Tag Archives: winter

The Beet Goes On

Until I moved to our vegetable farm I absolutely hated beets and avoided them at all costs.  Yet here I am staring out at the drifted snow and frozen lake with a bowl of borscht in my hand.  The smell alone is enough to make you swoon.  I feel a sense of gratitude for learning to love the darn things.  Our farm is committed to growing vegetables without chemicals (which can significantly alter their flavor) so when I tried them again I was surprised by their inherent sweetness.  What was I thinking?  They are one the best things you can eat; full of essential vitamins and minerals.  They are low in calories and sodium along with assisting in the reduction of inflammation in the body.  They also support heart, digestion and brain function.  So what’s not to like?  There’s nothing like a bowl of warm goodness to set you straight.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium leek, cleaned and sliced thinly (make sure you use the light green part as well)
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 medium red onion, peeled and chopped
  • 4-6 carrots, peeled and grated on the large holes of a box grater
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into bite size chunks
  • 6 small or 3 large beets, peeled and cut into bite size chunks
  • 3 cups of thinly sliced red cabbage
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh dill
  • 8 cups organic vegetable stock (or homemade of course)
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • Greek yogurt to serve (optional)

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INSTRUCTIONS:

  1.  Heat the olive oil in a soup kettle or Dutch oven on medium high heat.
  2. Add leek, garlic and red onion.  Saute until soft and translucent.
  3. Add sweet potato, beets and grated carrot.  Cook for 5 minutes stirring frequently.
  4. Add red cabbage, dill and vegetable stock.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium.  Simmer for 30 minutes or until beets are soft when a paring knife is inserted.
  5. Add red wine vinegar off heat.  Serve in bowls topped with a dollop of yogurt if using and sprinkle additional fresh chopped dill on top.

Serves 6-8

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“Soup fills us, nurtures and comforts us.  Soup is the song of the heart and the home.”

Morocca-Tori

I’m always looking for inspiration in the kitchen.  When it comes to regional cuisine, a classic dish can often inspire me to bend the rules.  For example, I love Italian Chicken Cacciatore, with its tomatoes, garlic, onions and capers.  The challenge for me was, its traditional breading always sat a little heavy.  Why not lighten it up, leave the breading off, use Moroccan spices, chickpeas and feta?  The result?  Something similar, yet completely different in tone.  Vegetarian?  Leave out the chicken completely and replace it with roasted butternut squash or zucchini.  The real focus is what the regional seasoning does in relation to everything else.  The Moroccan or North African seasoning called  Ras El Hanout (which means: “top of the shop”) can contain anywhere from 10-100 different spices. I’ve included my version of this savory spice combination.  I highly recommend making it yourself, as you can easily control the heat. I’m hooked on it and keep finding different ways to use it.  You can also find it manufactured by several companies like McCormick or the Teeny Tiny Spice Company. Served over rice, couscous or quinoa, with a simple side salad of mixed greens tossed with vinaigrette and you have a dinner that’s comes together quickly and is sure to please.

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Moroccan Chicken Thighs:

  • 6 bone-in, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 medium onion, sliced vertically into thin strips
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Ras El Hanout*
  • 1 28 oz. can Muir Glen Organic Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 cup organic chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup (2 oz.) crumbled feta
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
  • 2 cups of cooked rice, couscous or quinoa

*Kim’s Ras El Hanout:

  • 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 3 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cane sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (add a bit more if you want more heat)
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Mix all the spices together and store in airtight container.

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Melt butter and olive oil in 12-inch skillet over medium heat.  Saute garlic and onion until soft, about 4-5 minutes.
  2. Add Ras El Hanout and simmer an additional 2 minutes.
  3. Add crushed tomatoes and stir to combine.  Take off heat.  Spoon about a 1/2 cup of the sauce into a 8 x 8 casserole dish.  Place chicken thighs on top of sauce.
  4. Sprinkle chickpeas around chicken.  Spoon the rest of the sauce over the chicken.  Sprinkle feta over sauce.
  5. Bake uncovered for 45-50 minutes, or until bubbly and chicken thighs are done.
  6. Remove from oven and sprinkle with minced parsley.
  7. Serve over rice, couscous or quinoa.

