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Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Cashews, Garlic, and Hot Peppers

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So I have to start this post with what seems to be my mantra when it comes to recipes…This is so easy to make and it’s super delicious and nutritious, too.

But it is.

I really urge you to try this. It can be served as a side dish or if you want to go meatless it would be great as a main course over brown rice. And if you want to make it a carnivores meal add chicken or shrimp.

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Cashews, Garlic, and Hot Peppers

Serves 2-4


4 tablespoons olive oil

12-16 Brussels sprouts, stems removed and sliced

½ cup cashews

¼ teaspoon crushed hot pepper

2 cloves garlic, minced

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ cup chicken broth (or vegetable broth or water if you want to keep it vegetarian)

1 tablespoon lemon juice


Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat, then add the Brussels sprouts. Cook the Brussels sprouts for a few minutes until they begin to brown at their edges. Then add the cashews, hot pepper, garlic, and salt. Cook and stir the Brussels sprouts for a couple more minutes, or until they and the garlic are browned. Add the chicken broth, and then the lemon juice. Simmer the broth for a few minutes, or until it is nearly evaporated and the sprouts are cooked and glazed.

Urban Simplicity.

Curried Split Pea Soup!

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Ok, so here’s another recipe that is super easy, really delicious, nutritious, and also satisfying in a cold day. Yellow Split pea soup with curry. The basic recipe is below but you can also add or subtract to it as you like (it’s equally good without curry, for example, but I happen to like the spice). Tonight, in addition to the ingredients listed in the recipe I also added a diced green pepper, a diced tomato, and a bit of tandoori spice. The is also good if mad with red or green lentils rather than split peas. If the recipe is too large cut it in half; this soup freezes well also.

Yellow Split Pea Soup with Curry and Caramelized Onions

Makes about 3 quarts

Heat 3 tablespoons canola oil or clarified butter in a heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add a diced onion and cook it—stirring frequently—for about five minutes, or until it start to brown, then stir in 3 cloves of minced garlic and cook for another minute or so. Lower the heat and stir in 2 tablespoons (or more) of your favorite curry powder, and add any of your other favorite spices as well (such as extra cumin, turmeric, coriander, or chilies; all of which should be in the curry powder already). Stir the spices for a minute or so in the hot fat to bring out their flavors, then stir in 3 cups of yellow split peas and about 10 cups of chicken broth (if you want to keep this vegetarian use vegetable broth). Season the soup with a teaspoon of kosher salt (being careful if you are using canned broth which is already salted) and bring the soup to a rolling boil. Allow the soup to boil for a minute then turn it down to a simmer. Cook the soup for about an hour—stirring it frequently—and add more liquid if it becomes too thick. Just before removing it from the heat stir in about 1/4 cup of fresh lemon or lime juice and—if you have it on hand and enjoy it’s flavor—also stir in a handful of chopped cilantro.

There’s more than one way to cook an egg…

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Eggs. They really are incredible aren’t they. They have so many uses in cooking, and they are of course a food itself. There is a lot of lore behind them, including that of the old fashioned chefs toque…which is said to have 100 pleats in it representing the 100 ways a chef knows how to cook eggs. Well, being a professional cook myself, I don’t know if this is true or not but there certainly are a lot of ways in which one can cook this incredible food. The repertoire of baking them alone is extensive. The most common being quiche, shirred, strata, tortilla espagnola, and of course the frittata (just to name a few). But frittata is the recipe I am focusing on for this post. I made this for my son and I this morning. It is so easy but also really delicious. As with many (most) of the recipes I post on this blog, this is just a suggestion–a guide, if you will–you can really use whatever ingredients you like (within reason) so long as you follow the basic formula.

Broccoli, Sweet Potato, and Two-Cheese Frittata

Serves 2


4 eggs

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 small onion, sliced

1/2 green pepper, sliced

1 small sweet potato, par-cooked, peeled, and diced

1 small head broccoli, par-cooked and cut into florets

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese


Preheat an oven to 375F. Combine the eggs, Parmesan, milk, red pepper, basil, and salt in a small bowl; whisk together and set aside. Heat the olive oil in an oven-proof skillet. Add the onion, green pepper, sweet potato, and broccoli; sauté the vegetables for a couple minutes, or until they just begin to brown. Add the garlic and sauté another minute. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables then top it with the shredded cheddar. Place the skillet in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, or until the eggs are cooked and set.

Urban Simplicity.

Das Brot!

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Ezekiel Bread. Enough said. This is one of my favorite breads and still one of the most popular reasons people find their way to this little blog. I have a few versions of this recipe but the one below is the one I use most often. For additional directions and pictures of it being made, click here. To read my lay-person’s biblical interpretation of this recipe, click here.

Urban Simplicity.

