Thursday, February 3, 2011

Shrimp: A winter staple

As winter rolls on and our stored garden surplus - as well as our fall cow share - begins to dwindle, eating locally becomes tougher. In addition, the holidays (and their seemingly endless leftovers) have passed and left a need for frugality in their place.
We found a farm that direct-sells mushrooms in quantity, and there are still root vegatables to be had. When in need of good comfort food, to these staples I add shrimp. As much effort as I expend to get the best possible meats, vegetables and dairy products, shrimp is one place I slack. It comes in bulk, is frequently on sale at the grocery store and makes a great source of protein to go with whatever canned goods the pantry might hold.

Braised shrimp, leek and mushrooms with butternut squash puree. Served with sauteed spinach and bacon.
Shrimp and braised winter vegetables with pureed butternut squash
1 butternut squash
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 tsp chili pepper flakes
1 tb olive oil
1 lb shrimp, peeled
2 leeks, washed and trimmed
1 c white wine, divided
1/2 pound mushrooms (I used crimini)
1 can artichoke hearts (in water)
1/2 c milk
Peel and cube butternut squash and set in a steamer basket over boiling water for 30-45 minutes.
Meanwhile, warm garlic and pepper flakes in oil on stove. When oil is hot, add leeks and shrimp and sautee until cooked. Deglaze pan with half of wine and add mushrooms and drained artichoke hearts. Add remaining wine, cover and remove from heat.
Drain squash and place in pan over burner on low heat. Add milk and puree with an immersion blender until smooth.
Serves 2, with squash puree left over.

Thai coconut shrimp stew over spaghetti squash
2 spaghetti squash
1 tb olive oil
1 tb minced garlic
1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed and sliced thinly
2 tb ginger, grated
1/4 c vegetable or chicken broth
1 ts red curry paste
1 lb shrimp, peeled
1 can coconut milk
8 oz shiitake mushrooms
4 oz carrots, julienned
fresh cilantro
Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and bake cut side down at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
In a heavy saucepan, heat olive oil and sautee garlic, lemongrass and ginger. When browned and fragrant, deglaze pan with broth. Whisk in curry and add shrimp, stirring to coat with sauce. When shrimp is cooked, stir in coconut milk and add mushrooms and carrots. Simmer on low 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile chop cilantro and scoop spaghetti squash out of shell and into shallow bowls. Stir in cilantro before ladling shrimp and sauce over squash.
I like to garnish this with diced avocado and serve with a spinach salad on the side. Serves 4.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Perfect Jerky

Purchasing half a cow gave us good reason to plan for ways to use and store it. One of the best methods we use is making jerky. The hands-on time is low, the recipe is simple, and voila - snack food for a week.

Spicy Asian Jerky
2 lbs roast
6 tb sesame oil
4 tb hot sauce
2 tb honey
5 tb tamari
3 tb ginger
3 tb garlic powder
2 ts pepper
1 tb dry mustard
Combine ingredients for marinade. Slice meat thinly (it helps if it is still slightly frozen) and place in plastic bag with marinade for an hour or longer. (In our case, we have to preheat our dehydrator for an hour, so this works perfectly.) Dehydrate meat using any convenient method. Our dehydrator usually takes around 6 hours at 150 degrees.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Take out, topped

Beef with broccoli is one of my favorite Chinese dishes, but I am pretty sure the local take out joint loads theirs up with sugar, MSG and other things that don't belong in me. My version adds extra veggies and is a good way to use the chip steak that comes in our cow share (since we don't each steak sandwiches!). Instead of the chip steak, you could use beef cubes or thin slices of london broil. I love one-pot dishes in winter and this is a great one for being able to disguise veggies that aren't garden-fresh.
Ingredients for Beef with broccoli plus.
Beef with broccoli plus
1 lb chip steak
1/4 c tamari
2 tb sesame oil
2 tb minced garlic
1 tb grated ginger
1/2 tsp five spice powder
1 bell pepper
1 onion
6 oz crimini mushrooms
1 lb broccoli florets
2 ts sesame seeds
Whish together tamari, oil and seasonings and pour over meat, ensuring all surfaces are covered. Let meat soak up marinade for a few minutes while cutting the pepper, onion and mushrooms into strips. Heat a large pan on the stovetop and add meat and marinade. Cook until browned while stirring and separating. Move meat to the edges and add onions, top with broccoli and cover a few minutes longer. Stir in pepper strips and mushrooms to coat with sauce and heat through. Top with sesame seeds.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The 12 recipes of Christmas - Part 4

