Friday, February 21, 2014

5-Minute Sautéed Asparagus and Baby Bellas (serves 3-4 as part of a shared meal)


Here is a simple, quick and delicious way to sauté some vegetables and brighten your dish.  I love the taste, texture, and color of fresh asparagus and when I see a batch that is not too dried out I buy them. You can add as little or as much salt to this dish according to your taste.  I like to use a pinch of salt since I normally serve this as a side for the main course.  The main course already has plenty of salt. The mushrooms absorb a lot of oil and this is the main reason I added this much oil to this particular dish. 

Ingredients:

5 Tbsp olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
1 1/2 lbs of asparagus, washed, peeled the base or snapped off the tough base, cut into 2-inch pieces
8 oz baby bella mushrooms, trimmed the stems, wiped away the dirt and cut each one into 4 slices
A pinch of salt
A pinch of fresh ground black or white pepper

Method:

1) Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large pan, pot, or wok over medium high heat.
2) Once the pan is hot, add garlic.  Sauté for about a minute.
3) Add the asparagus, stir a few times, let it cook for about 3 minutes.
4) Add a tablespoon of oil and mushrooms.  Stir a few times.  Add another tablespoon of oil if the vegetables are getting too dry.  Cook for 2 more minutes and turn off heat.
5) Add salt and peppers and give the vegetables a few shakes or stirs.

skiing with my husband and friends (Wildcat, NH)




view of Mt. Washington (from peak of Wildcat, NH)
*There are many good ski areas in NH.  I think Wildcat is one of the best places with the most amazing views.  These are a few photos that I captured when I last skied with my husband and our friends (Karen and Jim).

Braised Rabbit and Peanuts in Olive Oil and White Wine (serves 2-3)

braised rabbit and peanuts in olive oil and white wine
Rabbit is not an animal that you can easily purchase in your local market.  A few weeks ago I was at the Winter Market in Rollinsford, NH and met up with Sherri, owner of Cracked an Egg Farm. Luckily she had some frozen rabbits for sale.  I purchased one and kept it in the freezer until ready to use.  I have made this dish a few times in the past few years and it's always delicious.  You can add a variety of ingredients (different types of mushrooms, gingko nuts, etc) to this dish.  I like peanuts and because it takes a long time to pre-cook them I used a cup for this recipe which may be a bit much for a pound of rabbit.  However, you can cut it to 1/2 cup.  If you can't find rabbit you can use a free-range chicken or duck.  Chicken and duck will need less time for cooking.  If you cannot find raw pancetta you can use any good bacon, buy ones that have less fat and low sodium.  You can serve this dish over risotto, noodles, pasta, spatzle, gnocchi or mashed potato with a vegetable dish such as grilled asparagus or 5-Minute Sautéed Asparagus and Baby Bellas.

Braised Rabbit and Peanuts in Olive Oil and White Wine (serves 2-3)

Ingredients:

1/2 to 1 C raw peanuts
1/2 C olive oil
4 oz chopped raw pancetta
2 garlic, chopped
1 whole rabbit (about 1 lb), cleaned, de-jointed, cut the meat into 1-inch pieces
4 baby bella mushrooms, julienned (about 1 C)
1 C drinking white wine
2 C beef broth (fat free, low sodium)--or add enough to just cover all of the contents
1/8 tsp dried thyme
Thickener (2 tsp cornstarch and 4 tsp water mixture)
1 tsp fish sauce or salt according to your taste

Method:

1) Pre-cook the peanuts in water for about 1/2 hour to soften them.  Set them aside.
2) Heat a large pot over medium high heat.  Add about 1 tablespoon of oil, pancetta and garlic, saute about 2-3 minutes.  Remove the contents.
3) Add 1/2 of the oil to the pot, start searing the rabbit meat on both sides until all the meat is browned.
4) Add peanuts, pancetta, garlic, mushrooms, cooking wine, broth, the remaining oil to the pot, cover the pot.  Turn heat down to low once the liquid comes to a boil.  Let the pot simmer for about 45-50 minutes or until the meat is tender to your liking.
5) Add thyme, uncover the pot, turn up the heat a little and let the liquid reduce, about 25 more minutes or to your liking.  Add thickener.  Add Add fish sauce or salt to taste.  Turn off heat.

de-jointing a rabbit
*Keep the frozen rabbit in the refrigerator to thaw.  Once thawed, wash the rabbit well and remove any remaining fur.  I normally start removing the legs one at a time by finding the joint and slicing through each one.  Then I remove as much meat off from the back along the spine and cut this into 1-inch pieces.  I then finish by taking a cleaver and chop through the entire spine roughly into 3-inch lengths.  I re-wash all the pieces with bones to remove any small debris or chips.  I use all the parts including the bones to cook.  I have mentioned this in past posts, it is best to cook such a dish with the bones in if possible.  The bones add more flavor to your dish.





*Here are a few photos from this week's weather in Seacoast New Hampshire.  Fresh snow is beautiful to observe but can make driving dangerous.  

Potato and Leek Soup (serves 6-8)

potato and leek soup
I can not think of anything more enjoyable than good hot soup on a cold winter day.  I made this soup about a month ago.  It's rare for me to make any dish so frequently.  However, the soup was so tasty that I decided to make another batch to distribute to a few neighbors.

This week I purchased a yard of fabric at my local fabric store, one of the few of its kind still in business.  I used the fabric as a table cloth as seen above.  I have noticed this store every time my husband or I take the train to Boston.  However, I have never been inside.  This week after missing the train due to poor weather conditions I decided to go in for a quick look.  I was in awe.  I could easily spend hours touching and looking at the many interesting and beautiful designs.  I have sewn a few things in my life and this place is full of inspiration and potential projects if I only have time.  As I looked at all the bolts of fabric I could think of a few dozen ideas for them.  Below are a few photos that I took from this fabric store.  If you are interested in viewing more fabric or purchasing from them please visit their website at http://www.fabricandfurniture.com.