Cook Like Your Grandmother…how to make tallow or lard

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Okay. I do realize that this is not the healthiest food in the world, but as an ingredient is it very useful and every cook should know how to make it (and it is so easy to make). My cooking fat of choice these days is olive oil. But I’m spoiled. By this I mean that I live in the northern hemisphere far from any olive trees, but I can easily go to the store to purchase olive oil. That said, this wasn’t the case for my ancestors. In that case animal fats would be indispensable for cooking (one needs fat to cook), but also for so many other things, such as soap, candles, and skin care. Anyhow, I hadn’t made this in a while and I had a large prime rib dinner this week where I work so I had a lot of beef fat trimmings. So rather than throw them in the trash I turned it into tallow (this is so easy to make and look at how much you would pay for it if purchased). Tallow, of course, is rendered fat made from beef whereas lard is rendered fat made from pork. But both are made in the same way. Here’s how to do it…

Take any amount of fat with no or at least minimal meat remaining and cut it into chunks, dice it, or grind it. Place it in a pot and add just enough water that it is covered.

Bring the pot to a boil then lower it to a simmer. Then simmer, simmer, simmer. It’ll take a few hours.

After some time the water will have evaporated and the fat will have cleared. You will notice the difference in the way it sounds as it simmers now. It will sound thick; viscous. 

Shut the pot off and let it rest for a little bit, to a llow it to cool slightly and let everything settle. Then strain it twice. First to remove the remaining meat and fat pieces, then a second time trough cheesecloth to remove any small particles.

Transfer it to small containers; it should look crystal clear.

Once chilled it will turn pure white and solid. It will keep for months under refrigeration.

Urban Simplicity.

Two Loaves; Two Recipes…

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I’ve posted both of these recipes before but not in a while and I made them recently and thought that I would re-post them. They are both two of my favorites, Whole Wheat Maple-Oatmeal Bread and Spicy Turkey and Pork Meatloaf. Recipes are below.

 

Whole Wheat Maple-Oatmeal Bread

Makes 2 or 3 loaves

6 cups whole wheat flour, divided

2 cups oatmeal, plus additional for coating

2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten

3 ½ cups water, divided

2 tablespoons instant yeast, divided

¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup maple syrup

2 teaspoons kosher salt


Separate the ingredients into two bowls using this ratio: In one bowl combine 4 cups of flour, two cups of oatmeal, the wheat gluten, and 2 ½ cups of water; stir until just combined. In the second bowl combine the remaining 2 cups of flour, 1 tablespoon of yeast, and 1 cup of water; stir until just combined. Cover the bowls and allow the ingredients to rest and begin fermenting for at least an hour, but up to 12. Then combine the contents of bowl bowls into the bowl of an upright mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the remaining tablespoon of yeast, along with the olive oil, maple syrup, and salt. Knead the dough on medium speed for about 8 minutes, then cover and allow to rise for one hour. Transfer the dough to a work surface, cut it into two or pieces, gently shape it into loaves. Dust the counter with extra oatmeal and roll the loaves in it, gently pressing oatmeal into the surface of the raw dough. Place the loaves into oiled loaf pans, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for 45 minutes. Preheat an oven to 425F. Bake the bread for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on. Remove the bread from their pans and allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing.
Spicy Turkey and Pork Meatloaf

Yield: 6 servings

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 small onion, diced

1 rib celery, diced

1/2 green bell pepper, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

3 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced

1-1/2 pound ground turkey

1-1/2 pound ground pork

1 bunch parsley, washed and minced

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon oregano

1 tablespoon basil

2 large eggs

1/2 cup ketchup

1 tablespoon hot sauce

1/2 cup breadcrumbs


Heat the oil in a heavy skillet then add the onion, celery and bell pepper. Sauté until translucent but not browned. Add the garlic and jalapeño and sauté a minute longer. Remove the vegetables, spread them on a clean plate and place them in a refrigerator for 15 minutes. Transfer the cooked and cooled vegetables to a bowl along with the turkey, pork, chili powder, parsley, cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper, oregano, basil, eggs, ketchup and hot pepper sauce. Mix thoroughly then add the breadcrumbs and mix again until. Pack the meatloaf into a lightly oiled loaf pan, cover it with aluminum foil, and bake it at 350F for about 1/2 hour. Remove the foil and continue to bake it until it reaches an internal temperature of 160F. Allow it to cool 10 minutes before slicing.

Two Loaves; Two Recipes…

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I’ve posted both of these recipes before but not in a while and I made them recently and thought that I would re-post them. They are both two of my favorites, Whole Wheat Maple-Oatmeal Bread and Spicy Turkey and Pork Meatloaf. Recipes are below.

