Thursday, September 30, 2010

Grouse Parmesan with Roasted Spaghetti Squash

Living with two vehicles, one single garage, and a narrow driveway, the first one out of the house in the morning drives whichever car happens to be at the end of the driveway. This morning, I took Kent's ol' Tacoma. I like driving the pick-up, but this morning I had to laugh at how I could definitely tell from the pick-up interior that hunting season has begun.

Exhibit A: an empty box of Fiocchi ammo sitting on the floorboards

Exhibit B: miscellanous candy bar wrappers and plastic drink bottles, aka "road food"

Exhibit C: extra fleece jackets, orange hats, and an extra roll of tp sitting in the back seat

Yes, hunting season has begun.

The past couple weeks has been grouse and partridge season, more commonly called "upland." Pheasant also falls in the upland hunting group, and unlike deer hunting with the camo attire, you can see an upland hunter (and his dog) from a mile away from their blaze orange gear.

Geez, the things you don't learn being married to a hunter.

This is a sharp-tailed grouse. Cute li'l bugger, isn't it?

As a non-hunter, I don't usually see the bird itself. Instead, this is how I typically see grouse - a bowl of grouse breast soaking in my fridge. Perhaps 24 hours ago, these birds were still flying in the prairie, but now they're destined for my hot cast-iron skillet.

Grouse Parmesan with Roasted Spaghetti Squash
Parm recipe adapted from Fine Cooking magazine (a chicken version in the mag, of course). And the spaghetti squash - I'd be drowning in gourds if I didn't cook up a couple.

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
1-1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs (I ran out of panko and used fresh breadcrumbs for half of them - worked fine, although panko gives you a crispier coating)
8 grouse breasts
Kosher salt
5 Tbs. olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 c. shredded mozzerella
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 large tomatoes, chopped (or one 14.5-oz. can crushed tomatoes)
1/4 cup packed fresh basil, chopped

Position two racks around the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F. Cut squash lengthwise, scoops out seeds and discard, and place squash cut side down on large baking sheet. Roast until softened in oven, about 30-40 mins.

Meanwhile, line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil and lightly coat the foil with nonstick cooking spray for the grouse.

Mix the flour and 1/4 tsp. pepper in a wide, shallow dish. In a second wide, shallow dish, lightly beat the eggs with 1 Tbs. water. Put the panko in a third wide, shallow dish. Season the grouse with salt and coat each piece in the flour, tapping off the excess, then the egg, and then the panko, pressing the panko to help it adhere.

Heat 2 Tbs. of the oil in a 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. Working in two batches, cook the grouse, flipping once, until the crumbs are golden and the chicken is almost cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes per side, adding 2 Tbs. more oil for the second batch. Transfer the grouse to the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with Parm and then the mozzarella. Bake until the cheese is melted and grouse is cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour remaining 1 Tbs. oil in pan and then add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is tender and lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and 1/4 tsp. salt. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Remove squash from oven and scrape flesh out of skins with a fork into serving dish. Add a pat of butter (optional). Serve the tomato sauce over the grouse and squash.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Slow Roasted Tomatoes

An embarrassment of riches.

That's the phrase I immediately thought when my mom handed me a heavy basket filled to the brim with perfectly ripe homegrown tomatoes.

Clearly, she was tired of canning.

"Can you use some tomatoes?" she asks. Never one to turn down produce, I accept the offer, expecting three, maybe four beefsteaks.

But no, she hands me this basket.

An embarassment of riches indeed.

I've been wanting to slow roast tomatoes all summer. The simple elegance, the pure goodness, the versatility - think of roasted tomatoes with pasta, perhaps pureeing a few into a quick soup with a dash of cream, maybe tossing one or two with some basil in a toasted mozzerella sandwich, using them as a garnish to pan-seared grouse ('tis grouse season, after all)...and of course, just slurping them up solo. Heck, I'm so thrilled by roasted tomatoes right now, maybe I can make a face mask out of them. Or mix them with salt for a body scrub.

Or not. That would be a tragic waste of a perfectly tasty 'mater.

Slow Roaster Tomatoes
Adapted from Orangette's book A Homemade Life, she uses romas in the original recipe, which makes sense since they're meatier/less juicy that beefsteaks and cherries, but I'm all for making due with what you have. Save the roasted tomato juice and toss it with some pasta or use it in a soup later in the week.

3-4 lbs tomatoes
Olive oil
Ground coriander (optional)

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.

