Friday, January 31, 2014

Papaya Salsa or Salad

Oh this is so good! Papayas are one of my favorite tropical fruits. I made this to go with "jerked chicken" patties. I'm still working on the jerk seasonings, but the salsa is divine! Makes enough for a salad for 2, or salsa topping for 4.

1 large, fully ripe papaya, peeled, seeds removed and diced
1/2 jalapeno, seeds removed, minced
1/4 c red onion, very finely diced (brunoise)
1/2 red or orange bell pepper, diced the same size as the papaya
1/4 c orange juice (I used 1 navel orange)
Kosher salt
Optional: 1-2 TB chopped cilantro or parsley

If you've never worked with papaya before:
Cut both ends off. Stand it up on the cutting board and using a small, sharp paring knife, cut off the peel, including the pale flesh just under the skin. That has a firmer texture and is less sweet.  Now cut the papaya in half lengthwise and use a cereal spoon to scoop out all the seeds and the bits of white membrane. Cut each half in quarters lengthwise  - you'll have a total of 8 strips - and then dice crosswise.

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and add a couple of pinches of kosher salt. You can add the cilantro or parsley but this is really personal preference. I could do without it myself. Ignore the lime in the photo, that's for the jerk chicken patty.

Let it sit for 10 minutes. The salt will draw out some moisture from the papaya and pepper, which then blends with the orange juice and how good does that taste? Good enough that we ate the entire bowl between the two of us and there is none left for the other patties!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Chicken 'Noodle' Soup

Back in their heyday, Victoria and I used to go to Brothers Deli in Burlingame, CA, for what we (and a lot of other people!) thought was the best chicken noodle matzo ball soup on the Peninsula. I still remember how they'd ladle up a bowl of soup and then add a matzo ball the size of a baseball.

Nowadays, I make my own. I'll be the first to admit that spaghetti squash is not pasta, but it's good; just different. I'm also working on a grain-free matzo ball recipe. In the meantime, this is a fast, easy, really good soup. Great for using up leftover chicken, great for the sniffles, and great for cold winter nights. Serves 3; double or triple quantities as needed.

1/2 yellow onion, small dice (1 c)
1/2 c carrot, peeled and small dice
1/2 c celery, small dice

Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
5 c homemade chicken stock
If you are using grocery store stock, you definitely want to add extra and cook it down to get enough flavor. Stock makes all the difference.
2 c cooked, shredded spaghetti squash, cooking directions here
2 TB flat leaf parsley, chopped

1 chicken breast, cooked, cooled and shredded into bite size pieces

Heat about 2 TB EVOO over medium heat in a Dutch oven. Add the mirepoix, season with salt & pepper, and saute about 5 minutes to coat the veg with fat and the onion begins to soften. Add the chicken stock, 1.5 TB of the parsley and spaghetti squash, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce to a fast simmer and cook, partially covered, for 10 minutes, then cover and cook another 10 minutes.

This will cook the veg and allow the strands of squash to take on all the flavor of the stock, and also cook down the stock and concentrate the flavors more.

Add the last bit of parsley and the cooked chicken for the last 2 minutes of cooking, just enough to heat it through without overcooking the meat.

Note: You can still use regular pasta for your non-Paleo & GARD eaters.
Add the chicken stock, and then divide the soup evenly between 2 pots. Follow the recipe above for squash people. For pasta people, add a few handfuls of broken linguine to their pot, cover and fast simmer for 20 minutes. Both will be done at the same time.

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Best! Oven Roasted Breakfast Potatoes

I promise you, this is not an empty boast. As long as you don't change or omit anything, you are going to love these potatoes! I got the idea to play around with oven roasted potato recipes when I saw a Food Network star pour a melted stick of butter over her potatoes. Of course they were delicious; everything's better with a stick of butter or half a pound of cheese, and I can pour butter with the best of them ;-). The challenge I gave myself was to make the best, most unbelievable, GARD/Paleo-approved, finger-licking good potatoes ever, even better without butter or cheese.

