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Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Curried Apple Chutney

23 Dec

Winter is in full bloom in Minnesota, although this dinner was cooked and eaten when it was still officially fall. My apologies for taking a full season to update this blog with a new post!

When the colder seasons make their appearance, I like nothing better than to turn on my oven and bask in the smells and warmth of baking warm comforting food and sharing it with friends.

Butternut Squash Soup

I got together with a few of my friends at the house of Kyle (the photographer of the professional looking photos on this post–thanks, Kyle!!), we had a lovely dinner and as always, fun conversation and a great time together.

We enjoyed the Bear’s Den (aka Kyle’s garage) and the great company. We had butternut squash soup with curried apple chutney (recipes posted below), potato leek soup with bacon jam (recipes will be posted at a later date), grilled cheese sandwiches, purple cabbage salad and brats with onion jam, topped off by apple crisp with ice cream and salted caramel sauce (recipe taken from the caramel here with sea salt added).

Purple cabbage salad

Purple cabbage salad

Laura loosening the sauerkraut lid

Laura loosening the sauerkraut lid

John got it open!

John got it open!

Apple Crisp with ice cream and salted caramel sauce

Apple Crisp with ice cream and salted caramel sauce

But back to the recipes…butternut squash is a favorite of mine. It’s fantastic cut up and roasted, is delicious roasted and mashed as a side dish and it makes a beautifully creamy soup. As a shortcut to prevent cutting off your own extremities, roast the squash first, then simply scoop the softened flesh out of peel, rather than struggling with cutting and peeling the slippery, solid whole squash.

Butternut Squash roasted

Cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, brush with melted butter, then salt and pepper and pop right into the oven.

onion and apple

While the squash is roasting, finely chop an onion and an apple (aren’t they just so pretty?)

apple and onion

Saute the chopped onions and apple along with some sliced fresh sage and salt and pepper in a large pan over medium heat.

Butternut Squash Soup 027

Once the squash is soft and fully roasted, scoop it out of the peel and add it to the soup pot along with the chicken stock and water and let it simmer.

Butternut Squash Soup 038

Once everything is soft and well cooked, blend it well. You can put it in your blender in batches – carefully so you don’t burn yourself or blow the top off your blender – or with an immersion/hand blender. I love my immersion blender as it makes tasks like this so easy! Mine has a plastic blender base, so I can use it with my enamel cookware without fear of damage to the pots.

Butternut Squash Soup 048

I served this soup with curried apple chutney (the one in the middle), which was a snap to mix up and let cook for a few hours on the back of the stove.

Onion Jam, Curried Apple Chutney and Bacon Jam

Onion Jam, Curried Apple Chutney and Bacon Jam

Curried Apple Chutney 006

Just add all the ingredients to the pan and cook. Really. It’s that easy.

Curried Apple Chutney 002

1-Curried Apple Chutney 013

Cook until the apples are soft and it’s all cooked into even more of a browny-beige color (if that is even possible).

1-Curried Apple Chutney 018

This recipe made three jars of this chutney and was an excellent addition to the soup.

1-Curried Apple Chutney 026

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup 
adapted from Chow

Ingredients
4 pounds whole butternut squash (about 2 medium), halved lengthwise and seeds removed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/4 stick)
1 medium Granny Smith apple (about 8 ounces)
1/2 medium yellow onion
8 fresh sage leaves
2 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
2 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
1/3 cup heavy cream

Instructions
Heat the oven to 425°F/220°C and arrange a rack in the middle.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place the squash pieces cut-side up on the baking sheet. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and brush all of it over the tops and insides of the squash halves. Season generously with salt and pepper. Roast until knife tender, about 50 minutes to 1 hour.

Meanwhile, peel, core, and cut the apple into medium dice. Cut the onion into medium dice. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the apple, onion, and sage, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 7 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

When the squash is ready, set the baking sheet on a wire rack until the squash is cool enough to handle. Using a large spoon, scoop the flesh into the saucepan with the sautéed apples and onions; discard the skins.

Add the broth, water, and measured salt and pepper, stir to combine, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally and breaking up any large pieces of squash, until the flavors meld, about 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cream.

Using a blender, purée the soup in batches until smooth, removing the small cap (the pour lid) from the blender lid and covering the space with a kitchen towel (this allows steam to escape and prevents the blender lid from popping off). Alternatively, use an immersion blender. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

Curried Apple Chutney
recipe from West Coast Mama – adapted from the Well Preserved Cookbook

Ingredients
9 cups peeled, chopped and diced apple
2 cups finely chopped onion
2 cups golden raisins
2 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried chili flakes
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon each of ground turmeric, cumin, coriander, cardamom and ginger

Instructions
Combine all the ingredients in a pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until thickened, stirring often. Stir almost constantly during the last 15 to 20 minutes of cooking time to prevent scorching.

