Puerto Rican Cilantro Sauce

sauce-1 

Cilantro, or fresh coriander, is a plant that is popular in Asian, Latin American, and Middle Eastern cuisines.  Various parts of the plant have different uses and tastes.  The seeds, when dried, are used for pickling or ground and used for flavoring dishes.  The leaves and stems are usually chopped fine and used as a fresh note to add final flavor to a dish.  People who like cilantro love the fresh lemony, lime taste it adds to foods.  But there is another group of people who can’t stand it, saying it tastes soapy or rotten.  I saw this first hand when I lived in Colombia, and believe me, the people who don’t like cilantro really, really don’t like it.  That’s rough for someone who has just been assigned to Bogota, where they put it on just about everything.  But, if like me, you like cilantro, you will love this sauce that I adapted from Steven Raichlen’s Healthy Latin Cooking.

sauce-2 

I discovered cookbook author Steven Raichlen long before he became the barbecue and grilling guru he is today.  In his former life he wrote cookbooks about “healthy low fat” (remember those days?) cooking with a lot of spice and flavor. I’m not a fan of low fat cooking; however, his recipes are so flavorful, I still have a couple of his older books and still use them.  He has also traveled the world extensively and the knowledge he has gained is put to good use in his cookbooks.

This sauce is one of those recipes that can be used in many different ways.  The first night I made it, I spooned it over some pan-fried salmon.  It’s great with tortilla chips, especially for dinner when you are too tired to cook, as I discovered one evening.  Later that week I added a splash more olive oil and vinegar to create a salad dressing.  I used what was left to marinate some chicken thighs that I cooked on the grill.  That’s just what I did with it.  I’m sure there are more possibilities.

sauce-3

Puerto Rican Cilantro Sauce

This sauce will keep up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator, so you have plenty of opportunity to experiment with it. I made this in the food processor, but it can be made in a blender.  Place all the ingredients into the blender container at once and blend to desired consistency.  Because the sauce is pureed, you don’t have to meticulously pick off each cilantro leaf.  Just chop the stems off at the base of the leaves and discard them.

1 small onion, peeled and quartered

3/4 red bell pepper, cut into 1” chunks

1/2 green pepper, cut into 1” chunks

2 scallions, trimmed and cut into 1” pieces

3 cloves garlic, peeled

1 bunch cilantro, stemmed

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup water

salt and pepper, to taste

1. Combine the onion, peppers scallions, garlic, cilantro and oregano in a food processor and chop.

2. Add the oil, vinegar, and water and puree until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper.

3. Transfer to glass jar for storage.

Adapted from Steven Raichlen’s Healthy Latin Cooking

 

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.

 

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

Roasted “Bunny” Carrots with Honeyed Mustard

Carrots header

I hope everyone is enjoying a beautiful Spring day with friends and family. When I wrote this the sky was blue, the sun was shining, and the birds were chirping as I sat next to an open window taking it all in. I was smiling indeed.

Carrots 1

I’ve wanted to do a roasted vegetable recipe on the blog for some time. It is actually my absolute favorite way to cook and eat vegetables – drizzle with olive oil, roast at 400 until fork tender, sprinkle with sea salt, and eat. Then while the husband is out walking the dog, sneak a few more pieces of the leftovers, mmm. Food eaten on the sly just tastes better, don’t you think?

My husband probably would not mind me eating these leftovers in their entirety. His dislike of cooked carrots is notorious. His mother used to say that carrots were only good for horses, and I believe it rubbed off on him. But, these carrots are so good, I think he’ll even eat them.

Carrots are part of the “umbrella” family of vegetables and are related to parsnips, fennel, parsley, anise, caraway, cumin, and dill. They are said to lower chances of cardiovascular disease, probably because of the gajillion vitamins and antioxidants they contain.

Carrots 2

These beauties would probably be even nicer if you used the multi-colored bunches of carrots that are turning up in the stores these days. They make a nice side for an Easter meal, or any other time of the year for that matter.

Carrots Recipe Header Roasted Carrots with Honeyed Mustard

6 Servings

When I roast vegetables I usually just put them in the bare pan and let the olive oil keep them from sticking. Because of the honey in this recipe be sure to use foil in the pan, and spray it well.

2 pounds “bunny carrots” with green tops, tops trimmed and cut in half lengthwise

3 tablespoons whole grain mustard

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon honey

salt and pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to 400. Cover a baking sheet with foil and spray well with cooking spray or oil.

Stir the mustard, olive oil, and honey together in a large bowl. Toss in the carrots and mix well (hands really work best for this) until thoroughly coated. Place in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.

Roast the carrots in the oven until they are fork tender, approximately 25 minutes.

Sprinkle the carrots with the parsley and serve.

