Sunday, October 31, 2010

Didi's Potatoes

This is one of those great recipes that reminds me that simple is often best. When I first tried these, at a family reunion a few years ago, I figured there was a complicated spice mixture involved or some secret step. I even got the recipe from my aunt, but never made them (it was too easy, it seemed like she must have left something out). Then family reunion time rolled around again and I stood at my aunt's shoulder and watched her make them. It's really as easy as it sounds. We had them for dinner recently alongside a very simple grilled chicken breast and green beans, but I had to use the photo from the family reunion - luckily I cut in line to snap a shot before the potatoes were all gone.

Didi's Potatoes
serves 4 (as a side)

2 pounds medium-sized red potatoes, skins on
4 T butter or olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 t turmeric
2 t cumin
cayenne to taste
generous salt to taste
  • Boil the potatoes whole in plenty of water (time varies depending on the size) until a knife slides in the potato easily.
  • Cut them in half and then slice into half circles. You can peel them if you want, but my aunt doesn't do that, so I don't either.
  • In the bottom of the pot used for the potatoes, saute the garlic in the butter until it is just starting to brown.
  • Sprinkle on the spices and toast for a minute.
  • Remove from the heat and toss in the potatoes and salt, stir well, and you're done.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Portuguese Kale and Linguica Soup

Here's another favorite soup from my cooking-at-the-Still-Life days. With the sausage, potatoes, kale, and tomatoes it works great as a dinner. I'm not good at serving sides with soup (unless a grilled cheese sandwich or buttered toast count, but I think they don't) so I love it when my green veggies for the meal are already in there. Linguica is a spicy, smoky Portuguese sausage that gives this soup so much flavor. If you can't find linguica, substitute kielbasa or even spicy Italian sausage. As I'm writing this the wind is knocking over garbage cans and the rain is sneaking its way down my chimney into my basement - a perfect night for something warming and stress-free.

Portuguese Kale and Linguica Soup
serves 6 to 8, we freeze the leftovers

1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 T tomato paste
1 cup red wine
2 14 oz cans diced tomatoes
1 pound Linguica (or other sausage*), cut into thin coins
1 bunch kale (after washing and chopping it's about 4 cups)
6 medium red potatoes, cut bite-sized
8 to 10 cups stock
1 t paprika (hot and smoked if you can find it)
1 T thyme
1 T mustard powder (substitute dijon mustard if you have to)
2 bay leaves
pinch of red pepper flakes
pinch of cinnamon

  • This starts the way almost everything I make starts - saute the onion in a couple tablespoons of olive oil until it just starts to brown, then add the garlic and saute until it just starts to brown.
  • Add the paprika and tomato paste and cook them until they're stuck to the bottom of the pan and just starting to brown. Then dump in the wine so nothing burns.
  • Reduce the wine for about 5 minutes, just to cook off the alcohol. Then add everything except the kale (hold back a little on the stock so you can decide how thick you want it). 
  • Simmer for at least 45 minutes. You can eat it as soon as the potatoes are done, but I like to give the sausage more time to flavor everything. 
  • About 10 minutes before serving, add the kale.
*Linguica and kielbasa are already cooked. If you're substituting a fresh sausage like hot Italian, cook it before cutting into coins.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Barley, Wild Rice, and Currant Pilaf

Lately I've been working on a new sort-of-blog called Remember These Recipes. It's a place to post images of old family recipe cards that I've found. Because it's not just the dishes themselves that I love, it's the handwriting of my relatives (many who aren't here anymore), the drips on the sides, the little notes people scribbled on the back. Looking through these images I have, of course, been craving some family dinners. This pilaf recipe is one that my grandma made at many many Christmas dinners. I don't have an old card with her handwriting for this. Instead I had to interpret my own bad handwriting and terrible shortcutted directions that I jotted down at her kitchen counter. We ate it with garlic pork chops to try to get close to the garlic pork loin she usually served with it (there's a recipe I'd love to have). I took a bite and immediately remembered sitting on her long couch in the condo with a plate balanced on my lap, a puzzle in progress on the coffee table, Grandpa watching the game from the LayZboy, and family all around. Also, it's delicious.

