Orzo Asparagus Salad

Spargelsaison is fun, but it can be a little one-note if you don’t have a variety of preparations for the stuff. If you’re lucky enough to have grilling weather while the asparagus is as its peak, this is a fantastic way to serve it alongside burgers or sausages. I found the original here and have posted my version below.

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
250 g orzo pasta
at least 500 g green asparagus, cut into bite-sized pieces
about 300 g artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
1-1/2 cups sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, julienned
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/3 cup olive oil

In a small skillet, heat olive oil to medium. Add shallot and garlic and cook until tender and fragrant. Set aside.

Cook orzo in salted water for 1 minute less than package directs. Add asparagus to orzo for last 2 minutes of cook time but no more! You want the asparagus to be bright green and still a little crispy when you drain the pasta. After draining the orzo and asparagus, run cold water over it immediately, agitating it frequently to make sure there are no pockets of heat. After draining and cooling, pour orzo and asparagus into a large salad bowl. Add artichokes and tomatoes to orzo bowl.

Remove shallot & garlic to a small deep bowl. Add lemon zest and juice, vinegar, salt and pepper to bowl. While whisking, drizzle in olive oil. Pour dressing over salad, stir thoroughly, cover and refrigerate for at least two hours. Stir again before serving.

Dijon Braised Brussels Sprouts

I think our oven is on its last legs. Things just aren’t baking or roasting right. This is especially unfortunate, as we’re moving into prime roasty/bakey season. So, our go-to plan for brussels sprouts (olive oil, salt, pepper, roast) is no longer a no-brainer. But steaming is a little…blah.

Enter braising. I’ve never really done this (to my knowledge), so I appreciated the clear instructions in this recipe from Smitten Kitchen. I made a couple of small alterations, and that’s what I’m posting here.

1 T unsalted butter
1 T olive oil
1 lb/500 g brussels sprouts, trimmed
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 to 3 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup broth (chicken or vegetable)
2 T heavy cream
1 T smooth dijon mustard (or more to taste)
2 T chopped flat-leaf parsley (optional)

Heat oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. When it shimmers, add butter and when butter melts, add sprouts and arrange in a single layer, cut-side down (if they don’t all fit, brown in batches, then add all for next steps). Sprinkle with salt and pepper and allow them to cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add shallots and garlic, stir and cook until they soften slightly. Add wine and broth and bring to a simmer, lower heat to medium-low, then cover and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until sprouts are easily pierced with a knife.

When sprouts are cooked, remove them from the skillet with a slotted spoon, leaving the liquid behind. Add cream and simmer for 3 minutes, then whisk in mustard. Adjust seasoning as necessary, add sprouts back to skillet to heat through and coat with sauce.

Herbed Poultry Dressing

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve been trying to get standard Thanksgiving dressing (or stuffing, if it’s in the bird) right for a long time. Unfortunately, it’s sort of a hard thing to test out in a two-person household. We had friends visiting a few weeks ago and did a fake Thanksgiving with them. Continue reading Herbed Poultry Dressing

Esquites – Mexican Corn Salad

I’m kind of agnostic on fresh corn. It’s good and I’ll eat and like it if someone serves it to me, but I’m rarely moved to do anything with it myself. Plus, I get sick of flossing after a cob. So when I found this recipe on the food blog Serious Eats, I wasn’t hugely hopeful. I just thought it might make a good side with grilled meats. Then I made a test batch and we murdered the bowl.

When you make this, you might be tempted to up the spicy elements. Try to resist the first time – you don’t want the spiciness to overshadow the fresh and sweet flavors at play. And be very sparing with the salt – you get a nice punch from the cheese.

