Tag Archives: leeks

Clean Up, Aisle 14

21 Nov

Last year at this time, I was blogging 2-3 times a week, happily writing and experimenting with my Turkey Day Trials, and prepping for the best holiday of the year.  It was my first Thanksgiving cooking, and my parents were coming up to visit – everything had to be perfect.  This year, everything still must be perfect, but I’ve moved up a level in the video game of life, causing more hurdles to jump over and extra-point challenges to face.

Rob and I see each other almost every day.  But our jobs, while enriching and rewarding, have brought us to a new intensity in limited interaction.  Having just entered the Aircraft Commander syllabus, Rob is working even harder and studying whenever possible.  My job leaves me, more often than not, wanting to crash out on the couch saving any laundry or other household chores for “another” day.  We have been busy with bittersweet traveling (going to North Carolina for Rob’s uncle’s funeral; sad occasion, but nice seeing lots of family), busy with friends (Meghan and Daniel’s trip up from Irvine was a blast!), and busy being stressed over Oregon’s missed field goal to lose a should-have-won game against USC (urgh).  We’ve had some,well, busy times, but I’m certainly not complaining – Rob and I live a very full life.  But it all kind of caught up with me yesterday.

In my house growing up, Thanksgiving was the biggest holiday we celebrated.  We ate, we watched the Macy’s Parade, we ate, we watched the Dog Show, we ate, we watched my mom squeal as my dad de-innarded the turkey, and we ate some more.  Last year was pretty much the same, except I was the one de-innarding the turkey, and Rob was the one running after me with 409 to disinfect any poultry germs.  But while last year I had time and ability to experiment with pumpkin pie, taste-test three different stuffings, and concoct the best turkey to herb butter ratio, this year has been a bit different.

Yesterday, Rob and I went to the grocery store to pick up the final fixins for this year’s meal.  We had returned the night prior from the UofO/USC football game feeling drained and exhausted from the expended adrenaline, lack of body warmth, and long drive.  I had a list – no, the list – of Thanksgiving necessities (one year, my mom forgot the black olives.  My dad still talks about it).  We were walking up and down the aisles picking up our loot, when, all of a sudden, all of the to-dos and lack of Thanksgiving preparation that I had been keeping on the back burner, running at a gentle rolling simmer, came rushing to the forefront of my brain reminding me that the BEST day of the year was only 4 days away.  And I had not prepped at all.

I stopped.

“What’s wrong?” Rob asked.

“I…. I….”  the panic levels were audibly rising.

“What?” his concern was obvious.

“Holy Crap I didn’t get to do my turkey trials this year!  There’s so much to do!  This is the best day of the year and I’m not enjoying it the way I should!  And I don’t remember which kind of stuffing I’m supposed to buy!” the verbal vom came out at, what I imagine, was faster and a few pitches higher than normal.  Rob could see it starting.  I was loosing it.

The tears started flowing.  With a mixture of exhaustion, stress, and downright immaturity, my shoulders started to methodically shake.  Rob took me in his arms and gave me his best bear hug.  After including a couple of “it’s alrights” and “shhs,” to ease my “but I don’t even have a dessert!” fears, he broke me of my breaking point like only he could.  Right there between the canned pumpkin and the Shake ‘N Bake, with his quick New England wit he exclaimed, “Clean up on Aisle 14!”

Well, even with all of my grocery store blubbering, it turns out I did get to have a turkey trial this year, even if it wasn’t a planned dish for my family’s Thanksgiving feast.  A friend requested a minimal chopping, gluten-free stuffing to enjoy with her family this year.  Since I often have secret love-affairs with large amounts of gluten when Rob is on duty, I took this as a challenge.  I researched; most gluten free recipes require cubes of gluten-free bread, a food that is difficult to find and can stereotypically be dry, dense, and tasteless.  So I improvised and came up with a “crumble” of sorts using corn meal and almond meal.  The dish had the stuffing-like texture, and the flavors of Thanksgiving were all incorporated.

