Sunday, July 24, 2011

Pasta and Beans Salad

Pasta and beans salad is so versatile and so much faster to make then my potato salad that it has become our stand-by for busy summer days. This version was done in about 25 minutes from start to plating. There is very little peeling and chopping involved as opposed to potato salad where I can spend at least 30 minutes just peeling and chopping potatoes, onions and carrots, even with my technique using mandolin.
Lately I have been using Lumache shape pasta for salads. The pasta is shaped like a snail and when mixed with other ingredients almost every “snail” is filled with something. In picture bellow you can see how well it holds beans and peas.

(This is just a suggestion, be creative)
1 cup dry Pasta shapes
1 19 oz. can mixed beans
1/2 small onion, chopped
Green beans, cooked and chopped
Tomatoes, seeded and chopped
Fresh Basil, chopped
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Hot sauce (optional)
Truffle oil (optional)
Parmigiano Regiano, shaved or grated
§    In a large pot bring salted water to boil.
§    Put chopped onions in a mixing bowl.
§    Drain and wash mixed beans in a colander and place them in mixing bowl with onions.
§    When water comes to boil drop in pasta and scrape bottom to make sure that pasta doesn’t stick.
§    When pasta is almost al dente drop beans and onions into boiling pasta water. This will soften beans and remove harshness from raw onions. I always blanch raw onions for salads.
§    Drain pasta, beans and onions in large colander and run under cold water to stop cooking. Drain well, preferably in salad spinner.
§    Move pasta, beans, onions, chopped tomatoes and green beans into mixing bowl and season with little bit of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, Truffle oil and hot sauce, if using, and taste. Adjust seasoning if necessary.
§    Serve in individual bowls, sprinkle basil and cheese on top. Seasoned croutons are nice addition. You can also add leftover cooked chicken or hard boiled egg. As I said, be creative, it can be nice light lunch.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Stir-fried Squid or Cuttlefish

Even though name of this Korean dish is “Stir-fried Squid” I always use cuttlefish because it is much thicker, larger and easier to work with. Also, I cut each cuttlefish in 2 pieces and then I cut diamond pattern at bias on the inside side. This way the pieces that are about 3”x2” cook quickly and evenly.

2 cleaned cuttlefish or large squid tubes (about 1Lb)
2 cloves garlic, finally chopped
1” piece of ginger, finally chopped
1/4 c. sake or rice wine
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 Tbs. Sriracha sauce or 2 tsp. hot pepper flakes or to taste
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
3 green onions or 6 garlic scapes, cut into 2” pieces
1 small or 1/2 large carrot, julienned
12 yellow beans, ends removed and cut in half
12 green beans, ends removed and cut in half
1 tsp. peanut oil
1 tsp. sesame oil

Lay squid tubes flat on cutting board and cut alongside fold on both sides. Turn over top half to expose inner side. Make diagonal cuts more then half way through about 1/4” apart. Turn 90 ° and repeat. You will now have diamond shaped cuts. Repeat on remaining 3 halves of squid tubes. Cut tube halves into 6 pieces about 2”x3”. Place in prep bowl and marinate in mixture of garlic, ginger, sake, sugar, salt and Sriracha sauce. Marinate in fridge for half an hour.

In a very hot wok add peanut and sesame oil and stir-fry garlic scapes.

 When scapes turn dark green add yellow and green beans and cook for 3 minutes.

Add squids and stir-fry on very high heat till just done. When the squids curl up, they are done, about 1 to 2 minutes, no more.

Serve immediately with bowl of steamed rice.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Kebab – Summer Delight on a Skewer

Kebab is such versatile dish that almost every region in the world has their own version. I had prepared Shish Kebab using small and larger pieces of beef, pork, lamb, chicken, rabbit, seafood and vegetable and even ground meat (lamb, pork, veal or beef) in a dish called Ćevapčići. Recipe for my version is here.
As usual, Wikipedia has detailed article on Kebabs from around the world.
Last week I have prepared 2 versions of Kebab.

First one was inspired by Chinese cuisine: all beef kebab with Char Siu sauce and fried rice with scapes, yellow beans and carrots. The kebab was grilled on BBQ on high heat, turned every 2 minutes for total of 5 minutes for medium done.

Second was more elaborate, a typical Western take on Shish Kebab. I have alternated slices of pork tenderloin, smoked & cooked bacon, onion, red pepper and yellow zucchini (squash). Each skewer had 5 pieces of meat and 4 of each other ingredients and was basted by hickory barbecue sauce. I grilled kebabs on direct medium low heat with BBQ lid closed, turning every 3 minutes for total 8 minutes. It was perfect: tender, juicy and right amount of heat and served on bed of shredded Napa cabbage with bowl of steamed rice.
One tip: I used flat bamboo skewers. These are absolutely ideal because they do not allow anything that is skewered to move or rotate. They are worth to look for. I bought mine in Dollar Store, really inexpensive. Also, I wrapped exposed end of bamboo in few wraps of aluminum foil to prevent burning. This way you can just wash and reuse them.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Pasta Frittata with Garlic Scapes

Frittata of any kind makes great breakfast, lunch or even dinner. It can be as light or as substantial (read “fat”) as you want to make it. In this version I used very little grated Parmigiano Regiano cheese and just one tablespoon of heavy cream so as far as frittatas go I can consider this leftover spaghettini version quite light.

