14 August 2018: Feta-Herb Edamame Succotash

2018-Aug-11_Fournightsaweek_2593With the recent string of hot and humid days, neither of us has felt inclined to heat up our condo by turning on the oven. We love salads made with fresh greens, but after a bit, that gets a little worn out as a dinner option. Cooking Light published this tasty variation on Succotash by Callie Nash in their May 2017 issue and it is terrific. A quick sauté  of chopped onions with the addition of Edamame and corn is about all the kitchen heat that is generated, making this a great salad for hot and humid days.

Feta-Herb Edamame Succotash by Callie Nash

Ingredients

  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cups frozen shelled edamame, thawed
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernals, thawed
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 1 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 TBSP fresh dill (USE FRESH)
  • 2 TBSP chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (USE FRESH)
  • 2 TBSP sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Method

  1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally until tender (about 4 mins).
  2. Add edamame; cook stirring constantly, 2 minutes. Add corn; cook. stirring constantly, 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Transfer to a bowl; cool 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in tomatoes, feta, dill, parsley, vinegar, salt and pepper.
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07 August 2018: Summer Farro Salad

2018-Aug-07_fournightsaweek_2587We are in the middle of a New England heat wave, so I’m making an attempt not to heat up our living space beyond tolerable. So with that goal in mind, I went on an Internet search for summer vegetarian salads and came up with this gem from Food & Wine’s September 2009 issue. Summer Farro Salad originated with Marco Canora and the link to his original article is here.

Previously when I’ve cooked with the Italian grain, farro, If you are unfamiliar with this ancient grain, this article from Spruce Eats has a great overview. I’ve found the preparation (soaking, cooking, cooling) to be a bit off-putting. In reading F&W’s recipe, the Farro is simmered with aromatics for about 20 minutes total – way more approachable for those of us for whom cooking is more spontaneous.

Summer Farro Salad – Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cups + 2 TBSP extra virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, quartered
  • 1 small carrot, halved
  • 1 celery rib, halved
  • 12 oz. farro (1 3/4 cups)
  • 5 cups water
  • kosher salt
  • 3 TBSP red wine vinegar
  • Fresh pepper
  • 1/2 small red onion
  • 1 small seedless cucumber, halved lengthwise & thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1 pint grape comatoes halved
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Method:

  1. In a large saucepan, heat 2 tbsp of the oil. Add the yellow onion, carrot and celery, cover and cook over moderately low heat until barely softened, about 5 minutes. Add the farro and stir to coat with oil. Add the water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat until the farro is barely tender (about 10 minutes). Season with salt. Cover and simmer until the farro is al dente (about 10 more minutes). Drain the farro and discard the onion, carrot, and celery. Let cool completely.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the remaining 1/3 cup of olive oil with the vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Fold in the cooked farro, red onion, cucumber, tomatoes and basil. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

27 May 2018: French Baguettes

2018-May-27_FourNightsAWeek_Baguette_2393I’ve been a baguette fan for a long time, and even though I’ve discovered there are just too many variables/barriers preventing me from baking a truly French baguette, I keep trying. Baking a French traditional baguette is my quixotic challenge in baking.

French bread flour is definitely different – it is a harder type of wheat I think – and our ovens here in the US don’t always reach the temperatures required  for crusty French-style breads.  However, I have found a recipe from King Arthur Flour that comes darn close to the real thing, or at least I think so. CNV00000023

When we visit France, one of the things I look forward to is a stop for baguette. No matter how small the town, there is always a boulangerie turning out the most delectable, crusty loaves. Now that I think of it, we just may be overdue for an in-person taste test.