2 T vegetable oil
4 ears fresh corn, shucked, kernels removed (about 3 cups fresh corn kernels)
pinch salt
2 T mayonnaise
2 oz (50 g) feta or cotija cheese, crumbled
1/2 c finely sliced green onions
1/2 c fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and stemmed, finely chopped
1 medium clove garlic, pressed
juice of 1 fresh lime
pinch chili powder

In a non-stick skillet, heat oil over high heat until shimmering. Add corn kernels (careful – they’ll probably pop and splatter) and stir until well distributed, then allow to cook undisturbed for a couple of minutes. When you stir, the bottoms of the kernels should appear browned and caramelized. Add salt and cook another 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally and browning corn on all sides without burning. Remove corn from heat and allow to cool completely.

After cooling, add remaining ingredients, stir well and enjoy!

Kire ka Raita

It’s kinda redonkulous how easy this recipe is. We first made it at our cooking course a few months ago.

500 g yogurt
half a cucumber
salt
pepper
ground cumin

Grate the cucumber. Drain out most/all the liquid. Mix in with the other ingredients. Serve cold.

See what I mean? That’s it. Dead easy. Here are my ingredient modifications:

250 g Greek-style yogurt
a big cucumber
salt
pepper
ground cumin
pinch (freshly) ground cardamom
pinch of some kind of ground hot red pepper (cayenne, paprika, whatever)

I like it heavier on the cuke flavor and with a bit more zing to it, so I go big on the cumin and the pepper. Be careful with that cardamom — it can take over very easily (and if that’s what you want, rock on). I shredded the cuke with our KitchenAid and then let the shreds drain in a colander for twenty or thirty minutes, squeezing them occasionally.

We usually count on the raita at indian restaurants to cool off a mouth on fire, when we can convince the waiter that we’re not German and can handle a proper vindaloo — which is not every time.

Blasted Broccoli with Polenta and Smoked Paprika Dressing

So, there hasn’t been a whole lot of action on the ol’ Regensblog of late. Daily life has been consuming, yet not interesting enough to blog about. Speaking of consuming though, we’re on a new recipe hot-streak. In the interest of not losing track of these, I’m going to start posting them. Because while you all are welcome to the recipe database, it’s basically there for me to keep track of things.

This one is ridiculously easy and fast. I am a very slow cook and I managed to prepare both the dressing and polenta fully while the broccoli was roasting. Plus, it can go fully vegetarian if you use vegetable broth and vegan if you cut out the butter and cheese. You don’t have to make the dressing, but the tang of the vinegar and deep smokiness of the paprika really adds something special! The inspiration came from this recipe. If you’re eating the broccoli alone or as a side, use the almonds (regular blanched almonds are fine).

1 pound fresh broccoli florets
2 T olive oil
pinch salt
1/4 c olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t sweet smoked paprika
2 T sherry vinegar
pinch salt
4 c chicken broth
1 T butter
1 1/2 c polenta
1/2 t ground pepper
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425° F/218° C. Toss the broccoli with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt. Spread broccoli florets on a baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes.

While the broccoli is going, make the dressing. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil over low heat until well warmed, then add garlic and paprika (garlic should not sizzle), stir well, remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes. With vinegar and salt in a small bowl, add infused oil through a fine sieve to remove solids and whisk lightly.

For the polenta, bring the broth and butter to a gentle simmer over medium low heat. Whisk in the polenta, stirring constantly and turn heat to low. Add pepper and cheese, stir well for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to stand for three minutes. Serve a couple of scoops of polenta topped with broccoli and a drizzle of dressing.

Wild Rice & Broccoli Salad

We finally got a grill! And we know how to use it and how to make most of the meaty deliciousness we plan on cooking with it.

So…um, now what? We need accompaniments to the meat explosion. Nice, vegetabley salads are the next hurdle. We generally don’t do salads that need to chill, due to lack of fridge space, but they go so well with grill fare that we might need to clear out some room. This recipe (original is here – measurements are my own) was the side to our inaugural grill usage and we ate it – and enjoyed it – the same day. However, Cliff took the leftover for lunch the following day and said it tasted quite a bit better after the flavors had time to mingle. If you can plan ahead, make it the day before you plan on eating it.

And feel free to tinker with the measurements. I certainly did.

