Charred Chard

Doing fun things with greens keeps them exciting. Grilled romaine and steamed curly endive are welcome changes on the menu at my house.  I found a recipe for charred chard. I enjoyed saying charred chard out loud (I’m easily amused). Saying “charred chard” three times must have been a mystical incantation because then the recipe demanded to be made.

Charred chard and shallots compliment a pan-grilled pork chop and a few grape tomatoes.

Charred Chard and Shallots

Ingredients
1 lb rainbow chard
1/2 cup sliced shallots
cooking spray
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/8 tsp kosher salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper

Method
Spray two baking sheets with cooking spray. Trim stems from rainbow chard. Divide chard leaves and shallots evenly between prepared pans. Spray vegetables lightly with cooking spray. Broil on high, one pan at a time until most of the chard is wilted and some is partially charred – 4 to 5 minutes.

Chop cooked chard into large pieces. Place chard mixture on a platter, top with golden raisins, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Notes
Do you ever really measure 1/8 of a teaspoon of anything? I keep a jar with a mix of 40% coarse ground black pepper and 60% kosher salt right by my stove for seasonings. A pinch or two of the mix does the trick for most things.

Watch the chard as it broils. You want it mostly wilted with a little char, not a pan full of ashes! The charred chard retains some texture and can be strongly flavored. It needs a touch sweetness.

I didn’t have golden raisins on hand. I used grape tomatoes on the side for sweet balance and was very happy with it. I’ll be making this again when I pick up some raisins.

The recipe suggests adding chickpeas and crumbled feta to make a vegetating main dish. I expect substituting a mildly salty vegan cheese world work, too.
 

Indecision Sparks Creativity

Breakfast can be a challenging meal.  Traditional fare is good, but one can get in a rut. Waking with a craving complicates the whole thing – what to do? A BLT sounded good, but so did  simple toast and jammy eggs with bacon. Time to play with my food and get the best of both, with a twist, of course.

Open-face BLT and Jammy Eggs breakfast.

No recipe, just taking what was on hand and playing with it as described below.

Open Face BLT With Jammy Eggs
Ingredients
2 slices 21-grain toast
2 slices sharp cheddar cheese
a big handful of curly endive lettuce torn from the stem
a generous handful of sliced grape tomatoes
3 slices of ready-to-eat bacon, crisped in the microwave for 30 seconds
a generous schmear of mayo
scant Tbsp olive oil
two eggs
light splash of white vinegar
light sprinkle of kosher salt and black pepper

Method
Bring enough water in a small pan to a boil; gently lower two eggs into water and simmer for EXACTLY seven minutes. Remove eggs with a slotted spoon and place in an ice bath for two and a half minutes, remove from ice water and set aside.
Heat olive oil in a small skillet, add sliced tomatoes and sauté until soft and getting a little char. Add endive and let wilt, you might need to add a Tbsp of water (use twice as much as you think you need because is loses volume when cooked). Stir in a light splash of white vinegar and a very little pinch of salt.
Toast bread, schmear with mayo and top each with a cheese slice while toast is hot. Add cooked tomatoes and endive. Halve bacon slices and put three pieces on top of tomatoes and endive. Peel jammy eggs (start on the big end where the bubble is), place on sandwich and slice in half. Sprinkle eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper.

The Whyfors (Whyfor did I do that?)
Think about the flavors of the ingredients and what you can do with them. Multigrain toast, mayo and sharp cheddar is a great foundation for any sandwich, open-face or closed. Traditional bacon, lettuce and tomato are a wonderful filling. Cooking sliced grape tomatoes a little enhances the sugar in them and kicks them up a couple of notches. Curly endive is tantalizingly bitter. Cooking it reduces its bitter bite and a little white vinegar takes out a little more of the bitter while emphasizing the sweetness of the tomatoes. The eggs feature cooked whites and a thickened “jammy” yolk that gives the whole sandwich wonderfully rich mouthfeel and flavor.

Modesty forbids my raving (too much) about this creation. Odds are it will be breakfast again this morning and a regular on the morning menu until the next idea comes along.

