Posts Tagged ‘mushroom’

Although we have had a lot of sadness in 2019, we also have some recent and upcoming blessings. A few days after our dog died, we wound up adopting another little hound who has been living with us now for about a month. We named our little Redtick Coonhound Julep, and she has been a funny and busy distraction. Aside from chasing the cat, she has really been quite a good puppy so far. She is only about eight months old, so she has much more energy than we do! We figure this puppy is excellent practice for our baby who is due to arrive in October. Yowza! I think I can safely say that 2019 has already been the greatest year of transition I will likely ever have. Now, onto the cooking.

Wild Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto

My mom was the person who first introduced me to risotto after she had ordered it in a restaurant years ago. She said she instantly thought of me when she ate it, as she was sure it would be something I would love. I have made many risottos over the years, trying various methods and recipes, including a pressure cooker risotto and an almost no-stir recipe. Alton’s risotto is a pretty classical version that requires only about 10 ingredients. You will need some steamed asparagus that is cut into one-inch pieces and some wild mushrooms that you have browned in butter and Kosher salt (you want approximately seven ounces of asparagus and five ounces of mushrooms). You can easily prep the veggies a day in advance, or you can sub any leftover veggies you have on hand. When ready to make the risotto, bring 6 C of chicken broth to a simmer, along with 1 C white wine; Alton likes to use an electric kettle for this, but I just used a saucepan.

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Simmering broth/wine.

You want to keep this liquid at a low simmer for the duration of making the risotto. Next, heat a heavy 3 to 4 quart pan over medium heat and add 2 T butter, 1 C chopped onion, and a pinch of Kosher salt. Sweat the onion until it is soft and add 2 C Arborio rice, which is a short-grain rice.

Stir the rice for 3-5 minutes or until the grains become translucent around their edges.

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Rice stirred until clear at the edges.

Once translucent, add enough of the hot broth to the pan to just cover the rice and shake/stir the rice. Alton’s shaking method was new to me, as the other risotto recipes I have made have called for stirring. Continue to cook the rice, shaking the pan occasionally, at a bare simmer until no liquid remains in the pan when you move the rice with a spatula. At this point, add hot broth/wine again just to cover the rice.

Continue cooking the rice and adding more liquid as needed. When 3/4 of the liquid has been added to the rice, give the risotto a taste; if the rice is tender and creamy, you may not need to add any more liquid. When I tasted my risotto at this point, the rice grains were still quite crunchy, so I ended up adding all of the hot liquid.

When the risotto has reached a creamy texture, give it another taste and adjust the salt, as needed. To finish the risotto, add the cooked mushrooms and asparagus to the pan, along with 2 ounces of grated Parmesan, 1 t lemon zest, and 1/2 t nutmeg.

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A bowl of Alton’s risotto.

Alton’s risotto is a very classic recipe that works very well. Yes, it does take some time for all of the liquid to be absorbed by the rice, but risotto is really not a difficult thing to make and you can get creative with the additions you make. If you are new to risotto, I can say that Alton’s recipe is a fool-proof introduction.

Brown Rice Salad

I have always been really comfortable cooking white rice, but have never had a great way to cook brown rice. For this brown rice salad, Alton shares his preferred method for cooking brown rice, which is an oven method. To cook brown rice Alton’s way, put 1 1/2 C short or medium grain brown rice in an 8-inch square pan. Add 2 1/2 C of water just off the boil, 1 T butter, and 1 t Kosher salt, and give it all a stir.

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Brown rice, hot water, butter, and Kosher salt in an 8-inch pan.

Cover the pan tightly with foil and place it in a 375 degree oven for one hour. After an hour, remove the foil and fluff the rice with a fork. Voila – perfect brown rice!

To make Alton’s brown rice salad, heat a 10-inch pan over medium heat and fry six pieces of bacon until crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan and add 1/2 C diced red onion.

When the onion is golden, add 1/2 C white wine vinegar, 1/2 C chicken broth, 2 t Dijon mustard, 1 t sugar, 1 t Kosher salt, and 1/2 t pepper.

