Couscous with Red Chard, Celery, Leeks, Tarragon, Dried Cranberries and Toasted Almonds.

Couscous with Celery, Leeks, Dried Cranberries and Toasted Almonds.

This was a fast and easy salad to make. In the morning when I made tea, I poured 2/3 cup of boiling water on 1/3 cup of couscous (tri-color couscous) and sealed the container it was in, letting it rest on the counter until I was ready to make the salad. I also toasted about a dozen almonds in a dry pan and let them cool off on the counter for later.

I got out my mandoline for fine slicing. I sliced two stalks of celery and 1/4 cup of leeks. I tossed them in with the couscous along with a  handful of dried cranberries. I cleaned two stalks of red chard and rolled them up so I could cut them into thin slices. Then I chopped them the other direction for small pieces.  I removed the leave from 1 bunch of tarragon and chopped the leaves up. I chopped the almonds in half and tossed them in. Then I added some salt and pepper and about 1 TBSP of balsamic vinegar and 1/2 TBSP of olive oil. I put the lid back on and shook it all up and let it rest in the fridge so the flavors could marry.

This made about 1.5 pints of salad, 4 servings.

There is a nice bite from the leeks, a bit of tang from the tarragon, earthiness from the chard and zingy sweetness from the dried cranberries. The balsamic blends the flavors perfectly.

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Chicken Vegetable Soup

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I saved the bones from the roast chicken and used them to make a rich chicken broth. I have a pasta cooking kettle, one of those huge kettles with an insert full of holes for straining water. I never make enough pasta to use it, but I do like it for making soup and in particular, for making broth. I just put all the bones, herb and mire poix i there and when the broth is done, I can lift it out and have beautifully clear broth. Since I have explained how to make broth before, I will go forward from there.

I put about 1 TBSP olive oil in the bottom of a sauce pan. I added 1/2 of a leek (chopped), 4 mushrooms (cleaned and chopped), 1 stalk of celery (chopped), some celery seed, thyme, salt and pepper and sautéed until done. Then I added 3 cups of broth, 1 chopped carrot. After 10 minutes, I added 1 chopped yellow squash, 10 brussels sprouts cleaned and cut in quarters. After about 5 minutes I added about 1/2 cup of chopped fresh parsley.

This was a rich flavorful soup with a lot of chicken flavor. Very hearty and thick with vegetables in every spoonful. It made 4 large bowls of soup – each one delicious.

 

 

 

 

Sauteed Brussels Sprouts

Brussel Sprouts

 

This was a simple sauté made to go with a small pork loin chop. I put a 1/2 tbsp of olive oil in a non-stick pan and heated to medium. I then added just a pinch of anise seed and let it heat until the perfume filled the air. I added 1/2 of a small leek, sliced thinly and chopped in half. I sliced 2 mushrooms, 1/2 a jalapeño and 1/4 of a red pepper and also added them. Lastly I added about 6 brussels sprouts sliced and chopped. I stirred the veggies together and when it was nearly done squeezed half a lemon on top. I served with a 2 oz piece of pork loin fried in another pan.  The veggie sauté  would work well with anything or on its own for a vegan meal.

This made one serving. It’s very flavorful with heat from the chili pepper, sweetness from the red pepper, umami from the mushrooms and tang from the lemon. The anise seed give it a rich aromatic flavor and the brussels sprouts add their hearty magic. If you don’t have leeks, just use onions.

 

Rutabaga & Pineapple Salad

Rutabaga & Pineapple Salad

The idea for this salad came to me while I was coring a fresh pineapple yesterday. The bromelain in the pineapple did such a good job of macerating the skin on my thumb it occurred to me that it might tenderize a rutabaga (swede) as well. Well, that turned out not to be true as bromelain breaks down proteins not cellulose. I produced a delicious salad, but it was not quite right. The pineapple did not break down the rutabaga enough, but the delicious zest of raw rutabaga blended so well with the sweet tang of pineapple I had to try it again. I considered parboiling, but was afraid I would lose that subtle spiciness of raw rutabaga. So, I tried salt which is often used to tenderize vegetables such as cabbage and kale. It worked perfectly.