Remove from heat. Ladle into jars and store in the fridge for up to 30 days. If you wish to be able to preserve them outside the refrigerator, you will need to follow the instructions below and learn about canning here.

If canning or preserving, then prepare the preserving jars.
Ladle the chutney into hot, sterilized jar leaving 1/2 inch head space. Wipe rims clean. Seal and process jars.

Roasted Salmon

17 Jun

I’ve been traveling for work quite a bit recently. After weeks on end of eating fancy restaurant food, there’s nothing I love more than a tasty, simple home made dish. That lamb salad of Alice’s looked so very good! That will be on my menu as soon as I get home to my kitchen.

Salmon is one of my favorite, easy, go-to dishes for a quick weeknight meal. It’s a quick, easy way to get some good healthy protein that is heart-healthy and it’s quite versatile. I eat it year round, with warm grains in the winter and with or atop salad in the summer.

plated salmon

The easiest way to cook salmon is to top with your seasonings of choice, wrap it in aluminum foil and bake it.

squeeze of lemon

Lemon juice pairs very well with fish of any kind, so I always use lemon or sometimes lime juice.

Sprinkle it with salt and pepper…

salted and peppered

…and a nice layer of lemon slices atop for an extra lemony zing.

lemony goodness

Then wrap the foil around the fish

foil

Put it in the oven for 20-30 minutes and voila!

voila

I paired the roasted  salmon with a fresh spinach salad and a rice/lentil mixture that I had made.

summer dinner

It was so good! And the next day I had a large spinach salad with chunks of salmon, tossed with a balsamic vinaigrette. The leftover salmon would also be delicious mixed with cream cheese and spread on crackers or rye bread.

Roasted Salmon
Makes 2 servings

1 large salmon fillet
1 lemon
salt & pepper

Cut a lemon in half, slice a few slices for the top of the salmon and save half for squeezing over the top.

Place the salmon fillet on a piece of aluminum foil in a baking pan. Squeeze the reserved lemon over the top and add salt and pepper to taste.

Wrap the fish in the foil and place in the oven at 375 F for 15-20 minutes. After 15 minutes, you may want to check the fish, just open up the foil packet and flake it with a fork to see if it is cooked all the way through. If it flakes easily and the fish is opaque, then it’s done. If not, put it back in the oven for a few more minutes then check it again. My fillet was quite thin, so it didn’t take very long to roast. When it’s fully cooked, remove it from the foil and perch it atop a mound of rice or a salad and eat.

There are quite a few flavor options you can choose for seasoning your salmon. You can add fresh dill or tarragon, a fresh ginger/soy sauce/scallions mixture or you can try it with Dijon mustard and some honey or even chopped garlic, mustard and mayo. Get creative and enjoy it!

Quinoa, Sweet Potato and Rocket Cakes

19 Mar

Plated1

Well, well, well… B has had her annual trip down to Melbourne, and it was great to see her.

We ate many meals at restaurants… and in fact I think I am STILL full from going to The Abyssinian, but we did cook ourselves a few healthy meals. After seeing B’s quinoa stuffed squash, I was inspired to try some more quinoa recipes.

This recipe is a ripper if you want a healthy go-to meal for the week, to take as lunches, and to fill in busy night dinners. As it makes loads. It would also work well as a vegetarian option for a BBQ.

What you will need…

ingredients

Sweet potato, quinoa, celery, carrot, onion, garlic, olive oil, rocket (arugula), egg, breadcrumbs, paprika, and lots of salt and pepper for seasoning.

sweet_potatomash

We started by chopping up the sweet potato, you want the equivalent of two medium sized potatoes. They were steamed them until they were soft and then mashed in a large bowl, mixing in some chopped rocket at the end.

onion_et_alquinoapaprika

Then we chopped put the onions, celery, carrot and garlic and sautéed them until softened. We added in the garlic, quinoa, paprika and some water, and cooked it down. It reminded me of making a risotto, I may even try this recipe using stock instead of water next time. We cooked it until the quinoa was tender and the liquid was absorbed.

egg

We whisked up egg with some salt and pepper… don’t hold back… it was great with a few good pinches of sea salt.

breadcrumbsmix

We mixed it all together along with the bread crumbs we made by roughly blitzing a couple of slices of rye bread in the blender.

patty

After letting the the mix cool down a little and forming some patties, they went in to a hot oven and let them bake for around 35 minutes. They were a little crisped on the outside, and still soft on the inside.

plated3

Served on a bed of rocket, with some plain yoghurt and mint atop, delicious!

Our ingredients made about 18 patties, perfect for left overs.

