Sunday, October 26, 2014

Bacon-Roasted Potatoes with Blue Cheese Cream

I'm not sure why these potatoes were included in a book of "fast" food, as they're somewhat fussy and definitely not quick, but they certainly are delicious! Potato wedges are coated in bacon "crumbs," smoked paprika, and Aleppo chile flakes, and then roasted until sizzling hot and crispy.  To really gild the lily, they're then drizzled with a blue cheese cream.  Absolutely decadent and delicious! These would be the perfect snack to serve during a big football game, although we enjoyed them during the World Series.  Go Giants!

Edited to add: If you have any left over blue cheese cream, don't toss it! Stash in the fridge; it will firm up and make an absolutely delicious blue cheese dip.  The dip is great with chips, veggies, or chicken tenders.

Bacon-Roasted Potatoes with Blue Cheese Cream (adapted from Nigel Slater's Eat)
Serves 4

6-8 slices bacon
2 pounds waxy potatoes (such as Yukon Gold)
1 heaping tsp Aleppo chili flakes
1 heaping tsp smoked paprika
Olive oil
1 cup heavy cream
4 ounces crumbled blue cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degreees and line a heavy baking sheet with foil.
2. Lay the bacon out on the baking sheet in a single layer, and bake until crispy, about 20 minutes, flipping once.  Transfer the bacon to a food processor.  Don't clean the baking sheet or discard the foil -- you'll use it agian.  Turn the oven up to 400 degrees.
3. While the bacon is cooking, scrub the potatoes and cut off/peel any suspicious bits.  No need to peel if the skins look good.  Cut into large wedges.
4. Bring a small amount of water to a boil in a pot with a steamer basket.  Add the potatoes, cover, and steam the potatoes for 15 minutes.  If you don't have a steamer basket, you can boil the potatoes -- just be sure to drain well before continuing with the recipe.
5. To the bacon in the food processor, add the chili flakes, smoked paprika, and a generous glug of olive oil.  Pulse a few times, until the bacon resembles crumbs.  Dump out on the baking sheet, and use a rubber spatula to spread out the bacon crumbs and mix them with the bacon grease.
6. Once the potatoes are cooked, place them on the baking sheet.  Gently stir with a rubber spatula until they are evenly coated with the bacon mixture -- take your time and be careful not to break up the wedges.  Make sure the potatoes are in a single layer, overlapping as little as possible. 
7. Transfer to the 400 degree oven and roast for one hour, until crispy and sizzling.
8. In the last few minutes of baking, heat the cream in a saucepan over medium heat.  When the cream is hot, add the blue cheese and stir until melted.  
9. Serve the hot potatoes drizzled with the blue cheese cream.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Chana Masala

I recently purchased a copy of Leanne Brown's Good + Cheap, and I'm a huge fan of the cookbook.  The idea is to feature recipes that can be made on a serious budget -- about $4/day, depending on which combinations you choose.  Plus, when you purchase a copy, you can add on a donated copy to go to an organization serving low-income individuals for just $5 -- very cool!

This chickpea curry is fantastic -- the chickpeas make it filling, and the sauce is rich and delicious. The combination of spices is warm and savory, and you can adjust the heat level up or down depending on how you like it.  It's a great dish to make ahead on the weekend, since the chickpeas take a while to get tender.  The leftovers keep very well, so you can let it simmer on the stove on a Sunday afternoon and then heat it up for a fast lunch or dinner later in the week.  We ate these chickpeas with homemade naan (another recipe that is 95% make-ahead), but it would also be tasty with rice.