After making the earlier post, I had to rush out the the kitchen an play with this idea more for this morning’s breakfast. I did a few things differently. I put the sliced grape tomatoes in a heated dry pan and let them yield some juice and take on a little char. Then I added a Tbsp of water and cooked it off to steam the tomatoes and cook them faster.  When they were tender, I added the endive. I added twice as much as I did yesterday and think it would be good to add even more.  I added 2 Tbsp water with the greens and cooked it off to steam-wilt them and get a little darker.  When the water was cooked off, I added it and stirred the tomatoes and endive until the vinegar had mostly evaporated.  Cooking the vegetables both ways tasted about the same because of the vinegar. The advantage of the dry pan and water is that there was no spatter mess as there was with olive oil.  I plated one open-face BLT and one with a jammy egg. The were equally good, but I do have a weakness for jammy eggs any number of ways.

  

As I enjoyed this breakfast, I thought about how it might be with English muffin, Swiss cheese, a poached egg and hollandaise sauce. Watch this space and see what happens.

 

Meatless Monday Night

Pure luck: Found a good sounding salad recipe and had the main ingredients oh hand – fennel and red chard. A little thinking and the richness of baked feta balanced with the mild tang of a Cara Cara orange sounded like the rest of a meal.
Confession: Only dinner was meatless. It’s a start.

Wilted chard, fennel, baked feta, Cara Cara orange for Meatless Monday.

Wilted Chard and Shaved Fennel Salad
 Ingredients
1 lb. rainbow chard
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced fennel bulb
¼ cup water
¼ cup chopped pistachios
2 Tbsp fennel fronds
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
¼ tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp kosher salt
Method
Coarsely chop chard leaves; thinly slice stems to equal 1 cup. (Reserve remaining stems for another use.)
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chard stems and fennel and cook, stirring often until starting to soften – about 3 minutes.Add chard leaves and ¼ cup water, cover until just starting to wilt – about a minute and a half. Drain. Toss with apple cider vinegar and salt and pepper.
Divide into four servings. Top each evenly with the chopped pistachios and fennel fronds.

Baked Feta
Ingredients
Block feta to allow 4 oz. per person
Olive oil
Method
Heat oven to 400º
Cut feta into individual servings. Brush all sides with olive oil.
Put feta on a foil-covered baking sheet and cook for 20 minutes. Turn on broiler and put feta under it for 2 – 3 minutes until it gets a little color. Carefully transfer to plates and garnish with a fennel frond or two. Serve warm.

Way Back When Revisited; if it happened in the last century, it must have been way back when.

Back in the late 1990’s new job responsibilities lead me to discover the Big Bend area of Texas and introduced me to a world full of splendorous topographical extremes, to folk in remote communities and to surprise pockets of sophistication where I’d least expected it. My adventures included hiking in the national and state parks, having astronomers on a mountaintop  ask me to send some classical music cassettes their way because their resource was a mail order record club (this was long before the internet and Amazon) and the rustic cafe at Terlingua Ranch, reached by driving over 18 miles on gravel roads off the highway. The cook waited on the highway once a week for supplies from the Schwan’s Frozen Foods Truck. I worked with a remote frontier clinic physician assistant who used telemedicine in providing health care and arranged delivery by bus for medicines from the nearest pharmacy about 80 miles away. I have many warm memories of the people of the area and how much I learned from them and with them. I still go back as a tourist. In the ensuing 20-something years, some of the people are new to me.  While things have grown and changed,  the frontier spirit remains. I still love to spend time on the porch at the Terlingua Mercantile and and the Starlight Theater next door, now an amazing restaurant. And, when in Alpine, going to the Reata Restaurant is a must.

