Thursday, June 23, 2011

Kelley's New Love

My momma is the best.  In college, she would buy me things like car tires because she knew I needed them, but was too cheap to buy my own.  (Or that my money would be spent elsewhere, like on beers at Patricks and on subs at Erbs & Gerbs - I was responsible like that)  She's always been thoughtful and yet practical like that - but this year, she really hit a homerun:

Cookware.  And bakeware.

Lots of it.

Golden Oreos?  guilty.

After hearing me complain about my $10 set of IKEA cookware for the last year, she went out and bought me new kitchen stuff for my birthday slash graduation present.  A gorgeous, brand spanking new 14 pc Cuisinart Non Stick Hard Anodized set of pots and pans showed up to my office and I finally got them home last week.  Last night, I finally put them into use, and my god, I have very few words for it, other than simply, amazing.

Now, I must give some credit where credit is due.  That IKEA set did the job.  They weren't the flashiest or best made, but for almost an entire year, they cranked out decent meals.  Did they heat evenly? No.  Did all the food constantly stick to them?  Yes.  But at their core, they did their job.  I was poor, I needed to stock my new home and I needed to do it on the cheap.  Purpose served.

Now that I am a proper woman, all MBA graduated, with a big girl job and grown up responsibilities, I need proper cookware to impress very handsome men in my life so that I can continue to make amazing meals in my kitchen.  The Cuisinarts will serve that purpose.  Tonight's inaugural run was a complete 180 - non stick, easy to clean, even heat, no fire alarms... Swoon, I am in love.

Thanks Mom!  I love you!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Tomato and Olive Stuffed Portobellos

Portobello mushrooms are an obsession of mine.  In fact, ANY sort of mushroom is an obsession of mine.  While in NYC two weeks ago, I ordered an appetizer of polenta, stuffed with Gorgonzola, topped with roasted mushrooms and drizzled with balsamic vinegar.  It was amazing.  Drool worthy.  I have been thinking about making it at home ever since, but to be honest, it's amazing how quickly time moves.  I haven't had much time to whip up any masterpieces in the kitchen lately.  I feel as though most of the things I have been cheffing up have been easy, on the fly, weekday meals.  I'm really craving a night in the kitchen, followed by a dinner I am proud of, served to a deserving soul.  But honestly, when the weather is awesome, wouldn't you rather be out dining al fresco?  Or enjoying a glass of wine on the water?

As usual, I digress.  Back to the homemade portobello mushrooms.

Tomato and Olive Stuffed Portobella Mushrooms (as adapted from Eating Well.)
•2/3 cup chopped plum tomatoes
•1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese (or mozzeralla)
•1/4 cup chopped Kalamata olives
•1 teaspoon minced garlic
•2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
•1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary, or 1/8 teaspoon dried
•1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
•4 portobello mushroom caps, 5 inches wide
•2 tablespoons lemon juice
•2 teaspoons reduced-sodium soy sauce

You can grill or broil these - so pick your method and fire it up. In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, cheese, olives, garlic, 1 tsp of the olive oil, pepper and rosemary into a bowl. 

In another bowl, combine 1 tsp of the olive oil, lemon juice and soy sauce.  Remove the stems from the caps and wash well.  You can spoon out the gills if you want, but I like these, so I just wash them well.  Pat dry.  Cover in marinade, brushing both sides and toss onto the grill or into your broiler.  Grill until soft, about five minutes. 

Drain any liquids from the caps and then stuff with your tomato/olive mixture.  Back into the broiler or grill they go.  Cook long enough for cheese to melt.

And dinner is served!!  I love arugala, so I served mine with a messy side salad.  I love this vegetarian option.  It's filling and tasty and best of all, very low in calories.  The kalamatas add a nice salty touch and surprisingly, the soy marinade holds up well through the cooking process. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Roasted Vegetable Tomato Pasta

I think I crossed a line in making this dish.

This dish calls for vegetables to be roasted at extremely high heat for long periods of time.  Which might not be that big of an issue for most people.  But I chose to make this dish on one of the only hot, humid summer days we've seen in Boston so far. 

