Archive for June 2012

Not Your Mother’s Meatloaf

June 22nd, 2012 — 7:16am
chorizo and beef meatloaf

Chorizo and Beef Meatloaf

Every once in awhile I do crave something very basic for dinner. Macaroni and cheese, lentil soup, and meatloaf often pop into my head when I am looking for some home cooking. No matter how hard I try it is pretty difficult to make an inspiring meatloaf. Sure you can play around with the meat mixture, add some hot sauce, or make it extra moist by draping it with bacon. I have tried all those variations. The meatloaf is always pretty good, but not what I would call extraordinary.

While leafing through some cookbooks from the western culinary tradition, I saw a ho-hum meatloaf recipe which had an added footnote. “For something special try mixing the ground beef with chorizo.” I filed the idea way back in my brain waiting for the time when I would have some ground beef and some chorizo at the same time. It turns out that this week the fates placed the two ingredients in my refrigerator and the “special” chorizo and beef meatloaf was born.

I wanted it to be moist without adding a bunch of fat. I finely diced some celery, onion, carrot, serrano peppers and garlic using the food processor, reducing the vegetables to a fine confetti. I also wanted to add some intensity so I added some fresh oregano and basil along with some ground cumin and curry powder. And to make sure it had a spicy topping I added some chipotle hot sauce to the usual mixture of ketchup, mustard, and honey which baked on top of the loaf for the final 30 minutes.

I can see why the cookbook author referred to this as something special. The spicy chorizo really added some zing to the meat mixture. The vegetables were spread throughout and gave the loaf an interesting texture and kept it moist. The hot sauce in the topping rounded out the spiciness of the whole meat loaf. If spicy is not your thing you could skip the serrano peppers and the hot sauce. You will still get some spice from the chorizo. But honestly, go for it! You only live once.

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Layered Lyonnaise

June 18th, 2012 — 6:49am
lyonnaise potatoes

Lyonnaise Potatoes

My sister called the other day. Her complaint; she had too much basil from the garden and no idea what to do with it. I would have suggested pesto, but it is not one of her favorites. Instead I suggested pureeing the basil like pesto and making ice cubes with it for use when fresh basil is not available. Problem solved.

Then I realized that I had my own basil problem. Not only did we plant two new basil plants, but four basil plants sprouted in the garden from seeds dropped by last year’s crop. I use basil in just about everything savory just to use the leaves up as fast as possible. And it sometimes ends up in unusual places with some very nice consequences. Last night I prepared Lyonnaise potatoes layered with basil. Usually I would opt for some thyme with Lyonnaise potatoes. But the basil was delicious and added a depth of character that placed the dish in the “over-the-top” category.

I took the extra step of using the mandolin to cut extra-thin slices of potato and onion. Normally I would slice the potatoes free-style. But honestly the layering allowed a better dispersal of all the flavors. And the two layers of basil leaves really made the dish seem more like a potato galette without the crust. Come to think if it, a bit of crust might have been a great addition!

1 comment » | Herbs, Recipes

The Blogging Wilderness

June 11th, 2012 — 9:00am
catalan pastis

Catalan Pastis

Writing a food blog can be a lonely pursuit. I can actually measure the number of visitors to my site daily, noticing the trend over time keeps going up. I can also figure out which recipes are visited most frequently. Unfortunately strangers tend not to leave comments on the site so I am never really sure how well it is received.

I was honored when a Brazilian travel magazine featured my Buenos Aires restaurant reviews along with the New York Times reviews. I guess you cannot get closer to being taken seriously than that. I also see my food pictures and recipes featured on Pinterest. But who bestows this recognition is hard to figure out.

bucatini puttanesca

Bucatini Puttanesca

My good friend David Allen who has written for the blog and posts comments fairly regularly took another step for me and nominated me for a Food Stories Award for Excellence in Storytelling. I read his blog Cocoa and Lavender weekly. Sometimes it is just fun to look at the pictures. He goes to a lot of effort to make his food look great. Something to which I am not so dedicated. So, thank you David. It is nice to know at least one person who enjoys my posts! And if you enjoy it as well please feel free to post a comment.

2 comments » | Musings

Garden Surprises

June 8th, 2012 — 9:18am
calabaza and butternut squash hybrid

Exterior Calabaza and Butternut Hybrid

We try to compost and recycle as much as we can. I am not sure we are trying to reduce our “carbon footprint” or we just hate to see anything go to waste. Over the past 10 years we have gone from throwing away two large trash bags of material per week to about one-third of a trash bag per week. Most of this is kitty litter and the very few things we cannot compost or recycle.

Once you start composting your realize that the pile of detritus is an amazing thing. It actually takes on a life of its own. When done correctly it is pleasant smelling, somewhere between earthy and the smell of yogurt. With enough citrus elements it actually smells a lot like a fruit drink. The color changes from greens and browns to a dense chocolate color. And when spread over the garden it yields some incredible plants, intended and unintended.

I am guessing that our compost never gets to a very hot temperature as many of the seeds that end up in the pile will germinate once added to the garden. We have become used to cucumbers growing among the tomatoes and squash sprouting around the basil. This year we have had two very surprising guests in the garden. The first are two tomatillo plants; surprising only because I cannot remember the last time I made tomatillo salsa. The second seems to be a plant that has hybridized from two foods we compost regularly, butternut squash and calabaza squash, a Mexican squash similar to zucchini although a bit fatter and lighter in color.

calabaza and butternut hybrid

Interior Calabaza and Butternut Hybrid

This hybrid squash has the interior texture and color of the butternut squash, with very tiny translucent seeds. The exterior is more like the calabaza, green and readily edible although a bit tougher than its true Mexican cousin. We have prepared it sauteed and baked. It is less sugary than the butternut, but much more flavorful than the calabaza. And since we did not grow either calabaza or butternut squash last year we have no idea how the two species could have crossed unless the compost elves did some of their magic.

We have saved some of the seeds in the hope that it is not a sterile plant like so many other hybrids. If not we may have found a new species of squash. Patent office here we come!

calabaza and butternut on the vine

Calabaza and Butternut Hybrid On The Vine

2 comments » | Gardening, Musings

A Turkey In Every Pot

June 1st, 2012 — 8:01am
braised turkey with white beans

Braised Turkey With White Beans

While a “chicken in every pot” is a more common sign of prosperity, in this case the more flavorful turkey brought a great deal of happiness to the dinner table recently. Turkey of the non-frozen variety is often hard to come by unless it is the holiday season. Thankfully our local Mexican market carries turkey legs throughout the year. And with such a flavorful cut I wanted to see how they could be prepared without baking them.

My fallback position is usually braising. Although the shape of the turkey leg does not easily lend itself to browning and immersion in a liquid. Undaunted I took the recipe a step further and decided to cook white beans with the turkey legs, similar to the beans and pork shank I saw served in Barcelona. What could be better than a turkey in every pot and the rest of the meal cooking with it in the same pot? I hate to clean more pots and pans than necessary.

To get the recipe to have enough flavor I brined the turkey legs first. All the browning and braising occurred in the same dutch oven. The flavor from the browning process was not lost. In addition to the usual ingredients I added onions, celery, and carrots, some bay seasoning and a large sprig of fresh sage. The whole thing was simmered in chicken broth at a very low temperature in the oven for about one and one-half hours. I finished the beans with a bit of dry white wine.

The turkey was moist and quite flavorful, absorbing all the goodness of the broth, the sage and the bay seasoning. The beans were al dente and were nicely supported by the vegetables that were tossed into the braising liquid. Braised turkey legs with white beans is one of those one pot/one dish meals that makes cooking so enjoyable.

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