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White wine vinegar, chicken broth, Dijon mustard, sugar, Kosher salt, and pepper added to the cooked red onion.

Crumble the bacon into the pan, along with the cooked brown rice and 1 T chopped fresh dill. Stir the mixture until the liquid is absorbed.

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Cooked brown rice, bacon, and fresh dill stirred into liquid.

You can eat the salad immediately or you can refrigerate it for up to a week.

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Alton’s brown rice salad.

I fixed this rice salad for lunch for us and we thought it was great. The rice is perfectly cooked and the salad is super tangy and zesty. I highly recommend this salad for a side dish or light meal. And, Alton’s brown rice cooking method is awesome!

In case you are curious about different types of rice, Alton explained the differences in grain lengths in this episode. Short-grain rices, like Arborio, contain a lot of amylopectin, so they release a lot of starch and have a sticky, creamy texture. Medium-grain rices have a soft texture when cooked and have a mixture of amylose and amylopectin; they have less amylopectin than short-grain rices have, but more amylopectin than long-grain rices do. Finally, long-grain rices have the most amylose and the least amylopectin, so they release less starch and cook up with a fluffy texture.

 

 

 

We eat a lot of produce in our house, but I feel like we sometimes get in a rut with our veggie side dishes; our go-tos are usually steamed asparagus or broccoli with olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. For whatever reason (probably laziness), I tend not to venture too far out of my side dish comfort zone, unless I take the time to find an actual recipe. The 125th episode of Good Eats forced me to try some different side dishes, as it included three recipes for different types of greens, the first being collard greens.

Pot O’ Greens

I can really only recall eating collard greens one time, which was in a Southern-themed wedding buffet. I remember liking them, so I had no qualms about prepping them with Alton’s recipe. Collard greens need to be trimmed and cleaned properly, as they have woody stems and they grow in sandy soil. To trim collard greens, fold a leaf in half along the stem line and use a sharp knife to cut out any stems thicker than 1/8″.

Stack the trimmed flat leaves on top of each other, fold them in half as you did before, and roll them from the bottom up.

Cut the roll of leaves in half the long way and then slice the greens perpendicularly.

Place your chopped greens in a sink full of cold water, swishing them around and allowing them to sit for several minutes; this will allow any sand/dirt to sink to the bottom.

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Trimmed/chopped greens placed in a sink of cold water.

To drain his greens, Alton likes to put his greens in a large zip-up pillow case. He then places the pillow case in his washing machine for one minute on the spin cycle. I did not have a zip-up pillow case, so I opted to roll my greens in a stack of paper towels.

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Cleaned greens on paper towels to dry.

To store trimmed/clean greens, place them in a large plastic bag in the refrigerator. For Alton’s collards, put a 1 1/2 pound smoked turkey leg in a large pot; I could only find a raw turkey leg, so I had to roast it in the oven first. Add a quart of water to your turkey leg, cover the pot, and bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. Let the turkey simmer in the water for 10 minutes.

Next, add 1 t sugar and 1 t Kosher salt to the pot, along with 2 pounds of trimmed/cleaned/chopped collard or turnip greens.

Place the lid back on the pot and gently simmer the greens for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Be sure to keep the heat very low, as you only want a very gentle simmer.

Use tongs to place the greens in bowls and serve them with hot sauce. To be like a true Southerner, try sipping some of the cooking liquid, which is called “pot liquor.”

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A bowl of Alton’s collard greens after cooking for 45 minutes.

You can also bag and freeze the cooked greens for later use. To thaw frozen collard greens, run the frozen bags under cold running water. I have to be honest that I didn’t enjoy this recipe as much as I expected to. The turkey gave the greens a meaty flavor and the greens were cooked well, so as to maintain a bit of texture instead of being mushy. I found that I needed to add a fair amount of salt to the cooked greens, as they were really lacking in seasoning. Hot sauce definitely gave the greens a needed punch of flavor, as they were otherwise not very exciting. I won’t go out of my way to make these again, but I do hope to encounter collard greens more often, as I hope to sample other preparations. Maybe I am just not as fond of collard greens as I thought I was!