 

Whole Wheat Maple-Oatmeal Bread

Makes 2 or 3 loaves

6 cups whole wheat flour, divided

2 cups oatmeal, plus additional for coating

2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten

3 ½ cups water, divided

2 tablespoons instant yeast, divided

¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup maple syrup

2 teaspoons kosher salt


Separate the ingredients into two bowls using this ratio: In one bowl combine 4 cups of flour, two cups of oatmeal, the wheat gluten, and 2 ½ cups of water; stir until just combined. In the second bowl combine the remaining 2 cups of flour, 1 tablespoon of yeast, and 1 cup of water; stir until just combined. Cover the bowls and allow the ingredients to rest and begin fermenting for at least an hour, but up to 12. Then combine the contents of bowl bowls into the bowl of an upright mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the remaining tablespoon of yeast, along with the olive oil, maple syrup, and salt. Knead the dough on medium speed for about 8 minutes, then cover and allow to rise for one hour. Transfer the dough to a work surface, cut it into two or pieces, gently shape it into loaves. Dust the counter with extra oatmeal and roll the loaves in it, gently pressing oatmeal into the surface of the raw dough. Place the loaves into oiled loaf pans, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for 45 minutes. Preheat an oven to 425F. Bake the bread for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on. Remove the bread from their pans and allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing.
Spicy Turkey and Pork Meatloaf

Yield: 6 servings

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 small onion, diced

1 rib celery, diced

1/2 green bell pepper, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

3 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced

1-1/2 pound ground turkey

1-1/2 pound ground pork

1 bunch parsley, washed and minced

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon oregano

1 tablespoon basil

2 large eggs

1/2 cup ketchup

1 tablespoon hot sauce

1/2 cup breadcrumbs


Heat the oil in a heavy skillet then add the onion, celery and bell pepper. Sauté until translucent but not browned. Add the garlic and jalapeño and sauté a minute longer. Remove the vegetables, spread them on a clean plate and place them in a refrigerator for 15 minutes. Transfer the cooked and cooled vegetables to a bowl along with the turkey, pork, chili powder, parsley, cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper, oregano, basil, eggs, ketchup and hot pepper sauce. Mix thoroughly then add the breadcrumbs and mix again until. Pack the meatloaf into a lightly oiled loaf pan, cover it with aluminum foil, and bake it at 350F for about 1/2 hour. Remove the foil and continue to bake it until it reaches an internal temperature of 160F. Allow it to cool 10 minutes before slicing.

The day after…

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As I type these words the pot of turkey broth that is pictured above is simmering on the stove permeating the entire house with delicious aroma. If your like me you enjoy leftovers as much as the Thanksgiving meal itself (well, ok, maybe not quite as much, but almost). Anyhow, here’s a few recipes which incorporate leftovers from a traditional Thanksgiving feast. These originally appeared in Artvoice about five years ago; to read that  entire article, click here.

Turkey Broth


1 cooked turkey carcass, and any scraps, juices, and pan scrapings

1 onion, quartered

1 carrot, cut into thirds

4 ribs celery, cut into thirds

4 cloves garlic, crushed

2 bay leaves

10 whole black peppercorns

Combine the ingredients in a heavy-bottomed stockpot and cover with enough cold water to cover them by two inches. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a slow simmer. Cook for a few hours, skimming the surface as necessary. Strain and refrigerate until needed.


Shepherd’s Pie Made from Thanksgiving Dinner Leftovers


Dice leftover turkey and vegetables, combine with enough gravy to moisten. Assemble the vegetable/turkey mixture in an oven-proof casserole and “cobble” it with mashed potatoes and stuffing. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until golden brown and hot throughout.

Turkey àla King


Combine diced, cooked turkey with enough gravy to moisten it; add whatever vegetables you like. Bring to a simmer and add heavy cream. Serve over mashed potatoes, stuffing, or if you’re feeling particularly decedent, puff pastry.


Turkey Salad with Sundried Tomatoes and Chipotle Chilies


Dice leftover cooked turkey, along with fresh celery, onion, and a couple sliced sundried tomatoes. Mix it in a bowl with a few tablespoons mayonnaise and a little Dijon mustard. Add a small amount of either chipotle powder or minced chipotle in adobo. Season it with lime juice, salt, and pepper. Serve over lettuce salad or as the filling for a sandwich.


Turkey Noodle Soup


Dice 1 small onion, 2 carrots, a few ribs celery, a clove of garlic, a cup or two of cooked turkey, and one small turnip. Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a soup pot and add the vegetables and turkey; cook, while stirring, for a few minutes. Add enough broth to cover the ingredients by a couple inches. Season with salt and pepper; bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cook egg noodles in a separate pot, then add to the soup.


Turkey and Vegetable Stirfry

Yield: 4 servings

3/4 cup broth

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 thin slices ginger

1 clove garlic, sliced thin

1 pound mixed vegetables

8 ounces cooked turkey


In a small bowl, combine the broth, soy sauce, cornstarch, sugar and salt, then set aside. Heat the oil over high heat in a large skillet. Add the ginger and garlic, cook for a couple of minutes, then add the vegetables and turkey; stir fry for a few minutes. Stir the broth mixture and add it to the stir-fry. Cook for a couple of minutes, until the sauce is thickened and the vegetables are cooked.