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QUINOA, SWEET POTATO AND ROCKET CAKES

ingredients
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion or equivalent, finely chopped
2 stalks of celery, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 3/4 cups quinoa
2 1/2 cups of water
2 Tbs sweet paprika
2 medium sized sweet potatoes, diced and steamed
1 1/2 cups rocket (arugula), chopped roughly
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup rye or wholemeal bread crumbs (around two slices)
generous sea salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 200C/400F.
Sauté the onions with the carrot and celery until soft, then add the garlic, quinoa, water and paprika and cook until quinoa is tender, and the liquid is well absorbed.Mash the steamed sweet potato with the rocket, and then add the quinoa mixture and all remaining ingredients.When cool enough to handle, make patties around the size of the palm of your hand, and place on a baking paper lined baking tray.Bake until the outside of the patty is a little crisped or browned, around 35-40 minutes.Serve with a dollop of plain yoghurt, a little mint, and a salad made of rocket.

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Sautéed Cabbage with Tomato

14 Jan

Let’s continue on this roll (hehe) with more cabbage! After seeing Alice’s last dish, I was so hungry for cabbage that I went to the store and made my go-to comfort food cabbage dish – sauteed cabbage with tomato.

Cabbage plated

This is a dish that I grew up eating on a regular basis. We had a huge garden and grew a lot of cabbage and had it for lunch and dinner quite often. It’s a simple dish that is great as a main vegetarian dish, perfect as a side dish with meatloaf or roast chicken or Brazilian beans and rice and delicious heated up and topped with a poached egg for a filling weeknight dinner in a flash. If you happen to be on a veggie kick, it’s right up your alley. The only non-vegetable ingredient is the olive oil used in the pan for sauteing purposes.

Ingredients

First, chop up your onions, tomatoes, garlic and ginger

chopped ingredients

Slice your cabbage as thin as you can, by first cutting the cabbage in half

Cabbage_2

Then slicing each half very finely.

chopped cabbage

Heat up oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven.

First add your onions to the hot pan and let them cook for two to three minutes, stirring regularly, until they are softened slightly.

sauteed onions

Then add the garlic and ginger and stir before adding the tomatoes to the pan.

sauteed tomatoes

Add salt and pepper, or Arisco if you are lucky enough to have some. Arisco is a Brazilian seasoning consisting of salt, pepper, onion and garlic which adds a wonderful flavor to most savory dishes.

Arisco

When the tomatoes have softened a little – about three minutes – add a cup of water and all the cabbage.

Lots and lots of cabbage

You may want to make sure your pan is large enough…mine almost wasn’t.

Lots of cabbage

Cover the pan for about five minutes, until the cabbage has softened a bit and is reduced

covered pan

Stir for a few more minutes while it continues to cook.

sauteed cabbage

When the cabbage is cooked, but still has a little bit of a crunch, serve.

Cabbage

If you’re lucky, you’ll have a good helper like I do.

Hattie helping

If you like a little spice, feel free to add some pepper sauce.

plated_2

Alice, are you going to continue the cabbage roll?

Sautéed Cabbage with Tomato
Serves 4 as a main or 8 as a side

1 small cabbage, thinly sliced
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
½ inch fresh ginger root, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil

Heat the oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Sauté the onions in the hot oil until softened, about two to three minutes, then add the garlic and ginger and stir frequently before adding the tomatoes. Continue to stir until the tomatoes are softened, about three minutes. Add one cup of hot water to the pan and stir before adding all of the cabbage to the pan.

Cover pan for five minutes then remove cover and resume sautéing while stirring regularly until cabbage is softened, but still a bit crunchy. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

plated_5

Roast Chicken

5 Nov

Those yummy leeks that Alice made last week made me think about what a great accompaniment they would be to one of my favorite dishes – roasted chicken or roast chook, as we would say in Melbourne.

Our grocery stores do a brisk business selling rotisserie chicken or roast chicken, but it’s so easy to make in your own oven and this way you know exactly what you’re getting. No weird three syllable ingredients, just real natural food without a lot of fuss.

I used Thomas Keller’s method for roasting chicken.

Just preheat your oven to 450° F and while the oven is getting up to temperature, truss your chicken or at least tuck the wings back under themselves and tie the legs together. If you want a good entertaining explanation for why you should truss your chicken and how to do it correctly, please watch the video on the link back there.

Dry your chicken really well inside and out with paper towels. The secret to getting crispy skin is to not have anything that will cause steam.

Place the chicken into a roasting pan and sprinkle it with Kosher salt until it’s well covered, then season with some fresh cracked pepper.

Then pop it into the oven for 50-60 minutes. I got some splattering and smoking, but trust me, it was well worth having the smoke detector beeping at me to achieve this great golden chicken.

When the chicken is done pull it out of the oven, toss some fresh thyme into the pan and mix it around in the juices. Then use those juices to baste the chicken.

