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Coming Out of Hibernation

8 Jun

Hi there, all. It’s been awhile, huh?

I won’t make excuses, I’ve just been lazy, lazy, lazy. But on a slow morning at work I was browsing through some of the food blogs I follow and thought to myself: you know, maybe it’s time to get back in the saddle again. I clicked wistfully around this little ol’ blog and remembered some really fun things I had cooked and posted about. I remembered how I managed to make time both to cook and to talk about it with the few people who care what I have to say at least a few times a week, and how much I enjoyed that. I remembered being so excited to share what came in our CSA every week, and how happy I was to show how it got used. I remembered how this blog made me be creative in the kitchen, pushed me to try new things, and gave me a ready-made excuse to document which recipes we liked and didn’t, so I always just a click away from my favorites.

So I decided to start this whole thing up again. I’ve been anxiously awaiting the start of this year’s CSA, and figured now was as good a time as any to get back in the saddle again. Expect new posts coming up in the next few days!

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Beef and Barley Stew

3 Dec

Beef and Barley Stew

I woke up on Sunday morning in full on finals mode, thinking about what I needed to accomplish to call it a successful day.  I knew one thing on that agenda would be some comfort food: a) because studying makes you hungry and b) because I haven’t cooked much of interest in awhile, and wanted to spend some time in the kitchen as an incentive/reward for finishing half of each of my final papers.

This beef and barley stew was perfect for both its goal and the chilly, dreary weather of the day.  It was super easy, but the depth of flavor was amazing.  The richness of the red wine combines perfectly with the beef and contrasts with the sweetness of the carrots and onions.  The pearled barley adds a heart healthy dose of whole grains, and this is absolutely chock full of vegetables – nothing to feel guilty about, here.  There is a great combination of textures here, too – slightly toothsome barley, tender beef, carrots with just a bit of bite left in them, soft potatoes, juicy mushrooms, and creamy stock ensconcing the whole thing.  Served with a crusty bread for sopping and dunking, this is a simple but immensely flavorful stew.  If possible, the leftovers are even better.  The recipe below makes about six servings.

Beef and Barley Stew

1 1/2 lbs. boneless chuck roast or other stewing beef, cut into 2″ pieces

1 tbs. butter

1/3 cup dry vermouth

Salt and pepper

2 small yellow onions, cut into 1″ chunks

1/4 cup all purpose flour

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup cabernet sauvignon or other red wine

3 cups vegetable or beef broth

2 bay leaves

1/2 tsp. dried parsley

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1″ slices

3 stalks celery cut into 1″ slices

2-3 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes

2 cups crimini mushrooms, rinsed

1 cup pearled barley

Over medium-high heat, add butter to a Dutch oven or large heavy pot with tight fitting lid.  Add beef, working in batches if necessary, and brown about 2-3 minutes per side.  Season with salt and pepper as the beef is browning.  When nearly browned all the way through, raise heat to high for about a minute and then deglaze the pot with vermouth.  Cook until vermouth is nearly reduced, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the onions and sauté for about 5-7 minutes, until softened and just beginning to turn a light golden color.

Reduce heat to medium low.  Add the flour and cook, stirring almost continuously, for about two minutes.

Add the garlic and cook another minute until fragrant.

Add red wine and deglaze the pan, scraping any brown bits stuck to the bottom.  Simmer the wine over medium low heat for five minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add broth, bay leaves, thyme, parsley, and the beef.  Bring back to a gentle simmer, then cover and cook on very low heat for about half an hour.

Add barley and vegetables after half an hour.  Cover and simmer another hour or until meat and vegetables are tender.  Taste for seasonings, then recover, turn off heat, and let sit 5-10 minutes.

Serve with crusty bread.

Homemade Pectin

27 Sep

Okay, this is barely a recipe.  It has two ingredients and the most complicated technique required is boiling water.  But I have mentioned homemade pectin in several of my posts, because it’s what I use to make jam around here.  Previously, however, I neglected to mention how to make pectin at home, which is sort of unfair, right?

