Tuesday, September 25, 2012

End of Summer Minestrone

Don't focus on the "End of Summer" part of this blog title.  It's just going to make us both sad and it's not even worth it.  Time is time and no matter how much I pout, the cold and snow are going to come.  So, let's not talk about that.  I'm sure I'll complain more than enough once the winter storms start.

Instead, let's focus on the minestrone part.  This soup that was so thick with fresh vegetables, honestly we should be calling it a stew.  There were handfuls upon handfuls of green beans, juicy tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, onions, zucchini and summer squash.  Plus, just to fill it out, and to put to ease any boyfriends that are concerned about the lack of meat, some canned kidney beans.

This was fantastic.  It was filling, hearty and comforting, and one of the best things to sop up with a warm, crusty hunk of bread.  Plus, there was so much chopping!!  Maybe this isn't a plus for you, but a little slow, methodical chop-chop, dice-dice?  One of the best de-stressing techniques there are.  And with the start of cold, short days, who isn't a little stressed?  So, if we can't stop the end of summer, let's make soup to soak up ever last ounce of it we have left.

End of Summer Minestrone
Adapted from The Little Red House

This froze beautifully.  I froze the leftovers in individual portions and just last night pulled it out and left it to thaw in the fridge.  It had thawed by lunch time and microwaved like a dream.

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
3 carrots, chopped
5-6 baby Yukon gold potatoes, chopped
2 small onions, diced
3 tomatoes, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 c. chicken stock
2 c. vegetable stock
2 cans kidney beans
2 c. green beans, chopped
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
2 Tbsp. fresh basil, shredded
1 c. whole wheat ditali pasta
1 zucchini, sliced in half moons
1 summer squash, sliced in half moons
Feta, to garnish

Chop up carrots and potatoes.  Dice onion.  In a large dutch oven over medium heat olive oil.  Add carrots, potatoes and onions and saute for 4-5 minutes until onions are soft and potatoes are starting to cook through.  Add garlic and diced tomatoes and continue to saute a few more minutes.

Add stocks and beans and bring soup to a boil.  Add green beans, bay leaves, oregano and basil.  Simmer until 15 minutes before serving.  Add pasta and squashes and cook until pasta is al dente, about 10-15 minutes.   Ladle into bowls and garnish with feta.  Serve with crusty bread.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Vanilla Orange Biscotti

On Wednesdays, I have 6 am meetings.  As a frame of reference, I am normally trying to convince myself to roll out of bed only after 6 am on weekday mornings.  Needless to say, Wednesdays are not my favorite day of the week.  I am a little less friendly on Wednesdays.  I tend to drink 3 times as much tea on Wednesday.

I thought these early meetings were the worst.  Until this Wednesday.  Now this Wednesday was the worst.  You see, the 6 am meeting got cancelled and nobody told me.

That's right, I got to work at 6:05 (because I am never on time to 6 am meetings, I just can't do it), rushed to the conference room and it was black.  Dark.  Nobody.  I half considered staying in the dark and curling up under the conference table for a quick nap.  Looking back, I totally should have taken the opportunity.  The rest of the work day was a fog.

And then I got home.  I went into my kitchen, did some stuff, and came out with vanilla orange biscotti.  This is a new phenomenon for me, but there is something about zesting an orange that makes you just perk right up.  Horrible memories of 6 am meetings melted as I poured some good, locally made, incredibly alcoholic, vanilla extract into the dough and mixed.  And shaped.  Baked, Cut.  Baked again.

I thought about drizzling chocolate as a finishing touch, unsure how well the naked biscotti would hold up on its own.  But it was completely unnecessary.  Plus it required more time, more effort, and after these came out of the oven the rest of my night went something like this:  biscotti, tea, a little more biscotti while watching Everybody Loves Raymond, bed.  If only every Wednesday would end so well...

Vanilla Orange Biscotti
Adapted from the smitten kitchen, because of course Deb knows how to rock biscotti

Needless to say, BGCB.  These were fantastic and made a good sized batch.  Ben and I were able to somehow make them last 6 days.  They were just as crisp and crunchy the last day as they were the first.  Just make sure they are tucked away, hidden if you actually want them to last at all, in an air tight container and you'll be good to go.  They aren't making it longer than a week though, that's a guarantee!

1 1/2 c. sugar
10 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
3 eggs
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract (use your good stuff!)
1 Tbsp. Triple Sec (or other orange liqueur)
1 Tbsp. orange zest
3 1/4 c. all purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c.sliced almonds
1 large egg white

Preheat oven to 350.  Line cookie sheet with parchment paper or silpat, lightly dusting with flour.

In large bowl, mix sugar, melted butter, eggs, triple sec and orange zest well.  Sift flour, baking powder and salt into wet mixture.  Mix until well blended.  Add almonds and mix until evenly distributed.

Turn dough onto prepared baking sheet.  Using ample flour on your hands (dough is sticky!), divide dough into two even logs, about 2.5 inches wide and 1 inch tall, as far apart as possible on the sheet.  Whisk egg white until frothy and generously brush over dough logs. Bake in 350 oven until golden, about 30 minutes.

