Monday, September 12, 2016

Meatless Monday--New Mexico Style Three Sisters Casserole

Three sisters casserole--if you grew up in the southwestern part of the country, I can almost guarantee you've had it in some form or fashion.  It makes the most glorious use of beans, squash, and corn, three staple crops of the Native Americans who inhabited the land long ago and, in some cases, still do to this day.  The name references the planting method the tribes used wherein the three crops were planted very near each other to maximize production and protect each other from the desert elements.  

With the addition of Hatch green chiles, my version takes a definite turn toward New Mexico.  The sweet corn mixture on top falls somewhere between the masa that surrounds tamales and the sweet corn pudding I love at the end of a spicy New Mexican or southwestern meal.  With protein-packed black beans and the squash mixture of your choice, this is a complete meal unto itself.  Add a side salad (and maybe a margarita), and you'll be more than satisfied.  

Three sisters casserole--a traditional southwestern dish--is the perfect late summer recipe for all that corn and zucchini in your back yard and at the farmer's market.  Easy to make and endlessly adaptable, it's sure to be a new favorite for vegetarians and meat eaters alike. 

New Mexico Style Three Sisters Casserole
adapted from Martha Rose Shulman, New York Times


For the beans:
2 TBSP olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1-2 roasted Hatch chiles (hot or mild), seeded and minced 
3 c. simmered black beans, cooking liquid reserved
2 (15 oz.) cans organic black beans (Organic is important because you won't be fully draining them.) 
salt, to taste 

For the squash:
2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c. minced onion
2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 lb. zucchini, summer squash, or a mixture of the two, sliced into 1/2-in thick half moons
1 tsp. dried oregano, preferably Mexican

For the corn:
2 c. corn kernels
1 1/4 c. milk
1/2 c. masa, cornmeal, or polenta 
1/2 grated asadero Monterey Jack cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

To finish:
1/4 c. crumbled cotija, queso fresco, or feta cheese
1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
1/4 c. Mexican crema, sour cream, or plain Greek yogurt thinned with a little milk
chopped cilantro

1.  Heat oven to 375° F.  Oil the bottom on insides of a 2-qt. casserole or gratin dish.

2.  To refry beans cooked from scratch, drain off about 1/2 c. of the cooking liquid and keep in a separate bowl to moisten beans if they become too dry.  To refry canned beans, drain them partially, reserving at least half of the liquid in the cans.  

3.  Regardless of the type of beans you're using, heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large non-stick frying pan.  Add cumin and Hatch chiles and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture begins to sizzle.  Add beans and fry, stirring and mashing with the back of a spoon, until they thicken and form a crust on the bottom of the pan.  Stir up crust into the beans and cook until thickened, but not dry, about 10 minutes.  Add reserved liquid or a bit of water if the beans dry out too much.  Taste and add salt, if needed.  Spread in an even layer on the bottom of the prepared dish.

4.  To prepare the squash, clean and dry the skillet sed to cook the beans.  Heat over medium and add olive oil.  Add onion and sauté until tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add squash, oregano, salt, and pepper, and turn heat up slightly.  Cook, frequently stirring or tossing in the pan, 8-10 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Spread in a layer over the beans.

5.  Combine the corn and milk in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Simmer until the corn is just tender, 5 minutes, then stir in the masa.  Once the masa is fully incorporated and the mixture begins to thicken a little, add in the cheese.  Spread the corn mixture evenly over the top of the zucchini.  Top with cotija and drizzle with olive oil.

6.  Bake 25 minutes, until the top layer browns a bit and the sides are bubbly.  Remove from the oven and let sit five minutes.  Drizzle with crema and top with cilantro.  

Yield: 8 main dish servings  

Friday, August 26, 2016

Pork Tenderloin with Blackberry-Tomato Sauce

I feel like I should start this post with an apology, so here goes--I'm sorry I held out on you with this recipe.  I made it at the beginning of the summer and it was amazing.  Then I didn't post it  But now here we are, nearing the tail end of summer, and I cannot let berry season pass without making sure you've seen this recipe.  That would just be downright hateful.

Because wow.  It is outstanding.  

Pork and blackberries have long been established as friends.  But when you add juicy, ripe summer tomatoes, sweet red onion, tart pomegranate juice, and a good splash of balsamic vinegar to the mix, you come up with something really special.  And, as it turns out, pretty darn easy to make, as well.

The tenderloin gets the basic season, brown, and put in the oven treatment.  While that's happening, the sauce gets put together, which pretty much consists of putting things in a pot to simmer together until the flavors have found the perfect way to bring out the best in each other.  

Then you get to eat.

And you'll be very happy.    

Lean pork tenderloin topped with antioxidant-packed berries and pomegranate juice make this meal a healthy, hearty, perfect way to fill your belly and stay on track with your summer fitness goals.   

