Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Shredded Beef Salad with Guacamole

Normally used as a filling in tacos, burritos or taquitos all wrapped up in a corn tortilla, we can still have our beef and eat it, too. This is incredibly easy. Once the beef is steaming, you can leave it to do its thing while you sit down with a great book. (Ok, you probably have a thousand things to do, but it's a nice thought, isn't it?)

You don't have to use banana leaves, although they're pretty easy to find in Asian markets and fun to work with; you can use corn husk wrappers, or skip them and just steam the beef nekkid. I loved the guacamole with it, and only wish I'd had some radishes to add crunch and a pretty red color. Oh, and if you want to make a taco shell, peel and thinly slice jicama on a mandoline! Serves 4

1 lb skirt or flank steak, cut into large pieces
2 TB coconut oil

1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 large white onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, chopped

1 ripe Hass avocado
2 medium cloves garlic, finely minced
1 lime: half cut in 4 wedges, the other half juiced
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Salad greens lightly dressed with citrusy Basic Salad Dressing
3 radishes, sliced

Melt the coconut oil in a cast iron or heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Pat the skirt steak dry with paper towels, and brown the meat on both sides, working in batches so you don't overcrowd the skillet. While the meat is browning, bring 1" water, onion, garlic and 1 tsp salt to boil in a large steaming pot. If you're using one, lay the meat out on a banana leaf.

Loosely wrap the leaf around the meat, leaving the sides exposed, and put in the steam basket.

Steam for 1.5 to 2 hrs, until the meat falls apart when you tease it with a fork. Check the water level in the pot after about an hour and add more hot water if necessary. When it's cool enough to handle, finely shred it with 2 forks or your fingers.

I'm assuming you know how to work with avocado, so just mash it with a fork and mix in a small bowl with the garlic, lime juice, salt, pepper, cayenne. Serve the meat as shown above on salad greens with plenty of guacamole.

I wish I could set this up so an alarm goes off, because eating tomatoes on the GARD are a bad idea.
Very bad. Don't do it. It's not worth the consequences. If you need a refresher, read about No Tomatoes here.

But, for other family members with no dietary restrictions, or Paleo people who can eat tomatoes, here is Jeff's salsa recipe, and what his plate looked like:

1/2 tomato, seeds and jelly removed, small dice
1 medium jalapeno or serrano, finely minced
1 tsp lime juice
pinch kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper

Monday, March 25, 2013

Butternut Squash with Garlic Chips, Crispy Sage and Toasted Hazelnuts

The sweet caramelized squash, crispy-chewy garlic, crunchy sage and toasted hazelnuts are perfect together, but I really can't describe it. Every flavor combination: squash and garlic, squash and sage, squash and hazelnuts, is good on its own, but when they're all together, oh my goodness! That one unidentifiable taste hidden in the background, that you can't quite put your finger on, is the lavender in the herbs. Serves 4

1 butternut squash, peeled and cut in 1" cubes. I had 1.5 lb oven-ready
Butternut squash is a tricky one. If it's got a big bulb, it'll be mostly seeds. Choose one that is longer and thinner.
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
1.5 - 2 tsp Herbs de Provence (depending on how much squash you end up with)
12-16 sage leaves
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
3 TB hazelnuts, toasted on a cookie sheet

Preheat oven to 375*F

On a half-sheet pan, toss the butternut squash with 2 TB EVOO, herbs de Provence, salt & pepper. Be generous with the pepper and go easy on the salt. Roast for about 30 minutes, turning with a metal spatula halfway through, until the squash is soft and has begun to caramelize on the outside.

While the squash is roasting, coat the bottom of a skillet with EVOO, warm just below medium heat and wait for the oil to ripple; you want the leaves to sizzle and crisp as soon as they hit the oil, not soak. Pick the biggest sage leaves, about 3-4 per serving, and fry in the oil around 1-2 minutes, watching that they don't burn, until they start to curl. If you haven't done this before, cook a couple of test leaves first. Gently remove with tongs and drain on paper towels.

Put the garlic slices in the same oil, moving them around and cook until they start to brown but not burn. Remove with a slotted spoon to the same paper towels. Save the oil to re-use!

As soon as the butternut squash comes out of the oven, turn the temp down to 350*F and immediately put the hazelnuts in the oven. Keep an eye on them, it will only take a couple of minutes for them to toast.