Cut the chicken and serve with braised leeks, a lovely crisp salad or anything else your heart desires.

And voila! Delicious roast chicken with crispy skin and tender moist meat.

Simple Roast Chicken

One medium (2-3 pound) chicken
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
Fresh thyme

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Rinse the chicken, then dry it very well with paper towels, inside and out. The less it steams, the drier the heat, the better.

Salt and pepper the cavity, then truss the bird.

Salt the chicken in an even manner, using about 1 tablespoon of Kosher salt. Season with pepper to taste.

Place the chicken in a roasting pan and when the oven is up to temperature, put the chicken in the oven.  Roast it until it’s done without basting or touching it for 50 to 60 minutes. Remove it from the oven and add the thyme to the pan. Baste the chicken with the juices and thyme and let it rest for 15 minutes in the pan.

Remove the twine. Cut the breast down the middle and serve it on the bone, with one wing joint still attached to each. The preparation is meant to be casual. If you wish, you may spread fresh butter on the chicken and serve with mustard on the side. The butter and mustard are not even necessary, as this chicken is beautifully crispy on the outside and tender and moist on the inside with a lovely fresh simple flavor.

French Onion Soup

18 Aug

Those caramelized onions of Alice’s made me drool. They looked so good! That inspired me to make French onion soup.  It’s definitely one of my favorite soups and it’s such a classic. Julia Child was known for her onion soup recipe and it just so happens that this week would have been Julia’s 100th birthday. I also have my Dad’s Julia Child cookbook which is such a treasure.  So I pulled out the book and dove in.

This recipe is simple if you follow the recipe, especially if you read Alice’s post first. She will guide you along in the onion caramelizing process. It’s not a quick recipe, but it makes your house smell really good and is just the thing to make on a nice cool day with friends. ESPECIALLY with friends.

First chop up onions.

Then over medium low heat, melt butter and add to it some oil and then the whole batch of chopped onions.

Cover and let the onions sweat over medium low heat for 15 minutes

Then remove the cover, add the salt and sugar and increase the heat. Cook for another 30-40 minutes at medium heat, stirring frequently.

While the onions are cooking, grate about four ounces of Swiss and two ounces of Parmesan cheese.

When the onions are dark and nicely caramelized, add the flour and stir constantly for three minutes. Do as I say and not as I do on this one, as my onions were not dark enough. I was concerned with watching the clock and didn’t let them get as dark and richly caramelized as they should have.

Add one cup of the broth and stir until it is all incorporated into the flour and onion mixture. Then add the rest of the broth and the wine all at once, toss in the bay leaf and turn the heat down to medium low again and let it simmer for another 30 minutes. Taste the soup and adjust for salt and pepper.

While the soup is simmering, cut a baguette into thin slices, put onto a baking sheet and toast in the oven at 350 for 5-10 minutes or until the bread is crisply toasted.

Ladle the soup into ovenproof bowls, sprinkle a little of the grated cheese, top with a few of the slices of the toasted baguette and top with a 1/4 cup of cheese.

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes, then turn on the broiler and broil for 3-5 more minutes until the cheese is bubbly and toasted.

Serve.

We had a nice little dinner party with our soup, we started with Ina Garten’s Tomato Crostini with Whipped Feta,

then served dinner with these gorgeous multicolored beets, topped with a light vinaigrette

 

Where will you take us now, Alice??

 

 

French Onion Soup

Ingredients:
5-6 cups yellow onions, sliced thin
1 tablespoon oil
2 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons flour
6 cups beef stock or 3 beef stock and 3 chicken stock
½ cup white wine
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
Sliced baguette
4 ounces Swiss cheese, grated
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated

Heat a heavy, oven-safe stock pot over medium low heat and add the butter and oil to the pot. Stir the sliced onions into the oil/butter mix, ensuring they are evenly coated. Cover the stock pot and cook for 15-20 minutes, checking to make sure they aren’t burning. The onions should be translucent and tender once finished. Turn up the heat to medium high and add the sugar and salt. Continue to cook, stirring frequently for another 30-40 minutes until the onions are thoroughly browned (or just follow Alice’s recipe for Caramelised Onions).

Reduce heat to medium low and stir in the flour. Cook for three minutes until flour forms a thick paste. Stir in one cup of beef stock until fully combined. Add the rest of the stock, wine and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Slice enough baguette to have enough to float in each bowl, approximately 4-6 slices. Place the baguette slices on a baking sheet and put the baking sheet into the oven. Let it toast for 5-7 minutes until the bread is crusty.

Taste the soup, adjust for seasonings and remove the bay leaf.

Ladle the soup into 4-6 oven proof bowls, sprinkle a little of the grated Swiss cheese into the soup, place one of the toasted bread slices on top of the soup and cover with ¼ cup of cheese, using the Swiss and Parmesan cheeses.

