Kitchen Basics – Beef or Chicken Stock

Stock post photo

One of the most important things I learned in culinary school was the difference in the quality of my cooking when I made my own stock rather than buying cartons of it at the grocery store. Because stock is made with bones that contain gelatin, real stock thickens when it’s reduced making for a wonderful sauce or soup, unlike supermarket boxes that remain watery no matter how long you simmer them.

School Notes

The bones you use for your stock can be any kind really, but you will get the best results from bones that have a lot of connective tissue. I like to use chicken necks and wings for chicken stock. Sometimes I will even throw in a package of chicken feet. I have, however, made plenty of great stock from a few leftover chicken or turkey carcasses I’ve stored in the freezer. For beef stock, I use oxtails. It’s worth seeking them out for the gelatinous results they produce. If you can’t find them a trip to a butcher for any kind of beef bones they have on hand will also work. The picture below shows 10 pounds of oxtail ready for roasting.

Raw Bones

I make and use a lot of stock, especially chicken. So I keep a plastic box in my freezer in the kitchen for vegetable scraps. Celery going limp? Into the stock box. Mushroom stems? Ditto. The left over green parts from trimming leeks? Into the box they go. You could also use those two leftover scallions or that parsley or thyme that have been in the fridge a week too long. Those turnips you were going to turn into a gratin, but never got around to it. Sound familiar? Just don’t use broccoli or peppers. The flavor is too strong. And celery leaves will make the stock bitter. Of course my method will make your stock taste slightly different each time you make it, so if you are a stickler for absolute consistency, you might not want to do this. If you decide to, you will need to adjust the amount of vegetables you add to your stock accordingly.

I make this stock with these ingredients in a 16-quart stainless steel stockpot. After I make it, I place it in various sized plastic containers and store it in the freezer. If you don’t have a stockpot this large or don’t want to make this much stock, this recipe can be scaled for any amount of bones you want to use. You could even just use a chicken carcass from a roast chicken. Just adjust the ingredient amounts accordingly. Some people prefer to store their stock in plastic bags. I would have a disaster on my hands if I attempted to pour stock into plastic bags, but it does save space in the freezer.

1 Jar

Beef or Chicken Stock

Yield: 5.5-6 quarts

The technique for making any type of stock is pretty much the same so I am combining both beef and chicken here. Differences between the two are noted, but basically the differences are that I roast the beef bones and use tomato. When I make chicken stock I do not roast the chicken bones. You can certainly do so. The results will be a darker more robust stock. Chicken stock also cooks for less time – 4 hours versus 6 hours.

10 pounds beef or chicken bones

3 pounds onions, peeled and cut into chunks

2 pounds carrots, cut into chunks

1 pound of celery, cut into chunks

3 bay leaves

3 garlic cloves, peeled

3 sprigs thyme

1 teaspoon peppercorns

1 handful fresh parsley

2-3 tomatoes, cut into chunks (beef stock only)

To roast the beef (or chicken if you desire) bones, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a large roasting pan and place the bones in it in one layer. Roast the bones for 1 hour. Place the bones in your stockpot. Add just enough water to cover the bottom of the roasting pan and use a spatula to scrape up as much of the fond (brown bits) off the bottom of the pan as you can. Pour the water with the fond into the stockpot with the bones.

Add enough cold water to the stockpot to cover the chicken or beef bones but still leave room for the vegetables. Bring the bones and water to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat to a simmer. You want the liquid to be barely bubbling. Use a slotted spoon to skim the scum off the surface as it bubbles up.

When the liquid is fairly clear of scum add the remaining ingredients to the pan, but do not stir them in. They just go in a big pile on top of the bones and water.

Raw Stock

Keep the stock at a simmer for 4 hours for chicken stock and 6 hours for beef stock. Do not stir the stock, or it could become cloudy. Do not boil the stock for the same reason. You don’t need to watch it constantly, but check on it periodically to make sure it’s still simmering or has not become too hot. I find I am adjusting the temperature slightly throughout the cooking process.