Turkey Mulligatawny

Yield: 3 quarts.

3 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, diced

3 ribs celery, diced

2 carrots, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 slices ginger, minced

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon Madras curry powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon crushed hot pepper

1/2 cup flour

1 apple, diced

6 cups turkey stock

3 cups diced, cooked turkey

1/2 cup cooked white rice


Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot, add the onion, cel­ery, carrot, and red bell pepper, sauté over medium heat until translucent. Add the garlic and ginger, sauté 2 minutes. Stir in the sugar, curry powder, cumin, black pepper, salt, and crushed hot pepper, sauté 2 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for 5 minutes over low heat while stirring constantly. Add the diced apple, stir in the turkey stock and diced turkey, and simmer for 20 minutes. Just before serving stir in the rice. 

Le pain perdu…

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French Toast, Pain Perdu, or “Lost Bread.” I have posted many variations of this dish in the past but not in quite a while. This is a favorite breakfast of my son who is home from college for the holiday. And this is the variation that I made for him today…whole wheat French toast with blue-berry pineapple syrup. This is really easy and fun to make and people will likely be impressed that you made everything–even the syrup–from scratch. Anyhow, for recipes, lore, and “how-to” photos follow this link (scroll down).

Urban Simplicity.

Whole Wheat Bread with Caramelized Onion and Sweet Potato

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This is yet another variation of my 100% whole wheat bread recipe…and a delicious one at that. This does entail an extra step (sauteing the onion and sweet potato until caramelized) but it’s worth it. After cooled, they are added to the dough while being kneaded and they melt into the dough offering a soft texture and subtle flavor. Anyhow, the recipe is below.
Whole Wheat Bread with Caramelized Onion and Sweet Potato

Makes 2 loaves

¼ cup olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 medium sweet potato, diced

6 cups whole wheat flour, divided

2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten

3½ cups water, divided

4 teaspoons instant yeast, divided

2 teaspoons kosher salt

¼ cup honey


Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a heavy skillet then add the diced onion and sweet potato. Sauté for five or ten minutes, or until caramelized.
Add ½ cup of the water to the pan. Simmer until the water evaporates completely and the sweet potato is very soft. Transfer to a plate to cool, using a spatula to include the olive oil as well (as this becomes part of the bread). 
Separate some of the remaining ingredients in two bowls using this ratio: In one bowl combine 4 cups of flour, the vital wheat gluten, and 2 cups of water. Stir it just until combined; cover with plastic wrap and set aside. In a second bowl, combine the remaining 2 cups flour and 1 cup water and 2 teaspoons of yeast. Stir it just until combined; cover with plastic wrap and set aside. Allow the bowls to rest for at least an hour. After the ingredients have rested and have begun to ferment, combine the contents of both bowls to an upright mixer that is fitted with a dough hook. Add the caramelized onions and sweet potato along with the oil in which they were cooked. Also add the remaining ingredients: the salt, honey, and remaining two teaspoons yeast. Knead the dough on medium speed for about 8 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for one hour. Transfer the dough to a work surface, cut it into two pieces, gently shape it into loaves, and place them either on a baking sheet or in loaf pans. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 45 minutes. Preheat an oven to 425F/218C. If making free-form loaves, slash them with a razor just before they go into the oven. Bake the bread for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on. As the bread bakes rotate the loaves in the oven once or twice to ensure even baking. Remove the bread from their pans and allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing.

Polpette di ceci (senza carne)

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So I’ve mentioned before on this blog that while I am not a vegetarian I do not eat a great deal of meat, and there are plenty of days when I simply do not want any. Today was one of those days. These chickpea balls are definitely not a replacement for meatballs because they taste and feel nothing like a meatball that is made with meat. But, on the other hand, these are really delicious and very satisfying. They are also exceedingly easy to make. After searing they can be baked in an oven and served as an appetizer with any number of dipping sauces, or–as I did tonight–they can be poached in tomato sauce and served with pasta. Either way they are simple and delicious. The recipe is below.

Chickpea Meatless Balls
polpette di ceci (senza carne)
Makes about 2 dozen small balls
1 (15oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon basil
½ teaspoon crushed hot pepper
½ teaspoon whole fennel seed
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon turmeric
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 large eggs
1 cup breadcrumbs
olive oil for pan-frying
Combine all of the ingredients except the breadcrumbs and olive oil in the bowl of a food processor and process until nearly smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and knead in the bread crumbs. Allow it to rest for a couple minutes, then knead it again for another minute. Shape the dough into small balls. Heat the a heavy skillet with a thin layer of oil and cook the chickpea balls until golden. Finish cooking the meatless balls on a tray in a preheated oven, or transfer them to a pot of tomato sauce and poach them for about 10 minutes.