Grady Spears, a city boy turned cow puncher, chuckwagon cook and restaurateur is a man I have long admired and but  not yet to met.  He was the founding cook of the Riata and, with what he learned from ranch cooks, elevated cowboy cooking to cowboy cuisine. He went to Ft. Worth and opened the Chisolm Club downtown. After a tornado, he moved to the Caravan of Dreams building and opened a second Reata. I’m sure that somewhere, he is still making good old ranch hand food into amazing fare for city slickers. I was thinking about the Big Bend Bluebonnets the other day and wondering if there had been enough rain for a good bloomout this year. That lead me to the bookshelf and my three Grady Spears cookbooks.  I got a hankerin’, looked up a recipe I hadn’t made in years and got to cooking. He calls it Cilantro-Nut Mash. I respect that very much.  These days, people seem to call any vegetable or green leaf chopped in a food processor a pesto. Grady’s Cilantro-NutMash is what it is , so don’t you be callin’ it cilantro pesto where I can hear you!

Cilantro-Nut Mash with pan-browned, then roasted chicken breast, corn on the cob and garnishes of roasted green onion and grape tomatoes.

The Cilantro-Nut Mash is a great accompaniment for chicken and fish. In the photo above, the chicken had a mild chipotle rub, was browned in a skillet and finished off in the oven while corn, green onion and grape tomatoes were season, wrapped in foil and  roasted.

Cilantro-Nut Mash
Ingredients
1 Cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves (loosely packed)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped pecans (I like them lightly toasted)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp smooth goat cheese
Kosher salt to taste
Method
Combine cilantro, cheese, pecans and garlic in a food processor. Pulse and gradually add oil. Add goat Cheese and season with salt, pulse until just slightly smooth.

Frittata for One

Broccoli and Feta Frittata with a stack of Dave’s Killer 21-grain Bread Toast and a Schmear of Butter.

Here we go again! I did some browsing and found a good-sounding frittata that called for 8 eggs.  That’s a lot for one guy at breakfast! Here’s a version using most of the ingredients called for and to make recipe for cooking without a recipe for a great breakfast for one.  With a side of fruit, it could easily become a breakfast for two. Do some elementary arithmetic and expand it for more if you want to impress folks.

Broccoli and Feta Frittata for One
Equipment
8-inch ovenproof sauté pan
Small bowl
Small whisk or fork
Kitchen knife
Ingredients
Two or three eggs
1 Tbsp chopped onion
1/2 – 3/4 cup small broccoli florets
2 Tbsp crumbled feta cheese
1 pat butter
Optional – a sprinkle or two of chile flakes to taste
Method
Heat broiler in oven with a rack about 4 inches below the flame.
Melt butter in sauté pan on stovetop. Add onion and cook on medium temp for 3-4 minutes until soft. Add broccoli and cook about 6 minutes. The broccoli will turn a beautiful bright green and be tender but still have a little “tooth” to it. You can speed this up by adding a table spoon of water to the pan at a time and letting it steam and evaporate to help soften the onion and broccoli.

While the onion and broccoli cook, beat the eggs until whites and yolks are well blended and stir in chile flakes and about 2/3 of the crumbled feta.

Pour egg mixture over the broccoli and onion and stir to distribute broccoli and feta in the eggs. Let cook a couple of minutes to set the bottom of the eggs. Sprinkle remaining feta over the top. Transfer the pan to the oven and cook for 5 minutes, check frequently to see that the eggs have set and the sprinkled feta is lightly browned.

Remove from oven, remembering the pan handle is very hot! Plate and enjoy.

Non-paid testimonialI am a great fan of Dave’s Killer Bread 21-grain loaf. Great flavor and usually the only bread in my house. Read the package for the story behind it and the good things it makes happens for Dave’s employees. If you like it, buy two loaves in a bag at the big warehouse stores and save considerably over the price of one loaf at the chain grocery stores.

Dave’s Killer Bread

Note
I’ve been looking at a lot of “cooking for one” cookbooks and the all see to being with a chapter on how to stock a pantry and what kitchen gear one needs. I began this post with a list of equipment because of that influence. Surely your kitchen looks as much like the the kitchen store at the mall as mine and you don’t need a list of equipment. But, just in case, it is here this time.

Pizza and Salad for Breakfast or for Supper

Savory, rich, sweet, tart and a hint of bitter make an individual breakfast pizza or supper.