Chana Masala (adapted from Good + Cheap)
Serves 4

2-1/4 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and cooked until tender
1-1/2 T ground coriander
2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne (more or less depending on your spice tolerance)
2 T butter
1 onion, diced
2 tsp fresh ginger, minced or grated
2 cups canned, pureed tomatoes
1 cup water (more or less as needed)
Accompaniments, see below

1. Soak and cook your chickpeas. This takes a while, so I recommend getting it done over the weekend or the night before so you're all ready to go.  Of course, you can always sub in canned chickpeas (you want about 5 cups).
2. Measure out all the spices and place in a small bowl.
3. Melt the butter in a large, non-stick skillet over medium-low heat.  Add the onion and ginger and saute until the onion is tender and starting to brown.  Add the spices, and cook, stirring constantly, until they coat the onions and are very fragrant.  Then add the tomatoes and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer about 10 minutes.  Keep a close eye to make sure the skillet doesn't get too dry.
4. Add the water (you can add more or less depending on how saucy you want the finished dish to be.  Add the cooked chickpeas and stir to combine everything.  Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.
5. This dish is great as leftovers, and is excellent with naan or rice, a bit of yogurt on top, and a sprinkle of cilantro of parsley.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Queens Park Cocktail

This cocktail is really, really delicious despite being a serious bastardization of the original.  First of all, it's meant to be a swizzle: i.e. lots of crushed ice, which I didn't have on hand. It's also supposed to use both a special sort of rum and a special sort of simple syrup, but I was in no mood to go shopping.  What I had was Bacardi Gold and simple syrup from the grocery store.  The cocktail gods are probably rolling over in their graves, but I gotta tell you -- my version was extremely tasty!  Sweet, minty, and super drinkable...pretty much the perfect after-dinner drink in place of dessert.  I am limiting myself to one a day until the mint runs out, because it's a fairly strong drink (at least for little lightweight me).  Please do click through to the original if you'd like to try the real deal...I'm sure it is even more delicious!

Queens Park Cocktail (adapted from Erik Lombardo on Food52, original recipe here)

12 mint leaves, divided
1/4 cup Puetro Rican gold rum
1-1/2 T simple syrup (use less if you like a less sweet cocktail)
1-1/2 T lime juice
Bitters (I used Amaro bitters, but use any that you like)

1. Place 6 mint leaves in a cocktail shaker and muddle.  Place the other 6 mint leaves in the bottom of your glass and muddle.  (The handle of a wooden spoon works very well for this if you don't have an official "muddler.")
2. Add the rum, simple syrup, and lime juice to the cocktail shaker along with a couple of cubes of ice.  Cover, and shake well until very cold.
3. Place another couple of ice cubes in your glass on top of the mint.  Strain the cocktail over the ice.  Top with a few shakes of bitters and enjoy!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Blueberry Jam

I know, I know: this is all kinds of the wrong season for blueberry jam!  But, somehow I never managed to share this recipe over the summer, so you're getting it now -- definitely save it for next summer becaues this one is a keeper.  Tim and I went blueberry picking with our friends in Connecticut, and this delicious blueberry jam was one of the things I made.  It's not too sweet with lots of blueberry flavor -- so delicious!  And, the jam sets up much more quickly than other jams I've made that don't include added pectin, so you won't be standing over the stove for hours.  This jam makes any piece of toast special, and I'm so glad I have some jars stashed away for when the snow starts falling!

Blueberry Jam (adapted from Saving the Season by Kevin West)
Makes 5-6 half pints

2-1/2 pounds blueberries
1/2 cup water
3 cups sugar
1 T lime juice
1 T plus 1 tsp gin

1. Rinse and pick over the berries.  Combine in a large pot with the water, and gently heat, stirring often, until the berries begin to burst their skins.  Mash with a potato masher until most of the berries have been crushed.
2. Add the sugar and lime juice.  Bring to a full boil, stirring constantly, and then boil for 5-10 minutes, until the jam has gelled.  (I find the easiest way to test this is by putting spoons in the freezer and then dipping them into the jam to test.  Start at 5 minutes and keep testing until the jam gels on the cold spoon.)
3. Remove the jam from the heat, and stir in the gin.  Ladle into prepared jars (I got 5 half-pint jars, 1 quarter-pint jar, and a little extra in a bowl that we had with biscuits right away).  Leave 1/4-inch headspace.  Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes -- if this is your first time canning, read up on it before making this recipe!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Lunch Box: Quinoa Salad with Tofu, Fresh Corn, Scallions, and Cashews