Place bowls onto a baking sheet and place into the oven. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling. Then turn on the broiler and brown the cheese for 3-5 minutes.

Remove pan from oven and let the bowls cool for a few minutes. Serve.

Pasta with Italian Sausage and Fava Beans

7 Jul

I love the detour into Italy, Alice! I’ve always wanted to visit Italy, so I will do so virtually with this pasta dish.

I found these fava beans at the farmers market. They are also known as broad beans.

I have never cooked with fava beans before, but I’ve always liked them in restaurant dishes and then I saw the most wonderful looking pasta recipe on a local Minnesota food blog RelishingIt.com. So this was just my excuse to finally try cooking with them.

So first, the fava beans need to be shelled. They grow in pods, like most beans and peas.

Then they need to be blanched – which just means that they should be dropped into a pot of boiling water for about three minutes, scooped out and then dropped into ice water.

The pale green outer skin peels right off, revealing a bright green bean.

Set them aside and begin the pasta sauce.

I browned up some spicy Italian sausage links and set them aside

Sauteed some chopped onion and garlic

Sliced up the Italian sausage and added it to the pan to brown up a bit more

Poured in the canned tomatoes, tomato paste and spices. I used a jar of tomatoes canned by my friends Dee and Bernt – they were delicious! I added some hot pepper flakes to add a little more zing! to the dish

And let it all cook down.

As the sauce was cooking, I brought a large pan of water to a boil,  added some fresh fettuccini and let it boil for a few minutes. Check the package for specific cooking times, keeping in mind that fresh pasta cooks more quickly than dried pasta.

I drained the pasta and added it along with the fava beans to the sauce

Tossed and topped with some fresh grated parmesan.

I got the large shreds of cheese by using a vegetable peeler on the chunk of parmesan. Using a nice Parmigiano-Reggiano will add so much flavor to your dish, so don’t skimp on the quality of the cheese.

Serve with a nice chianti.

Alice, I like the way your mind thinks and can’t wait to see where we’re going next.

Pasta with Italian Sausage and Fava Beans

1 pound fresh or dried pasta – fettuccini, pappardelle or other wide pasta
1 pound spicy Italian sausage
1 1/2 cups shelled fava beans
1/2 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried Italian spices or oregano and basil
1 1/2 cups crushed canned tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
½ teaspoon of red pepper flakes
Cracked black pepper
Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, for garnish

Bring a pan of water to a boil.  Once it is boiling, add the shelled fava beans.  Boil for two to three minutes.  Remove the beans from the heat, drain and place them into a bowl of ice water.  Let cool in the water for a couple of minutes. Then, remove the light green peel from the beans using your hands.  The fava beans will be bright green in color.  Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta.  Meanwhile, begin making the sauce.  Heat a large skillet and add the Italian sausage links to it.  When they are browned, remove and set aside.  Add the onion and garlic to the pan with a splash of oil and continue to cook for a few minutes over medium-high heat until the onions start to become somewhat tender.  Slice the sausage links and return the slices to the pan with the onions. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste and spices.  Cook for a few minutes until the flavors have combined a bit and the sauce has thickened. Add the fava beans and cook a few more minutes.  Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings.

Add the pasta to the pot of boiling water when the sauce is nearly done. Cook pasta until al dente, remembering that fresh pasta cooks in less time than dried pasta. Fresh pasta can be purchased in the refrigerated section of the grocery store or made at home.  Reserve a bit of the pasta water, in case you need to use it to thin out your sauce.  Drain pasta and combine with the sauce.  Top with fresh cracked black pepper and  shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano

Black Beans and Rice with Oven Fried Chicken

18 Feb

Alice’s last post looked utterly delicious! Black beans have so much flavor and make for such a satisfying meal.

I grew up eating beans every day. They are high in protein and in fiber. In other words, they are good for you. They are also very inexpensive, especially if you buy the dried beans and cook them yourself.

The Brazilian beans I ate every day were a little different from these, but I took inspiration from them. Our beans were brown and not quite as flavorful as black beans. We didn’t typically add vegetables to them either. It was just onions, garlic and maybe the odd bit of meat for flavoring. The black beans were eaten more frequently in Curitiba and areas near the southern coast of Brazil, where we vacationed each year. They were also used for feijoada, the national Brazilian dish of beans and many different sorts of meats cooked together into an amazingly rich goodness. This combination of things meant that to me, black beans were special occasion food. I enjoy eating them all the time now, without having to wait for a special occasion.

To make these every day special occasion beans, first chop up some onion and tomatoes, press garlic through a garlic press and mix it with some salt until it becomes a paste. In a large skillet, over medium high heat, drizzle enough oil to lightly cover the bottom of the pan. Toss in the onions, let them saute until they are soft, add the garlic paste and let cook for about a minute. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook them until softened and starting to release a little of their juice, about five minutes.

