No Popper, But Still Precious

Individualized ‘packaged’ foods are inexplicably fun to prepare and be served. Through a precious, gift-wrapped, and personal presentation, even the most humble of ingredients seem elevated.
Although my hands-down favorite version of stuffed peppers is the highly sophisticated, culturally authentic, jalapeño popper, I opted for nutrition with this meal.

Stuffed Peppers

  • 4 medium-sized peppers
  • 1 cup rice
  • 2 cups stock (vegetable, chicken)
  • 1-2 cups vegetables
  • 1 cup sour cream or crème fraiche
  • 1/4-1/2 cup cooked ham, bacon, or sausage (optional)
  • chopped herbs, salt, freshly ground pepper
  • grated cheese
Cook rice in the stock for 20-25 min
Pre-heat the oven to 350
Saute chopped meat and vegetables if not already cooked
In a bowl combine together rice, cream, chopped herbs and vegetable mixture
Remove the pepper top or cut them in halves lengthways , discard the seeds
Stuff the peppers with the rice/veggie mixture, top with cheese
Bake the peppers in a greased dish until heated through

End of Season Shortcake

The autumnal equinox officiated the end of summer last week (September 23), and with it comes the end of peach season. To honor both summer and one of its more divine gifts, what could be more appropriate than shortcake?

Biscuits, prepared with Trader Joe’s Multigrain Baking & Pancake Mix, according to recipe on the box:

  • 1 cup of baking mix
  • 1/3 cup milk and
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil

Combine, knead, roll, cut and bake.

Cool Whip topping or, if you’re feeling ambitious, make your own:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
Whip cream until soft peaks begin to form. Beat in vanilla and sugar and continue to beat until peaks form. Do not over-beat, you’ll end up with butter.
  • fresh peaches, sliced  (about 1/2 peach per serving)
  • honey  (to taste, approximately 1 1/2 tsp per serving)*
Halve biscuits. Layer sliced peaches and whipped cream to form a sandwich. Drizzle with honey.

Cur, Cocks & Quiche

Introductions at my aunt’s farmyard were nothing short of spectacular: Watson, my 80 lb. shepherd/husky mix, catapulted into the chicken coop fencing, sending panicked hens into a squawking frenzy around the downed wire.  It was a fantastic sight to see his canine form bolt across the yard with a zen-like singleness of purpose, and punctuated by a leap of such grace! But the performance was ultimately self-sabotage;  off-leash privileges, a rarity in our daily New York City life, were eliminated the remainder of our visit.

My aunt feeding cherry tomatoes to her brood

With a richer, more golden, and much larger yolk than those bought at the grocery store, the eggs these hens produce are magnificent. And although I used ‘quiche’ in the post title for the purpose of alliteration, this is technically a frittata. A quiche has a pie crust whereas a frittata is basically a large, fluffy open-faced omelet.

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 tsp. butter
  • toppings of choice, chopped (in this case, garden fresh cherry tomatoes, broccoli, onions and basil)
  • 1 c. grated cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to broil.

Whisk the eggs with salt and pepper.

Melt butter in a 12-inch oven safe skillet over medium high heat.

Add eggs, stir with a rubber spatula until they starting to set, about 5 minutes.

Add toppings and cheese, place in the oven until lightly browned, 3-5 minutes.

Caitlin’s REAL Garden Salad

Using loot from my aunt’s garden, my cousin Caitlin created this bright salad. It is hearty enough to be a simple lunch, would make great potluck addition, and would be an elegant side-dish at a dinner party. The fresh herbs and the tangy yogurt dressing make for a vibrant flavor perfect for surviving this record-breaking heat.

Salad

  • 1 summer squash
  • 1 carrot
  • 1/2 c. cauliflower
  • 1/2 c. broccoli
  • 1/2 c. corn, fresh sliced off the cob or frozen
  • 1/2 c. garbanzo beans, canned or soaked in water and boiled till tender
Dressing
  • 1 handful fresh basil
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 c. yogurt
  • 1 sprig fresh dill

Chop the squash, cauliflower, broccoli, and carrot into bite-sized chunks. Steam them with the corn till crisp-tender. Add the beans.

Blend all the dressing ingredients, Caitlin suggests using a Vitamix. Toss the veggies in the dressing. If possible, make the salad ahead of time, leaving it time to marinate.

