish and spread that on top of the brisket. I covered it tightly with foil and put it into a 300 degree oven for about 3 hours. The one thing I did forget was bay leaves. I would have liked 2 of them in there. Oh well, still tasted great.

After 3 hours I let it sit for the rest of the day. While we were eating the soup I removed the foil, seasoned with salt and pepper, and put it under the broiler for about 30 minutes or so to not only re-heat, but also to give the horseradish a nice crust. To serve I just lay a couple sliced on top of the onion, carrots, and celery.

For the spinach I used 1/4 cup of raisins, the zest and juice from 1 lemon, 3 garlic cloves minced, 1/2 onion diced, 1/4 cup of toasted soy nuts (this dish would typically use pine nuts, but at $24 a pound I found the soy nuts price of $3 a pound a little easier to digest), 1/4 cup of red wine, and 2 bunches of spinach chopped.

First I poured the wine into a bowl and soaked the raisins for at least 15 minutes. Then, I heated up a large pot and poured in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sweat down the garlic and onion for about 5 minutes. Handful by handful I added the spinach until it was all wilted down. I poured in the wine and raisins. Once the wine had boiled down for a few minutes I added the lemon juice and zest. I stirred that all in and then added the soy nuts. A touch of salt and pepper and the spinach was ready to go.

I skinned 5 yukon gold potatoes for the mashed potatoes. Since the laws of the Kashrut don’t allow dairy to be eaten alongside meat I decided to use olive oil in order to try to make them creamy. I know, I don’t believe any of that crap, but since I was making a pretty traditional meal I thought I’d keep with tradition (all kosher wine as well). After boiling the potatoes I mashed them with about 1/4 cup or so of olive oil. Actually, I probably used more, I just kept adding it until the potatoes were the right consistancy. A little salt and pepper and they were all set.

For the radishes I simply halved them and roasted them with olive oil, salt, and pepper at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes.

I did not have enough time to make any dessert last night. We were pretty full anyway, but a little dessert is always a nice thing. I guess life could be worse than not having dry, matzo meal cakes sit in your stomach on top of brisket. Plus, you’re all probably tired of this post by now anyway. Happy holidays!

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After a couple of nights eating out for Restaurant Week I decided to give our stomachs, as well as our wallets, a little bit of a break. Simple, cheap, and delicious, I made a stew with cod and vegetables. Warm stews like this are great for cold winter nights and are packed full of nutrients that won’t bulge your belly or bank account.

I started off with my typical dashi. I boiled 1/3 cup of dried anchovies in 3 cups of water for about 30 minutes and then strained out the fish. I really love making this dashi because it’s easy, healthy, and delicious.

The rest of my ingredients included 2 carrots chopped, 1/2 head of cauliflower broken into florets, 1 head of broccoli broken into florets with the stem chopped, 5 large fingerling potatoes chopped, 1 onion large diced, 3 garlic cloves large diced, 5 ounces of spinach rinsed, 3/4 pound of cod cut into bite-sized pieces, 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, and 2 tablespoons of sake.

I heated up a stock pot and poured in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Once the oil was hot and shimmering I added the onion, carrot, and garlic. I let that all sweat down for about 3 minutes and then added the broccoli and cauliflower. About 2 minutes later I poured in the dashi, soy, sake, and a bay leaf and brought that up to a boil. Once boiling I added the potatoes and turned the heat down to med-low so that it could simmer for about 10 minutes. Then I added the fish and let it simmer for another 10 minutes before throwing the spinach in. Once the spinach was in I seasoned with pepper (no need for salt because of the soy in the broth), covered the pot, and let simmer for another 10 minutes. After that all I did was adjust the seasoning and serve it up with some white rice.

Just be gentle stirring after you add the fish, cod will flake apart.

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Besides being a great Japanese housewife, I also have a little Italian bosom to me. I’m very worldly for being a midwestern Jewish man. The other night I made a classic Southern Italian Chicken and Pepper Stew along with a Tuscan-style soup. Instead of a Tuscan Bean Soup that uses cannelloni beans I used chickpeas, simply because I had a can in my cupboard.

The soup couldn’t be simpler. I used 1 bunch of kale chopped, 1 onion sliced, 3 garlic cloves diced, 1 quart of chicken stock, and 1 can of chickpeas drained and rinsed.