Serve the squash topped with the garlic chips, fried sage and toasted hazelnuts. Mmm mmm good.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Carnitas with Charred Tomatillo Salsa and Avocado

Carnitas have always been my favorite Mexican dish, and one I've sorely missed. I found a way around the sweetened condensed milk often used in its preparation, and by modifying a recipe I found on Epicurious, and finishing it Rick Bayless style, it's as good as any I've had in a restaurant.

Do use leaf lard if you can find it (one of my own little twists: it's just another animal fat, like butter but allowed, and it has a luxurious mouth feel) and pay close attention to the amount of salt called for.

The avocado is essential as is the tomatillo salsa, which was easy and fun to make. Speaking of, did you know tomatillos are closest to gooseberries? Prehistoric sized gooseberries, LOL.

This recipe makes a lot of carnitas, and total cooking time is about 3 hrs, definitely a weekend project. But it freezes and reheats very well because of the fat content. Think how lovely it will be to come home after a hard day at work, reach in the fridge for a thawed out ziploc of carnitas, and assemble a quick meal that tastes like a million bucks!  Generously serves 4-5.

2.5 lb pasture raised pork shoulder (or pork butt, same thing), cut into 1.5" pieces
1/2 white onion, sliced paper thin
1/2 orange, cut in two
Leaf lard (rendered solely from kidney fat), or pork lard, or bacon fat. Leaf lard is by far the best choice. Bacon fat will brown but also burn quickly, so be careful with that one.
6 medium cloves garlic, peeled
3 bay leaves
1 TB whole coconut milk
1 rounded tsp raw honey
1 tsp dried oregano: if you double the amount of meat, increase the oregano to 2 tsp
Kosher salt

Charred Tomatillo Salsa
1 lb tomatillos, husks removed, sticky coating rinsed off and dried with paper towels
1 large garlic clove, still in the skin
1 serrano or jalapeno pepper
Optional: 1 dried ancho chile
1/3 c cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
1 tsp raw honey
Kosher salt
1/3 c white onion, finely chopped

Avocado, sliced and coated with lime juice to prevent browning
1 lime, cut in 6 wedges
Large iceberg, green or red lettuce leaves, for using like "faux tortillas", allow 3 per person

Normally, pork shoulder is pretty fatty, sometimes as much as 25% fat. If that's the case, you will want about 1/4 c leaf lard. As you can see, my pork shoulder is extraordinarily lean. It's obvious that it was allowed to roam free in a pasture, got a lot of exercise, and wasn't fattened up in a feedlot. Because it's so lean, I used 1/2 c leaf lard, which was the perfect amount.

Put all the carnitas ingredients in a dutch oven and add just enough water to barely cover the meat. Add 1/2 tsp salt per pound of pork, no more. If you are using any salt other than kosher, cut the amount in half. Remember, the water is going to completely cook down, so the salt will be extremely concentrated by the time it's ready. If you're increasing the recipe meat-wise, the only other ingredient that needs to be adjusted is the oregano.

Bring to a boil on the stove, reduce to a fast simmer, and cook uncovered about 1.5 hrs, until the pork is just fork tender.

While the pork is simmering, make the salsa:
Heat a dry cast iron skillet over medium-high heat on the stove. Get it really hot. If you're using the dried ancho chile, which I highly recommend, toast it first, using a spatula to press it flat on the skillet, charring both sides. Remove to a shallow dish, cover with hot water and soak for 30 minutes to rehydrate.

To the hot skillet, add the tomatillos, garlic and serrano or jalapeno pepper. Use tongs to turn and let the skins blister. You'll be leaving the skins on, so charring about 25-30% of the skin is fine. Be sure to leave the skin on the garlic clove: the skin will blacken, but the garlic won't burn and get bitter, just soft and browned. Remove and let cool enough to handle.

Use a paring knife to core the tomatillos, cutting out the hard little cone where it attached to the plant stem. Remove the seeds from the serrano if you want it milder, chop the pepper in small pieces, and peel the skin off the garlic. Put them all in a blender and pulse on "chop" just enough to break everything down but still leaving chunks intact. Tomatillos are fairly bitter, so taste now to see if you need to add the honey. Drain the ancho chile, use a paring knife to scrape out the seeds, cut into pieces and add to the blender along with a couple of spare pinches of salt and the chopped cilantro. Pulse/chop just enough to blend everything together, leaving it a little chunky.
Pour into a serving bowl and stir in the diced white onion.