Urban Simplicity.

Two delicious but unrelated recipes…

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At some point I’m pretty sure I’ve posted both of these recipes in the past, but not in quite some time. Anyhow, I had to make these yesterday at work for two separate events and thought I’d re-post them. What’s interesting, I thought, is that while neither of these recipes are remotely related to one another both can be served hot, at room temperature, or chilled.

 

Carrot Soup with Ginger, Curry and Yogurt
Makes about 2 quarts
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small onion, diced
2 teaspoons minced ginger
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1-2 tablespoons curry powder
2 tablespoon honey or sugar
1-1/2 pounds peeled, diced carrots
4 cups chicken stock or water
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plain yogurt

Heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a heavy soup pot. Add the onion, ginger and garlic; sauté for 5 minutes, or until the onions are translucent. Add the curry and honey; sauté 2 minutes. Add the carrots, stock (or water) and salt. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower it to a simmer; skim any impurities that may rise to the surface. Cook the soup for approximately 45 minutes, or until the carrots are very soft. Remove the soup from the heat and stir in the yogurt. Transfer the soup, in batches, to a blender or food processor and purée until very smooth. Return the soup to the pot and warm it, but do not boil (boiling it may curdle the yogurt).

German-Style Warm Potato Salad
Makes about 10-12 servings
5 pounds potatoes, peeled and sliced
10 Slices bacon, diced
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 small onion, diced
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Place the peeled and sliced potatoes in a pot with enough water to cover them. Set the pot over high heat and boil the potatoes for about 10 minutes or until cooked but not falling apart. While the potatoes are cooking, combine the diced bacon and vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook the bacon until the fat is rendered and it begins to brown, then add the onion and cook another few minutes until the onion is cooked but not browned. Stir in the water and sugar; stir and scrape the sides of the pan to remove any bacon flavor that may have adhered there. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vinegar, salt, and pepper. Drain the potatoes and transfer them to a bowl. Gently stir the bacon dressing into the potatoes while both are still warm. Allow the salad to rest for 5 minutes. Transfer the salad to a serving platter and serve warm or at room temperature. 

On Cooking for One’s Self…

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That’s Maxwell and Franklin above staring at me while I cook my dinner. By the look in their eyes you’d think that I never feed them…but they just finished eating their dinner. So what do they have to do with cooking for One’s Self? Well, not much on the one hand, but on the other, a lot. I can have a super stressful day or evening at work and they are always there to greet me with a snort and wag when I arrive home. It’s been a known fact for quite some time that caring for a dog makes a person happier, but in the same way cooking can be a form of therapy, too (cooking can even be a spiritual practice...if you let it). Food, of course, nourishes far more than just the physical body. But, as usual, I’m jumping ahead.

Many of you know by now that I cook for a living. And cooking at work is way different than cooking for myself at home. Work cooking is often stressful for so many reasons; cooking at home is not. When I cook at work it is in large amounts while I am also managing a staff, food costs, etc, etc. But at home it is peaceful. With my son off at college it is just me and the pugs. I’ll often drink wine and listen to NPR. This to me is pure luxury.

I am fully convinced everyone should cook for themselves (and really for themselves). If not everyday, then at least now and again. This is especially true for those in the food-service industry. I can’t tell you how many times I hear a colleague state that after cooking all day or all evening the night prior the last thing they want to do is cook at home. I can’t help but think of what this person is missing out on when they don’t cook just for themselves now and again. A person that serves others on a daily basis (whether it’s food service or any other form of service, such as health care or ministry) really needs to take care of themselves, too. And cooking for myself is a way of tending to myself…physically, of course, but also–at times–emotionally and spiritually as well.

It’s interesting in that while I’m at work and there is so much going on all at the same time cooking is sometimes automatic…I don’t even think about it. I just do it. Sometimes I don’t even smell the air thick with aroma because I am so accustomed to it after all these years. But at home it’s different. I’m aware of everything. I of course cook with all five senses at work (one has to), but at home it’s as if it’s amplified. At work the food I cook is dictated by what the customer (club member) orders. But at home the food that I cook are things that I enjoy. And nine times out of ten this is either a pasta dish or a rice dish. I really love Mediterranean and Near Eastern foods, so this is usually what I make myself. And while I am not a vegetarian I rarely cook meat at home unless my son is here.

The sense of smell and taste are said to be the two strongest memory senses…the aroma or taste of something can quite literally transport you to a different time and place. Tonight, for example, I made a brown rice dish with chickpeas and spinach, and seasoned it with sofrito and Lebanese seven-spice blend. The sweet smell of Lebanese spices always brings me back to my youth, of going to my grandmothers house. It was the first smell that tickled your nose when you walked through the front door.

