Tuesday, January 29, 2013

6 Courses of Food & Wine: Cooking for the Cause Lineup

It's time once again for my food and work worlds to collide--I'm cooking for the Social Capital Inc. (SCI) cause again Thursday night! By day, I run SCI, which connects neighbors and engages citizens in Eastern Mass. communities. This time, I'll be teaming up with several other foodie friends who are serious home cooks to provide the food side of a wine & food pairing fundraiser to support SCI's community building work. David Boyle, Vice President at Martignetti's, is kindly providing the wine for this occasion. Below is the food menu we've come up with; David will be providing a different wine for each course, designed to complement the food.  I'll update it with some photos and the wine served post event. Meanwhile, we've got a couple slots still open if you're in the area and would like to join us! (leave your info in the comments).

Pairing #1: Starters
Pesto Crostini
Oysters Rockefeller

Pairing #2: Chicken tenders
Chicken Tenders marinated and cooked in spicy cherry mix, with a dry rub finish.

Pairing #3: Duck Risotto and Green Salad
Truffle Orange Duck Confit Risotto 
Mixed Green Salad with Homemade Dressing 

Pairing #4: Pork Tenderloin with Sweet Potatoes
Cilantro Lime Pork Tenderloin with Chipotle Cream
served with Sweet Potatoes Smashed with Cumin Sage Butter

Pairing 5: Lamb Two Ways
Lamb Dumplings 
Rack of Lamb with Dijon Basil Glaze 

Pairing 6: Beef Tenderloin with Mashed Potatoes
Beef Tenderloin with a Red Wine Sauce and Decadent Mashed Potatoes 

These will be tapas size portions...but with six hearty tapas plates, I doubt anyone will leave there hungry!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Spicy Red Lentil and Chard Soup

Red Lentil and Chard Soup being stirred in a pot

Continuing the New Year focus on frugal cooking that is still healthy and tasty, I spied half a bag of red lentils languishing toward the back of a pantry shelf. Time for some soup! I enjoy a variety of lentil soups, but hadn't made one yet this winter. I started by looking at a Food & Wine recipe, but pretty quickly set off on my own direction. Chard was on sale, so I added that to add nutrition and turned the soup greenish. I think the photo looks a bit better above than the pureed version I served, but I prefer the consistency of the latter. The spice blend was just the right mix to create an interesting flavor without being overwhelming. Definitely a soup worth trying in your kitchen! This is a good option for vegans.

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 celery stock, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups lentils
4 cups vegetable broth
3 cups water
1 bunch chard (reserve 2 leaves for future use if you have a big bunch)
bay leaf
couple handfuls baby spinach
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
good pinch cinnamon
1/2 tsp chili powder
salt and pepper to taste

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large pot on medium medium heat. Add the onion, cook for a few minutes until it begins to soften. Add the carrots and celery, followed by the garlic. Cook for another minute or two, then stir in the lentils with the other tbsp of olive oil. Add the dried spices at this time, including a bit of salt to taste.

Stir the lentils with the onion and spice mixture for a few minutes until the lentils are well coated. Add the broth and water bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Add the bay leaf, and cook uncovered for about 15 minutes until lentils just begin to soften. Stir in the chard, and simmer until the chard is well softened, about 15 minutes more.

When the chard is cooked, remove the soup from the heat and puree--ideally with your handheld blender! Alternatively, puree in batches in a food processor. Return soup to the stove, heat gently and stir in the spinach leaves until they begin to wilt. The spinach isn't essential to the taste, but it does add a nice consistency. You're now ready to enjoy your flavorful soup!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Greens with Bacon & Gruyere

The first post here of 2013 definitely fits the New Year theme! It's another tasty way to serve healthy greens. And it is inspired by the spirit of frugality I tend to find myself in after holiday stretch with its gifts and splurges on the food and wine budget. I had most of the ingredients here on hand--bacon, cabbage, gruyere, and a partially used container of beef broth. And the kale was on sale. As I suspected, these ingredients combined for a flavorful side dish!

1 or 2 strips bacon
5 cups kale, coarsely chopped
3 cups cabbage
1/2 cup red or yellow bell pepper, chopped
3 or 4 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup beef broth
1/2 cup red wine
1/3 cup gruyere cheese, shredded
3 tbsp olive oil
salt pepper

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil on medium high in a large pot. Add the bacon and cook til crispy. Remove bacon from pan when done, set on a plate covered with a paper towel to cool. Drain the excess cooking fat (but leave a bit for flavor) and return pot to stove.

Add another tbsp olive oil to the pot, return heat to medium. Add the bell pepper, saute for a few minutes until it begins to soften. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Then gradually stir in the kale and cabbage along with another tbsp oil. Raise heat to medium high, and continue cooking stirring until the kale begins to wilt a bit, about 3 minutes.

Stir in the broth and red wine, and add salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer the greens, covered, for about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally. A few minutes before the end of cooking time, stir the bacon pieces into the green, allowing a chance for the bacon to add flavor while remaining a bit crisp. When the greens are tender and ready to serve, top with the grated gruyere. Serve and enjoy!