Friday, November 27, 2015

Turkey Farro Salad with Candied Chickpeas

Last Year's Post: Couscous with Turkey or Chicken
Two Years Ago:   Turkey & Pomegranate Salad

I happen to think that turkey is highly under-rated as an every day meat as opposed to a special occasion meat.  It's cheap, healthy, readily available, and kids and adults like it equally.  Maybe one problem is the sheer volume of leftovers when you cook an entire turkey, but these days you can buy a split turkey breast or even turkey tenderloins.  These two turkey tenderloins weighed .60 lb, cost $3.29, and will feed four people as part of this recipe.  Not bad.

Of course, this is also a great recipe if you have leftover turkey and is a total change from a big heavy holiday dinner.  The salad is light but complex with fresh greens, chewy farro, fresh and dried fruits, creamy blue cheese, and candied chickpeas in addition to the turkey.  I really liked the candied chickpeas because they have a hint of sweetness and a hint of spice from the pepper.  But if you don't want to go to the bother of roasting them, substitute sweet/spicy nuts of any type that are coarsely chopped, or even plain roasted pecans or walnuts.  The chickpeas are interesting but nuts will have more crunch.

Speaking of substitutions, if you don't happen to have farro any other chewy grain will work - bulgur, quinoa, wheatberries, or even wild rice.  You can also substitute fresh clementines that are peeled and cut up instead of mandarin oranges, but I just happen to like mandarin oranges.  And you could add some kale to the lettuce, or substitute it entirely.

Cook the turkey in advance and place the tenderloins and pan juices in a zip-lock bag in the refrigerator for an hour or so.  The juices get reabsorbed and the turkey will cut perfectly.  If you also make the farro and candied chickpeas in advance, this becomes a really fast meal to pull together any day of the week.

Turkey Farro Salad with Candied Chickpeas
Serves 4

1/2 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
1/8 cup packed brown sugar
¼  cup olive oil plus 1 ½ tablespoons, divided
Salt and ground black pepper
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
2 turkey tenderloins (1 pound total) or leftover cooked turkey
½ cup uncooked farro
1 ½ cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 large Gala, Braeburn, or Honeycrisp apple, cored and thinly sliced
2 romaine hearts, chopped (8 cups)
1 can mandarin oranges (drained), or 2 fresh clementines, peeled and cut up
2 tablespoons dried cranberries
1 ounce high-quality blue cheese, crumbled (1/4 cup)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Drain and rinse beans, then spread on a kitchen towel to dry thoroughly. Line a shallow baking pan with parchment paper and spread beans in a single layer in pan. Sprinkle with brown sugar, ½ tablespoon of oil, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1/8 teaspoon of pepper; stir to coat beans evenly. Roast for 50 minutes or until amber colored, stirring twice for even browning. Remove and cool in pan.

Sprinkle poultry seasoning and 1/2 teaspoon salt over turkey. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil and add turkey. Cook for 20-30 minutes or until done (165 degrees F), turning occasionally to brown evenly.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan bring farro and broth to boiling. Reduce heat; cover and simmer according to package directions until tender but chewy. Drain off any liquid; cool.

In a small bowl or jar, add the lemon juice, ¼ cup olive oil, mustard and ¼ teaspoon salt.  Whisk (or shake the jar) until blended.

When ready to serve, thinly slice the turkey.  Add apples and romaine to a large bowl and add enough dressing to coat, then toss gently. Transfer salad to a platter or plates. Arrange turkey, farro, and chickpeas over greens. Top with oranges, cranberries, and blue cheese.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Dried Fruit Sauce (Mincemeat Sauce)

Last Year's Post: Cornmeal Herb Scones
Two Years Ago:  Grilled Sweet Potatoes

The minute I saw this recipe I was entranced.  Although it was positioned as a dessert sauce, I immediately thought of waffles or oatmeal with the warm, spicy fruit sauce on top.  And if you like both mincemeat and pumpkin pie, now you don't have to choose - just top pumpkin pie with mincemeat sauce.  What a great idea!  Plus, it would make a great hostess or holiday gift as well.  Things just keep getting better and better.

A trip to your local natural foods store would be a good idea so you can buy all the dried fruit and nuts in bulk and get exactly the amount you need at a great price.  And don't be tempted to use last year's spices because they're too old.  Rule of thumb - throw out any ground spices after 6 months and any whole spices after a year.  Penzeys is my go-to spice store and I've recommended them so many times I ought to get royalties (not).  Don't risk your holiday dinners on out-of-date spices.

The benefit of making your own sauce as opposed to doctoring a jar of mincemeat filling is that you get to control the balance of sugar, citrus and spice, plus you get major bragging rights.  And it's so easy - throw everything in the food processor, then let it sit in the fridge for a few days.  The result is infinitely superior to anything you could buy.  (Did I mention the brandy?)  The flavor is very bright and fresh from the lemon and ginger.  If you decide you would like it sweeter, just add a little honey while it warms.

You can see it's pretty thick in the jar.  When you're ready to serve the sauce you're supposed to thin it with something like apple cider or orange juice or - if you're feeling wicked - dark rum.  Ooooh.  My suggestion is to wait until the sauce has warmed up in the pan at least little before you decide how much additional liquid to add because it will loosen up somewhat anyway as it warms.  If you end up putting too much liquid in, just simmer it for a few minutes longer to reduce.

This would make for a pretty special breakfast during the holidays or for a birthday.

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Dried Fruit Sauce (Mincemeat Sauce)
Makes 2 cups

Note:  this recipe is flexible; feel free to add orange zest, a mix of walnuts and pecans, apricots or other dried fruits.

