Friday, July 25, 2014

Carbonara in 15 Minutes

If you eat swine, I recommend this recipe for carbaonara for two reasons-- it's great for a quick dinner and easy. 

In a big pot with a lid, over high heat bring to boil water with a fat pinch of salt. 

There are certain dishes that I love to eat when they are made with lots of bacon-- carbonara, pizza for adults, and fried rice. However, an early trek to the farmers market is necessary to get the local stuff so when I do manage to buy bacon, I stash it in my freezer. 

Pull out a frozen block of bacon, hack it to bits, and brown it. You'll notice that keeping bacon in the freezer is great for chopping it.

I buy local food, but for some items are some that have no substitute-- Dececco pasta, avocados, and pomegranates. Put the pasta into boiling water and set the timer. If you use Dececco, it's always al dente when it says it will be, ten minutes for spaghetti. Add frozen peas when six minutes have passed.

Crack two eggs and place the yolks in bowl to use. Pour out the cream.

Drain the pasta, keeping some of the pasta water. Return the pasta to the still hot pan. Using a pasta scoop or two forks, mix the pasta until it is coated with the egg yolks, adding cream slowly. Season with salt and pepper. Add Parmesan cheese and toss again. Add more cream to obtain desired consistency. Serve the pasta and garnish with the cripsy bacon bits.

You might find you have an emergency worthy of this dish, regularly.

Carbonara in 15 minutes

Box of Spaghetti (Dececo), cooked al dente 10 minutes
Bacon, sliced (I prefer the whole package but if you've more self control half is tolerable)
Frozen Peas, 1/2 cup (optional)
Egg Yolks, 2
Cream, 1 cup
Parmesean Cheese, 1/2 cup
Kosher Salt, to taste
Fresh Ground Black Pepper, 1-2 cranks

Cover and bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Add pasta and cook until al dente ( has a bite when bitten), about 10 minutes.

Chop bacon. In a sauté pan, brown bacon over medium low heat. Remove from heat and drain onto a paper towel. Set aside. 

Add peas to pasta when pasta has about 4 minutes to go.

When pasta is al dente, drain pasta but not too thoroughly, save a bit of the water. Return pasta to the still warm pot. Add the egg yolks and with a pasta scoop or two forks, toss until the pasta is coated. Slowly, add cream until desired consistency is reached. 

Add the cheese and continue to toss. 

Season with salt and pepper. Adjust to taste.

Serve pasta topped with crispy bacon bits.

Fresh off the Cob Corn Salsa

If you live in or near Ohio in the summer, fresh corn is on the menu. Over the years it has been consumed at our table, mostly, on the cob. However, my children don't eat corn like I did so there is often leftover. I'm more a fan of reusing leftovers in another dish than reheating, but whether you cut it off the cob or use frozen or canned corn kernels, this is a great way to serve corn. I used cherry tomatoes fresh from my garden in this batch.

Corn Salsa combines black beans and fresh tomatoes to make a tasty topping to Taco Rice Salad or corn chips. For me, it's really about the cumin and lime-- I'll eat most anything with that combination. Try it!

Fresh off the Cob Corn Salsa

Corn-- Fresh, frozen, or Canned, cooked and cooled, 1 1/2 cups
Cooked Black Beans, cooled and rinsed, 1 1/2 cups
Fresh Tomato, diced,  2 large
Sweet Onion, diced, 1 small
Fresh Cilantro, chopped, 3 Tbsp
Fresh Lime Juice, 3 Tbsp (1-2 Limes)
Ground Cumin, 1/2 tsp
Salt, 1 tsp

Prep vegetables. Toss all ingredients together in a bowl. Adjust seasoning to taste. Serve with taco rice salad or eat with Shagbark Corn Chips.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Ohio Winner of Healthy Lunchtime Challenge

Abby Cornwell, winner of Michelle Obama's Healthy Lunchtime Challenge for Ohio, has just returned from Washington, DC, where she attended the 2014 Kid's State Dinner at the White House. Her winning entrée was Sunrise Tuscan Chicken.  There will likely be other events and opportunities that come her way. Abby told me that a guest celebrity chef from Ohio may visit her school, East Elementary, later this year!

This is a clip of our meeting about her participation in the event. A big thanks to Abby's mom, Jenny Messina,  for hosting and to Sam Girton for recording the video. It was edited by a newbie, yours truly.

