Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Oxtail Stew

Oh the weather outside is frightful... I think it's been raining in Atlanta for 40 days and 40 nights. And now the temperatures are falling as we ease into Autumn. There's nothing better than soups and stews during this kind of weather to help knock the damp and chill out of your system.

This is a very hearty stew, with Souther/Caribbean/African roots -- anyplace you find oxtail in the regular grocery store. Apparently in some cities you have to request oxtail or visit specialty butchers, but here it's commonplace. In fact, I can remember a few years ago when oxtail was CHEAP meat, but it's come en vogue since then and chefs were braising them and using them like mini-ossu bucco and stuffing handmade raviolis with pulled oxtail and all kinds of marvelous stuff. One thing has outlasted the oxtail trend, and that's the oxtail price tag. Still, here in the south the meat is common enough that you can catch it on sale, or buy it in bulk and for me, it's a child-hood nostalgia related comfort food.

This version is more vegetable laden and "lighter" than the stewed oxtail in gravy that I grew up with, but it's delicious and satisfying any day the weather isn't cooperating. If you're pressed for time, just throw everything in the crock pot in the morning before you got to work and dinner will be waiting for you when you get home. The results won't be identical, but you'll still have a yummy oxtail stew.

Making oxtail stew
Rinse and pat dry your oxtail pieces. Don't season yet because you're going to get a good browning on them.

Brown oxtails on all sides
Brown the oxtails on all sides by cooking in about 1-2 Tbsp of oil over medium high heat in a large, uncrowded pot (crowding causes steaming and prevents carmelization). Take your time to do this because you're developing texture and flavor that you won't get if you just threw all the ingredients together in a crock pot.

Add 1 onion, carrot, bellpepper
Add onion chopped onion, carrot and garlic and saute until you get some light caramelization (browning) on the vegetables as well. This will help add depth of flavor to the overall dish.

Deglaze the pan by adding one can of diced tomatoes, or the equivalent of fresh chopped tomatoes if they're juicy and in season. Using a wooden spoon scrape all of the yummy brown bits (called the "fond") from the bottom of your pot. This will add beefy flavor to your stew.

+ bayleaf garlic 1can tomato 1c h2o

Stir in bell pepper, 2-3 bay leaves and season with salt and pepper.

+ 1tbsp each paprika turmeric cumin

Allow the stew to come up to a simmer, then add 1 Tbsp each of turmeric, cayenne and Hungarian paprika. If you prefer a smoky flavor substitute smoked Spanish paprika for the Hungarian paprika and consider using about half the amount.

Simmer covered til oxtail are tender

Cover the pot and cook over a low simmer, medium to medium-low heat, for about 2 hours or until the oxtails are tender and the meat is falling off the bone. Alternatively, you can prepare this dish in a dutch oven, and transfer it to a pre-heated 375 degree oven and allow to cook, covered in there for at least two hours as well.

Serve over cooked brown rice with some hot sauce on the side.

Well, oxtail has a lot of connective tissue. It's part of what makes it so good. It also has marrow and cartilage, all of which have nutritional value IF you can break them down, and that takes two things: heat over time and acid. The acid is present in the form of our tomatoes, however the real force at work here is heat over time. The longer they cook, the more the tissues are broken down (and the more the meat absorbs flavor) which results in something tender and oh-so-yummy.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Quick Salmon Patties

#Dinner salmnpatty wild rice sriracha sc
My mom always has canned salmon in the pantry. In fact, I’m pretty sure she’s still living off of her Y2K stash. While salmon patties made with the fresh fish are far superior to the canned, for the price and convenience, canned salmon really can’t be slammed. Seems like most brands, and I’ve done no research to back this up, use wild caught Salmon, which has a reputation for better nutritional value. Check out this link for LOTS of info on wild caught versus farm raised salmon.

The bones in canned salmon, which is thoroughly cooked by the way, are a point of argument for some. Some folks leave the bones in, because, like in canned sardines, they’re soft and edible. Some people detest the bones and won’t bother with canned salmon at all because of the bones. They’re easy enough to get out. Usually if you drain the liquid off and pour the salmon into a bowl you can use a fork to find a “fold” where the spine is and all the ribs will run right down through the meat. Simply remove this section and you’re 90% bone free. Easy. And since the salmon’s already in a bowl, you can continue to break it up with a fork, toss in the remaining ingredients, and dinner’s almost done!

So here’s a quick and easy salmon patty recipe, perfect for those nights when you have to get dinner on the table NOW and have just maxed out on the chicken-breast-tilapia-fillet routine.

Quick Salmon Patties
1 can wild salmon, drained and bones removed
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp dried Italian Herb Blend
1 Tbsp garlic powder
2 scallions, green and white, sliced
1 egg
¼ cup bread crumbs or panko

With a fork, flake the salmon until it is uniformly broken up. Add the remaining ingredients, stirring well to incorporate. Form into 6-8 small patties.

Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the salmon patties about 3-4 minutes, or until golden brown, on each side.

