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Archive for September, 2011

Some friends and I wanted to have dinner together. It’s been a rough couple weeks. A car wreck, an earthquake, a pretty bad cut, a hurricane. Someone make it stop.

We were going to go out for dinner, but see, I’m sort of a home body. And I’m a little cash flow-less these days. So I said hey, why don’t you come over for dinner instead. Going out for dinner — what I think of first is paying a LOT for a glass of wine. I mean, with a glass of wine and the tip, you’re pretty much at $12 (at least) without even ordering food.

So they brought wine and we cooked. Yes, we. I was a little sneaky and made them help when they got here. It’s always nice when you can get someone else to peel the roasted red peppers for you. Ahh, now I see the appeal of the sous chef. As we were cooking, we decided we needed gin and tonics. So we went out for gin, Rose’s lime juice and tonic. (The Rose’s is really the key, I think.)

Kim’s a vegetarian, so I had to factor that in while I was planning. But hey, I love vegetables, so no trouble there. A while back, I’d made the Onion Pan Bread from Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything,” thinking I’d get a focaccia-like bread that I could use for roasted-veggie sandwiches. It didn’t turn out the way I thought it would. And thank God because it ended up being so much better! I love it when that happens. I’d been looking for an excuse to make that again. When I made it the first time, it was kind of an open-faced sandwich. A wedge of bread, some pesto, roasted veggies and then lacy swiss cheese melted over it. Mmm. This time, it was more a pizza, but with a softer crust. Almost the consistency of cake, but savory instead of sweet.

But wait. Let’s back up a little. First off, I made some roasted artichokes with olive oil, garlic and lemon.

I got the idea from Pinch My Salt and her photos and instructions are so great, I won’t try to recreate them. So go here if you’d like to know how to do it. It was pretty simple and I’d never done it. Actually, I’d never even eaten artichokes before.

I would definitely eat this again.

I’d maybe make some kind of dipping sauce next time, but it wasn’t essential. They were delicious on their own, as evidenced by the aftermath.

The remaining parts are very interesting to me. My first artichoke? A success, I think.

Now for the main course. This is kind of a multi-stepped process, but it’s not hard. First off, you prep the veggies you want to roast.

Preheat the oven to 450. Split the red peppers and remove the seeds, stems and membranes.

Put them sliced-side down on a jelly roll pan and flatten them with the heel of your hand. Then brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Scatter some unpeeled garlic cloves on the pan too.

Get another pan for the mushrooms and red onion.

Just look at these shrooms. Aren’t they gorgeous?

Cut those up and some red onion. I don’t know what I was doing when I was cutting the onion. Since I was roasting it, usually I would have cut them into wedges so they’d be bigger.

Put them on a pan and drizzle some olive oil over everything and give it a good toss with your hands. Try to keep the mushrooms in one layer. I put some salt and pepper on the onion, but not the mushrooms because I don’t want to draw the water out of them.

When your pans of veggies are ready, put them into the oven. The mushrooms and onions will take about 20 minutes. The peppers and garlic need about 40. When the mushrooms are done, remove them from  the oven. After cooling a few minutes, toss them into a bowl. When the peppers are done, take them out of the oven, put them on a plate and cover with plastic wrap so the skins will steam a little. That’ll make it easier to remove the skins.

Chop them up and add them to the bowl with the rest of the veggies. I should have taken photos of that, but I was a little distracted by the girl talk. Also, when the garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze them into the bowl with the other veggies.

Start the pan bread. Reduce the oven to 350. Melt butter in a large ovenproof skillet.

Slice two vidalia onions. The recipe says large and I’ve seen really really large vidalias. Mine came in a bag and they weren’t huge. More regular-sized onions.

Add them to the pan with the melted butter and caramelize them.

Add some brown sugar to the onions, stir. Then make the batter for the bread. Then pour the batter over the onions and bake for 35 minutes.

When it comes out of the oven, you need to flip the bread. Remember the handles of the skillet are HOT. Put a plate over the skillet and turn it over, then slide the bread back into the pan so the onions are on top.

Spread some pesto over the bread. Start adding the veggies.

If you’re like my friend Lauren, who worked for a pizza shop, you’ll have exceptional distribution skills. Just look how even the pesto is! And the veggies!

And the cheese!

Then pop it into the oven for about 10 minutes till the cheese is melted.

Then cut into wedges and serve.

This shot is from the first time I made this. I wanted you to see the bread.

Roasted Vegetables

  • 2 red peppers
  • 8 ounces baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • Garlic cloves, unpeeled (as many as you want)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt, pepper to taste

Heat oven to 450. Cut the red peppers in half and remove the seeds and white membranes. Put the red peppers cut side down on a jelly roll pan and squash them flat with the heel of your hand. Brush with some olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add the unpeeled cloves of garlic to the pan.