Potato and Leek Soup (serves 6-8)

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp canola or olive oil
3 leeks, washed and sliced thinly
4 potatoes, peeled and diced
32 oz chicken broth (fat free, reduced sodium)
Plus 3 C water or more chicken broth (enough to cover the contents)
1 C half and half
1 tsp salt (optional)

Method:

1) Heat oil in a large pot over medium high heat.
2) Once the pot is hot, add leeks, stir a few times and let cook for about 5 minutes.
3) Add potatoes and chicken broth, once the liquid comes to a boil turns the heat down to a simmer.
4) Cover and cook for about 30-40 minutes or until the potato and leek are soft, stir a few times during the cooking process.
5) Add half and half and salt.  Roughly mash the contents.  Turn off heat.

sliced leeks
*You can add cooked diced pancetta, bacon, ham and or grated cheese on top before serving for extra taste.  My husband likes a little grated Parmesan cheese on his.
*Some people use just the white part of the leek for eating.  I use the white and about 3 inches of the green part closer to the white section for cooking.  It works well to use part of the green, adding more fiber to my diet and also making the soup more colorful.  Make sure to cut the leek in half and wash between the layers well.  
*You can use a hand held blender or a blender to puree the contents for a smooth consistency.  I prefer to to see some of the actual ingredients in the soup, providing a more interesting texture.










*...maybe it's time for me to upholster my dining room chairs again!  So many colors and designs to chose from!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Scallop Mantles with Shiitake Mushrooms and Scallions in Oyster Sauce (serves 4 as part of a meal)

scallop mantles with shiitake mushrooms and scallions in oyster sauce
I have never eaten scallop mantles or heard of anyone cooking or eating them prior to shucking my own sea scallops less than a year ago.  When asked Mike Anderson, our local fisherman who caught these scallops said he tried them. After spending many hours observing the whole live scallops up close and shucking a large bucket of them I decided not to waste any potential edible parts. The mantles are essentially the scallop's eyes and sensors.  I learned that each scallop has roughly 100 eyes, this alone is quite impressive!  If you want to learn how to shuck a scallop or see photos of the mantles please see my previous post How to Cut the Scallop Muscle Out of the Shell.


cleaned scallop mantles--ready for cooking
(look closely, the tiny dots are the eyes!)
I cleaned the mantles by massaging them in a tablespoon or two of salt for about 5 minutes.  Rinse well and repeat the process two more times to get rid of slime and impurities.  I ate some mantles that day and saved some in a zip-lock bag in my freezer.  Today I decided to make this dish from the pound of mantles that I saved.  I quickly thawed the frozen mantle bag by completely submerging it in a pot of cold water, placing a cup on top to keep the bag in the water. It took about 1/2 hour to partially thaw the bag. I then removed the contents and rinsed well in cold water.  I squeezed as much of the water out as I could by hand prior to cooking.  For this dish I kept the mantles the length that they came instead of cutting them.  Once cooked they resembled noodles or slightly cooked bacon strips.  They taste a bit similar to clam but has a mild crunchy chewy texture to the bite.  My husband laughs and tells me,"we are eating the scallop's lips!" If you are interested in the previous scallop mantle dish that I concocted please see my post Spicy & Garlicky Scallop Mantles.

Scallop Mantles with Shiitake Mushrooms and Scallions in Oyster Sauce (serves 4 as part of a meal)

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp chopped or grated garlic
1 Tbsp grated ginger
1 C chopped or sliced scallions (reserve about 1-2 teaspoons for garnish)
10 dried shiitake mushrooms (re-hydrated, steam removed, sliced into 4-5 pieces)
1 lb cleaned scallop mantles (keep whole)
3 Tbsp oyster sauce
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp sesame oil (plus more to drizzle after cooking)
5 Tbsp water (may omit if you want less liquid)
1 large pinch of sugar
1-2 large pinches of black or white ground pepper (plus more for garnish)

Method:

1) Heat olive oil in a medium pan over medium high heat.
2) Once the pan is hot add garlic, ginger and scallions.  Saute about a minute.
3) Add shiitake mushrooms, saute about 1-2 minutes.
4) Add scallop mantles, turn heat to high, saute for about 3 minutes.
5) Add oyster sauce, sesame oil, water, sugar, and pepper.  Saute about 1-2 minutes until all the mantles are just cooked.  Remove from heat.
6) Pour the contents into a serving dish, garnish with sliced scallions, drizzle a little sesame oil and add a pinch of fresh ground pepper.

roses from my Valentine!
*If you want to thicken the sauce you can add a little cornstarch (about a tablespoon) to the water, mix this well and then add to the pan under Step 5.
*Avoid overcooking the mantles, just as any seafood.  Once the mantles are cooked they will curl up slightly and turn more opaque.  
*I will be very surprised if you can find scallop mantles for sale in the United States.  The best way to obtain scallop mantles is to buy whole live scallops off the boat, the way scallops or any seafood should be purchased!  I buy my scallops from F/V Rimrack (Rye, NH).  I don't know any better way to eat fresh seafood other than wild caught straight off the boat or from fishing/diving.  If you are interested in eating the mantles you may purchase whole scallops from the Anderson family by visiting: http://www.rimrackfish.com. Please support your local fishermen!  Thank you Captain Mike and family for the fresh and delicious seafood!!
*I have never used a phone to take photos.  This set of photos came from using an android phone.  I think the quality is pretty decent.