You can take a recipe for four and reduce it to a just-right serving for one or two. You can also play with it and have a good time. The original recipe called for refrigerated whole wheat pizza dough. I substituted a package of two ready-made bake-it-yourself crusts. I actually tried two different crusts on two different mornings – first, a  thin crust and, the second time with a thicker crust.  Both were good. When I followed the cooking directions for the thin crust, the time needed for the baked egg n the recipe made the crust more like a crispy cracker. Good, but not what I had expected. When I used the thicker crust, I baked it for three minutes, turned it over on my sheet pan, added the toppings and baked it 8 minutes to set the egg white and leave the yolk soft the way I like it! The recipe used lemon and oil dressed arugula as a garnish.  I like arugula, so I made it a side salad instead of a garnish by adding a few sliced grape tomatoes and a sprinkle of grated parmesan.  Next time I make this, I’ll sprinkle some crisp crumbled bacon or pancetta on top. Play with your food and make it yours!  Below is the original recipe for four servings from Cooking Light Magazine. It divides in to two or one serving easily.

Mini Breakfast Pizzas
Ingredients
12 oz. whole wheat pizza dough
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1-1/4 tsp lemon zest
1/4 tsp kosher salt, divided
1/4 tsp ground pepper, divided
4 large eggs
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
4 cups packed baby arugula

Method
Let dough stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Divide dough into 4 pieces.
Place a pizza stone or large baking sheet in oven; preheat to 450º with stone or baking sheet in place as oven heats.
On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece of dough into a 7-inch circle. pierce liberally with a fork.
Arrange two dough circles on the hot pizza stone or sheet pan and bake for 3 minutes. Remove from oven and flip so cooked side is up. Repeat with remaining two dough circles. Depending on the size of your stone or pan and your oven, you may need to baked two pizzas at a time instead of all four at once.
Stir together ricotta cheese and lemon zest. Divide ricotta evenly among cooked sides of dough circles, sprinkle evenly with 1/8 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper. (I question 1/8 tsp seasoning on 4 pizzas and used a light pinch of salt and pepper on each one after adding the egg as instructed below.) Top each circle with 1 egg and 1 Tbsp parmesan. Bake at 450º until whites are set and yolk is still a little runny.
While pizzas bake, Whisk together oil, juice, and remaining salt and pepper I (or to taste as I did!). Toss arugula in dressing.
Remove pizzas from oven, plate and top with 1 cup dressed arugula.

Potluck Appetizers

A group of friends get together every other month for a potluck dinner. Sometimes the dinners are true potluck. At other times, they are themed with a menu of dishes individuals may bring. It makes for pleasant evenings with good people and good food.  It is hard to beat that combo!
Our March dinner had an Italian theme.  I was asked to bring appetizers. I made a personal favorite – skewered mozzarella balls, basil leaves and grape tomatoes. Last fall, I discovered how wonderful baked feta can be, so I made baked feta with a borrowed idea for a fruit confit and and decided this was an opportunity to share a delectable treat. The warm roasted feta has a wonderful creamy texture nothing like you might expect from crumbled feta on a salad.

Skewered mozzarella balls, basil and grape tomatoes – a refreshing appetizer.

Ingredients
The name says it all.  If you need an ingredients list, you should be making reservations for dinner. (Wasn’t that tacky!)
Method
I’ll share a fee hints.  I roll the basil leaves and put them between the cheese and tomato on wooden skewers that are a little longer than toothpicks.  I used a telera roll anchored to the plate with a blob of peanut butter as a base for the skewers.  Curly lettuce leaves tucked under the roll make the plate more attractive.  Telera rolls are a Mexican sandwich roll widely available in El Paso.  You could use a brioche instead if you wish. The important thing is a half-round base for the skewers/

What wowed the group was the Roasted Feta with Blackberry and Herb Confit. It was an amazing pairing of flavors and textures best served warm.

Roasted Sheep’s Milk Feta with a Blackberry and Herb Confit served warm on pita chips.

Several months ago, I served roasted feta as the protein for a vegetarian bridesmaid luncheon in Oregon. The El Paso group dinner was a chance to do a riff on that feta with the addition of a blackberry and herb confit as an appetizer.