And I live in 300 square feet. 

Bad idea on paper.  Even worse idea in reality.

Making this dish filled my tummy with a delicious meal and my fridge with lunch leftovers, but it also made for a very uncomfortable night of sleeping.  Why do I torture myself?  Can't I order takeout like normal Beacon Hillers?

Pasta with Roasted Vegetables:
  • 2 zucchinis, chopped in chunks
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 eggplant, chopped
  • 1 or 2 tbsp EVOO
  • 4 roma tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 box of pasta - a sauce catching noodle
  • Salt/Pepper
The chopping is the most tedious part of this recipe.  Preheat your oven to 400 and start chopping up all your vegetables.  Tomatoes go into a baking dish to roast and the zucchinis, eggplants and onion (tossed with EVOO) go on a rimmed baking sheet. Salt the tomatoes a bit and sprinkle with basil or oregano.



It doesn't really matter which one you roast first.  I did the tomatoes first and then tossed in the vegetables.  Flip a couple times.  You want to roast them for about 35 minutes, giving them a bit of carmelization.  While you're roasting, fire up a salted pot of water and start cooking your pasta.

Confession: I ate a lot of these straight off the pan. I love roasted vegetables. Or any vegetable for that matter...

When the tomatoes are done roasting, they go into a food processor for a few quick pulses until they are pureed.  Life just got easier for me, as my mom and her fiance got me a pretty red food processor for my birthday.  Woo!  It has a much bigger capacity than my mini one and doesn't take up all that much room in my cabinets.


Now comes the easy part - in a bowl, add your vegetables and tomato puree.  Add in pasta one cup at a time until you reach the desired mix.  I had extra pasta, as I didn't want pasta that didn't feel as though it was covered in sauce.  Sauce is the most important part - pasta is just a vessel in which to shovel lots of sauce into your mouth.  Yep, I said it.
Best part of this - low calorie, great caramelized flavor from the vegetables and a very control amount of sodium.  YUM!
Lazy, lazy picture taking these days.

But delicious!

Roasted Bell Pepper Soup

This was really tasty. I modified a recipe from the complementary Lunds & Byerly's Real Food magazine. This recipe is perfect for meatless Mondays! The acidity reminded me a lot of my favorite Tomato-Basil soup.

1 T olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cups roasted red peppers (from jars)
1 cup vegetable broth
1 T honey
1/2 cup sour cream or crème fraiche (plus more for garnish)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
dash of salt
1/2 cup fresh basil (roughly chopped or julienned)

Saute the onion with heated oil in a Dutch oven for five minutes. Toss in the peppers (drained) and vegetable broth. Cook for 10 minutes in a covered Dutch oven on medium low heat.

Next, blend in a food processor or blender. Once pureed, put the mixture back in the Dutch oven on low heat. Add in the honey and sour cream (or crème fraiche). Mix well with a spoon or whisk.

Serve warm with the fresh basil and a dollop of sour cream (or crème fraiche) in each bowl. The basil was really delicious in this soup.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Creamy Morel Mushroom Soup

The sauteed mushrooms were great, but I wanted to try making a soup with the freshly picked morels. Again, you'll want to really clean the mushrooms and soak them in salt water for about an hour.

I modified this morel soup recipe here.

3 medium potatoes (or 2 large), peeled and halved
1 leek, cleaned and sliced (toss the dark leaves)
2 cups water
2 T butter
2 cups fresh, chopped morels
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream

Start by adding the sliced leek, halved potatoes, and the water to a soup pot or Dutch oven. Boil for 25 minutes or until the veggies are tender.

While you wait, in a frying pan or cast iron skillet, heat your butter on medium heat. Then, add your chopped morels and salt. Keep mushrooms moist with dashes of wine. Keep stirring. Then, after 15-20 minutes, mix in the chicken stock.

