April 29, 2016

Baked Matzo Brei with Mixed Greens, Mushrooms and Smoked Herring


Ingredients:
1 6.7 oz can smoked herring in oil
1 bunch green onion, white and green parts chopped
8 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch spinach, chopped
1 bunch arugula, chopped
1 sheet egg and onion (or plain!) matzo, broken into 1/2 inch pieces
8 eggs, beaten
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350.

Pour the contents of the tin of herring in a large skillet. Add the remaining ingredients. Use a spoon to break up the herring into bite-sized pieces and saute until the mushrooms are cooked and the greens are wilted. Allow to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, stir the salt and pepper in the eggs. Fold in the vegetables and matzo. Pour into a greased 8x8 inch baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes or until fully cooked through. Allow to sit 2 minutes prior to slicing and serving.

My thoughts:
Passover is wrapping up but maybe you are like me and still have a bit of matzo to use up. This dish transforms the traditional breakfast dish, matzo brei (basically sweet or savory scrambled eggs with broken matzo), into a dish that is much hardier and can even serve as a dinner, lunch or brunch dish. I used a ton of local fresh greens in this recipe; so much so the whole dish turned nearly green itself. The arugula added a peppery bite which offset the rich, smoking herring. The matzo get rather soft and disappear into the egg except for the bits that peek out of the top, they stay much crispier. Think of it as a Jewish twist on a breakfast casserole, frittata or strata.

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April 27, 2016

Homestyle Chopped Liver




Ingredients:
1 lb chicken liver
3 hard-boiled eggs
1 small onion, diced
3 tablespoons schmaltz*
salt
freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
Heat the schmaltz in a small skillet. Add the liver and onions and cook until the liver is cooked through and the onions are starting to look a bit black around the edges and are very soft and translucent everywhere else. Allow to cool to close to room temperature. Scrape everything from the pan onto a cutting board. Chop the liver, onions and egg until into fine crumbs that start to stick together (thanks to the schmaltz), about 5-10 minutes. Add more schmaltz or olive oil to bind if it is very dry. Stir in salt and pepper. Refrigerate 1 hour prior to serving for best flavor.


*To render chicken fat to make schmaltz: Heat a sauté pan, add the fat, and the small onion, quartered and cook over medium heat until the fat is rendered. Strain into a heat safe bowl or measuring cup. Or use olive oil.

My thoughts:
Growing up my dad would say "what am I chopped liver?" whenever he felt he was being overlooked for something; implying that chopped liver was something no one wanted. Matt on the other hand, grew up eating chopped liver and it was quite an enjoyable thing indeed. Now that we are married, we make chopped liver and it is tasty! We like coarser texture like the one Matt's grandmother made so we do it all by hand versus using a grinder or food processor. Smoother textured chopped liver is okay but not our favorite! We have given chopped liver a lot of thought, possibly more than anyone else has to such a simple dish.  We've had chopped liver at delis that is slightly sweet which we didn't particularly like and found puzzling until I figured out I bet they add wine (a common variation or cognac) and since the delis are kosher, I'm sure they were using kosher wine which can be quite sweet. This is not a sweet or smooth chopped liver but it is delicious and perfect for smearing on a bit of onion and egg matzo.

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April 25, 2016

Spring Matzo Ball Soup with Herb Matzo Balls


Ingredients:

for the stock:
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 parsnips
2 carrots
2 stalks celery
1 onion, quartered
1 bunch fresh parsley
3-4 springs thyme
2-3 springs rosemary
several sage leaves
1 large chicken, cut into pieces, skin/fat removed and reserved
2 quarts chicken stock

for the soup:
1 onion, diced
2 stalks celery
parsley
3 cloves garlic, sliced
3 carrots, sliced into coins
2 small to medium turnips, diced
1 bunch spring onions, bulbs and greens chopped (not scallions!)


for the matzo balls:
3 tablespoons rendered chicken fat* or olive oil
1 cup matzo meal
1 cup hot water
1 egg
1/4 cup minced parsley, thyme and sage
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions:
 For the stock:
In a large soup pot, place all of the ingredients for the stock. The broth should be covering the chicken. If not, add water or additional to cover. Over high heat, bring to boil then reduce to low and simmer, partially covered for 1 hour, every 10 minutes, skim any scum that floats to the surface off.

For the matzo balls: (start this when you get the stock going)
Pour the water into a large bowl and top with matzo meal, stir to combine. Add 3 tablespoons rendered fat (if you don't have 3 tablespoons' worth, make up the difference in oil), herbs, salt, egg and white pepper. Stir to combine, refrigerate for 1 hour.