Abby has been interviewed a few times in recent days:

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Suan La Tang Chinese Hot & Sour Soup

Cravings for Chinese food hit randomly. We go on egg roll making sprees and stash them in the freezer. Egg rolls taste almost as good heated in the oven as they do fresh out of the fry oil . This is a favorite with egg rolls at my house. There is a stash of lilly buds and wood-ear ever ready in the pantry. Fresh tofu and ginger are often in our fridge so the ingredients are easy to gather together. Increase the heat by adding more black pepper. I go for middle of the road heat.

Suan la Tang Chinese Hot and Sour Soup
Serves 3 to 4

Tiger Lilly Buds, 20 buds
Cloud Ear Fungus/Wood-Ear/Ki-kurage, 2 Tbsp dried
Chicken stock, 3 cups
Garlic, 1 clove peeled & smashed
Fresh Ginger, 1 knob peeled & smashed
Soy Sauce, 1 Tbsp
Salt, 1/2 tsp
Black pepper, 2 grinds
Rice Vinegar, 1 Tbsp
Corn starch, 2 Tbsp + 2Tbsp Water (more for thicker soup)
Firm Tofu, 1/4 block finely cubed
Scallions, garnish, chopped 1 tsp per serving
Sesame oil, garnish with a splash

  1. Rehydrate Tiger Lilly Buds and Cloud Ear in hot water until softened, about 5 to 10 minutes.  
  2. Over medium heat, bring chicken stock to a boil with smashed garlic and ginger.
  3. Add soy sauce, salt, black pepper, and vinegar to stock.
  4. Mix the corn starch with water and slowly add to the soup stirring vigorously until you have the consistency you want.
  5. Dice tofu and scallions. Add tofu to stock and simmer 1 to 2 minutes until heated throughly.
  6. Turn off the heat. Garnish with scallions and a splash of sesame oil. Serve with egg rolls if you have them.
Suan La Tang Chinese Hot and Sour Soup

Crispy Kosher Dill Pickles

This recipe is based on the Bell Blue Book recipe but it does use less sugar. Do follow proper canning procedures and review a resource if you're new to canning or it's been a while. These pickles are great on burgers, as a side, and can be eaten the next day, but the point of making them is to put them up for later. 

I'm slowly learning how much to make of things in terms of a year's supply now that I have a basement. Pickles are best made with fairly small cucumbers, about 4 to 6-inches long. This size cucumbers can easily be found at farmers markets, roadside stands, and produce auctions. If you take up pickling to any degree, you'll likely find the best deals come from either your own garden or a produce auction. However, I did get this peck (a big box with a handle) at the Athens Farmers Market.

Crispy Kosher Dill Pickles

Yields 3 quarts.

Useful Equipment
Quart jars with lids and bands for pickling
Water bath Pot for canning + canning equipment

  • Cucumbers, 4 to 6-inches, 1 peck, wash, cut in half or quarters lengthwise (depending on size)
  • Water, 1 quart (4 cups)
  • White Vinegar, 1 quart (4 cups)
  • Sugar, 1/2 cup
  • Pickling Salt, 1/2 cup
  • Pickling Spice Mix, 1 Tbsp per pint jar
  • Dill head, 1 per jar
  • Bay Leaf, 1 per jar 
  • Ball Pickle Crisp, 1/4 tsp per quart jar
  • Clove of Garlic, 1 per jar (optional)
  • Dried Chili Pepper, 1 per jar (optional)
  1. Wash and clean jars and lids. Use new lids. Reuse bands.
  2. Heat jars in oven to 250ºF for 30 minutes.
  3. Bring lids to simmer in pot on the stove.
  4. Over low flame, heat pot for water bath with lid while preparing the pickles.
  5. Rinse, drain, and cut cucumbers.
  6. Add spice mix, dill head, bay leaf, pickle crisp, garlic clove (if using), and chili pepper (if using) to each jar.
  7. Bring pickling juice ingredients: water, vinegar, sugar, and pickling salt to boil over medium heat, stir until sugar and salt dissolve. Pour hot liquid into the jars over the cucumbers and spices. 
  8. Wipe rims with a clean damp cloth.
  9. Place lid.
  10. Seal with band to finger tight (just tight).
  11. Place jars into water bath and bring to boil. Start processing time from when it begins to boil, process for 15 minutes.
  12. Check seals. Anything that doesn’t seal, store in fridge and use within the week.
  13. Label jars.
  14. Use within a year

Ohio Summer Salad

Ohio Summer Salad should be made with fresh garden produce. It tastes best when made a few hours ahead of time or even with a day ahead so that the flavors can meld. My grandmother seemed to keep the same jar going all summer. It is great served with grilled meat, fresh bread, and corn-on-the-cob. It has long been a summer family favorite.

