Category Archives: Entree

21 August 2018: Sweet Corn Polenta with Bell Pepper & Tomato Salad

2018-Aug-16_Fournightsaweek_2602The July/August 2018 issue of Eating Well has, as you might expect, some terrific recipes taking advantage of summer harvests. This recipe from Julia Clancy, a recipe developer from EatingWell,  is a perfect example. Is there anything better than a hot-off-the-vine tomato? I don’t think so.  

I’ve been intimidated by making my own polenta for a while. This week, finally, I gave this recipe a try, and I have to admit the difference is amazing! I’ll be hard-pressed to buy the ready-made products from now on. 

The only “downside” to this recipe is that it takes quite a while to complete – the polenta cooking and cooling period is about 3 hours total.  I made the polenta ahead of time, marinated the salad together in the refrigerator and, since we were having one of those unpredictable dinner times, assembled everything in about 20 minutes. This is definitely a great meal to prep ahead of time and put together later.

Served with a crisp, dry rose, this was a terrific mid-summer vegetarian meal.

Sweet Corn Polenta with Bell Pepper & Tomato Salad by Julia Clancy

Ingredients

For the Polenta:

  • 5 cups water
  • 1 cup coarsely ground cornmeal or polenta
  • 1 cup corn, fresh or frozen
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (please, not the canned dust!)
  • 2 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For the Salad

  • 2 medium red and/or yellow bell peppers, halved & seeded
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes halved
  • 3 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 TBSP red-wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 TBSP chopped FRESH herbs (basil, mint and/or tarragon)

Method:

  1. To prepare polenta: Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce heat to low and gradually add cornmeal, whisking constantly to prevent clumping. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the polenta is creamy and reduce to about 4 cups (50 or 60 minutes). If the mixture is too stiff, loosen with 2 TBSP water.
  2. Add corn, Parmesan, butter, pepper and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cheese is melted and the corn is tender – about 5 minutes. Coat a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray. Pour in the polenta and let cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm – about 2 hours or up to 1 day.
  3. To prepare the salad: Position a rack in upper third of oven; preheat broiler to high. Place peppers cut-side down on a baking sheet (I lined with foil). Broil, rotating the pan once, until softened and charred – 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let steam for 10 minutes. Rub off blistered skin and coarsely chop the peppers. Combine with tomatoes, 2 TBSP oil, vinegar and salt in a medium bowl.
  4. Position a rack in upper third of oven; preheat broiler to high. Cut the polenta into 12 squares and place on baking sheet. Brush both sides of the polenta with the remaining 1 TBSP oil. Broil, turning once until golden brown – 3 to 5 minutes.
  5. To serve: Arrange the polenta and tomato salad on a large serving platter and top with herbs.

To make ahead: Prepare up to Step 4; refrigerate polenta and salad separately for up to 1 day. Serve salad at room temperature.

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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.

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!

 


13 March 2018: Mall-Style Vegetable Stir Fry

2018-Mar-13_Fournightsaweek_1837When we were both working full-time, Adrien and I would plan a stir-fry meal which used one of those bottled Asian-style sauces as a starting point. Now that was certainly quick and tasty, but I’m not exactly sure how many ingredients in the bottled product would be considered “healthy”. So, when I spotted this recipe in the New York Times Food section, I was intrigued: could a stir-fry sauce be created to satisfy the need for a pick-up home-cooked meal and still be without some of those preservatives and flavor enhancers that end up in prepared foods. I think my answer is a resounding YES! But you don’t have to take my word for it. Try this one for yourself.

Mall-Style Vegetable Stir-Fry

Adapted from Jenne Claiborne By Kim Severson as found in the New York Times Cooking

Ingredients – For the Sauce

  • 1 tsp neutral oil (suggestion was to use grapeseed; I used coconut oil)
  • 1 1/2 TBSP minced ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 3 TBSP rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 6 Medjool or other dried dates, pitted and chopped
  • 1 TBSP arrowroot powder or cornstarch

Ingredients – For the Stir Fry

  • 1 TBSP grapeseed or coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion (or 2 shallots, thinly sliced)
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped or julienned
  • 1 head broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets and pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (a 15 oz. can drained and rinsed will do it)
  • Freshly cooked rice
  • 1 TBSP sesame seeds (I used toasted)
  • 1-2 fresh limes quartered
  • Garnish: chopped cilantro

Method

  1. Make the sauce: in a saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add ginger and garlic, and cook, stirring just until garlic starts to turn golden (about 1 minute). Stir in soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and dates. Let simmer 3 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk arrowroot or cornstarch with 1/3 cup water until smooth. Slowly stir the mixture into the simmering sauce. When the sauce begins to thicken (quick!), remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
  3. When the sauce is cool enough to handle, transfer sauce to a blender, and blend until smooth. Set aside.
  4. Make the stir fry: In a wok or skillet with a lid, heat oil over medium heat. When hot, add onions. Stir-fry for about 1 minute until softened. Add red pepper and carrots, cover and cook 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Stir in broccoli, chickpeas, and sauce, and cook, covered stirring occasionally, until vegetables are cooked to your liking (about 10 minutes).
  5. Serve over the cook rice, garnish with sesame seeds, fresh cilantro and lime wedges.