Ingredients (for 9” non-stick skillet)
2 – 3 cups spaghettini or spaghetti, chopped to 1” pieces
6 eggs
1/3 cup chopped scapes or green onions
1 Tbs. 35% cream
2 Tbs. grated Parmigiano Regiano cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp. olive oil

Beat eggs and whipping cream in a larger mixing bowl then add pasta, cheese and salt & pepper.
Heat skillet over moderate high heat, add olive oil and chopped scapes.
Cook till scapes soften, then mix them in pasta & egg mixture.
Reheat the skillet with a bit of extra oil and pour in the mixture.
Cover and cook on medium till top feels dry.
Slide onto a large plate, then place same skillet upside down on top of frittata, turn plate with skillet on top over, remove plate and put back on burner.
Cook another 2 minutes or till eggs are cooked through.
Slide onto serving plate, cut into wedges and serve.
Frittata can be eaten as is or with a toast, hot, warm or room temperature.
Ingredients that you can add are entirely up to you. Crispy bacon, caramelized onions and shredded mozzarella and/or Provolone comes to mind. There are no rules so be creative.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Steak Tartare

(Czech version)

Steak Tartare is one of the biggest delights for a true carnivore like me. It is a raw ground beef (tenderloin or sirloin) combined with other ingredients and served on toast. This is a very simple and simplistic description. What you put in meat mixture and how much is a personal choice so I will just give a basic guideline.
Steak Tartar was named after Tatar tribe of medieval Central Asia. Wikipedia has a great article on history and development of this gourmet dish.
I can not emphasize enough how important fresh meat and eggs are in this dish. Check your eggs for freshness by using water test method or just check the date on egg carton. Meat has to be super fresh and any membranes or sinew must be removed, all you want is just red meat and nothing else. Of course, you must be the one to grind the meat using super clean and cooled grinder. I put my meat (cut into cubes) together with meat grinder parts and mixing bowl, in the freezer for about half an hour before grinding. You want to keep the Tartar as cold as possible from preparation to serving.

3/4 lb Ground beef tenderloin or sirloin (see note above)
1 Egg yolk, raw
1 tsp. Capers, chopped
1 Tbs. Onion, chopped
1 tsp. Parsley, chopped
1 tsp. Hungarian hot paprika
1/2 tsp. Black pepper, freshly ground
1 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. Ketchup
3 Anchovies, creamed
(Adjust amounts to your personal taste)

8 slices toasted rye bread, crust removed
2 cloves garlic, peeled

Mix all above ingredients (except toasts and garlic J) in chilled stainless steel, ceramic or glass bowl using 2 forks till all ingredients are well combined. Do not mix with your hands, you want to keep the mixture as cold as possible. When done, transfer to chilled serving bowl or plate together with a toasted rye bread and garlic.
Rub garlic on one side of toast and spread tartar on same side. Best beverage to accompany this great meal is original Pilsner Urquell, of course.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Cooking with Garlic Scapes

For those that have never heard about garlic scapes, just let me tell you that in some dishes it is the best part of whole garlic plant. In my plant growing zone 6b I harvest scapes at end of June just after they form piggy tail (full circle turn) and then store them in sealed plastic bag in fridge. They do last a long time, last year I was cooking with scapes in November. I love to grill them on BBQ or sear them in a frying pan, either way they turn sweet and tender even though when raw the bottom end may seem a bit woody. They are even better when seared and then cooked in liquid like a sauce or soup. And, of course, most favorite way to use garlic scapes is Pesto. Contrary to what many people think when they hear about garlic scapes pesto, they are not all that garlicky at all. The garlic taste is very mild. I will try to pan fry them roughly chopped in lots of olive oil and then run them through blender, sort of like cooked scapes pesto. I think that it will work. Looks like another subject for a recipe post.
Here are some dishes in which I used scapes last week as a side dish or garnish.

Chicken Teriyaki with red pepper and scapes.
Pan fry red pepper and scapes till soft, add chicken thigh strips, stir fry for 3 minutes, add teriyaky sauce and cook another 3 minutes, uncovered. Serve on bed of rice with lightly salted cucumber and radish slices, no dressing.

Pork Tenderloin Shishkebab
In this version I skewered pieces of pork tenderloin, bacon, onion, red pepper and zucchini, smothered with barbecue sauce and grilled on moderately hot grill with lightly oiled garlic scapes on side.
I served it on bed of shredded Napa cabbage and with rice and cucumber salad.

Ocean Perch with Mashed Potatoes.
The perch is cooked same way as Salmon with Crispy Skin. High heat and short time with flesh side down first and skin side after. The scapes were cooked together with red pepper and white onions till all veggies were nicely caramelized. As for mashed potatoes I run boiled baking potatoes through food mill and then mixed the riced potatoes with sour cream, butter and milk. So rich and so good!!!