Sunday, September 26, 2010

Swiss chard, how I love you!

Sorry for the large break between posts, but guess what?  I got a JOB!  So - my last couple of weeks has been occupied with the whirlwind of interviewing, waiting, accepting and finally starting the new job in very short order.  The joy of a new job and adjusting to working in a non-profit is overwhelming.  We also had Tim get hired into the company he has been contracted to for a while, so all in all it's been a very eventful couple of weeks!  So, on to my lovely recipe of the day!

One of the delights of my cooking life is greens.  I am addicted to lovely, bitter broccoli rabe, kale in any of it's forms, garlicy wilted spinach, smokey, yummy collards and finally, the rainbow of colors that is Swiss chard.  Years ago, long before I moved to Michigan, my mother was operated on and during her recovery period, she was craving Swiss chard.  So I made it in as many ways as I could.  I make chard soup, wilted chard and I steamed it like a pro.  Then I happened to be going through my cook books and I found this recipe for Swiss chard strudel.  I know it sounds odd, a dish that usually includes apples and lots of butter, but believe me this one is anything but sweet.  The original recipe called for Jarlbserg cheese and Parmesean, and for a while I did make it that way, but I made it today with VanGogh cheese (think a cross between really sharp cheddar and an aged gouda) and a beautiful smoked blue cheese we happened upon at Hirts this morning.  If anyone reading this is ever in Eastern Market in Detroit, get yourselves to JR Hirts.  It's a wonderland of cheeses and meats and all kinds of yummy goodies.  They even have vegetarian cheese!

On to the most delish Swiss chard recipe I know!

Swiss Chard Strudel

1 large bunch of Swiss chard, about 15 oz (washed well, drained, stems separated and chopped, leaves roughly chopped)
2 tbsp olive oil
6 garlic cloves sliced or chopped roughly
1 small onion chopped fine
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp dried basil (optional)
4 1/2 tbsp good breadcrumbs
1/2 cup shredded flavorful cheese (your choice)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (or another flavorful dry cheese)
1/2 stick good butter, melted and cooled
6 sheets phyllo dough (or good puff pastry)

In a large saute pan, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil and add the garlic and onion.  Saute until the onion and garlic until soft and fragrant, about 4 minutes at medium heat.  Stir while softening, don't allow either to brown or burn. Add in the chard stems and saute until they are also soft, about 6 more min at medium heat.  To speed up the process you can cover the pan and walk away for a few minutes.  When everything is cooked, add in the chard leaves and stir well, making sure they are coated by the oil, add the dried basil.  The leaves will wilt but won't cook down like a spinach, so cook them, stirring occasionally another 6 - 8 minutes.   Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool.  After cooling a few minutes, drain some of the liquid off the chard, put the mixture in a large bowl, add in 1 tablespoon of the bread crumbs, the cheeses and salt and pepper to taste, mix well and set aside.  (*Note, the cheeses tend to be salty, so go very easy on the salt, taste after you add all the cheese before you add salt.)

While the chard mixture cools, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, then prepare a large baking sheet.  Mix the remaining olive oil into the cooled butter and with a brush, lightly butter the baking sheet and place one of the phyllo sheets on it.  Butter the sheet all over and sprinkle it with breadcrumbs.  Place the next sheet of phyllo over this one, and repeat the butter and crumb process with the remaining 5 sheets.  You need to work fairly quickly here, since the phyllo will dry out quickly.  Don't worry if there are tears in the sheets, all the layers will cover most holes and you will never even notice it after baking.

Spread the cooled chard mixture onto the phyllo sheets, spread it all over the sheet, leaving 1/2 in margin all the way around the sheet.  When you have spread it evenly, fold over the margin onto the chard.  Starting at the short end of the pastry, roll the phyllo over the filling, making a streudel shaped roll.  Lay flat on the baking sheet with the seam side down.  Use any remaining oil/butter to paint the outside of the struesel, and cut some shallow slits into the top of the struesel, to allow any steam to escape.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 - 30 minutes, you will know it's done when it is golden brown on the outside.  Allow to cool for 10 minutes or so, cut and serve.  You can serve this at room temperature, or hot.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

So, my husband is half Hungarian....

My husband, Tim is half Hungarian.  And although I have yet to visit there, I try to cook Hungarian food as much as I can for him because he loves it!  There are many, many recipes that include wonderful things like real Hungarian paprika, and also lots and lots and LOTS of sour cream.  So, when I am watching the calories, I don't make that stuff.  In the future, I will post the wonderful recipe I found in Julia Child's baking book for Hungarian Shortbread.  It's lovely, and more cakey than you would think for being a shortbread, but it uses a wonderful homemade rhubarb filling that is typically Hungarian and just wonderful!