Back to the pork:
Now that it's just fork-tender, remove the orange and bay leaves and continue at a fast simmer, stirring occasionally, for another 30 minutes as the water continues to evaporate, eventually leaving only the rendered fat and lard in the bottom of the pot.

Now the pork is ready to brown. Raise the heat to medium, and use a metal spatula to carefully move the pieces around ~ it will be falling apart, it's so tender, making lots of lovely crispy bits ~ so all the meat has a chance to get brown and crispy. Using a slotted spoon, remove the browned pieces to a serving dish so the other pieces will have room to brown as well.

Serve the carnitas on large lettuce leaves topped with salsa and avocado slices with a wedge of lime. Perfection!

* * * * * * * * * *
Now for the after party: the bottom of your pot will look like this:

No need to fret! Fill it with hot water to soak while you eat dinner. Use a plastic pot brush to help loosen up the crud, wash with hot water and dish soap and rinse out. It will probably come completely clean, as mine did. But if it needs a little help, or any time you want to get rid of discoloration, just fill the pot to the top with hot water and add 1 TB bleach. Let it sit for 24 hrs and then rinse and re-wash with dish soap. It'll be good as new. :-)

The same pot after cleaning:

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Chocolate Peppermint Patty Cookies

Joyce at Oasis at Bird-in-Hand posted the Paleo Indulgences recipe for Thin Mints today, and I was on it in a hot minute. They're delicious, but either I messed up ~ even though I triple-checked the original recipe ~ or the interior isn't meant to be hard and crunchy, like the Girl Scout cookie. If it was my mistake, it was a great one! These taste just like a peppermint patty cookie, cool and minty and chocolaty and chewy. Store them in the freezer and have a couple when your evening sweet tooth starts singing!

I prefer semi-sweet to dark chocolate, so I went 40/60 instead of using all dark. And since, when it comes to chocolate, I adhere to the racer's axiom: "Some is good, more is better, too much is just right", I dipped each cookie twice. Makes about 20 cookies, and you might want to double the recipe ;-)

1 c very finely ground blanched almond flour*
1 tsp organic coconut flour
2 TB good quality cocoa powder
⅛ tsp finely ground kosher or sea salt
¼ tsp baking soda
2 TB melted coconut oil
¼ c  raw honey
1 tsp peppermint extract (real, not imitation)

4 oz dark (60%) chocolate, finely chopped
2 oz semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
½ tsp peppermint extract

Preheat oven to 350*F

Combine the flours, cocoa powder, salt & soda in a food processor, and pulse till evenly combined. Add the coconut oil, honey and tsp peppermint extract and pulse until dough forms and is all gathered together. 

Roll out dough between 2 pieces of parchment paper to ⅛ inch thick. Use a ruler. If you got it too thin, fold the dough over on itself and start over; it's very forgiving, and you don't need to worry about glutens developing. Slide the paper (and cookies) onto a cookie sheet and freeze for 15-20 minutes. They need to be really cold to hold their shape, so don't go by time, go by how cold the dough is.

Using a 2-inch cookie cutter, cut out dough and transfer to a new sheet of parchment paper on the cookie sheet. Like any rolled cookie, gather the leftover dough into a new ball and roll out again between the parchment sheets and keep cutting cookie shapes. The cookies won't expand, so you can probably fit them all on one sheet, as I did. 

Bake for 4 minutes. Cool completely on the baking sheets, then freeze on the sheet for 1 hour. 

In the meantime, melt chocolate and peppermint extract in a small heatproof bowl over a simmering water. When the chocolate's cooled enough to work with, dip each cookie: I did it twice, top-bottom-top-bottom, then place again on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Freeze for 1 hr. Store in freezer in ziploc bags or plastic container.

*I've been buying JK Brand almond flour on Amazon because it's high quality baking flour, not almond meal. By the way, don't use Bob's Red Mill, it's way too coarse! Hmmm. **tapping chin** Maybe that's where their crunchy cookie texture came from?! Anyway, you can buy baking quality almond flour at Oasis at a much better price.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Mango Cucumber Basil Salad

This is a quick, easy salad that goes well with any spicy foods, like Red Curry Halibut.
Serves 2, just increase the quantities for more.

The goal is equal quantities of mango, cucumber and onion, so rather than measure everything out, you'll be eyeballing it, but I want to at least give you approximate quantities.