I took one rutabaga, peeled it (not just the thin colored peel but that 1/4 inch of thicker sort of rind) and diced it into small cubes. I put it in a plastic container with a lid and sprinkled about 2 tsp of salt on it. I shook it a few times and let it sit overnight to soften. I shook a few times, just whenever I happened to walk by the fridge. By morning it was tender, but still with the crunch and the delicious raw flavor. I put the rutabaga in a strainer and rinsed the salt away.

Putting it back in the container, I added 1/4 cup of chopped leek greens and 2 TBSP of chopped parsley. I added about 1 cup of fresh pineapple cut in small pieces. I mashed the pineapple lightly with a force to express some of the juice since that is the only dressing on this salad. I added just a touch of salt. Then I let it rest for an hour for the flavors to marry.

This makes 4 servings of salad. It’s got a satisfying crunchiness and the flavors are intense with the rutabaga’s heat, the sweet and tangy pineapple, the bright onions and the mellow earthiness of parsley blending into a rich, multi-layered flavor. The only downside I can see tot his salad is that it could get addicting and that would mean coring and cleaning more pineapples.

Turnip Slaw with Leeks & Grapefruit

Turnip Slaw

I am running low on fresh vegetables and fruits and it’s about time to go grocery shopping. Sometimes that is when I come up with my most original concoctions. Thankfully, they work more often than not. This one not only worked flavor-wise, but I think it also makes a beautiful salad.

I peeled and shredded one raw turnip for slaw. I had half a leek, the green leafy end which I sliced in narrow pieces and broke apart, mixing in with the turnip slaw. Using a sharp knife, I supremed a grapefruit (cut off the peeling and segment, removing all skin and pith.) I cut the segments into thirds and mixed them in. I add about 1 TBSP of olive oil and salt and pepper. It was a little too sweet, so I added the juice of 1/2 of a fresh lemon and a dash more pepper and it was perfect.

The turnips have a mellow sweetness, the leeks are always a mellower, softer onion flavor. The grapefuit is bright and sweet and tart and the salt and pepper just bring out the flavors. The olive oil melds them altogether and that little bit of lemon juice is just a perfect bit of sharpness. It’s a burst of juicy flavor and so very pretty.  Makes one large serving for dinner, or two side salads.

 

 

Potato Leek Soup

Potato Leek Soup

An easy and delicious soup.

Cut up two leeks. Cut off the tops and the root and  work with the long remaining stalk and that 2 to 3 inches of tender leaves. Cut them in half and then slice into small portions.

In your soup kettle, melt 2 tbsp of butter and add 2 leeks that you have sliced finely and simmer with the lid on for about 15 minutes or so until they are tender. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of flour over the leeks and stir in and cook until the flour disappears – 2 minutes or so. Turn the heat up and whisk, adding 1 large box of chicken or vegetable broth (if you want a vegetarian alternative).

Add a bay leaf and small red potatoes that you have cleaned and cut into quarters. Don’t peel, the skins add nutrients and color. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until potatoes are sort a toothy tender.  Remove from the heat and let stand 10 minutes or so and the potatoes will finish cooking and be very tender. Pick out the bay leaf and add salt and pepper to taste.

Lamb Tarragon Wine Sauce, Spinach Pasta and Slow-Roasted Asparagus

Lamb Tarragon Wine Sauce

I started water boiling for the pasta and preheated oven to 450. I cut the dried ends off the asparagus spears and put them in a shallow roasting pan with a bit of olive oil. I rolled them around to get the oil to coat the spears and sprinkled kosher salt on them and put them in the oven. When the water started boiling I added fresh spinach noodles (these are from Pastaworks) and began working on the sauce.

I put a couple teaspoons of olive oil in a skillet, added 2 tbsp of sliced leeds and cooked a couple minutes. I added 1 clove of minced garlic and 2 tsp of dried tarragon and 1 tsp of dry mustard and cooked a bit more. I took 3.5 ounces of lamb sausage and broke it up into the skillet and let it cook. While it cooked I sliced 5 mushrooms and 1 small tomato. I added them after the meat had browned. By then the pasta was done and I strained it into a colander. Putting it back in the pan, I added a bit of my cooking juice and stirred it in so it didn’t get sticky.

Back to the sauce, I added a splash of white wine (about 4 TBSP) and put the lid on a minute. I then plated the pasta, ladled some sauce on and pulled the asparagus out of the oven – perfectly done and added them to the plate.  I squeeze a bit of fresh lemon juice on the asparagus. The lamb sauce on the pasta has a lovely savory taste with a bit of heat from the mustard and beautiful freshness from the tarragon. That dash of lemon juice was a perfect complement to the asparagus, offsetting the olive oil and salt splendidly.