I called my mom from the grocery store, still sniffling from my “incident” back in aisle 14, confirming the correct stuffing for our dinner (during which time she genuinely asked me if I was 1) okay, and 2) a mental – got to love the east coast mommy!).  So needless to say, despite its tastiness, we will be sticking to tradition and not be having a gluten-free stuffing for our holiday.  But hopefully my friend and her family will, and enjoy the flavors, and the holiday, without scary gluten allergies.

Happy Thanksgiving!

No-Chop Gluten-Free Stuffing (serves 6-8)

  • 1 leek
  • 1 large apple
  • ½ medium sized red onion
  • 3 celery ribs
  • 2 yukon gold potatoes
  • 1/4 c white wine
  • 1 ½ c cornmeal, medium grain
  • ¾ c almond meal
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 3 sprigs fresh sage
  • s&p
  • olive oil for drizzling

*** Special equipment needed: Food Processor

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and grease a square baking dish with butter.

Melt 3 tbsp of butter in a large sauté pan.  Chop the leek, apple, onion, celery, and potatoes into very large dices (about 2 inches each).  Toss into the food processor.  Pulse 3-4 times; just enough so the veggies are chopped up, but NOT pureed.  Pour the veg into the sauté pan, and season with s&p to taste.  Sprinkle in the thyme leaves and sauté until the veg has softened, but not browned.  Add white wine and simmer for a few minutes, then turn the heat to low.

Change the blade in the food processor to the dough blade.  Add in the cornmeal, almond meal, butter (broken up with your fingers), rosemary, and sage.  Season with a sprinkle of s&p.  Pulse until the mixture comes together like damp, grainy sand.

Mix ¾ of the cornmeal mixture with the vegetable mixture, and pour into the baking dish.  Using a spatula or the back of a large spoon, even out the mixture.  Sprinkle the rest of the cornmeal mixture on top, and drizzle olive oil over the top (to help with browning).

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top is crusty, and the inside has cooked all the way through.

Enjoy!

The view from our bedroom window.

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Smells Anything but Fishy

14 Apr

When my husband and I first started dating, within one of our first conversations, he told me that he didn’t eat fish.  Period.  I would be lying if I said a this-is-never-going-to-work thought didn’t cross my mind.  After all, fish is the main protein in my diet!  And I’m a cook!  What are we going to eat at dinnertime?!  But that thought quickly vanished within the same conversation hearing about what he did like to eat and realizing he had a pretty good palette.  Plus, he’s really cute.

Since then and many, many meals later, Rob’s taste for food has drastically grown and he’s even asking for things he originally hated (i.e. beets).  He’s taken a liking to fish (yay!) but he’s still pretty adamant about not eating shellfish (being a Marine Science major, he says he knows too much about them to eat them.  I absolutely love shellfish, so I don’t ask what he knows).  So as seen in past posts, whenever I decide to indulge in Oregon’s finest shellfish, I usually do so when Rob is out flying that little orange helicopter over volatile seas.

As mentioned in my past posting, I passed on cooking my Cioppino last Friday due to the prior crazy work week.  But knowing this week was going to be another hectic ride (we just finished parent conferences), I knew I couldn’t put off my Cioppino yet again.

So on Saturday, after locking ourselves out of the house, waiting for the locksmith (at least it was sunny out!), visiting the pet adoption agency to see if we could add a 4-legged member to our little family (sadly, our doggie bed still lays cold in the garage), Rob and I made our way to Charleston to buy some of Oregon Coast’s finest: fish.

While our fish monger piled pounds of steamer clams and medium-sized tiger shrimp onto the scales, I could sense Rob’s jaw start to tense.  Shellfish.  Eww.  Because I was making a “white” Cioppino with veal and pork sausage rather than the standard chorizo, I opted out of the muscles – not that it made Rob feel any better about the meal he was about to endure.  The only white fish available that day was some beautiful Dover Sole, which happens to be Rob’s favorite, so despite its delicateness we dared it to stand up to the bold flavors, and planned for its accompanying role in the stew.

Then it was on to cooking.  Cioppino is not a hard dish to make, it just has a lot of ingredients which can make it seem overwhelming.  I am usually pretty good with my mise en place, so after the chopping and set up, bringing everything together as a piece of cake (or a bowl of stew!)