Cooked Stock

When the stock is done strain it through a fine strainer into a very large bowl. Skim the fat off the stock. Or, you can do as I do and refrigerate the stock overnight and just scoop the fat off the next day. Your stock is now ready to use or freeze in containers of your choice.

 

Ribollita Soup

Ribollita 1

The days are getting longer, and after the blizzard of 2016, I think we are all ready for Spring. As I was returning from walking the dogs earlier today, I saw a first sign.

Flower

I’m so glad I planted these teardrops last fall. How nice to see a Spring flower − a sign of things to come − when the sky is dark and the trees are bare. We’re not there yet, however. There is still plenty of time to enjoy a few more pots of soup.

Ribollita 2

We eat a lot of soup, especially in winter. So, I’m always looking for something new to try. Years ago my husband and I attended an Italian cooking class where one of the featured dishes was Ribollita. To be honest I wasn’t that enamored with it. It seemed to contain some broth, some over-cooked vegetables, and a chunk of some kind of meat that, after stewing for hours, tasted like it had seen better days. Not a good start for my future with Ribollita, until I discovered a recipe in Bon Appetit magazine that featured Italian sausage. I had to try it out, and I’m so glad I did.

Ribollita 3

Ribollita means reboiled in Italian. This soup, from Tuscany, is traditionally made the day before it is to be served. I don’t know what sort of magic happens while this soup is sitting in the fridge overnight, but the difference in taste the next day is amazing. It’s definitely okay to eat it the day you make it, but you’ll be missing out if you don’t save some for the next day.

Ribollita 4

Ribollita is usually made with bread. I decided to skip the bread for a lower carb version. If you want a heartier soup, prepare some slices of Italian bread by toasting them and brushing them with olive oil. Place the toasts in each serving bowl and pour the soup over the top of them.

Ribollita 5

Ribollita

6 Servings

This soup is on the spicy side. Vary the amount of heat by cutting the amount of crushed red pepper flakes in half or eliminating them all together. Or, if you really like to spice it up double the amount of pepper flakes or use hot Italian sausage in place of mild.

1 pound mild Italian sausage, casings removed

1 cup dry red wine

1 medium onion, finely chopped

3 carrots, peeled and finely chopped

2 celery stalks, finely chopped

2 anchovy filets, packed in oil, drained and finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 bunch Lacinato kale, ribs removed and leaves torn into 2-inch pieces

1 15-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped

1 15-ounce can cannellini (white kidney) beans, rinsed

8 cups beef stock or broth

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

4 ounces parmesan or grana padano, shaved

Use your hands to crumble the sausage in a bowl and then thoroughly mix it with the wine to create a paste. Cook the mixture in a large sauce pan or dutch oven over medium heat until the sausage is cooked through, about 4 minutes.

Add the onion, carrots, celery, anchovies, and red pepper flakes to the pan. Continue to cook until the vegetables are tender, but still retain their shape, about 20 minutes.

Add kale, tomatoes, beans, and broth and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and continue to cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. The kale should offer no resistance when bitten into.

Stir in the vinegar. When ready to serve, place soup in bowls and top generously with cheese shavings.

Adapted from Bon Appetit magazine, February 2015

 

Kitchen Basics – Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

Vinaigrette 1

It’s almost the end of January. How is everyone doing on those resolutions? I actually decided to do something different this year and just not make any. Bring on the cookies! Actually, I decided that rather than set specific goals, I would just try to live each day in as healthy a manner as possible. I know… all those diet gurus with their intentions and affirmations would totally disagree, and I’m sure writing down goals works for some, just not for me. And, you know, my definition of “healthy” differs from day-to-day depending on what is going on in my life. Lately it’s been a lot of intense, all-day snow shoveling resulting in ravenous hunger. In that case I think it’s okay for a treat or two. Other days, rather than tackling that plank workout, some restorative yoga may be a better choice.

One thing we don’t neglect, however, is our commitment to what we consider a healthy diet. For us that means pretty much no processed food, as much as possible prepared from scratch, and a LOT of vegetables. I’m here to tell you that’s not easy sometimes, especially after a long day at work. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and there are days that I just can’t face it. I cook extra so there is always something in the freezer, but sometimes even that is not enough. That’s when we say “oh well,” and pull out the Chinese take out menu or order wings or pizza. The tomatoes in the pizza sauce count as a vegetable, right?

