Friday, June 24, 2011

Carmelized Chipotle Pork Chops

Chipotles are so delicious, and easy to cook with because they come in easy small cans. Unfortunately, they are also fairly high on the heat scale and most recipes only require about one chipotle and a little of the Adobo sauce that they are canned in. I had used one chipotle a couple months back and promptly put the rest in a small Tupperware to use later. I recently was cleaning out the fridge and noticed a sweet/smokey/spicy scent before realizing that the
Tupperware container was leaking all over the shelves of my fridge! Aside from being a mess, it also made me realize I was craving chipotle flavor! Very soon after that, some of the women on my cooking board were talking about good recipes for bone-in chicken thighs. I took a peek at the post because I love chicken thighs even though the husband does not (nothing with bones for him!). Elly posted this lovely recipe for Carmelized Chipotle Chicken Thighs and I almost rushed out and bought the bone in thighs anyway because they looked too darn good, but one of her reader comments stated that the same process works great on pork chops, which were on sale this week. Even though this recipe only used 2 chipotles, I also threw one more into the mashed potatoes (along with some cream cheese and some of the adobo sauce, yum!), and then I froze the rest. This was such a great dish, and might be my new favorite pork chop recipe. A great combination of sweet, spicy and smokey, and the flavors develop perfectly with this cooking method.

Carmelized Chipotle Pork Chops (Inspired by Elly Says Opa)

1.5 Tbsp. olive oil

4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 onion, chopped

1/2 cup ketchup

1 tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp. packed brown sugar

2 Tbsp. chopped chipotles in adobo

1/2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 Tbsp. cider vinegar

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

4 boneless pork chops (medium thickness)

Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat, until shimmery (I used my french oven). Add the onions to the oil, and cook, stirring occasionally until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients, except pork, to skillet and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 25 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 and place a rack in the center. Add pork to skillet, flipping to coat in sauce. Roast in heated oven for 20 minutes, covered. Remove from oven, turn up heat to 450, flip chops and baste in remaining sauce in pan. Roast in oven at 450 until chops begin to brown, about 15 more minutes. Makes 4 servings (but we each ate 2 servings, it was so good!).

Monday, June 20, 2011

Cookie Dough Truffles - Best treat ever!

I have always loved truffles. Ever since I learned there was a chocolate kind of truffle instead of a mushroom dug up by pigs/dogs, I have been hooked. I have also always been a fan of cookie dough, and this runs in my family (my dad used to eat about as much dough as was baked for his famous chocolate chip cookies). When I saw a recipe for eggless cookie dough truffles on Annie's Eats, I knew that I was going to have to make them. I have actually made these twice in the last month. Once was for the co-workers at my office and the bike shops, and the second time was for my dad & my grad (nephew - high school). This was the first time ever that my office ate the same amount of treats as the bike shop. Granted we have three times as many employees working, but we are a little more health conscious and a lot more sedentary than those guys. One of the guys at the shop told the husband "Your wife made heaven!" after trying these, and my nephew declared these "The very best thing (I've) ever made, ever." So I would recommend these to just about anyone. I highly recommend a double boiler set up for dipping the balls, as it melts the chocolate so much smoother than microwaving, without any guesswork. They taste best when just out of the fridge, even though they are counter safe if you need to have them out at a party for a while. These will probably become a staple treat that I will bring to potlucks, etc.

Cookie Dough Truffles (from Annie's Eats)
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup light brown sugar, packed
2¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
I added 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
1½ lb. semisweet (or bittersweet) chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used Almond Bark)
Combine the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and cream on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the flour, salt, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla until incorporated and smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the mixture has firmed up enough to form balls (about an hour or so, overnight is too long!).

