Sunday, March 6, 2011

Simple Cracked Crab

Crabs are in season here in the Bay Area, and I can't get enough of them. I can easily eat an entire crab myself, and since I'm the only one in my family who likes them, I sometimes do. Violet, my little gourmet, finds it hard to appreciate their delicate flavor ("They taste like air.") You'd think that, having grown up in Baltimore, Mike would be a crab lover, but apparently he only likes them in crab cake form.  

While crab cakes, quiches and salads are certainly delicious, I find a freshly cracked and cleaned crab, simply dressed, infinitely more appealing. I get mine cleaned and cracked at the Whole Foods fish counter, where an entire Dungeness crab will currently set you back $8.  One crab will serve one person as a main course, two as an appetizer. Any herbs you like will set the crab off nicely, I just used what I had on hand.

Cracked Crab with Herbs and Lemon

Number of Ingredients: 5
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: None, but it does need to chill, covered, for a good 30 minutes.

1 whole crab, cracked and cleaned
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (look for the kind with a "light taste")
A palm full of each of freshly chopped cilantro, oregano and thyme
The zest of one lemon, and the juice of 1/2

Toss the crab with the olive oil and lemon juice. Sprinkle the fresh herbs, and zest the lemon right into the bowl. Toss again to combine. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Chicken Chipotle Rainbow Chili

My current obsession with ground chipotle spawned this chili. I'm thinking of carrying a little chipotle pouch with me at all times, and sprinkling it on everything I eat. I'm addicted.

Soups, stews, and chilis are the most reliable way for me to cram as many veggies as I can into the girls,  plus they're my favorite things to make. They're very forgiving toward my "throw in a little of this," "add a pinch of that" style of cooking, and there is something so comforting about dipping a warm chunk of bread or tortilla into a bowl of hot, soupy love. You know it's true.

I used the veggies I had on hand here, but really anything will do. The hominy, though - that's a must.

Prep Time: 20 mins (mostly chopping)
Cook Time: 30 mins (the more the better, obviously - this is an excellent slow-cooker candidate. I made this right before it was time to take the girls to gymnastics, and kept it on simmer for the hour we were there. When we got home, we ate, and it was perfect.)
Number of Ingredients: 14

1 lb ground chicken
1/4 white onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp cumin, or more to taste
1 tbsp ground oregano
1-3 tsps ground chipotle powder, to taste
1/2 bottle beer (literally anything will do - I used Beck's cuz Mike randomly bought it)
1 14 oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes + juice
1 4 oz can diced Ortega chilies
1 28 oz can hominy, drained
1 large carrot, chopped into half moons
1 large red pepper, diced
2 cups frozen fire-roated corn kernals
2-4 cups chicken or veggie broth

Cilantro, cheddar, hot sauce, sour cream, lime, avocado chunks for garnish.

Heat a couple tbsps olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven. Sautee onion and garlic until fragrant, about a minute. Add chicken, carrots, peppers, and spices, and break chicken up with wooden spoon as it cooks. When chicken is almost done, but still a bit pink, add beer. When foam cooks off and beer starts bubbling, add tomatoes, hominy, Ortega chilies and corn. Add 2 cups of broth to keep this on the chunky side, 4 to make it more of a soup. Simmer as long as possible to develop flavors.

Garnish with whatever you like (if you're me, a ton of extra chipotle), and serve with cheddar quesadillas and ice cold beer. Because eating Mexican-flavored food without beer is INSANE.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Red Pepper Chipotle Dip

I only recently discovered the glorious majesty that is ground Chipotle powder, and quite frankly, I can't believe how many dips, soups, pots of chili and Mexican casserole-type situations I have made and served without it. It's delicious - smoky, rich, dark, and super spicy. It elevates this simple red pepper dip to from good, to seriously delicious.

I wanted to make traditional hummus, but didn't have any tahini. I figured cream cheese would do in a pinch, and boy did it ever.  I plan to make this dip this way from here on out. Hummus, schmummus.

Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: None
Number of Ingredients: 7

1 14oz. can chickpeas
1 12 oz. jar roasted red peppers packed in olive oil
3 tablespoons cream cheese
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lime
Salt to taste
A pinch or 2 ground Chipotle powder, to taste

Drain and rinse chickpeas. Drain red peppers. Toss into food processor (or blender, if you're not lucky enough to have come across a good one at a thrift store, like sad little me). Add the cream cheese, oil, and lime juice. Whiz to a non-lumpy puree. Add a big pinch of salt and a smaller pinch of Chipotle, then whiz again, and taste. If it's too thick, add more lime juice or oil. If you can't taste the Chipotle, add more of that. Whiz again, tasting and adding as you see fit after that - but remember, you want this to be thick and creamy, not thin and watery (blerf), so mind how much you whiz it, hoss.

When the dip has your desired taste and texture, sprinkle it with a fresh herb (I used cinaltro), and serve with raw veggies and/or pita chips.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Raw Kale with Avocado, Orange, Purple Onion & Citrus Vinaigrette

I love kale in almost all forms. I've had a leeeettle trouble appreciating it in its raw glory... but this salad is as close to yummy as I think raw kale can get. This is basically a rip-off of the Whole Foods salad bar kale salad, but with avocado & Bragg's, because that's how Stefania likes hers, as well as orange and lemon, because we've got backyard citrus trees threatening to bury us alive with ripe fruits. I winged the vinaigrette, and it ended up tying the whole thing together spectacularly. Be sure to make the vinaigrette first, so you can pour it on the salad immediately - the avocado won't get a chance to brown, and the citrus will marinate the kale.

Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: None! But it does need to sit in the fridge for an hour or so.
Number of Ingredients: 8

1 lemon
1 orange
1 bunch dinosaur or lacinato kale
2 small or medium avocados
1/2 a small purple onion
Olive oil
Bragg's Liquid Amino Acids

Citrus Vinaigrette

Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Juice of 1/2 an orange (reserve other half for salad)
1 tbsp Bragg's Liquid Amino Acids (or less, or none)
3-4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp honey (or more to taste)

Juice the citrus into a bowl, reserving the orange rind.  Whisk in the honey, then half the Bragg's. Bragg's is funky - similar to soy sauce in taste, but more yeasty and tangy. It's an acquired taste. Best to use half a tablespoon to start, then slowly add more if you're liking the funkiness. Add a bit more citrus or honey to mellow out the funkiness if it's not your bag, or just omit the Bragg's entirely. Slowly whisk in the oil to emulsify, then set aside.

Kale Salad with Avocado, Orange and Purple Onion

Trim kale from woody stalks and wash, dry well, and rough chop into bite sized chunks. Dice the reserved 1/2 orange (a large dice is fine), and toss into kale. Dice the flesh of 2 avocados and add to the heap. Slice the purple onion into thin half moons and toss those in as well. Mix the whole thing together with most of the vinaigrette - reserving about a tablespoon for later - then chill, covered, in the fridge for about an hour.

When ready to serve, uncover and toss again. You can drain off the juice at the bottom of the bowl, but it actually tastes pretty good. Drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of vinaigrette, and the zest of the reserved 1/2 orange. So pretty! (Zest makes everything look better).

Enjoy the salad, as well as a sense of superiority over those who have not had raw kale today. Just kidding! Kind of.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Chicken Cacciatori 2.0

This is a quick, weeknight version of the classic Chicken Cacciatorra, sped up and streamlined. Using ground chicken instead of chicken thighs means my version is lighter than its traditional cousin, and quicker-cooking to boot, and using lots of herbs gives it a slow-cooked flavor. Simmering the whole pot uncovered at the end gives the sauce time to reduce, and the flavors time to develop.

This is the kind of warm, filling retro-fabulous dish that I love most in the winter. It hits the proverbial spot.

Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 15 mins (plus another 15-20 mins to simmer)
Number of Ingredients: 12

1/4 cup pancetta cubes (or 3 slices of bacon, chopped)
1 tbsp oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 scallions, white and light green parts only (green tops reserved for garnish)
1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped + 1 tbsp Herbes de Provence
1 lb. ground chicken
1/2 tsp celery salt
1/2 cup white wine
1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes + juice
2 bay leaves
1 tsp sugar
1 14-oz cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

Heat oil over medium in a large pot or dutch oven, and add pancetta or bacon. When it starts to crisp and brown, remove from pan with slotted spoon and reserve. Add garlic, scallions and rosemary and cook until fragrant, stirring often, about 1 minute. Add chicken, season with salt, pepper and celery salt. Using the back of your spoon, break the ground meat into chunks as it browns, about 3 minutes. Add wine, taking care to scrape up the lovely brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Bring the whole thing to a bubble, then add tomatoes, bay leaves, Herbes de Provence, sugar and beans. Simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes, until sauce reduces by about half.