Barley, Wild Rice, and Currant Pilaf
serves 2 as a generous side

2 T butter
1/2 an onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/ 2 cup wild rice
1/2 cup barley
1/2 cup diced celery and carrots
1/3 cup currants (or raisins in a pinch)
1 bay leaf
1 t dried sage, or 2 fresh leaves, minced
1 t thyme
2 cups stock (chicken or vegetable)
salt and pepper to taste
  • In a small saucepan, saute the onion in the butter until it is starting to turn translucent. Add the garlic and saute about 2 minutes more. If you ever feel like the butter is starting to get too brown, dash in a little olive oil.
  • Add the wild rice and saute until the onions and garlic are light brown - about five minutes more.
  • Add the barley, currants, herbs, pepper to taste, and stock. 
  • Bring it to a low simmer with the lid. Stir occasionally to check if it's sticking. If it seems to be drying out too quickly, add about 1/2 cup more water.
  • Check the tenderness of the barley and rice, and the liquid level after 45 minutes. If there is too much liquid near the end, simmer for the last 10 minutes more with the lid off, stirring a little more frequently.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Dinner Sandwich with Kale, Gouda, and Roasted Sweet Potato

Whenever John is away on a night that I work late I end up eating a white sandwich (toasted sourdough bread, mayonnaise, sharp cheddar cheese, that's it) for dinner. Not only do I love a cheese sandwich, but I also don't really cook for myself. Cook is something I do for other people. But he's going to be away more on these late evenings, so I came up with the Dinner Sandwich. It's a variation on something I made when I cooked for The Essential Baking Company. If you don't have a panini press (because, really, why do I have a panini press), just make this in a frying pan with butter on the outside of the bread - like an old-fashioned grilled cheese.

The Dinner Sandwich
serves 4, but I used the leftovers for other meals

1 red garnet yam (which is really a sweet potato)
1 bunch of kale (or spinach or chard)
1 head of garlic
4 slices Gouda
2 slices of good, hearty bread
olive oil, salt, and pepper
sliced turkey - very optional
  • Peel the sweet potato and slice into thin coins. This will make more than you need, but it's great as a snack, on another sandwich tomorrow, or cut up and sprinkled on a salad.
  • Toss the sweet potato slices in olive oil and salt and pepper and lay them out on a cookie sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes at 400 degrees.
  • Cut the top off of the garlic head and set on top of a square of foil. Drizzle with olive oil and close up the foil so the garlic is sealed in a little bag. Put this in the oven under the sweet potatoes and bake for 30 to 45 minutes. The cloves will be browned and soft. You can just squeeze them out of the papery skin and use as a spread.
  • Drizzle a tablespoon or two of olive oil into a frying pan on medium high heat. Rinse the kale and shake off the water (but don't worry about getting it dry). Tear pieces of the leaves off the woody stem and drop them right into the pan.
  • Stir the torn kale getting it all coated in the oil for about 5 minutes. Put the lid on and let it wilt for about five minutes more (you can skip this if you're using spinach or chard). You're going for cooked, but not mush.
  • You can either refrigerate everything now and use it cold later, or go right on to assembling the sandwich.
  • The main trick to great paninis (or grilled cheese) is to be sure that the cheese is the thing touching both sides of the bread. So for this sandwich I built it in this order: bread, cheese, roasted garlic squished around, sweet potato slices, kale, turkey, a little more garlic, cheese, bread again. 
  • Get it all toasty and melty and you're done. You don't even need a side dish!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Gnocchi in Browned Butter Sage Sauce

I have a sage plant that just won't quit. I bought it looking like nothing more than a sprig stuck in some dirt at least 5 years ago. I've transplanted it and mostly ignored it except to chop it down to the ground once a year, but it still comes back. It begs me to make this dish all summer as it's looking lush and full, but this is a comfort food that has to wait for fall. I've tried drying the leaves for use all year-round, but they're too tender (or I'm doing it wrong). I use dried sage from the grocery store when I need this dinner when the plant is dormant and it's still very good, but not quite as great. I first had it when the Still Life in Fremont was in it's transformation stage (not the old, funky Still Life anymore, but not The 35th Street Bistro yet either). They served it with roasted chicken. We usually just pound and pan sear chicken breasts and then slide them into the simmering sauce when the gnocchi goes in the water.

Gnocchi in Browned Butter Sage Sauce
Serves 2

4 T butter
4 cloves garlic, sliced
pinch of red pepper flakes
3 to 6 fresh sage leaves (depending on how sage-y you like it)
1 cup white wine
16 ounce package of gnocchi
  • Put your pot of water on to boil. This comes together quickly.
  • Have your garlic sliced and ready. In a frying pan big enough to hold the gnocchi and sauce at the end, melt the butter over medium low heat. Let it foam and bubble away until it is light brown - usually about 5 minutes. If you're worried it's gotten too dark (and might burn in the next step), dash in a little olive oil. This will stop the butter from browning further.
  • Add the garlic, thinly shredded sage leaves, and red pepper flakes. Saute until the garlic is light brown and the butter is slightly darker.
  • Add the wine and let simmer until reduced by not quite half, about 5 minutes more. Sometimes I don't feel like buying a bottle of white wine just for this dish, so I substitute diluted chicken stock and the juice of a lemon to equal 1 cup.
  • If your gnocchi isn't done cooking, turn off the heat and wait for it.
  • Add the cooked gnocchi to the pan and stir it for about a minute. The gnocchi itself will thicken the sauce.
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