Sunday, November 28, 2010

Steak and Salad to the Rescue

Cold air smacked us in the face late last Wednesday night as we headed out of the airport. Bro and sis-in-law, John and Lois Kozikowski, whipped up traditional turkey feast which made our holiday enjoyable and pressure free after the long flight and late arrival the evening before.

We were back from vacation, but we just didn't want to dive back into New England winter fare. We wanted to hold on to beautiful Puerto Rico. One way to do that was to recreate this mango poppyseed dressing at home. It took a couple of tries, but my third version tickled our taste buds. Accompanied by lean grilled London broil, it made for a meal that remembered the sunny days and sandy beaches of La Isla Bonita.

MANGO POPPYSEED DRESSING
1/2 cup mango puree
1/8 cup superfine sugar
Dash of salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon lime juice
3/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon poppy seeds

Combine mango, sugar, salt, dry mustard, garlic powder, cider vinegar and lime juice in blender or processor. Drizzle in oil, pulsing in until the mixture thickens. Pour into a salad carafe or other container. Add poppy seeds and shake or stir to blend. Store in refrigerator, shake before serving over mixed greens and grape or cherry tomatoes, garnished with grated raw carrot or toasted sunflower seeds.

MARINATED LONDON BROIL STEAK
3 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoon soy sauce
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cumin seed
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 pound London broil steak (about an inch thick)

Add marinade ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk until well blended. Place the meat in a gallon-size, zip top plastic bag. Whisk the marinade once more and pour it over the meat. Seal the bag and turn the bag several times to cover the meat with marinade. Refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours, turning the bag at least once. Remove the meat from the marinade. Discard the marinade. Grill or broil the meat (covering the grill if using the grill), to the desired doneness, about 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Do not overcook. Remove from the grill and let stand 5 minutes. To serve, thinly slice the meat across the grain. Serves 4 to 6 people.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Bake All Our Blues Away

Friends will attest to my tendency to bake after losing elections. Years ago, a good pal lost a shot at becoming state senator. I kneaded my way through the loss producing 27 loaves of poppy seed challah. The way I've been baking the last few days, you'd think we lost everything last Tuesday.

I texted that thought to an ally this morning and she immediately wrote back, "Well, we did lose a lot." Democrats, and it's no secret that I'm a Democrat, experienced sea change. Some of us saw it coming, helpless against that tide, stayed home to save ourselves. For us in Massachusetts, we had to work hard, harder than we have in a long time, to hold our fort. And we did ... but the reverb from the national landscape affected me more than I thought. Not that I'm whining. The thing about elections is there's always another one.

The good news? I've come up with a fabulous new quiche filling and savory butter crust recipe.

HERB HAM QUICHE
1 9 inch savory pie crust (recipe below)
1/2 cup shredded Virginia ham
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon butter
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup whole milk
Dash salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped mixed fresh herbs (I used parsley and thyme, but any combo including dill, rosemary, oregano or chives tastes great).

Roll chilled dough to fit an 8 inch fluted pan. Trim any excess dough. Freeze pan with dough for one hour, then place on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated 400 degree F oven for 10-12 minutes. Set the pan on a wire rack to cool completely.

Lower oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl whisk remaining ingredients until well blended. Pour into cooled crust, return pan to the baking sheet and bake. Rotate quiche about halfway through the 25 minute cook time for even baking. the quiche is done when a toothpick inserted into the middle of the filling comes out clean. Remove from oven when done, set on a wire rack to cool 5 minutes before slicing to serve. Add a side salad for lunch or fruit cup for a yummy breakfast or brunch. Feeds six.

SAVORY BUTTER CRUST
1 cup all-purpose flour
Dash salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
2-3 tablespoons very cold tap water

Using a food processor, pulse together flour, butter salt and pepper until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Gradually add water until dough comes together into a ball. Place dough ball on a lightly floured surface and form into a flattened disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for up to 2 days in the refrigerator, up to 3 weeks in the freezer. (Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before use.) Follow instructions above for quiche.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Getting Back to Basics

It was a big accomplishment to buck national trends and reelect our Democrats in Massachusetts. Can't help myself, friends, I'm a partisan cook when it comes to stirring up a political stew. It's been a busy week.

Now, the only thing I want is to put my feet up, watch a couple of movies from the local library's DVD collection and relax. Sent JP to choose the flicks while I cooked up an old recipe of a childhood favorite. Sloppy Joes are simple really, and pretty basic. Hearty enough to settle down hungry tummies without much fuss and yummy, too. We're ready for a lazy evening and a weekend of doing nothing much at all!

SORTA SLOPPY JOES
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground meat (lean beef, turkey or veal work well)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon seasoning rub (try McCormick's Montreal or Penzey's 4S)
1 medium onion, grated
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
2 cups tomato sauce
1 six ounce can tomato paste
4 split top sub rolls
4 teaspoon grated white cheddar

Heat oil in a large frying skillet over medium high heat, add meat to the pan. Break the meat into crumbles as you cook it, stirring constantly. Combine brown sugar and seasoning. Add sugar and spice mixture to the skillet and mix well into crumbled meat. Continue cooking until meat has browned; add onion and red peppers to the pan. Stir in vinegar, hot pepper sauce: reduce heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes. Add tomato sauce and paste to pan. Stir to combine well. Reduce heat to simmer and cook 10 minutes longer. Spoon mixture into split sub rolls, sprinkle on a little grated cheese and enjoy. Feeds four.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Soups On from the Founders of Democracy!

Starting at 7 a.m., our Democratic coordinated campaign poll checkers were on the job. That meant by 8 a.m., I was on the road to deliver treats. Volunteers were happily sipping gingerbread latte and Bob's Bakery crullers and paczki (a Chicopee E-day tradition) while homemade Greek lemon chicken soup simmered away on my stove top at home.

Back at the phone bank, Democratic congressional campaign staffer Jeremiah brought in chicken and tomato pizza. Congressman Richie Neal is a big supporter of Farm to School programs. Scroll down this page link to see his picture celebrating local foods in schools. He knows first hand that fresh fruits and veggies are better for school children and that healthier GOTV eats make for happy energetic volunteers!

GREEK LEMON CHICKEN SOUP
8 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 ounce shot limoncello 
1/2 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup minced celery
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 cup cooked orzo
1 cup diced, cooked chicken meat
Lemon zest
2 eggs
salt to taste

In a large pot, combine the chicken broth, lemon juice, carrots, celery and pepper. Bring to a boil on high, then simmer for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat the eggs until light in color. Gradually add some of the hot soup to the beaten eggs, use a whisk to stir constantly. Stir the egg mixture to the soup pot with a big wooden spoon. It will look a little like eggdrop soup.

Add the limoncello, orzo and chicken. Heat through to a low boil, remove from heat. (The heat of the boiling soup removes the liquor but not the taste boost.) Ladle hot soup into bowls and garnish with lemon zest.