I put everything except for the chickpeas in a pot along with a couple of bay leaves. I brought it up to a boil, covered the pot, turned the heat to med-low, and let it simmer for about 45 minutes so that the kale would get nice and tender. I didn’t add the chickpeas until a few minutes before dinner time. Since they were canned the didn’t need to be cooked, just heated. I seasoned with salt and pepper just before serving.

For the chicken I used about 1/4 cup of parsley chopped, 1/2 onion sliced, 3 cloves of garlic diced, 2 plum tomatoes skinned and diced, 1 dry pint of sweet peppers seeded and sliced, 4 thighs and 4 drumsticks skinned with the bone in, and 1/2 cup of white wine.

In my pan I heated up about 3 tablespoons of olive oil and sautéed the onion for about 6 minutes. I took the onion out, added another 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and added the chicken. I browned the chicken all over for a few minutes and then put the onion back in. I poured in the wine and let it reduce by half for about 5 minutes or so. Then I added the peppers and tomatoes, seasoned with salt and pepper, stirred it up really well, covered the pan, turned the heat down to med-low, and let it simmer for about 30 minutes. I stirred it occasionally throughout the 30 minutes. Just before serving I mixed in the parsley. Another simple, yet delicious dish.

I got some nice crusty bread to serve with everything. I did make some white rice for Yuki since she needs rice in her guts. I stuck with the bread though so I could sop up all of the juices and dip into my soup.

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Finally, I got Meatless Monday back into my life. No Bears game (thank goodness, I don’t think I can stand to watch that O-line pretend to block anymore) or anything that calls for carcus so I cleaned out some of the vegetables I had in my fridge. With the weather getting a little chilly I thought a nice hot bowl of Minestrone would hit the spot, especially since Yuki loves soup. To go with it I made some mushrooms in soy milk on toast.

For the minestrone I used 1 can of brown beans, 4 quarts of vegetable stock, 1 28oz can of skinned tomatoes, 6oz of farfale pasta, 2 ribs of celery chopped, 1 carrot chopped, 1 zucchini chopped, 1/2 an onion chopped, 1/2 green bell pepper chopped, 1 yukon gold potato skinned and chopped (2 in the pic but I only used 1), 3 garlic cloves chopped, some basil thinly sliced, and Parmigiano Reggiano grated.

In a heated stock pot I poured in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and then sweated down the onion, carrot, and celery for about 3 minutes. Then I added the green pepper and garlic and let that go for another 3 minutes. I dumped the juice from the tomato can in and crushed the tomatoes with my hands. Once the tomato juice started to boil, about 1 minute or so, I poured in the stock and seasoned with salt and pepper and 1 bay leaf. Once the stock started to boil, about 2 or 3 minutes, I added the potato and zucchini. The potato and zucchini obviously lowered the temperature of the soup, so a few minutes later when it came back to a boil I added the pasta then covered the pot and turned the heat down from medium-high to medium. I let it simmer for about 15 minutes to let the pasta cook properly.

While the pasta was cooking I heated up my saute pan and got the mushrooms ready. I thickly sliced (about 1/4-1/3 inch) 4 button mushrooms and a container of cremini mushrooms and sliced up 3 green onions. I melted 1 tablespoon of butter and poured in another tablespoon of olive oil then dumped all of the mushrooms and green onions in. I let them cook down for about 10 minutes until the mushrooms started to release their moisture. Then I poured in about 1/4 cup of soy milk and let that thicken up for about 2 minutes. I added some thinly sliced basil and turned off the heat. I toasted some sliced of challah during the cooking.

To serve, I ladled some soup into my bowls and topped it with sliced basil. I put the toasted challah on a plate and spooned some of the mushrooms on top. Then I topped everything with fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

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After Tuesday night’s overly complex debacle of a meal we wanted something clean and simple for dinner last night. Yuki had requested my matzo ball soup, so that’s what I gave her. (feel free to insert any number of jokes)

The ingredients I use for my chicken soup are 1 diced onion, 3 medium carrots chopped, 3 stalks of celery chopped, 5 garlic cloves peeled but left whole, and 1.5 pounds of skin-on bone-in chicken thighs.

There are two basic ways to make chicken soup. One is to throw all of the ingredients into a stockpot, cover it with cold water, and bring it all to a slow simmer for a couple of hours, usually with a whole bird instead of just thighs (I think white meat in chicken soup is a waste as it doesn’t have nearly as much flavor as dark meat). That’s they way my dad makes it and his soup tastes pretty good. I do it a little different.

