Tuesday, March 27, 2012

SP Squared or Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie

Ready to go into the oven
SP Squared?  I don't know why I named it that since I suspect the "math" doesn't work, but it was an appealing name for an appealing main course.  (I guess it is more like SP Doubled, but where is the pizzaz in that?) Plus, since it doesn't use lamb, it is probably more technically a cottage pie.  But I say pshaw to all that.  All of my testers have asked for this recipe. 

Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie
Serves 4-6

2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and boiled
3 Tbs. oil, divided, plus additional for greasing pan
1 cup vegetable stock
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves, divided
1 tsp. paprika, divided
1 tsp. salt, divided
1 tsp. ground black pepper, divided
1 cup chopped onion
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 finely chopped jalapeño (seeded if desired)
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/4 tsp. ground cumin 
20 oz. ground turkey
1 1/2 cups diced tomatoes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a deep, 8” x 8” square baking pan. Mash sweet potatoes with 1 Tbs. oil, 1/4 tsp. of paprika, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Slowly stir in stock until potatoes are creamy. Mix in 1/4 cup cilantro. Set aside.

Heat 2 Tbs. oil in large skillet, add onion, sauté until golden, add garlic, sauté until light brown. Add jalapeno, carrots, celery and red bell pepper and sauté until vegetables are beginning to soften. Add 1/4 tsp. paprika, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper and cumin. Sauté for a minute and add ground turkey, breaking up any clumps, and sauté until browned. Add in tomatoes and 1/4 cup cilantro. Stir well and sauté until meat is cooked through. Layer the meat and vegetables in the greased pan, top with mashed sweet potatoes. Smooth top of potatoes and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 tsp. of paprika. Bake until heated through and slightly browned, about 1 hour.

This recipe first appeared in my j weekly column.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Vote for the Culinary Website/Blog You Like Best

Historically, I've posted the links for several food blogging polls.  This one is from the International Association of Culinary Professionals and it is the ballot for the People's Choice award with the website urls, not live links, I'm sorry to say.  Since I don't have the relationship with IACP that I had with the other contest, I'm not reposting the links, but I urge you to check out some of these food blogs and add them to your daily information diet. Then vote for your favorite.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My Review of Fresh & Easy Kosher Cooking with Slow Cooker Shredded Beef and Honey Mustard Chicken Recipes

Leah Schapira’s new cookbook, Fresh & Easy Kosher Cooking: Ordinary Ingredients, Extraordinary Meals (Artscroll/Shaar Press) features kosher versions of contemporary American favorites. The book is now in its second printing after selling out its first printing of 13,000 in about a month.  Of course, you need not follow the Jewish dietary laws to enjoy her recipes.

Schapira, a food journalist specializing in kosher food, is co-founder of the popular website and recipe forum Cook Kosher . Her specialty is creating recipes that reflect current culinary trends and translating them into kosher to easy-to-make, easy-to-source dishes perfect for holiday, Friday night or even weeknight dinners. Recipe inspirations range from Mexican, Asian, Italian, Middle Eastern as well as traditional Eastern European Jewish influences and American favorites. Almost all ingredients are available from regular supermarkets.

There are lots of color photos illustrating the recipes. Small photos are used in the table of contents and to show recommended side dishes for some recipes, design features I found helpful and appealing. The recipes are clearly written, often give alternatives in preparation or ingredients, and are for the most part fuss free. When a recipe requires more technique (such as making and baking pizza), Schapira gives very detailed instructions (with photos). I especially liked her “traditional” chapter where she gives some fresh takes on symbolic foods for Shabbat and holiday dinners ranging from Beet Leaf Patties for Rosh Hashanah to Square Donuts for Chanukah.

The recipes below are from Fresh & Easy Kosher Cooking: Ordinary Ingredients, Extraordinary Meals by Leah Schapira/November 2011 (www.artscroll.com/freshandeasy). I have adapted them very slightly for space and to reflect my experience.  This article and the recipes first appeared in my column in the j weekly and the recipes are used with permission.

I made the shredded beef and served it as a main course over potatoes. Serving it that way instead of as a sandwich reduced the serving size to four from eight. I have also made this dish very succesfully in a pressure cooker. Schapira’s version of the honey mustard chicken is accompanied by a photo of the dish cooked with the peppers but the recipe itself leaves the type and amount of vegetables up to the user. I liked the idea of the peppers and included them in my version.

Shredded Beef
From Fresh &  Easy Kosher Cooking
Serves 8

2 lb. boneless chuck roast
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 onion, sliced
2 Tbs. onion soup mix
5 cloves of garlic, peeled
3/4 cup ketchup
1/2 cup light beer
8 buns or club rolls
Toppings as desired (such as sliced red onion, sliced tomatoes, lettuce leaves, etc.)

