A Cooking Challenge

My Children decided to challenge me.  They said I could not make a dinner out of these different ingredients: pumpkin, fennel, sage, sausage, gouda, and cream.  They would prefer a pasta of some sort.  To me these ingredients really did not make a lot of sense together, but I was up for the challenge.

So this is what I came up with.  I decided to use the pumpkin to make some fresh pasta.  I put the fennel in the sausage.  I thought the sage and the gouda could be a nice cream sauce.

I came up with a deconstructed pumpkin ravioli with homemade fennel sausage and topped it with the cheesy cream sauce.

They loved it!  And it was fun to come up with something out of these ingredients.

This is what it looked like:

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These were the fresh pasta cut into circles to make the “deconstructed” ravioli.

DSCN1432I added some pomegrante seeds for color.

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Shrimp Curry

Curry is a very easy and delicious quick sauce.  This is a seafood version that uses shrimp, but you can make it with chicken or any other protein and you can even make it vegetarian.

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Make a bechamel sauce.  I do these in my sleep, and don’t really measure.  This was one of the “basics” my mother made sure I knew how to make when I was very young.  I am eternally grateful  for that since this is used in so many different ways.

I like Michael Rhulman’s ratio for Roux.  He recommends 3 parts flour: 2 parts flour and the thickening ratio is 10 parts liquid : 1 part roux.

I add good curry powder to the flour when I browned it.   I used milk as my liquid.  Once it was the consistency I wanted, I added raw peeled and cleaned shrimp.  It only takes a few minutes to cook the shrimp.  Make sure you don’t over cook shrimp.  It gets very tough.

Serve over rice and add whatever condiments you’d like.  I enjoy shredded coconut, peanuts, raisins, green onions, finely chopped chiles.  On the side serve a nice chutney.  We had the last of my mother’s Calamondin Chutney.  Soooooo delicious.  So sad that it’s the last jar….

Enjoy!

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Winter Wonderland

winterIt’s that time of year.  There is a beautiful blanket of snow over everything bringing a calm serenity to the world.  This type of season brings to mind comfort foods, meals that warm the soul.  One of my favorite pastimes when it is cold out is to read through cook books.  It really creates inspirations that will lend themselves to wonderful meals at another time.  So let the day dreaming begin……

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Quinoa

Quinoa is an ancient grain.  It has been a diet staple for over 6,000 years.  The Incas ate Quinoa and considered it to be sacred.   It is a very versitle grain that can be used in place of rice or pasta.  It can be used cold as a salad or hot as a risotto or pilaf.   Quinoa is very high in protein and it’s a complete protein which makes it very healthy.

Quinoa

To cook take one part Quinoa and two parts liquid (water, stock etc.), salt and simmer for about 15 mins or until the liquid has been absorbed.  The Quinoa should be a bit crunchy but not hard.

This can then be eaten as a rice pilaf or as a salad.  For a salad, you can add whatever herbs and vegetables you would like with a vinaigrette and serve cold.  For a side dish you can add butter or cheese and serve warm.  It is a unique grain that is underutilized.

Veggies

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Beaumont’s

Beaumont's

Beaumont’s is a great restaurant in Bird Rock that has a very innovative chef and a happening ambiance.  On weekends they have live music and it is always packed.

One of the special apps is the “Man Fries”.  Blue Cheese / Garlic / Basil Aioli…Yummmm

"man fries"

We also had the Pistachio Baked Brie Balsamic-Pomegranate Reduction / Crostini.  It was a very different Brie presentation.

DSCN1265 Beaumont

Baby Iceberg Wedge Salad Apples / Organic Tomatoes / Bacon / Roquefort Bleu Cheese Dressing.  A very fresh salad.DSCN1266 Beaumont

The Scallops are perfectly seared.

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The Ahi special was encrusted with pepitas.  Delicious.

DSCN1267 Ahi special

French Country Style Meatloaf
Sun Dried Tomatoes / House Mash Potatoes / Garlicy Green Beans.  Home cooking at it’s best.

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Oven Roasted Free-Range 1/2 Chicken
Toasted Almond-Saffron Risotto / Fruit Chutney / Harissa.  This was a very clever use of Harissa.

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Poached Salmon

This is an easy  but elegant main dish. It can be decorated beautifully and will impress everyone.  The flavor is wonderful and fits into any party menu.  The best part is that it can be made ahead and served room temperature.