Roasted Feta
Ingredients
One 8 oz. block feta, patted dry (sheep’s milk feta is great if you can find it.)
2 tsp. olive oil
Method
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Brush the feta with the olive oil and place in a small oven-proof baking dish, preferably the one you can serve from.

Bake the feta until it starts to soften, about 8 – 9 minutes. Switch the oven to broil and broil for about three minutes to start to brown the top of the feta. Watch that is doesn’t burn.

Remove from oven and spoon the warm confit over the feta. Serve immediately.

Blackberry and Herb Confit
Ingredients
3 black peppercorns or a few good grinds of black pepper
4 juniper berries (or 1 bayleaf)
1 sprig fresh rosemary (about 1.5 to 3 inches)
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp honey
1 pint black berries
Method
Tie peppercorns. juniper berries and rosemary spring in a single layer of cheesecloth. They will be easier to remove later.

Place all ingredients, including the cheesecloth bundle in a small saucepan over medium heat. Be sure the cheesecloth is under the blackberries. When the mixture has begun to simmer and the berries have begin to break up and yield their juices, reduce the heat and simmer, stirring gently occasionally until syrupy -25-30 minutes. You should have about a cup of confit.

Remove the cheesecloth bundle and discard. Confit may be used immediately. If you let it chill a few hours or overnight, the flavors meld. I lprefer the texture of the berries in the confit. If desired, you can strain the confit through a fine mesh strainer and mash all the liquid you can from the confit to have a smoother, but lesser volume syrup.

Spoon warm confit over warm feta and try not to swoon.

 

 

 

Back at a New Season

It has been a while since I’ve posted.  That’s because it has been a while since I’ve cooked anything exciting that would work under the New Season goal of recipes for one or two. Browsing through the cookbooks on Amazon, one day, I found several interesting one’s that did two things: 1 – inspire me to try some new adventures in cooking, and 2 – order a few new cookbooks.  I tempered that cookbook vice by ordering a couple of e-books and others I bought using the re-sellers available through Amazon at greatly reduced prices plus shipping. As I explore the books and my experiences with the recipes for one or two they hold, I’ll share info about the cookbooks.

One I’m enjoying is Guy Gourmet written by Adina Steinman dnd Paul Kita with the editors of Men’s Health magazine.  Many of the recipes are for two, but those that serve four can easily be reduced to two servings. By using a reseller, I got a $25 dollar cookbook for $5.99 plus $3.99 shipping for a good as new hard cover book. (A couple of years ago, a friend showed me a new cookbook she bought for $30.00. I liked it and found it on an Amazon re-eller for $2.00 plus shipping. I’m still gloating over that purchase!)

This morning, I tried the Guy Gourmet Stuffed French Toast.  As a rule, I’n not that big a fan of French toast, but it read well and I could reduce the recipe from two servings to one. When I am sharing their recipe, I will provide my interpretation of the original so I hopefully won’t be sued!

Stuffed French Toast Inspired by  Guy Gourmet  – makes two sandwiches
Ingredients
4 slices day-old or stale thick bread (I used a bolillo I left on the counter a couple of days and just sliced it in half to make one sandwich.  I also use single bolillos to make garlic bread so I won’t eat a whole loaf of French bread by myself.
4 eggs
2 Tbsp milk
1 tsp sugar or maple syrup
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp butter
Powdered sugar for sprinkling on top if desired
A filling you like – I used sliced apples and bacon. Other possibilities might include a nut spread and banana slices or cream cheese and berries. Be creative.

Method
Beat eggs, milk and sugar or syrup and cinnamon together in a bowl and pour into a baking dish big enough to hold two of the slices of bread
Place topping on two slices of bread and top with the other two slices. Place stacks in batter for two minutes, turning after one minutes so both sides of the bread can absorb and be coated by the batter.
‘Melt the butter in a medium non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Places th sandwiches in the pan and cook until golden brown. Flip the sandwiches so both sides are golden. Serve with a sprinkling of powdered sugar and more of the fruit you used for stuffing the French Toast.

 

Bacon and Apple Stuffed French Toast sans powered sugar sprinkle. More savory than sweet that way!

Welcome 2018!

