Tag Archives: onion

Tortellini Soup

Last week, summer poked its steamy little head back into our lives with a few days of heat. Thankfully, they were nothing compared to the high temperatures and humidity that we experienced over the sweaty summer of 2010. Still, it was enough to make the handful of comfortably crisp days from the week prior seem like a tease for those of us yearning for autumn.

When the seasons change, we tend to enact our yearly rituals to adapt. For example, when winter is looming we search for the box of heavy clothes, warm coats and snow boots hiding in the basement or attic, and cross our fingers for a blizzard-less season. As spring approaches we find an available weekend to clean the house, top to bottom, and open the windows for the first time in months. Several months later, some of us begin gearing up for swimsuit season with a strict diet that soon becomes a distant memory with the first taste of a hotdog from the grill. When autumn is around the corner, we pack away our beach clothes and exchange them for wool, denim and flannel. Just as I store my wardrobe from last season to make room for something more practical, I collect my summer recipes and place them at the bottom of the pile until next year.

When Mother Nature graced us with a few cooler days a few weeks ago, I took it as an opportunity to welcome fall foods back into my life. My brain is officially in harvest season, and the last week of warm weather couldn’t shake my craving for stews, ciders and warm casseroles. This recipe for Tortellini Soup was a compromise for the weather; the sweet, light taste of onions, tomatoes and spinach combined with a warm, meat-filled tortellini, bathed in broth.  Read More…

Caramelized Onions

When I walk into a house and smell food cooking, I instantly feel welcome. When I walk into a house and smell onions cooking, I pretty much want to move in. In spite of looking like I just watched The Notebook every time I work with them, they will always have a place in my kitchen. The bulbed plant is the perfect complement to any dish, and it’s safe to say you could find it on the list of ingredients for most savory recipes. Depending on the cooking style and time, the onion can range from a sharp, tangy flavor to buttery and sweet.

Caramelization of an onion is the process of browning natural sugars over heat, and it gives a new personality to something that, when raw, is pungent and obvious. In their caramelized state, onions are soft, mellow, and they pretty much melt in your mouth. They add depth as an accompaniment to an extravagant dish, are perfect piled on a hamburger, and are difficult to avoid eating on their own. The process is extremely basic, and aside from onions and olive oil, it simply requires patience, a watchful eye, and about an hour. Read More…

Party People: Homemade Sloppy Joes

Being asked to make a feature dish for a 14-year-old’s wiffle ball themed party, where the guest list included ten hungry teenage boys, is somewhat of an overwhelming request. The foodie in me wanted to go beyond hamburgers and hotdogs for my brother’s birthday party; however, I couldn’t think too far outside the box since 14-year-old taste buds probably wouldn’t enjoy a recipe with obscure ingredients. The other factor in deciding a recipe was the love affair I have with my new 5.5 quart Dutch oven which is still going strong, and I was waiting for an opportunity to use it again.

My mom and I were discussing ideas, and she stressed that when young boys are hungry, they want something simple and will probably have thirds. She suggested the ever faithful Sloppy Joe, and when I plugged in that classic dish with “Dutch oven” in a search engine, I found a website perfect for my obsession with my new kitchen toy: Justdutchovenrecipes.com.

The actual recipe I based my creation on was titled “Sloppy Joes for 100.”  While I don’t think I have ever made food for a group that large, the number wasn’t entirely off for my brother and his friends after second, third or fourth helpings. Still, with the help of some mental math (and maybe a calculator or conversion chart here and there) I adapted my recipe below from the one provided to serve twenty, and mad a few changes to the ingredients list.

Sloppy Joes

Adapted from Just Dutch Oven Recipes

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 medium onion; finely diced

1 medium green pepper; finely diced

1/2 c. celery; finely diced

1/2 c. carrot; finely diced

4 lb. ground beef

1/4 c. molasses

1/4 c. spicy brown mustard

1 c. ketchup

8 oz. can tomato sauce

1/4 c. cider vinegar

2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

3/4 c. water

Preheat oven to 400˚

In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil and cook onion, green pepper, celery and carrot until just soft, about 3 minutes. Add ground beef and cook until browned, stirring often.  Remove with a slotted spoon to a large roasting pan; add the next 7 ingredients. Stir sauce throughout, and add pan to preheated oven. Cook at 400˚, uncovered, for 1 ½ hours, stirring every half hour.

