Trouble With Toast

Recipe: Mixed vegetable and farro soup

November 29, 2010

Even though the temperatures in Atlanta have only just recently started to dip down to seasonal levels, I was eyeing this recipe in F&W magazine (it’s from Mario Batali’s NYC market/restaurant Eataly).  The photograph of the dish alone looked like it could comfort and warm my tummy on a chilly day.  Unfortunately, the end result didn’t quite live up to expectations.

The soup is easy enough to make, and most of the ingredients could easily be hanging around your house.  However, even after sitting for a day (I never eat soups on the day I cook them), the flavors were just…meh.  My husband joked that the problem was that the soup was vegan, and that a smidge of pork fat would surely solve the problem.  But doesn’t there have to be a way to spruce up a bland vegetarian dish?  I mean, I’ve eaten plenty of meatless meals that had more pizazz than this one.  I refuse to believe that lack of meat necessarily equals lack of flavor.

Take a look at the recipe and let me know what YOU would do to kick it up a notch.  I’d love to move this into the regular rotation, but it’s gonna need some work.

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium leek, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup farro or wheat berries
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 quarts water
  • One 15-ounce can borlotti or pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 large carrots, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil

In an enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the oil. Add the celery, onion and leek and cook over moderately high heat, stirring a few times, until softened, 5 minutes. Add the farro and tomato paste and cook, stirring, until the grains are coated and shiny, 30 seconds. Add 1 quart of the water and the beans and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Add the carrots and the remaining 1 quart of water. Cover and cook over low heat until the carrots are tender, 30 minutes. Add the peas, cover and cook until tender, 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, top with the basil.


Recipe: Braised Chicken with Shallots

November 22, 2010
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My love for chicken thighs is well-documented, so it should come as no surprise that I dog-eared this recipe from Fresh Flavor Fast for a dinner last week.  This is a relatively quick braise, so you can certainly tackle this meal on a weeknight (as I did).  I was a little surprised that there was no butter in the recipe, but the sauce was plenty thick and rich on its own, between the Dijon mustard and the time in the pot.  I served this with homemade baguettes, which were essential in soaking up all of the delicious juices – but you could certainly opt for potatoes, rice, pasta, or some other variety of starch.  The cookbook suggested that this dish was better the next day, but I loved it the most right after it was served the first time.  Yum!

  • 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 pound shallots, peeled and halved
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Coat with flour, shaking off excess.

In a Dutch oven or 5-quart pot with tight-fitting lid, heat oil over medium-high.  Cook chicken until browned, 3-4 minutes per side.  Remove and set aside.

Add shallots and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened and golden brown, about 5 minutes.  Add wine; cook until evaporated, 3-5 minutes.  Stir in mustard and 1 1/2 cups water and bring to a boil.

Return chicken, bone side down, to pot.  Reduce heat to a simmer; cover and cook until chicken is tender and cooked through, 30-35 minutes.  Transfer chicken to plate and keep warm.  Add tomatoes to pot, season with salt and pepper.  Cook on high until sauce is thickened, 6-8 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium low and return chicken to pot.  Cook until heated through.  Serve.

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Recipe: Pork Tenderloin with Sauteed Apples and Leeks

November 11, 2010
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As much as I love “the other white meat,” pork tenderloin isn’t the most naturally robust and flavorful cut of meat.  The texture is great, but you have to pair it with something that brings out its potential.  Whenever I cook pork, I can’t help but think of apples, so this recipe (from Fresh Flavor Fast) grabbed my attention right away.  My dinner dates (dad and husband) were not so sure.  Apples and leeks?  Honey and vinegar?  They weren’t as convinced as I was that this would be a delicious fall meal.

Not only was the dinner super tasty, but it was also pretty darn easy.  Broiling the pork allows you to forget about it for a bit and tend to the sauteing.  You don’t have to peel the apples, which eliminates a lot of time and effort.  The whole shebang took less than 30 minutes to put together, which is definitely appreciated after a long day.  Everyone really enjoyed the flavors – even those who were skeptical at the start.

  • 2 pork tenderloins (1 1/2 to 2 pounds total), trimmed of excess fat and silver skin
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 leeks, white and light-green parts only, halved lengthwise, and cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 3 Gala apples, cored and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices and halved crosswise
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar or red-wine vinegar

Heat broiler, with rack set 4 inches from heat. On a broilerproof rimmed baking sheet, rub pork with 1 tablespoon oil; generously season with salt and pepper. Broil, until pork registers 145 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a plate, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest, 10 minutes (temperature will rise about 5 degrees as it sits).

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat remaining tablespoon oil over medium. Add leeks and fennel seeds; cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks are tender, about 6 minutes. Add apples, and cook, tossing, until just beginning to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in honey and vinegar, and season with salt and pepper. Thinly slice pork, and serve with apples and leeks.

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Recipe: Crispy Ginger-Lime Chicken Thighs

November 9, 2010
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I love chicken thighs.  They are, by far, my favorite part of the bird, and the reason I volunteer as chicken-carver in my house (so I can get first dibs).  When they go on sale at the supermarket, I buy them in bulk and then freeze them for tasty future meals like this one.

As I was flipping through my newest cookbook (Martha Stewart’s Fresh Flavor Fast, a follow up to Great Food Fast, which I really enjoyed), this recipe immediately caught my eye – not only because it used chicken thighs, but because it highlighted everything that I love about that paticular piece of meat.

The dish was very tasty, and pretty darn simple.  The spice mixture rubbed under the skin really emphasizes the rich flavor of the thigh meat.  And broiling the thighs is a great way to crisp up the delicious skin without having to keep your eyes on an oil-laden pan.  I served this with some couscous and carrots, and it was a fantastically fresh weeknight treat.  Sorry, no photos, as I completely forgot to get the camera out before I chowed down – I told you I really liked chicken thighs!

  • 1 tablespoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 4 scallions, minced
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

Heat broiler, with rack set 4 inches from heat. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil; set aside. In a small bowl, combine ginger, lime juice, curry powder, scallions, 1 teaspoon salt, and teaspoon pepper.

Arrange chicken on prepared baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Gently loosen skin from each piece of chicken. Dividing evenly, rub ginger mixture under skin.

Turn thighs, skin side down, on baking sheet. Broil about 5 minutes. Flip thighs, skin side up, and continue to broil until skin is crisp and an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of thighs (avoiding bone) registers 165 degrees, 6 to 8 minutes more. Serve chicken drizzled with pan juices.

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Almost there…

November 5, 2010
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Sorry for the lack of new posts – “catching up” is a tricky concept, and a lot harder to do than I anticipated.  I have been cooking, though, and I’ve even prepared two meals from my autographed Ad Hoc at Home cookbook, which had been collecting dust for far too long.  I will definitely share some good stuff next week, I promise.

In the meantime, definitely check out Blissful Glutton’s photo recap of a havest dinner that we both attended months ago at Miller Union.  I never wrote about the meal, but it was a lovely evening, and I’m so glad that someone captured it (and she certainly did so better than I ever could).

Enjoy the weekend!  I hope you all have tasty things planned.