Vinaigrette 2

Actually, I’m okay with ordering out on occasion, especially if I’ve had my usual huge salad for lunch. One thing that is super easy to make and keep on hand and takes your salad to a whole new level is homemade salad dressing. I use bottled dressing too, but much prefer to make my own, when I remember to do so. I usually have a vinaigrette of some type in the fridge as well as a creamy mayonnaise and buttermilk based one.

I’ve decided to start doing a section on Jeannine’s Cuisine called Kitchen Basics. These will be recipes that everyone should have in their hip pocket. These are foods that are the building blocks of how I cook. Vinaigrette seemed like the ideal choice for the first one.

The proper ratio for a vinaigrette is three parts oil to one part acid. For one cup that means 3/4 cup of oil to 1/4 cup of vinegar, lemon juice, etc. I have seen countless salad dressing recipes that call for half oil and half acid. In some cases, when someone is trying to produce a low fat salad dressing, the ratio is even switched – pucker up! Just don’t go there. I almost always add a teaspoon of Dijon mustard for flavor and to help with emulsifying, and then I add herbs and other extra flavors. For this recipe I decided to go with strictly dried herbs. That might have something to do with the fact that my fresh herb garden is currently buried under about 3 feet of snow, but I also wanted to see how it would taste. I was pleasantly surprised, and I think you will be too.

Vinaigrette 3

Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

1 to 1 1/2 Cups Dressing

The amount of dressing will depend on if you use dried or fresh herbs, or even a combination. I generally allow one teaspoon of dried herbs for a tablespoon of freshly chopped herbs. The red pepper flakes add a bit of a bite and some nice color to this dressing. Feel free to decrease the amount or leave them out.

3/4 cup olive oil

Juice from 1 lemon (approx. 2 tablespoons)

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or 4 teaspoons dried

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or 2 teaspoons dried

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried

1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon salt

freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a 1 1/2-2 cup mason jar and screw on the lid tightly. Shake the jar vigorously to blend the ingredients. If using dried herbs allow the dressing to sit for 15 minutes and shake again.

Note: You will have to shake the dressing to blend it each time you want to use it. Alternatively you can place the acids and the mustard in a bowl and whisk in the olive oil a bit at a time before adding the remaining ingredients. This will better emulsify the dressing and prevent it from separating as quickly; however, it does take more time.

Adapted from The Homemade Pantry:  101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making by Alana Chernila

 

Indian Shortbread Cookies

Saffron Cookies 1

Merry Christmas friends, family, and blog followers. It’s been a busy season. We have a new addition to our menagerie, a Jack Russell we named Ginger, so we’ve been pretty busy getting her adjusted to life with us.

Ginger

I cannot believe Christmas has come and gone. It seems like I just put the decorations up, and now it’s almost time to put them away again. I love this time of year; it just seems so magical to me — the lights, the carols, the cookies, the cookies… Speaking of which, let’s bake some. It’s never too late for more Christmas cookies. The season isn’t over yet, and January, with its resolutions and diets and good intentions, will be here soon enough.

Saffron Cookies 4

About a week ago I prepared a pretty substantial Indian meal — pakhoras, samosas, curry, basmati rice, eggplant, and the chutneys and pickles to go with it. I was cooking for guests and I wanted to prepare a dessert, but what would go with Indian food?

Saffron Cookies 2

I subscribe to “The Local Palate” magazine, a cooking periodical that covers the food scene in the South. Through the magazine’s website I discovered a chef named Maneet Chauhan, executive chef of Chauhan Ale & Masala House in Nashville, Tennessee, and a judge on Food Network’s “Chopped.” Hmm, I just might have to make a trip to Nashville someday.

Saffron Cookies 3

The magazine posted a link to a recipe for Indian Shortbread Cookies. They sounded amazing and different and they were. I served these with ice cream flavored with ginger and cardamom and it was a wonderful dessert that complemented the Indian meal beautifully.

