Showing posts with label Quick and Easy Meals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Quick and Easy Meals. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Eat Twice - Quick and Easy, Vegetable-Chicken Congee-Style Rice Bowl

We've all been there. One hand holds the refrigerator door open as we stare into the brightly illuminated emptiness. We're hungry. We want something that doesn't take much time to prepare.

Where are all the great things to eat? What happened to the chicken and dumplings we made a few days ago? Oh, yeah, we finished that off at lunch. What about the brown sugar pork ribs that were so delicious? The crispy fried chicken? The roasted artichokes? Oh, yeah, all gone.

We could make a salad, but there's no Little Gem lettuce, no arugula, not even Italian parsley. We meant to go to the market. There just wasn't time.


But all is not lost. There's a container of steamed rice we brought home from a meal at the Chinese restaurant. There aren't any leafy greens in the vegetable bin, but there are a few things from last weekend's farmers market. A carrot, an onion, an ear of corn, a dozen English pea pods, a few mushrooms and a bunch of kale.

To make what I have in mind, we need homemade stock. A quick look in the freezer and, yes!, there's a container of chicken stock we made with the left over chicken from the Peruvian restaurant. Maybe our prospects aren't so bleak.

Eat Twice

The key to unlocking this deliciousness is repurposing or more specifically re-imagining what was served up for one meal that can be magically transformed into another.

One of my favorites is a richly flavored rice dish that uses freshly cooked rice or, in the spirit of Eat Twice, rice brought home after a meal at our favorite Vietnamese or Chinese restaurant.

The dish is a cousin of Asian congee, traditionally a soupy, pale white, savory morning bowl of boiled rice mixed with a protein. The version I want you to try is vibrant, colorful and richly layered with flavors and textures.

Use farmers market vegetables to give the dish a crisp freshness. Homemade stock braises the rice to create a comforting creaminess (without using cream).

I always use a mix of vegetables, especially shiitake mushrooms, onions, carrots, broccoli, corn kernels and English peas when they are available. For my pescatarian wife, I use homemade vegetable stock and add tofu or freshly deveined shrimp.

For me, I love a mix of cooked chicken and chopped up shumai, those wonderful pork filled dumplings served as a dim sum dish, or bbq pork sparerib meat cut off the bone and chopped into bite-sized pieces.


I also like using broccoli leaves. At the farmers market, many people peel off the leaves and leave them on the table. With the farmer's permission, I scoop them up, a treasure waiting to flavor my dishes. The stems should be cut into thin rounds. The leaves should be shredded. They are delicious.

In the summer, I use a medley of warm weather vegetables like corn and English peas. In colder weather, I rely on squash, sturdy leafy greens like kale and broccoli.


Vegetable and Chicken Congee

Convenient and versatile, left-over rice may feel dry to the touch but introduce a hot liquid and the grains plump up and return their former deliciousness.

Use any kind of rice you enjoy except wild rice.

If using freshly cooked rice, the time needed to cook the rice will be much less so add the rice to the simmering broth at the last minute so the grains do not absorb too much liquid and become soggy.

Use any vegetables you enjoy.

Homemade stock is preferable because it will be lower in sodium content and you can control the quality. And, it is less expensive than store bought canned or frozen stock. 

For a vegan version, use vegetables and vegetable broth.

For a spicy version, include 1 cup finely chopped kimchi.

Yield: 4

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 15-20 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

4 cups cooked rice

4 cups stock, preferably homemade

2 cups cooked chicken meat, deboned, roughly chopped

6 leaves kale, washed, pat dried, stems removed, cut into a small pieces or 6 large broccoli leaves, stems finely sliced into rounds, leaves shredded

1 cup broccoli stems and florets, cut into small pieces

1 cup corn kernels (when available)

1 large carrot, washed, peeled, cut into corn kernel sized pieces

1/2 cup shelled English peas, washed (when available)

1 medium yellow onions, washed, peeled, root and stem ends removed, cut into corn kernel sized pieces

6 large shiitake mushrooms, washed, pat dried, tip of the stem removed, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon sea salt, ground fine

Pinch freshly ground black pepper

Pinch cayenne powder (optional)

Directions

In a large sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium flame. Add all vegetables. Sauté until lightly brown.

