Monday, November 28, 2011

Corn Chowder

I actually created this recipe at the beginning of August when the weather was warm. I was missing snuggling up to a warm bowl of soup. I wanted this soup to be light and refreshing while taking advantage of the season’s lovely produce. What I created was my version of corn chowder. This would be a great soup for this chilly weather. The bright flavors and colors will cheer up any dark, cloudy day.

I try my best to create delicious meals from ingredients that I already have on hand. This recipe reflects what was in my refrigerator, pantry, and what produce was a good buy at the market. Here are some suggestions for some delicious additions or substitutions:
  • Pre-cooked shredded chicken
  • Shrimp
  • Cook a few slices of bacon in the pot you will be using, when finished remove and set aside. Use the bacon drippings to cook the vegetables. Garnish each bowl of soup with a little crumbled bacon.
  • Bell peppers, any color
  • Celery
  • Cauliflower
  • Yams
  • Potatoes
  • Other types of beans
  • Spinach
  • Fresh herbs like cilantro or parsley
  • Grill the veggies before adding them to the soup
Corn and Vegetable Chowder, serves 3 for dinner

1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion chopped
1 jalapeno, seeds removed and diced finely
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, chopped
1 small zucchini, or 1/2 -1 cup chopped 
1/4 cup all-purpose flour 
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin 
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 14 oz. can stock or broth (vegetable or chicken) 
1 1/2 cups milk 
1 can corn, drained and rinsed 
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
    1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium-low to medium heat. Cook onion and jalapeno until onion is soft and translucent, about 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and cook until soft, 4-5 minutes.
    2. Add longer cooking vegetables like carrot, cook 4-5 minutes. Add zucchini, cook 1-2 minutes. 
    3. Do not leave the stove for this step and have liquids ready to add to the pot. Add the flour, coating all the vegetables with the flour. The flour will soak up all moisture and the pan will probably look dry. Cook about 30 seconds. Add spices and cook another 30 seconds, any longer and the mixture will burn.
    4. Add stock, milk, and remaining vegetables. Add precooked chicken at this step and if using precooked shrimp, cook just long enough to heat, about 2-3 minutes.
    5. Bring to a gentle boil, turn heat down to low and let simmer for 10-15 minutes. Enjoy!

    Monday, November 21, 2011

    Recipe Review: Baked Quinoa Patties

    Source: Heidi Swanson, 101 Cookbooks

    I have finally made a meal with the quinoa that has been in my pantry for the past year. I was really excited to buy the quinoa (I got a pretty good deal on the stuff) but must not have been that excited to cook the seed.

    Quinoa, pronounced Keen-wah, is a seed that has been cultivated for thousands of years in the Andes of South America. What peaks my interest in quinoa is the high protein content and abundance of minerals. This little seed is pricier than some of my other favorite grains but quinoa can be found at most supermarkets and grocery chains these days.

    Previously, I had only eaten quinoa in salad-type dishes. This is a great way to use a whole-grain and I certainly enjoy salads I wanted something with a little more bite to it. Much like couscous, I find quinoa to be overwhelmed and lose its texture when overwhelmed by a vinaigrette or sauce. I did a little searching and kept finding this recipe for quinoa patties. I decided this recipe might do the trick!

    I was very happy with how my dish turned out. I did not have to fry the quinoa patties to get a nice golden, crunchy shell. I took advantage of the produce I already had in the refrigerator to add extra flavor. I added half a grated onion, a few cloves of garlic, scallions, and some chopped cilantro.

    The recipe calls for bread crumbs. I do not keep bread crumbs on hand and I did not feel like making some homemade bread crumbs. Instead, I used a combination of old-fashioned oats and flour. I used 3/4 cup of oats and 1/4 whole-wheat flour to help bind everything together. Enjoy!

    P.S. If you are cooking just for one, as I was in this case, I would consider either making a half-batch or being prepared to freeze leftovers, which I did.