And when I rolled out whole wheat flatbread I used my grandmothers rolling pin, which I inherited and is said to have been brought from the “old country” at the beginning of the previous century. I made the bread while the rice cooked and topped it with an herb pesto, which was made from herbs that grew just outside my front door this past summer.

Before the rice was finished I washed and sliced a locally grown apple. After taking a sip of wine and then biting the apple it was alarmingly tart, but in a good way. When I finally sat down to my meal in front of the radio the national news was on. And as usual there was a lot of bad stuff to report. So before I dug in I sat in silence for a minute and looked at all I had in front of me…the beautiful plate of rice, bread with pesto, wine, fruit, and a small plate of spicy fermented cabbage made from cabbage that grew in my garden as well. And I felt almost overwhelmed with gratefulness…that I had so much–too much at times–while some have so little. So I sat for a minute. Then I thanked God (or Spirit, or Universe, or whatever term you identify with) for not only all that I have, but also all that I am given in the desire and ability to cook such a good meal. Then I ate while my dogs looked on, knowing that tomorrow’s meal would be just as good…leftovers!

For a brown rice and beans recipe, click here.
To learn how to make sofrito, click here.
For my version of Lebanese Seven Spice blend, click here.
For a really basic whole wheat bread dough for flatbread, use this recipe.
For a recipe on how to make any herb into pesto, click here.
To learn about fermented foods in general, including spicy cabbage, click here.

Urban Simplicity.

Scampi!

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This is a simple but classic dish. Make this at home in minutes and save lots of money from what you’d pay in a restaurant (but then you have to wash the pans and dishes). Anyhow, this is really simple and truly flavorful. If you’ve never made this recipe before I hope you give it a try.

Shrimp Scampi

Serves 2-4

12 large shrimp, shells and veins removed but tails remaining
a few ounces flour for dusting
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ lemon, sliced
½ cup white wine
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ bunch parsley, washed and minced

Dredge the shrimp in the flour. Heat a skillet with the butter over medium high heat. When the butter is melted and begins to bubble add the shrimp. Cook it for a minute or so on one side, then turn it over and add the garlic. Stir and shake the pan gently. After another minute add the lemon, wine, and salt. Simmer the shrimp for a couple minutes, or until cooked and the sauce has thickened slightly, then stir in the minced parsley. Serve with rice pilaf or over pasta.

Urban Simplicity.

Three Loaves and a Pie…

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I haven’t posted this recipe in a while and I made it this morning so I thought I’d re-post it (as it is one of my favorites). It’s my basic whole wheat bread recipe with the addition of oats…delicious and nutritious. And is often the case, after the first rise of the dough (before I cut it into loaves) I pinched a piece off and made a small pizza for lunch (which I baked while the loaves rose and ate while they baked). And the pizza itself is a sort of reflection of this past summer…the tomatoes (which are now sauce) and the eggplant were both grown just outside my front door.

Whole Wheat Honey-Oatmeal Bread
Makes 2 or 3 loaves

6 cups whole wheat flour, divided
2 cups oatmeal, plus additional for coating
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
3 ½ cups water, divided
2 tablespoons instant yeast, divided
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup honey
2 teaspoons kosher salt


Separate the ingredients into two bowls using this ratio: In one bowl combine 4 cups of flour, two cups of oatmeal, the wheat gluten, and 2 ½ cups of water; stir until just combined. In the second bowl combine the remaining 2 cups of flour, 1 tablespoon of yeast, and 1 cup of water; stir until just combined. Cover the bowls and allow the ingredients to rest and begin fermenting for at least an hour, but up to 12. Then combine the contents of bowl bowls into the bowl of an upright mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the remaining tablespoon of yeast, along with the olive oil, honey, and salt. Knead the dough on medium speed for about 8 minutes, then cover and allow to rise for one hour. Transfer the dough to a work surface, cut it into two or pieces, gently shape it into loaves. Dust the counter with extra oatmeal and roll the loaves in it, gently pressing oatmeal into the surface of the raw dough. Place the loaves into oiled loaf pans, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for 45 minutes. Preheat an oven to 425F. Bake the bread for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on. Remove the bread from their pans and allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing.

Urban Simplicity.

These Are Lip Smackin’ Good…no joke

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  Okay, so these may not be the healthiest thing I’ve posted on this blog, but geeze o’ man are they delicious. Boneless chicken tenders marinated in buttermilk and spices, then breaded with oatmeal and pan-fried (and yes, before you ask, these can be baked instead of pan-fried but they would loose some of their crispiness). And paired with the sweet and spicy (and really easy to make) strawberry-horseradish sauce, these things can be addicting. Anyhow, I hope you try these.

 

Buttermilk-Oatmeal Chicken Tenders with Strawberry-Horseradish Dipping Sauce



Makes about 18 Chicken Tenders


1 pound boneless chicken breast


For the buttermilk marinade:
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon granulated onion
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon kosher salt


For the coating:
2 cups oatmeal
3 eggs
¼ cup milk
2 cups whole wheat flour


Oil for pan-frying


Place the sliced chicken in a bowl or shallow pan. Mix all of the ingredients for the marinade together and pour over the chicken. Gently stir the chicken to allow the marinade to coat all sides. Cover the chicken with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.