So, here you go.  Bear in mind that fresher, smaller apples and apples such as green apples and crab apples are best for homemade pectin.  I used the apples we got from our CSA, which worked fine.  Overripe apples have very little pectin in them, as I understand it, so try to use fresh apples.  You can also use just the the cores and peels if you want to use the flesh of the apples for baking or apple sauce or apple butter, but use several dozen apple cores and peels if you do so.

Furthermore, when you use the pectin to make jam or jelly, it becomes a bit more of a guessing process than using store bought pectin.  You’ll need to test your jam a few times to make sure it is set up.  It depends entirely on the strength of your pectin, which is determined by the apple type, apple freshness, length of initial boil, length of second boil, and a variety of other factors, I’m sure.  The second boil tends to be the most important.  I don’t like the pectin super concentrated, because it’s then very, very easy to use too much in your jam and have a jam or jelly that is way, way too stiff.  I like to freeze the finished pectin in one or two cup increments, because it makes it easy to fool around with the amount required to get my jam set up the way I want it.

The good news is that the process is incredibly easy, incredibly inexpensive, and incredibly hard to screw up.  All it requires is boiling.  And when it comes time for jam making, it’s very easy to just add more pectin, if it’s not as strong as you initially thought.

Homemade Pectin

2 dozen apples, scrubbed clean and quartered

Water

Add apples to a large stock pot.  Cover with just enough water for the apples to float.  Bring to a rolling boil over high heat.

Reduce heat to maintain a gentle boil.  Boil gently, covered, for 2-3 hours or until apples are soft, mushy, and beginning to disintegrate.

Line a colander, placed over a medium stock pot, with a fine mesh sieve.  Pour the apples through the colander.  Cover with a stock pot lid.  Let drain several hours, or overnight.

Discard the solids.  Place the drained pectin over medium heat on the stove and boil until reduced by about half.  Let cool.  Transfer to 1 cup Tupperware containers and freeze, or can as desired.

Kelseyincleveland’s Second Blog-o-versary

15 Jul

About two years ago, I decided to start actually writing down the recipes I used, take pictures of the food I cooked, and write down a few words about what worked and what didn’t in the dishes that I made.  In doing so, I’ve improved a lot as a cook and tried a lot of things I might not have otherwise tried.  The past year, I’ve been busier than I ever have been in my life and am pretty darn proud over the amount I’ve still been able to post on here.  Overall, I’ve relied less on the recipes of others and learned to use them as inspiration while incorporating my own perspective.

Since a huge reason for me starting this blog was to try recipes that we liked and might want to try again in the future, I thought I would compile a list of the posts the readers have viewed most over the past year, a list of my favorite recipes from the last year, and a list of Zak’s favorite recipes over the last year.  Since some of the reader favorites from last year have held over until this year, and I think it’s high time to update a few of them given my (slightly) increased skill and knowledge in the kitchen – especially, for example, the almond crusted chicken tenders and sweet potato tater tots.

The lessons I learned, at least about our likes and dislikes, is that Zak and I both really like fish.  We both really like vegetables.  Simpler is often better (but not always).  The grill yields results we both tend to like.  Pesto is always welcome.  A lot of the things we each enjoyed came from ingredients we got through the CSA and might not have otherwise purchased – at least in tandem.

And even though my posting frequency has decreased slightly, I still really, really enjoy blogging and sharing with you all.

Kelseyincleveland’s Second Blog-o-versary

Most Popular Posts this Past Year:

10.  Chipotle and Dr. Pepper Shredded Pork with Roasted Jalapeno Polenta

9.  Stuffed Hungarian Hot Peppers with Tomato Sauce

8.  Lemon Mashed Great Northern Bean Enchiladas with Homemade Tortillas

7.  Savory Baked Oatmeal and Egg

6.  Mujaddara with Spiced Yogurt

5.  Sauteed Baby Bok Choy with Romesco Sauce

4.  Almond Crusted Chicken Tenders with Sweet Potato Tater Tots and Hot Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce

3.  Ricotta Dill Mac and Cheese

2.  Lemon-Garlic Sardine Pasta with Parmesan-Roasted Broccoli

 

1.  Vegetarian Stuffed Poblano Peppers

My Favorites:

Whole Grilled Lemon-Parsley Barramundi

This whole grilled barramundi was my introduction to cooking with whole fish.  It turned out so well that I’ve cooked with whole fish at least a dozen times since then.  I still think this was my favorite, though – simply prepared with salty, crispy skin and succulent, moist flesh.  I don’t know that we’ve ever absolutely inhaled a dish so quickly and thoroughly.

