Loaded Smashed Potatoes

Good grief – will someone please tell me how it got to be September already??

Things have calmed down somewhat around the Sushi Bar; The G Man is in Michigan and starts kindergarten today (boy, talk about time just flying by!!) and while The Young One came home for the long weekend, we didn’t see much of him (he spent a lot of time sleeping) and he was back on campus by Sunday afternoon.

However, even though our lives are no longer ruled by the comings and goings of young men, things are still pretty busy.  It is, of course, prime canning season and we did it in style this last weekend.  If you think we went crazy with the zucchini and green beans, well…let’s just say they weren’t anything compared to this weekend.

We took Friday off from work, which was a good thing, since it gave us the opportunity to do some housework and yard work.  We made our usual CSA/farmer’s market runs Saturday morning, and came home with 2 bushels of paste tomatoes (to which we added another half bushel from our own garden), 5 dozen ears of sweet corn, 5 pounds of okra and a 1/2 peck of the sweetest peaches I’ve ever tasted.  The result?

– 8 pints of barbecue sauce canned

– 32 pints of tomato canned

– About 2 1/2 cups of tomato paste made, portioned and frozen

– All of the corn shucked and cleaned; 1 1/2 dozen frozen on the cob, the remainder cut away from the cob, portioned, and frozen

– All 5 pounds of the okra cleaned and sliced; about 4 pounds breaded before being frozen (’cause we love our fried okra)

– All of the peaches peeled, sliced and frozen

The tomatoes were milled and the sauces and paste were made on Saturday.  The canning, corn and okra were done on Sunday, and I peeled and sliced the peaches while cooking our dinner (an amazingly delicious and un-paleo gumbo) Monday evening.

In short, we basically came back to work today to rest from our “long weekend.”

We’d have gone out to eat Sunday night – the day was just that exhausting – but all the decent restaurants in Podunk are closed on Sunday, so we made dinner as simple as possible.  Beloved fired up the grill and cooked us steaks, while I roasted some of the okra I’d left whole.  Darling Daughter asked for this particular dish and since she did most of the work, I’ll credit her with the execution.

I have to tell you, these smashed potatoes are really pretty easy and they are really very delicious; even Beloved, who prefers sweet potatoes, wolfed them down.  The leftovers keep quite well, too, as you can see in the photo below, when we had them with the leftover steak, over-easy eggs and watermelon the next morning.

Note:  You can leave off the bacon if you don’t eat pork or want to make them vegetarian-friendly – simply sub the bacon fat with melted ghee or olive oil.

Loaded Smashed Potatoes.  Crispy and delicious, these are somewhere between potato skins and baked potatoes.

Click the image to enlarge

Loaded Smashed Potatoes
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound whole new potatoes, preferably Yukon golds
  • 4 ounces bacon, chopped
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup snipped chives
  • 1/4 cup sour cream, (optional)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
  2. Scrub the potatoes well. Carefully drop them into 2 quarts of boiling salted water and cook until tender enough to pierce with a fork, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain; spread out on a shallow-rimmed baking sheet to cool slightly.
  3. While the potatoes are boiling, cook the bacon in a small skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel to drain; reserve the fat left behind in the pan.
  4. Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, smash them slightly (still on the baking sheet) with a potato masher or the bottom of a heavy glass measuring cup. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper and drizzle with the reserved bacon fat.
  5. Roast the smashed potatoes until crisp, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the bacon and cheese. Return the pan to the oven until the cheese is melted, another 5 to 7 minutes longer.
  6. Sprinkle the potatoes with the snipped chives and dollop with sour cream, if desired, before serving.
  7. Nutrition (per serving): 235 calories, 16.1g total fat, 36.6mg cholesterol, 283.1mg sodium, 395mg potassium, 14.1g carbohydrates, 1.7g fiber, <1g sugar, 8.8g protein

Mexican-Style Rice

Cinco de Mayo was yesterday, and if you live in northeast Ohio you’ll either 1) ignore it, 2) find yourself in a restaurant that wouldn’t know real Mexican (to say nothing of Tex-Mex) food if it jumped in their lap, or 3) make it yourself.

For the last 9 years, I’ve opted for number 3.

I guess ideally, I should have posted this recipe prior to Cinco de Mayo, but since I make Mexican food on a fairly regular basis – and you should, too – I figured it would be worth putting up post-weekday-reason-to-drink-margaritas anyway.  Well, that and the fact that it’s the first time I’ve ever really made it successfully.