Place meat into the slow cooker. Top with brown sugar onion slices, soup mix and garlic. Pour ketchup and beer over meat. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 5 hours. Remove the meat. Strain the liquid from the slow cooker; discard solids. Reserve liquid. Use two forks to shred the meat, discarding any large pieces of fat. Place shredded meat back into cooker and pour half the strained liquid over it. Cover the slow cooker and cook on high for 20-30 minutes. Serve in buns or rolls with desired toppings.

Honey-Mustard Chicken
From Fresh & Easy Kosher Cooking
Serves 3-4

1 1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
3-4 Tbs. oil
2 large onions, diced
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2” strips, optional
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/2” strips, optional
3 Tbs. honey
3 Tbs. soy sauce
3 Tbs. mustard

Cut chicken into 2” strips of even thickness. Season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Add chicken and cook for 5 minutes. Add vegetables if using. Add honey, mustard and soy sauce. Cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until sauce reduces. (If chicken is cooked through before the sauce is reduced as much as you would like, remove the chicken from the pan, keep warm, and add back in after the sauce has thickened.) Serve over orzo or rice.
photo credit:  Artscroll.com

Monday, March 05, 2012

Lentil Stuffed Peppers, Near Eastern Bean Stew & Killer Garlic Sauce for Purim or Any Time (Plus They Are Vegan)

Queen Esther is probably the most famous Jewish vegan. That’s because she is said to have only eaten beans, lentils and similar foods while she was in King Ahasuerus’ court in order to observe Jewish dietary law.

Even if you are not celebrating Purim, these recipes are delicious, but for Purim they would be very special. The stew features pomegranate molasses for a sweet-tart flavor that is a traditional component of Purim foods to recognize the threat and redemption the Jews of Persia experienced. The stuffed peppers fulfill the tradition of having foods with a filling to recognize the many hidden intrigues and twists and turns of the Megillah (or the telling of the story of Esther).

Pomegranate molasses is available in Middle Eastern and other markets. For the lentil-stuffed peppers, the tomato and garlic sauce play together very nicely, but you can skip the garlic sauce if you’d like. If the garlic sauce flavor is too strong for you, stir in some regular or non-dairy yogurt to taste.

Lentil-Stuffed Peppers with Two Sauces
Serves 4-6

I like the lentil-bulgur stuffing piled into a pita and drizzled with garlic sauce if you are not up to making the full recipe!

8 medium-large red bell peppers
2 Tbs. oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 Tbs. minced garlic
1 cup chopped carrots
3/4 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup dried brown or green lentils
2 1/2 to 3 cups of vegetable stock
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 cups (packed) chopped chard
1-15 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup cooked bulgur or couscous
1 recipe tomato sauce (below)
1 recipe garlic sauce (below)

Cut tops and a thin slice off the bottom of the peppers to level, reserve. Core peppers. Place in dish with 1/2 cup water in bottom. Microwave on high for 5-8 minutes, until the peppers are tender. Drain. Chop scraps and tops and reserve.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil in large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add onions and garlic, sauté until golden. Add carrots, celery and chopped bell pepper. Sauté 2 minutes. Stir in lentils. Add 2 1/2 cups of stock. Stir in spices. Bring to simmer, stirring occasionally. After 10 minutes, add chard. Stir. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes until lentils are cooked, adding more stock if needed. Stir in tomatoes and bulgur. Stuff bell peppers. Spoon tomato sauce atop peppers. Bake 50 minutes. Drizzle each pepper with about a tsp. of the garlic sauce. Heat and pass remaining tomato sauce.

Tomato sauce: Combine 16 oz. tomato sauce with 1 Tbs. olive oil, 1/2 tsp. paprika, 1/2 tsp. sugar and salt and pepper to taste.

Garlic sauce: Combine 20 cloves of garlic (peeled), 1/3 cup lemon juice and 1/3 cup olive oil in a blender. Blend until creamy. You'll only need a few tbs. for the peppers, store the rest in a sealed container in the fridge for other uses. It will add zip and zing to almost everything.

Near Eastern Bean Stew
Serves 4

2 Tbs. oil
2 cups chopped leeks (white and light green parts)
2 Tbs. plus 1 Tbs. minced garlic
2 cups sliced carrots
2 cups chopped turnips
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 cups chopped eggplant
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. dried ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/8 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp. grated nutmeg
1 1/2 to 2 cups vegetable stock
1-15 oz. can white kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
1/4 cup minced fresh dill
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1 Tbs. minced fresh mint

Heat oil in a large, oven-proof pot over medium high heat. Sauté leeks and 2 Tbs. garlic sauté until light brown. Add carrots, turnips, red bell pepper and eggplant. Sauté for 3 minutes. Add spices and 1 1/2 cups of stock. Stir well. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Add beans. Stir well. Cover and keep at a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally until vegetable are cooked through, adding more stock if needed. Dish should be moist but not soupy. Stir in pomegranate molasses and dill. Have broiler heated. Combine 1 Tbs. garlic with breadcrumbs and mint. Scatter across the top of stew. Place under broiler until top is browned.
A version of this article first appeared in j. weekly