Remove logs from oven and allow to cool at least 15 minutes.  If you try to cut them while still warm, you will not have clean cuts.  Once cool, cut logs diagonally into 1/2 inch slices, using a serrated knife.  Discard parchment paper from baking sheet and lie slices cut side down.  Return to 340 oven and bake until golden brown, about 10-12 minutes.  Flip biscotti and return to oven to brown on remaining side, another 8-10 minutes.  Remove biscotti and cool on sheet a few minutes, before transferring biscotti to a rack to cool.  Enjoy!

PS - totally just realized biscotti is both singular and plural.  Or at least I think it is, and that counts for something, right?? 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Parmesan Thyme Crackers

I'm sometimes afraid that people who randomly come across my blog are going to read the name and instantly think it's about being "green".  For the cooking to be about saving energy, reducing waste or any other manner of going "green".  I am all for going green, I reuse plastic produce bags and bring my own cloth sacks to the grocery store.  But that is not what this is about.  Besides my dislike of new plastic bags, the only real extent of my "green-ness", is my hatred of wasting food.

I've mentioned this before.  I only mention it again as an excuse to you for once again, so soon, repeating a recipe.  When my parents were visiting, we got my dad some half and half for his coffee.  And since only half of the half and half was actually used, I needed a vehicle for the rest.  Just days before I had sorted through my stack of newspaper cut-outs and magazine rip-outs, in an attempt to be better, and found this gem. 

Now, in my defense, this was a completely different recipe source than last time.  Ok, that was a lie, but a lie I just discovered.  Turns out Deb grabbed it from the same source I did.  Mark Bittman, New York Times, 2009.  So really, what you are looking at here is some marvelously easy Parmesan crackers, with the addition of some fresh thyme.  And a new newspaper article in my big green cookbook.  Because it always comes back to green.

Parmesan Thyme Crackers
Adapted from NYT article, February 2009

1 c. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
6 sprigs fresh thyme
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut in chunks
1/4 c. half and half

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In bowl of food processor, combine first 4 ingredients.  Pulse until combined well.   Add unsalted butter and pulse machine until butter and flour mixture come together.  Turn machine on and stream in half and half.  If necessary, add more half and half by the teaspoon until dough comes together, but is not sticky.

Turn dough out onto floured surface.  Roll dough out to about 1/4 inch thick, adding flour as needed to keep dough from getting sticky.  Once rolled thin, transfer dough to prepared cookie sheet.  Using dull side of a knife, score dough in checkered pattern.   Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt.

Bake until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.  Let cool on baking sheet and break apart.  Store extra in air tight container. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

White Bean and Cabbage Hash

I'm a little bummed.  You see, Deb, my kitchen-crush Deb, just released her book tour schedule.  This should have been a happy day for me, right?  She's even coming to the lovely suburbs of Chicago, close enough that I could even drag Ben along!  But now, this glee, this happy, excited, can't wait to just get my hands on the darn book and now may, just maybe I could get it signed too feeling, it's gone.  Cause I won't be here.  That's right.  Deb is making her way to the Midwest, and I won't even be here.  Needless to say, I am bummed.  I love Deb, you all know that.  It's weird and strange, and don't you dare go insulting my cooking superhero, because I will fight you.  And this chance I get to meet her?  Not there anymore.  My bottom lip is sticking out so far right now, I could balance a pencil on it.

Excuse me while I go and sit and pout for the next 12 minutes.  Hmmpphh.


Truth be told, the first cooking blog that I discovered wasn't Smitten Kitchen at all.  That actually didn't come till a few years later.  The first cooking blog I discovered was Heidi over at 101 Cookbooks.  And even though my heart and spatula belong to Deb, Heidi is pretty balling too.  Balling enough to come up with things like summer linguini, and a small stack of cookie recipes that one day I will eventually get to.

I gave my Mom Heidi's cookbook, Super Natural Every Day, for a birthday present a year or two ago.  Because I'm a needy daughter, mere hours after she had opened it, I flipped through the pages, earmarking all the ones that I needed to try as well.  This white bean and cabbage hash has been on the list since day 1, hour zero. 

I find it a little funny that I had wanted to make this recipe for over a year, and it only took my to the night before actually making the recipe to realize that it has a potato in it.  Which is good, because something needed to distinguish it from the other cabbage and bean saute recipe on this site.  I threw in some purple cabbage, mostly for you, for color, so it wasn't just mounds of pale cabbage and potatoes and white beans.  A bundle of leftover fresh thyme that I had, in an effort to minimize waste and at the suggestion of steamykitchen.com.  Head on over there, because those pictures are gorgeous.   I am still in awe that photos of cabbage could look so yummy.  And this is why my blog-love list is continuously growing...