On another pan, put the mushrooms and onions. Drizzle with oil and mix with your hands. Sprinkle the onion with salt and pepper. I don’t salt the mushrooms because I don’t want to draw out all the water. I don’t know if that’s right or wrong. It’s just what I do.

Put both pans in the oven, the red peppers on the bottom and the onions and mushrooms on the upper rack. Check the onions and mushrooms after about 20 minutes. If they’re done, remove them. Continue roasting the peppers and garlic for another 20 minutes, or until the peppers are collapsed and the skins are blackened. Remove from oven and put the red peppers on a plate. Cover with plastic wrap, which will make it easier to remove the skins. Let them rest while preparing the rest of the veggies.

Put the mushrooms and the onions into a mixing bowl. Squeeze the garlic into the bowl. Add a little salt and pepper. Stir.

Remove the plastic from the peppers and peel off the skins. Cut into chunks and put them into the bowl. Mix it all up, cover and set aside. Make the Onion Pan Bread.

Onion Pan Bread

Adapted from Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything”

  •  3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 large onions, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup neutral oil like grapeseed or corn

Preheat oven to 350. Put 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat. When the butter is melted, add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes.

Use the remaining butter to coat the edges of the pan. Sprinkle the brown sugar on top of the onions and stir to combine.

In a a mixing  bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. In another bowl, beat together the egg, milk and neutral oil, add to the dry ingredients and stir together quickly.

Spread the batter over the onions and bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry. Let stand for 5 minutes before cutting into wedges.

To assemble the dish:

  • 1/2 cup pesto
  • 1/3 pound of lacy swiss cheese

After flipping the bread in the pan to have the onions on the top, spread the pesto. Distribute the veggies evenly, then top evenly with cheese. Return the skillet to the oven for 10 to 15 minutes until cheese is melted. Remove from oven, cut into wedges and serve.

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Breakfast Skillet

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. I love it. Biscuits, coffee, fruit, bacon (yes, I do like bacon sometimes), sausage gravy, pancakes, eggs, croissants. The possibilities are really endlessly delicious. A little fruit, a little carb and a little protein. And coffee. Don’t forget the coffee. Figure out how I like my coffee and I’ll love you forever. OK, it’s not quite that easy, but you get the idea.

Sunday is pretty much the only day I get to have a real breakfast, though. And if you can believe it, I’m not even allowed in the kitchen on Sunday mornings. That’s husband territory. Sunday is pancake and egg day. Pancakes with an over easy egg on top with syrup and some fruit on the side. Maybe a slice of bacon or a piece of sausage.

Alas, today is not Sunday. It’s Saturday. And on Saturday, I’m pretty much on my own all day. Some friends are coming over for dinner tonight, which I’m excited about — and I’m excited about what I’m making for dinner. (Stay tuned!) But it’s morning, I’m hungry and there’s not much in the kitchen since someone needs to go to the store (Ahem.)

Thanks to Facebook, I got an idea. The food writer down at the Tampa Tribune posted a breakfast skillet photo that made me drool a little when I was just waking up and checking the site on my iPod. And I thought, sure, I’m alone but hey, I’m worth the time and effort. So I rummaged.

I had some potatoes, onion, garlic, mushrooms, tomato, some leftover pork chop and eggs. So yeah, I’m in breakfast business! I can stop waiting for someone to show up and make me breakfast. Which, I know will never happen, but wouldn’t it be nice? Just once?

I started with some olive oil and butter. And turn on the oven to 375.

Cut up some onion and potato. (Onion not pictured. Because I’m a doofus.)

Some garlic. Duh. I maybe should have called this blog Put in Some GARLIC. I love garlic.

Put all of that in a skillet.

Cook until the potatoes are at least done. I like mine to get brown and crunchy.

When everything looks the way you’d like it to look, cut up a tomato.

Remove the sticker of course. I just left it on for the photo because Hanover tomatoes are famous here.

Then cut up the leftover pork chop. Oh you don’t have a leftover pork chop with mustard sauce? Well, you should. Oh, just kidding. Use whatever protein you might have around. I was going to use some black beans (with some lime juice squeezed on at the end? YUM!), but I didn’t have any. So the pork chop was called to duty. The mustard sauce will do just fine.

Drop the tomatoes and the pork chop into the skillet and pop it into the oven.

Bake it about 15 minutes, until the tomatoes are roasty.

Then crack a couple eggs onto the top. I did two. But I was only feeding me and I only ate half of the finished product. (The other half will probably be lunch.) If you’re feeding more people, do more eggs.

Then pop it back into the oven for about 5 minutes, until the whites are done but the yolk is still runny.

I left my skillet in longer because the whites didn’t look done, but the yolk got overdone which made me a very sad girl. There’s nothing like poking an egg and making it run. I was robbed. But it was still delicious.

Sprinkle with some chopped parsley to make it pretty.

You know what? This is the South. You need a biscuit. I keep some Pillsbury biscuits in the freezer. So I tossed one into the oven and got out the butter and jam.

Don’t forget the coffee. Happy Saturday breakfasting, my friends!