One of the things I enjoy most about hosting Christmas dinner at my house is the secret tradition I carry on: each year, one menu item contains a hidden Jewish ingredient. Not sure if I started doing it to pull one over on my husband's ultra Catholic family members or to make my Jewish brother in law and semi-ex-Jewish father feel more welcomed. Either way, it has become a pursuit - ok, an obsession - that is in my thoughts all year long.

This year, the hidden Jewish ingredient disguised itself in dessert. I made two desserts - both keepers! - a flourless chocolate torte and, in lieu of cookies, cheesecake bites topped with a chocolate drizzle.
The drizzle incorporated Sabra, an Israeli chocolate orange liquor. What about that combination is suggestive of Israel, I have no idea. But the recipe had been decided and the hunt was on. Let me tell you, this stuff isn't sold just anywhere. After two days, four liquor store visits and several phone calls, I finally found one lone dusty bottle in a strip mall shop.
Back at home, under the auspices of knowing the ingredients I would be offering my guests, I had a shot. Maybe two. It's good stuff. A little like Godiva's forgotten cousin. So on to the recipes...

Cheesecake bites
This is a long list of ingredients, and admittedly, a fairly complicated recipe. But if you need a semi-fancy dessert that goes far and that you can completely make in advance, this one's a winner.
2 c almond meal
2 ts unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 c butter, melted
32 oz cream cheese, at room temp
1/4 c agave nectar
1 tb arrowroot powder
3 eggs
1 tb vanilla
1/2 c chopped cashews (or slivered almonds)
1/2 c chopped dried apricots
1/4 c crystalized ginger, chopped
4 oz dark chocolate (I used 72% - if using all cream and no liquor, use 85%)
1/3 c heavy cream
1/3 c Sabra
For the crust: Combine first 3 ingredients and press into the bottom of a 13x9 baking pan (the aluminum ones have more squared-off corners). Bake at 350 for 10 minutes, then remove from oven and cool completely.
For the filling: Beat cream cheese in a stand mixer until smooth throughout. While blending, add agave, arrowroot, eggs and vanilla and mix until incorporated. Spread over cooled crust and bake 35 minutes or until set. After removing from oven, cool completely, cover with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator at least 8 hours.
For the topping: Combine ginger, apricot and nuts. Lightly press into top of cheesecake. Cut into squares and set spaced out on waxpaper-lined cookie sheet. You may need to pile some of the topping back onto the squares. Return to refrigerator.
For the drizzle: In double boiler, melt chocolate. Stir in cream and liquor until smooth. By spoonfuls, drizzle over tops and down sides of squares. Return to refrigerator 1 hour, or until chocolate is hardened. To serve, remove from waxpaper with spatula and arrange on pretty tray.
For the record, I know that agave is only borderline acceptable. I don't like the way honey works in this recipe though. Also, it is basically impossible to find crystalized ginger that does not have a sugar crust, so I brushed off what I could. On both counts, I figure: Hey, it's a holiday. Live a little!

Flourless chocolate torte
1+ c butter
1/4 c heavy cream
8 oz dark chocolate (72%)
5 eggs
1/2 c maple syrup
1/4+ c cocoa powder
Melt butter over low heat in saucepan on stove. Stir in cream and add chocolate, continuing to stir until melted. In a mixing bowl, beat eggs, then add syrup and cocoa. When stovetop mixture is completely melted, slowly whisk into mixing bowl. Coat a springform pan with additional butter, then dust with extra cocoa powder, removing excess. Pour batter into pan and bake at 350 for 40 minutes or until set in the center. Allow to cool and run knife around edge before unmolding.
Cut into slim wedges and serve with a scoop of gluten-free, soy-free organic ice cream such as Coconut Bliss or Turtle Mountain.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The 12 recipes of Christmas - Part 3

Meat is neat, but side dishes are delicious!