Wash and dry tomatoes, trim away stem end, and cut in half (leave cherries whole, cut up big tomatoes into fourths). Place them on a large roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil (2-3 Tbls) and sprinkle with a couple pinches salt and coriander. Bake until the tomatoes crinkle at the edges and shrink to about half their original size, 4-6 hours. Remove from oven, cool to room temp, and store in the fridge for up to one week.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Pizza Night at the Moose

Growing up, I have fond memories of sauerkraut pizza night at the Moose in Mandan.

Dad and I would meet up with my aunt, uncle, and cousins. We'd order pizza, the adults would order beer, and they'd talk about things that sounded boring to me while I ran crazy around the place chasing my cousins.

The Moose in Mandan, ND is one of those lodges like the Elks, the Amvets, the VFW. To be honest, I don't know much about the Moose as an organization, but I do know that every first Wednesday of the month is pizza night and it's open to the public.

Just walk in to the main hall and place your order - there will be a little bit of a line, but it's worth it. It's not amazing Chicago deep dish or anything, but it's decent with that local twist. They have all the usual pizza suspects like cheese and pepperoni, but order the sauerkraut/Canadian bacon ($8.50 + tax). It's my favorite.

Now I'm at the Moose again with my dad for sauerkraut pizza night, and things haven't changed that much. The pizza is still homemade. The adults still order beer. And I'm still running crazy around the place - only this time, I'm chasing my own little guy.

So mark your calendar - next pizza night should be Wednesday, October 6th!

Friday, September 17, 2010

The End of Summer

September 17. 6:08 pm. Snow on the raspberry bushes.

Another summer comes to a close.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Refrigerator Pickles

For the record, I do not like cucumbers. I love pickles, but I just don't like cucumbers. I can handle them if they're chopped up in a greek salad or hidden in a veggie sandwich, but if I get a choice, I always skip the cukes.

So when my dear step-mom had a bowl full of these refrigerator pickles sitting out for us to nibble on one evening, I initially passed them by because they looked too much like raw cucumbers. However, after seeing Kent going back for more again and again and again, I decided to try one.

Oh yum. They're sweet, kinda like bread and butter pickles, but with a vinegary bite. And crunchy - no soggy supermarket pickle squishiness here. I was hooked and immediately asked for the recipe. This is what she handed to me.

C'mon. How can you not love a recipe that arrives on a pickle-shaped piece of paper? As you can see, the recipe is super easy too, no canning or hot water baths needed. Just keep them in the refrigerator. I'm not a food safety expert, so I don't know how long they'll keep, but rest assured that they'll be eaten up well before you have to worry about that.

Refrigerator Pickles
When you first pour the liquid over the cucumber slices, it will look like there isn't enough liquid. However, liquid will drain from the cucumber slices and add volume. Just give the pickles a little shake or stir now and then to redistribute the liquid.

7 c. cucumber slices (about 3-4 cucumbers)
1 small onion, sliced
1 small green pepper or Anaheim pepper, sliced (optional)
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. white vinegar
1/2 tsp. mustard seed
1/2 tsp. celery seed
2 tsp. salt

Put cucumber, onion and pepper slices in large bowl with lid. Mix all other ingredients and pour over. Cover and refrigerate.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Tomato, Goat Cheese, and Onion Tart

I just planned on eating a modest slice of this lovely tart for dinner the other evening. But you know me. There was something about that crust, those warm juicy tomatoes, that cheese. I couldn't resist another bite.

And the third slice? I blame the Riesling.

Tomato, Goat Cheese, and Onion Tart
Be warned: this is killer good. The recipe looks long because I'm including notes on how to make the tart dough. You can use prepared pie dough (meaning frozen dough that you will thaw out and place in your tart pan; not a pie shell, which will probably overflow), but the homemade crust is what makes this tart shine. The original recipe called for 6 oz. of goat cheese, which is fine, but that gets a bit strong for my taste, so I cut it with a sprinkle of Italian blend shredded cheese at the end. You can find goat cheese in the deli section of the grocery store. I also used some small yellow pear tomatoes, split in half, to mix with the red tomato slices. Gorgeousness.

Pastry Dough
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 to 5 tablespoons ice water

Tart filling
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, very thinly sliced
4 oz crumbled goat cheese (3/4 cup)
1/2 cup shredded Italian blend cheese
1 lb plum tomatoes, thinly sliced crosswise

Prepare dough: Blend together flour, butter, and salt in a bowl with your fingertips just until most of mixture resembles coarse meal with some roughly pea-size butter lumps. Drizzle 3 tablespoons ice water evenly over mixture and gently stir with a fork until incorporated. Squeeze a small handful: If it doesn’t hold together, add more ice water, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, stirring until incorporated, then test again. (Do not overwork mixture or pastry will be tough.)

