12.30.2010

Red Beans and Rice

A few weeks ago I was craving something hot, healthy, and hearty. Oh yeah, and spicy too. And then it hit me. Red Beans and Rice. The first dish ever mastered by me and my beloved. Click here (scroll down almost to the end) for the full story or forge ahead. Either way.

As I gathered the ingredients my Florida friend called and I of course announced my dinner plans to her. "We make that dish all the time," she said. "Remember you sent me the recipe years ago?" For a moment I felt warm and happy inside, how I always get when friends speak in such terms, but then I thought, Wow, had it really been years? I guess so. Circa 1995 I believe. Will someone please pass me my cane?

Meanwhile, Florida Friend continued on to say she freezes the leftovers since her kids currently show no interest in such culinary sophistication. Our leftovers go in the fridge and the next day husband Todd and I fight over who gets it for lunch. Whatever happens to your leftovers, I hope this oldie but goodie satisfies next time you crave hot, hearty, and all that other jibber jab from paragraph one.

Recipe

This recipe originally came from The Great American Cookbook which I bought "years ago" from a door to door salesman.

Part 1:

Let's talk rice* before even looking at the "Red Beans" part, shall we?  If you are a committed instant, frozen, or some other shortcut person, skip to Part 2 below and make your rice accordingly.

If you plan to go the old fashioned way, do so before you start Part 2.

Here's how I cook rice after years of mess ups. These directions are directly from the Joy of Cooking's section on cooking grains. If you plan to use a different type of rice, ask Google or if you own Joy of Cooking check out this section.

In a medium pot bring to a boil 2 1/4 for chewy rice (2 1/2 for softer, stickier rice) cups water or broth (chicken or vegetable) with 1 tablespoon butter or oil, and 1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt. Then add 1 cup long-grain brown rice, stir once with a fork, cover and while it cooks go to Part 2. (DO NOT STIR until end of cook time. If pot top isn't clear it's okay to lift lid after about 20 minutes to see how it's doing). Keep heat on low so rice simmers until all liquid is absorbed, about 35 minutes. Let stand, covered, 10 minutes. Fluff with fork.

Part 2:

In a deep skillet or large dutch oven cook over medium heat until hot*:
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Then add (amounts need not be exact, I usually use a bit more):
  • 1/2 cup each, chopped into 1 inch pieces: onion (red or yellow), celery, green pepper

Stir and cook for 3-5 minutes, until veggies are cooked but still crisp*. 

Add and cook, stirring, for one minute or until fragrant:
  • 2 cloves minced garlic

Stir in:
  • 4 links cooked sausage* (one package) sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
  • 30 oz. tomato sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

Simmer for about 15 minutes over low heat, covered, stirring once or twice.

Stir in:
  • 30 oz. canned red or kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Continue cooking until beans are hot, 2 minutes or so. I add them at the end so they don't get mushy.

If it seems too thick add water, 2 tablespoons at a time until it looks soupy enough for you, if that's how you like it. You can put the lid back on, turn off heat and let it sit for a while until you're ready. Nothing bad will happen, promise.

Serve over hot cooked rice. About 2-3 cups worth should be enough.

**Extra! Extra!**
  • Anyone else mess up rice about a hundred times before finally deciding the frozen boxed at TJ's or instant was just plain easier? Yeah, me too. But let's face facts, those don't taste as good as cooking plain old rice, packaged or from bulk, with some salt and/or butter or oil, maybe a hunk of ginger or some herbs thrown in for aroma.
  • Oil should shimmer a bit. I sometimes hold my hand close to the surface to feel for hotness. Not the safest move, so be careful.
  • Taste a piece or two. There's more cooking to go so don't overcook and end up with mushy veggies later. Saute at least 3 minutes for best flavor, when color changes a bit you should be good.
  • I tend to use Amy's brand chicken sausage, any type. For this recipe I've used several different brands and flavors, all have worked.

12.12.2010

A Cornucopia of Recipes

We all have issues, right? Even people with perfect hair and makeup, neat houses, and well behaved children. Actually, especially those people...

My issue of the moment is how to keep the four slices of bacon I just cooked from being consumed between now and the time I want to crumble it on my salad. Good thing I'm well-skilled in the hide-the-food game, a matter of survival when you live with three men.

My grandmother too roomed with three males (18 plus years) and taught me to hide cooled cookies stat (in closet behind Drano) and chocolate chips (same place) as soon as purchased because, as legend has it, if you trapped my father in a room filled with chocolate chips floor to ceiling he would eat his way out in minutes. Go figure, I married a guy with similar habits (only for all sugared foods) so when my girlfriend sent me a birthday gift of truffles from a fancy foodie candy maker, I acted fast when package was received in a home alone moment. The boxes were unmarked (score!), a start. Then, as per candy people's directions, I placed each box in a Ziploc, which I sealed meticulously and buried under a bag of peas and two boxes of spare butter, a final safeguard of frozen chicken breasts in front. I was blessed to eat all 44 pieces over the course of 4 weeks BY MYSELF. Meanwhile, the bacon needs a hiding spot...

I ended up wrapping the strips in plastic wrap which I stashed in a white bag that went on a pantry closet shelf behind nothing. Living on the edge today, with my kids eating wings and watching football and endless inappropriate commercials in the basement, I may just pull this one off.