For some reason, Mexican-style rice, or sopa seca, is something I’ve never been able to master to my satisfaction.  Something of an oddity, really, since things like handmade tamales and traditional chiles relleno pose no problem for me at all and neither of those dishes are what you could call “quick and easy.”  However, since I was making enchiladas for the “holiday” (I found some wonderful organic, sprouted corn tortillas at our local natural foods store) and I’d just made western-style beans a few days before, I wanted some rice.

I wanted some good rice, and I found the recipe over at Homesick Texan.  Lisa is a marvelous cook (her blog is where I found the aforementioned western-style beans originally) and I was more than willing to try her version of Mexican-style rice.  With a few modifications – I like peas and carrots in my Mexican-style rice and subbed half the tomato paste with some homemade Enchilada Sauce while cutting back on the cumin – it was just marvelous.  Not only did I love it, but Beloved, Jolly and Darling Daughter also ate it with great enthusiasm.

Really. Good. Stuff.

Mexican-Style Rice. A must for any Cinco de Mayo feast, this recipe for Mexican-style rice is easy, delicious and pretty much perfect.

Click the image to enlarge

Mexican-Style Rice
Serves: 6
[i]Adapted from [url href=”http://www.homesicktexan.com/2008/06/with-beans-comes-rice.html” target=”_blank”]Homesick Texan[/url][/i]
Ingredients
  • 1 cup long grain rice
  • 2 cups chicken stock or broth, preferably homemade
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher sea salt
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons [url href=”http://www.janssushibar.com/enchilada-sauce/” target=”_blank”]Enchilada Sauce[/url]
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin, or to taste
  • 1 cup frozen peas and carrots, thawed
  • 1 tablespoon of lime juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Combine the rice, chicken broth and kosher sea salt in a large, heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or just until all of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice. Remove from the heat. Stir again, then cover the saucepan with a dry, clean dishcloth and place the lid on top. Set aside for 10 minutes.
  2. While the rice is cooking, sauté the onion in the butter in a shallow skillet over medium-low heat until soft and translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one minute more. Stir in the tomato paste, enchilada sauce, cumin and peas and carrots and continue cooking until the vegetables are warmed through, another 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Remove the onion/vegetable mixture from the heat and stir in the cooked rice, lime juice and cilantro. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if needed, and serve immediately.
  4. Nutrition (per serving): 197 calories, 3.7g total fat, 7.9mg cholesterol, 347.9mg sodium, 313.1mg potassium, 35.3g carbohydrates, 2.2g fiber, 3.6g sugar, 6g protein

 

 

Lamb Dirty Rice

I can’t begin to tell you what compelled me to make dirty rice for Sunday brunch and serve it with Sous Vide pork belly (recipe forthcoming).  In fact, I can’t remember why I thought to make dirty rice in the first place – I’d never cooked it before, and I can’t really remember ever eating it.  Which simply cannot be, but I just don’t remember.

Maybe I’m just getting old.

At any rate, I’m so glad I did – this was simply incredible.  Now that I’ve made it, and know what I’ve been missing, I will make it again.  And again. And again.

It is just THAT good.

Dirty Rice is a classic Cajun dish consisting of rice, the Holy Trinity of onion, celery and bell pepper, bacon and some sort of meat – either ground pork or sausage, and often including chicken livers.  It can be made very spicy, or not spicy at all, whatever suits your palate.

This version isn’t spicy – the inclusion of an entire tablespoon of Cajun seasoning only gives it a bit of a tingle – but it packs a ton of flavor.  What made me decide to deviate from the norm of ground pork and chicken livers was simple convenience – I’m running a bit short on pork (we’ll be sourcing this year’s hog soon), but have 12 full pounds of ground lamb in the freezer.  I also would have had to thaw at least a pound of chicken livers, when I only needed half a cup, minced, but I had the liver from our lamb in there, which only ran about 6 or so ounces.  It seemed like a no-brainer, and you know me – I have no problem shaking things up with a recipe.

The result?  DELICIOUS.  Since I can’t remember eating dirty rice in the past, I can’t tell you how different it might be from a traditional preparation, and while the lamb flavor was noticeable, it was not at all overwhelming.  An impressive and easy dish – and it makes a ton.  Those six servings are quite generous.