29 January 2018: Red Bean Stew

2018-Jan-29_fournightsaweek_red_beans_1704When you go to your local wine purveyor to ask about a wine that will pair with Red Bean Stew, you really are setting up for a challenge.  And, luckily in my case, our local wine and cheese shop, Tutto Bene, has a very knowledgeable owner, Wendi Wilkins, who hit this recommendation out of the park. 

This wine, Seven Sinners (2015), is created from a 100% Syrah from Central Valley of California around Lodi. Deep red, and velvety in color, the wine is tastes big and jammy to me with some nice spiciness. My palate may still be under construction, but I know what I like, and I like this wine. A lot! And who knew? It was perfect with the Red Bean Stew I adapted from the New York Times’ Martha Rose Shulman for Meatless Monday. Head over to Tutto Bene before Wendi runs out. Because, as Wendi tells it, you will be sad when you run out.

Red Bean Stew

Adapted from Martha Rose Shulman, New York Times

We tend to eat mainly plant-based in our house and off and on I’ve eaten strictly vegetarian meals for much of the last 30 years. Mondays are generally Meatless Mondays around here, no matter what, so tonight I gave this hearty red bean stew a try.  Don’t let the preparation of the beans intimidate you. Once you’ve prepared dry beans from scratch, you’ll have a difficult time going back to canned beans with (as Sara Moulton would say), their lovely gelatinous material.  Just plan ahead and it will all be fine.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound (2 1/4 cups) red beans, washed, picked over & soaked for 6 hours or 2018-Jan-29_fournightsaweek_red_beans_1716overnight in 2 quarts of water
  • 2 TBPS extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium or large onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large green pepper, cut into small dice
  • 2 TBSP sweet Hungarian paprika
  • 2 TBSP tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • Pinch cayenne (I substituted 2 TBSP-you read that right-Sriracha Sauce)
  • 2 TBSP red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • Freshly ground black papper
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup drained yogurt (I used Greek yougurt – 0% fat)

Method

  1. Drain the beans through a strainer set over a bowl, Place the beans in a large soup pot or Dutch oven. Measure the soaking water in the bowl and add enough water to measure about 2 quarts (this is less than NYT recipe called for). Add to the pot with the beans, turn the heat to medium high and bring to a gentle boil. Skim off any foam and/or bean skins.
  2. [This is my adaptation]. Drain the cooked beans (I let them simmer for about 30 minutes), reserving the cooking liquid. Wipe out the pan or dutch oven and continue with step 3.
  3. Heat 1 TBSP of the oil over medium heat and add the onions, carrots, and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are tender and fragrant (about 8-10 min). Add 2 of the garlic cloves and continue to cook for another minute or so. Season with salt, add another TBSP oil and add the paprika. Cook, stirring for a couple of minutes until the vegetables are well coated with paprika. Add a ladleful of the bean cooking water to deglaze the pan then stir in the beans and add the rest of the bean water (should be about 2 quarts of liquid). Add tomato paste and bay leaf, reduce heat and simmer for an hour with the cover on.
  4. Add oregano, remaining garlic, sriracha (or cayenne if you really don’t want this to be spicy), vinegar and sugar. Simmer for another hour. Beans should be thoroughly cooked at this point (i.e., not crunchy!). If you want the broth a bit thicker, take about a cup of the beans out of the pan and mash or blend them. Return this to the pan.
  5. Just before serving, stir in the parsley. Serve with large dollop of the drained yogurt.

16 January 2018: Lemon and Garlic Chicken With Mushrooms

2018-Jan-16_FourNightsAWeek-Chicken_1652

Santos Winery 2016 Santorini Assyrtiko


A side benefit to a subscription to the New York Times – not that I need one – are the wonderful food columns. This recipe from Martha Rose Shulman is a great weeknight meal because it 
comes together quickly.  Tonight, the dish was paired with a delightful and slightly mineral-ly Assyrtiko from Santorini which I picked up on recommendation from Tutto Bene Wine and Cheese Shop. Both of us were more than a little unfamiliar with the wines of Greece (click the link above for NYTimes Wine School article about Santorini wines), but this one was definitely a home run ~ Thanks Wendi!  Tasting notes follow the recipe.

 

 

Lemon and Garlic Chicken With Mushrooms

Martha Rose Shulman, New York Times

Ingredients

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 TBSP lemon juice (use the fresh stuff for best flavor)
  • 2 garlic cloves minced or pureed
  • 1 tsp chopped FRESH rosemary
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 TBSP all-purpose flour
  • 2 TBSP grapeseed, sunflower or canola oil (I substituted Olive Oil)
  • 1 pound mushrooms, sliced (I used baby bellas)
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves or 1 TBSP chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine (I used Assyrtiko – cook with what you drink as Julia Child would say)