For now I am posting something that I suspect came from Hungary, but isn't classically Hungarian that I can tell.  Tim's mom, Pauline was a great cook and although she was gone, sadly, long before met Tim, I hear she was a great feeder of people.  When she passed away, Tim and his cousins paid tribute to her by publishing a cook book of her many recipes, titled Pudge's Kitchen.  The majority of the recipe's are not vegetarian, so most of them I can't cook for Tim.  But I will tell she has the BEST bar cheese recipe I have ever had.  If you don't know what bar cheese is, you are clearly, like me, not from the Midwest, and you are also missing something that just so darn tasty!  Now, I admit to make this you have to buy the plastic log that is Velveeta, so don't bother ragging on me about that, just don't make it!  I haven't found an alternative that works, but rest assured, if I do, I'll change this recipe.  OH, and if you are in Ireland, Galtee cheese works wonderfully for this, probably 4 or 5 boxes.

Pudge's Bar-Cheez

One 2 lb box of Velveeta cheese, cut into small cubes
1/2 6oz jar of horseradish
dash of Tabasco sauce (or your favorite hot sauce)
1 c. mayonnaise (NOT Miracle Whip)

Melt the Velveeta in the top of a double boiler.  Remove from the head and add in the mayonnaise, hot sauce and horseradish and stir well.  Pour into the serving dishes you will be using and let stand at room temperature.  Once it is completely cooled and set, cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge.

Spread on toasts or crackers, or dip crudite's into it.  It is delicious and packs a mild punch with the horseradish and hot sauce!  This will last for up to a week well covered in the fridge.

Enjoy, and let me know how it comes out.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The best Portobello burgers

Well, Tim is a vegetarian.  I was intrigued at first, then I tried everything I could do to make meals taste like meat without meat.  Then, after about 2 years of being successful, but running out of steam, I decided to do a better job at looking at the vegetarian dishes I was going to cook next.

So I have recipe's for vegetarian stroganoff, and all kinds of nifty tofu burgers made from scratch.  But my best, favorite, and easiest one is Portobello burgers.  And they are so easy, you'll wonder why you haven't made it before.  You will find they are a meaty textured alternative that is high in zinc, and very low in calories.

First, let me tell you, you can make these in a simple cast iron pan, a non-stick saute pan or even a grill pan.  I know how people feel about non-stick, but it's easier and you can use no oil (if you are cutting calories)!  It's up to you how you want to cook them.

So - here it is, the basics of it, and you can riff on it however you like!

Portobello Burgers
(serves 2)

2 large Portobello mushrooms, stems trimmed, wiped with a damp paper towel and as dry as possible
salt to taste
pepper to taste
fresh herbs chopped finely (about 1 tbsp.)
2 tbsp. olive oil or neutral vegetable oil (optional)

Garnishes: (of course all the below are optional)
2 Burger buns or 4 slices of the bread of your choice
Cheese of your choice (I live goat cheese, and blue cheese is particularly good)
Lettuce or greens of your choice
Sliced tomato
sliced pickles
relish of any kind
Ketchup, mustard, mayo... anything you would use to dress a burger.

Make sure the mushrooms are as clean and dry as possible.  I come from the "never wash mushrooms under water EVER school" but of course, it's up to you how to wash them.  The important point here is that they are very dry when you are ready to cook them.

Place 1 tbsp. of the oil in a skillet or rub your grill pan with the oil and heat it until hot.  If you are grilling the mushrooms, rub the oil on the mushrooms and let them sit for a few minutes.  Oil and season both sides of the mushrooms with salt and pepper and the herbs you have chosen, I find that thyme is great with mushrooms.  If you only have dry herbs, use them sparingly, they tend to be much stronger than fresh.  Place the mushrooms gills side down on the pan or grill.  If you used oil, they will flare a but, don't worry.  If using the grill put them on the cooler side of it.  A high grill/pan temperature will only burn them, not cook them through.  If you are using a skillet, do the same, gills side down first.  As they cook, you will see them render juice out, that is fine, and should happen.  After about 7 minutes, turn them over, lower your heat to medium and cook them an additional 5 - 8 minutes.  When you turn them gills side up, you can/should put the cheese in the cup that is formed, they will continue to cook and the cheese will melt.  When you turn over the mushrooms, avoid the temptation to press on them.  They will flatten naturally, but pressing them down will force the juice and flavor out and they will shrivel up and dry out.  This is not what you want, you want a juicy, well flavored mushroom.

After another 5 - 8 minutes, you will notice they flatten out a bit and become thinner.  At this point they are cooked.  Remove them and place them immediately on the bread you are using.  Let them rest for a minute or two.  Then, have fun dressing them!!

I have made these many times, and I recommend the grill cooking, because it adds a great charred flavor to the taste.

Enjoy, and let me know how these turn out and what twists you use!