May – Sous vide asparagus

May – Sous vide asparagus

Yes, you can use your sous vide machine for vegetables. It isn’t the answer for all vegetables though, you do need to be selective. So far I have cooked carrots and asparagus with wonderful success. We usually grill or roast asparagus, and it is delicious that way. Asparagus cooked by sous vide is similar to steamed but with a wonderful crunch and intense asparagus flavor. All the vitamins are intact and that green grassy taste jumps into your mouth with every bite. And sous vide timing is very forgiving, you don’t have to worry if you are distracted for a few minutes. Roasted or steamed asparagus will overcook in 30 seconds; turning drab, mushy and unappealing. Limp asparagus is not attractive. Sous vide asparagus stays bright green and crisp, the stem just as tender at the tips.

Sous Vide Asparagus

Method:

  • Preheat the water with your sous vide machine to 185 degrees F (85 degrees C)
  • Encase the asparagus in a vacuum bag or large zip lock bag (you may want to put a teaspoon in the bottom of the bag first). Try to get the asparagus in one layer. If you need to use two bags, separate the asparagus by size.
  • Season as desired. For example lemon salt, butter, coconut oil, mint, slices of lemon, etc.

    Cyprus Citron Lemon Flake Sea Salt

  • If using vacuum, seal on the moist setting.

    Asparagus in Vacuum Bag

    • Once your water bath has heated to the appropriate temperature, add the asparagus to the hot water and set your timer for 10 minutes. Thicker spears may need to cook for longer, maybe 12 minutes. That is the reason for two bags if the spears in your bunch are different sizes. Squeeze the bottom of a spear to see if they are done to your liking.
    • Cut open the bag and slide the asparagus onto a plate. Or, cool in an ice bag for using cold or reheating later.

You may note that this bag does not have a teaspoon, big error. As the contents of the bag heat, the air expands, causing it to float. I had to put a weight on top to keep the asparagus under water. Next time I will add that teaspoon. Don’t make my mistake.

Sous Vide Asparagus

The photo is fuzzy because of the steam rising. We couldn’t wait for it to cool before eating. Yum!

February – Crispy Fried Brussels Sprouts

February – Crispy Fried Brussels Sprouts

Roasting is my preferred way of cooking Brussels sprouts, also cauliflower and many other vegetables. I have found that roasting at a high temperature produces a char that brings out their sweetness. You will find a basic recipe for oven roasting sprouts here.

Lately though, Brussels sprouts have been showing up as a first course on many restaurant menus. The preparations have been varied and include roasting, but also frying and even deep fat frying. The fried sprouts have been absolutely delicious! They arrive glistening with oil, the edges wonderfully crisp and charred to sweetness.

I had relegated fried sprouts as a dish to eat in restaurants, a special treat. However, after frying some bacon for another dish, I ended up with about 6 tablespoons of aromatic bacon fat. The crisper drawer had some sprouts, it was too good an opportunity to pass up. This is clearly not a vegetarian dish, but I think it would be just as wonderful made with coconut oil and a few slices of fresh ginger. I don’t consider this recipe deep fat fried, but the sprouts are cooked in a generous quantity of oil or fat.

Crispy fired Brussels sprouts

Crispy fired Brussels sprouts

There really isn’t a recipe, here are just a few tips and instructions.

Trim the bottoms of the sprouts and remove any discolored or limp leaves. Cut the sprouts in half if small, quarter them if larger. Save any loose leaves that fall off.

Heat the oil on medium high until quite hot, add the sprouts and any extra leaves. Cook until brown with charred spots. Keep the heat fairly high as you want them to brown quickly on the outside but still retain some crunch in the middle. This method was much faster than my usual roasting but it did require more attention. I grated some fresh lime zest over the top to cut the richness, and added a pinch of flaked sea salt to finish. They were amazing! Probably not something I would do every day because of the larger amount of fat, but I highly recommend this way of preparing them. The edges were crispy and had a satisfying char. They were very sweet and wonderfully flavored by the bacon fat. Restaurant quality!

Crispy fired Brussels sprouts

Crispy fired Brussels sprouts

Crispy fired Brussels sprouts, lime zest

Crispy fired Brussels sprouts, lime zest

I am taking this to share at Fiesta Friday #159, a virtual blogging party hosted by Angie. This weeks co-hosts are Zeba @ Food For The Soul and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook

Click on the link to see all the yummy food the group has to share.