French Baguette from King Arthur Flour

Ingredients for the Starter

  • 1/2 cup cool water
  • 1 cup King Arthur Unbleached AP Flour (don’t substitute)
  • 1/8 tsp instant yeast

Ingredients for the Dough

  • All of the starter
  • 3 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached AP Flour (I substituted 1 cup KA Bread flour because I had it in the pantry)
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp instant yeast

Method:

  1. Mix the starter ingredients until smooth, cover, and let rest at room temperature overnight. Don’t skip this step!
  2. The next day, mix the starter with the remaining ingredients, kneading until the dough is nice and springy but not totally smooth (or if you are like me, use your bread hook and heavy-duty mixer). Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover, and let it rise for 3 hours, gently deflating it and turning it over after 1 hour and again after 2 hours.
  3. Divide the dough in half (in our two-person household, I divide the dough into quarters). Shape each half into a rough oval. Wait 15 minutes and then fold each oval lengthwise, sealing the edge, and use cupped fingers to gently roll each piece into a long log.  Place the loaves onto a lightly greased or parchment lined (my choice) pan, cover, and let them rise* until they are puffy, but not doubled – this takes about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Towards the end of the rise, pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Very gently use a sharp knife or razor to slash 3 diagonal 1/3-inch deep slashes in each loaf. Mist the loaves heavily with warm water (do not skip this).
  4. Bake baguettes for 22 to 28 minutes, til they’re golden brown. Take the baguettes of the pan and place them right back on the oven rack. Turn off the oven, crack the door open about 2 inches and let the baguettes cool completely in the oven.
  • *For extra-crisp baguettes, King Arthur bakers suggest covering the shaped loves and let them rise for 30 minutes. Then refrigerate them overnight. The next day (Day 3!) take them out of the refrigerator and let them rest at room temperature, covered for about 3 hours or until they are nice and puffy. Then bake as in Step 4.

 


22 May 2018: Kripalu Green Soup

2018-May-18_food_2343I was lucky enough to spend a weekend at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Lenox, Massachusetts a few years ago and, to say it was life-changing is mildly descriptive to say to least.  Since then, although I don’t always cook or eat as healthy as I should, I do like browsing through Kripalu’s kitchen recipes for ways to counteract some more unhealthy habits.

This green soup seemed a winner from the first read. Packet with veggie power, it is filling and cleansing – a great way to get back on the path toward making healthier eating choices.  And should you find yourself near Western Massachusetts, be sure to treat yourself to some time a Kripalu Center.

Clean Green Soup

From Ellen Casperson (School of Ayurveda) 

Ingredients

(Take Ellen Casperson’s advice: feel free to use whatever proportion and variety of green vegetables you prefer)

  • 2 cups water or homemade vegetable stock
  • 4 cups broccoli crowns and stalks, chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 stalks fresh celery, chopped in 1 inch pieces
  • 4 cups fresh spinach or other greens
  • 2 cups water or homemade vegetable stock (added to get a consistency you like)
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground tumeric
  • Salt to taste
  • Fresh lemon

Method

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine water, vegetables, black pepper, and tumeric. Bring to a boil.
  2. Turn heat down to medium and cook for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are soft (but not mushy). Take pan off heat and blend mixture until smooth using an immersion blender.
  3. You can add more water here to achieve a thick but not gloppy consistency. Add salt to taste.
  4. Top with a squeeze of fresh lemon

 


20 May 2018: Sweet Pea Dip

2018-May-18_food_2333When the weekend rolls around, we like to slow things down and start our evening meal off with Cinq à Sept, our version of the French cocktail hour. And that means a little something to eat before dinner.  I discovered this refreshing Spring dip from Michael Symon on Food Network’s website recently and it has quickly become a favorite before dinner treat. 

Sweet Pea Dip

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh or frozen peas (frozen peas, way easier and usually in my freezer anyway)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup fresh sheep’s milk ricotta (okay, cheated – bought low-fat store-brand ricotta)
  • Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (don’t even think about that canned stuff!)
  • 2 TBSP chopped fresh (yes, use the fresh) mint
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
  • Grilled bread for serving (whatever you substitute, make it crusty)

Method:

  1. Add the peas to a large pot of well-salted boiling water and boil the pease for about 30 seconds (here’s where I use my microwave). Remove peas to an ice bath.
  2. In a food processor, combine the ricotta, lemon zest, parmesan and mint. Drain the peas and add them to the food processor. Pulse just until the mixture comes together; you want to keep a little texture and not make it totally smooth. Season with salt.
  3. Spoon the mixture into a serving bowl, crack some pepper over the top and drizzle with olive oil. Serve the pea dip with grilled bread.