Ohio Summer Salad
Serves 6

  • Cucumber,  2, wash, peel, cut into rings
  • Sweet onion, 1 medium, sliced
  • Ripe Red Ohio River Tomatoes, 2 large, cut into chunks
  • Green Pepper, 1, rinse, remove seeds, cut into thin slices and then half
  • Salt, 1 1/4 tsp
  • Fresh Ground Black Pepper, about 8 cranks— enough to form a disc on the top
  • Sugar, 1/2 Tbsp
  • Cider Vinegar, 1 cup
  • Vegetable Oil, 4 Tbsp (use a light oil with little flavor— no olive oil)
  1. Wash and cut vegetables.
  2. Place vegetables into a large bowl. 
  3. Add salt, pepper, and sugar.
  4. Pour cider vinegar and vegetable oil over the top, should just reach the bottom of the vegetables.
  5. Toss all together.
  6. Adjust to taste— should taste vinegary.
  7. Set aside to macerate for 1 to 3 hours.
  8. Toss before serving.
  9. Store leftovers in fridge in a jar— it gets better!

Cheese Rice Casserole

Repulsed by the appearance of can condensed mushroom soup, I created this homemade version of cheese rice casserole to replace it.  The combination of the American brown and wild rice adds texture and chewiness. Please note that I use American short grain brown rice which is not washed and differs from Japanese short grained rice though I'm not sure why or how, but it does-- it's not so starchy so perhaps is more polished, but I'm guessing. Make this ahead of time and then bake it just before serving though I do not mix the rice into the sauce until I'm ready to put it in the oven as the rice absorbs too much of the sauce even though it's cooked. According to my daughter, there is no substitute for the Tillamook Sharp Cheddar Cheese. We go to great lengths (and distances) to keep this particular cheese in stock around our house. This dish is the most requested menu item in our household and was after Mama and Dada, the most missed thing from home while at summer camp.

Cheese Rice Casserole
Serves 4 to 5.

  • Short Grain Brown Rice + Wild Rice Mixture, 2 ¼ cup (dry)= 3 JRC*
  • Water, 3 ¼ cups = 4 ½  JRC
  • Butter, ½ cup 
  • All-purpose Flour, slight ½ cup
  • Fresh Rosemary, ~½ tsp (1 sprig)
  • Chicken or Vegetable Stock, 4 cups
  • Salt, 2/3 tsp 
  • Pepper, 2 grinds or a pinch +
  • Tillamook Sharp Cheddar Cheese, 6 oz (170 gm), cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Breadcrumbs, 2 Tbsp for garnish
  • Broccoli, 1 cup finely chopped (optional and not Xan’s favorite)
Useful Equipment
Rice cooker or heavy bottomed pan with a fitted lid
Rice Paddle
Medium Sauce Pan
Food Processor or a sharp knife
Casserole Dish, 4 quart

  1. Cook rice and water in either a rice cooker (follow device instructions) or use the stove top method. Stove top method: In a heavy bottomed pan with a tight fitting lid, bring water and rice to boil over medium heat. Immediately reduce heat to simmer and cover with the lid. Cook until the water is gone and rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Set aside. 
  2. In a medium pan, melt butter over medium low heat. Whisk flour into melted butter and cook about 2 minutes.  Add rosemary. Gradually whisk in stock and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes though it is still soupy. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. 
  3. Bring pot of water to boil and add broccoli until bright green, about 2 minutes. Plunge into cold water, and drain. Place into food processor and pulse until finely chopped or chop finely with a knife.
  4. Cut cheddar cheese into cubes.
  5. Using a rice paddle, stir the rice into the sauce and gently break up any rice clumps.
  6. Add the broccoli, cheese, and gently fold together.
  7. Grease a casserole dish, add mixture, and sprinkle bread crumbs over the top. 
  8. Bake at 375ºF (190ºC) for 35 minutes or until bubbling and browned. 
*Japanese Rice Cup (JRC) equals ¾ cup