After the stock has cooked for one hour, remove the chicken and place in a bowl. Strain the broth through a fine strainer into another large pot, pressing the solids to release any liquids. Discard solids. Shred or chop the chicken.

Return the stock to the pot.  Add the soup ingredients. Cook until vegetables are tender, about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove the matzo meal mixture from the refrigerator and, using wet hands, roll into 1 inch balls.



In a second pot, bring a large amount of salted water to boil. Drop the matzo balls into the water and cook 15 minutes, they should float to the top but this does not mean they are ready, cook the full 15 minutes.


To serve: place 2 matzo balls in each bowl (should serve 4-6) and ladle the soup over. Serve right away.


Store leftover soup and matzo balls in separate containers in the refrigerator. Add the matzo balls to the soup and warm it on the stove top to serve.


*To render chicken fat to make schmaltz for the matzo balls: Heat a sauté pan, add the fat, and the small onion, quartered and cook over medium heat until the fat is rendered. Strain into a heat safe bowl or measuring cup.


My thoughts:
The best part of Passover dining is matzo ball soup. We try to make it every year; it is super simple but time-consuming because it of the rendering the chicken fat to make schmaltz, make a super rich broth, make matzo balls and soup. It takes about 2 hours, (don't tell, but in a pinch you can use rotisserie chicken, store bought stock and olive oil for a passable matzo ball soup) but the end result is worth it. This version doesn't feature the crystal clear broth that we have made in the past, the spring onions turn it a bit cloudy and quite honestly, slightly green but the flavor is magnificent. Plus it uses two of the few vegetables in season this time of year, turnips and spring onions.

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April 14, 2016

Rapini, Smoked Trout and Beluga Lentil Salad




Ingredients:

1 large bunch rapini, chopped
1 3.9 oz tin smoked trout in oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons nonpareil capers
8 oz cooked Beluga lentils*
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced



Directions:
Place the rapini in a pot with 2 inches of water, bring to a boil and cook until the rapini starts to wilt and is bright green. Drain and place in a large bowl. Set aside.

Drain the oil from the trout into a small bowl, whisk in vinegar and capers. Pour over the rapini. Chop the trout. Add to the bowl along with the lentils and onions. Serve hot or at room temperature.



*Tip: many stores, include Target, sell these fully cooked in vacuum-sealed packets. Simply heat them according to package instructions.
My thoughts:
One of my favorite leafy greens is rapini and it is just coming into season now. It can be bitter but lightly steaming it yields a more peppery flavor than a bitter one. It is a bit early in the year for a traditional salad so I thought I'd make this lentil speckled one. It is packed with flavor thanks to the smoked trout and capers; a wonderful combination of peppery, smoky and salty. Beluga lentils are one my absolute favorite lentils. Like French du Puy lentils, they hold their shape unlike other lentils which get soft and mushy making them great for salads, side dishes and soup.

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April 12, 2016

Creamy Spaetzle with Kale and Mushrooms


Ingredients:
10 oz dried spaetzle
1 lb baby Red Russian Kale
8 oz sliced crimini mushrooms
5 oz crumbled blue cheese
1 onion, halved and sliced
1-2 tablespoons butter
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Direction:
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the spaetzle and kale. Cook according to package instructions, about 10-12 minutes until the spaetzle is tender.

Meanwhile, saute the onion and mushrooms until the onions are nearly caramelized. Add the drained spaetzle and kale, saute 1-2 minutes until well combined. Remove from heat and stir in cheese. Serve immediately.

My thoughts:
I love spaetzle but rarely make it at home. I found a big bag and thought I'd have to change that! The kale and mushroom makes it a full side dish and the cheese is an easy short cut to creamy flavor. A fun and quick(!) alternative to macaroni and cheese.


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April 06, 2016

Salade Niçoise Inspired Tuna Pasta Salad



Ingredients:
2 5-oz cans albacore tuna, drained
1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives
2 tablespoons capote capers
1 lb asparagus, steamed and cut into 2 inch pieces
4 hard-boiled eggs, coarsely chopped
1/2 small red onion, diced
10 oz cooked pasta (I used cellentani aka cavatappi)
2-3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Toss all ingredients in a large bowl until well combined. Serve immediately. Refrigerate leftovers.
My thoughts:
Despite the somewhat silly name, this is my new favorite lunch in spring. It uses fresh, local skinny asparagus, and a few of my favorite other foods: olives and capers! Honestly, the connection to Salade Niçoise is tenuous at best but it is what I had in the back of my mind when making this dish. It does have a lot of the same flavors as the famous salad though.

