27 September 2009

Braised Lamb Shanks and Polenta

I've been on a bit of a lamb kick as of late (I still have a lamb chop recipe to blog). Since Ian has never had lamb shanks before, when I found a good deal I jumped at the chance. I consulted the backlog of recipes I've had sitting in my online recipe file but I couldn't find anything that would really showcase the flavors I was craving. I also don't have a roasting pan with a lid, so I had to account for the foil I had to use instead.

I was going to add cannellini beans but at the last minute I decided to serve it with polenta. This was stick-to-your-ribs good.

Oven Braised Lamb Shanks

4 lamb shanks
1 small onion, sliced
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup red wine
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 can diced tomatoes with juice
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbsp. oregano (preferably fresh)
2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
1 lemon, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Layer onions in roasting pan, placing crushed garlic cloves on top. Pour wine and vinegar over onions and garlic.
2. Add tomatoes on top of onions and garlic and sprinkle with basil and oregano.
3. Arrange lamb shanks on top, and drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper. Place a lemon slice on each shank. Cover loosely with foil.
4. Place shanks into a preheated oven at 375 degrees. Cook for 2 hours, or until meat is falling off the bone.

(from Anne Burrell's recipe on foodnetwork.com)

1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups water
1 bay leaf
1 cup long cooking polenta
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese

1. In a medium size saucepan, bring the milk, water and bay leaf to a boil. Season generously with salt, almost to the point of over seasoning. How do you know that you are there? TASTE IT! When it has reached a boil, slowly whisk in the polenta in small sprinkles. Once all of the polenta has been incorporated, reduce heat to medium and immediately switch over to stirring with a wooden spoon. Cook the polenta for 30 to 40 minutes, adding water if the polenta becomes too thick to loosen it up.

2. When the polenta is thoroughly cooked, it should look creamy and not feel gritty on your tongue. Remove it from the heat and stir in the Parmigiano and mascarpone. Serve it immediately, or place a sheet of plastic wrap right on the surface of the polenta to prevent a skin from forming on the top.

26 September 2009

Lamb Meatball Soup with Lentils

Despite the fact that it's the end of September, summer has decided to stick around. The temperature has been in the 80s and 90s, but the mere utterance of the word 'fall' makes me incredibly happy. When the leaves start to turn orange, only one thing can be eaten in my household: soup. Ian hadn't been feeling particularly well, so this was the perfect time to trot out a new comfort recipe that I'm happy to say will be a staple once the colder months set in.

I've been wanting to make this recipe from Foodmayhem for quite awhile, but I haven't had any ground turkey on hand, and I had to use the ground lamb up before I could even think about buying more meat. I followed this recipe exactly using the lamb, and the only changes I made were low sodium bacon and I added 1/2 cup of lentils to the soup in the last 25 minutes of cooking. The result was fantastic.

I'm reprinting the original recipe below but have renamed it to reflect the changes I made.

Lamb Meatball Soup with Lentils
(adapted from Foodmayhem)

2 strips low-sodium bacon, cut into 1" pieces
3 1/2 cup leek rings
1 1/4 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 cup diced carrots
4 cups chicken broth
4 cups water
1/2 cup lentils, rinsed and soaked

For the meatballs:

1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
1 cup chopped onion
5 cloves garlic minced
1 egg
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat a large dutch oven over high flame. Add the bacon and stir until it gives off fats.
2. Stir in the leek and onion and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in carrots and cook for another 2 minutes. Add broth and water and bring to a boil.
3. Reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. While the soup is cooking, make the meatballs. Mix ground meat with bread crumbs, onion, garlic, and egg. Season with salt and pepper. Form 1 1/2″ balls (makes about 43).
5. Heat a large skillet with the vegetable oil and brown the meatballs on all sides (they don’t need to be cooked through). Place them in the soup along with the lentils, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook covered for another 20 minutes.

20 September 2009

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

Now that we have the mouse situation under control, I can finally use my stove again (that's a lot of scrubbing and bleaching--phew!), and I decided to try out a recipe I've been dying to give a shot since I saw it on For the Love of Cooking.