Preparation  2018-Jan-16_FourNightsAWeek-Chicken_1654

  1. Stir together olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, rosemary and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Here’s where I deviated from the original recipe: I pounded the chicken breasts BEFORE adding to the marinade, so if you want to try that as well, go to Step 2 now). Add the chicken to the marinade (I always marinate raw fish or poultry in a zip bag for food safety). Refrigerate for 15 to 30 minutes (or, if you do this prep earlier in the day, the extra time in the marinade doesn’t seem to hurt anything).
  2. Place 2 sheets of plastic wrap on your work surface, overlapping slightly, to make 1 wide sheet and brush lightly with oil. Cover the chicken with another wide layer of plastic wrap. Working from the center to the outside, pound chicken breast with the flat side of a meat tenderizer (or if you don’t have one, I found a heavy rolling pin works fairly well) until the chicken is about 1/4 inch thick. [If you are doing this step prior to adding the poultry to the marinade, go back and finish up step 1, and if not…. be sure to pat the chicken breasts dry BEFORE pounding] At this point I cut the chicken breasts in half so that there were 4 pieces altogether.
  3. Season the pounded chicken breasts with salt and pepper on one side only. Dredge lightly in the flour and tap to remove excess.
  4. Turn oven on low (this is for holding the chicken after cooking). Heat a wide heavy skillet over high heat and add oil. When oil is hot, place one or two pieces of chicken in the pan – do not over-crowd. Cook for 1 1/2 minutes, until bottom is browned in spots; turn over and brown the other side (about 1 1/2 minutes) [I ALWAYS check the internal meat temperatures to that I know things are cooked through and safe (165 degrees) – that would be my advice here as well. Go by internal temperature, not time.] Transfer to a platter or sheet pan and keep warm in the oven. If there is more than a tablespoon of fat in the pan, pour of some (not all).
  5. Turn the burner down to medium-high. Add mushrooms to the pan. Let them sear for about 30 seconds to a minute without moving them, then stir, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to deglaze. When mushrooms have softened slightly and begun to sweat, add wine, thyme or parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Continue to stir until wine has evaporated (this took under a minute for me). Spoon over the chicken and serve.

Tasting Notes for Santos 2016 Santorini Assyrtiko (from the Winemaker)

A pure expression of the indigenous Assyrtiko grapes grown in the unique basket-shaped vines aka kouloures at the volcanic terroir of Santorini. This wine is a classic benchmark of the variety and its homeland. A vibrant aromatic cocktail of sea-breeze freshness and citrus fruits with honeyed undertones. Bone-dry, brightly acidic with a textural minteral smokiness and food-begging finish.

Alcoholic content: 13.5%


11 January 2018: Myers + Chang and Pinot Noir

2018-Jan-11_FourNightsAWeek_2018_1638_edited-1I’ve been doing a lot of cooking from Myers+Chang At Home lately and enjoying their Asian inspired cooking quite a bit.  This is the latest attempt from this book: Pan-Roasted Soy-Glazed Salmon with Cool Cucumber Salad.  (see page 130 of the Myers+Chang At Home cookbook for recipe details).

While I didn’t go for the Crispy Shallot garnish (too much frying for me), I did follow the rest of the recipe’s instructions. Worth the time and prep, which was not too intense for home cooks.  Cooking salmon is something we do about once a week here. I’ve found a decent frozen product through Whole Foods Market which we keep on hand as a quick protein addition to dinner salads.

As far as this recipe goes, definitely do not skimp on the Sriracha sauce and think ahead as to the type of pan you choose – it should be safe for both stovetop and oven.

Our friend Wendi Wilkins, owner of Tutto Bene Wine and Cheese Shop, made an

excellent pairing suggestion of a Northwest Oregon Pinot Noir from Brandborg. As the notes say, the wine is beautifully transparent ruby red and paired really well with the salmon. This wine is in stock at Tutto Bene and definitely enhanced the dish.

Brandborg 2014 Bench Lands Pinot Noir

[From the Winemakers]: The 2014 vintage was characterized by a warm and dry spring, that did not really let up throughout the whole season.  The seasonal temperatures ended up being slightly higher than average, with an early bud break, few heat spikes and a long dry fall, giving us a very long frost free period, perfect for late ripening fruit.  Our Bench Lands is a composition incorporating many sites.  Within these vineyards we have selected blocks and clonal types that work well together in this harmonious blend.  The soils are very diverse mixes of alluviums deposited along the Umpqua, originating in the three mountain ranges that encircle this river valley, the Klamath -Siskiyous, the Cascades and the Coast Range.  These well drained soils create a wine with structure and balanced tannins.

The wine is a lovely transparent ruby color.  The aromas are dominated by ripe red cherries, blueberries, hints of cranberry with overtones of wild mountain meadow herbs and wild flowers.  The flavors add raspberries to the cherries, with some orange pith, coffee and mocha.  The wine’s mouthfeel is filling and supple.  The acidity gives it a nice zing, to compliment a moderately long finish and make this very food friendly.

This supple pinot would pair well with fatty fish like salmon or tuna, and has enough acid to go with curries, roasted and herbed mushrooms or even grilled meats, especially pork, with barbeque sauce.

Production:3914 cases

Alcohol:13.6%ABV

Total Acidity:5.8g/L

 


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