I've been trying to make extra hardy and easy-to-pack meals lately because some days due to his class schedule, Matt has to pack both lunch and dinner, He can heat up leftovers for lunch but dinner needs to be cold. Luckily this salad is not only pretty but a full, filling meal by itself. It keeps well for a day or two refrigerated as well.

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March 31, 2016

Avocado-Jalapeno Margaritas +Terra's Kitchen


Ingredients:

4 oz tequila
1 jalapeno, halved
1 avocado, cubed
1 oz Patrón Citrónge
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 cups of ice


Directions:
Soak the jalapeno in tequila for 1 hour, then muddle it. Strain out the jalapeno and discard it. Add the infused tequila and remaining ingredients to a blender. Pulse until smooth. Serve immediately.

Serves 2


My thoughts:
When my husband lived in Austin he became a big fan of avocado margaritas. They aren't quite as popular up here in Baltimore but luckily they are easy to make at home. All you need is a few ingredients and a powerful blender. We like them spicy so we soaked a jalapeno in the tequila first which added a gentle kick.

Baltimore-based Terra's Kitchen just started expanding their meal-kit delivery service to the DC/Nova/Richmond area in March. Previously, they were only available on the West Coast. They asked if I'd be interested in trying them out and developing a cocktail to accompany the meals. An avocado margarita seemed like the perfect pairing for any other three meals I was sent: Grilled Chicken Tacos with Avocado Goat Cheese Sauce, Southwestern Steak + Sweet Potato Bowl, Honey Mango Glazed Salmon + Blueberry Citrus Rice. Of course, I make a lot of our meals from scratch but with Matt back in school for yet another degree, we've been looking for short cuts. I've used another meal-in-a-box company before and it was okay but I was intrigued by Terra's Kitchen's promise of meals in 30 minutes, locally sourced foods, prepped ingredients, whole ingredients and their innovative vessel.


The vessel is basically a large, rather heavy cooler with shelves and reusable ice packs. The food comes in recyclable bins but the vessel and ice packs can be used up to 100 times. It comes with a free Fed Ex return label. All you have to do it put it outside the next day (or Monday if your delivery is on a Friday) and it gets picked up and returned to Terra's Kitchen to be sent out again. So much less waste than other meal-kit options. It kept the food super cool as well. In the box were also the recipes developed by chef and cookbook author Libbie Summers; wine and beer pairings; and cards talking about the inspiration behind the recipe and a little card that had trivia and facts about the ingredients. A cute idea and a conversation starter.


The first dish I tried was the Honey Mango Glazed Salmon + Blueberry Citrus Rice. I was impressed by the minimal (as possible) packaging. The parsley and blueberries were in the same box which was nice, it would be silly to have packed such tiny amounts in separate boxes. The dish did come together in 30 minutes and required very little prep on my part. Just chopping the mango, blueberries, and parsley then blending some of the mango with the honey in the blender. I liked how the mango did double duty by being in both the sauce and the salsa topping. Having fruit in the rice was interesting too, my first impulse would have been vegetables but I quite enjoyed it.


The second dish was the Southwestern Steak + Sweet Potato Bowl. This one was super easy because the sweet potato was already cubed into the perfect size to cook in 30 minutes. All I had to do was quickly make a spicy paste for the steak, grill it and cube an avocado. Super quick. I really liked the skirt steak, it was very juicy and flavorful without being greasy. It made me want to make steak more often.


For the final meal, Grilled Chicken Tacos with Avocado Goat Cheese Sauce, Matt and I decided to make a "date night" out of it and made the margaritas and had a picnic. The meal came together quickly and was easily adaptable. The recipe suggested cumin on the chicken but we had spicy chili powder so we added that for spice. I really liked the tangy avocado goat cheese sauce, it was thick and kept the taco from falling apart. Another major plus to this recipe? The fresh pico de gallo came prepared. This made the recipe even quicker than 30 minutes to make.


I was really pleased by my Terra's Kitchen experience. Another thing I liked about the service is that you have tons of recipes to choose from each week and they are all individually priced rather than having a flat rate. So if you want to splash out and have a steak dinner you can but you aren't paying a premium for meat if you are making mostly vegetarian dishes. They also offer snacks which is a fun idea. I used the two-person option but four-person boxes are available too, perfect for families or a couple who likes leftovers.



This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Terra's Kitchen. The opinions and text are all mine.



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