No, go back to the leek and potatoes. Those can be blended in a blender or food processor. When smooth, return the mixture to the Dutch oven or soup pot. Then, toss in the morels and liquid. Simmer for 10 minutes, and then finally add heavy cream. Stir.

Season with salt and pepper. Serve!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

BBQ Pork in a Crock Pot!

While I am not particularly proud of the lazy photos taken for this recipe, I was very proud of how easy this BBQ Pork crock pot recipe was.  I decided on a Saturday morning a few weeks back that the pork that had been defrosting needed immediate attention, lest it wastefully go bad.
We can't be wasting food round these parts.  I can't stand wasteful things.  Like not recycling.  Or not finishing a glass of wine.  Or people who don't finish a plate of nachos.  Seriously?

Me and BBQ Pork are tight.  If there is BBQ Pork to be had on the menu, there's a very high probability that that is what I am ordering.  So, after consulting a few recipes on the intrawebs, I threw the pork in the crock pot and started adding ingredients.  Now, I could have used a bottle of BBQ sauce, but I didn't have any on hand.  However, all you need is a few ingredients to whip up a homemade BBQ sauce:
  •  Ketchup - 1/2 cup
  • cider vinegar - 1/4 cup
  • brown sugar - 1 or 2 tbsp
  • spicy mustard (optional) - 1 or 2 tsp
Mix it all up in a bowl, tasting as you go along.  Maybe it's too tangy - add more brown sugar.  Too vinegar-ish?  Add some more ketchup.  The spicy mustard is optional, but I liked the way it blended together.  Once you have a preferred BBQ taste, pour mixture over pork and into crock pot.   If I had had them on hand, I would have chopped up some onions and thrown them in here too.

Turn on your slow cooker and walk away.  You can do high for 6 hours or low for 8.  That's right.  Walk away and let the magic happen all on it's own.  Trust the slow cooker, it is your friend.

This is what I came back to.  I have to admit.  I was scared.  It was so dark and scary and I hadn't done ANY stirring or anything.  I was shocked - the sauce had gone from scarily red to scarily over brown.

Take two forks and start shredding the pork apart.  This is easy.  As this was happening, the sauces started blending back to a less burnt looking color.  It started to look like a BBQ sauce color.

 Once you've shredded, add to a sandwich.  I picked up a loaf of country wheat from Panificio in Beacon Hill.  So good.
Here's the final sandwich:

Stop judging. I was hungry. And it was BBQ Pork. Next time I make it, you'll see the ultimate BBQ pork sandwich, with onions, maybe some apple slides and a tangy slaw. But I have to admit, this pork, as lovely and plain as it was, did not last long in my house.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Mushroom Hunting

I've been intrigued by mushroom hunting ever since I read Omnivore's Dilemma. Have you read it? No? You should.

The BF took me out hunting for morels mushrooms (morchella esculenta) a few weeks ago in Red Wing, MN, and it was really fun. It was a challenge to find the first morel, but from there, we found lots of them! I'm glad that we found them because I just read that they've been hard to find this year. The BF taught me about the spores and how to properly pick the mushrooms without disturbing future growth.

Readers, are you mushroom hunters?

Here (below) is how we ate our mushrooms during the first meal. I'll post a soup in the near future.

First, you should wash the mushrooms thoroughly and soak them in salt water before cooking.

We modified this recipe.

Morels (washed and cut in half)
Eggs (the amount depends on how many morels you pick)
Saltine crackers (again, the amount depends on how many morels you can find)
Butter (again, it depends)

Start by beating a couple of eggs. You can always add more eggs if you run out. This is your egg wash. Dip the mushroom halves in the egg wash.

Then, crush about 1 row of crackers to start (add more as needed). Dip the egg-washed shrooms into the crushed crackers.

Once completed coated, they can be sautéed in a pre-heated skillet with 3 tablespoons of butter. We had to keep adding more butter, but I think it's because we had a lot of morels.


If you do not own wooded property, you can tag along on guided tours in Minnesota. An event called Fun with Fungi is scheduled for June 18th in Maplewood, MN.

Fun fact- morels are the state mushroom of Minnesota.