Add stock and chicken. Stir and simmer 10 minutes to combine flavors.


Season with sea salt, black pepper and cayenne (optional).

Add rice. Stir well to combine all ingredients.

Simmer. The cooking time will depend on the rice. If freshly cooked, the time is probably 5 minutes. If the rice needs reconstituting, probably 10 minutes.

Be careful not to overcook because the rice will become soggy.

Serve hot with enough liquid in the bowl that the rice is "wet".

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Ugly Tomatoes Make Beautiful Meals

In the winter or spring farmers markets, you've passed them by with a disapproving look. Blemished fresh tomatoes. Discounted to a dollar or less, these unhappy looking suitors for your attention appear destined to become compost.
Occasionally you will see someone who has stopped at the bin looking through the misshapen mound and you probably think they are too poor to buy the perfectly red, perfectly shaped tomatoes grown in a hot house.

The truth is, there are treasures hidden there. Find tomatoes that are firm and only slightly blemished and you will have found diamonds in the rough. They lack summer's full-blasted brightness. but tomatoes grown during winter and spring's weaker sun grow thicker skins and develop a rich, deep umami flavor.
Oven roasted, these tomatoes find sweetness hidden deep within. The acid so prized in summer tomatoes is mellowed and sweetened in off-season farmers market tomatoes.

But treat these tomatoes with care. Brought home from the farmers market and left on the kitchen counter in the sun, they will quickly soften and turn bad. They are used to cold, so place them in the refrigerator and they will last days and even a week until you are ready to use them roasted as a side dish for braised meat, tossed with pasta, served on steamed rice or mixed into soups, stews and braises.

Roasted Winter/Spring Tomatoes

Check each tomato carefully. You want firm tomatoes. A few blemishes are ok because those can be easily removed with a sharp pairing knife. 

Heirloom tomatoes are especially flavorful.

Summer tomatoes can be roasted with a similar but different result. 

Serves 4

Time to prepare: 10 minutes

Time to cook: 30 minutes

Total time: 40 minutes

Ingredients

3 pounds tomatoes

1 medium yellow onion, washed, skins, root and stem ends removed and discarded

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 tablespoon Italian parsley, leaves only, washed, finely chopped

Directions

Preheat oven to 400F.

Prepare a baking tray with a small lip (about 1/2"). Lay a Silpat (non-stick silicone) sheet or a piece of parchment paper onto the bottom of the baking tray.
Using a sharp pairing knife, remove the stem and spot on the bottom where the blossom was attached. Remove any dark blemishes and discard.

Cut into 1" slabs. Place slabs onto the prepared baking tray.

Cut onion in half, cutting from top to bottom. Cut thin slices by cutting from top to bottom. Place in mixing bowl. Season with olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix with Italian parsley.

Spread onion-parsley mixture over tomatoes.

Place baking tray into oven.

After 15 minutes, using a spatula or flipper, turn the slabs over. Keep onion-parsley mixture on top to brown. Return to oven.

Remove after 15 minutes.

The onion-parsley mixture should have lightly browned. Carefully remove the slabs which are now very delicate from the pan. Reserve the onion-parsley mixture and all of the liquid that has accumulated in the pan. This is full of tomato-essence
flavor.

To use as a side-dish, reheat and serve in a bowl. The roasted tomatoes are delicious when added to soups, stews and braises.