Serves: 3-4

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“The forest not only hides your enemies, but its full of your medicine, healing power and food.”  —African Proverb

Liquid Gold

It’s March 1st and winter still has us in her clutches, with no sign of letting go anytime soon.  I tell myself “no problem” and head into our basement to see what vegetables are still holding up.  I find both white and orange sweet potatoes and carrots still in good condition.  I dig around the freezer and find a quart of homemade chicken stock.  I grab some onions and garlic and head back upstairs.

Whenever I want to make soup using root vegetables, I find I like to roast them first.  It always gives the soup much more depth, not to mention those warming smells in the kitchen.  As I’ve mentioned both in my previous blog Basics With A Twist, and this one, I always lean toward the savory,  I enjoy herbs and spices and love what they do to food.  It’s really ethnic cooking at its finest.

With this soup I’ll roast the sweet potatoes and carrots to make a puree for the base.  While they’re in the oven I will toast cumin and coriander seeds.  Toasting whole seeds releases a flavor far superior to purchased ground spices; you’ll find the scents exotic and sensual.  Although you can grind them in a spice mill, I prefer to use a granite mortar and pestle. I also use shallots, rather than onion, and brown them slightly.  I like how the sweetness of the root vegetables pairs with the intensity of the spices.  Puree it altogether with a bit of apple cider vinegar and it really comes alive.  I enjoy topping it with toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and chopped cilantro.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup:

  • 6 cups sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 4 cups carrot, peeled and sliced into 2 inch sections
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 cups homemade chicken stock
  • 3/4 tsp cumin seed, toasted and ground
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seed, toasted and ground
  • 1 1/2  cups shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 2 Tbsp ghee
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2  tsp ground cayenne
  • 1 14oz can full-fate coconut milk
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 cup roasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
Perfectly roasted veggies

Perfectly roasted veggies

Toasted cumin and coriander seeds

Toasted cumin and coriander seeds

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Peel and cut sweet potatoes and carrots; place in a large bowl.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle salt.  Toss until well coated; place on large sheet pan lined with parchment paper.  Place in oven for 40 minutes or until soft; turning vegetables halfway through. Cool.
  2. While vegetables are roasting, place cumin and coriander seeds in small dry skillet over medium heat and toast until lightly brown.  Grind in mortar and pestle or in spice grinder.  Set aside.
  3. After vegetables are cool, place half of them in a blender with some of the chicken stock and puree until smooth;  pour into large bowl and set aside; repeat with remaining vegetables and stock.
  4. Melt ghee and olive oil in large pot.  Add sliced shallots and pressed garlic.  Saute on medium until soft.  Add ground cumin, coriander, salt and ginger.  Stir for 1 minute.  Add cinnamon and cayenne.
  5. Pour half of vegetable puree into pot with shallots and blend with stick blender until smooth.  Add remaining puree and coconut milk.  Heat on low until warmed through.  Add apple cider vinegar and mix well.
  6. Ladle into bowls, topping with a few pepitas and chopped cilantro.

Serves: 6-8

Liquid Gold

Liquid Gold

“Soup is a lot like a family.  Each ingredient enhances the others; each batch has its own characteristics; and it needs time to simmer to reach full flavor.”  —-Marge Kennedy

 

Little Things Mean A Lot

Initially, when we went grain-free, we thought it might be a difficult transition.  Being foodies, we were anxious to understand the perimeters of this life-style approach and how we might use our creativity to still make food that excited us.  When looking for inspiration, I often go to my collection of ethnic cookbooks.  I was not disappointed; we love Middle Eastern, Indian and Mediterranean food.  I was soon mixing up a concoction of ground turkey, shredded zucchini, herbs and garlic into small meatballs that were first browned in a pan, then finished in the oven.  Topped with a soothing sauce of homemade yogurt, sour cream, lemon juice and sumac, they are perfect as an appetizer or served on top of a salad of tomatoes, cucumber, feta and sunflower sprouts.