1 mango
1/2 small, or 1/4 large, red onion, thinly sliced on a mandoline
1/4 English cucumber, thinly sliced on a mandoline
Fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
Freshly squeezed lime juice (1 lime max, depending on how juicy or dry it is)
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper

Cut the sides off the mango, avoiding the pit. Use a large spoon to scoop the flesh from the skin and thinly slice. Toss in a bowl with the sliced onion, cucumber and basil. Add lime juice, salt & pepper to taste.

Red Curry Coconut Halibut in Banana Leaves

I feel so exotic! I've never used banana leaves before, and they're fun to work with. We found them, and the red curry paste, at a tiny Asian market. The coconut curry sauce is very versatile; you can make it hotter or milder to taste. If you can't find banana leaves, just broil or pan fry the fish and pour the sauce over the fillets with a wedge of lime and sliced pineapple on the side. We had it with Mango Cucumber Basil Salad

Serves 3-4 but the sauce makes enough for 6, so you can easily increase the quantities of fish, lime & pineapple for more people. You can also use the sauce to make a chicken dish - see end of recipe.

1 lb halibut, haddock, or any firm white fish, cut into 4 equal size pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 banana leaves, thawed (they come frozen in packages of 4-6, just put the rest back in the freezer)
1 T fresh ginger, sliced paper thin
1 med shallot, sliced paper thin
2-3 tsp coconut oil
1/2 c whole organic coconut milk
1/4 - 1/2 tsp red curry paste (I used Maesri brand "Kaeng Kua Curry Paste")
1 tsp curry powder (mild or Madras)
4 paper thin slices lime
4 thin slices pineapple

Optional: dab of raw honey

Steam basket large enough to hold the fish packages.

Pat the fish dry with paper towels and season one side with salt & pepper. In a small saucepan over medium heat, saute the ginger and shallots until soft but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the curry paste, curry powder, and coconut milk.

Note: I'm not a fan of super spicy food, so I used 1/4 tsp red curry paste and mild curry powder, especially since this was an experiment. However, the red curry had SO much delicious flavor, next time I'm going to use 1/2 tsp, doubling the heat, but will keep the curry powder mild. If you are going to make yours extra hot, say using Madras curry as well, add a dab of raw honey. The sweetness will offset the heat.

Stir to combine and set aside to cool.

Now for the fun part: the banana leaves are huge, at least 5 feet long. From the center (widest) part of the leaves, using a pair of kitchen scissors, cut 4 squares about 12" long. I got 3 squares from 1 leaf. You want the square to be big enough to fold over the top of the fillet and then tuck the sides under. Rinse the squares under cool running water and pat dry.

Bring your steaming water to a boil in a pot on the stove while you:

Lay the banana leaves out on the counter & put a fish piece in the center of each banana leaf. Put a slice of pineapple on each fish and spoon a generous amount of sauce over the top, dividing the shallots and ginger evenly. You'll have some sauce left over, but if you are serving 6, you'll use it all up. Top with 1 slice of lime. The picture shows 2 slices of lime. Two slices threw the flavor proportions off balance; the ones I did with 1 slice were perfect, but I didn't take a picture of them. (Click on any photo for a closer view.)

As you look at the picture above: wrap the left and right sides of the leaf over the fish and tuck the top and bottom sides under. Place the packages in the steam basket, alternating the direction of each layer.

Put the lid on the pot and steam for 10 minutes. Use tongs to remove the fish to plates. Jeff had his over jasmine rice, so you don't get to see that picture, LOL (no grains allowed!) I just put mine on my plate and folded the sides of the leaf in, like this:

By the way, we both tried one fillet topped with fresh basil and one without. As much as we both love basil, and it's such a staple in Thai cuisine, we agreed it was better without.

Ok, now for the chicken option:
Follow the instructions above for making the sauce, but increase the amount of coconut milk to 1 cup,  the red curry paste to 1/2 tsp, and the curry powder to 2 tsp. Add 2-3 c cooked, shredded chicken (at least room temperature, not cold!) to the sauce and stir to coat. Taste for salt & pepper. Bring to a high simmer, remove from heat, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes so the chicken absorbs all the lovely flavors. Serve as you would if you broiled the fish, with wedges of lime and sliced pineapple on the side.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Meatloaf "Brasciole" with Greens

My dear (and very Italian) friend Diana tells me this isn't a true brasciole: it's a meatloaf. Ah, well. I am still in love with this combination of rolled meats and spicy greens. If you don't like collards, you can still make the pot liquor and use that as a light sauce over the meat, or even make a quick roux with EVOO and potato flour to turn it into a gravy. Yum! I'll slice the brasciole (modified from a Rachael Ray recipe) and eat it cold the next day for lunch like a meatloaf, but it also freezes and reheats beautifully. Serves 4-6.