Side dishes
Someone brought the mashed white potatoes - some consider the feast lacking without them - but I made three additional accompaniments: holiday sweet potatoes (not bad), cranberry sauce (rocked!) and spinach and gruyere casserole (not gonna lie - took it right from Real Simple). All were successful, although I did get distracted and over baked the casserole.

Cranberry sauce
1 tb butter
2 tb honey
1 bag fresh cranberries
1 tb ginger
1/2 jar St. Dalfour apricot conserve
2 tb apple juice (more as needed)
Melt butter with honey in saucepan. Add berries and stir to coat. When berries burst, reduce heat to low, stirring frequently and add ginger and conserve. When sauce becomes thick, stir in apple juice, adding more to reach your preference.
Use St. Dalfour peach conserve if you prefer a thinner, sweeter sauce. This is the only 100% natural, no added sugar brand I have found. If you aren't so picky, feel free to substitute whatever you like.

Holiday sweet potatoes
3 large sweet potatoes, sliced into rounds
2 tb walnut oil
1 c pecans, chopped
1 tb honey
2 ts thyme or rosemary
1/2 ts nutmeg
1/2 ts cayenne
1/2 ts coarse ground pepper
Toss potatoes with oil and bake, covered, in 13x9 dish 45 minutes at 375. Meanwhile, combine remaining ingredients. When potatoes have baked, top with nut mixture and return to oven, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The 12 recipes of Christmas - Part 2

Traditionally, we make two different meats at Christmas: turkey, of course, and usually beef. This year was no exception, except for the fact that both of them were awesome (if I do say so myself). Usually, there is something wrong with at least one - overcooked, undercooked, bad choice of some preparatory measure. Not this year. I guess my new philosophy - Yummy, Easy, Primal - is giving me more time to focus on the important parts.

All I can say is there's a reason it starts with mmm...!

Roast beef
1 tb fennel seeds
2 tsp coarse ground black pepper
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp orange zest
1 tb olive oil
5-6 lb boneless rib roast
Crush fennel seeds with a mortar & pestle, a few at a time. Mix seeds with other spices. Rub meat with olive oil, then with spice mix. Cook on rotisserie, checking temp with meat thermometer at 2 hours (should be rare). Take out when meat is about 10 degrees short of desired doneness and rest on counter about 20 minutes to finish cooking before slicing. Serve with horseradish cream sauce.
Horseradish cream sauce: Stir together sour cream and horseradish in 2:1 ratio. Top with fresh ground pepper and chives or parsley.

New (for me) technique: dry-brining. Thank you Martha Stewart!
16-18 lb turkey
10 bay leaves, crushed - plus
     4 bay leaves, whole
1/2 c kosher salt
Oven bag
4 tb (1/2 stick) butter, softened - plus
     8 tb (whole stick) butter
Spices to taste: fresh ground pepper, rubbed sage, orange zest
1 c white wine
To brine: Combine crushed bay leaves with salt. Remove neck and giblets from thawed turkey. Rinse, drain and pat dry. Rub 1 tb salt mixture inside cavity. Rub remainder of mixture all over outside of bird, taking care to coat skin well, including in leg folds. Place turkey in oven bag and tie shut, squeezing out as much air as possible. Refrigerate 24 hours. Remove from refrigerator 1 hour before putting in oven, then remove from oven bag and rinse brine from inside and outside turkey.
To roast: Stuff bird and place on roasting pan, tying legs with kitchen string if needed. Rub turkey skin with softened butter, season with spices and roast at 425 degrees. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt whole stick butter with wine and whole bay leaves. About a half an hour after the turkey went into the oven, lower temp to 350 and baste with wine mixture. Continue basting and rotating turkey every 30-45 minutes, tenting with foil once skin browns. Check for doneness after 4 hours. Let rest out of oven 20-30 minutes before carving.