1/2 lb (250 g) wild rice, dry
raw broccoli, 1 lb (500 g) head, cut into florets
3 oz (80 g) goat cheese, crumbled or diced
zest and juice of 1 large lemon
1-2 t honey
1 clove garlic, pressed
fresh rosemary

Cook rice, according to package directions, and allow to cool completely. Mix cooled rice, broccoli florets and goat cheese in a large bowl. Whisk together lemon zest, juice, honey, garlic and rosemary and toss with rice mixture. Chill (at least 4 hours, preferably overnight) and serve.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

I was wondering what vegetarians bring to Thanksgiving dinner potlucks. My favorite vegetarian over at zurika.com said “roasted sprouts.” I was intrigued — at first I was thinking alfalfa or mung bean sprouts or something. When she clarified that she meant Brussels, I was inspired, having previously only had them steamed. Maybe that’s because I’ve only been eating them since I turned 32 or so … perhaps I was bound to discover the roasted method sooner or later.

I googled around and found the Barefoot Contessa’s version. Some other versions I found called for chiffonading or discarding (!) the outer layer of leafy sprouty goodness.

In the end, I opted for B.C.’s ingredients, but with an 8″ square glass baking dish to prevent any escapees from rolling off her recommended sheet pan during the shaking episodes.

1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts
3 tablespoons good olive oil
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C).

Cut off the sproutbutts and pull off any yellow outer leaves. Cut each sprout in half; we’re going for maximum surface area here. Don’t discard any nice green leaves which loosen up and fall off in the process — you will thank me later. Mix them in a bowl with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Pour them into a glass baking dish and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. Shaking the pan from time to time to brown the sprouts evenly was too risky for me, so I stirred them a few times over the course of the roast time. The loose leaves brown up and look a little weird, but they have a lovely crispiness to them. (You’re welcome!)

They were mighty tasty, hot and fresh out of the oven, but I thought they needed just a little something extra. I threw a little Herbes de Provence in garlic butter leftover from a previous variation on a garlic bread theme on there. Then they were perfect.

Sautéed Green Beans

My mom made this years ago from a magazine recipe – Good Housekeeping or Southern Living, probably. I decided I wanted to make it for Thanksgiving this year, but she didn’t have the recipe anymore. I remembered the ingredients and the cooking method, so I just started making up the proportions. I think it turned out rather well.

1 lb fresh green beans
1 tsp salt
1 red bell pepper, sliced into strips
1 large shallot, sliced thin
2-3 T butter
1/2 tsp lemon pepper

1. Trim the ends off of the beans and give them a good rinse. Add the beans and salt to a large stock pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer briefly – 2 minutes for very crisp beans, 5 for well-cooked. Drain beans and set aside.

2. Bring a large skillet to medium high heat. Melt butter in pan and add bell pepper and shallots. Cook until pepper softens and shallot is transparent, then add beans and the rest of the butter. Turn heat down to medium low and stir beans frequently, until heated through. Add lemon pepper and serve.

Spinach and Feta sidedish

I finally did it! Everyone that’s come to visit us has eaten with us at Exil, our favorite restaurant. They serve a fabulous spinach as a side or as a filling for little turkey rolls. I think I’ve finally come close enough to recreating it to post it here. If you don’t like feta, you might be able to substitute yogurt cheese.

1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
3 T olive oil
2 pounds fresh spinach, rinsed and chopped
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground mace
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 c crumbled feta cheese

In a deep skillet over medium-low heat, sauté the onions and garlic in olive oil for about 7-9 minutes (or until tender). Don’t burn the garlic! If it starts to brown, turn down the heat.

Next, add the spinach by handfuls. There will be a lot of spinach, but if you only add 2-3 handfuls at a time and cook it with a lid on for 1-2 minutes, it will wilt significantly.

After you’ve added all the spinach and it has all wilted, add the salt, pepper, mace and pepper flakes and stir thoroughly. The spinach will start to give off a fair amount of liquid. Turn the heat up to medium-high to cook away the liquid. When you’ve cooked off as much liquid as you choose, stir in the feta and turn off the heat.

Serves 4