1 lb pasture-raised ground beef
1/2 lb pasture-raised ground pork
1/2 c "bread crumbs", recipe below
1.5 tsp kosher salt
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 extra large pasture-raised egg
2 large cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 c white onion, small dice
1/2 tsp dried oregano
2 TB golden raisins*
3 TB pine nuts, toasted & cooled
2 rounded TB flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 large handful baby spinach
4 slices bacon

Paleo Bread Crumbs
1/2 c almond flour
1/4 c golden flaxseed meal
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp each onion powder, oregano, thyme & freshly ground black pepper
Put in a jar and shake to mix everything thoroughly

Double recipe of Collard greens with pot liquor, which you can make earlier in the week and just reheat

Preheat oven to 375*F

In a large bowl, use your hands to mix everything thoroughly together except the spinach and bacon. Lay down a piece of parchment paper, large enough to cover the bottom, on a half sheet pan. Put the meat mixture on the parchment and using your hands, press out to an 8 x 12 rectangle, longer side from left to right. Make a layer of spinach leaves on top.

Use the parchment paper to help you roll up the brasciole, until it looks like a 12" log. Cover with bacon (this will add flavor and help keep it moist.)

Bake for 35-40 minutes until the ground pork is cooked through and the center of the loaf reads 160*F with an instant meat thermometer. Remove from the oven, remove the bacon (eat or save it for later), loosely tent with aluminum foil and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice and place over cooked greens; pour a TB of the pot liquor over each serving of brasciole.

*Reminder: according to Dogtor J, who created the GARD, raisins are ok in moderation. This averages out to 1/2 TB or less per serving and should be just fine.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Sesame Crusted Tuna

I wanted fresh tuna steak for dinner, but without an Asian influence, which usually means soy sauce and rice wine vinegar. The citrus based salad dressing and avocado were the perfect complement to a Western-style salad. Healthy, figure friendly, and it's so tasty, too! Serves 2-3, just increase the tuna and salad ingredients for more people.

2 tuna steaks
Coconut oil
Sesame oil
Kosher salt
White pepper
Approx 1/3 c sesame seeds (untoasted)

Salad greens
1/4 c sliced almonds, toasted
1 medium carrot, sliced with a vegetable peeler
2 radishes, thinly sliced
1/2 English cucumber, thinly sliced
2 scallions, equal parts white and green, diagonally sliced
1/2 avocado, cut in half crosswise and then sliced lengthwise into about 12 pieces total
Basic salad dressing

Assemble the salad ingredients except for the avocado. Pour a little of the dressing into a small cup and dip the avocado slides in to coat and prevent them from browning. Use the same dressing and your hand instead of tongs to coat all the lettuce pieces without using a ton of dressing. Assemble the salad on plates and set aside. Toast the almond slices on a sheet tray in a toaster oven or in a dry pan over medium heat, and remove to a dish to cool.

Heat 3 TB coconut oil in an 8" nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Thoroughly dry the tuna steaks with paper towels. Coat both sides of the steaks with sesame oil, salt & pepper. Pour the sesame seeds in a small saucer and coat both sides of the steaks with seeds. Cook about 2 minutes on the first side, 1 minute on the second side for rare. The picture above shows the tuna cooked to medium, about 2 minutes per side.

Note: I meant to cook the tuna to rare, but the minute it took to get the almonds out of the oven and on the salad was one minute too long. Toast your almonds in advance. They won't wait, and neither will your tuna, LOL! Here's the salad after I started eating it, when I realized it wanted avocado, which really "finished" the dish.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Country Omelet

We have breakfast night once a week, and I love the simplicity of bacon, potatoes and eggs in one dish. Adapted from an Ina Garten recipe to be Paleo and Gard friendly with a couple of twists. Serves 2, to double the recipe use 2 pans.