We shared the Cioppino with some close friends, and with a dollop of Lemon Aioli and a chunk of artisan crusty bread, we communed with gobbling and slurping and clanking clam shells into the shell bowl.  Except for the occasional shrimp sneaking its way over to my dish, Rob ate, and thoroughly enjoyed the light, fresh, homey, and slightly spicy fish stew.  The dinner smelled amazing while cooking, tasted amazing while eating, and we were all truly amazed at anti-shellfish boy scarfing it down.

Please don’t be intimidated by the ingredients here; Cioppino really is as easy (if not easier!) to make as most meat stews, and so, so satisfying.  If you can’t find veal and pork sausage, use whatever hot, medium, or mild meat combination you love.  Just adjust your salt and pepper flake seasoning.  If I can get Rob to eat fish stew, then I’m sure you’ll love it!

Cioppino (serves about 6 with leftovers) 

  • 2 lbs fresh shrimp 
  • 1 1/2 lbs steamer or razor clams
  • 2 lbs any mild white fish (Dover Sole, Halibut, Rockfish, even Tilapia will work here) 
  • 4 c fish stock (low sodium) 
  • 2 c dry white wine (Pinot Gris works well) 
  • 1 lb veal and pork sausage (or any sausage of your choice) 
  • 2 c whole tomatoes, strained and hand-crushed 
  • 1/2 large white onion, finely diced
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, finely diced
  • 5 large stalks celery, sliced 
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced 
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (or more or less depending on how spicy you like it) 
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • s&p 
  • chopped Italian parsley, for garnish
  • Lemon Aioli, recipe follows 

Lemon Aioli (makes about 2 cups) 

  • 2 c good quality mayo (or make it yourself!) 
  • zest and juice of one large lemon
  • 5ish drops of Tabasco sauce
  • a pinch of s&p 

Start browning the sliced, or unencased sausage in the olive oil in a large dutch oven over med-high heat.  Once browned, remove from pot and set aside.  Add the onion, leek, fennel, and celery, some s&p , and saute until soft and translucent.  Add the garlic, and then deglaze with the white wine, scraping the brown bits off the bottom of the pan.  After about 3-5 minutes, add in the tomatoes, the browned sausage, and fish stock.  Let come to a boil.  Once boiling, add the crushed red pepper and bay leaves, and bring down to a simmer.  Simmer covered for about 30-45 minutes.  

While stew is simmering, clean the shellfish – peel and devein the shrimp, and gently scrub the clams.  If any clams are broken or open, discard (unless it is just slightly open – then hold the clam firmly between your thumb and first and middle finger and tap the clam on the counter top.  If the clam closes, it is still alive and able to be cooked and eaten.  If it does not close, then discard).   Also, cut the white fish of choice into large chunks, similar to the size you would use to make fish and chips.  

Add the fish and shellfish to the pot, cover, and check after 5 minutes.  NOTE: if using a heartier white fish, like Halibut, add the white fish first to cook for a few minutes before adding the shellfish.  When the clams have opened and the shrimp are pink and opaque, the stew is ready to serve.  

Serve in big soup bowls, garnish with parsley, and a large dollop of Lemon Aioli.  

Enjoy! 

(Sorry about the lack of pictures; we got carried away with the cooking… and the eating!)

Almost Goosed

14 Feb

So it turns out my sickness last week was a bit worse than my initially self-diagnosed cold with sore throat.  Feeling worse and more run-down as the week went on, I showed up to school on Friday with the mindset that it was just one more day till the weekend – I could do it.  But with quite a few independent, but similar, you-don’t-look-good statements, coupled with our secretary mentioning that pneumonia is going around, I realized the germs were quickly beating my stubborn immune system to a phlegmy pulp, and decided to call a substitute and go to the doctor.  Turns out I had bronchitis (better than pneumonia!) and was told to sleep, sleep, sleep.  So that Friday, after eating the last bit of a fabulous need-to-have-any-time-let-alone-when-sick chicken and leek soup, I took some NyQuil at noon, and the rest of the day/evening/night was a mix of drooling sleep and foggy awakeness.  In one of my sleep states, Rob went out and got fixin’s to make Mom’s English Muffin Pizzas (EMPs) for dinner.  How did I get so lucky to find such a great guy?!