Adapted from Cuisine at Home magazine

Finally Fall – Braised Lamb Shanks with White Beans

Shanks 1

It’s a beautiful Fall day, and the weather has finally cooled down enough to start doing some comfort food. I’m not a fan of cooking cool weather foods when it’s still summer outside, even if it’s the end of September, but by the time I start seriously considering hanging the glow-in-the dark skeleton by the front door, I know it’s time.

Shanks 2

Today’s post is inspired by the restaurant, Sebillon Elysee, in Paris. They are famous for their Allaiton de L’Aveyron gigot d’agneau (leg of lamb), which is wheeled out on a cart and carved tableside. It’s served over creamy white beans that come to the table bubbling away in a copper pot. This century-old restaurant is one of my favorites in Paris; very old-world style without being stuffy.

Shanks 3

I had never even heard of braising until I went to culinary school. Coq au Vin was the first braised dish I made, and I fell in love with it and the technique. Braising is the combination of searing food at a high temperature then cooking it in a liquid in a covered pot at a low temperature. The meat is then removed and the liquid left in the pan is reduced to make a sauce. Although braising takes some time, it’s mostly hands off, and the restaurant- quality results are worth the extra time. You end up with fork-tender meat and a luscious sauce. Anyone can braise; once you get this technique down the possibilities are endless.

Shanks 4

Braised Lamb Shanks with White Beans

6 Servings

If you don’t like or eat beans, or you are following a Paleo or Primal program, this dish is just as good with a side of creamy mashed potatoes or some sort of vegetable puree such as cauliflower, turnips, or parsnips. I used navy beans because that was what was available, but any white bean, such as cannellini or great northern, will do.

1 1/2 cups dried white beans

6 8-12 ounce lamb shanks

salt and pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 celery stalk, diced

2 large carrots, peeled and diced

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 cups red wine

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

1 14.5 ounce can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1 bay leaf

lemon zest from 1 lemon, grated

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Pick over the beans and soak them for at least 3 hours (preferably, overnight). Rinse the beans and place them in a saucepan with enough water to cover them by 2 inches. Bring the beans to a boil, lower the temperature to a simmer, and cook the beans until tender, 45-60 minutes. Drain and set aside.

While the beans are cooking, prepare the lamb shanks. Thoroughly season the shanks with salt and pepper on all sides. In a large soup pot, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Cook the lamb shanks until brown, 10-12 minutes. Remove the shanks from the pot and set aside on a plate. Add the onion, celery, and carrots to the pot and cook until the onion softens, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the wine, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Use a stiff spatula to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the stock, tomatoes, tomato paste, thyme, bay leaf and lamb shanks with any juices from the plate. Return the contents of the pot to a boil, lower the heat to simmer, cover the pot, and cook for 1 1/2-2 hours. The meat should be very tender and falling off the bone. Remove the shanks from the pot and keep warm. Bring the pot contents to a boil and reduce to sauce consistency, about 15 minutes. Lower the heat, add the beans to the pot and cook on medium to warm the beans, about 15 minutes. Discard the bay leaf and season the beans with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, place a spoonful of the beans on a plate or bowl and top with a lamb shank. Garnish with lemon and parsley.

Adapted from Williams Sonoma Seasonal Favorites

 

 

Celebrating the Last of Summer – Grilled Burgers with Avocado and Parsnip Fries

Burger Closeup 1

I love fall – going outside that first crisp morning when the temperature is in the 50s in complete contrast to the 80s and 90s we’ve previously experienced in the DC area. This year has been different, however. We’ve had such a mild summer that now that the temperature has dropped, I find myself almost thinking I can’t appreciate it, because it just hasn’t been that hot. Wow, Jeannine. The one summer on record with decent temperatures and you think it needs to be hotter. Let’s throw in some heavy-duty humidity while we’re at it, shall we? So, I guess what I’m getting at is that, on this last day of summer, I’m not ready to throw in the towel on summer yet. There will be plenty of time for braises, pumpkin, soups and all those foods that signify fall later down the road.

One of the stops on the Explore Asheville Foodtopia tour during the recent Food Blogger Forum was a visit to Hickory Nut Gap Farm.

Farm 1We were treated to a sample of their delicious grass-fed beef before touring a section of the farm, led by Jamie Ager, one of the co-owners of the farm.

Farm 3

These hamburgers were inspired by the visit to the farm. I think you’ll agree when you taste these is that there is just no substitute for grass-fed beef – it just tastes, well, beefier. And you can’t argue with the health benefits of eating meat that provides essential Omega 3 fatty acids.

Farm 4

I’ve been following Juli Bauer of PaleOMG ever since my husband and I first started experimenting with the Paleo/Primal lifestyle 3 years ago. Although neither of us is completely Paleo, I still follow Juli’s blog and find it a great source of healthy recipes, no matter what eating program you follow. I’ve really enjoyed seeing how she has grown as a cook over the past few years. This burger recipe is a perfect example. They are incredibly juicy and have a really nice flavor without being too over-the-top. The burgers are served wrapped in a bibb or romaine lettuce leaf, as I’ve pictured here. However, if you must have a bun for your burger, I recommend having the parsnip shoestrings on the side rather than on the burger.