November – Perfect Roast Potatoes for Thanksgiving

November – Perfect Roast Potatoes for Thanksgiving

What is your favorite Thanksgiving dish? Is it the pies? Or stuffing? Or mashed potatoes? What about sweet potato casserole? Growing up my favorites were the stuffing (sausage and sage), and these roast potatoes. My English mother was famous for her roast potatoes, crisp and brown on the outside and floury on the inside. I know that mashed potatoes are the classic side to turkey here in the US, but I strongly suggest you try these. They are also a fantastic side for roast chicken or vegetables, or a replacement for french fries. My family prefers these to french fries and claim they are as good with ketchup as gravy.

I am going to share a few of secrets to success. First pre-boil the potatoes, second rough them up a bit before roasting, and third use a pre-heated roasting pan. Those three tips will ensure that crisp outside and fluffy inside.

You only need three ingredients:

  • Russet potatoes or baking potatoes – 1 for each person
  • Some kind of oil or fat, olive oil is good, duck fat is fantastic (sad to say, my mother used Crisco)
  • Good salt, sea or kosher

Method:

  1. Peel the potatoes and cut each into 6 wedges. I cut them in half lengthwise, then each half crosswise into 3 sections. You want fairly large pieces.
  2. Put the potatoes in a pot and cover with cool water by about an inch, add a teaspoon of salt to the water.
  3. Bring the water to a boil on medium-high heat, turn down the heat and simmer for 2 minutes.
  4. Immediately drain into a mesh screen colander in the sink.
  5. Cool slightly, then shake the colander to “rough” up the potatoes. You want the surface of the potatoes scratched. See the pictures below. This helps them crisp.
  6. Potatoes, boiled and roughed

    Potatoes, boiled and roughed

    Potatoes, ready for roasting

    Potatoes, ready for roasting

     

  7. When ready to cook, preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.
  8. Oil a large baking or roasting pan and place it in the oven to preheat. You want the entire bottom of the pan to be coated with cooking oil. The pan should be large enough so that the potatoes are not crowded. I usually use olive oil, but this time I had found a treat.

    Duck Fat

    Duck Fat

  9. Once the pan is nice and hot, carefully remove it from the oven. Add the potatoes, turning them to coast with the oil or fat. Spread them out in the pan. Sprinkle with salt.
  10. Roast for 45 minutes to an hour, turning the potatoes after 30 minutes.
    Roasted potatoes in the pan

    Roasted potatoes in the pan

    Crispy oven roast potatoes

    Crispy oven roast potatoes

    We usually don’t have any leftover, but they are good for breakfast the next day with eggs. Reheat them in your oven on low heat (not the microwave).

June – Bacon Wrapped Carrots

June – Bacon Wrapped Carrots

Roasted oversized vegetables seem to be all the rage these days. I’ve seen roasted carrots and cauliflower and others at the center of a restaurant meal. When I saw this recipe on a Pinterest browse, I had to try it. Do you do that? Pinterest browsing is my favorite “3 am and cannot sleep activity”. Unfortunately the recipe I tried didn’t turn out too well, I have a few tips I will share that might save you the same failure.

  1. Different colored carrots cook at different rates. The orange ones cook the fastest but the darker or lighter ones seem to be woodier (is that a word), and take longer.
  2. Use thinly sliced bacon otherwise it won’t crisp.
  3. Start with a lower oven temperature until the carrots are cooked (they are quite large), then brush with maple syrup and turn up the heat up to crisp everything.

And there you have it. They were delicious warm as a side dish with cold meat, cheese and a salad.

Bacon Wrapped Carrots

Bacon Wrapped Carrots

Ingredients

  • Thinly sliced bacon, depending on the size of the carrots you may need to slices for each carrot
  • Large carrots
  • 2-3 tablespoons of pure maple syrup

Method

  1. Wash and peel the carrots, trim the ends
  2. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
  3. Wrap the bacon around each carrot slice and place on a baking tray, bacon ends down where possible.
  4. Roast for 45 minutes or until the carrots (mine were quite large) are almost done. You may need to remove some if they are different colors, the bright red and white ones took an extra 5 minutes.
  5. Brush the carrots and bacon with the maple syrup and turn the heat up to 425 degrees F.
  6. Roast for an additional 10-15 minutes until the bacon is crisp and the carrots are beginning to caramelize.
    Roast Large Carrots

    Roast Large Carrots

    That is all there is to it.