Moral of the story:  change doesn’t have to be difficult, and little things mean a lot.

Zucchini and herbs at the ready

Zucchini and herbs at the ready

Turkey-Zucchini Meatballs With Lemon Sumac Sauce:

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 large organic egg
  • 2 Tbsp fresh mint, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 tsp cumin seed, toasted and ground
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 Tbsp ghee

Lemon Sumac Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2/3 cup homemade or Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp sumac (found in Middle-Eastern grocery stores)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Browning in ghee

Browning in ghee

  1. First make the lemon-sumac sauce by placing all the ingredients in a small bowl.  Stir well and chill until needed.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except the ghee.  Mix with your hands (you will really get a better result) then shape into small meatballs about the size of golf ball.
  3. Melt the ghee in a 12 inch skillet on medium-high heat.  Add meatballs, making sure to leave room between them.  Saute on each side until browned, about 4 minutes per side.
  4. Place browned meatballs on a cookie-sheet lined with parchment paper.  Place in oven and bake for 7-10 minutes.
  5. Place on platter and pass sauce; or place on top of salad.
Delicious and savory

Delicious and savory

“THE SECRET OF
CHANGE lS TO FOCUS
ALL OF YOUR ENERGY
NOT ON FIGHTING THE
OLD BUT ON BUILDING
THE NEW.”

To Market, To Market

It’s been an interesting winter.  Powerful storms have dropped feet of snow, only to melt during the next cycle of upward temperatures.  Regardless of what goes on outside, I love this time of the year. We savor indoor activities like reading, contemplation, projects and weekend visitors.  We vacillate between soups or stews to gratins and roasts.

We eat differently in winter.  I tend to cook food that takes more time and intention.  Is there anything better than the aroma of Sunday dinner wafting through the kitchen?  One of my favorites is stuffing a pork loin with porcini mushrooms and dried apples.   So enjoyed by my family, it has replaced our traditional turkey at Thanksgiving.   It’s a perfect dinner for company, when you want to create something special.  Each spiral slice looks beautiful on a plate.

Fortunate for us, we have options for great grass-fed beef and milk-fed pork at the Fulton Street Farmer’s Market in Grand Rapids, Michigan where we are seasonal vendors.  With high-quality meat, this is a entree worthy of the season.

Proscuitto-Wrapped Pork Loin with Roasted Apples

Filling:

  • 1 cup dried porcini mushrooms
  • 3/4 cup dried apples
  • 1 lb Tuscan kale, bottom stems removed
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup minced onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 2 Tbsp cognac (I use Hennessy)
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb ground pork

Pork:

  • 1 trimmed and butterflied 2.5-3.0 lbs pork loin (have your butcher do it for you or follow directions below)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 oz thinly sliced prosciutto
  • 5 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 4 medium apples (such as Granny Smith or Fuji), quartered
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup hard cider
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock

Filling:  

Place dried mushrooms and dried apples in separate bowls.  Add 1 cup boiling water to each bowl.  Let mushrooms and apples soak until very soft, about 30 minutes.  Strain mushrooms.  Cover and chill mushroom soaking liquid.  Drain apples, discarding liquid.  Finely chop mushrooms and apples, combine in a small bowl, and set aside.

Meanwhile, blanch kale in boiling salted water for 1 minute, until wilted.  Using tongs, transfer kale to a bowl of ice water.  Drain on paper towels, once cooled completely.  Remove any large ribs.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add onion; cook, stirring often, until soft and golden, about 8 minutes.  Add mushrooms and apples; cook, stirring occasionally until flavors meld, about 5 minutes.  Stir in garlic, thyme and rosemary; cook for 1 minutes.  Add cognac and cook until liquid is absorbed, about 1 minute.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Transfer to bowl, let cool completely.  Add ground pork and combine well.