Then toss in a can of rinsed, drained black beans,

stir well to combine, season with salt, fresh ground pepper and some cumin.

Use the empty bean can to fill with hot water and add that to the pan.

Let this cook until thickened, add a dash of hot sauce and serve over rice.

The rice starts off in much the same manner. Saute the onion in a heavy bottomed pan and once it has begun to soften, about five minutes, add the garlic paste and let that cook for a minute or two.

In the meantime, rinse your rice until the water runs clear, then drain it. When the onions and garlic are softened and have sufficiently scented your kitchen (remember to BREATHE in this heavenly aroma)

add the rice and stir it around in the pan. Let it combine with the onion mixture and even fry a bit.

After about five minutes of frying the rice,

pour in the boiling water.

You should use nearly double the amount of water as rice. Stir it well, making sure to scrape the rice off the edges of the pan. Taste the water to check the flavor, adjusting the salt to taste.

Let it boil for a minute or two, then turn the heat down to low and cover the pan. It should barely simmer for about 20 minutes. DO NOT stir the rice while it is cooking. You will end up with a glob of mush and will incur the wrath of every Brazilian grandmother there ever was! Check the pan after about 15 minutes, looking for little holes in the top of the cooked rice and take a taste to see if the rice is soft. You should poke a spoon down to the bottom of the pan to make sure the water has not all boiled off, as you don’t want to burn your rice. If the bottom of the pan is dry and the rice is still not done, add a little more boiling water and keep covered.

You will end up with a slightly crispier crust of rice at the bottom of the pan when you are done. This is a favorite treat among most rice eaters, at least in my family.

Top the rice with the beans and you’ve got yourself a delicious, satisfying, inexpensive meal.

I decided to add my Mom’s oven “fried” chicken to this meal. It is baked in the oven, but tastes crispy, as if it had been fried. You couldn’t ask for an easier way to prepare chicken.

Sprinkle the chicken with some salt and pepper.

Place a cup of flour in a zip lock bag or any clean plastic bag. Add the seasoning of your choice to the flour. Be generous with your spice.

I used a Cajun spice this time, along with some garlic powder, salt and pepper.

Drop the chicken in the bag of seasoned flour and shake until it’s completely coated.

Place it, skin side down, in a baking pan that has been drizzled with a little bit of oil and a couple of dabs of butter. Repeat for all the pieces. Pop the pan into a 375F degree oven and let it bake for about 20 minutes. Pull the pan out, flip over all the pieces and put it back into the oven for another 20 minutes. If it’s not brown and crispy enough for you yet, let it go another 10 minutes, then check again.

When the chicken is brown and crispy, pull out of the oven and serve. With the beans and rice, of course.

And I’m happy to report that the chicken is just as good eaten cold the next day. Yum!

Beans

1 can of black beans
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped (optional)
2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tomato, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
A few shakes of Tabasco or other hot sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Crush garlic, then add to a small bowl with a teaspoon of salt and mix together with a spoon until it becomes a paste. Set aside.

Open can of beans (or cook them from dry), rinse beans and set aside.

In medium saucepan or large skillet, heat enough oil to lightly cover the bottom of the pan. Saute the onion until soft, about five minutes. Then add the garlic paste and the green pepper, if using. Cook a minute or two longer, then add the tomato. Once the tomatoes have softened and begun to release their juice, about five minutes, pour the drained beans into the pan and mix in the cumin. Then fill the empty bean can with hot water and pour into the mixture. Bring to a simmer and let cook until the water has thickened a bit. Crush some of the beans with the back of your spoon to thicken as well. Add a few shakes of hot sauce and serve.

This is the vegetarian version. You can include bacon to the saute process or add a ham hock for a meaty smoky flavor. Chorizo or other smoked sausages add extra richness to the dish.

Rice

1 cup of long grain rice, rinsed and drained
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon of salt
1-2 tablespoons of oil
scant 2 cups of boiling water

Rinse rice until the water runs clear. Drain and set aside.

Chop onion.

Crush garlic, then mix in a small bowl with a teaspoon of salt until it becomes a paste. Set aside.

In a medium heavy bottomed pan, heat enough oil to lightly cover the bottom of the pan. Add the onions and saute until soft, about five minutes, then add the garlic paste and cook a minute or two longer. The rice can be added and fried in the onion and garlic mixture for about five minutes. Pour boiling water in the pan, enough to cover the rice by about 1/2 an inch (2 cm), or a little less than two cups.

Stir it well, making sure to scrape the rice off the edges of the pan. Taste the water for proper seasoning to your taste.

