Roasted Beet, Goat Cheese, and Mint Grilled Cheese

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I have previously mentioned  I sometimes try to recreate a dish I had at a restaurant. Here is a good example. Lion Bridge Brewing Company, located in the Czech Village in Cedar Rapids, not only brews some tasty beers, but their kitchen creates some excellent food as well. The Mint and Beet Grilled Cheese is one of my wife Susan’s favorite sandwiches. The sandwich is described on their menu as “local roasted beets, mint oil, and warm goat cheese.” Susan has been begging me to recreate it.

I have, but with a few minor tweaks. First, we love beets and I didn’t think the original version had enough beets. Lion Bridge also dices the beets. I think the sandwich is more structurally sound if the beets are sliced. Secondly, they use mint oil while I used fresh mint. I believe the mint oil makes the flavors too pronounced. You want the mint to be subtle.

Here is what I did:

Roasted Beet, Goat Cheese, and Mint Grilled Cheese

Ingredients

1/2 pound roasted beets (2 medium sized beets)
1 sprig fresh mint (leaves only; about 12 leaves)
4 ounces plain goat cheese
4 slices sourdough bread sliced about 1/2 inch thick.
unsalted butter

Directions

Preheat oven to 425°F. Cut tops and root tip from beets. Wash and place on a baking sheet. Roast beets for about one hour or until the beet is soft and can be easily pierced with a fork. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Peel the beets when they are cool enough to handle. The skin should slip off relatively easily. Slice the beets into about 1/4 inch slices and set aside. The beets can be roasted ahead of time.

While the beets are roasting, set the goat cheese out to come to room temperature. Remove the leaves from a sprig of mint. Chop the leaves and slightly muddle the leaves in a small bowl. The muddling will release some of the mint oil from the leaves. Add the softened goat cheese and blend the cheese and leaves together so the mint leaves are well distributed. Set aside.

Heat griddle to medium-high heat.

Butter one side of each slice of bread. Spread one-half of the goat cheese and mint mixture on the non-buttered side of two of the slices of bread. Top the goat cheese with beets. Place the halves with the goat cheese and beets on the heated griddle facing up and top with the other slice of bread buttered side up. Grill until golden brown, about three minutes.

Slice in half if desired and serve.

 

 

 

Boiled Egg, Seared Asparagus, and Pickled Onion Sandwiches

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Asparagus will soon poke its delicious little spears from the cool earth giving us one more sign it’s spring. There are few things I look forward to in spring more than the fresh, herbaceous taste of freshly cut asparagus. Well, maybe morel mushrooms, but that’s another recipe.

I love how this recipes takes advantage of asparagus and eggs pair well. One of my favorite side dishes is grilled asparagus topped with a poached egg. Because of this, I prefer a medium boiled egg with the yolk still slightly soft in the middle; about a 6 minute boil, but feel free to use a harder set yolk.

This recipe uses my Quick Pickled Red Onions. You will need about 10 to 15 minutes of active cooking time and at least 30 minutes of resting time to prepare them. These store wonderfully for about a month in the refrigerator and are great on so many things. The recipe can be found here: Quick Pickled Red Onions.

Boiled Egg, Seared Asparagus, and Pickled Onion Sandwiches

Makes 2 sandwiches

Ingredients

2 eggs, medium or hard boiled (your preference)
2 demi baguette loaves (may use one regular baguette cut in half)
½ a bunch of asparagus spears (about 15-20 spears)
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil (approximately, plus more to brush on baguette)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Pickled red onion (see Quick Pickled Red Onions recipe link in above introduction)
Spritz of lemon juice
Fresh dill

Directions

Boil the eggs to your desired preference, peel and set aside.

Meanwhile, split two demi baguettes in half and remove a little of the doughy center so the asparagus and egg can fit inside. (The bread that is removed would be wonderful to toss with a bit of olive oil, kosher salt, and fresh ground pepper then toasted for croutons if you serve a salad with this sandwich.) Brush a little olive oil on each half and toast the bread lightly.

Trim the asparagus by removing the woody ends. Then slice the spears in half length–wise as best you can and place in a large bowl. Drizzle some olive oil over the asparagus and then sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Toss to coat evenly. Heat a large skillet over high heat and sear the asparagus spears, about 4 to 5 minutes on each side. The asparagus will become a darker green and should begin to char in spots.

Place ½ of the asparagus on the bottom half of bread then top with one egg and pickled onion. Spread Dijon mustard on top half of bread and then sprinkle with dill. Spritz a little lemon all over the interior of the sandwich. Season with salt and pepper. Repeat for other sandwich and serve with crisp salad.