Sprinkle with the green scallion tops and reserved crispy pancetta or bacon, and serve with hot buttered egg noodles, or rice.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Cavolo Nero

Cavolo Nero, cooking.

It just sounds, delicious, doesn't it? Say it out loud:

Cavolo Nero.

Black kale.

So fancy! And so easy to cook. I made it with my friend Jen, straight out of Suzanne Goin's Lucques cookbook, and I'll never deviate from her recipe - it is perfection. It's really just olive oil-braised kale... but richly seasoned with fresh rosemary and black pepper, and spiked with chilies d'Arbol.  It's unlike anything I've ever had. It's taken my love affair with kale to a whole new level.

Make it as a side dish. Toss with with pasta. Pair it with eggs. Serve it on bread with a tangy cheese. However you serve it, it will make kale disciples out of even the most ardent kale-haters (see: Hazel).

Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 40 mins
Number of Ingredients: 6

2 bunches dinosaur kale, trimmed from stalks
1 cup olive oil
1 sprig rosemary
2 chiles d'Arbol, crumbled (I found them in the Mexican spice area of Safeway)
1 cup (about 1 medium) onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup garlic, thinly sliced

Set a large pot of water to boil.

Trim the kale from the woody stalks and rinse them well. When the water boils, blanch the kale until just limp, about 60 seconds, and remove to towels to dry.

In in a large pot or Dutch oven, heat 1/2 cup of the oil with the rosemary sprig and chilies, allowing them to sizzle for about a minute. Turned the heat to medium/low and add the onion. Season with salt and pepper and cook for a couple of minutes, until it begins to soften, then add the garlic. Cook gently until the onion starts to color slightly, 5-7 minutes. Add the kale and 2 or 3 more tablespoons of olive oil and stir to coat. Season liberally with salt and pepper.

Turn heat to low and, stirring often, cook approximately 30 minutes, until the kale begins to darken and get crisp at the edges. (To achieve crisping, Suzanne Goin recommends that you alternately turn the heat way up, so the kale sizzles, then back down again, so it braises.)

Check for seasoning again, then devour, then write to me to tell me how much you love this dish. I dare you not to love it.

Cavolo Nero, cooked.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Apple & Onion Confit

This warm, gooey, complex yet comforting combination of flavors blows my mind. The sweetness of the apples and onions, cooked in all the luscious butter, off-set by the light perfume of the sage and juxtaposed with the sharp cheese... oh, HELL yeah.

When something is this delicious, and has a French word in it, you'd think it difficult to execute, but you'd be wrong. This couldn't be easier to make - just chop, cook in fat, and occasionally stir.  

I think the confit would be a fabulous addition to a pork tenderloin or chop, or a lovely roast chicken. It would be delicious baked in a gratin dish with a heavy sprinkling of cheese over the top, and served along side a spicy greens salad and a loaf of good bread.

Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 20 mins
Number of Ingredients: 10

2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2 medium apples thinly sliced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp fresh sage
1 tbsp honey
1/4 cup (I used a bit less) apple cider or balsamic vinegar

1 crusty baguette, sliced into rounds

1 wedge strong cheese -  I used P'tit Basque, a tangy sheep's milk cheese.

Melt butter and oil in large skillet over medium/low heat. Add apples, onions and sage, and stir to coat. After a few minutes,  add honey and stir.  After another few minutes, add vinegar and stir. Watch the mixture to be sure it doesn't brown, stirring frequently, and cook about 20 minutes.

Just before you take the confit off the heat, broil the baguette until toasty and crisp. Arrange toasts on a platter, top with a nice chunk of cheese, and spoon the confit over the top. Garnish with finely chopped sage. Serve with prosecco (my holiday drink of choice)!