Don’t think you have to serve these cookies with an Indian meal. They can easily stand alone or make a great addition to a platter or basket of a variety of cookies. They are also great with a cup of tea or Chai on a rainy afternoon. For some reason they disappear quite quickly — at least they did in our house — so you might want to make a double batch.

Saffron Cookies recipe

Indian Shortbread Cookies

Approximately 24

You can use clarified butter or even regular butter for this recipe but the results will not be the same. What really makes these cookies is the nutty ghee flavor. The dough for these cookies is very crumbly, but it will come together into small balls with a little work. It’s best to use your hands for this rather than a spoon or other tool. I rolled the dough into balls slightly smaller than a golf ball, about an inch and a half in diameter.

1 teaspoon milk

1/4 teaspoon saffron strands

1 cup semolina flour

1 cup all purpose flour

4 1/2 ounces (9 tablespoons) ghee or clarified butter

1 cup powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon powdered cardamom

1/4 teaspoon powdered nutmeg (grated fresh if possible)

1 teaspoon yogurt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Warm the milk, add the saffron to it to dissolve and set aside.

Place the semolina and AP flour in a bowl and whisk to sift. Cream the ghee and sugar using a mixer. You will know when it’s ready when it loses its graininess and becomes the consistency of smooth peanut butter. Add the cardamom and nutmeg to the mixer bowl and mix in, then add the yogurt and baking soda and mix again. Add the flour mixture to the ghee mixture a little at a time.

Remove the dough from the mixer bowl and knead by hand to combine. Roll the dough into balls and place them on a parchment or silicone-lined baking sheet. Bake for 35-40 minutes.

Adapted from The Local Palate

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arugula Salad with Persimmon and Stilton

Persimmon Salad 1

Can you believe Thanksgiving is here already? I shudder to think of how little time remains before Christmas. I tend to get so overwhelmed with stuff to do I end up not doing anything. Or, I jump from task to task and never finish anything. Not a great way to get things done. So, I’m trying the “three big rocks” method of time management…pick three things and don’t do anything else until you get those three things done. It sounds great on paper, doesn’t it?

Persimmons top down 1

The problem is, although I can stay laser focused at work, at home I am easily distracted. And there are a lot of distractions – the dog, the cats, a stack of cooking magazines to go through, cook books to rearrange, a birthday present for my husband to buy…

Salad closeup 2

This is the time of year that I really want to take the time to enjoy. I want to sit in front of that fire and read a book, or get outside and enjoy the fall crispness in the air. Experiment with some ingredients I don’t always cook with.

persimmons 2

Persimmons are one of those beautiful fall fruits that I’m always telling myself I should play around with, but never seem to get around to. I’m not a fan of eating them by themselves, but when I saw this recipe I had to try it. I had a bag of Meyer lemons in the fridge and loved the idea of a side salad that was more than our usual Romaine lettuce and vinaigrette.

persimmon salad 3

For those of you still looking to add one more side dish to the Thanksgiving table, this salad is it. Healthy, but definitely not boring – slightly bitter greens are paired with sweet persimmons, zinged with some Meyer lemon, and finally given a note of decadence with some creamy Stilton cheese. The variety of flavors in this salad will go with any fall meal. And it’s incredibly easy and fast to make. That’s a win win for the busy holiday season.

persimmon salad recipe 4

Arugula Salad with Persimmons and Stilton

Serves 4

If you can’t find Meyer lemons, regular lemons will work just fine. Meyer lemons are sweeter, so if you use regular lemons add an additional half a tablespoon or so of honey to the dressing. This salad is best served right after making it. But if you want to prepare it ahead, make the dressing separately and dress the salad right before serving.

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 Meyer lemon finely diced with peel

2 teaspoons Meyer lemon juice (from 1 Meyer lemon)

1 1/2 cups thinly sliced radicchio (1 large head or 2 small)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

2 quarts baby arugula

2 ripe Fuyu persimmons, top removed, halved and sliced into half-rounds

1/2 cup crumbled Stilton or other blue cheese (2 ounces)

Whisk the olive oil, diced lemon, honey, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a large bowl you intend to serve the salad in.

