Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fall Foods

OK, I had told my friend Kristen this post would be done like, last week and I am now just getting to it.  Sorry, Kristen!

Well, fall is officially here and while temps here in FL are still in the 90's. I know it has cooled off up north so I thought it was time to post some recipes to fit the season.  I'll start off with some soups.  To me, nothing is better on a cool day then a hot bowl of soup and some crusty bread.  Heaven.  I already posted a couple of my favorites here and I posted a couple copycat recipes here.  But have many more in my arsenal, so here they are.

These first couple are from Giada DeLaurentiis.  I love her and I have ALL her cookbooks.  These soups are both divine!

Lentil Soup with Beef

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 large celery stalks, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
6 (14-ounce) cans beef broth
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
2 cups (about 11 ounces) lentils, rinsed
1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves

Heat the oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the beef with salt and pepper. Add half of the beef and cook until brown, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beef to a bowl. Repeat with the remaining beef.

Add the celery, carrots, onion, garlic, rosemary, and oregano to the pot. Saute until the onions are translucent, about 8 minutes.

Return the beef and any accumulated juices from the bowl to the pot. Add the broth and tomatoes with their juice. Bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the meat is just tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.

Add the lentils. Cover and continue simmering until the lentils are tender, about 40 minutes. Stir in the parsley. Season the soup, to taste, with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve.

This next soup is SO easy and so versatile.  I've made it with both escarole and kale and I am sure you can substitute other hearty greens.

Escarole and Bean Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 pound escarole, chopped
4 cups low-salt chicken broth
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 (1-ounce) piece Parmesan
Freshly ground black pepper
6 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add the escarole and saute until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add a pinch of salt. Add the chicken broth, beans, and Parmesan cheese. Cover and simmer until the beans are heated through, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Ladle the soup into 6 bowls. Drizzle 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil over each. Serve with crusty bread.

I make my own bread from a recipe that makes a good sized batch that can stay in your fridge for up to 2 weeks.  You just take off a chunk whenever you want to bake bread and it also makes awesome pizza dough.  I only have it in a PDF format so if you would like it, email me at 4ladyhusky at cfl dot rr dot com.

This next soup I got from my mom who I believe got it from her next door neighbor.  I am not sure where it originated but it is VERY good.

Butternut Squash Potato Soup

1 butternut squash, peeled and diced
5 potatoes, diced (I use Yukon Gold)
5 green onions, diced (I've also used about half a small sweet onion as well)
1 clove of garlic, minced
Olive oil
2 cans chicken broth (more or less may be needed, depending)
Salt and pepper

In a stock pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Saute the onion and garlic until the onion is soft.  Add the squash and potatoes and stir well.  Add enough broth to cover the vegetables about halfway, maybe a little more.  Simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes.  Stir occasionally and mash the vegetables slightly.  Add more broth as needed.  Once the vegetables are very soft, puree until smooth using a hand blender or a regular blender, adding more broth as needed.  Heat through and serve.

Now I'll continue both the butternut squash and the Giada theme.  Both of these recipes are very good.  I have brought both of them to Thanksgiving gatherings over the years and they are always a hit.

Butternut Squash Lasagna

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 (1 1/2 to 2-pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup water
3 amaretti cookies, crumbled (I leave these out)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups whole milk (I use whatever I have, usually 1%)
Pinch nutmeg
3/4 cup (lightly packed) fresh basil leaves
12 no-boil lasagna noodles (I use Barilla)
2 1/2 cups shredded whole-milk mozzarella cheese (I use part skim)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan

Heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the squash and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour the water into the skillet and then cover and simmer over medium heat until the squash is tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly and then transfer the squash to a food processor. Add the amaretti cookies and blend until smooth. Season the squash puree, to taste, with more salt and pepper.

Melt the butter in a heavy medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, whisking often, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the nutmeg. Cool slightly. Transfer half of the sauce to a blender*. Add the basil and blend until smooth. Return the basil sauce to the sauce in the pan and stir to blend. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, to taste.

Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.

Lightly butter a 13 by 9 by 2-inch glass baking dish. Spread 3/4 cup of the sauce over the prepared baking dish. Arrange 3 lasagna noodles on the bottom of the pan. Spread 1/3 of the squash puree over the noodles. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese. Drizzle 1/2 cup of sauce over the noodles. Repeat layering 3 more times.