Place the oatmeal in a food processor or blender and pulse it until it resembles a coarse meal. Mix the eggs with the milk. Arrange three pans in this order: one pan containing the flour, the second containing the egg-milk mixture, and the third containing the oatmeal. If you are right-handed, do this from left to right, and if you are left-handed do this from right to left. Place a clean pan next to the oatmeal and the marinated chicken next to the flour. Coat the chicken, one piece at a time, by first dipping it in the flour, then the egg, and finally the breadcrumbs. As the chicken is coated arrange the pieces on the clean pan.


Heat about ¼ inch of vegetable oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, gently add a portion of it to the pan without overcrowding the pan (the chicken should sizzle as it touches the oil, if it does not this means the oil is not hot enough). Cook the chicken on both sides for a couple minutes, until it is golden and cooked throughout. Transfer the chicken to absorbent paper and cook the remainder of the chicken as needed.


Strawberry-Horseradish Dipping Sauce

Makes about 2 cups


1 cup strawberry preserves
1 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons horseradish
Combine the preserves and orange juice in a small pot and bring it to a simmer. Stir the preserves with a wire whip to dissolve it. Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl, mixing it to make sure the cornstarch has dissolved, then stir it into the strawberry-orange mixture. Cook the sauce for a couple minutes, until it thickens slightly. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the horseradish. The sauce can be serves hot, at room temperature, or chilled.

Pasta d’oro con fagioli

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This is an easy and delicious variation on the classic pasta dish, pasta e fagioli (pasta with beans), which is often meatless but when it does contain meat it is usually pork. In this particular recipe I used smoked turkey which offers some of the smokiness of bacon or other pork products. I also added a healthy pinch of saffron, which gives it its lovely golden hue (hence the d’oro title). As usual, this recipe is not carved in stone and is just a suggestion; use whichever flavor combinations you like. And while this recipe is scaled to serve a crowd it can be halved (or quartered) and freezes well also. But something tells me that after a taste there will be no need to freeze it…

 

Golden Pasta with Beans and Smoked Turkey

(pasta d’oro con fagioli)

Makes about 6 quarts


1 pound dried white beans

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound smoked turkey, diced

1 small onion, diced

4 ribs celery, diced

2 carrots, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon basil leaves

1 teaspoon oregano leaves

1 teaspoon fennel seed

1 teaspoon crushed hot pepper

1 generous pinch saffron

6 plum tomatoes, diced

4 quarts chicken broth

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 pound ditalini pasta

Parmesan cheese to serve


Rinse the beans, then place them in a pot or bowl with enough cool water to cover them by two inches. Soak the beans for a few hours, or overnight, then drain them and set aside. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a heavy soup pot and add the turkey, browning it slightly. Remove the turkey and set aside. To the same hot pot, add the onion, celery, carrots, and bell pepper. Saute the vegetables for a couple minutes, then add the garlic and saute another minute. Stir in the basil, oregano, fennel, hot pepper, and saffron. Cook the herbs and spices for a minute or so to bring out their flavors. Add the soaked beans to the pot, along with the browned turkey, and the tomatoes, broth, and salt. Bring the broth to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cook the beans for about an hour, or until very soft, stirring as needed. If too much liquid evaporates, a water or broth. When the beans are soft add the pasta to the pot and simmer about ten minutes.

Urban Simplicity.

Ice Ice Baby

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Ice is back with my brand new invention.”
Vanilla Ice
So I’m not sure what part of the world you are viewing this from, or what your local weather is, but the forecast for Western New York is–as it has been and will continue to be for some time–is hot and humid. Thus, these recipes seem appropriate. They are of course really delicious, but they are also exceedingly easy to make…just a few ingredients, minimal steps, and you can make them in your own home freezer. These recipes are part of an article I recently wrote for Artvoice. To view the entire article, with additional recipes and info and lore, click here. I hope you try these because they are so good and so easy to prepare. In the meantime…stay cool.

Sangria Granita
Makes about 5 cups
3 cups water
2 cups red wine
1 cup sugar
2 slices lemon
2 slices orange
2 slices lime
1 cinnamon stick
Combine all of the ingredients in a small sauce pot and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook for a minute or two. Remove the pot from the heat and let stand at room temperature for about five minutes. Strain into a a shallow pan and freeze, stirring as necessary. If it freezes too solid, remove it from the freezer and allow it to warm for a few minutes at room temperature. Then break it into pieces and spin if in a food processor for a few seconds and re-freeze it.
 