Cream and Butter Basted Eggs

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I used what I call the cover method to baste these eggs in heavy cream and butter.

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Knob of unsalted butter and a tablespoon or so of heavy cream with fresh thyme leaves.

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Shirred eggs? Ain’t nobody got thyme for that. 

I was hungry for shirred eggs this morning but didn’t want to take the time to heat the oven for just two eggs. Shirred eggs are delicious and a great way to cook eggs if you are serving a group. Click here for my Shirred Eggs Recipe.

I began to wonder if I could achieve a similar result without the oven. Using a skillet and a method of basting an egg that I call the cover method, I came up with what I believe is a very tasty egg. To truly baste an egg you would ideally use bacon drippings to gently baste the eggs. With the cover method, I simply crack the eggs into a lightly oiled non-stick skillet along with a tablespoon of water and cover. The water will essentially steam the eggs giving a very similar result as basting.

Here is what I did:

Cream and Butter Basted Eggs

Ingredients

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter (Approximately)
2 Eggs
1 Tablespoon heavy cream (Approximately)
Fresh thyme leaves

Directions

Drop a knob of softened, unsalted butter in the center of a cold 7″ non-stick skillet. You want to start with a cold skillet so the cream comes up to temperature slowly and does not immediately curdle. Crack two eggs in skillet and add a tablespoon or so of heavy cream. Sprinkle fresh thyme leaves over the eggs, cover and turn burner on to medium. Resist the temptation to look at eggs for four minutes. Check eggs after four minutes and check to see how well the egg whites and yolk are set.

Plate eggs when yolks are set to your desired doneness. Drizzle any remaining cream and butter left in pan over eggs and serve.

Quick Pickled Red Onions

Pickled red onions are a great condiment to have on hand. Add them to your favorite sandwich, use them on tacos, or add them to a salad. They provide a nice tanginess to food without quite a strong onion taste. They only take about 15 minutes of active prep time and will last stored in the refrigerator for up to a month.

Quick Pickled red onions 

Ingredients

1 quart water
1 medium red onion
½ teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
1 small clove of garlic, halved
4 or 5 black peppercorns
4 or 5 allspice berries
2 or 3 small springs of thyme

Instructions

Bring 1 quart water to a boil. Meanwhile peel and slice the onions into no wider than ¼-inch rings. Peel and cut the garlic clove in half. Pour the vinegar into a one-pint mason jar or other suitable glass container. Add the sugar and salt to the vinegar and stir or shake to dissolve. Then add the garlic, peppercorns, allspice berries, and thyme sprigs.

Place the sliced onion rings in a sieve and place the sieve in the sink. Slowly pour the boiling water over the onions. Let the onions drain and cool slightly in the sink. Add the onions to the jar and stir gently to evenly distribute the flavorings.

The onions will be ready in about 30 minutes, but only get better with time. Store the onions in the refrigerator. They will keep for for close to a month in the refrigerator properly sealed.

Rice Cooked in Milk

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Rice cooked in milk will have the consistency of a creamy risotto and the rice will also have the same firm al dente feel of a properly cooked risotto.

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Rice cooked in milk served with a topping of sugar and cinnamon.

My favorite foods are the comfort foods my mother cooked for me when I was a child. These were simple foods, yet the feeling of them in my tummy then and the memories of love now, make them the foods I would give anything to have prepared one more time by my mother. Some were so simple I never bothered to ask my mother how they were made. My mother passed away nearly eight years ago, and with her went many recipes I’ll never have.

I started this blog five years ago for several reasons. One, because I started getting requests from friends to share the recipes of the food I was making. Two, I wanted to use it myself as a personal cook book or as an electronic recipe box where I could have all my recipes in one place. Most importantly though, I started this for my children so they would have the recipes of all their favorite foods after I was gone.

I share this recipe on Good Friday at the end of the Lenten season; Lent ended yesterday on Holy Thursday. My mother made this simple meal often during Lent when I was a child and it was one of my favorites. She would serve the rice with hard boiled eggs. The rice was topped with sugar and cinnamon making it a sweet treat for our evening meal. Rice and eggs seems like an odd combination, but it was actually quite ingenious. Although the meal was simple, it filled you up and was packed with protein.

This recipe is so easy. It is only three ingredients, yet I could never figure out how mom made this feel-good meal. I’ve come to realize that sometimes a recipe isn’t so much what goes in it, but rather the technique used to make it. The trick with this recipe is to add the milk in stages, not all at once.