I love lasagna, and I love roasting vegetables, and combining these two elements together made for one perfect dinner. With a salad on the side, I was able to get a full day's worth of my vegetable intake in one meal.

The only changes I made here were to sub yellow sweet onions for the red onions and I used a mixture of crumbled tofu and ricotta in the ricotta layer. Tofu adds protein and isn't detectable; it absorbs the other flavors and its texture mirrors that of the ricotta. I also cooked my noodles beforehand and used leftover homemade marinara sauce in place of the jarred.

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna (from For the Love of Cooking)

Roasted Vegetables:
8 oz button mushrooms, quartered
1/2 red onion, quartered
2-3 orange, red or yellow baby bell peppers, sliced
Broccoli florets
1 small handful of shredded carrots
6 cloves of garlic, leave the skins on for roasting
1 green zucchini, sliced
1 yellow squash, sliced
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
Dried basil
Dried oregano

For the ricotta layer:
1 16 oz container of fat free ricotta cheese
3-4 tbsp mozzarella cheese, grated
3-4 tbsp parmesan cheese, grated
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 egg
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
Dried oregano, to taste
Dried basil, to taste
Dash of nutmeg

Additional ingredients:
Lasagna noodles
Marinara sauce
Mozzarella cheese, shredded
Parmesan cheese, grated
Dried basil

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with tin foil (for quick and easy clean up) then coat the tin foil lined baking sheet with olive oil cooking spray. Clean and slice the veggies and layer all but the zucchini and yellow squash on the sheet. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on top, season with sea salt, cracked pepper, basil and oregano to taste. Toss to coat and place in the oven for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, add the zucchini and yellow squash to the roasted veggies, toss and return to the oven for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside. Once the garlic cloves cool down, carefully peel the skin off and slice. Add sliced garlic back in with the rest of the veggies.
2. Combine all the ingredients for the ricotta layer and set aside.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a large glass baking dish with olive oil cooking spray. Pour a bit of marinara sauce on the bottom of the dish then place a few lasagna noodles down to completely cover the bottom of pan. Add half of the ricotta mixture and spread evenly over the noodles. Next add half of the roasted veggie mixture. Cover the veggies with lasagna noodles then sauce. Add the last of the ricotta mixture then the remaining veggies. Cover with lasagna noodles, more sauce then sprinkle the top with mozzarella, parmesan and dried basil. Bake covered for 30 minutes; remove the cover and bake for an additional 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and golden brown.

Nutritional goodness

Ready to roast

Ready to bake

17 September 2009

One thing most food bloggers won't EVER talk about

I live in a field outside of town, in a valley with no neighbors and plenty of wildlife. Most of the time, I post about the beautiful deer and my wonderful dogs/splendid cat.

Trust me, it isn't all wine and roses. We have mice.

Yes, I know this isn't the most appetizing topic (particularly when blogging about food), but this past three weeks has been a testament, a serious test as to what a human can handle when faced with blood sucking rodents carrying nasty diseases.

I'll start with this: we have one electronic mouse trap, 12 (some gone once bitten, some still waiting) glue traps, two plug-in noise emitters (worthless) and two bait-and release traps (also worthless because we have to kill the mice ourselves once they're caught). We have plastered, steel wool-ed, and cemented every last inch, and they still keep coming. It's like Arachnophobia for mouse phobics.

We've had mouse infestations in this house in the past, but this year has been horrible. To all food bloggers, a warning: scroll down or risk reading the dirtiest, most disgusting details EVER.

They got into my stove. While working in the living room one day (otherwise known as my impromptu office) I noticed a tiny mouse head poking through the burner on my stove range. It popped its head out and *raised its ears* (an image that still makes me shudder just thinking about it). After screaming, jumping up and down and taking a shower, I set traps that led to the demise of NINE mice in three days. Nine. That's not a minor infestation.

Needless to say, now that we've pretty much gotten things under control (we think, fingers crossed) I can return to my kitchen temple and sanitize. Stay tuned--I've really missed cooking and blogging!