Swanky Summer Soiree

My cousin and I broke out some entertaining show stoppers in honor of some lovely ladies visiting this past weekend. One of these amazing women was passing through on her way back home from Africa after spending a month volunteering with Mothers Without Borders. This organization provides safe shelter, food, and education to orphans, whose abandonment is predominantly due to the death of HIV-infected parents. Ultimate luxury (in this case, fresh peaches!) is most enjoyed in such loving company.

Fruity Cocktails

1 peach
1 lemon
1 pint ginger ale (I suggest a good quality micro-brewed soda)
candied ginger for garnish

In a blender, puree the pitted peach, the juice of the lemon, a bit of finely chopped ginger and enough soda or water to make a syrup. Chill and just before serving, pour into cocktail glasses garnished with a piece of  candied ginger. Alternately, muddle peach slices and lemon juice in a tall glass (with whiskey if you are feeling boozy!). Fill the glass to the top with ice then with ginger ale.
Other fabulous combos I HIGHLY recommend are:
  • cucumber/mint
  • grapefruit/basil
  • and watermelon/cilantro

No Fuss Classy Cheese Plate

1 wedge high quality blue cheese
1 dozen ripe fresh figs, halved
honey

Serve the cheese and figs drizzled with honey.

Polenta Squares

Polenta = day old grits

I’ve discovered that my beloved definition, although it appeals to my Southern sensibility, is dead wrong. The Anson Mills site explains that the two foods, nearly indistinguishable to all but  the most experienced palates, are ground from different varieties of corn, dent and flint:

Corn is classified by the type of starch (endosperm) in its kernels. The premier mill corn of the American South, known as dent (the name derives from the dent that forms on the top of each kernel as it dries), has a relatively soft, starchy center. Dent corn makes easy work of milling–it also makes phenomenal grits.

Flint corn, by contrast, has a hard, starchy endosperm and produces grittier, more granular meal that offers an outstanding mouthfeel when cooked. One type of American flint–indigenous to the Northeast–was, and remains, the traditional choice for Johnny cakes. In Italy, flint has been the preeminent polenta corn since the 16th century when Spanish and Portuguese treasure hunters brought Caribbean flint to the Piedmont on ships.

This wasn’t my only discovery in this recipe experiment. My attempts to pan fry chunks of the polenta loaf were in vain; the resulting mush was delicious but formless. I kept the shape and got the crust I was after by cranking up the broiler, but if anyone has any suggestions for a stovetop technique, do share it!

Polenta

2 cups broth*

1 cup water

1 cup corn meal

Sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 – 2 cups chopped veggies (peppers, onion, mushrooms, etc.)**

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 – 1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes, canned crushed tomatoes, or jarred tomato sauce

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Bring the broth to a boil in a heavy medium saucepan. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Stir constantly until the polenta thickens, about 5 minutes. Pour the polenta into a greased dish. Cover and let stand at room temperature until set, about 15 minutes. Cut the polenta into squares, top with grated mozzarella, and place under the broiler to toast and melt cheese.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a heavy large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the chopped vegetables. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and saute until the juices evaporate, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic. Add the tomatoes and decrease the heat to medium-low, simmer till heated through and all veggies are tender. Remove from the heat and stir in the basil.  Season to taste with more salt and pepper and/or hot sauce.

Serve the cheesy polenta planks topped with the sauce.

*I used stock made from the bone in a roasted pork shoulder

**I used roasted veggies that I keep on hand in the fridge

Bhutanese Red Rice Hash

I think of this dish as my version of the garbage plate, albeit one with a slightly lower fat content perhaps! A marvelous hodgepodge pile of my fridge excavations crowned with a golden, runny egg, this dish in some incarnation is my day-to-day sustenance. Bhutanese Red rice, the base grain of this particular version, has a wonderfully nutty flavor and chewy texture– but it is the color that really impresses. Tossed with a vibrant veggies, this colorful meal is akin to stir fry/fried rice but the addition of the egg reminds me more of breakfast hash.

  • olive oil
  • broccoli and purple onion, either fresh or roasted
  • roasted red pepper
  • yellow squash, fresh or pickled
  • garlic clove
  • Huy Fong Sriracha Chili Garlic sauce
  • Bragg Liquid Aminos (or soy sauce or salt)
  • white navy beans, pre-cooked or canned
  • Bhutanese red rice, cooked per package directions, about a half cup per serving
  • egg, one per serving
  • shredded lettuce
  • cheese (I used blue)

Rough chop the veggies.

Saute veggies in olive oil till tender. Add beans, hot pepper sauce, and Braggs to taste.


Add rice to pan, toss occasionally till everything is hot.

Serve topped with shredded lettuce, crumbled cheese and an egg fried to your liking.