Tightly cover the baking dish with foil and bake the lasagna for 40 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses over the lasagna. Continue baking uncovered until the sauce bubbles and the top is golden, 15 minutes longer. Let the lasagna stand for 15 minutes before serving.

*When blending hot liquids: Remove liquid from the heat and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes. Transfer liquid to a blender or food processor and fill it no more than halfway. If using a blender, release one corner of the lid. This prevents the vacuum effect that creates heat explosions. Place a towel over the top of the machine, pulse a few times then process on high speed until smooth.

Baked Squash Gratin

1 (3-pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 cup purchased basil pesto
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, plus more for greasing

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Lightly butter an 8-inch baking dish and set aside. Fill a large pot with enough water to come 2 inches up the sides of the pot. Set a steamer rack in the pot, cover, and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add the squash and steam over medium heat until the squash is very tender, about 20 minutes. Transfer the squash to a food processor and blend until smooth and creamy. Season the squash to taste with salt and pepper.

Spoon half of the squash evenly over the prepared baking dish. Dollop half of the pesto all over the squash in the dish. Sprinkle half of the cheese over the squash. Repeat layering with the remaining squash, pesto, and cheese. Using a skewer, swirl the pesto decoratively into the squash. Dot the top with butter and bake until the gratin is heated through and golden brown around the edges, about 40 minutes.

I hope you try out the great fall recipes.  They have all become favorites in my family.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Super Sides

You can't have a main dish without a side dish or two. Everyone does the old mashed or baked potatoes or rice and some kind of blah veggie. I have tried to make things more interesting mainly because I am worried that my kids are going to start getting picky. As it turns out, they are more picky about their meat dishes than the are about veggies and other sides. So, here are a few of our favorite side dishes.

This first one is great for grill season but you could make it just as easily indoors but skipping the grilling and just boiling the potatoes.

French Style Grilled Potato Salad

2 1/2 pounds small new potatoes (red and yellow), scrubbed
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
8 cornichon, finely diced
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh chervil, for garnish

Cover potatoes with water in a medium saucepan. Add 2 tablespoons salt. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer until tender, about 8 minutes. Drain potatoes and let cool and slice in half.

Heat the grill to medium.

In a large bowl toss the potatoes with 1/4 cup of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the potatoes on the grill, cut-side down and grill until lightly golden brown, about 4 minutes. Turn the potatoes over and continue grilling until just cooked through, about 4 minutes longer.

While the potatoes are grilling, whisk together the vinegar, mustards, and 1/4 cup oil in a large bowl, add the red onion, cornichon and capers and stir to combine.

Remove the potatoes from the grill and immediately add to the bowl with the other ingredients and gently stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Let sit at room temperature at least 15 minutes before serving. Garnish with chopped chervil.

My notes: I have found it's easier to cut the potatoes BEFORE you boil them rather than after. Cornichon can be found in the bulk food section of most Whole Foods and other specialty stores but I've used baby dills in their place and I have also left them out altogether. I also leave out the chervil.

This next side dish is one that I make to with chicken kabobs marinated in the barbecue sauce I blogged about here. It has become very popular in our house.

Couscous Salad with Chickpeas

1 cup uncooked whole-wheat couscous
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup boiling water
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
Dash of sugar
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1 large ripe tomato, chopped
3/4 cup (3 ounces) crumbled feta cheese

Place couscous, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and cinnamon in a bowl. Stir in boiling water; cover and let stand 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Combine oil, juice, garlic, and sugar.

Add oil mixture, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, mint, and next 4 ingredients (through tomato). Sprinkle with cheese.

My notes: I usually add a tad bit more oil and lemon juice to keep it from drying out. I've also used finely chopped onion in place of green onions.

This next side dish is one I absolutely LOVE. I LOVE roasting veggies. They taste so much better that way. This can easily be done with broccoli too!

Oven Roasted Cauliflower with Garlic, Olive Oil and Lemon Juice

5 to 6 cups cauliflower florets, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter (from 1 medium cauliflower)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sliced garlic
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
Chopped chives, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.

Place the cauliflower florets in a large saute pan or a roasting pan. Drizzle the olive oil over the cauliflower, and season with the garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Place the saute/roasting pan in the oven and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure even roasting. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the Parmesan. Garnish with chopped chives and serve immediately while still warm.

My notes: I usually leave the garlic out and double up on the Parmesan. I also put it back in the oven with the cheese on it for about 5 more minutes.

Well, that wraps up my super sides. I hope you try some or all of these and like them as much as we do!