Here's another great lunch salad, and unlike my last attempt, this one is heartier and has more protein going on so it's super filling without any extras.  This divided lunch box container keeps various components divided, but the only thing that really needs to stay separate is the dressing, which you could store in a separate little container if that's easier.  The base of the salad is red quinoa, mixed with minced scallions, fresh corn, and creamy goat cheese...yum!  Toppings get sprinkled on top -- baked, seasoned tofu for protein, and cashews for crunch.  You can bake your own tofu, of course, but I went the easy route and just used store-bought.  Finally, a delicious smoked paprika dressing brings everything together.  I was very happy come lunchtime, and this meal really filled me up.

Quinoa Salad with Tofu, Fresh Corn, Scallions, and Cashews (loosely adapted from Homemade)
Serves 4

1-1/4 cups uncooked quinoa
2 ears fresh corn
6 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced on a diagonal
1 package baked, seasoned tofu (or make your own)
4 ounces goat cheese
1/2 cup cashews

For the sauce:
2 T Dijon mustard
1 T sesame seeds
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2/3 cup vegetable oil

1. Combine the quinoa with a generous pinch of salt in a saucepan.  Add water to cover by a few inches, bring to a boil, and simmer until the quinoa is tender, about 20 minutes.  Drain and rinse under cold water.  Transfer to a large bowl.
2. Cut the corn off the ears, and microwave for 30 seconds.  Add to the quinoa, along with the scallions.  Season with salt.  Divide among 4 containers.
3. Cube the tofu and crumble the goat cheese.  Divide among the containers, along with the cashews.
4. Make the dressing. Combine everything in a large Mason jar, screw on the lid tightly, and shake vigorously until everything is very well combined.  Season to taste with salt, and pack in a separate container.  At lunch time, toss with the quinoa salad just before eating.

You can also add whatever leftover veggies you have on hand -- roasted cauliflower, raw spinach or salad greens, steamed carrots, etc.

Other Lunch Box Posts:

Sunday, October 5, 2014

SRC: Mustard Seed Potatoes and Chickpeas + Hometown Fried Fish

My partner for this month's Secret Recipe Club was Easily Good Eats.  I was looking for an Indian-flavored side dish, and the lightly spiced mustard potatoes and chickpeas from Easily Good Eats seemed like it would be the perfect choice!  The technique for the potatoes is similar to home fries -- the potatoes are boiled until tender first, and then crisped up in a hot skillet with oil.  Here, the potatoes are supplemented with chickpeas, mustard seeds, and warm spices.  This makes for a lovely side dish that would go well with any type of Indian main dish.

I served these potatoes with a fried fish dish from Aarti Sequeira's new cookbook, Aarti Paarti.  I had been waiting and waiting for this cookbook to come out, and I was so excited to read through it, gaze at the gorgeous photos, and try out my first recipe! This fried fish is amazing -- wonderfully spiced, perfectly crispy, and topped with fabulous quick-pickled shallots.  It takes a little longer than some fried fish recipes because the fish fillets need 30 minutes in the fridge to marinate, but the extra time is well worth it...this is probably the best fried fish I have ever had!

This dynamic duo made a really excellent dinner, and I know this is a meal I'll be making again.  Don't forget lots of fresh cilantro sprinkled on top to keep your plate from looking boring!

Mustard Seed Potatoes and Chickpeas (adapted from Easily Good Eats, original recipe here)
Serves 2-3 as a side dish

1 large Russet potato
Olive oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp garam masala or curry powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Minced cilantro, optional

1. Peel the potato and cut into about 3/4-inch cubes.  Place in a pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil, and simmer about 10 minutes, until the potatoes are just tender.  Drain.
2. Heat a generous pour of oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  When it shimmers, add the mustard seeds, garam masala, and garlic powder.  Stir occasionally until the mustard seeds start to pop and the spices are fragrant.
3. Add the potato and chickpeas to the skillet, and season generously with salt.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are crispy and browned.  Add more oil as you go if the skillet appears too dry.
4. If you'd like a bit of color, sprinkle with minced fresh cilantro just before serving.