18 May 2018: Not a Birthday Cake

2018-May-18_food_2362Today is Adrien’s birthday and, I will be cooking tonight’s celebratory meal. While I am a big fan of birthday cake, he is not. So we are having a very un-birthday like dessert: chocolate mousse.

The absolute best chocolate mousse we have ever eaten was served at a lovely Paris restaurant in the Marais just a few blocks from Places de Vosges, Chez Janou.  There is nothing quite so delightful as ending a wonderful meal with a giant copper bowl of chocolate mousse, trust me. This recipe from Martha Stewart comes pretty close to perfection, however, and it is fairly uncomplicated. Chocolately and light, forget counting calories. This is an indulgently rich dessert worthy of someone’s birthday.

Martha Stewart’s Chocolate Mousse

Ingredients

  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 4 TBSP sugar
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (I substituted vanilla paste here)

Method

  1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together egg yolks, 2 TBSP sugar, and 3/4 cup heavy cream. Cover over medium-low heat, stirring until mixture coats back of a spoon (3-4 minutes). Do not allow to boil. Remove from heat, whisk in melted chocolate and vanilla. Strain into a bowl. Chill until cool.
  2. With an electric mixer (I used my trusty stand mixer with the whisk attachment), beat remaining 1 1/4 cups heavy cream with remaining 2 TBSP sugar until stiff peaks form. Stir 1/3 of the whipped cream into the cooled custard mixture, then GENTLY FOLD (!) in the rest of the whipped cream with a spatula.
  3. Spoon into serving dishes, chill covered at least 30 minutes and up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before serving. Or if you are dreaming of Chez Janou, put the mousse in a big serving bowl and enjoy the memories!

 


8 April 2018: Easy Italian Pear Cake

2018-Apr-07_FourNightsAWeek_2048I discovered two pears in the ‘fridge the other day and sought to use them before, you know, they become part of a compost heap. Also, had a partially consumed container of mascarpone, so this recipe seemed meant to be

My only criticism of this particular pear cake was that it baked up very dry. Maybe I overbaked. It just didn’t seem right to toss the cake that I made with the purpose of eliminating wasted fruit, so I needed to figure out a fix.  

I had a half-bottle of Ipsus Passito di Pantelleria Dessert Wine waiting to be finished. Using a skewer, I poured the dessert wine onto the cake which not only moistened it, but gave it a great flavor as well.  Cutting down on food waste is a personal goal in this house, and if dessert helps us cut out the waste, well, that’s a good thing, right? 

Easy Italian Pear Cake from An Italian in My Kitchen

Ingredients2018-Apr-07_FourNightsAWeek_2028_edited-1

  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup + 1-1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 34 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup mascarpone
  • 2-1/2 Tbsp vegetable oil (coconut or olive oil are my choices here)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 pears

Method

  1. Pre-heat oven to 340 degrees F. Lightly grease and flour and 9-inch cake pan (author used a springform pan).
  2. Clean and peel the pears, chop one pear into medium-sized cubes and the other pear into thin slices. Set aside.
  3. In medium bowl (I used my stand mixer), at medium speed beat eggs and sugar until creamy; add mascarpone and continue beating until smooth.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, cornstarch, baking powder, salt and baking soda.
  5. STIR the flour into the egg mixture by hand (wood spoon) to combine gnetly, then add oil and stir to combine.
  6. Fold in the pear cubes, spoon into prepared cake pan.
  7. Top the batter with sliced pears and sprinkle 2 TBS sugar on top.
  8. Bake approximately 45-60 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

 


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