Burger 5

Hamburgers on the Grill with Avocado and Parsnip Shoestrings

Serves 6

 Instead of mashing the avocados for the garnish, you can also use 1 cup of your favorite guacamole. I really like the fresh guacamole from the local Whole Foods.

2 large parsnips, peeled

2 pounds ground beef

1/2 red onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup coconut oil

6 romaine or bibb lettuce leaves

1 red onion, thinly sliced

2 avocados, peeled seeded and mashed

Preheat the grill to medium high.

Cut the parsnips into long shoestrings with a julienne peeler or spiral slicer. Set aside.

Combine the ground beef, onion, mustard, garlic and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Divide the meat mixture into 6 patties, making a small indentation in the center of each one.   Grill the burgers to desired level of doneness. We found that 6 minutes covered on the first side and three minutes covered on the second side resulted in a medium-rare burger, but your grill might be different. Do what works for you.

While the burgers are cooking heat the coconut oil in a saucepan until one of the shoestrings sizzles when dropped into the oil. Fry the shoestrings tossing with a fork until golden brown. Remove them from the oil and place on a paper-lined plate to drain. Sprinkle with salt while hot.

When the burgers are done, allow them to rest for 5-7 minutes. Place the burgers on a lettuce leaf, top with red onion, avocado or guacamole and parsnip fries.

Adapted from PaleOMG.    I think this recipe is also included in Juli’s latest book, The Paleo Kitchen.

 

 

Roasted Tomato and Fennel Soup

Tomato Soup 4

Some people may question the sanity of posting a soup recipe in the “dog days” of summer, especially those in places where the temperature normally exceeds 90 degrees. We’ve been fairly lucky this year in terms of having a hot summer. The Washington, DC, area can usually be compared to a steam bath around this time, but this year has been different, and, I must say, there will be no complaints from me. I love fall and it’s usually this time of year that I start thinking about that first morning I walk outside to discover a telling crispness in the air.

Tomato Soup 2

Meanwhile, we still have a couple of summer months left and lots of summer produce to use up – tomatoes anyone? Tomato soup is one of my favorite foods, and if you pair the soup with a grilled cheese sandwich, it’s a total win, win. How do you like your grilled cheese sandwiches? I prefer a fairly dense country style bread because it can hold more cheese that way. I spread the bread with a combination of mayonnaise and strong mustard and then add the cheese, usually whatever I have on hand. Lately it’s been cheddar slices, but any kind will do. I also add some ham, if I have some and maybe some thinly sliced pickles. Butter up the outside of the bread and fry it until crispy. Yum, yum!

Tomato Soup 3

In this soup recipe, you roast all the vegetables before making the soup, which adds a wonderful smoky flavor. Don’t be afraid to get some char on the vegetables; it adds to the depth of flavor.

Tomato Soup 1

 Roasted Tomato and Fennel Soup

I kept this soup on the rustic side, by just giving it a spin in my Vitamix. But if you prefer a smoother creamier soup, you can put it through a fine strainer before adding the cream.

2 pounds ripe red tomatoes

1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs, approximately 1 pound

1 yellow onion, cut into 8 wedges

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper, to taste

4 cups vegetable broth

2 bay leaves

1/2 cup heavy cream, optional

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Halve the tomatoes, squeeze out the seeds and place cut-side up on half of a sheet pan or baking sheet. Trim the stalks and fronds from the fennel, reserving some of the fronds for garnish. Cut the fennel in half lengthwise then in half again and remove the core. Add the fennel and the onion pieces to the other half of the sheet pan. Drizzle the vegetables with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss with your hands to coat. Roast the vegetables for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender and carmelized. Remove pan from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Place the vegetables and the broth in a blender and puree until smooth. You may need to do this with half the vegetables and half the broth at a time.

Transfer the vegetable mixture to a large saucepan. Add the bay leaves and more salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat then lower heat to a simmer and cook 15 minutes. Hint: Now is the time to prepare your grilled cheese sandwich if you are making one. Remove the bay leaves and stir in the cream, if using it.

To serve, ladle the soup into individual bowls and garnish with fennel fronds.