The asparagus was not literally slow-roasted. I just forgot to turn the oven on at first.

Tortellini Primavera

The zucchini at the store was pretty sad, but I bought some anyway just because I love zucchini. I knew I had to cook one for lunch today or lose it, so I started this lunch before I had completely made up my mind what I was going to make. I took out a small leek and cut a vertical slice about 1.5 inches from the end where I last cut, turned it and cut another slice. Then I made diagonal thin slices, giving myself tiny, 1/4 cuts of leek that I put in the skillet with 1/2 TBSP of olive oil. I cut up about 1/8 of a sweet red pepper and tossed it in. I took my zucchini and sliced it lengthwise twice, quatering it before cutting it on the diagonal. I wanted small chunks, not slices. Tossing that in with the leeks and red pepper, I added some salt and pepper and a tsp of oregano.

I remembered that i got a free bag of tortellini from Schwans and put some water on to boil with a bit of salt in the water. I measured out 1 cup of the tortellini to toss in when the water began to boil.

I cut 1/2 of a medium tomato in chunks and tossed that in with the veggies and put the lid on my skillet. I then picked cilantro leaves off the stems and chopped them up.

Water boiling now, I tossed in the tortelli and turned the heat off on the veggies, adding the cilantro and putting the lid on so the cilantro would wilt a little in the steam, but not get cooked. Four minutes later the tortellini was done, I dished it up with a slotted spoon and tossed the veggies on top.

It had a fresh bright flavor, very light and spring-like. There was just a bit of bite from the leeks, but the overall flavor was a light spring freshness. I thought about adding cheese, but decided it would just make it heavy and take away from its bright flavor and texture. I could have squeeze some fresh lemon juice on it and that would have been tasty, but didn’t think of that until I was done eating it. Next time!

Tarragon Chicken Fricassee with Celeriac Purée

Celeriac Puree is one of those foods that most people never try because they think it’s must be complicated, but it’s actually an easy-going, forgiving dish to make that is a perfect cook to impress dish for the cook who doesn’t want to hover. My recipe is perhaps a bit tangier and less creamy than most, but it is also significantly lighter.

  • 1 knob of celeriac or celery root, peeled and chopped into big cubes.
  • 1/4 cup of half and half
  • 1 fresh lemon, juiced
  • 2 quarts of water
Add lemon juice to the water, then the half and half, toss in the celeriac and put on medium heat. Bring to a boil and let cook for 25 minutes or so, until tender. Remove, strain, reserving liquid. Put the chunks into a blender or Magic Bullet® and add back 1 cup of the cooking liquid (more or less) and puree. Add more liquid to get the texture you like. You can add salt and pepper if you like. I like its bright, lemony tartness as is.
With chicken, leeks and mushrooms you can make a fricassee so many different ways, the most difficult thing about cooking it up is deciding which flavor profile to choose. Since celeriac puree is common in French cuisine (though usually made with 4 times as much dairy and whole cream, not half and half) I decided to go with tarragon. Makes 4 servings.
  • 6 oz of cooked chicken (I have this from when I made Chicken Noodle soup the other day)
  • 1/2 leek, cut in half lengthwise and sliced thin, just the green end
  • 1/2 celery stalk, cut in half lengthwise and sliced thin
  • 6 mushrooms, cut in half and sliced thin
  • 1 tbsp tarragon
  • 1 TBSP dijon mustard
  • 2 TBSP butter
  • 2 TBSP flour
  • 1 TBSP pear brandy
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
Heat the olive oil in a skillet, adding leeks, celery and tarragon and cook until softened. Add the mushrooms and pear brandy and stir. Add the chicken and 1 TBSP of water and cover. In 3 to 5 minutes, slide everything over to one side of the pan. On the other side add the roux made with butter and flour. Add about 1 cup of water and the mustard and stir. Mix in the with fricassee and cover for a couple minutes. Serve on top of the celeriac puree. Makes 4 servings, just like the celeriac.
I dished up two servings each of puree in two bowls and put the fricassee on top.  I had one for lunch and put a cover on the other for lunch tomorrow.