White Bean and Cabbage Hash
Adapted from Steamy Kitchen, who adapted from Super Natural Every Day

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil 
1 potato, medium size 
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme, bundled
1/2 red onion, diced 
1 15-oz can cannellini beans, drained 
3 cups heaping green and red cabbage 
kosher salt
Parmesan cheese

Scrub potato well.  Cut into a small dice, about 1/2 inch cubes.  Heat cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Add oil and heat until it begins to shimmer.  Spread potatoes evenly and brown, scrapping and tossing occasionally to get a golden brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. 

Add onion and cannellini beans.  Spread over bottom of pan and let onions cook down and beans brown.  Add bundled of thyme.  Toss occasionally, scraping browned bits from bottom of pan, browning beans on both sides.  

Toss in cabbage and cook another few minutes until cabbage is cooked down.  Remove thyme bundle.  Sprinkle salt over top to taste.  Top with Parmesan cheese. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Lemon and Olive Chicken

It is no secret that I am a big fan of Everybody Loves Raymond.  My love of the reruns is well documented both here and basically every weekday night of my life.  Even typing this, miles away from Ben, I can hear his loudly resounding "duh".  I like to think my love of Everybody Loves Raymond is one of the quality he loves about me...

So when I decided to try this lemon chicken recipe from this year's January Cooking Light issue, I sort of, kind of had a secret day dream that I was making lemon chicken just like Deb.  For those of you not caught up on Everybody Loves Raymond reruns (might I add, what is wrong with you??), the first dish Debra cooked for Ray was lemon chicken.  In fact, really the only dish Deb could really cook was lemon chicken.  I got sort of excited that maybe, just maybe, I had found my version of lemon chicken.

More than likely, what Deb was cooking did not have a Mediterranean riff on it.  I suppose we'll never know.  But mine did, with shallots, olives, rosemary and oregano.  It was yummy.  Ben liked it, thought it was a switch up from a normal baked chicken meal.  I enjoyed it too.  It came together pretty quick, baked while I cleaned up the kitchen and the leftovers heated up fantastically.  Not a keeper though, which may be my fault for not using fresh herbs.  Just a good, solid Wednesday night meal.

Lemon and Olive Chicken
Adapted from CL Jan. 2012

2 tsp. lemon zest (~1 lemon) 
1/4 c. lemon juice (1-2 lemons)
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried rosemary
15 oil-cured olives, pitted
1 large shallot, sliced
1 lemon, thinly sliced
Salt and Pepper, olive oil to grease

In large bowl, whisk together lemon zest and juice, olive oil and garlic.  Add chicken, flipping to coat.  Let marinade for 15 minutes, occasionally flipping chicken around in marinade.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Thinly slice shallot and lemon.  Halve olives (or pit them, I usually end up halving when I pit anyways...)  Very lightly grease ceramic baking dish (9x13) with olive oil.  Lay chicken in single layer across bottom.  Pour any remaining marinade over top.  Season with salt, pepper, oregano and rosemary.  Spread lemon slices, shallots and olives evenly over top.

Bake 30 minutes, until chicken is just before done.  Remove from oven and preheat broiler.  Broiler chicken for 5-7 minutes until chicken is browned and cooked through.

We served on a bed of orzo with a side of steamed green beans!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

White Chicken Chili

It has started.  Did you notice?  It doesn't exactly sneak up on you, so I assume so.  Football season.  It is here.  It's starting.  Today!  Well, I guess college already started with a bang, my Fighting Irish taking care of Navy.  We won by quite the margin, even if I don't quite remember the end of the game, as might be expected by an 8 am kickoff time and an all you can drink special.  (Know what I do remember?  Hang overs that start at 6 pm are not fun).  And tonight?  The first NFL game of the season is tonight.

Are you ready?  Have you had your fantasy football draft?  And if so, do you have any clever left over fantasy football team names that maybe I could use?  Most importantly, are you stocked up on soup, chili and game-watching snack recipes?  Cause that is what football is.  A pot of chili on the stove, chips and salsa, and some beer cooling in the fridge.  Football season, here we come.

White Chicken Chili

This would be great for a Sunday afternoon football watching marathon.  It comes together quickly and the longer it sits, gently bubbling away, the happier your taste buds are going to be.  My mom has been making this ever since one day in the supermarket I peeled off on of those free recipes hanging up in the spice aisle.  The paper has long since been lost, but the recipe most certainly has not.

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces
¼ c. chopped onion
1 c. chicken broth
2 cans (4oz) chopped green chilies (I use 1 mild, 1 hot)
2 cans (19oz) white kidney beans (cannelloni), undrained (I've also used chickpeas)
2 green onions, slices, to top
Monterrey Jack cheese, to top

Southwest Spice Blend:
1½  tsp. Garlic Powder
1 ½ tsp. Ground Cumin
1 tsp. Oregano Leaves
1/8 tsp. Ground Rep Pepper (or more depending on your heat tolerance)

In dutch oven, heat oil over medium high heat.  Add chicken and onions and cook until chicken is done, about 5 minutes.  Add broth, green chilies and spice blend.  Bring to a simmer for at least 5 minutes.  Stir in beans and return soup to a simmer for 5 minutes.  Ladle into bowls and tops with cheese and onions.