After a hacking coughing fit during the night, then a very discombobulated morning thinking Rob was late for work (his duty was the next day), we decided I needed a bit of that Oregon fresh air to clean out the lungs, and brain, a bit.  A simple walk would do just that.

At the lakes next to our house, there are lovely trails, small wildlife, many relaxed fishermen, and one giant goose.  Always surrounded by many mallards and other ducks, this goose is obviously the King of the Lakes, honking and flapping his big white wings whenever anyone threatens the air around his brood.  This goose is enormous.  Turkey-sized.  I’m really not exaggerating and find it hard to adequately express just how absurdly rotund he is (although my mind goes directly to pounds and pounds of delicious goose fat to confit with.  Figures.).

Anywho, we pulled up to a parking pot at the lake right next to His Gooseness, his bleats and honks penetrating our heat-roaring car.  Giggling we walked away to enjoy our moments outside, sans rain.

As we trudged up our last hill, slow and wheezing (well, I was, at least), we spotted him – big, white, and oh so territorial, marking his land right next to the passenger side tire.  As we stepped closer, his head lifted.  Another step, a blink.  Another step, a throaty hiss – his long thin pink tongue sticking out like an old lady’s angry pointy finger.  Tail feathers still planted firm on the ground, he did not stand, he did not flap.  He just blinked his beady little eyes, continually hissing his attack warning.

“Be careful,” Rob kind of giggled as he saw me venturing to reach the passenger door.

“Oh, it’s fine,” I waved him off.  “I can run faster than a stupid goose.”

Well, karma is a you-know-what.  At that moment Mr. Would-Be-Sunday-Night’s-Dinner-If-I-Could-Get-A-Hold-Of-Him screamed/honked, reared up on his skinny webbed feet, and I swear those little eyes squinted and turned fiery red.  Screaming like a little girl, I flapped more than him and ran away, and thus inevitably became  a hacking breathless mess.  Not moving from his spot, Mr. Fatso Goose just sat back down, never once leaving his land.

Goose: 1.  Jill: 0.  Rob: laughing hysterically.

Being sick, it wasn’t a huge foodie week or weekend.  But I’ll include the fantastic soup that helped to heal me the two days prior, thus giving me the energy to take on a goose.  And lose.

Chicken Leek and Tortellini Soup (serves 4 large servings)
** This is a very fresh and tasty soup, plus easy and fast to make – I ate it solely for two days straight (solely by choice – there was fresh Rockfish in the fridge).

  • 1 huge leek (or 2 medium – the leeks up here are amazing), white and light green parts rinsed, cut in half, then sliced into linguini shape.
  • meat from 1/2 a rotisserie chicken, shredded (I roasted chicken legs earlier in the week and used the meat from 3 of them)
  • 4 cup low sodium chicken stock
  • 1 c water
  • juice from 2 mandarin oranges
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 1/2 c packaged (dried) tortellini pasta (your choice of filling – I used pesto)
  • 1 small sprig rosemary
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • s&p
  • Parmesan Regiano cheese, grated, to top the soup

Melt the butter in a large soup pot, and saute the leeks until just soft (season with s&p).  Add the chicken, then the liquids and juices, and the herbs.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 5 minutes to develop the flavors a bit.  Turn heat back up, add the tortellini pasta and cover the pot, cooking the pasta in the soup (depending on the pasta it should take anywhere from 5-8 minutes).  Cooking the pasta in the soup really adds texture to the broth (from the starches), making it thick, different from a French slurry.  Taste for seasoning and remove the sprigs (most of the herbs will have fallen off the stems).

Ladle into large bowls and serve with a fresh grating of Parm. Reg. on top.

Enjoy, even when you are perfectly healthy!!

(sidebar: Happy Valentines Day, everyone!  Rob and I had some amazing food tonight, and a good “man” story – will share soon!)

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