Note: The rice preparation is my go-to for rice, and you can make it with just about any amount of rice and with whatever liquid you prefer.  Just keep the proportions to 1 part rice to 2 parts water – follow the directions closely and it will never fail.  Who needs a rice cooker?

Lamb Dirty Rice. The classic and delicious Cajun rice dish with a twist!

Click the image to enlarge

Lamb Dirty Rice
Serves: 6
[i]Adapted from[url href=”http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/dirty_rice/” target=”_blank”] Simply Recipes[/url][/i]
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
  • 4 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 pound ground lamb
  • 1/2 cup finely diced lamb liver
  • 3 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Combine the rice and 3 cups of the chicken broth in a large saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from the heat and stir the rice; cover with a clean dish towel and the lid and let it site for 10 minutes.
  2. Spread the rice out on a shallow-rimmed baking sheet and drizzle 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over it. Mix to combine and set aside.
  3. While the rice is cooking, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet or pan large enough to hold all of the ingredients, including the rice, over medium-low heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp.
  4. Increase the heat to high and add the ground pork, breaking it up as it begins to brown. Add the onion, celery and bell pepper, and continue cooking, stirring frequently to prevent burning, until the lamb is cooked through and the vegetables are soft and beginning to turn golden.
  5. Stir in the remaining cup of chicken stock and the diced lamb liver, stirring up all the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the Cajun seasoning and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until most of the chicken stock has boiled away.
  6. Remove from the heat and add the cooked rice. Toss to combine, and season with salt and pepper, if necessary. Stir in the green onions and serve immediately.
  7. Nutrition (per serving): 570 calories, 32g total fat, 125.4mg cholesterol, 671mg sodium, 524.2mg potassium, 46.6g carbohydrates, 1.6g fiber, 3.7g sugar, 22g protein

Red Lentils with Spinach and Caramelized Onions

Lately, we’ve been eating more legumes – beans, peas, lentils, all soaked and/or sprouted, and all very delicious.

And, if you care about such things, full of prebiotic goodness in the form of resistant starch.

(If you’re worried about the whole “legumes aren’t paleo!” thing, Chris Kresser has a thing or three to say about that and, quite frankly, I no longer give a big rat’s patootie if they are or not. So shoot me.)

Whatever.

Reintroducing legumes to our diet makes me happy, because I’ve always loved them.  A good thing, since growing up in a blue collar Texas household, we ate a lot of them.  They are tasty, cheap, filling and certainly better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, nutritionally speaking, especially when properly prepared. (If, that is, you tolerate them reasonably well.)

However, I never ate lentils growing up – legumes in our house were almost always pinto beans or black-eyed peas, with the occasional foray into navy  or black beans, depending on whether we were eating ham or something Mexican.  Even into adulthood, I’d never given lentils much thought – which is really a shame, because they’re really very tasty and cook much more quickly than other legumes, especially when they’ve been soaked or sprouted.

So, once a week or so while I’m cooking dinner, I whip out a package of lentils (or, if the truth be known, quinoa or brown rice) and combine them with filtered water (at about a 2:1 ratio – twice as much water as lentils), a tablespoon or so of homemade yogurt, cover the container with a clean dish cloth and let them sit out on the counter until the next evening when it’s time to cook dinner again.

They’re not at all difficult to make, they just take a little forethought. And are fairly inexpensive, especially if you purchase them in bulk.

This particular dish, made with red lentils (that are really more pinkish-orange and turn yellow when cooked), caramelized onions and spinach is one of our favorites.  It’s simple, reasonably quick to prepare, versatile – in the photo below, I served it with pan-roasted venison loin, but it would be equally delicious with poultry or fish – and quite delicious.  Leftovers reheat well, too; the next day at work, my coworkers kept wandering past my office (no small feat, since it’s at the end of a hall), going, “What are you eating? It smells wonderful!”

Lesson learned? Make this, and your coworkers will be jealous.

Note: If you don’t have the time or inclination – or forgot – to soak the lentils, you can buy them pre-sprouted and dried, although they’re not exactly cheap.  Please take note that the package will say to cook them for 4 to 5 minutes, but I can tell you from experience they won’t be done.  Cook them 15 to 20 minutes.

This can also be easily made vegetarian/vegan by substituting the ghee or butter with olive oil and the chicken stock/broth with vegetable stock.