1 tart apple, peeled and cored
4 ounces golden raisins
3 ounces dark brown sugar
2 ounces prunes, dried figs or dried dates, coarsely chopped
2 ounces walnut or pecan halves
1 ounces dried cherries
1 ounce cold butter, cut into pieces
½ ounce crystallized ginger, coarsely chopped
¼ cup brandy, like Cognac or Calvados
1 lemon, zested and juiced
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon freshly ground allspice
¼ teaspoon freshly ground clove

To finish the sauce:
 Dark rum, apple cider or orange juice
 Black pepper to taste (optional)
1 to 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (optional)

Combine all ingredients except those to finish the sauce in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped; do not purée. Transfer to an airtight container and let rest at least 1 day, or up to 4 weeks.
When ready to serve, transfer to a saucepan and add enough rum or other liquid to loosen. Heat until warm and bubbly. If desired, add black pepper to make the mixture spicier. To make a richer sauce, whisk in cold butter 1 tablespoon at a time, to taste.

Serve warm over ice cream, pumpkin pie, baked apples, waffles, pancakes or oatmeal.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Split Pea Soup

Last Year's Post: Brussels Sprout Leaf Salad
Two Years Ago:  Thai Lettuce Wraps

I'm surprised that I'm posting a recipe for split pea soup, because for most of my life I avoided it like the plague.  I can't remember actually ever trying it but I think I was put off by the whole green glop thing.  Well, I got brave a few years ago (actually I couldn't refuse when it was served to me at a friend's house) and to my surprise, it's really good!  Yes, it still has that green glop thing going on, but a mature person can get past that.  It's rich and comforting on a chilly night, not to mention good for you.

This recipe is particularly easy because you just throw everything in a slow cooker and forget it for 8 hours.  If you want to serve it during the week and will be gone longer than 8 hours, just make it on the weekend and refrigerate it to reheat.  It also freezes well.

The one ingredient that gave me pause was the ham hocks.   I had a dim idea of what a ham hock is, but fully expected to have to make a trek to the local meat shop to find them.  I was so surprised to find them at my local Fry's grocery store that the meat counter employee started laughing at me.  She pointed them out in the meat display and they looked like this.

Mildly disgusting, I know, but they're traditional and they impart great flavor as the soup cooks plus you end up with some ham to shred and add at the end.  

As good as the soup was, the garlic toast really sent it over the top.  All you do is slice up some french bread (seeded baguette worked particularly well), brush it with olive oil, grill (or broil) for about a minute per side, then immediately rub each slice with a cut garlic clove.  Rubbing it after toasting gives it a much fresher garlic flavor and aroma.  The garlicky crisp bread was the perfect accompaniment to the hot creamy soup.  Must. make. the. toast.

One last tip:  I used a manual potato masher to partially mash the soup at the end because I thought an immersion blender would go too quickly and turn everything into a puree.  I wanted some texture.  I think you could also serve it without mashing at all, it's up to you.

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Split Pea Soup
Serves 8

Note:  this soup freezes well.

1 pound dried green split peas, rinsed and drained
1 ½ cups cubed peeled Yukon Gold potatoes
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped peeled carrot
1 large bay leaf
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 pounds smoked ham hocks
6 cups water
½ cup sour cream
Parsley leaves, for garnish
Extra black pepper, for garnish

Layer peas and next 9 ingredients (through ham hocks) in the order listed in a 6-quart electric slow cooker.  Gently pour 6 cups water over the top.  Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.

Remove the ham hocks from the slow cooker.  Remove meat from bones and cut into bite-sized pieces; discard skin and bones.  Discard bay leaf.

Coarsely mash soup to desired consistency, adding additional hot water to thin if desired.  Stir in chopped ham. Divide soup evenly among 8 bowls; top each serving with 1 tablespoon sour cream.  Garnish with parsley leaves and additional black pepper if desired.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Dutch Baby

Last Year's Post:  Sausage and Lentils
Two Years Ago:   Halibut Provencale

There are quite a few variations on the puffed German pancake theme.  I think this one - called a Dutch Baby for no apparent reason (although I'm sure that's politically incorrect on some level) - is particularly interesting because it's quite different from one you might have had in a German-themed breakfast restaurant.  Those tend to be highly puffed and very thin.  This turned out to be less puffed and even after it collapsed (yes, they all collapse) it was still a good 1/2" to 3/4" thick, at least when made in a 9" cast iron skillet.  I was doubtful when the recipe claimed it would serve four, but it was right -  the crepe (I'm going to call it a crepe rather than a pancake) was very filling.  It was rich, and tender, and tasted French which is what I say about anything that tastes really good.

You start by preheating the oven, then whizzing all the ingredients in a blender while some butter melts in the pan.  Pour in the batter and bake for 15 minutes or so.  Total time start to finish is about 30 minutes which makes this more appropriate for a weekend breakfast than during the week.  It would be great for a holiday breakfast or brunch.

I'm calling it a crepe because it tasted more like a thick crepe than a pancake to me - more eggy and less floury, almost like a custard.  Actually it's unique and unlike anything else I've had before.  The lemon sugar and toasted almonds were perfect on top - no syrup or jam needed.  Just serve some fresh fruit along side and you have an elegant and unusual breakfast or brunch.

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Dutch Baby
Serves 4 

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3 large eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted

Combine 1 tablespoon sugar with lemon zest and set aside.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a medium (9”) cast-iron or ovenproof nonstick skillet, melt butter over medium heat; set aside.

In a blender, combine eggs, milk, flour, salt, vanilla, and 1/4 cup sugar. Blend until foamy, about 1 minute. Pour batter into skillet; bake until pancake is puffed and lightly browned, about 15-20 minutes.

Sprinkle pancake with lemon sugar and almonds.  Remove from pan, slice into wedges, and serve immediately.