Poached salmon

Take one Salmon and ask the fishmonger to remove the bones but leave the skin on.  Place on sheets of aluminum foil on a cookie sheet.  Stuff with slices of lemon, parsley, butter, salt and pepper.  Butter the outside of the salmon, add salt and pepper and lemon slices.  Close the foil and create a sealed package.  Place in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.  Let the fish cool then place on a  the serving platter.  Remove the skin and all of the cooking herbs.  Decorate the fillet with alternating slices of cucumber in the form of scales, and parsley and lemon slices.  Serve with either a  Hollandaise sauce or a yogurt cucumber sauce.

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The 21 club in New York is a very old establishment.  In fact it was a speakeasy during prohibition.  My husbands great grandmother was actually busted one evening.  This is one of their signature dishes.  It’s not exactly figure friendly, but it sure is good.

Chicken Hash with Seared Spinach and Wild Rice

Ingredients:
1 ½ lbs skinless, boneless chicken breasts
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 cups chicken stock
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
½ cup unbleached white flour
¼ cup dry sherry
¼ cup heavy cream
1 ½ lb grated gruyere
½ tsp fresh grated nutmeg

Method:
1. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Bring the chicken stock to a boil. Add the
chicken breasts, and lower the heat to a simmer. Poach the chicken breasts 20 minutes or until
fully cooked.
2. Remove the chicken from the poaching liquid and cook completely before cutting into one‐
inch cubes. Reserve the liquid.
3. Combined the softened butter with the flour, kneading them together into a paste.
4. Return the reserved chicken stock to a boil, and using a wire whisk, add the flour/butter
combination in one‐tablespoon increments.
5. Cook 5 minutes then add the sherry and cream.
6. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Whisk in the cheese and nutmeg. Remove from
heat once cheese is melted.
7. Fold in diced chicken.
8. OPTIONAL CRUNCHY TOPPING: Top with additional cheese, and brown lightly under
broiler.
9. Serve with spinach and wild rice. Many patrons prefer the hash served over white toast (no
crust) instead of wild rice.

Seared Spinach
Ingredients:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound fresh spinach leaves, thoroughly washed, stems removed
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Method:
1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the spinach leaves and sear quickly on
one side.
2. Add salt and pepper.
3. Toss/turn with tongs or a spatula to cook the rest of the spinach until just wilted, but still
bright green. (5 or 6 minutes)

Wild Rice
Ingredients:
2 cups water
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 bay leaves
1 cup wild rice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon salt
Method:
Combine water, bay leaves, salt and pepper to taste in a pot with a snug‐fitting lid. Bring to a
boil. Add the rice, reduce to a simmer and cook for 40‐45 minutes.

 

Chicken Vegetable Soup

Celery for chicken veg soup

Nothing soothes the soul like a warm bowl of homemade Chicken vegetable soup.  You can use any combination of vegetables that you like.

Chicken veg soup

1  large onion chopped

3 ribs of celery chopped

1 clove of garlic

4 medium zucchini cut in cubes

3 potatoes, any kind

1 large handful of green bean cut into bite size pieces

3 carrots cut into bite size pieces

2 quarts of chicken stock (or vegetarian if you prefer)

2 cups of cooked chicken meat chopped

salt and pepper

Parsley to finish the dish.

potatoes for chicken veg soup

Saute the onions, garlic, celery and carrots  in 1 tablespoon of oil for a few minutes until the onions are translucent.  Add the potatoes and saute for a few more minutes.  Add the rest of the ingredients except for the green beans and parsley.  Simmer until all the vegetables are soft.  Add the green beans and simmer for about 5 minutes.  I like my green beans “al dente”.  Taste for salt and pepper.  Serve in bowls with the parsley sprinkled on top.

Variations:

If you want to make it Mexican, add a chipotle.

If you want to make it French, add a pistou (French pesto sauce).

If you want to make it Italian, add some Parmesan cheese to the top of it.

Chicken soup

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Jim’s Beef and Peppers Stir Fry

Peppers

This is one of the family’s favorite.  Everyone loves it when Dad cooks!

Jim’s Beef and Peppers Stir Fry

1 1/2 lbs stir fry meat cut in strips.  It should have some marbling in it for flavor.

4 Bell peppers cut in strips

1 Habanero chile, deveined and cut in circles

1 Jalapeno chile , deveined and cut in circles

4 anchovy filets

Low sodium Soy Sauce and Hoisin Sauce to taste

HabaneroHabanero deveinedHabanero and Jalapeno

Brown the meat.  Then add the peppers and the rest of the ingredients.  Stir fry for several minutes; try to keep the peppers still semi-crunchy.  Taste for seasoning.  Serve over rice.

Note: after handling hot peppers be sure to wash hands carefully.  Since the hot peppers are cut in circles, the dish will have some nice visual texture and they can pick them out if someone wants to reduce the heat.

Beef and Peppers

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