I think I did it. I'm not even sure what the secret is, because you really taste the chewy, caramelized bits of pancetta, creamy potatoes and sweet peppers, and you don't really taste the aglione, but when you don't use plenty of the rosemary/sage/juniper berry combo, or just use rosemary & sage, it doesn't taste as good. There's something about the aglione that changes the dish that I can't put my finger on. The juniper berries? Maybe. It's a beautiful mystery.

Make lots of these. You could cut the recipe in half, but the leftovers re-heat beautifully. Serves 4-5

3 lb Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut in 3/4" cubes
12 oz yellow onion, 1" dice
8 oz red bell pepper, 1" dice
8 oz green bell pepper, 1" dice
4 medium cloves garlic, chopped (remember, the aglione has garlic, too, so don't change this quantity)
3-4 TB aglione
Few pinches of crushed red pepper flakes
garlic powder & onion powder
mild paprika
8 oz pancetta, excess fat trimmed away and cut in small dice

>Do not substitute bacon for pancetta! The smoky flavor of the bacon will overwhelm everything else. I'm sure it would be good, but it won't taste anything like this dish.

>Do not add any salt. There's salt in the aglione and also in the pancetta, more than enough.

>Do not add more garlic, as there's some in the aglione.

>Any potato will do; just remember that Yukon Golds have a higher moisture content and won't brown as nicely.

Preheat oven to 425*F
Put 2 racks in the middle part of the oven, but with good air flow between them.

Cut up all your peppers and veg; weigh the peppers, as looks are deceiving. I ended up using 2 red peppers to 1 green to get an equal weight.

You can see my cuts aren't all mathematically precise, but this gives you an idea of their size.

Cut the pancetta in very small dice and set it aside. It won't go in the oven till halfway through the cooking time.

Combine the potatoes, peppers, onions and garlic in a large mixing bowl. Use enough olive oil to generously coat all the veg without having extra sitting in the bottom of the bowl, probably 1/4 c or so, and stir well with a big spoon. I don't use my hands because too much of the herbs and spices end up on my hands, and I want it all on the food.

Now add the aglione, red pepper (go easy on this! maybe 4 pinches total), a light dusting of garlic powder, a light dusting of onion powder, and a heavier dusting of paprika. Stir to mix well, then dust again with onion and garlic powder and paprika, to make sure everything is evenly coated.

Spread out on 2 half sheet pans. You want to make sure everything is in one layer so it all browns and cooks evenly. Roast for 10 minutes, then use a metal spatula to scrape up and stir everything around to get an even browning and so nothing burns.

Divide the pancetta and mix half with the veg on each sheet pan, tossing well to coat with oil. Return to the oven and roast another 10 minutes, then stir and scrape and toss again, and return to the oven for another 10 minutes or until everything is brown and tender.

You'll have roasted everything for a total of 30 minutes. Remember if your pans are dark, they won't need to roast as long, and you might even want to lower the oven temp to 400*.

That's it. Easy peasy. I really hope you will try this and let me know what you think.

- - - - -

P.S. I thought the leftovers would make a great frittata, but you know what? The flavors are too subtle, they get lost in the egg. It's a good frittata, and a good use of leftovers, but I honestly think the potatoes are much better just re-heated on their own.

P.P.S. Many thanks to Jennifer Boose for resizing the pictures for me. I can cook a potato but am hopeless with computers.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Curried Lamb Pot Pie Casserole

Technically this probably doesn't qualify as a pot pie anymore, now that the pastry crust has been replaced with mashed cauliflower. It's probably just a casserole. *Sigh.* There's just nothing like tender, flaky pastry.

However, if you wanted to, you could put half the filling in a couple of ramekins topped with cauliflower for your GARD-Paleo family members. For your non-GARD eaters, put the rest of the filling in 2 ramekins topped with pastry crusts, brush with a little egg wash, a little flaked sea salt & black pepper, and bake at 425* for 45-50 minutes. Then we could still call this a pot pie. Yes? Either way, this serves about 4, and it tastes really, really, really good!