    Baked Quinoa Patties, adapted from 101 Cookbooks

    2 1/2 cups cooked quinoa, at room temperature *
    4 large eggs, beaten
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/3 bunch cilantro, chopped
    3 cloves garlic, minced
    2 scallions, white and green parts, chopped (or substitute fresh chives)
    1/2 onion, grated
    1 teaspoon cumin
    1/4 teaspoon turmeric
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1 cup whole-grain bread crumbs **
    1 tablespoon olive oil or cooking spray, as needed
    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
    2. Coat a baking sheet with olive oil or spray with nonstick cooking spray.
    3. Combine quinoa and eggs in a bowl.
    4. Add salt, cilantro, garlic, scallions, onion, cumin, and turmeric. Mix well.
    5. Add baking powder and bread crumbs, combine. Allow mixture to sit for a few minutes. If mixture is too dry, feel free to add another beaten egg.
    6. Form into twelve 1 inch patties. Arrange on a baking sheet with space between each patty. Bake about 20 minutes until bottoms are brown then flip and bake for another 5 minutes. Serve.
    * To prepare quinoa, combine two cups of well-rinsed uncooked quinoa with 3 cups water in a suace pan. Bring to a boil, cover, decrease the heat, and simmer for 25-30 minutes, until the quinoa is tender and you can see the little "tail" of the quinoa.

    **In place of the bread crumbs, 3/4 cup of old-fashioned oats and 1/4 cup flour (all-purpose or whole-wheat) may be used.

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011

    Caramelized Onion, Spinach, and White Bean Pizza

    Spinach was my inspiration for this recipe. Every couple of months the nearby market has fresh spinach on sale for $1 a bag and I always try to take advantage of the sale. I might occasionally indulge in curry, such as Go Ducks! Curry but most often I make salads with the spinach using either my homemade balsamic vinaigrette or an Asian-inspired dressing. I wanted to take a different route with this spinach and make a new dish that made use of familiar ingredients.

    I have seen or read numerous recipes for a caramelized onion tart that uses a puff pastry crust. I thought I could make that tart even a little more special with some spinach.  I love caramelized onions and I love sauteed spinach so together this would just be even better! My next thought turned to the crust. I thought I could make a more substantial meal with a pizza crust.

    A pizza always has some sort of sauce. I began pondering what kind of sauce I could put on my pizza that I now knew would feature spinach and caramelized onions. I was also thinking about adding some sort of protein, which my pizza still lacked so including white beans came to mind. By pureeing the beans I could boost the flavor by adding extra virgin olive oil and lots of garlic. I now had sauce and protein on my pizza!

    Sauteed Spinach with Garlic
    I found half a can of beans provided enough "sauce" for the whole pizza. Some ideas for those leftover beans are to puree the whole can for some white bean hummus, add the beans to a salad or soup, mix with some sauteed vegetables for pasta, or add to a pot of rice.

    The next time I entertain I will by serving this pizza. My Caramelized Onion, Spinach, and White Bean Pizza is one of the more elegant dishes I have made. The pizza can be assesmbled in advance and finished cooking when guests arrive. The aroma from the cooking pizza is enticing. Enjoy!

    Caramelized Onion, Spinach, and White Bean Pizza

    Pizza crust
    Extra virgin olive oil, divided
    1-2 onions. cut into thin half-circles
    1 10 oz bag of fresh spinach or one brick of frozen spinach, defrosted and drained
    5 cloves garlic, grated or minced finely
    1/2 can or 1 1/2 cups cooked white beans, drained and rinsed
    2 teaspoons lemon juice
    Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    Red pepper flakes, to taste, optional
    1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat on the stove. Add onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized, 25-30 minutes. Season liberally with salt and pepper.
    2. To prepare beans, place beans in a food processor. Add garlic and season liberally with salt and pepper. Add lemon juice and enough extra virgin olive oil to puree the beans. Set aside.
    3. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees.
    4. Prepare pizza crust, whether homemade or otherwise. Sprinkle a baking sheet or pizza stone with cornmeal if desired or spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Brush crust with olive oil and bake for 10 minutes.
    5. To prepare spinach, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a pan. Add spinach, stirring occasionally, cook until wilted. Season with salt and red pepper flakes.
    6. Spread bean mixture over prepared pizza crust. Spread spinach evenly over the crust then spread onions evenly over the spinach layer.
    7. Bake until crust is golden brown.
    * A tangy cheese like feta or goat cheese would be excellent crumbled over the top of the pizza.

    Wednesday, November 9, 2011

    Spring Rolls

    I love, love, love our spring rolls! One, these rolls are delicious (which I will discuss further, of course) and two, Z. is the person who introduced me to spring rolls. He kept talking about these little rolls that he would occasionally get when he went out or more often, procure from the Safeway hot deli. So, curious I tried a spring roll and loved the crispy, flaky wrapper and the delicious vegetables. Eventually, we started making our own. I still remember the first time we made spring rolls. We were in my tiny little kitchen in Eugene and Z. had driven down to spend the weekend with me.