I heat up my stock pot and pour in about 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Then I dump in the onion, carrots, and celery and let them sweat for about 5 minutes. I don’t want them too translucent, I just want the sweetness drawn out a little. After the veggies are slightly cooked I lay the thighs in skin-side down. A minute or two later I pour in 2 quarts of hot water, add the garlic, a bay leaf, and a couple pinches of salt.

After it’s been at a low boil for a few minutes a foamy grit will surface. I take a large spoon and skim that off. I do that 6 or 7 times. This gives the broth some clarity. The muck isn’t bad for you, it’s just bitter and unnecessary. Skimming broth is the key to a clean soup. Once the foam stops surfacing I turn the heat to medium-low, cover the pot, and let it slowly simmer for about 2 hours.

Once the soup has cooled a little I take out the chicken, skin it, and shred the meat. At this point the chicken should be relatively flavorless as hopefully all of the taste is in the broth. I like to put the chicken back in for the substance.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with using the Matzo Ball Mix for your mazto balls. While it isn’t that difficult to do it from scratch, the mix ensures the perfect texture every time. You just need one packet of mix, two eggs, and two teaspoons of oil. I also add a tablespoon of dried oregano for a little more flavor.

Mix everything in a bowl and put it in the fridge for 15 minutes to harden up a tad. While it’s in the fridge bring the soup to a light boil again. The package says to boil them separately in water, but matza balls should absorb some of the broth flavors.

Keeping your fingers wet, the mix is sticky, form balls about the size of a quarter and drop them into the boiling soup. There’s absolutely no need to make them any bigger. They do expand as they cook and if you make them too big the soup flavor won’t penetrate all the way through. I’ve never understood why some people make their balls so damn big. Maybe to compensate I guess. At any rate, that’s it. Let the balls cook for about 15 minutes and the soup is ready.

I made my wonton crisps while the soup was simmering. I used 1 package of shiitake small diced, 5 eggroll wraps cut in half diagonally, 2 cloves of garlic minced, 6 green onions sliced, and some fresh shiso leaves (the same ones our friends gave us, they are pretty damn delicious!).

I heated some oil to 375 degrees in my little Cuisinart deep fryer and fried up the skins. I let them drain on paper towels while I prepared the mushrooms.

In a heated pot I poured in 2 tablespoons of sesame oil and added the garlic. I let the garlic go for about 45 seconds and then I threw in the shiitake and green onions. I sort of stir-fried them for about 5 minutes and then poured in 1.5 tablespoons of soy sauce and a pinch of black pepper. I let the soy sauce absorb into the shiitake for about 3 minutes and then turned of the heat.

To serve, I laid the crisps down on a plate. On top of them I placed one shiso leaf. Then I spooned some shiitake mixture on top of that. That’s all she wrote, a great Jewish-Japanese dinner.

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I just got the new Saveur issue the other day and it was all about Greek cuisine. This inspired me to make my own little Greek dinner last night. Since Yuki mentioned that I haven’t made pork tenderloin in a while and it was great weather to grill I put 2 and 2 together and came up with a delicious meal.

I got a beautiful 1.3 pound tenderloin. To marinade it I mixed together 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1/4 cup of red wine, the juice from 1/2 lemon, 1 tablespoon of dried oregano, 4 garlic cloves minced and mashed into a paste, 1 bay leaf that I crumbled, and a decent amount of black pepper. I let it marinate in the fridge for about 3 hours and then at room temperature for another 2 hours. Every hour or so I flipped it around so that the marinade would penetrate evenly.

I made some spanakopita for a side. I melted 1 tablespoon of butter in a pan, sautéed 1/2 diced onion for about 6 minutes, then wilted down a 5 ounce package of baby spinach. I put that in a bowl, let it cool, then seasoned it with salt and pepper, 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg, and 4 ounces of feta cheese.

Instead of the usual triangles I decided to make them into cigars. I cut some phyllo dough into about 5.5-6 inch strips. At one end I placed some of the spinach mix. Then I folded in the edges, rolled them up, and brushed them with olive oil. I got 5 cigars out of them. So I guess you can figure about 1 ounce of spinach for each one. I put them in a 375 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes. They burst open a little while cooking, I must have rolled them a little too tight. I guess I’m used to rolling other things. If you make these, don’t make them too tight.