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 4 portions. With heel of your hand, smear each portion once or twice in a forward motion to help distribute fat. Gather dough together, with a pastry scraper if you have one, and press into a ball, then flatten into a 5-inch disk. Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 1 hour. (Dough can be chilled up to 3 days.)

Assemble the tart: Preheat oven to 375°F. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface into an 11-inch round and fit into tart pan. Trim excess dough, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang, then fold overhang inward and press against side of pan to reinforce edge. Lightly prick bottom and sides with a fork.

Line tart shell with foil and fill with pie weights (or do as I did and weigh it down with a 8" round cake pan). Bake in middle of oven until pastry is pale golden around rim, about 20 minutes. Carefully remove weights and foil and bake until golden all over, 8 to 10 minutes more. Cool in pan on a rack.

While tart shell is baking, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, then cook onion with salt and black pepper to taste, stirring frequently, until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

Spread onion over bottom of tart shell and top with goat cheese. Arrange tomatoes over cheese. Sprinkle with shredded Italian cheese and salt and pepper to taste and drizzle with remaining tablespoon oil. Put foil over edge of crust (to prevent overbrowning).

Bake until cheese starts to brown slightly, 10-15 minutes.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Tomatillo Conundrum

This spring, I planted tomatillos. Picking up the plants at the plant nursery, I already had visions of my tomatillo harvest dancing in my head. I'd roast them for an amazing enchilada salsa. I'd wear my most colorful skirt for the occasion. I'd swirl around my kitchen grooving to Gipsy Kings and ManĂ¡. For one moment, this North Dakota gal would be a latina princesa!

Or, not so much.

I don't know what happened, but I don't think my tomatillos turned out. Are they supposed to be this teeny-tiny? I thought tomatillos were more like a full green tomato with a funky shell that peeled off. My tomatillos just look like deflated balloons with the tiniest morsel of vegetable flesh inside.

Did I not water enough? Or are these immature tomatillos and I'm picking at them too soon? Or just a fussy plant for our short growing season? My wise readers, if anyone has some insight into this, I'm all ears!

Meanwhile, I'm still grooving to Gipsy Kings, and a bowl of Village Hot Sauce will do me just fine.

Friday, September 3, 2010

"Special" Zucchini Bread

Enough about me, let's talk about you for a moment. First of all, I have no idea why you stopped by, but I love that you did. The very fact that 50 souls are interested in what's happening in my tiny kitchen is so surprising, I'm just tickled by it.

Even better than that, I get to see your blogs, a tiny peek into your lives and talents. Karen is a great cook who has achieved homemade hamburger bun perfection, something I didn't think was possible. Stacey is an amazing photographer (teach me! Please!). Ryan is one of the few hunters who understands that there is life beyond Shore Lunch and venison Hamburger Helper. Amber keeps me updated on what's cool for kids and decor, especially important since I'm clueless in both areas. And Lyz. a Fargo mom and one of my first Google "followers", helps me see the humor in parenthood.

Basically, what I'm trying to say is I'm impressed. Totally impressed and flattered that such interesting people think that, well, I'm interesting too. So, ummm, thanks! :)

Speaking of blogs, I go in spurts with favorite food blogs and lately I've been all over 101 Cookbooks. The author encourages people to try out different ingredients. Farro, anyone? Because of this blog, I now have coconut oil and bulgur in my cupboard. (PS - put coconut oil on your legs after you shower - great moisturizer for shiny shins) When I came across a recipe titled "My Special Zucchini Bread Recipe," I had to try it.

So I printed out the recipe and found out it included curry powder. Really? Curry powder? I freaked out a little bit. 'It says it's optional; should I leave it out? Or just go for it? I don't want to ruin a whole batch of zucchini bread...'

I went for it. A whole tablespoon of curry powder, dropped into the rest of the traditional dry ingredients of flour, sugar, baking soda, and cinnamon.

I could smell the curry powder as I mixed the batter, still unsure about my choice to add it. But when I tasted a nibble of the batter before baking (what? you don't do that too?), I knew it would be ok. It added a depth of flavor that's hard to define, but even my farm-girl mother was all over this bread like white on rice. Plus, the turmeric in my curry powder added a lovely color to the bread, too.

For the recipe, just click here. Take a chance and leave the optional curry powder in. I also included the poppy seeds, which added great texture. I think you'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Perfect Sandwich

Fresh bread. Mayo. Tomatoes just plucked out of the garden.

There's no more to say.