Dicing the vegetables finely can be extremely tedious; however, I felt it necessary to make the dish appealing to my audience of teenage boys. Another benefit to this, other than them not being able to pick them out of their sandwiches, is the small cuts of veggies filter through the meat into every sandwich and flavor the beef more than I realized. The sauce was light and tangy, which I attribute to the cider vinegar and tomato sauce. Just Dutch Oven Recipe’s sweet ingredient was brown sugar, which I substituted with molasses – I feel it adds a deeper taste while still contributing sweetness to the sauce.

The ultimate test to a Sloppy Joe recipe is how well the loose meat works on a bun. This recipe is certainly sloppy enough; however, it does not leave you with a soggy roll and a drippy sandwich. After taking the first (eagerly anticipated) bite of my sandwich, I noticed the sauce soaked through into the bun just enough; there was no danger that my roll would disintegrate in my hand as I devoured my Sloppy Joe.

My recipe for homemade Sloppy Joes was a hit with my brother and his friends not once, but twice – considering they each went back for seconds.

I’m Not Worthy: Mark Bittman

My favorite room in the house is, of course, the kitchen. There is no other hobby I love more than spending hours producing a four-star meal; anything from experimenting with new ingredients to perfecting a favorite recipe. Monday through Friday, though, I don’t usually have spare time to create an elaborate feast. Even when I turn to an old favorite, or maybe try a new, easy recommendation, dinner is not ready until 8:00 PM, which leaves very little time to do anything else let alone digest before bed-time.

It would be nice to create a meal in an hour or less without sacrificing flavor, losing the culinary experience, or calling for take-out.

Mark Bittman’s cookbook, Kitchen Express: 404 Inspired Seasonal Dishes You Can Make in 20 Minutes or Less, has pretty much come to my rescue. First, the recipes are categorized by season, so any ingredients called for will be at their best. Second, each recipe is a simple paragraph of steps and ingredients needed to complete a recipe. You will not find a detailed list of requirements before the recipe, measurements, or even a numbered, step-by-step list. Each recipe calls for about five ingredients that you are likely to have in your refrigerator or cabinets. Chances are, if you have to make a trip to pick up one or two things, it will not be an expensive spice or something from a specialty store. Kitchen Express is designed to allow the cook a flexible, no-pressure experience in the kitchen and the opportunity to take control of the flavor in their dish. This collection of recipes is simple, yet modeled after very authentic, cultural dishes like Coq au Vin and Jerk Chicken. Therefore, if it’s Indian food or Asian flavors you’re craving, you won’t have to call for take-out or spend hours in the kitchen, working with a long list of expensive, hard to find ingredients. Kitchen Express is your answer.

Mark Bittman’s overall philosophy on food and cooking matches the simplicity of Kitchen Express. His belief in “sane eating” includes a practice of consuming more fresh vegetables and grains and less animal products and processed foods. In a Runner’s World article, Bittman highlights the USDA data that most people take in only 30 percent of their calories from plants, and he shows readers through personal experience the benefit of increasing that number. As the author of the New York Times food blog, Bitten, he certainly balances his healthy outlook with guilty pleasures; however, he stresses moderation. His website includes a list of interesting articles related to his minimalist approach to cooking and “sane eating.”

Chicken Paprikash

From Kitchen Express: 404 Inspired Seasonal Dishes You Can Make in 20 Minutes or Less

By Mark Bittman

In two tablespoons of butter, sear a pound of boneless, skinless chicken pieces, about a minute on each side. Add a thinly sliced large onion, two crushed garlic cloves, a teaspoon of minced ginger (or half a teaspoon of ground ginger), three tablespoons of Hungarian paprika, a bay leaf, and a couple of teaspoons of salt; cook for about three minutes. Add a cup of chicken broth and bring everything to a boil. Reduce the heat and continue cooking until the chicken is just done; stir in half a cup of sour cream and serve over buttered egg noodles.

The recipe notes that the dish can be served over cous cous or bulgur, which would produce a “richer earthiness.” I decided to toss some plain cous cous with shallots, olive oil and a tiny bit of lemon zest.

Not only was this recipe super easy to follow, I had most of the ingredients ready to use, and it took about 30 minutes to cook. The paprika-flavored sauce from the dish was a mouth watering combination of warm, smoky and a tiny bit sweet that I ate the meal in less time than it took to actually make it.

And, lucky for my boyfriend, since it’s a one-dish meal, there were not many dishes to clean.

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