Breaded Pan-Fried Cod with Roasted Vegetable Israeli Couscous Salad

Crispy pan fried cod encased in tomato-infused bread crumbs, moist on the inside and deliciously crunchy on the outside?  Check.  Couscous with roasted vegetables, cooked in rich homemade chicken stock and tossed with a light balsamic dressing?  Check.  Complete and utter deliciousness that makes for tasty leftovers?  Check.  One of the top ten best dishes I cooked all year?  Definitely check.

Pickle and Beer Brined Oven Braised Chicken Thighs with Crispy Roasted Green Beans

It’s hard to choose which element of this dish – the moist and succulent pickle and beer brined chicken thighs or the crispy roasted green beans – is better.  So I won’t.  They’re both great.  These green beans are a staple on our dinner table after this dish, made with the same method and any variety of seasons.  The chicken was moist and delicious, and it’s an excellent way to use up leftover pickle juice.

Gnocchi and Kale with Browned Butter and Butternut Squash Sauce

This dish hits every single flavor point that I could ever dream of in a pasta dish.  The rich, nutty browned butter, sweet caramelized butternut squash, slightly bitter sautéed kale worked together so, so well.  It’s rare that I use much butter or any cream or half and half in a dish due to the health factor, but this was definitely worth it.

Cheesy Scallion Scones

As we all know, I am not much of a baker.  But these cheesy scallion scones are flakey, cheesy, oniony and beyond delicious.  So much so that I’ve made several variations of them.  I love them as a snack with a slight smear of butter, for breakfast to sop up a rich, creamy egg yolk, and served alongside a bowl of soup with a light smear of goat cheese.  Every time I think about them, all I can think about for the next few hours is “Why the eff aren’t those on the kitchen counter right now?!”  Until I make them.

Ginger-Soy Steamed Whole Black Bass with Red Cabbage Coleslaw

Once I got up the gumption to try cooking with whole fish, I could not get enough of it.  The perfectly moist, silky smooth texture of this bass, infused with the slight flavors of ginger and soy showed me that steaming a whole fish went firmly into the column of yes’s when it comes to fish cooking methods.  Contrasted with the brightly colored and flavored red cabbage coleslaw, this made for a light and flavorful meal that I still can’t get out of my mind.

Radish Top Pesto

One of the best things about belonging to a CSA is the fact that it provides both access to and motivation for using ingredients (or parts of ingredients) that you might otherwise a) not see in a grocery store or b) simply add to the compost heap.  This radish top pesto is proof positive that sometimes the least appreciated part of an ingredient (the radish tops) make an inexpensive and delicious dish.  Here, the gorgeous pesto produced from some radish tops keeps me looking forward to getting radishes in the CSA – and not for what most people would consider the “important” part.

Savory Salmon with Vanilla-Balsamic Marinade

What surprised and delighted me most about this dish was discovering how beautifully the combination of vanilla and balsamic worked in a savory application.  The slightly sweet, slightly acidic marinade worked perfectly with the salmon and this dish is a great reminder to branch out and try something new from time to time, because you might be pleasantly surprised.

Wild Rice and Roasted Vegetables with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

This simple and hearty lacto-ovo- vegetarian dish was a really great way to clean out the vegetable drawer, and would work with any number of vegetables or types of rice.  What really worked, though, was the combination of roasted red pepper and garam marsala.

Grilled Meatball Sandwich with Roasted Tomatillo Parsley Sauce

 

The real take away lesson with this dish is that grilling meatballs is a fabulous idea – it adds a complex and rich smokiness that would improve nearly any dish.  Here, it worked particularly well, pairing nicely with the bright and fresh tomatillo and parsley salsa to create a satisfyingly simple meatball sandwich.