Add the radicchio, arugula, and persimmons and toss with the dressing.

Divide the salad among four plates and top with the Stilton.

Adapted from Sunset Magazine, November 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chicken Cacciatore

chicken first

You know that saying, “You don’t appreciate what you have until you almost lose it?” This time last week I thought I had completely lost my blog. Life was spinning out of control with busyness, and I neglected to renew the domain on WordPress. Then one day, about two weeks after it had expired, I tried to access my site and couldn’t. To say I had a meltdown is an understatement. But then reality inserted itself into my teeth gnashing and moaning and groaning (okay, I tend to exaggerate a little). Stop, hold the presses, I didn’t lose a family member. All the pets are okay. Jeannine, you’re getting this upset over a website?

chicken mug

I calmed down, contacted the support people at WordPress, who were extremely helpful, and as you can see, Jeannine’s Cuisine is up and running again, this time with automatic renewals scheduled. And, as a result, I did some serious thinking about what this blog means to me and why.

chicken beer

It’s been a while since I’ve done a post. It was an extremely busy summer and moving into fall it wasn’t much better. I actually considered putting the blog on hold until I retired. But I think everyone needs a creative outlet of some sort and this little blog, that I only manage to post to once in a while, is mine. It’s not a business, and may never become one, although it was, and perhaps still is, my goal. I’ll cross that bridge when the time comes. However, it is a way to express myself and share what I love with friends and family. Yes, I did get upset, because each time I do a post I’m creating something that is essentially me- my thoughts, my cooking, my photography. And I get to share it with others. How cool is that?

Enough philosophizing. Let’s move on to the food, shall we? Aren’t you glad autumn is finally here? I know some people love summer and dread the coming of winter. But I’m one of those that needs summer so I can enjoy the transition to fall. Today’s recipe is perfect for today’s damp cloudy weather.

Vegetables

Cacciatore means “hunter” in Italian. This dish is a stewy chicken dish with onion, mushrooms, herbs, tomatoes, and bell pepper. Serve it with a side of pasta or some bread to soak up the sauce if that’s your thing, or if you are watching your carbs, it’s just as good by itself.

top down recipe

Slow Cooker (or not) Chicken Cacciatore

Serves 4-6

No slow cooker? No problem. Just make the recipe in a Dutch oven, bring to a boil and simmer for about an hour. This dish is great for using up end of summer tomatoes, but if you don’t have any or can’t get decent ones, just substitute a 28-ounce can of whole tomatoes, chopped. To peel and seed the tomatoes, drop them in boiling water for 1 minutes. The peel will come right off. Cut in half horizonally and squeeze the seeds out.

3 tablespoons butter or other fat of choice, divided

2 pounds chicken thighs

1 onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

1/2 pound mushrooms, stems discarded, sliced

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

8 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 tablespoon each of finely chopped basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme and marjoram (or use 1/2 teaspoon dried)

Season the chicken very well with salt and pepper.  Do not fear the salt.

Raw Chicken

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large sauté pan. Brown the chicken in the pan, in batches as necessary, about 5 minutes. The chicken should be golden brown. Transfer chicken pieces to slow cooker as you go.

Chicken

If you are cooking this dish on the stove, remove the chicken until you cook the vegetables, then add it back to the pot with the tomatoes.

Melt the remaining butter in the pan and sauté the onion, pepper, celery and mushrooms until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 3 minutes more. Pour the vegetable mixture over the chicken in the slow cooker.

Add the tomatoes, paprika, herbs, and a little more salt and pepper to the slow cooker. Cook on low for 6 hours. Taste for seasoning and serve.

Adapted from The Paleo Slow Cooker by Arsy Vartanian and Chris Kresser

Summer’s Final Days – Caponata

Caponata Bowl 1

I hope everyone has enjoyed this summer. We have been particularly busy this year but have still had time to enjoy all the wonderful produce that is at the markets this time of year. It will be gone before we know it.

Caponata Veg 1

We’ve been doing quite a bit of traveling, culminating in a 2-week trip to Washington and Montana. This is the one time of the year that I put work and the frantic pace of daily life in Virginia behind me. NO TRAFFIC – Ahhh! There is a reason they call Montana “Big Sky.”