Pork:

Open butterflied pork loin, cover with plastic wrap. (If your pork loin in not butterflied, do the following:  Put pork loin on a work surface and beginning along one long side, cut 1/2 inch above the underside of the loin. Continue slicing slowly inward, pulling back the meat with your free hand and unrolling the loin like a carpet, until the entire loin is flat.)  Using a meat mallet, point to an even thickness.

Stuffing just before assembly

Stuffing just before assembly2.

Uncover pork, season with salt and pepper.  Place kale leaves on top of loin in an even layer, overlapping as needed and leaving a 1 inch border.  Spread filling on top of kale.  Roll pork into tight cylinder.  Wrap one layer of prosciutto around roast.  Tie roast securely with kitchen twine in 1 inch intervals.  Tuck rosemary sprigs under twine, spacing apart.  Roast can be made 1 day ahead.  If making ahead, cover and chill., then let stand at room temperature for one hour before continuing.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place apples in a roasting pan.  Melt 1 Tbsp butter with oil in a large skillet on medium-high.  Brown pork roast on all sides, about 5 minutes total, then set on top of apples in roasting pan. Add hard cider and 1/2 cup of water to skillet and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits in pan.  Pour mixture into roasting pan.  Roast pork until an instant-read thermometer reaches 140 degrees, about 1 hour and 40 minutes.  Let roast rest for at least 20-30 minutes.

Pork loin stuffed, tied and ready for searing

Pork loin stuffed, tied and ready for searing

Place roast on platter.  Reserve apples from roasting pan; spoon off fat from juices in pan.  Place pan on top of stove over medium-high heat.  Add chicken stock and reserved mushroom liquid, leaving any sediment behind, and cook, scraping bottom of pan to release any browned bits, until slightly thickened; about 5 minutes.  Whisk in remaining 2 Tbsp butter and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Strain sauce; slice pork.  Serve apples and sauce along side pork.

Serves: 6-8

 “As long as you have food in your mouth, you have  solved all questions for the time being.”  –Frank Kafka

Feel The Warmth

I’ve lived most of my life as a Michigander.  I love how the seasons change the landscape in front of my writing area.  Today the stillness of winter has struck just the right cord within me.  I feel the warmth of the wood-burner,and the sounds of Val getting our morning coffee.  I watch the birds at our feeders, their small feathered body’s puffed out against the cold.  In that stillness, resides a sense of gratitude and the accumulative effect is one of peace.  This inner peace is much needed as we head into the next phase of my physical journey.  I have been referred to a hematologist for a bone marrow biopsy and thorough blood workup.  A suspected blood disorder is looming large.  Again, we learn patience and perseverance.

Val built our home on 52 consecutive Sundays; you can feel the love seeping through the structure.  This is our house of God.  It is a home that has seen much history and celebration.  Today our neighbor Lynne, my older brother Bill and his girlfriend Deb are coming for dinner.  There are few things I enjoy more than filling our home with the scents of cooking and the anticipation of sharing that meal with those I love.  Good food is often like that, an invisible bridge connecting us to each other.  An expression of goodwill that transcends the simplicity of the moment into something larger, more intimate and we bask in its warmth.

Today’s meal will be a wonderful Brazilian fish stew called:  Moqueca De Peixe.  With aromatic garlic, onions, cilantro and red bell pepper, it has just the right amount of heat, which is tempered with the addition of coconut milk.  Loaded with tomato, fish and shrimp, it is a big bowl of warmth.  It invites you to eat the shrimp floating in the broth with your fingers.  I smile when I see Bill’s eyes closed with enjoyment.  This is why I cook.