Here is what I did:

Rice Cooked in Milk

Ingredients

1 cup long grain rice
¼ tsp salt
4 cups whole milk (Approximately)

Directions

Begin by combining 1 cup of milk, rice, and salt in a large saucepan and bring to a low boil/simmer on medium heat stirring frequently. Once boiling, turn heat down to medium – low and cover. Keep a watchful eye on the rice and milk to prevent the milk cooking away and burning. As the rice absorbs the milk, keep adding milk ½ cup at a time until the rice becomes tender. Continue stirring frequently during this time until the rice is done which takes about 35 to 40 minutes. You want a very thick, creamy consistency to the rice and the rice to be tender yet still have a bit of a firm al dente bite.

Let cool a few minutes and then serve with sugar and cinnamon.

Beet and Black Bean Burgers

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Beet and black bean burger topped with a raw goat milk cheddar cheese.

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Beet and black bean burger dressed with sprouts.

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Beet and black bean burgers prior to being cooked.

I have been called a “weekday vegetarian” and I don’t mind. Too often, as soon as one says they are vegetarian, we become tense and feel we need to defend our decision. We feel personally attacked. Meat eaters are accused of doing wrong and vegetarians are labeled self-righteous. In my opinion, choosing to eat or not eat meat should not be an all or nothing decision.

I’m not sure if I truly am a weekend vegetarian; I really like meat. I do know that my meat consumption has decreased considerably over the last several years and not because I consciously set out to do so with the idea that I was going to make a difference in the world. The difference I did make was more personal. My creativity in the kitchen has exploded as I discover more ways to prepare a wider variety of foods. My nutritional knowledge has improved. My health has improved and yes, I am making better decisions at the meat counter. Since I buy less meat, I can buy better meat and again, a wider variety.

We could discuss this further, but let’s move to this tasty recipe. Roasted beets and black beans combine to make a filling burger with a great smokey taste and a satisfying texture.

Roasted beets and goat cheese are often paired together because the tanginess of the goat cheese balances the sweetness of the beets. So when I first thought of making these burgers I knew I wanted to top them with a goat cheese. A soft goat cheese I felt would be too difficult on a veggie burger; which is already much softer than a regular burger. I didn’t think it would hold up well. I found a sharp cheddar cheese made with raw goat’s milk that provided the tanginess I wanted yet did not compound the veggie burger’s softer texture.

The ingredients I have listed make for a vegetarian veggie burger. They can easily be made vegan simply by eliminating the egg and omitting the cheese.

I also topped this burger with some tender bitter greens and alfalfa sprouts.

I’m not going to lie. This recipe takes quite a bit of time to come together, and I find it best to do it over two days, but they are so worth it. The great thing about these burgers is that they freeze very well. You can easily double this recipe and freeze the extra burgers for another meal. If you do choose to freeze them, I suggest first placing them on a flat cooking sheet in the freezer for a few hours before packaging them with foil or waxed paper separating the individual patties. It will make taking out one or two at a time much easier when you need them.

Here is what I did:

Beet and black bean burgers

Ingredients

2 medium red beets (about ½ pound)
1/3 cup brown rice (uncooked)
2 (15.5-ounce) cans black beans
3 tablespoons dried minced onion
1 teaspoon dried minced garlic
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons course ground brown mustard
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 large egg (leave out for vegan burgers)
¾ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
Kosher Salt
Fresh ground pepper

To serve:
Thin slices of goat milk sharp cheddar cheese (or other tangy cheese)
Hamburger buns

Directions

Roast the Beets:
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Trim tops and root tips from the beets. Fit a cooling rack inside a baking sheet and place beets on rack. Roast until easily pierced with a fork, about 50 to 60 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Parboil Rice:
Meanwhile, bring about 1 ½ quarts of generously salted water to a rolling boil. Add the rice, stir, cover, and return the rice to a boil over medium high heat. Continue to cook the rice about 20 to 25 more minutes until the rice is tender yet still firm. Remove from heat and drain the excess water. Then run the coldest water you can get from the tap over the rice. This will help stop the cooking process and also cool the rice. Allow the rice to completely drain so it does not absorb any additional water. Set aside and allow rice to completely cool. (This may be done the day before and refrigerated.)

Grate the Roasted Beets: Use the edge of a spoon or a paper towel to scrape the skins off the cooled roasted beets; the skins should slip off easily. Grate the peeled beets on the largest holes of a box grater. Transfer the beet gratings to a strainer set over the sink. Press and squeeze the beet gratings to remove as much liquid as possible from the beets. Allow beets to drip freely until adding them to the mixture and to further reduce water content.