Montana

My first experience with caponata was years ago, when a colleague who was living in Rome at the time asked if I would send some coffee to him from Bogota, Colombia, where I was living. I agreed if he would send me a box of Italian pantry items in return. He did not disappoint; what a haul! Years later, I’ve never forgotten it. One of the items in the box was a can of caponata. Even the Italian canned version was delicious and I resolved to make a fresh version at home.

Caponata toast 1

I’ve tried many versions of caponata over the years, but this one surpassed all the others. Maybe it’s the capers. My husband is always giving me a hard time about my extreme love of capers. Honestly, I could eat them on almost anything – well, maybe not ice cream…hmmm.

Caponata Bowl 2

Caponata is a sweet and sour cooked vegetable dish that originated in Sicily as a side for fish dishes. It was originally made with eggplant and celery, but today there are numerous versions that can contain everything from pine nuts to octopus.

Caponata Veg 2

Caponata is a wonderful way to use up some of that extra summer produce from the garden or the farmers market. It can be used in a variety of ways – as a side with virtually any meat, or as part of an antipasto platter. I’ve even seen it whirred in a blender with olive oil and vinegar and made into salad dressing. However, my favorite way to enjoy it is for lunch as a topping on crusty bread with a nice schmear of fresh ricotta or goat cheese.

Caponata toast 2

Eggplant Caponata

6 Cups

Caponata can be prepared up to 3 days in advance. Serve warm or at room temperature. Feel free to substitute zucchini for the summer squash or even use one of each. Serve as a side dish, as a dip for pita crisps or crackers or on bread with ricotta or goat cheese.

1 eggplant, about 14 ounces, trimmed and sliced crosswise, 1/2 inch thick

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 teaspoons salt, divided

2 yellow summer squash

5 white mushrooms, chopped

1/2 red onion, chopped

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons red wine

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 large tomato, cut into 1/4-inch dice

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

3 ounces tomato sauce

1 roasted red pepper, chopped, or 1 4-ounce can chopped pimento

1 tablespoon drained capers

6 pitted Kalamata olives, chopped

2 tablespoons minced fresh basil

1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the eggplant slices on an oiled sheet pan and brush with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Season with 1 teaspoon of the salt. Bake until tender, about 25 minutes. Cool slightly then chop and set aside.

Slice the summer squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Chop into 1/2-inch dice and set aside.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large wide saucepan or dutch oven over medium high heat until the surface is shimmering and you can smell the oil, 1-2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, onions and chopped squash to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to brown, 4-5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook 1 minute.

Stir in the red wine and vinegar. Add the tomato, red pepper flakes, black pepper, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, until the tomato softens, 3-4 minutes.

Stir in the tomato sauce, roasted red pepper, capers, olives, basil, parsley, and the chopped eggplant. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until thickened, about 3 minutes.

Adapted from Pacific Northwest the Beautiful by Kathy Casey

Greece on My Mind — Fish with Ouzo

Ouzo Fish 1

During my military career I had a wonderful opportunity to live in Athens, Greece, for 3 years.  I remember Athens as a big city with lots of traffic and lots of angry drivers.  But I didn’t care.  It was Greece! 

santorini 2 

Greece has been in the news quite a bit lately and it hasn’t exactly been portrayed in a positive light; however, during my time there, I made friends who are still special to me to this day.  I experienced a culture unlike any I had ever encountered.  But, most important, I discovered a cuisine that has pretty much driven the way I cook and eat since that time.  When people ask me what my “specialty” is, I usually reply: I don’t really have one, but I cook Mediterranean food more often than not. 

Ouzo Fish 2

I love Greece and Greek food.  Even when living there and eating it almost everyday, I never tired of it.  And as for that terrible traffic?  I learned to drive and shout at the other drivers just like the locals.  Besides, where else can you eat “small fishes fried” (smelts) washed down with an ice-cold Mythos beer while gazing upon the blue ocean and equally blue sky?

santorini 1 

Years later I became friends with a man who was encountering some personal difficulties.  I advised him to think about what he wanted to be doing 5 years later and use that goal to formulate his decision. A couple of weeks later he told me he had decided what he wanted to be doing 5 years down the road.  When I asked what that was, he told me he wanted to be discovering Greece with me.  Say what?    