If not used immediately, keep the roasted tomatoes in an air-tight container. They will keep in the refrigerator for several days or in the freezer for a month.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Quick and Easy Mac & Cheese Goes Au Naturel

I remember the "blond" stage of cooking for our sons. White bread, spaghetti with butter and that store-bought, powdered flavorless Parmesan cheese and, of course, Mac & Cheese. We kept boxes of Kraft Mac & Cheese in the pantry so we could make the boys food whenever they wanted.

Once they graduated from high school and left for college, we stopped making Mac & Cheese. A few months ago, I was cleaning out the pantry and found a box pushed way to the back. I think it expired in 2007.

Last week we were invited to a pot luck dinner party. For no reason in particular, the dish we were to bring was Mac & Cheese.
As classic American dishes have gotten make-overs in the past decade, restaurants now serve Mac & Cheese with lobster, Dungeness crab, shrimp, truffles, artisanal cheeses, blue cheese, heritage bacon, gruyere béchamel sauce and gluten free pasta.

For the dinner party I wanted to make a Mac & Cheese that was close to the comfort food we served the boys with a few "adult" touches, but not so many that the dish lost it's identity.
I prepared the Mac & Cheese two ways. One, with charred shallots and kale added for color and texture. The second, I added slow roasted Roma tomatoes and thin sliced shiitake mushrooms along with the shallots and kale.

Mac & Cheese Au Naturel

To be "comforting," Mac & Cheese needs hot fats. Cheese alone won't be smooth enough, so I added heavy cream, whole milk and sweet butter. Not very dietetic but it tastes good. Serve the Mac & Cheese with a tossed green salad and fresh fruit for dessert and the calories will balance out.

For the cheese, use whatever kind you like. I used Kerrygold white cheddar and that worked well.

Serves 4

Time to prep: 20 minutes

Time to cook: 20 minutes

Total time: 40 minutes

Ingredients

1/2 pound small macaroni pasta
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon sweet butter
1/2 pound good quality white cheddar, shredded
1 cup kale, preferably curly green or purple Lacinato, washed, pat dried, leaves removed from rib and thin sliced
2 tablespoons shallots or 1/2 small yellow onion, washed, pat dried, skin and ends removed, thin sliced
1/2 cup homemade bread crumbs
2 large Roma tomatoes, washed pat dried (optional)
1/2 cup shiitake, brown or portabella mushrooms, washed, pat dried, thin sliced (optional)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon canola oil
Sea salt and black pepper to taste.
Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)

Directions

1. If using Roma tomatoes (optional), preheat oven to 200F. Cut each tomato in half, slicing from top to bottom. Place on a baking sheet lined with a Silpat sheet or parchment paper. Place in oven. Roast eight hours. Remove. Let cool. Remove and discard skins. Refrigerate until ready to use.
2. Bring 1 gallon water with kosher salt to a boil. Add pasta. Stir well. Cook 8 minutes. When draining pasta, reserve 1 cup salted pasta water. Toss pasta and set aside.

3. Place a carbon steel pan or a sauté pan that can take high heat (not a non-stick pan) on the burner. Char the shallot or onion slices in a few drops of oil. Remove when edges are blackened being careful not to burn. Remove. Set aside. Do the same with the kale. Char but do not blacken. Remove. Set aside. If using mushrooms (optional), add a few drops of oil to the hot pan. Char but do not blacken. Remove. Set aside.

4. Melt butter in carbon steel or sauté pan. Add milk and heavy cream. Stir well. Season with sea salt and black pepper to taste.

5. Pre-heat oven to 350F.

6. Break apart cooked macaroni and add to pan. Stir well to coat. Simmer 5 minutes.

7. Add charred shallots or onions and kale. Stir well. If using slow roasted Roma tomatoes, fine chop and add to pasta along with charred mushrooms.

8. Transfer cooked pasta to large bowl. Add shredded cheese. Toss well. If more sauce is desired add 1/4 cup pasta water, remembering that it is salty so use sparingly.

9. Transfer to decorative baking dish. Top with bread crumbs. Bake 20 minutes or until cheese is gooey and bubbling. Serve hot.


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