The Veggie Burger Mix:
Drain and rinse both cans of beans. Transfer the beans to a food processor and pulse in 1-second bursts just until the beans are roughly chopped — you do not want the beans to become mush — 8 to 10 pulses. Transfer beans to a large mixing bowl. Add the shredded beets, cooked rice, dried onions and garlic, smoked paprika, mustard, cumin, coriander, and thyme to the bowl with the beans. Mix all the ingredients until combined. Taste the mixture and add salt and pepper to taste. Add egg and mix well. Finally, add oats and mix until you no longer see any dry oatmeal.

Loosely cover the bowl with wax paper or foil and refrigerate over night. The mix can also be kept refrigerated for up to three days before cooking.

Making the Burgers:
Scoop up about a scant cup of the burger mixture and shape it between your palms into a thick patty the size of your hamburger buns. You should end up with 6 large patties approximately 6 ounces each.

Heat a large cast iron skillet over high heat. Add a few tablespoons of vegetable oil to completely coat the bottom of the pan. Cook the patties for 3 to 4 minutes, then flip them. There should be a good crust formed on the cooked side. Cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, then cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for 4 more minutes until the patties are warmed through. Place a slice of cheese over the burgers in the last minute or two of cooking if you’re adding it.

Serve the veggie burgers on a firm, lightly toasted burger buns with some fresh greens. Sprouts are also very tasty topping these burgers.

Recipe Notes:
Because of the tendency for veggie burger to sometimes fall apart, you will probably be more successful cooking these indoors in a cast iron skillet. However, I have been successful cooking these on an outdoor grill by simply using a flat cast iron griddle on my gas grill. A large cast iron skillet would also work on a grill.

Brussels Sprout Fried Rice

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Need a Meatless Monday meal idea? Vegetarian or vegan and wanting to wake up your taste buds? Looking for alternatives for Lenten meals?  This Brussels Sprouts Fried Rice recipe is packed with flavor. 

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We typically have one meatless meal a week so I am always looking for ideas. One of my go to sources is Isa Chandra Moskowitz on her Post Punk Kitchen website. Her vegan site has given me a lot of inspiration when cooking for my vegetarian daughter.

Here is a very flavor packed fried rice recipe that can be eaten as a side to a larger meal or as a meal like we did. That fact that we love Brussels sprouts makes this a win-win recipe. One could easily add additional protein to this dish by adding a couple scrambled eggs at the very end.

I made a few slight variations to the original recipe found on PPK. Here is what I did:

Brussels Sprouts Fried Rice

Ingredients

4 tablespoons refined coconut oil, divided (or your favorite cooking oil)
12 oz Brussel sprouts, trimmed and quartered
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced into thin half-moons
¼ cup pine nuts
¼ cup fresh basil
1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro
1 cup finely chopped scallions
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger
4 cups cooked and cooled jasmine rice (See Note)
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Juice from one lime
½ teaspoon agave

Sriracha to serve

Directions

Preheat a large heavy bottomed pan (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat. Saute the Brussel sprouts and carrots in 2 tablespoon of oil until Brussel sprouts are lightly charred; about 5 to 10 minutes. Toss in the pine nuts and cook for two minutes, tossing often, until toasted. Transfer everything to a large plate and set aside.

Lower heat to medium. Add ½ tablespoon oil. Saute the basil, cilantro, scallions, garlic and ginger for about a minute. Stir in the red pepper flakes when the herbs are wilted and aromatic. Return heat to medium-high and add remaining oil and rice and cook for about 5 minutes. Toss often to combine.

Lastly, add the Brussels, carrots, and pine nuts back to the pan. Drizzle in the soy sauce, lime juice and agave. Cook for 5 more minutes or so until rice is lightly browned. Taste for salt. Serve with Sriracha.

Note: You must use cold rice in this recipe. Using warm, recently cooked rice will cause it to get mushy and clump together. I suggest making the rice the day before.

Shakshuka: Eggs Poached in Tomato Sauce

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My daughter and her boyfriend visited this weekend. My son also joined us on Sunday to start the day with Bloody Marys and a light breakfast. Breakfast this weekend was shakshuka.

Although usually thought of as an Israeli breakfast food, variations of shakshuka can be found in the cuisines of many other cultures including the Middle Eastern and North African countries of Tunisia, Libya, Algeria, Morocco, and Egypt. Shakshuka style dishes can be found in other parts of the world too; the Mexican huevos rancheros is a similar dish. Eggs may be the featured ingredient, but shaksuka is often enjoyed at other meals.