Serve immediately with a side salad or veggies, some wild rice and a creamy sriracha sauce.

Creamy Sriracha

2 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp sriracha or other chili-garlic sauce
1 tsp honey

Combine all ingredients by stirring well and serve.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Operation Zero

Kaiser Permanente’s Operation Zero is an eight-session program designed for overweight children ages 11-17 to help them and their parents learn healthy tips and habits to fight obesity. I was happy to be a part of a recent session at the Cascade medical facility to show the kids how to make some dishes that are high in protein and complex carbs, low and fat and big on FLAVOR! To learn more or register a child call 404-365-0966.

Very Berry Soda
Berry soda

Fill a tall glass 2/3 full with ice cubes.
Pour half full with club soda or sparkling mineral water.
Top off with an all-natural dark berry juice blend such as cran-blueberry.
Stir and enjoy the refreshing burst of antioxidants and flavor!

Fiesta Nachos
Fiesta nachos
1.5 lbs ground lean turkey
1 lb bag of frozen corn and black beans with peppers (Fiesta Blend)
1 Tbsp dried Italian Herb Blend
2 Tbsp ground cumin
Salt and black pepper
1.5-2 cups mild salsa
1 ½ lb bag of baked tortilla chips
½ cup “Mexican style” shredded cheese

Brown turkey in a skillet, stirring frequently until well crumbled. Drain off excess fat in necessary and add the remaining ingredients. Continue cooking until heated through. Place tortilla chips onto a large platter and top with shredded cheese. Carefully spoon the hot turkey mixture on top and serve immediately.

Fruit & Cream Pizza

Fruit pizza
1 multigrain pre-cooked pizza crust
1 8 oz pkg whipped cream cheese (plain or flavored)
an assortment of fruits, sliced into bite sized pieces
Honey or agave nectar

Spread cream cheese onto the top of the pizza crust.
Arrange the fruit in a creative pattern with no spaces in between.
Drizzle lightly with honey or agave nectar.
Slice like a pizza and enjoy!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Dear Life Chef: Butternut Squash Soup

Dear Life Chef,

I love butternut squash. Do you have a good soup recipe using it?

-Hungry in Atlanta

Butternut squash soup is INSANELY EASY so here's a really basic approach to a bowl of yumminess that easily adapted to be vegetarian or vegan. The hardest part is peeling those doggone butternut squashes. But once you peel and seed it, cut it into cubes and cook it in a pot with enough stock (veg or chicken) to cover it by 2-3 inches along with peeled and grated ginger, a couple of bay leaves, 1 cinnamon stick and some curry powder. Simmer it long enough for the squash to become tender, remove the bay leaves and cinnamon stick and season with salt and pepper. Next, puree the soup in batches in a blender, dropping in a few chunks of cold butter as you blend to emulsify the soup (extra virgin olive oil would work too). Or if you have an immersion blender (stick blender) this is a great opportunity to use it. If the soup is too thick, carefully add more (hot) stock, water or cream to the blender. If you want a refined soup, strain it before returning it to the pot to heat all the way through. I'll have a full fledged butternut squash soup recipe coming soon!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Blackeyed Pea Burgers with Jalapeno Mayo

Bep & burgers chix artch spin pasta

Pictured here with Whole Wheat Pasta Salad with Spinach, Artichokes and Chicken

Blackeyed Pea Burgers

• 1 (16 ounce) bag frozen black eyed peas
• 2-3 Bay leaf
• 2 cloves Garlic, diced
• 1 small onion, minced
• Salt & pepper
• 1 onion, diced
• 1 bell pepper, diced
• 2 Jalapeno peppers
• 2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
• 2 eggs
• 2 tablespoon cumin
• 1/2 steel cut rolled oats
Place peas in a large pot, cover with water by 2 inches. Add 2 cloves of garlic and minced onion. Season with salt and pepper and cook over medium high heat until beans have simmered about 20 minutes or until tender. Drain and set aside.

When beans have cooled enough to handle, puree in batches if necessary, in a food processor until the beans are broken down (Don’t be surprised if they don’t become creamy in texture, but remain a little crumbly. That’s fine.)

In a large pan heat 2 Tbsp of oil over medium high heat. Add 1 diced onion, bell pepper and jalapeno and saut̩ for about 3 Р5 minutes or until tender. Add the oatmeal, thyme and cumin and stir continuously until fragrant and cumin is toasted. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

When cool enough to handle combine pureed beans and onion mixture in a large bowl, and mix in the eggs until thoroughly incorporated. Form into about 6 bun sized patties (these will not shrink).

Heat 1-2 Tbsp oil in a skillet over medium high heat and cook the patties about 4 minutes on each side.

Serve on toasted whole wheat buns with Jalapeno Mayo.

Jalapeno Mayo
½ cup mayonnaise
2 jalapenos, diced
Pinch cayenne pepper (to taste)
Juice from 1 lemon (about 2 Tbsp)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mixing thoroughly. Can be kept refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.