PS - Yes, I made stuffing, and it was from scratch (sort of, I didn't make cornbread myself like I usually do). No, it wasn't primal, and I didn't eat it! And there was gravy...I don't like gravy and I always pawn that off on someone who looks bored.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The 12 recipes of Christmas - Part 1

The family Christmas dinner is at my house every year. And every year, I spend weeks beforehand with recipes spread all over the place trying to plan, fine-tune and test an innovative menu that will wow everyone. But guess what? Nobody is wowed, nobody is disappointed. Everybody just eats and enjoys. Every year. I guess it truly isn't the food, it's the family. So this year I decided to simplify: no intricate recipes, no mounds of leftovers, no three days of cooking for 30 minutes of eating and 3 hours of cleaning. The rules: Yummy, Easy, Primal. Yep!

Shrimp and cocktail sauce is a Christmas tradition for us. So there was one munchie out of the way already. I make my own sugar-free cocktail sauce with tomatoes from my garden, but my in-laws brought a jar of store-bought with them. Fine by me! Easy, remember.
I made two cheese appetizers, neither of which impressed me much, but both of which served their purpose. The first was a goat cheese log rolled in dried cranberries and crushed pistacios (get and green...very festive). Not awesome, but I would make it again for the simplicity (ok, and the fact that I love goat cheese). The second was a hot ricotta dip. Bland, wouldn't do it again.
Finally, I made baked stuffed mushrooms. Yummy. A winner. I actually got asked for the recipe, meaning not only was it good, but someone actually paid attention to what they were eating :)

Baked stuffed mushrooms
24 large baby bella mushrooms (or white button if you prefer)
1 tb olive oil
1/4 c fresh parsley
2 cloves garlic (or more to taste)
1/2 c shredded parmesan
1/2 c almond meal
Remove stems from mushrooms and reserve. Bake caps, stem side down, for 10 minutes at 375 degrees. Meanwhile, in a small food processor, chop the reserved stems (and a couple of extra whole mushrooms if there are any) with garlic and parsley. Sautee in oil in a frying pan for a couple of minutes until the oil is absorbed, the parsley is wilted and the garlic is fragrant. Combine parmesan and almond meal and add mushroom mixture. Stuff into mushroom caps and bake again, 15 minutes.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy Primal New Year

I have taken a break from blogging, but not from cooking!

This New Year's Day, my first as a primal eater, I was determined to come up with something that incorporated traditional "good luck" foods, but kept with the plan.

The Menu:
Appetizer - smoked salmon - fish scales resemble coins and symbol prosperity
Salad - mixed greens and veggies garnished with pomegranate seeds - the seeds represent fertility, but are also my take on lucky legumes
Entree - spaghetti squash with meat sauce - noodles symbolize a long life
Side dish - sauteed chard with bacon - greens symbolize money and pork symbolizes progress
Drink - wine - eating 12 grapes at midnight is considered lucky in Hispanic countries, I took a bit of liberty here!

Spaghetti squash with meat sauce
1 spaghetti squash
1 lb ground beef
1/2 onion chopped
1 can diced tomatoes (if using unseasoned, also add oregano, etc. to taste)
1 c broth or water
1 tb white wine vinegar
2 ts olive oil
2 cloves garlic

Cut squash in half lengthwise and place cut side down on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Meanwhile, sautee garlic and onion in olive oil. Add ground beef and crumble into chunks with spatula. When beef is browned, add vinegar to deglaze the pan. Add tomatoes and juice and stir until heated through. To thicken sauce, I use a bit of arrowroot powder dissolved in water or broth. You could substitute tomato paste whisked into the broth instead. Scoop squash strands out of the shell lengthwise with a fork onto plates. Top with meat sauce. Serves 3.

Ingredients for spaghetti squash with meat sauce.
Sauteed chard with garlic and bacon
1 bunch swiss chard (or kale, spinach or other leafy green)
1 ts olive oil
2 cloves garlic
4 slices bacon or pancetta
2 tb apple cider vinegar

Chop chard leaves and stems and set aside. Cook bacon and garlic in sautee pan in olive oil. Add chard to pan by the tong-ful, turning to coat in oil and mix with bacon and garlic. As chard wilts from heat and moisture, continue to add tong-fuls of chard and mix around untill it is all in the pan. Splash with vinegar and cover with lid for 30 seconds or until fully wilted. Remove from heat and swirl around before serving immediately.
Ingredients for sauteed chard with bacon