Ouzo Fish 3

I wasn’t exactly looking for a mate at the time — I’d just returned to the U.S. after a long period overseas, had just bought a house…excuses, excuses.  Well, he did something right, because in November we will have been married 13 years.  And yes, we did go to Greece together.

Nafplion

Today’s recipe reminds me of everything that I love about Greek food, but it’s not as heavy as some of the typical dishes can be.  It’s wonderful for summer and is ideal for a weeknight meal, as it’s a snap to make.  This dish can be served over rice or with some hearty bread to soak up the delicious sauce. 

Ouzo Fish 4 Fish with Ouzo

4–6 servings

I used halibut for this dish, but any white fish filet will work, such as cod, tilapia, or even catfish.  Ouzo is an anise-flavored Greek liqueur that is usually diluted with water until cloudy and served as an aperitif with a bowl of olives.  It really is the ingredient that sets this dish apart.

1/3 cup olive oil

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 onion, diced

2 bay leaves

1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, not drained

8 ounces mushrooms, sliced

1 red bell pepper, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup water

2 pounds halibut filets or other white fish

juice of 1/2 lemon

1 bunch dill, chopped

1 tablespoon Ouzo

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and sauté the garlic until fragrant, but not brown. Add the onion and sauté for 3-4 minutes, then add the bay leaves.  Add the tomatoes, mushrooms and bell pepper, and season with salt and pepper.  Add the water and simmer for two minutes.

Season the fish with salt and pepper and place on top of the simmering vegetable mixture, nestling the filets down into the sauce.  Simmer for 4 minutes.

Add the lemon juice, dill and ouzo to the pan and simmer an additional 2 minutes.  The fish should flake easily with a fork.  Taste the sauce for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

Inspired by Culina Mediterranea by Daniel Rouche

santorini 3    

A Summer Salad – Coleslaw with Pineapple and Jalapeño

Coleslaw !

Now that Memorial Day is a couple of weeks behind us, it’s “officially” summer, even if the solstice is still 2 weeks away. I know this because I just popped the first bright yellow cherry tomato off one of the tomato plants and ate it right there in the garden with the sun beating down. Mmmmm! I love taking a bowl of them to work to have with my lunch. Such a nice change from our usual green salad.

Eating that cherry tomato is actually how I discovered that I accidentally bought two cherry tomato plants rather than a cherry and a big tomato plant, as I had intended. Ooops! That’s okay. It was an excuse to go buy another tomato plant and a few corn plants as well. Now I have an even bigger “farm” than I did before and, more important, even more tomatoes this summer.

Coleslaw 2

So I go a little nuts with the summer veggies. My next-door neighbor saw me as I was carrying the box of plants to the garden and exclaimed…”more plants, Jeannine? Is that CORN? Big corn or little corn?” Truth be told, I didn’t know there was a difference. I guess I’ll find out. And I’m still laughing about the incredulous look on his face. Hmmm, I guess it’s like the cookbook thing. I may have a veggie problem.

This salad is ideal for the warm, humid days of summer. Other than a few items during the holidays, I don’t have a lot of go-to recipes that I make all the time. My husband often jokes about my “5-year rotation” on recipes. This salad is the exception. I first prepared it many years ago while living in Athens, Greece. I served it at a Memorial Day picnic I had at my house and it was a huge hit. Sour cream was totally unavailable in Athens, but Greek yogurt made a great substitute, and I’ve used it ever since.

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Coleslaw with Pineapple and Jalapeño

8 Servings

The jalapeño in this recipe does not make this salad fiery hot, rather it adds a nice spiciness. Feel free to adjust up if you like a little more heat, or even leave it out. The salad can be made 1 day ahead.