Pork Tenderloin with Blackberry-Tomato Sauce
source unknown

1 lb. pork tenderloin
1 tsp. sea salt, divided
1 tsp. black pepper
2 TBSP olive oil, divided
1 medium red onion, sliced
12 oz. blackberries (about 2 c.), divided
1/2 c. halved grape or cherry tomatoes
1/2 c. pomegranate juice
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. fresh thyme

1.  Preheat the oven to 425° F.  Pat the tenderloin dry with a paper towel and season with half the salt and pepper.  

2.  Heat half the oil in a large ovenproof sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Add the pork and brown on all sides.  Place the pan in the oven and cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center reads 145° F, approximately 20-25 minutes.  Remove and let rest 5 minutes before slicing.

3.  While the pork cooks, heat the remaining oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and remaining salt and pepper and cook until the onion softens, about 5 minutes.  Add half the blackberries and all the tomatoes and cook about 10 minutes or until the tomatoes are mostly broken down.  Add the pomegranate juice and vinegar.  Increase the heat to bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 3-5 minutes or until the sauce begins to thicken.  Add the remaining berries.

4.  To serve, slice the pork, drizzle with sauce, and sprinkle with thyme.

Yield: 4 generous servings    

Friday, August 19, 2016

Roasted Summer Vegetable and Rice Casserole with Chicken

My goodness.  We've been having the most amazing stretch of weather.  Last week, we were slogging through our twelfth straight day of hundred degree temperatures.  Then the clouds rolled in, the raindrops came, and the temperatures went way, way down.  And it's wonderful.  Eighty degrees in Texas in August?  Yes please!

With weather more like early October than mid-August, I couldn't wait to get in the kitchen and make a dinner that required more than heating up the grill or putting together a salad.  A quick search of my friend Courtney's blog, and I knew exactly what I'd make.

Let me tell you, it didn't disappoint.  In fact, it's one of my new favorites.  It was a snap to put together--I got the rice going, then prepped the chicken and the vegetables while it cooked.  By cooking the rice and chicken ahead of time, the casserole could easily become a weeknight staple.  The leftovers were fantastic, too.  I loved it so much, I'm already thinking about the vegetable combinations I'll use as the seasons change.  Fall and winter, I'm comin' for ya.

For now, I'll just keep smiling through this glorious bit of decidedly non-August weather.  

Summer's bounty really shines in this easy, healthy,  flavor-packed casserole your whole family is sure to love.  

Roasted Summer Vegetable and Rice Casserole with Chicken
adapted from Cook Like a Champion

1 medium zucchini, sliced into half moons
1 medium summer squash, sliced into half moons
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 red bell pepper, sliced
2 TBSP olive oil, divided
2 eggs
2 TBSP Dijon mustard
1 c. cottage cheese
3 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 c. Parmesan cheese, divided
2/3 c. corn kernels (cut from 1-2 ears or frozen)
2 c. cooked brown rice
2 c. cooked, shredded chicken (chickpeas would be a great vegetarian substitute)
1/3 c. chopped fresh basil, divided

1.  Preheat the oven to 425° F.  

2.  On a rimmed baking sheet, toss together the zucchini, squash, and bell pepper with 1 TBSP olive oil.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Roast 10 minutes and remove from the oven.  

3.  Add tomatoes and remaining oil.  Toss to combine, then roast 15 minutes more.  Remove from the oven and reduce heat to 350° F. 

4.  While the vegetables cool, make the sauce by whisking together the eggs, Dijon mustard, cottage cheese, garlic, and half the Parmesan cheese.  Salt and pepper to taste.

5.  When the vegetables are cool enough to handle, cut the pepper strips into bite-sized pieces and add them to the egg mixture along with the remaining vegetables, rice, chicken, and half the basil.  Stir to combine, then transfer to a prepared 2 quart casserole dish or 9x13 baking dish.  Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and lightly cover with foil, taking care not to press the foil down onto the cheese.  (You want all that goodness to stay with the casserole!) 

6.  Bake 15 minutes, then remove the foil and bake 15 minutes more.  Allow the casserole to rest for 10 minutes, then sprinkle with remaining basil and serve.

Yield: 8 servings

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Last-Minute Sort-of Spanish Shrimp

That's quite a name, huh?  I saw it while scrolling my New York Times Cooking app.  I probably would have kept on scrolling because, let's be honest, that name doesn't exactly inspire confidence in the recipe.  But I love Spanish flavors, I had some cherry tomatoes to use up, and nearly anything Mark Bittman does is fantastic.  So I tapped the picture to see more.

There were no tomatoes listed in the ingredients.

I was thoroughly confused.  Just as I was about to chalk it up to an error with the app, thinking surely the wrong picture made it to the recipe posted, I noticed the picture was actually a video.  I clicked on it and, wouldn't you know it, there was Mark Bittman, surrounded by a whole mess of ingredients, talking.