And, I'll also be the first to admit that lamb or mutton is expensive. That's why I use ground lamb instead of the traditional lamb shoulder, which costs even more. I think you could substitute ground beef for the lamb; it won't taste the same, but I bet it would still be pretty darned good. Definitely healthy and filling!

1 lb pasture-raised ground lamb
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 rounded TB potato flour or tapioca flour
4-5 TB white wine
1 generous c butternut squash, peeled & cut in 1/2 to 3/4" dice
1 medium carrot, peeled & chopped about the same size as the squash
2 c kale, washed and finely chopped
1 tsp mild curry powder
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c whole, unsweetened coconut milk

Double the recipe for mashed cauliflower (use 2 heads of cauliflower)

Here's a picture of the veggies so you can get an idea of the quantities and cut sizes. Click on the picture for a closer look.

Heat 1.5 TB EVOO over medium heat in a Dutch oven. Brown the lamb, seasoning with salt & pepper, breaking it up into small pieces with the flat site of a wooden spoon or spatula. Add the onion and cook, stirring, till softened and translucent, about 5+ minutes. 

Ground lamb is kind of fatty, and I'm not fond of the taste, so I spoon off all the rendered fat and add in another TB of olive oil at this point. 

Add the curry powder and continue to cook and stir. You might think this isn't enough curry, but the flavor continues to build during the simmering time. 
Add the potato flour and cook for a few minutes, stirring, till it's all absorbed. 
Add the wine (I just splashed some in, the measurement is an approximation) and cook to evaporate. 

Add the kale, carrots and squash, stirring and cooking for a few minutes. 
Add the stock and coconut milk, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, partially cover and cook about 30 minutes till the vegetables are soft and cooked through. Taste for salt & pepper. 
While the veg are cooking, make the cauliflower mash.

Pour into a 1.5 qt oven-proof casserole dish. Use a gravy ladle to spoon off any excess sauce: you don't want it all runny. Top with the mashed cauliflower and put under the broiler for a few minutes to reheat the mash and give it a little crisp and color. 

If you made this earlier in the day, reheat at 350*F for about 30 minutes or so, until it's heated through and the cauliflower is a little browned around the edges. It makes excellent leftovers, if you have any.

Mashed Cauliflower

This is surprisingly good: the secret is to let it sit for 15 minutes or so, to give the flavors time to develop, and then gently re-heat just before serving. Serves 2-3

1 head cauliflower, washed, shaken dry, and cut into florets
3 TB or so of heated, unsweetened whole coconut milk (I use Native Forest)
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
Garlic powder

Using a small paring knife, begin and the base and cut the florets off. Discard the trunk or save for another use.

Steam the florets about 15 minutes (do not boil, the cauliflower will absorb too much water!), until cooked through and very soft. Puree in a food processor using the metal blade. Add 2 TB of the coconut milk, pulse, and add more milk as needed to make a nice consistency, like mashed potatoes. Add salt, pepper, and a few shakes each of paprika and garlic powder. Resist the temptation to go overboard! Remember to blend everything thoroughly and let the flavors develop about 15 minutes, then taste again and correct seasonings.

Gently re-heat just before serving. This is great as a substitute for mashed potatoes, a vehicle for gravy, and as a topping for casseroles. It's delicious the next day as leftovers, too.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Braised Spareribs and Potatoes

Here's another slightly altered Biba Caggiano recipe that is so rustic, you'll feel like you should be herding sheep in the Italian Alps. This will definitely stick to your ribs! Serves 3-4

3 lbs pork spareribs, all excess fat removed
1/2 c finely chopped yellow onion
2 lb Idaho potato, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
3 TB finely minced fresh rosemary
2-3 TB finely chopped fresh sage leaves
1/2 c white wine
2 oz Cognac, divided (I use Decourtet, it's delicious and costs less than most)
2-3 c homemade chicken stock
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper

Heat 2 TB EVOO in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Brown the spareribs on both sides, adding the 3rd TB of olive oil if needed.