3-4 slices thick cut nitrite/nitrate free bacon (if it's more fatty, use 4 slices)
Extra bacon fat if needed
1 medium Yukon Gold potato, cut into very small dice
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
5 extra large eggs from pasture-raised hens, room temperature
1 TB whole coconut milk
1 rounded TB fresh chopped chives

Preheat oven to 350*F

Using an 8" or 10" ovenproof nonstick skillet, start the bacon in a cold pan and cook over med-low heat to slowly render the fat and brown the bacon. I prefer cooking bacon this way, so there's always extra rendered bacon fat to keep in the fridge. Note: the bacon I used this time is from a local farmer just down the road and his comes like this:

So there's very little fat and the slices are thinner but much bigger. I still used 2 whole pieces because we luuurve our bacon. Remove the bacon to a plate. Add more bacon fat if needed, raise the heat to medium, and cook the potatoes until they're cooked through and a golden brown. Use a slotted spoon to remove to a plate. Cut the bacon into small pieces, removing all the fat. (Now you see why we left the slices whole: to make it easier to cook them evenly and remove the fat!)

In the same skillet, add enough EVOO to make 1 TB total of fat and lower the heat back down to med-low.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, coconut milk, 1/2 tsp salt (more if your bacon is on the less-salty side) & 1/4 tsp pepper or more to taste. If your eggs are room temperature, the yolks and whites will blend easily. If your eggs are cold, run them under warm tap water for a couple of minutes before breaking them open. Pour the beaten egg mixture into the skillet, and sprinkle the potatoes, bacon and chives evenly over the top.

Once the eggs at the bottom have started to set, put the skillet in the oven. If using an 8" skillet, bake in the oven about 12-14 minutes or until the omelet is cooked to your liking. If using a 10" skillet, bake about 8-10 minutes.

Note: I like my eggs more cooked than my husband, so I'll take the omelet out of the oven, give him his half, and pop my half back in the oven for a couple more minutes.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Artichokes with The Best Dipping Oil

If Carrie Bradshaw knows shoes, I know artichokes. (And maybe a little about shoes, too, LOL!) I've spent nearly half my life near Half Moon Bay, CA, the artichoke capital of the world (well Castroville is,  technically, but it's close enough to the Bay Area that we got them all the time!) and grew up eating them with melted butter. I really didn't think there could be anything better than butter, but - dare I say it? - this is!

When I saw these beauties in the farmer's market, the man who helped me said he doesn't make them because he "heard they're too much trouble." Then, last night at dinner while my husband was eating his, he said, "Why don't we eat these more often? Oh yeah - they're a lot of trouble." Whaaa? My response to Jeff was, "So's riding a mountain bike over the Continental Divide" (which he did once.) He got the message.

Serves 2 hungry people, just increase the quantities for dipping oil if you want to make more.

2 large artichokes, thoroughly rinsed: pick ones with firmly packed leaves that haven't fanned out
8 sprigs plus 1 rounded TB minced thyme leaves
7 cloves garlic: 4 whole, 3 finely minced
1 lemon
3/4 c EVOO
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 scallions, equal parts white and green, finely chopped
1 oz (shot glass) dry white wine aged in an aluminum barrel

Fill a large, wide stock pot with a couple of inches of water and the juice of half a lemon. Prepare the 'chokes: trim off the stem, cut off the thorny leaf tips with scissors, and cut about 1/4 of the top part off so the top of the blossom is exposed (I find a serrated knife works best for cutting the tops off.) Dip the chokes upside down in the lemon water to prevent it from browning and then place right side up in the pot. Fill with water to cover about 3/4 of the chokes. Drizzle with 1/4 cup EVOO. Add the thyme sprigs and whole garlic cloves and bring to a boil. Add a couple of tsp of salt and a tsp of black pepper. 

Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook about 35-40 minutes until the flesh on the tough outer leaves and stem are completely soft. A leaf in the second outer layer should pull out easily: test that one to see if the flesh at the base of the leaf is soft. Use tongs to grab and hold the chokes upside down over the pot to drain out all the water and set upright to cool on a plate with sides.

While the artichokes are cooling, make the dipping oil. Heat 1/2 c EVOO in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the scallions and cook them about 3 minutes, then add the minced garlic and cook another 2 minutes till all are soft but not browned. Add the wine and cook off the alcohol. Add the minced thyme, the juice from the 2nd lemon half, and a couple of healthy pinches of kosher salt. Stir to combine and remove from heat to steep, blend flavors, and cool down.