Let it boil for a minute or two, then turn the heat down to low and cover the pan. Let it simmer on low without stirring for about 20 minutes. Check the pan after about 15 minutes, look for little holes in the top of the cooked rice and take a little taste to see if it’s soft. Also, poke a spoon down to the bottom of the pan to make sure the water has not all boiled off, as you don’t want to burn your rice. If the bottom of the pan is dry and the rice is still not done, add more boiling water to the pan and keep covered. Once the rice is softened, turn off the heat and let it sit, covered, for about 10 minutes before serving.

Bernice’s* Oven “Fried” Chicken

4 chicken breasts, skin on and bone in, or use whatever pieces you prefer
1 cup white flour
2 tablespoons powdered seasoning. I used Cajun, but you can use Jerk seasoning, a combination of onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, salt, pepper, Mrs Dash or any other premixed seasoning
1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon butter

Preheat your oven to 375 F.

Salt and pepper the chicken. Place the flour and seasonings of your choice in a plastic bag, mix well. Drop the chicken in the bag of seasoned flour and shake to coat.

Place all the chicken pieces skin side down in a baking pan drizzled with some oil and some dabs of butter. Bake for 20 minutes, pull out and turn the chicken pieces over and return to oven for another 20 minutes, or until it is as crispy as you prefer. Eat.

*Bernice is my Mom

Hey Alice. Are you enjoying this tour of South America? What do you have for us now?

Arroz con Pollo (Cuban Chicken with Rice)

4 Feb

That last post of Alice’s was a very heartwarming one for me. My Dad, who just passed away last summer, was a wonderful cook. He could make the simplest dishes taste so amazingly good. The chicken with okra was one dish that he made very well and he taught me how to make it about a year ago. It felt like things were coming full circle to have my dear friend Alice cook a dish for this blog that was my dearly beloved Dad’s. He would have enjoyed that so much!

Thank you Amy for the beautiful photos!

I’m continuing the theme of chicken and rice, which is a staple in Latin America, with my arroz con pollo. Translated from Spanish, it quite simply means “rice with chicken”, but it is ever so much more than simple. The flavors are full, the dish is comforting and it’s a one dish meal. What could be better for a cold winter’s night?

Something I learned from my Dad in the preparation of his delicious Brazilian dishes is to always marinate your meat. Even it if is just for a short time. I marinated my chicken for about 30 minutes, while I was preparing the rest of the ingredients.

It’s a simple marinade of vinegar, garlic, onions, salt, pepper and oregano.

In most Latin cooking, the dish begins with “sofrito“. It is a combination of aromatic ingredients which have been cut into small pieces and slowly sauteed in cooking oil for 15-30 minutes. In Cuban cuisine, sofrito is made up of onions, garlic and green bell pepper.

Sauteing these ingredients adds a rich flavor base to the dish. And the colors are so beautiful together! They look good enough to eat.

First, I heated a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat, then I placed the chicken in a single layer in the hot pan. Brown your chicken in more than one batch if you have too much to fit in the pan all at once.

Turn each piece so it browns on all sides, cooking for about 5 minutes on each side. Remove chicken and keep warm in a bowl.

Then make the sofrito, adding the onions first for about five minutes until they begin softening. I then added chorizo to add a little more flavor.

After that, the garlic and green pepper can go in. Add your paprika, oregano, bay leaf and cumin, then taste for seasoning. If it tastes a bit bland, feel free to add a few more shakes of cumin, paprika, black pepper or salt. Add just a little at a time, as it is easier to add more seasonings than it is to remove them. Let the green pepper soften a bit before you toss in the tomatoes. Let that all cook together for about 15 minutes, while the sofrito cooks and the tomatoes soften and release some juice, stirring frequently.

Add the uncooked rice along with the chicken broth and beer, mix well.

When your liquid comes to a light boil, add your chicken to the pan, reduce heat to medium-low and cover.

Let it cook, covered, for 20-30 minutes, or until the rice is done. Give it a few minutes to rest, then serve.

Arroz Con Pollo (Cuban Chicken with Rice)
adapted from Gourmet Magazine

Ingredients
3 large garlic cloves
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
2 teaspoons dried oregano, crumbled
6 chicken drumsticks or pieces of your choice
3 oz Spanish chorizo (cured sausage) cut into 1/4 inch-thick slices
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons paprika
2 bay leaves
1 lb tomatoes, chopped
1 (12-oz) bottle beer (not dark)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 cups long-grain white rice

Marinate chicken:
Mash garlic to a paste with 2 teaspoons salt, then transfer to a large bowl. Stir in vinegar and oregano. Add a handful of chopped onions and chicken, toss to coat. Marinate for 30 minutes to an hour.