    Spring Roll v. Egg Roll

    I am not entirely sure of the differences between a spring roll and an egg roll. As far as I understand, spring rolls will probably have a vegetable filling and egg rolls will have meat. I do know the wrappers are very different. A spring roll wrapper is very delicate and becomes slightly flaky when cooked. When we have used spring roll wrappers we have used two wrappers. For these pictures, I used wonton wrappers because I could not get my hands on spring roll wrappers. I have never found spring roll wrappers at the conventional market, only at the Asian market. I decided to try wonton wrappers this time. I do not think there is any turning back. I was able to brown the rolls very easily and quickly. The moral of the story is I am calling these spring rolls.

    What Makes these Spring Rolls Special?
    The combination of vegetables. We keep the filling very simple but use tasty, flavorful vegetables. I like a combination of cabbage, shredded carrot, and scallions. The white parts of the scallions add a mild onion flavor without overpowering the rest of the filling. The green parts of the scallions add a fresh almost herbal flavor.  

    Bean threads. The bean threads add another layer of texture. And, something happens to the flavor when the cabbage and the bean threads combine. They are great together! 

    These rolls can be frozen and made at a later time. Place the rolls on a baking sheet in a single layer and place in the freezer until frozen. Then, the rolls may be placed in freezer bags or stacked in a container. Particularly when using the wonton wrappers, this is the best way to store uncooked rolls. I tried stacking the uncooked rolls in a container layered with waxed paper. The trapped moisture made the wrappers gooey and very hard to work with. If I had initially frozen the rolls, I would have avoided this problem. Enjoy!

      Cheap Not Frugal Eats Spring Rolls

      Note: The amount of vegetables will depend on the number of rolls you would like to make. Extra filling can easily be turned into a stir-fry.

      1 package spring roll wrappers or wonton wrappers
      1/2 green cabbage, chopped 
      3 carrots, grated
      1/2 bunch scallions, chopped
      Bean thread noodles
      Red chili flakes to taste
      Kosher salt
      Canola oil for frying
      1. If wrappers are frozen, set out at room temperature until thawed.
      2. Meanwhile, heat 1-2 tablespoons oil in a large high-sided skillet. Add cabbage and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender. Add carrots and scallions, cook until warm. Season with chili flakes and salt to taste. Set vegetable mixture aside to cool.
      3. Prepare bean noodles according to package directions.
      4. When vegetable mixture is cooled, begin assembling spring rolls. Make sure not to over-stuff the rolls. Place a portion of bean thread noodles on a wrapper (if using spring roll wrappers, consider using two wrappers for each roll). Then, place a portion of the vegetable mixture on the noodles. Wrap like a burrito, using a little water to moisten the edges to seal.
      5. If not cooking right away, place in a single layer on a baking sheet and place in the freezer until frozen. They may be stored or cooked.
      6. To cook, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet. When hot, place rolls in the skillet, leaving space between each roll. When browned on one side, flip. Try to brown on all sides. Serve plain or with dipping sauce of your choice.

        Saturday, November 5, 2011

        Roasted Ragout of Winter Squash and Chickpeas

        I have one more acorn squash recipe for all of you. In a dish, I like to combine opposite flavors, particularly spicy and sweet. In this case, the sweetness of the squash is balanced by the heat and earthiness of the Indian spices I used.

        I took my inspiration from garam masala, that warming spice blend of cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, among other possible spices. When creating this meal, I loved the idea of using garam masala because the spice mix utilizes several spices many of us associate with the fall and winter seasons.

        I included turmeric because I knew turmeric's earthy flavor would echo the earthiness of the squash. I was thinking smoking bacon would certainly complement the squash but I was not cooking with bacon that evening so I did the next best thing I could, which was to use smoked paprika. I added plenty of red chili flakes to contrast with the sweetness that is created when vegetables are roasted. What was missing was a hint of brightness or acidity, so I used some fresh tomatoes. Garnishing with plenty of fresh cilantro brings the dish together. Enjoy!

        Roasted Ragout of Winter Squash and Chickpeas

        Oil, enough olive oil or canola to coat the vegetables
        1/2 acorn squash, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
        1 onion, cut into half-circles
        1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
        2-3 roma tomatoes, seeds removed and chopped
        4 cloves garlic, minced
        2 teaspoons garam masala
        1 teaspoon turmeric
        1 teaspoon smoked paprika
        Red chili flakes, to taste
        Kosher salt, to taste
        1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
        2. Combine all ingredients except tomatoes and cilantro in a casserole dish.
        3. Bake about 15 minutes then add tomatoes to the pan. Continue cooking until tomatoes are warm and squash is tender, about an additional 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of the squash.
        4. Serve with chopped fresh cilantro.