Once the artichokes have cooled enough to work with, gently pull apart the leaves and scoop out the hairy chokes with a spoon. The top of the choke will look like this:

Serve the 'chokes on a salad or soup plate with individual bowls of dipping oil. Click on the picture below to see what the artichoke looks like with the hairy choke removed and heart exposed.

(You know how to eat a 'choke, right? Pull off the leaves, dip them in oil, grabbing some scallion and garlic, and draw the leaf in between your teeth to pull off the flesh, saving the heart for last: that's your reward for all the "trouble"!)

Chicken-Kale-Sweet Potato Cakes

One of my friends posted this Multiply Delicious recipe on FB. I only made a few small changes to quantities and cooking times, and man, are they good! You could make a sauce or salsa to go with them, but the yams keep them very moist and tender. Since they need to be refrigerated for at least 4 hours before cooking, you may want to make them the night before.

Budget bonus: there's so much yam and kale in the patties, it really stretches out this pound of chicken. Serves 6-8

EVOO or coconut oil
2 scallions, equal parts white and green, finely chopped
8 oz yam or sweet potato (I prefer yams, they're naturally sweeter), peeled and cut into small dice
2.5 cups kale, stems discarded & leaves finely chopped
1 pound skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
3/4 tsp kosher salt
3-4 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 rounded tsp paprika
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 TB fresh rosemary, finely minced
1 large room temperature pasture-raised egg, beaten
2 TB coconut flour

Heat 2 TB oil in a large saute pan over just below medium heat (my electric burner goes to 10 ; I had it at 4), until the oil is hot and rippling, and cook the scallions about 5 minutes, until soft but not browned. Add the yam and kale, and saute another 8-10 minutes until both are tender and the yams are cooked through. Remove from heat.

In a food processor, pulse the chicken until it's completely ground. Dump into a large mixing bowl, add the rest of the ingredients and mix to thoroughly combine. Form 7-8 round balls, cover with cling wrap and chill at least 4 hours or overnight.

Heat 3 TB oil (you'll need less if using non-stick) in a large saute pan over just below medium heat until the oil is hot and rippling. Flatten out the balls to form patties and cook in batches, not overcrowding the pan, about 4 minutes on the first side and 2-3 minutes on the second side until browned and cooked through. Add a tsp of oil at a time, as needed, during the cooking process. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Jerusalem Artichoke (Sunchoke) Soup

If you've never had jerusalem artichokes, this is a good introduction to them. They have a sweet, nutty flavor well complemented by roasting them with red onion and lots of garlic, and garnished with scallions or chives. When I saw them at the farmer's market this morning, they looked so inviting I couldn't resist getting some.

However, it is only right to warn you: the inulin in them doesn't break down in our digestive tract, and can cause flatulence. If you're especially sensitive this way, you'd be better off making something like roasted potato shallot soup. I'm not trying to scare you off, but I also don't want you to be in gastric distress!  Serves 3-4 (about 3/4 cup per person)

1 lb small jerusalem artichokes, rooty tips cut off, well washed and dried
5 medium cloves garlic, skins on
1/2 medium red onion, cut in half with root end intact
1.5 c homemade chicken stock
5 sprigs thyme
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
2-3 TB whole coconut milk
4 TB minced scallions or chives (it really needs this, so don't omit)

Preheat oven to 375*F

Put the chokes, onion and garlic on a half sheet; leave the skins on the garlic so it doesn't burn and the root end on the onion so it doesn't separate and burn. Toss with about 3 TB EVOO and sprinkle liberally with salt. Roast for about 20 minutes, turn and roast another 10-15 minutes until all the vegetables are soft and cooked through.

Use some of the chicken stock to help get all the roasted bits off the half sheet and pour into a medium saucepan. There will be about a TB of EVOO and some salt on the sheet, which we want to include.

Add the rest of the stock and thyme sprigs, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat and let the thyme sit and steep. While it's steeping, remove the flesh from the chokes by squeezing it out with your fingers, or use a paring knife to scrape it from the skin. I left a few pieces of caramelized skin in, for more flavor. Squeeze out the garlic as well, and trim off the root end of the onions.

Remove the thyme springs and discard. Add in all the veg, and use an immersion blender, food processor, or blender to process the veg and stock to a smooth consistency. Add the coconut milk and heat to a full simmer. Taste for salt and add the pepper. Garnish with lots of minced scallion or chives and serve.