I am taking this to Fiesta Friday #124, we should all eat more veggies…don’t you think? I have the honor of co-hosting this week with Lindy @ Love in the Kitchen. Click on the Fiesta Friday link to view all the rest of the party food.

March – The Best 4 Ingredient Chinese Sauce for Green Vegetables

March – The Best 4 Ingredient Chinese Sauce for Green Vegetables

That’s a mouthful of a title for something so simple and quick. But it packs a wallop of flavor in those four ingredients. You commonly find a sauce like this in Chinese Dim Sum restaurants, used to dress some kind of Asian green leafy vegetable. Yu choy is classic as well as Chinese broccoli.  I find it works equally well for asparagus or baby bok choy.

Yu Choy

yu choy

Chinese broccoli

Chinese broccoli

Baby Bok Choy

Baby Bok Choy

Asparagus with 4 Ingredient Chinese Sauce

Asparagus with 4 Ingredient Chinese Sauce

This sauce will make your vegetables glisten and the sesame oil has a wonderful nutty aroma.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons of oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil

You can use any neutral oil, I’ve even used coconut oil and it was delicious.

  1. Wash your vegetables to get rid of any sand or grit, trim away any tough ends. Drain well.
  2. You can cook the vegetables by steaming, or blanching in a pot of water, or by roasting.
    1. If steaming: bring the water of your steamer to a boil and place your vegetables in the basket, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of oil, cover and steam until tender.
    2. If boiling: bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon of oil to the boiling water. Add the vegetables and cook until they turn bright green, this could take only a minute or less. Taste a bit to see if they are done to your liking.
    3. If roasting: preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Add the vegetables to a large sheet pan, drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil and roast until tender, about 6-10 minutes.
  3. In any case, while the vegetables are cooking, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a small skillet, add the oyster sauce, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Whisk and bring the mixture to a simmer, immediately remove from the heat and set aside.
  4. Drain the cooked vegetables well (especially if boiled), arrange on a dish and pour the sauce over. Toss carefully to coat.
  5. Taste if you need to add additional salt and pepper.
    Asparagus with 4 Ingredient Sauce

    Asparagus with 4 Ingredient Sauce

    I’m taking this to share on Fiesta Friday #113 hosted by Angie. Come check out the wonderful goodies being served. This week’s co-hosts are Sonal @ simplyvegetarian777 and Laurie @ ten.times.tea.

March – Cauliflower Colcannon for St. Patrick’s Day

March – Cauliflower Colcannon for St. Patrick’s Day

Yes, here is yet another cauliflower recipe but you won’t believe these aren’t potatoes! I bring you this just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish of mashed potatoes with cabbage or kale. You can serve it with a hearty lamb stew or lamb chop, or just on its own with a big salad.

The idea for this dish came from two blog posts, the first was a recipe for mashed cauliflower “Better than Potatoes”  from the blog ibreathe, I’m hungry. That blog is full of ideas for low carb and gluten free meals. Her recipe for creamy mashed cauliflower is the best I’ve found anywhere and a big hit on Pinterest. The second blog post was from Angie at Fiesta Friday. She used mashed potatoes with the addition kale, bacon and brown butter to make her more traditional “Colcannon“. Oh my, did it look delicious!

I thought, what happens when you combine those two fabulous recipes? I tell you, it was amazing. My husband couldn’t believe these were not “real” mashed potatoes, he was completely fooled. I didn’t tell him until after he had eaten two servings, he was amazed.

A few notes about the cauliflower puree, it is extra creamy and rich tasting but you need to be careful to avoid adding any of the tough skin on the stem. Peel the stem if you want to add it before cooking the cauliflower. I don’t recommend using the “riced” cauliflower found in the stores just now. They are great for cauliflower rice but not so good when you want creamy mashed cauliflower. I think they must have a high percentage of the tough stem included. If you think about it, it would make sense as that is the “leftovers” from those packages of florets.