Zak’s Favorites:

Mushroom and Barley Risotto

My only complaint for this dish was there needed to be 10 times more of it. I was actually sad when I finished, it was heartbreaking. The barley had an amazing umami flavor that actually made the mushrooms taste like authentic meat. Now that I’ve stopped eating meat, I’m always amazed when I eat something that reminds me of it. Although I have no intention of stopping my current pescartarian streak (7 months now) I do appreciate when something can mimic the flavor and texture of a delicate steak. This dish nailed it.

Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Pickled Red Onions

I wasn’t sure if I ever tried seafood in tacos before, with the obvious exception of fish tacos. Luckily, my introduction to shrimp tacos was a monumental first impression. The shrimp were cooked perfectly for me and retained an amazing amount of flavor against the red onions. Usually, I would be more inclined to eat shrimp in a simpler fashion over rice, without a lot of hoopla. I was surprised to find that the shrimp in this dish broke through the clutter, despite the strong flavors of the other ingredients.

Creamy Cannellini Beans and Tomatoes with Dill and Mustard

Another example of simplicity that transcends expectations creates an unusually delicious meal. The ingredients for this dish probably cost less than $5 but it creates a decadent meal that would fit in as a fancy side dish or appetizer in many fancy restaurants. I’m fine with this as a main course, however, because it does manage to bring many great things to the table and is very filling to boot.

Roasted Tomato Pasta

Simple and elegant. Filling and delicious. Healthy and addictive. I can probably come up with a few more adjective combos, but you get the point. Among all the starches, pasta is my favorite because of the way it can absorb complex flavors OR be enjoyed with just salt, pepper and oil. Case in point is this dish here. Nothing could be more simple (or cliche) than pasta and tomatoes, but that combo doesn’t always yield outstanding results. In this case, everything came together perfectly to prove the “less is more” axiom and turn an old staple into a unique delicacy.

Herb and Onion Roasted Whole Red Snapper with Lemon Risotto

The concept of a whole fish may turn people off because of the aesthetic. If you’re one of those people, you should try this. While I love a good fish filet as much as the next person, the whole fish lends more taste to the final dish. Not to mention, the process is much easier than you may think. It doesn’t take any special knife skills or knowledge of aquatic biology to properly cook a whole fish. If you’re new to the process, pick out a lesser expensive whole fish (of which there are plenty) and do an experiment to see for yourself. Use this recipe as a guide and you’ll be fine.

Oven-Roasted Golden Trout with Golden Beats in a Chive-Chevre Sauce over Simple Polenta

Where do I begin? There’s nothing about this dish that wasn’t 100% perfect. The fish is so light and delicate, it almost drowns out in the background among the tertiary elements. I’m not bothered by that because the beets complimented the fish in a way I’m unable to articulate. I’m not a big fan of sweetness in a dinner course, so I was skeptical of the beets’ sugary presence. Stupid me, it ended being the apex of cookery.

Parmesan and Olive Oil Spaghetti Squash with Roasted Garlic

Another example of “whodathunkit??!!” with this dish. Immediately after this meal, I knew it would make it onto my best top ten list no matter what. It has all the positive elements I strive for in my diet: flavor, nutrition, freshness, lack of meat, etc… I would have entered my obsessive mode of “let’s do this every week” but my memory failed me, and probably for the best, because I would have been annoying about asking for it. Never get sick of this one, it’s killer.

Polenta Stuffed Green Peppers

Stuffed peppers, admittedly, isn’t really my bag. I’m not much into green peppers (yellow and red are more acceptable) but this dish got everything right. The peppers provided the perfect vessel for the creamy polenta. The contrast between the soft polenta and crisp peppers gave an excellent balance and lent itself to making each bite special.

Basil and Parsley Pesto

I didn’t realize the amount of pesto combinations that could potentially be made. This particular combination could rival the most expensive (read overpriced) pesto in any fine Italian restaurant (do not read Olive Garden). Instead of being clumpy or dense like most store-bought versions, this pesto covered the gnocchi more like a traditional marinara sauce. It had an authentic taste that made me believe it could be canned and sold in stores…let’s just keep it un-clumpy.

Vacation!

22 Jul

Vacation!

Zak, Roo Bear and I are off to beautiful Higgins Lake, Michigan to have a relaxing long weekend at our family cabin.  We’ll be returning Monday night, so I’ll be back to posting regularly by Tuesday.  Enjoy your weekend!

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