This flavorful one-skillet dish is comprised of onion, jalapeño, tomatoes, and eggs topped with feta and flat leafed parsley. It’s a great way to serve a large group a delicious breakfast in a relative quick and easy way with very few dirty dishes. Shakshuka is typically prepared and served in a cast iron skillet. Pita or another flat bread is a common accompaniment.

Here is what I did:

Shakshuka

Ingredients

1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 jalapeños, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
8 cloves garlic, crushed
1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon. paprika
1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled San Marzano style tomatoes, undrained
8 – 10 eggs
Kosher salt, to taste
1⁄2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
Warm pita for serving

Directions

Heat oil in a 12″ cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add jalapeño and onions and cook until soft and golden brown stirring frequently; about 6 to 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook about 2 more minutes until garlic is soft. Then add cumin and paprika. Cook, stirring frequently, until seasonings become fragrant; about 2 additional minutes.

Add tomatoes and their liquid into the skillet and crush them while mixing them up with the other ingredients. Stir in a 1⁄2 cup water and reduce heat to medium. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened slightly, about 20 minutes. Season sauce with salt.

Crack the eggs into the sauce evenly distributing them around the skillet. Cover skillet and cook until yolks are just set, about 5 to 10 minutes depending on desired doneness of the eggs. Remember that the eggs will continue to set after removing from the heat.

Sprinkle shakshuka with feta and parsley and serve with pita for dipping.

Grilled Eggplant and Tomatoes with Rustic Kale Pesto

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Nine months since my last post. I am so very sorry. I have been busy honing my improv and taking an acting class at TCR. During this time I have been creating and cooking many, many things. I just haven’t had the time to blog them and I have quite a backlog. I will try to blog at least once a week again.

Here’s my latest creation.

This is a great late summer meal. All of these ingredients should be readily available this time of year at your farmer’s market or in your garden.

Ingredients

Pesto
8 – 10 larger leaves of Kale (about 2 – 3 cups finely chopped)
4 Cloves Garlic (Minced)
¼ Cup Pine Nuts (Toasted)
¼ Cup Parmigiano-Reggiano (Freshly Grated)
Olive Oil
Grey Sea Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper

Eggplant and Tomatoes
2 Larger Eggplants
4 Medium or 2 Larger Tomatoes (I prefer a heirloom tomato)
Kosher Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper

Directions

Pesto
Toast pine nuts in skillet until lightly browned. Let them cool, coarsely chop them and set aside. Remove the thick, center rib from the kale. Next, chop kale into a fairly fine cut. The best way to accomplish this is to use a chiffonade technique to cut the kale into thin strips and then cross-cutting it into finer pieces. Mince garlic and add to kale along with pine nuts and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Stir in olive oil using just enough to thoroughly coat all ingredients. Season to taste with grey sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Eggplant and Tomatoes
Preheat grill to high heat. You will reduce heat to low a few minutes before placing the eggplant on the grill. Slice eggplant and tomatoes into ½ inch thick slices. Brush eggplant with olive oil then season with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Season tomatoes with kosher salt and a little black pepper. Grill eggplant over low heat for 3 to 4 minutes per side. Grill tomatoes over low heat for 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Plating
Place eggplant first followed by tomato. Then top with kale pesto. Enjoy!

There’s an app for that: Stuffed Mini Peppers

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I am always on the lookout for quick, easy appetizers. Here is a great one for your fall parties and tailgating. The sweetness of the mini peppers balances the tanginess of the chèvre, and the herbs help kick things up to a level your guests will enjoy.

Ingredients

½ cup panko breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
20 to 25 mini bell peppers, washed
10 ounces goat cheese, softened
4 ounces cream cheeses, softened
2-3 tablespoons of your choice of herbs such as chives and thyme, chopped
black pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add panko bread crumbs and sauté until crumbs are golden brown. Remove from heat and set aside.

Slice peppers in half lengthwise. Do not remove stems. The stems are simply for presentation. Remove seeds and place in large bowl. Drizzle remaining olive oil over peppers and toss to coat the peppers. Then arrange peppers on a baking sheet and set aside.

Mix goat cheese, cream cheese, herbs, and pepper with a fork in a small mixing bowl until well combined. Spoon or pipe the cheese mixture into the pepper halfs. Sprinkle toasted panko bread crumbs evenly over peppers. Bake peppers for approximately fifteen minutes or until peppers are tender and the goat cheese is warm. An additional two to three minutes under the broiler may be needed to give the panko topping a little extra browning and to help heat the cheese.