Now for the purpose of today's post. Friends are constantly asking for my recipes, which are nearly never mine and almost always a quick click away. Perfectionist that I am, posting all will take, well, forever, since I'm constantly discovering new ones and because it takes a while to "dumb down" recipes for the cooking phobic. However many are not afraid of a stove (shout out to Maryland!) so today I am listing a bunch of linky dinks, no directions, so the intermediate/advanced crowd can live it up.

Still afraid? Look away, or jump off the cliff. Either way. Bottom line, I cannot hide these recipes from the experts any longer. It just isn't fair.

So in no particular order, with no regard for ingredient list, easy to make-ness, or course type I present the following recipes with no instructions whatsoever. I hope to eventually add to this list and dumb them down but in the meantime I say go for it. Post questions in the comments section below if you want some guidance.

Good luck, we're all counting on you.

Gluten-Free Goddess (GFG)* Roasted Winter Vegetable Ragout
GFG Cider Roasted Vegetables
GFG Sweet Potato Black Bean Enchiladas
GFG Pasta with Roasted Vegetables
GFG Baked Chicken
GFG Quinoa Chocolate Chip Cookies
Epicurious Marinated Grilled Swordfish
Yukon Gold Potatoes with Thyme and Garlic
Tyler Florence Bolognese Sauce (from lasagna recipe)
Tyler Florence Brisket
101 Cookbooks Honey Balsamic Bean Salad
Barefoot Contessa Parmesan Chicken
Barefoot Contessa Rack of Lamb
Emeril Caramelized Salmon with Bok Choy and Asian Citrus Sauce

**Extra! Extra!**
  • I love the Gluten-Free Goddess (GFG) with a passion. I first discovered her while Googling "What to do with two sweet potatoes on last legs" and found an enchilada recipe (see above) we fell over ourselves eating. After a year I've made zero "not great dishes" using her recipes.
  • On another GFG note, don't worry about using dairy/gluten/sugar-free options in the cooking recipes if you don't need to and/or don't have those ingredients on hand. If you wander over to her baking sections follow her tips and substitutions carefully.

12.06.2010

Dear Gertrude

My brother was going through a box of old papers (really old, like from the 70s) and came across a few of mine from elementary school. Aside from the “Good!!” written across the top in red pen, I’ve reprinted this one verbatim.

January 18, 1978
Lisa W.
Gertrude’s Gossip
Dear Gertrude,
            My mother won’t let me have
eat candy before lunch. What should
I do?
                                    Sweet Tooth

Dear Sweet Tooth,
            I think your mother is right.
You should not have candy before
lunch. You should only have it for dessert.

                                   Your friend,
                                    Gertrude


I decided to follow up with Gertrude, just to see if she’s changed her mind. Amazingly she’s still around.

November 29, 2010
Dear Gertrude,
            Are you sure my mother is right?
I mean, eating candy after lunch is really just
eating it before the next day's lunch.

                                    Sweet Tooth

Dear Sweet Tooth,
           Good point. Candy before lunch is okay, as long it's 
fair trade, or locally produced, or purchased at the candy
shop down the block from your house.

                                     Your friend,
                                      Gertrude

That settles it.

12.01.2010

Matzah Ball Soup, hold the matzah balls

About a month ago my son asked me to make matzah ball soup. Next shopping trip I returned with a box of matzah ball mix, which he saw and asked, "What's this?" I said, "Soon to be matzah balls for your soup." He shook his head. "No, I don't like matzah balls, I only like the soup part, you know, and the noodles." And so Matzah Ball Soup, hold the matzoh balls, was born.

Recipe

Chop and dice into 1/2 squares, measuring about 1 cup each:
  • 2 parsnips*
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 onion

In 8 quart pot pour:
  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil

Heat pot on medium heat until hot, 3-5 minutes. Saute onions until translucent, about 3-5 minutes Add parsnips, carrots, celery and stir well.

Sprinkle in:
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 tablespoon fresh

Cook about two minutes, stirring every 10-20 seconds, adjusting the heat to keep them sizzling while you stir, until veggies look nice and shiny.

Pour in:
  • About 1 cup Imagine vegetable broth, enough to cover the veggies completely.

Turn heat up to high to get it boiling, then turn heat back down so broth simmers well. Vegetables will absorb much of the broth after about 3 minutes, let liquid reduce* by about half.

Add:
  • 2 more cups vegetable broth
  • 5 cups Imagine chicken broth, low sodium or regular
  • 1 bay leaf

Bring back to a boil, put on lid part way, leaving it a crack open, and reduce heat so broth simmers.

After about 10 minutes add:
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Simmer uncovered another 10 or so minutes. Taste and add more salt (1/4 teaspoon at a time) and pepper, if needed. Spoon out the bay leaf and toss it. Cover and let sit until ready to serve.

What about the noodles? What about the chicken?

If you plan to add noodles prepare them (al dente) add to each bowl before you add the soup.

If you like, add cooked chicken near the end of cooking the soup.

**Extra! Extra!**
  • Parsnips used to scare me too. First peel it like you would a carrot, then chop the skinny end into 1/2 inch pieces. Cut the fat end lengthwise, then in half, then slice out as much of the tough center portion as you can, then chop your 1/2 inch pieces.