Archive | January, 2008

"Hey, can you bring the appetizers?"

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At Christmas, I promised my sister I’d bring the appetizers to a family dinner, but I ran out of time to cook. Farmer’s market to the rescue!

Here are some of my favorite pre-made goodies from the market. Pick up a basketful and be the hero at your next party:

Dolmas & Humus from the Mediterranean Chef (Nikki Kaya, 512-970-9150). Nikki has some of the best Humus I’ve ever tasted. One of my friends calls it “crack” because it’s so addictive.

A baguette from Texas French Bread – also recommend the rosemary ciabatta

Brie cheese from Homestead Farm – Brazos Valley Cheeses.

Goat cheese from West Wind Dairy Goats

Throw in a few carrots and other veggies and you have a great crudite.

Never let laziness get in the way of a good party!

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Spinach Mushroom Ricotta Pie

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I guess now is as good as time as any for a few disclaimers – I will eat mushrooms and spinach on just about anything. Seriously, you could put them on a piece of cardboard and I’d probably eat it. I tell you this because there will be a plethora of recipes with spinach and mushrooms. Consider yourself warned.

I also don’t like to waste food. So, when I ended up with a bunch of leftover ricotta cheese from making ravioli at Christmas, I had to figure out what to do with it. I found a ricotta spinach pie recipe and decided it would be ever so much better with mushrooms (of course).

One more disclaimer – I hate to bake. So instead of being a “Martha” and making the pie crust for this recipe, I hauled myself to Central Market and bought to frozen ones. If you have a better Martha gene than me, feel free to make the pie crust.

Spinach Mushroom Ricotta Pie
about a pound of spinach, washed and chopped
about 3/4 pounds mushrooms, rinsed and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 container (16 oz) of ricotta
8 oz grated mozzarella
1 cup parmesan
3 eggs, lightly beaten
salt & pepper to taste
A little bit of nutmeg (about 1/4 tsp or 4-5 rubs of a nut on a microplane)
pie crust (my recipe made a lot and my pie crusts were fairly small so I used two pie crusts)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet. Saute garlic and onion until tender. Add mushrooms and cook until tender. Add spinach and cook until moisture is cooked out of the spinach.

In a mixing bowl, mix the cheeses and eggs. Add spinach mixture, salt, pepper and nutmeg to the bowl and combine ingredients.

Pour the mixture into the pie crust. Cook 40-45 minutes until brown on top and set in the middle. Remove from the oven and let stand for 10-15 minutes.

I froze one of the pies whole and kept really well. It’s easy to pull it out of the freezer and reheat for company.

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Chorizo & Winter Vegetable Stew

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I love soup when it is cold outside and I understand it’s been pretty chilly in Austin this week. I made this recipe during a December cold front.

It’s similar to a Portugese chorizo soup, but with a few twists. The turnips and the cabbage give it a strong flavor which I love, but if you are for less “fragrant” vegetables, you could use potatoes instead of turnips.

There wasn’t any chorizo at the market this week, so I bought the sausage at Central Market.

Chorizo & Winter Vegetable Stew

1 pound of chorizo, cut into bite-sized pieces
4 turnips
about 1 lb of potatoes – I used new potatoes because that is what they had at the market, but any potatoes will do. If you use Idaho, be sure to peel them
1/2 head of cabbage
bay leaf
2 cans cannellini beans
4 cloves garlic
1 medium onion
about 8-10 cups of chicken broth

Toss all the ingredients in a large stock pot and bring to a boil. Lower the temperature and let is simmer for 2 hours or so. Season with salt & pepper to taste.

I served this with an AMAZING rosemary ciabatta from Texas French bread. It was the perfect match to the strong flavors in the soup. Big kudos to Brian from TFB for the suggestion.

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A Cozy Winter Dinner

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I’ve been traveling this week in California and Arizona. You think it would be sunny and warm, but, alas, I have instead braved freezing temperatures, sleet and snow. Since when are there thunderstorms in the desert?

Needless to say, this has made me crave a cozy winter meal similar to the one I cooked backed in December. This seems like a good time to warn you that I like turnips and that they are in season in Austin in the winter. If you don’t like turnips, you can always substitute with regular potatoes – just know that you are missing out on some yummy stuff if you do that!

Roasted Chicken

1 chicken, from a really great purveyor at the market – they also carry rabbit and duck
a lemon
extra virgin olive oil
some fresh rosemary
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Wash and clean the chicken – make sure you get the gizzards etc out of the cavity. Pat the chicken dry.

Cut up the lemon (quartered) and put it in the cavity with some of the rosemary (couple of sprigs). Rub the outside of the chicken with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and some more rosemary.

Cook the chicken in a roasting pan at 450 for 20 minutes. Turn the heat down to 375 and cook for another hour to hour and a half (depending on the size of the chicken). Inside temperature should register 180 degrees.

Roasted Winter Vegetables

Carrots, peeled
Sweet Potatoes, peeled
Turnips, peeled
salt & pepper
olive oil

If you are cooking separately from the chicken, then preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut up vegetables in bite-sized pieces and toss with some olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary.

Toss the vegetables in a roasting pan and cook for 30-40 minutes until they are tender.

If you are cooking with the chicken, put them in the chicken’s roasting pan when you lower the temperature.

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