1 cup mayonnaise

1 cup Greek yogurt (or sour cream)

3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup chopped pickled jalapeños

1/2 pound cabbage, cored and sliced (approx. 8 cups)

1/2 fresh pineapple, cored and trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (approx. 2 cups)

3 green onions, sliced

Whisk the mayonnaise, yogurt, mustard, sugar, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Stir in the chiles, then add the cabbage and pineapple and toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Right before serving, stir in the green onions and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Adapted from The El Paso Chile Company’s Texas Border Cookbook by Park and Norma Kerr 

Cheese Mustard Bread

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Happy Mothers Day! Some may wonder why I chose a bread recipe for a Mothers Day post when the food blogosphere is full of Mothers Day brunch ideas, many of which sound fabulous. Actually, my mother never has been the breakfast in bed type. However, I think she would really like this bread.

Remember Gourmet magazine? I still mourn the demise of that magazine. I guess it was about a year before they ceased publication that they started doing a Gourmet Cookbook Club. I bought every book they recommended, and what a selection it was. There was something for everyone, from Chinese food to breakfasts. This recipe was taken from one of the Gourmet Cookbook Club book recommendations.

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The Art & Soul of Baking is a beautiful book that was published by Sur la Table. They chose professional pastry chef and cooking instructor Cindy Mushet to write the book. It’s full of classic pastries like the ones I learned to make in culinary school, but there are some interesting twists as well. I will probably never take the time to actually cook all the recipes in one book, but I sort of keep a list of a few cookbooks in my head that I wouldn’t mind revisiting quite frequently. This is one of those books.

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I’ve always really enjoyed making bread. I love how the dough looks fluffy after the first rise and the feel of it in my hands. I love the idea of creating something that people in all cultures of the world have been making and eating for centuries. No matter how time marches on, there will always be bread.

This cheese bread has some great possibilities. A slice of it would be great along side a bowl of soup. I tried using it for a grilled cheese sandwich — off the charts. I’ve also had it toasted in a pastrami sandwich, but roast beef would be equally good. I’d always wanted to try making a cheese bread; and when I saw this recipe, I knew this one was it.

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Cheese Mustard Bread

 1 Loaf

This recipe initially called for cheddar cheese, but don’t limit yourself to cheddar. You could vary the type of cheese with the type of mustard you use. I ended up using something called Catamount Hills Cheese, described as “an Italian-type cheese with notes of Swiss and Parmesan,” with Dijon mustard.

  • 1/4 cup warm water (110-115 degrees F.)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 4 ounces of cheddar cheese
  • 3 cups (15 ounces) bread or unbleached all-purpose flour, plus a little more for kneading
  • 1 cup warm milk (110-115 degrees F.)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Place water, sugar, and yeast in a small bowl and whisk to blend. Set aside for 10 minutes or until the mixture becomes foamy. Meanwhile, grate the cheese into a separate bowl, using the large holes of a box grater, mix it with 1 tablespoon of the flour and set aside. Whisk the milk and melted butter in a medium bowl.

Place the remaining flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook installed. Mix for 1 minute on medium speed to blend. Add the yeast mixture, milk mixture, and Dijon mustard to the bowl and blend on medium speed for 5 minutes. Add the cheese and knead for 2-3 minutes longer. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and allow to rest for 20 minutes. This allows the dough to fully hydrate before continuing to knead it. Turn the mixer speed to medium low and continue to knead the dough until it is firm, elastic, and smooth, 3-6 minutes.

Scrape the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and spread a little oil over the surface of the dough. Cover the dough and place in a draft-free location to rise until doubled in size, approximately 45-60 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Firmly press the air out of the dough, but do not knead it. Press the dough into a rectangle. Fold the dough into thirds. It should be the same size as the loaf pan. Lightly coat the loaf pan with butter or oil and place the dough in the pan, seam side down. Lightly oil the top of the loaf, cover with a damp towel and place in a draft free location until the dough has risen 1/2 to 1 inch above the pan, about 45-60 minutes.

Meanwhile, position an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 375 degrees. Brush the top of the loaf with the beaten egg. Bake for 40 minutes. The bread should be golden brown, and the internal temperature should be 200 degrees. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Adapted from The Art & Soul of Baking, by Cindy Mushet