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 2 Tbsp heavy cream
  • 1 Tbsp butter – Irish from grass-fed cows if possible

    Kerrygold Irish Butter

    Kerrygold Irish Butter

  • 2 ounces Irish dubliner or other sharp cheese –

    Dubliner Cheddar

    Dubliner Cheddar

  • 4 slices of bacon, cut into 1/4 cubes
  • Large handful of baby kale or larger kale leaves, de-stemmed and thinly sliced (you could also used thinly sliced green cabbage)
  • salt and pepper to taste
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Clean and trim the cauliflower, breaking it into medium sized pieces. Peel any tough stem. Place in a microwave safe bowl with 2 Tbsp of cream and 1 Tbsp of butter. Microwave, uncovered, on high for six minutes. Stir to coat cauliflower with cream/butter mixture. Microwave for another six minutes on high.
  2. Meanwhile cut 4 strips of bacon into pieces about 1/4 inch in width. Saute on medium heat until starting to crisp. Drain on paper towels, reserving the bacon fat in a small dish.
  3. Remove cauliflower from the microwave and put into a high speed blender or food processor along with the cheese. Puree until smooth.
  4. Add the cauliflower puree to the pan you cooked the bacon in, scraping up any crusty bits. Stir in the bacon and a good sized handful of baby kale or finely sliced larger kale leaves (de-stemmed).
  5. Stir until the kale or cabbage is wilted.
  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste. You can adjust the cream and butter to your preference. A little bacon fat is also nice if your Dr. allows it.

This is good without the kale as well. Shred a little extra cheese on top.

Creamy mashed cauliflower with bacon

Creamy mashed cauliflower with bacon

But especially nice with the addition of kale.

Colcannon with mashed cauliflower

Colcannon with mashed cauliflower

And try a vegetarian version without bacon. It will still be delicious.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone.

February – Out-of-Season Tomato Flavor Booster

February – Out-of-Season Tomato Flavor Booster

I try, as much as possible, to cook and eat seasonally. Seasonal produce is more flavorful, has more nutrients, and hasn’t traveled for miles thus increasing its carbon footprint. I also enjoy the anticipation of the first strawberries or asparagus or squash or tomatoes. But…sometime in the midst of winter I miss tomatoes. In an effort to satisfy this craving I tried a recipe recently posted in the New York Times. The author (Amanda Cohen from Dirt Candy) claimed that tomatoes don’t have to be eaten in season to taste good. Frankly I was dubious, but willing to give it a try. IMG_4133

These tomatoes were available at my local Trader Joe’s, organic but from Mexico. They look better in the picture, definitely more red than they did in the package. Eating one sliced in a sandwich was a ho-hum experience. Amanda’s method is to slow roast them in olive oil, with the added benefit of that lovely tomato flavored oil. It’s almost like making a confit. The resulting tomatoes can be used in a tomato sauce or chopped on a bruschetta.

Following is her method. I will be posting the a recipe for her Roasted Tomato-Coconut Sauce.

Roasted Out-of-Season Tomatoes

  • 2 1/2 pounds of tomatoes (any kind)
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 slices of peeled ginger, about 1/8 inch thick
  • 2-3 sprigs of basil or other fresh herb
  • 5-6 cups of extra-virgin olive oil
  1. Heat oven to 275 degrees F (she recommended 250 degrees F but in my oven that was too low, every oven is different).
  2. If using large tomatoes, cut them in half. If using cherry tomatoes, leave them whole.
  3. Combine tomatoes, garlic, ginger, and basil in a baking dish that will hold the tomatoes in one layer.
  4.  Pour over them enough olive oil to to reach almost to the top of the tomatoes.
  5. Transfer to the oven and bake for at least 2 hours, mine took an extra 30 minutes. The tomatoes should start to collapse and be showing some brown spots.
  6. Carefully remove the baking dish from the oven and let the tomatoes cool. Drain the oil into a separate container. Refrigerate or freeze the tomatoes.
Roasted Tomatoes

Roasted Tomatoes

The tomatoes will last for a week in the fridge, the olive oil for about 2 weeks. For longer storage you can freeze the tomatoes. I made 2 batches and reused the oil. That gave it an even more concentrated tomato flavor.

Roasted Tomatoes

Roasted Tomatoes

And, what do I think? How were they? I would say that they will rival most good quality canned tomatoes. Cooking didn’t improve the color but it did concentrate the flavor. They needed a lot of salt, a touch of sugar, and a drop of lemon juice to round things out. Mid-summer tomatoes would be amazing, I will make several batches this coming summer to store in the freezer for times of cravings such as this. I imagine the olive oil would be even more flavorful as well.

On a bruschetta I paired a chopped tomato with ricotta (soft goat cheese would also be good) and an arugula salad dressed with lemon, tomato oil, salt and garlic. A drizzle of tomato oil completed it. IMG_4135

Dress the arugula salad with lots of lemon juice, tomato olive oil, garlic and salt. The tomatoes need all those flavor boosters. Baby kale would also be good here.