Breakfast Skillet

Inspired by a post on sporkme

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 red potato, cut into chunks
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • Salt, pepper
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 leftover pork chop, cut into chunks
  • 2 eggs
  • Parsley, chopped

Heat the oven to 375 then add the olive oil and heat a skillet over medium heat.

Add the onion, potato and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until the onions are soft and potatoes are as done as you like them. Add the pork chop (or some black beans or whatever you have in the protein category. Or nothing. It’s your skillet!) and tomato and pop the whole skillet into the oven for about 15 minutes, until the tomatoes are roasty.

Remove from oven, crack the eggs into the skillet and return to the oven for about 5 minutes, till the egg whites are done and the yolk is still runny. Don’t overdo it! And remember that the handle is HOT.

Remove from oven, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with coffee and a buttered and jammed biscuit.

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Pasta e Fagioli

When I was a kid, my mom had a boyfriend, Ronnie, who was like a second dad to me. He remained a part of our lives for many years and when I was a teenager, with pretty unreliable cars (oh the stories I could tell, one involving him having me chew bubble gum so he could make a patch with it), I could call him if I’d been stranded and he’d drop whatever he was doing to come to my rescue. People like that don’t come along very often. He died about 10 years ago in a heavy-machinery accident while he was working.

Other than remembering him as a good person who was always there for me, I associate him with food for a number of reasons. He used to take us out to eat a lot. Sometimes it was Long John Silvers, sometimes a buffet place. And if things were good, the seafood place that was in an old mansion. When I’d come home from college, he’d always tell me he wanted to take us to dinner there. We went a few times — my mom, sister, boyfriend, Mr. Ronnie (as my sister called him sometimes when she was really little) and me. Not enough, though. I always thought there’d be more time. That seafood place, 220, was demolished not too long ago.

Aside from restaurants, though, I also remember that he cooked. I was young and probably don’t remember everything he did in the kitchen, but I remember that he would make us popcorn in the cast-iron skillet and then pour melted butter on top. And he made some very yummy brown beans and dumplings. I’ve tried to find out a recipe, but it was his mom’s recipe and now they’re both gone. I think I could re-create it and I will try when I have some time. Maybe my mom can help me remember. But right now, I’m going to make soup with beans and pasta, which reminds me of his beans and dumplings and since I don’t have the time to experiment right now, this should give me some instant gratification.

Here’s to you, Mr. Ronnie.

Start with some great Northern beans.

Put them in a pot, pour in some hot water, boil for a few minutes then remove from the heat. Put the lid on the pot and walk away for an hour.

Cut up some garlic, onion, carrot and celery.

Heat some olive oil in a large skillet. Cook the veggies and garlic for a few minutes. Add salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, a bay leaf, and a bouillon cube.

Add some of the broth from the beans to the veggies and simmer a few minutes.

After simmering a few minutes, pour it all into the soup pot with the beans, bring to a simmer and cook for about two hours, till the beans are soft. You may have to add more water as the soup cooks and perhaps another bouillon cube. You can see how much it reduces from the line around the pot.

If you’re really hungry, make a snack while the soup cooks. This is crackers and almonds (duh) and eggplant spread. I was going to post about that but I was making it during the hurricane and wanted to make sure everything got done as quickly as possible. I was worried the electricity would go out so I didn’t want to take time to snap photos.

When the beans are tender, put about a cup and a half or two cups of the soup (more beans than broth) into a blender cup. Remove the bay leaf. Don’t process that.

Process, but leave it a little chunky.

Meanwhile, add about 2 cups of water to the soup. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. Cook about 9 minutes till pasta is done. Then stir in the processed beans.

Then squeeze in the juice from about half a lemon.

Stir. Serve. Enjoy. Raise a glass to Mr. Ronnie.

Pasta e Fagioli

Adapted from the back of the Goya bag of great Northern beans

  • 1/2 pound dry great Northern beans
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, thinly sliced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1-2 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup ditalini (tube pasta)
  • Juice of half a lemon

Sort and rinse beans and put them into a soup pot. Add 8 cups of hot water, boil 2 minutes then set aside for an hour. When the beans are finished soaking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet and add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic and bay leaf. As the veggies sweat, add the bouillon, the Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Cook until softened. Add a few ladles of the bean water and let it simmer for a few minutes. Then pour it all into the pot with the beans and put that pot on the hot burner. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until beans are tender, about two hours. You may have to add more water as the beans cook and the water evaporates. Taste the broth every now and then. You may need to add another bouillon cube.

When the beans are tender, take about a cup and a half of the soup (take more beans than broth) and put in a blender. Blend till almost smooth, leave it a little coarse.

Add about 2 cups of water to the soup pot, bring it to a boil and add the pasta. Boil about 9 minutes. When the pasta is done, stir in the processed beans to thicken the soup. Then squeeze about half a lemon into the soup and stir.

Serve with warm bread and a little grated parm, if you’d like.

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