Shape the chilled cookie dough mixture into 1-1½ inch balls. Place on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Cover loosely, transfer the pan to the freezer and chill for 1-2 hours. (this step might not be 100% necessary if you are time or freezer space crunched)

When ready to dip the truffles, melt the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Dip each chilled truffle, one at a time, coating in chocolate and shaking gently to remove the excess. I found that shaking the candy gently off the fork rather than rolling helped to avoid the tell tale fork marks. Once all the truffles have been dipped, store them in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Makes 40-60 truffles depending on the size of the balls.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Fava Bean Risotto

I received Fava Beans in my Plow to Porch box and thought that it might be nice to try and incorporate them into a risotto of some sort. I have never eaten fava beans before, so I thought combining them with a starch like risotto would be a good way to ease in. I wish that I had just tried them on their own, or had tried them in a different recipe. They were so much fun to cook, but this recipe that I found on allrecipes just didn't bring enough fava bean color or flavor to the party. I think the author might have errored when they called for 1/2 lb of unshelled favas and maybe meant 1/2 lb of favas removed from the first shell, but not the second skin? Either way, this was my first time making risotto, and I think I have the technique down. It is a ridiculously starchy dish, so I need to perhaps make it next time when we have company instead of just the two of us. It is easy to overload on risotto, even when you aren't very fond of the recipe as was the case here (look at the portion size I served up, sheesh!). I have to say, I really loved the process of the double shelling of the favas, and they are so beautiful after they have been shelled the second time! I look forward to cooking them as a standard side dish next spring, since they have such a short season that they are available.

Green Risotto with Fava Beans (from Allrecipes)
1/2 pound fresh, unshelled fava beans (probably means shelled but not "second skinned")
4 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons butter, divided
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 cup Arborio rice
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup grated Reggiano Parmesan cheese
salt to taste
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, shell the favas and discard the pods. Boil the favas for 4 minutes, strain and then immediately plunge into ice water. Let cool for 2 minutes then pierce the favas and squeeze them out of their skins. Separate 3/4 of the favas and puree in a food processor.
In a separate large saucepan bring the broth to a simmer, and keep it hot. Meanwhile, in another large saucepan over medium heat, melt 1.5 tablespoons of the butter and add the onions. Reduce the heat to low and cook for about 5 minutes; do not brown the onions. Add the rice and cook, while stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the wine, increase the heat to medium, and stir constantly. When the wine has been absorbed, add a little of the hot stock. Once the stock is absorbed, add a little more; repeat this process, stirring constantly, until the rice is cooked through.
To the cooked rice add the pureed favas, the remaining 1.5 tablespoons of butter, the rest of the favas and the cheese. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the butter and cheese melt and the puree is incorporated evenly. Season with salt.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Lemon Bars/Cookies

I had two rather large lemons in my Plow to Porch box and had no idea what to do with them. Thankfully, lots of the blogs that I follow posted lemon bar recipes right around that time, and I found an easy recipe in my trusty checkerboard cookbook (Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook). While I loved how easy these were to whip up, and the flavor was pretty good, I wasn't very pleased with the texture of this bar. The shortbread crust had a nice flakey & crumbley texture, but the lemony filling baked up much quicker than the original recipe stated and I was left with almost a hard candy topping instead of the sweet soft curd like texture that I was expecting. The lemon bar tasted like a lemon flavored shortbread cookie. This is almost certainly not the recipe's fault, but my ridiculously tempermental oven's fault. I'm pretty sure the oven runs at least 25 degrees too hot, but if I try and lower the heat to compensate, that doesn't help much either. I've mentioned it to the owner of the apartment building in the hopes that she will replace the entire oven/stove unit (like she did with our awesome kitchen faucet!), but she's stated that the oven is a compact size that she can't find anywhere, and barring a complete kitchen remodel, we are out of luck until we move out of this joint. So, next time I get lemons, maybe I'll just make lemonade!