Cook chicken and rice:
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat, add chicken in a single layer in the pan. Brown the chicken in two batches if you cannot fit them all in at the same time. Turn each piece so they brown on all sides, cooking for about 5 minutes on each side. Remove chicken and keep warm in a bowl.

Cook onions in the pan for about five minutes, until softened. Feel free to add a little oil to the pan if there isn’t enough after browning the chicken. Add the chorizo to the onions and allow to cook for a few minutes.

After that, the garlic and green pepper can go in. Add the paprika, oregano, bay leaf and cumin, then taste for seasoning. If it tastes a bit bland, feel free to add a few more shakes of cumin, paprika, black pepper or salt. Add just a little at a time, as it is easier to add more seasonings if needed, than it is to remove them. Let the green pepper soften a bit before you toss in the tomatoes. Let that all cook together for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently, while the tomatoes soften and release some juice.

Stir in the rice, chicken broth and beer, return the chicken to the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover pan with a tight fitting lid and let it cook until the rice is tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for five minutes before serving.

Ok, Alice. Where are you taking us now?

Frango com Quiabo (Brazilian chicken with okra)

1 Feb

Well, we made it to Brazil. This is B’s home turf of cooking, a world of South American food with a European sensibility. Learning recipes from B is a joy. She is such a natural cook, I know her dad, who by all accounts was a pretty incredible man and cook, had a whole lot to do with that.

I had a look around at traditional Brazilian recipes, and was intrigued by the sound of this chicken which is cooked with vinegar. Okra is a vegetable I have always been afraid of cooking it, given that the texture is dubious to say the least. B allayed my fears by assuring me that with her father Dick’s method, the okra is just lightly steamed, and never stirred, so it does not get slimy at all. She was of course spot on. And the okra that lands in the sauce thickens it perfectly.

You’ll need some chicken thighs still on the bone, garlic, an onion, some small okra, half a green chilli, salt, pepper, olive oil, tomato paste and vinegar… I used super basic white vinegar, it was perfect. Thighs on the bone will give you the best flavour.

The thighs marinate before cooking, for at least an hour, I left them marinating overnight. I’m an overachiever like that.

First step is to make a garlic paste with salt, if you have a mortar and pestle it would be ideal to use that, instead I minced the garlic with a microplane and then mashed the salt in well. This paste is often used as a base of a flavour in Brazilian food.

Then add a couple of grinds of pepper, vinegar and some oil. Mix well.

Chop up the onion, then put the chicken thighs in a container that will sit well in the fridge, and rub well with the paste and the onions. Cover with plastic and leave to marinate refrigerated.



When the chicken has marinated, add enough oil to cover the base of a large heavy bottomed pan, and brown the thighs. I did this in two batches to give the thighs space in the pan. I found I had to keep the heat on medium so as not to over cook the onion while the chicken browned lightly.

When browned, put the chicken in the saucepan together with a generous grind of pepper, and the tomato paste. Then top up with water until just barely covered.

Bring the saucepan to a boil, and allow to simmer turning occasionally until the liquid is reduced by at least half, and the chicken is very tender. Taste for seasoning, and even a little for vinegar if you feel it needs some more acidity. The chilli will add some piquancy.

Chop up the chilli finely, and the okra thinly.



Who would know okra’s ugly exterior would have such a pretty doily like interior when you chop it?

Spread the chilli and okra on the top of the chicken in the saucepan, put the lid on and let the okra steam for about 10 minutes. Don’t stir the okra, this is key.

Then it is ready to serve with some rice.

We loved it. Healthy, flavoursome, and has a delicious rich sauce. Jason commented that it reminded him of a dish he adores, chicken cacciatore. What surprises me about the Brazilian food I have made or eaten so far is the finesse in the flavours, quite different to the other flavours I know of South and Central America.

Thanks for this recipe B, and all of the coaching as I cooked it.

Oh yeah, tag! You’re ‘it’ now.

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FRANGO COM QUIABO / BRAZILIAN CHICKEN WITH OKRA
serves four
ingredients

6-8 chicken thighs on the bone
3 large garlic cloves
1/2 tablespoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
three tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
half a green chilli, finely chopped
10 small okra

Mash the garlic with the salt to make a paste. Add a grind or two of pepper, the vinegar and a tablespoon of oil. Mix well and then rub on to the chicken. Mix onion through chicken also and allow to marinate for at least an hour.

When chicken has marinated, add two tablespoons of oil to a heavy bottomed pan and brown the thighs and onion, in batches if need be, to allow space around the thighs.

When browned, put all of the chicken back in to the saucepan and grind a generous amount of pepper over them, then add the tomato paste and enough water to just cover the chicken. Cook until very tender and the liquid has reduced somewhat.

Thinly slice okra and scatter over the chicken along with the chilli pepper. Cover and allow the okra to steam for ten minutes or until cooked. Do not stir.

Serve with rice.
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