The Gringo Gourmet has a new look with an easier to read color scheme.  Please feel free to comment on it.

The end of the year us always hectic and 2017 was no exceptions.  A number of things got me way behind in posting here. One of my New Year’s Resolutions is better organization of time and tasks and more posting here.  Wish me well on that one!

I’ll start off with a recipe for an amazing and colorful slaw that looks and tastes as bright as fireworks welcoming in the new year, even if I’m doing it a couple of days early!  In the next day or so I’ll post an interesting vegan dish we made for Christmas.  It was a recipe from Jamie Oliver and all the measurements were metric.  Fortunately, my daughter had a scale that could to metric weights as well as the weights we are used to in the U.S.! Keep an eye our for that one.

My pre-happy new year treat was part of a birthday party for one of my great grandnieces who turns 3 on New Year’s Eve.  (Note: I have 10 great grand nieces and two great grand nephews.  The consensus is I am a great, great uncle!) There was a luncheon featuring brisket, beans, fruit, guacamole, chips and salsa. Good TexMex eating on the border.  I made a standard Cole slaw with a. creamy dressing and then, go fiesta with a Red Slaw with Spiralized Beets.

Red Slaw with Spiralized Beets.
Even when they heard the word “beets”, they seemed to like the salad!

Red Slaw with Spiralized Beets

Ingredients
1 tsp lime zest, grated
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 clove(s), medium garlic clove(s), crushed through a garlic press
1 tsp cumin seeds, crushed
1/2 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
3 medium uncooked beets, peeled (about 3/4 lb)
2 cup(s) uncooked red cabbage, thinly sliced
2 medium uncooked scallion(s), thinly sliced
3 or 4 sliced shishito peppers
3 Tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
6 Tbsp queso cotija, or Parmesan cheese, coarsely shredded
3 Tbsp roasted salted pepitas, (pumpkin seeds)

Method
In a large bowl, whisk together lime zest and juice, oil, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper.
Spiralize beets; add to dressing.
Add cabbage, scallions, shishito peppers and oregano to beets; toss to coat. Sprinkle with cheese and pepitas.
Garnish with a few additional spirals.
 

 

 

 

Who’d a Thunk It… Cauliflower = Seafood?

Vegetarian ceviche that’s really good!

It’s always fun to run across a recipe that my vegetarian daughter might like. I think this one qualifies.  It is a vegetarian ceviche made with cauliflower instead of sea food.  I took it to a Thanksgiving dinner as an appetizer. A couple of people asked me what kind of seafood was in it. I had to convince them that it was all vegetables!

Cauliflower Ceviche

Thanks to Beatriz Barranco, El Paso, TX and Taste of Home Magazine, November 2017

Ingredients
1 medium head cauliflower, finely chopped
1 cup catsup
1 cup orange juice
3 medium tomatoes chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
½ cup minced fresh cilantro
½ Tsp each salt and pepper
3 medium avocados, peeled and cubed
Lemon wedges, tortilla chips, hot pepper sauce, optional

Method
In a large skillet, bring 1 cup water to a boil. Add cauliflower; cook uncovered until crisp-tender – 5 to 8 minutes.  Drain, spread out and blot pat dry.  While cauliflower is cooking, mix together catsup and orange juice.

In a bowl, combine cauliflower with tomatoes and onion.  Add catsup and orange juice mixture, cilantro, salt and pepper, toss to mix well.  Refrigerate at least one hour or overnight.

Before serving, gently stir in avocado cubes. Serve with tortilla chips, lemon wedges and optional hot pepper sauce.

Note:  I had to mess with it a little, of course. I prefer lime juice and lime wedges over lemon for this dish.  I found it to be a little too sweet for my taste, so I added the juice of a lime when I added the avocado cubes. It might be good to compare the sugar in various brands of catsup and use the one with the lowest sugar to start out with.

I had leftovers, and I had to experiment a little more.  I picked up a handful of shrimp, boiled, peeled and chopped them and added them to the “ceviche.”  I honestly couldn’t tell they added anything to the recipe.  It stands alone with the cauliflower and I’ll be making it again soon.