Sauteing aromatics

Sauteing aromatics

BRAZILIAN FISH STEW:

  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 lbs firm white fish, cut in 1 inch pieces (I use cod)
  • 2 lbs wild caught fresh or flash frozen shrimp (21-24 count)
  • 2 Tbsp ghee or olive oil
  • 2 cups yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cups red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 cup green onions, sliced thinly
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 14.5 oz cans Muir Glenn Fire-Roasted chopped tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, plus more for garnishing soup, chopped
  • 2 cups clam juice or fish stock
  • 1 cup home-made chicken stock (or if you’re using a commercial product, make sure it’s stock not broth)
  • 1 14 oz can full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 whole lime, cut into wedges

Instructions:

  1. Combine the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.  Add the ghee or olive oil to a large soup pot over medium-high heat, add onion and saute until soft, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add the red bell pepper, green onion, garlic and bay leaves. Saute for 10 more minutes or until vegetables are softened.  Add tomatoes and tomato paste, combine well and cook for another 5 minutes.
  3. Add the chicken and fish stock or clam juice, along with the cilantro and simmer until hot but not boiling, about 10-15 more minutes.
  4. Finally, add the coconut milk, fish and shrimp, including their marinade.  Cook until shrimp looses its opaqueness, about 3 minutes.  DO NOT OVERCOOK!
  5. Ladle into bowls and garnish liberally with additional cilantro.  Pass the lime wedges.
  6. Kiss the cook.

Serves 4-6

Just the right amount of heat

Just the right amount of heat

 

 “Worries go down better with soup.”  –Jewish proverb

Short On Stature, Big On Flavor

Ready for slow cooking in the oven

Ready for slow cooking in the oven

I have a confession.  I’m really a vegetable lover.  When it comes to meat, it better be savory and it better be tender!  This recipe meets both requisites with ease.  We are fortunate to have great resources for grass-fed beef in our area, such as Woodbridge Dairy in Byron Center, Michigan.  With beef short ribs there are two different cuts available: English-Cut and Flaken-Style. When I develop recipes, the biggest challenge for me is to measure amounts to duplicate the result.  I have decided that the Paleo approach is a template that each of us decides to what degree we follow.  For example, wine is a beautiful meat tenderizer, the alcohol evaporates during the cooking process; so you will find dry red wine in this recipe.  It is up to you whether or not you adjust for it.  I also don’t use the flour often recommended during the browning process. Instead I used tapioca, which is gluten-free to help thicken the sauce.  I also serve it over mashed cauliflower instead of the typical mashed potatoes, to help keep it in the Paleo realm.  The result was well received.  Please feel free to share your thoughts and/or adjustments for this approach.

Browned short ribs ready for the oven

Browned short ribs ready for the oven

Red Wine Braised Short Ribs:

  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4-5 lbs grass-fed bone-in English-Cut beef short ribs (about 10-12 pieces)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 12 medium sized carrots, cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 1 cup finely diced shallots
  • 1 head garlic, cloves separated and thinly sliced
  • 4 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp Aleppo chili flakes (I use Penseys)
  • 1 cup homemade beef stock
  • 2 cups dry red wine (whatever the cook’s drinking)
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup Tapioca
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 recipe cauliflower mashed potatoes (recipe follows)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300 F.  Dry short ribs and season liberally with salt and pepper.  Heat a Dutch oven to medium-high.  Add olive oil and brown all sides of beef ribs in a single layer (about 12-15 minutes total). Set a side.  Repeat with the remaining ribs.
  2. Lower heat to medium. Add celery, shallots and carrots to oil and saute for 3-5 minutes, or until shallots are soft.  Add garlic and tomato paste.  Stir to blend, about 2 minutes.  Add Aleppo chili, thyme, bay leaves, stock, wine, and Tapioca.  Bring to a simmer.  Place beef ribs on top of sauce.  Turn to coat.  Place in oven, covered for 3-4 hours; pulling out each hour to turn ribs in their sauce. Cook until fork tender.
  3. Put a dollop of cauliflower mashed potatoes in a shallow bowl.  Top with one or two ribs, sauce and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Serves 4-6

Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes:

  • 1 head fresh cauliflower, cut into flowerettes; placed in pot with water to cover and 1 tsp salt. Bring water to boil and cook for 15 minutes
  • 1/4 cup ghee
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. Drain cauliflower and add it to the bowl in a food processor with ghee, salt and pepper.  Process until smooth.
Savory and tender

Savory and tender

“Food in the end, in our own tradition is something holy. It’s about sharing,

it’s about honesty, it’s about identity.”  —Louise Fresco