Remove the meat to a plate and add the onions. Stir and cook till soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the herbs and cook another minute. Add the wine and reduce by half. Add just 1 oz of the Cognac. Add the potatoes and cook them in the herbs and wine, stirring and tossing so they really absorb the flavors, about 5 minutes. Add the meat back into the pot.

Add enough stock to come up about halfway around the meat.

Bring to a boil, reduce to a low simmer, partially cover, and cook about 1.5 hrs till the meat is nice and tender. Now taste for salt & pepper; you'll definitely need to add salt. Do you notice how all the flavors are there but it still seems a little bland? That's because now you need to add the last 1 oz of Cognac to wake up the sauce. Serve portions in soup plates with plenty of potato and cooking sauce.

Last but not least, a 'pastore' to get you in the mood. (Actually, he makes me want to travel more than cook, but it's the best I can do right now ;-).)

Aglione Roasted Chicken Breast

If you like rosemary roasted chicken, you'll like this unbelievably fast, easy dish. I never even knew about combining juniper berries(!) with rosemary and sage until Biba Caggiano talked about it, and now I want it on everything. This isn't really a recipe, just a roasting method, but please. Try it. For me. It's also good if you don't have the lemon or wine needed for the other recipe. If you do have them, try making that recipe, omit the garlic and fresh rosemary, and use aglione instead!! YUM!

I think any kind of greens or crunchy salad would be wonderful with this dish, but we had some leftover acorn squash that needed to be finished off. Serves 2, increase quantities as needed for more people.

2 pasture-raised chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
2 TB aglione
Freshly ground black pepper

Optional gravy
1 rounded TB potato flour
1 c homemade chicken stock
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375*F

Rinse and pat dry the breasts. Trim off all visible fat while leaving as much skin on as possible.

Option 1: Run your finger between the skin and meat across the top of the breast and gently stuff 1 TB aglione mixed with pepper under the skin of each one. Rub the entire breast with EVOO. I should have taken a picture of this one, but I'm still getting back into the swing of blogging and taking lots of pictures as I cook.

Option 2: Rub the entire breast with EVOO and top each with 1 TB aglione and freshly ground black pepper.

Bake on a half sheet or uncovered roasting pan for 35-40 min until cooked through. Lightly tent with foil halfway through cooking so the herbs don't burn if you put them on top of the skin.

Remove to cutting board, cover lightly, and rest for 10 minutes so the juices redistribute. Make the gravy now if you're going to have one. Heat 2 TB EVOO in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the potato flour and whisking add in the heated chicken stock. Cook and stir till thickened; add salt & pepper to taste.

Cut the chicken off the bone, slice and serve with gravy. Oh, and mashed potatoes, if you like.

Aglione (fresh Italian seasoning blend)

Biba Caggiano, Italian chef, author and restaurateur, talks about how this is fresh seasoning blend used in the Emiglia-Romagna region of Italy, and provided this recipe in Biba's Taste of Italy. So far I've used it for roast chicken and roasted breakfast potatoes and I am in love with it! The juniper berries, which she says are optional and I say are essential, add a unique and subtle oomph.

Make up a good-sized batch as it lasts a long time in the refrigerator. Omit any ground black or crushed red pepper, so you have options when using it. I write the ingredients on the label, as well as the date I made it, so I don't have to go looking for the recipe when it's time to make more.

3 rosemary sprigs, leaves stripped, stems discarded
10 large sage leaves
1 medium-large clove garlic
1 tsp kosher salt (if you use table salt, cut this in half)
1 rounded tsp juniper berries (I bought mine at Williams-Sonoma. Keep them refrigerated so they last longer)

Finely mince everything together using a sharp chef's knife. You can double or triple the quantity as needed. Put in an airtight container and keep refrigerated.