Red Lentils with Spinach and Caramelized Onions. It may require a little planning, but this simple side dish is easy, versatile and quite delicious.

Click the image to enlarge

Red Lentils with Spinach and Caramelized Onions
Serves: 4 to 6
Ingredients
  • 1 large onion, very thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or butter
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup red lentils, soaked for 12 to 24 hours (measured before soaking)
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock or broth, preferably homemade
  • 4 cups fresh spinach, stems removed and roughly chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Melt the ghee or butter in a medium saute pan or skillet over medium low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and golden brown, about 15 minutes. Stir in the balsamic vinegar; remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Drain the lentils and rinse thoroughly. Combine with the chicken broth and carrot in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer until the lentils are done, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Uncover the lentils and stir; they should be very soft and a little soupy. Stir in the spinach and caramelized onions; continue cooking over low heat until the spinach is wilted and the onions are heated through, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover with a clean dish towel, then the lid and set aside for 10 minutes.
  4. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 195 calories, 5g total fat, 12mg cholesterol, 115.2mg sodium, 565.2mg potassium, 26.9g carbohydrates, 11g fiber, 4.5g sugar, 10.8g protein

Pink Sauerkraut

Hello, there.  I’m working from home today because I have this thing about going outside when it’s -11 F outside, with a windchill of -40 F.

Just sayin’.

Anyhoo, this was part of our (new) traditional New Year’s dinner.  When I moved from Texas to Ohio in 2005, I was a bit perplexed my first New Year to find no displays of bags of black eyed peas alongside heaps of collard greens in the produce section of the grocery stores.  Instead, there were bags and bags of commercial sauerkraut alongside all of the pork in the meat case – it seems that up here, sauerkraut and pork are the traditional foods for the New Years.

Repulsed by commercial sauerkraut, I defiantly sought out the pitiful 1-pound bags of black eyed peas hidden next to the bags and boxes of rice.  I was by golly gonna have my black eye peas and cornbread anyway, thank you very much.

And so it’s gone every year I’ve been here.  Until this year, when I decided, you know, pork and sauerkraut just might be nice with some Hoppin’ John.  And that’s what we had.

(A note about the Hoppin’ John:  if you read the post I’ve linked to, you’ll see that I state black eyed peas do not need to be soaked.  I have completely reversed my stance about this, but we’ll go into this some more later this week.)

At any rate, around Christmas I decided if I wanted sauerkraut with my New Year’s dinner, I better get started and make some.  But rather than a traditional kraut, I thought I’d shake things up a bit and see what would happen if I used a red cabbage, a sweet yellow onion, an apple and whole allspice berries.

What happened was a vibrantly hot pink sauerkraut that is just delicious – crunchy and earthy, with a slight bite from the onion and just the faintest hint of sweetness from the apple and allspice.  It’s a news favorite here at the Sushi Bar.

Pink Sauerkraut. Add a beautiful splash of color to any dish with this vibrant and deliciously different ferment.

Click the image to enlarge

Pink Sauerkraut
Serves: 16
[i]Makes one quart[/i]
Ingredients
  • 1 small red cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium sweet onion, such as Vidalia or Walla Walla, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium apple, peeled and grated
  • 1 tablespoon kosher sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon whole allspice
  • filtered water
Instructions
  1. Have ready a clean, dry, 1 quart glass jar.
  2. Toss the cabbage, onion and apple together in a large bowl until well mixed.
  3. Layer the cabbage mixture into the jar until it is about 1/3 full. Sprinkle some of the salt on top of the cabbage and pound it down with a wooden spoon or pestle until the cabbage begins to give off liquid. Sprinkle in a few of the whole allspice berries.
  4. Repeat layering the cabbage, salt and allspice, pounding in between each layer, until all of the ingredients are in the jar. Add filtered water to cover the cabbage if necessary. There should be about 1 inch between the top of the kraut and the top of the jar.
  5. Top off the sauerkraut with about 1/4 cup of olive or coconut oil to keep the cabbage submerged beneath the liquid, or use a glass weight. Cap loosely and store at room temperature (on a counter out of direct sunlight is fine) for 3 days, or until the kraut begins to bubble. Transfer to the refrigerator.
  6. Nutrition (per serving): 22 calories, <1g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 364mg sodium, 121.9mg potassium, 5.5g carbohydrates, 1.1g fiber, 3.2g sugar, <1g protein