Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Knife Skills: Chiffonade

Chiffonade is a useful cut, makes great garnishes and is a good way to chop greens like chard and collards quickly.

Large Dice

Knife skills, not flawless, but demonstrated by a home cook (me), for home cooks.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Where Food Network Falls Down

There are still some good things about Food Network, like Alton Brown. I will be the first to admit that I watched a lot more of it back in the days when it had shows like Molto Mario, and more Jamie Oliver. Less reality TV-esque crap.

But then there was the unfortunate Smithfield Farms sponsorship. And suddenly, I had political and ethical barriers to tuning in. And then, there are the just stupid moments like this:

In case you have the over-40 eyes like me, the recipe calls for Parmesan and is a Mario Batali recipe. The double-line rollover ad is for VELVEETA.

They should really limit the Velveeta ads to Paula Deen's recipes.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Not Too Nutty of a Solution

Oh, PETA may roast me for this post.

Apparently Britain is enjoying a new delicacy available everywhere from farmers markets to butcher shops and even restaurant — squirrel. Or, more specifically, North American grey squirrel. Since arriving across the pond, the little rodents have taken over the turf of the native red squirrel population. British marketing campaigns have launched since to popularize squirrel as the hip entree in order to save the local species.

It's a commendable approach, really, rather than wasting the animals when they cull the population. Not a whole lot different than the extra deer tags passed out in this neck of the deer-packed woods.

Squirrel is available in Britain in such creative executions as "squirrel and hazelnut pâté." You can also dine on squirrel braised with bacon, porcini and shallot, or baked in pastry or even Peking-duck-style squirrel, and Spicy Squirrel Popcorn. Even Heston Blumenthal, with his three Michelin stars is preparing the rodent du jour.

I've confessed my rural roots and borderline road kill consumption. I would expect it could be passable with bacon — lots and lots of bacon. And it is certainly better than possum. But, who knows, maybe I should try it again, this time fixed by a three-star chef.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Stew

Even though Battle Orange is pretty much over except for an occasional skirmish, I still stockpile the ammunition. The last weekend in October, I brought home a 40 lb. box of sweet potatoes. They do keep quite well in the basement where it is cool and dark. And, hey, this whole "root cellar" thing is in now, right?

Be sure the farmer leaves the dirt on them as well. This keeps them from sprouting.

As I mentioned in my Predictions and Resolutions, (and Cheryl asked about) I plan on making more vegetarian meals this year. This dish definitely fits the description. It could even be vegan if you leave off the Cotija cheese. Either way, it has a lot of flavor, very little fat and a lot of nutrition.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Stew
1 tbs. canola oil
1 onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. Ancho chile powder
2 cups vegetable stock
2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and small dice (1/2 inch cubes)
1/4 cup diced tomatoes, canned is fine, preferable this time of year in fact
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup quinoa grain
1/4 cup Cotija cheese, crumbled (can also use Queso Blanco)

Heat the oil in a large sauce pan. Add the onion, garlic and red pepper. Saute for about five minutes. Add the Ancho powder and cumin. Add the tomatoes and any juice from them. Add just one cup of the vegetable stock. Heat to a boil.

Add the sweet potatoes. Lower the temperature to a simmer and cover the pot. Stir just once or twice, letting the sweet potatoes steam from the liquid simmering, until fork tender, about 20 minutes. In a small sauce pan, heat the other cup of vegetable stock and the 1/2 cup quinoa to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer for about 15-20 minutes, until the quinoa is tender and the inner germ spirals out.

When the sweet potatoes are cooked, add the black beans and heat through, about five more minutes. Add the cilantro, reserving a tablespoon for garnish. Salt and pepper to taste. Gently fold in the cooked quinoa. Serve, garnishing with the Cotija cheese and remaining cilantro.

You can also omit the quinoa, and serve with rice. I like to make Coconut Rice for variety. The grains complete the protein for a vegetarian meal and make it more satisfying.

Coconut Rice
1-1/2 cups white basmati rice
1 15 oz. can coconut milk
1/2 can of water
1 tsp. sugar

Bring rice, water and coconut milk to a boil. Cover, lower heat to a simmer and cook until rice is fluffy and liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Fluff the rice, stirring in the tsp. of sugar.

More Sweet Potato Recipes
Basil Orange Sweet Potatoes
Honey-Chipotle Mashed Sweet Potatoes (and some fritters)
Sweet Potato Parmesan Fries
Maple Orange Sweet Potato Souffle