While the spanakopita was cooking I grilled up the tenderloin along with a zucchini that I thinly sliced. I brushed the zucchini with olive oil prior to grilling. I did it over a medium heat for about 10 minutes on each side. I don’t like cooking tenderloin all the way through like a chop, that kills the soft texture. If you have a good fresh piece of meat there should be no worry about trichinosis with a tenderloin as there isn’t much fat for the little buggers to hide in. Also, drinking alcohol helps (it helps a lot of things!). Oh, I also sprinkled some salt on both sides of the tenderloin before grilling as well. I don’t like salting marinades because that draws the moisture out of the meat. It’s best to salt just before cooking.

While the meat was grilling I boiled down the marinade to make a quick sauce. I also made some orzo with cherry tomatoes and rosemary. I simply boiled 3/4 cup of orzo in salted water according to package instructions. After draining it, I tossed it in a bowl with a handful of halved cherry tomatoes and one sprig of rosemary that was given the once-over with my knife. A little salt, pepper, and olive oil and my starch was good to go.

Last thing, I let the meat rest for 10 minutes before slicing it. That gave it time for the juice to chill out and redistribute. If meat doesn’t rest after cooking the juice will run out and your meat will go dry. No one wants dry meat. A little juice goes a long way!

PS- This came out to 3 portions instead of my usual 4. I had lunch plans today, so I didn’t need lunch for myself.

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I had an eggplant left from my shopping excursion to the HMart that I wanted to use last night. Not wanting to do my typical grilled-eggplant or stir-fry I decided to stuff it instead. Ground lamb seemed like the perfect partner.

Hollowing out an eggplant is a pretty easy thing to do. First, you have to cut it in half length-wise. Then, I took my pairing knife and cut around the edges of the eggplant about a quarter-inch from the skin, carefully making sure I didn’t pierce the skin. After that I cut a bunch of lines through the width and length.

With a small spoon (a serrated grapefruit spoon would work great, but don’t worry if you don’t have one, I don’t and I made it work with a regular spoon) carefully scoop out the flesh. Save the flesh as it’s going to be used later on. I sprinkled some salt all over the inside of the eggplant and then let them drain in a colander for about a half hour while I prepped the rest of the ingredients. This removes some of the bitter juices.

For the stuffing I diced up a green pepper, half an onion, a carrot, one tomato (I scraped out the seeds), some spinach, the eggplant flesh, three cloves of garlic, some rosemary from my back porch, a quarter cup of white wine, and 2/3’s pound of ground lamb.

I started off by sautéing the onion, green pepper, carrot, and garlic in a quarter cup of olive oil. Once the vegetables were slightly translucent, about 7 minutes, I added the eggplant flesh and let that cook down for another 7 minutes. Then I seasoned with salt and pepper and added the lamb. It took about 5 minutes or so for the lamb to be fully cooked. Once the lamb was broken down I poured in the wine, let it come to a boil, and let it simmer for another 5 minutes. Then I turned off the heat, added the rosemary, spinach, and tomato, and stirred it all together.

I wiped the salt out of the eggplant skins before stuffing them with the lamb mixture. Fill them up over the top, as much as you can before it all falls out. There will be extra stuffing, just put it in the fridge and toss it in some pasta or something for lunch the next day. I laid the stuffed eggplant halves in a lightly olive oiled baking pan and threw it in a 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes.

I had just enough time to make creamy polenta while the eggplant cooked. In a stock pot I poured in 4 cups of water, some salt, a bay leaf, and 1 cup of polenta. That’s enough for 4 portions. I brought it up to a boil over high heat. Once boiling I slowly poured in about a quarter cup of olive oil and turned the heat down to medium. I continuously stirred for about 25 minutes, until the polenta started to pull away from the sides of the pot. At that time the eggplant was done and I was ready to serve.

I poured some polenta in the middle of the plates, put an eggplant on the polenta, and topped it all with some crumbled cotija cheese. I served some white rice on the side.

Overall this dish was delicious. If I ever make it again I would make a couple of changes though. First, I’d add some spice to the lamb mixture, maybe some cumin, or turmeric, or garam masala. Second, I wouldn’t put a bay leaf in the polenta. That was the first time I used bay in polenta. It gave it kind of a medicinal taste. Yuki said it tasted like Walgreens. It wasn’t that bad, just not what I wanted. Otherwise I’d keep everything about the same.

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