Lemon Bars (from Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook)
For Shortbread crust:
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup All Purpose Flour

For Lemon topping
2 eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbs All Purpose Flour
2 tsp finely shredded lemon peel
3 Tbs lemon juice
1/4 tsp baking powder

In Medium mixing bowl, beat butter with electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the 1/4 cup granulated sugar and beat until combined. Beat in the flour until crumbly. Press mixture into the bottom of an ungreased 8x8x2" baking pan. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15-18 minutes until just golden. Meanwhile, for filling, in small mixing bowl, combine eggs, 3/4 cup sugar, 2 Tbs flour, lemon peel, lemon juice and baking powder. Beat 2 minutes or until combined. Pour filling over baked crust. Bake 20 minutes or till lightly browned around edges and center is set (this took about 10 minutes for me, stupid oven). Cool on wire rack. If desired, sift powdered sugar over the top before cutting into squares. Makes about 20 bars

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Roasted Beet & Tomato Salad

Although I love, love, love my weekly fruit & vegetable deliveries from Plow to Porch, I have to admit, sometimes I am frightened. The husband and I grew up in pretty traditional households where vegetables were usually corn, green beans, peas and maybe an iceberg lettuce "salad." I was lucky enough to live in central California, so I also got some yummy asparagus and artichokes from time to time. Not very adventurous. So when I first saw beets on the delivery list, I was scared. The first appearance of beets happened to coincide with a visit to my dad & stepmom up in SLO. They hadn't seen me in a while and I had lost a ton of weight in that time, so they were curious to hear about this fruit & vegetable delivery service that was encouraging me to try new things and focus more on fruits & veggies (since that was pretty much how I lost all the weight!). As I was telling them all about it, I mentioned that I was really nervous about the beets in the next week. I kid you not, both dad and stepmom, like 6 year olds, preceded to "eeewww" and "you are kidding, throw them out" in ridiculous ways. No freakin' wonder I have fears of certain vegetables! I'm pretty sure I ended up throwing away that first batch of beets out of not having a clue what to do with them, but soon enough, I was roasting them up in foil packets with a little bit of olive oil, adding them to salads. I actually really like them, and after the first time I made them, the husband admitted that they had them all the time when he was growing up (so weird to me, he is such a traditional midwesterner, I had no idea they ate beets!). Eventually, my husband admitted that he wouldn't mind having a salad that was entirely beet focused. I researched on the internet and found that the most common ingredient in a beet salad is (well, other than beets) goat cheese. Well... we're not fans (I know, take away my foodie license or whatever). I also saw that many like the flavor of balsamic vinegar and beets. That gave me the idea for this salad. Very simple roasted beets, chilled, with chopped ripe heirloom tomatoes and a light dressing of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. This was so delicious, and it might sound strange, but we get soooo many tomatoes with Plow to Porch in the summer that I'm really excited for another way to use them up. The husband doesn't love balsamic vinegar like I do (what, doesn't everyone want to drink it?), but he really liked this as well, even though I "poured a bunch of that weird brown stuff on there." By all means, go ahead and add goat cheese if you want. I might add some feta next time for some creamy texture. But don't fear the beets!

Balsamic Roasted Beets and Tomato Salad (my own creation)

4-5 small beets, tops and bottoms trimmed off (I used golden here, but all sorts of beets would work, I think)

1 large heirloom tomato

olive oil (about 3 Tbs)

Balsamic Vinegar (about 1-2 Tbs)

Salt & Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place trimmed, unskinned beets in foil packet. Drizzle with olive oil before folding the packet closed (I leave a little bit of air inside the packet to circulate). Place in heated oven for about 45 minutes or until beets are soft and skins come off easily. Allow to cool completely before removing skins. Chop into wedges or bitesize pieces. Refridgerate about 1 hour until chilled. Chop tomato into bitesize pieces. Mix tomato & beets in small bowl. Toss with approx even amounts of olive oil and balsamic vinegar or to your own tastes. Tomatoes and beets should absorb most of the dressing and there shouldn't be much pooling inside the bowl. Top with salt & pepper to taste and serve. Makes two servings.