As it turns out, this "recipe" is more of a basic guideline, which is why the tomatoes weren't listed.  If you're not a terribly confident cook or you need a recipe for everything you make, I think you'll get a lot of information from this video about how having basic pantry staples on hand can make easy dinners possible and how certain ingredients work together.  As a more experienced home cook, I really enjoyed hearing his thought process on putting ingredients together to develop flavors.  If you do watch the video and read Bittman's recipe, you'll notice I didn't exactly follow either--I did what he said and used what I had on hand!

No matter your experience level, I can assure you you'll want this dish in your weeknight repertoire.  It truly took 20 minutes, including cleaning the shrimp and chopping the ingredients.  If you prefer to cook your shrimp with the shell on, it'll be even quicker.  Served with a glass of wine (or two) and some toasted bread, such as the fantastic olive bread I get at my grocery store, to sop up the deep red, flavor-packed oil, this is sure to become a new staple.    

In a rush and not sure what to make for dinner?  With just a few pantry staples and about a pound of shrimp, you can make a dinner that home that'll be tastier and quicker than your usual takeout.  

Last-Minute Sort-of Spanish Shrimp
based on a recipe from Mark Bittman, New York Times

1/4 c. olive oil, plus more for drizzling, if desired
2-3 cloves chopped garlic
1/2 tsp. chipotle chili flakes
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
salt and black pepper, to taste
3/4 c. halved cherry tomatoes
chopped parsley and lemon wedges, if desired

1.  Over low heat, warm the oil in a sauté pan large enough to cook the shrimp in one layer.  Add in garlic and chili flakes and adjust the heat so it barely sizzles.  Cook until garlic becomes fragrant and blonde, but do not let it brown.  Add the paprika and cumin and cook, stirring a couple of times, until ingredients are incorporated and oil is a deep red color, 2-3 minutes.

2.  Salt and pepper the shrimp and tomatoes, then add to the pan in one layer.  Raise the heat to medium-low and cook, turning once, until the shrimp are opaque and cooked through, 2-3 minutes per side, depending on the size of the shrimp.

3.  To serve, spoon shrimp into three or four shallow bowls, distributing oil evenly.  If desired, drizzle with additional olive oil and sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley.  Serve with lemon wedges and/or toasted bread.

Yield: 3-4 servings

Monday, July 11, 2016

Meatless Monday--Linguine with Sweet Pepper Sauce

Here's the good and bad of this recipe.  The good is really two-fold.  First of all, carbs.  Love.  Clearly.  Second of all, it's a quick and easy, light, summery recipe that make for great lunch leftovers.

The bad.  I went to Italy shortly after making this, so it all of a sudden paled in comparison to what I had in the trattoria with the adorable Italian nonnas making fresh pasta at a table next to the window.  But we can't all have that everyday now, can we?  Unless we're Italian.  Which I'm not.

Even still, I recommend adding this to your summer weeknight dinner list.  Better yet, make it for a weekend lunch like I did.  Since it comes together in a breeze (you can even make the red pepper sauce in advance), you'll have more time to enjoy the sunshine, swimming pool, and all the other things we'll miss when the season passes.

Sweet summer bell peppers, creamy cheese, and fresh basil combine for a light and healthy vegetarian pasta that's out of this world.

Linguine with Sweet Pepper Sauce
adapted from Cooking Light, June 2014

8 oz. uncooked linguine
2 red bell peppers
2 yellow bell peppers
4 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tsp. sea salt, plus more for finishing
1/2 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper, plus more as desired
4 oz. semi-soft cheese, such as Burrata or mozzarella, cut or torn into bite-sized pieces
1/4 c. fresh basil leaves, julienned

1.  If you have a gas stove, turn burners on medium and place peppers directly on to grates.  Turn as needed, until flesh is black and bubbling.  Put peppers in a large brown paper bag and close.  Let sit ten minutes, then peel all charred skin from the peppers, remove flesh, and cut into strips.  Discard seeds and stem.  Alternately, preheat boiler to high.  Halve and seed the peppers and place, skin sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Flatten with hand and place under the broiler.  Broil eight minutes or until blackened.  Wrap peppers in foil and let stand ten minutes.  Peel black skin from flesh and cut into strips.

2.  Cook pasta according to package directions.    

3.  Meanwhile, place half of each color bell pepper strips in a food processor along with 1 TBSP oil, 1/2 tsp. salt, and all the pepper.  Purée until nearly smooth.  Set aside.

4.  Heat a large sauté pan over medium-low heat.  Add three TBSP oil to pan and swirl to coat.  Add garlic and cook two minutes, until the garlic becomes fragrant and soft.  Add 1/4 c. pasta cooking liquid, puréed bell pepper, and the remaining salt.  Stir to combine.  Toss in pasta.  Taste and adjust seasonings, keeping in mind the cheese will add some saltiness.

5.  Divide pasta among four bowls.  Top each bowl with equal amounts of the bell pepper strips, cheese, and basil.  Serve immediately.

Yields: 4 servings