06 September 2009

Chili Relleno for recovering from the Miss Piggy Flu

So my institution is famous. Not for anything noble or medal-worthy this time. Just a little touch of the swine flu, or rather, 2000 students or 10% of the student population becoming sick within two weeks of school starting.

After a high fever for a few days and a desperate longing to get back on my feet, I decided it was time to get back into the kitchen wearing cute vintage shoes. 1940's reconstructed vintage shoes, to be exact. I can't tell you how in love with them I am, and how much more cheery they made me feel in the midst of a wave of aches and shivers.

Once I had the duds on, I did some victory rolls to my hair and realized that sometimes if you build it, wellness may come. I extended this optimism to my favorite Mexican food, the chili relleno. I've made a slow cooker version in the past that was more like a casserole than anything, but since I'm not anywhere near Chicago and can't simply order out in this college town/petry dish, I decided to take the plunge. In fact, the last time I ordered chili relleno in Pullman, I got a chili stuffed with cheddar cheese wrapped in an egg omelet. Gah.

This proved to be the best activity in which I could partake whilst in recovery. You know, since I really wasn't well enough to produce any meaningful work yet. Sometimes being ill is a slightly unfortunate euphemism for vacation.

So here's your first step: buy some peppers. I picked up some peppers from the farmer's market the week before that needed to be used, and even though they weren't the traditional poblano variety, they had a sheen to them that screamed natural oils. Perfect for chili relleno.

I had four peppers total, so I broiled them in my electric oven until they charred on all sides, turning them over once.

Once charred, I let them steam in a Zip-loc bag for about twenty minutes, or just long enough that the charred skins were easily removed. When I tugged lightly on the pepper stems, most of the seeds came out along with the stem. I used a spoon to scoop out the rest of the seeds. I've seen people wash out the seeds under running water before, but that seems like a waste to me. Keep those natural oils that get released during the broiling process!

Next, I separated about three eggs and beat the egg whites until stiff. Fold the three beaten yolks into the egg white mixture.

After stuffing the chilies with some panela cheese (you can use chihuahua or the blasphemous monterey jack) and then securing my poor torn chilies with toothpics, I dipped them in egg batter and then added them to a preheated frying pan with about 2 tbsp. of olive oil

After browning the chilies I added them to a sauce pan filled with a mixture of tomato sauce, a bit of water, very finely minced onion and garlic.

Once they had a little simmer time (I'm talking less than 5 minutes) in the tomato gravy, they were ready to be eaten.

Here is hubby's portion:

I served these with warmed corn tortillas, guacamole and refried black beans. A perfect feast for someone clinging to the shirt tails of health. Yay for Tamiflu.

05 September 2009

Shrimp Feta Pasta Bake

I'm in love with this dish. Quick, easy and full of flavor, particularly when chock full of in season heirloom tomatoes. With the new semester in full swing, I'm too exhausted to even think about improvising. In fact, I'm surprised if I even make it past this post. Remember the swine flu? Yeah, it's alive and well, and 2000 WSU folk have already reported flu-like symptoms. Including me. The only change I made was from orzo to whole wheat penne.

Of course, Kevin's photos are much more appetizing, but I have an excuse this time: I was typing job letters while making dinner. Huzzah!

Shrimp Feta Pasta Bake
(from Closet Cooking)

Baked Shrimp and Feta Pasta
(makes 4 servings)
Printable Recipe

1/2 cup orzo
1 tablespoon oil
1 onion (chopped)
2 cloves garlic(chopped)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups tomatoes (peeled and chopped)
1 teaspoon oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup fresh herbs (chopped, parsley, basil, dill, mint, etc.)
2 green onions (sliced)
1/2 pound shrimp (peeled and deviened)
1/2 cup feta (crumbled)

1. Cook the orzo until al dente.
2. Heat the oil in a pan.
3. Add the onion and saute until soft, about 5 minutes.
4. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
5. Add the white wine, tomato and oregano and simmer until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes.
6. Remove from heat and stir in the herbs and green onions.
7. Mix the sauce, orzo and shrimp, place in a baking dish topped and top with the feta.
8. Bake in a preheated 425F oven until the shrimp is cooked and the sauce is bubbly, about 10-15 minutes.