Orange-Rosemary Sorbet
Makes about 6 cups
3 cups water
1 cup sugar
3 cups orange juice
t tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons grated orange rind
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
Combine the water and sugar in a small sauce pot and bring to a boil; simmer for a minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the orange juice, lemon juice, orange rind, and rosemary. Allow to stand at room temperature for about five or ten minutes. Transfer to a shallow pan and freeze, stirring as necessary. If it freezes too solid, remove it from the freezer and allow it to warm for a few minutes at room temperature. Then break it into pieces and spin if in a food processor for a few seconds and re-freeze it.

Rice-and-beans (#1); a few thoughts on a very humble dish…

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Rice-and-beans (yum!)…what is not to like about this dish. It’s simple to make, it is made using one single pot, it is really inexpensive to produce even large quantities, variations are seemingly endless, and it is really good for you…some say it carries complete nutrition (this is an interesting but brief article at NPR). For many peoples around the globe this is a mainstay in their diet. Indeed, for a brief period way back in the mid-1980’s I pretty much survived on a 99¢ red beans-and-rice lunch special while living a vagabond life in New Orleans. Rice and beans also fits nicely into the Mediterranean diet, which I love and have pretty much eaten for years without trying. Rice dishes and pasta dishes are the two main dishes that I eat at home. And over the years I’ve slowly migrated to using whole wheat pasta and brown rice in the recipes, which of course tastes just as good but are so much better for you. Anyhow, because I eat this dish so often–or variations of it–I thought I’d start recording some of the recipes and sharing them. The recipe below is the basic formula for this recipe and the one on which most of my rice pilafs are based. I used canned beans in this particular recipe–which I sometimes do–but to use dried beans simply soak, then cook and drain, a little more than 1/2 cup dried beans, which will yield about the same as a 15 ounce can. The difference between the recipe below and the one pictured is subtle. I added a half teaspoon of turmeric to the recipe (as I do with most my rice recipes because I like the yellow hue and also because turmeric is so good for you). I also added a diced jalapeno, and a handful of chopped parsley and basil that I had growing in my garden. With meat or without (or even with seafood) this recipe is delicious and really good for you. And leftovers taste really good, too…

Brown Rice-and-Beans
Serves four
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup brown rice
2 ½ cups broth
½ teaspoon salt
1 (15 oz.) can beans, rinsed
Heat the oil in a small sauce pot. Add the onion and sauté for a few minutes, then add the garlic and cook it for another minute or two. Stir in the rice, then the broth and salt. Bring to a boil then lower to a slow simmer. Cover the pot and simmer simmer the rice for about 30 minutes. Add the beans (just lay them on top of the rice; do not stir at this point). If it looks as if too much liquid has evaporated add more. Cover the pot and simmer for another 10 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat—leaving it covered—and allow it to rest for another 5 minutes or so. Remove the lid and gently fold in the beans.

Urban Simplicity.

Chicken and Vegetable Ragout with Lebanese Seven (or Eight) Spice Seasoning

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Okay, so this is good. Really good. Delicious (if I do say so my self). It’s easy to make (about 30 minutes once the vegetables are cut) and it’s likely pretty healthy, too. It’s a basic braised chicken and vegetable dish with Middle Eastern seasoning. This, like most of the recipes on this blog, is just a suggestion and not carved in stone. I used the ingredients I happened to have at hand; if you have or like other vegetables or meats use them. As far as the seasonings go I love this combination…sweet spices mingling with seared vegetables and meat and then simmered together. Your house will smell amazing while it cooks (if you live in an apartment building neighbors may stop by). I didn’t have any lemon on hand, if I did I may have finished it with that and a bit of parsley. And if for some odd reason it doesn’t all get eaten…leftovers will taste even better.

Chicken and Vegetable Ragout with Lebanese Seven (or Eight) Spice Seasoning


Serves four


4 tablespoons olive oil

1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1 medium potato, washed and diced

1 small onion, diced

1 small carrot, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1-2 tablespoons seven spice mix

1 teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon salt

1 medium eggplant, diced

2 large tomatoes, seeded and diced

1 ½ cups chicken broth


Heat the olive oil in a very large skillet or a medium kettle over high heat. Add the chicken and brown it on both sides, the remove it to a plate. Add the potato and brown it slightly, then remove it to a plate or bowl. Add the onion, carrot, and green pepper. Cook these vegetables for a few minutes—until they begin to brown—stirring and scraping up any bits of crispy chicken that may have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic first, then the seven spice mix, the turmeric, and finally the salt; cook for just a minute or two. Then stir in the eggplant, tomatoes, and broth. Add the seared chicken and potatoes back to the pan, bring it to a boil then lower it to a low simmer. Cover the pan and simmer the ragout for 20-30 minutes.

 

Lebanese Seven Spice Mix

Makes about ¼ cup


1 tablespoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon ground allspice

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground ginger


Mix the spices together and store in an airtight container, or use as needed.

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