Adapted from Vibrant Food by Kimberley Hasselbrink

A Mexican-Inspired Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette

salad 1

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the direction I want to take this blog. Is it all about the photography? Food styling? Or is it about developing original recipes? I started the blog not only as a way to reach out to friends and family when they requested a recipe, but also as a way to work on my food photography, with the possibility of turning it into something more professional in the future. I didn’t realize just how much time it takes to post a decent blog post, but I’m not willing to cut corners. Don’t worry, Jeannine’s Cuisine is not going anywhere — not after all the work I’ve put into it. But I’ve finally accepted that, as a full-time Government employee with up to 2 hours of commuting each day, sometimes I’m just not going to be able to post as often as I would like. I read about other bloggers who also work fulltime and have been doing this for years. How can they be so prolific? Where do they find the time? As for me, I’m still working out my “blogging routine.” I guess I’ll get it down eventually, but in the meantime, I will continue to post as time allows.

Salad 2

I’ve also thought a lot about my food message. Is it gluten free? Paleo? Desserts? Quick and easy? Original recipes or adapted from other sources? I think I made the right decision when I decided to name this blog Jeannine’s Cuisine, because the food style in my blog is about all of those things. It’s the way I like to cook. Sometimes the food is healthier and at other times the food I cook is better suited to a special occasion, or when I have all kinds of time to cook. What you won’t find here is any processed food or anything labeled “fat free.” I generally change pretty much every recipe I get my hands on to some degree, and occasionally I even get an original idea and just roll with it. But I also use my ever-expanding cookbook collection for inspiration quite a bit. My goal for the future is to expand the collection of recipes on the blog, both original and adapted, to offer something for everyone. Because that’s the way I cook.

Salad 3

Yesterday was Cinco de Mayo, and food bloggers everywhere were hard at work, coming up with all kinds of delectable Mexican-style appetizers, entrees, and desserts. I would usually have done the same, but this year, after returning from non-stop gorging on Mexican food during a week-long trip to Arizona, Yum! I decided something a little healthier was probably in order.

Salad 4

I take a salad to work for lunch most days of the week, and it’s normally a bowl of lettuce with some salad dressing. I’m starting to get pretty bored with that and have been experimenting with making the lunchtime salads a whole lot more interesting. This salad is the answer. A delicious bacon vinaigrette (who doesn’t love bacon?) goes over a mixture of salad greens, tomato, avocado, bacon “chips” and toasted pumpkin seeds. I was trying to come up with something for Cinco de Mayo – this salad contains avocado and pepitas that are sort of Mexican ingredients, right? Don’t limit yourself to May for this salad. This is good anytime of the year.

Salad 5

A Mexican-Inspired Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette

Serves 4

This recipe makes more salad dressing than you will need for the salad. Store leftovers in the refrigerator and warm to room temperature before serving.

1/4 sweet onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

4 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 pound bacon, cut crosswise into inch-wide pieces

4 large handfuls Romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces

1 large tomato, cut into wedges then cut crosswise

1 avocado, halved, peeled, cut into wedges, then cut crosswise into chunks

1/4 cup shelled pumpkin seeds, toasted and salted

Place the onion, mustard, and vinegar in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Slowly add the olive oil a small bit at a time, whisking with each addition. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Place the bacon in a cold sauté pan and turn the heat on medium. Cook the bacon until crispy then turn it out onto a paper towel-lined plate. Set the pan with the bacon grease aside while you prepare the salad.

Combine the lettuce, tomato and avocado in a serving bowl. Add the vinaigrette mixture to the bacon fat in the sauté pan and whisk well to combine. The mixture may splatter if the bacon fat is still hot. Dress the salad with as much dressing as desired, top with the cooked bacon pieces, sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds, and serve immediately.

Salad dressing adapted from The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins

 

Sautéed Cabbage with Bacon

Cabbage 1

Today’s recipe is from a guest cook, my husband Scott. I wanted to get it posted as soon as possible because I consider it to be more of a chilly weather recipe than something that represents Spring, which, knock on wood, finally might be here to stay for awhile. This time last week I was sitting right here at my computer and looked outside and saw – snow. I couldn’t believe my eyes. But it was short lived. Now, the daffodils are up and trees are budding, and I’m sitting in front of an open window.

Cabbage 2

Although this cabbage is a recipe that we normally have for Saint Patrick’s Day, it is really versatile and will go with almost anything. I especially can see it alongside pork chops or chicken. The bacon is what makes this recipe special, so I don’t recommend leaving it out.

Cabbage 3

Sautéed Cabbage with Bacon

6 Servings

1/2 pound bacon, diced

4 tablespoons butter

1 large sweet onion, about 14 ounces, diced

1 head cabbage, thinly sliced

In a large sauté pan, cook the bacon over low heat to render as much fat as possible before the bacon browns, approximately 10 minutes. Add butter, and when it melts, add the onion. Increase the heat to medium and sauté until the onion softens, approximately 7 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Increase the heat to medium-high and start adding cabbage by the handful, cooking it down until you are able to add all of it to the pan, approximately 10 minutes. Add more salt and pepper to tasted. Continue cooking cabbage, stirring frequently, until done, approximately 10 minutes.