Hometown Fried Fish (adapted from Aarti Paarti)
Serves 2-3 

For the fish:
2 T smoked paprika
1 tsp ground turmeric
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp cayenne (more if you like it spicy)
2-1/2 malt vinegar
1 pound tilapia fillets (or use another mild white fish)

For the pickled shallots:
1 cup water
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 T sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
2 large shallots, peeled and thinly sliced

To finish:
Oil, for frying
Rice flour
Salt and pepper
Small handful of fresh cilantro, minced

1. Marinate the fish.  In a small bowl, stir together the paprika, turmeric, salt, and cayenne.  Add the malt vinegar, and stir until well combined.  Rub the marinade all over the fish, and arrange on a large plate.  Cover with plastic wrap and pop in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (or up to overnight).
2. Pickle the shallots. Combine the water, cider vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then add the shallots and turn off the heat.  Let sit for at least 30 minutes, while you prepare the fish. 
3. Fry the fish.  Pour oil into a large, non-stick skillet to about 1/4-inch thick. You will probably need to either use two skillets or work in batches.  
4. Meanwhile, pour a generous amount of rice flour onto a large plate and season generously with salt and pepper.  
5. Test to see if the oil is hot -- sprinkle a bit of the rice flour into it, and if it sizzles right away, you're ready to go.  
6. Dredge the fish in the rice flour, and then place into the hot oil.  Cook 3-4 minute son the first side and then flip and cook 2-3 minutes on the second side, until beautifully browned and crispy.  
7. While the fish is frying, finish the pickled shallots.  Scoop them out of the pickling liquid into a small bown (reserving the pickling liquid).  Stir in the minced cilantro.
8. Serve the fried fish hot, topped with the shallot-cilantro mixture and drizzled with a little of the reserved pickling liquid.

Check out the other Secret Recipe Club posts from this month here:

Friday, October 3, 2014

Frenchie Mac

Remember the Mexican Mac I posted about a while back?  This recipe is very similar, and is also based on a recipe from Homeroom in Oakland, but with a French twist.  Mild Monterey Jack cheese is supplemented with a sharp Swiss (of course you could use Gruyere if you want to be really French, but it would probably be a little wasted in mac and cheese).  Ham, tarragon, and scallions add tasty French flavors.  Then, the mac and cheese is baked in the oven under crispy panko breadcrumbs.  Yum! Total comfort food in a bowl.

Frenchie Mac (adapted from the Mac + Cheese Cookbook)
Serves 4

12 ounces dried pasta
2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1-1/2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup grated Swiss cheese
1 cup cubed ham
3 scallions, white and light green parts minced
1 T minced fresh tarragon
1/2 cup panko

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Put on a big pot of water to boil. When the water boils, add some salt along with the dried pasta, and cook until the pasta is al dente. Drain and keep ready until the cheese sauce is done. (You can cook the pasta while you prepare the sauce to save time)
3. Heat the milk in the microwave until it is hot but not boiling.
4. Heat a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat. Melt the butter in the skillet, and then add the flour and whisk constantly until the mixture turns light brown, about 3 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk, using a silicone-coated whisk to protect the coating on the pan.  When the milk is incorporated and the mixture is smooth, cook for another 30 seconds or so.  The sauce should be thick and just bubbling.  Remove from the heat.
5. Stir in salt, grated cheese, cubed ham, scallions, and tarragon.  When everything is incorporated, add the pasta and sitr to combine everything.
6. Scrape the pasta into a baking dish (I used a 9x13 brownie pan).  Sprinkle with the panko.  Pop in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and the panko is lightly browned.