Lemon Sesame Glazed Greens

Alton’s second greens recipe utilizes kale, and you will need 1 1/4 pounds of cleaned/trimmed kale. As with the collard greens above, remove thick stems from the kale leaves, chop the kale, and rinse the chopped greens in a sink of cold water.

While the kale soaks, place a roasting pan over two stove burners on medium heat. I chose to use a large skillet instead of a roasting pan because my burners are different sizes and the roasting pan does not heat evenly. Either way, brush your pan with 1 T olive oil and add 2 cloves of minced garlic and the zest of one lemon.

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Oil, garlic, and lemon zest in the pan.

Next, add 2 t fresh lemon juice to the pan, along with 1 T honey. Follow the honey with 1 1/2 t Kosher salt and 1/4 t pepper, and add your just-washed greens; don’t worry about drying the greens here, as you want some water in the pan. If necessary, add up to 1/2 C additional water.

Use tongs to toss the greens until they have cooked down to resemble thawed frozen spinach. At this point, remove the greens from the heat and stir in 1/2 t red pepper flakes and 1 T sesame seeds.

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Kale cooked down until very wilted. Sesame seeds and red pepper flakes stirred in.

Serve the kale immediately. We liked the flavors in this dish, as the lemon brightened up the greens, while the red pepper flakes gave subtle heat and the sesame seeds gave a bit of nuttiness. The honey served to lightly glaze the greens.

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A bowl of Alton’s lemon sesame glazed greens.

I have never been a huge kale fan, as its chewy texture is just not my favorite, and I found that to be the case with this recipe as well. I think kale lovers would really like this recipe, however, and it comes together super easily with ingredients often on-hand.

Mustard Green Gratin

The third type of green Alton uses in this episode is the mustard green, which he uses to make this gratin. As soon as I saw Alton prepare this recipe, I recognized it from the beet episode. Sure enough, this mustard green gratin is nearly identical to the beet green gratin in episode 83. For the gratin, butter the bottom and sides of a 2 or 2 1/2 quart baking dish. Beat three eggs in a large bowl and add 10 ounces ricotta, 2 ounces grated Parmesan, 1/2 t Kosher salt, and 1/4 t pepper.

Next, melt 1 T butter in a roasting pan placed over two burners on medium heat. Add 2 cloves of minced garlic to the pan, along with 12 ounces of sliced mushrooms. Add a large pinch of Kosher salt and toss the mushrooms until they have browned.

Add a pound of stemmed/rinsed/chopped mustard greens and toss until the greens have wilted.

Remove the pan from the heat and use tongs to add the greens to the egg/ricotta mixture. Stir the mixture to combine.

Place the egg/mustard green mixture in your buttered baking dish, avoiding packing down the greens. Sprinkle the top of the greens with 1 C of crushed Ritz crackers.

Bake the gratin at 375 for 35-40 minutes and let cool slightly before serving.

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Alton’s mustard green gratin.

We were not huge fans of Alton’s beet green gratin, but we both really liked the mustard green version. Mustard greens, if you didn’t know, truly do taste like mustard, so they bring a lot of flavor to the party. To me, I specifically tasted a Dijon mustard-like flavor in this gratin, which I found to pair very well with the creaminess of the egg/ricotta mixture. The cracker crust adds some crunchy texture and buttery flavor. This is really good and we both said we would like to eat it again. I’m surprised Alton didn’t make this addition, but I would personally add a little bit of ground nutmeg to the ricotta mixture. This was by far our favorite recipe of this episode, though it doesn’t look too pretty in the photo. Honestly, though, casseroles are just never pretty, right?

This January has given 2019 a little bit of a rough start for me. I had a short, nasty stomach bug for the first two days of the year, which was followed up with back pain for several days. After that, I traveled to be with my dad while he had cancer surgery. Two days after I returned home from my trip, I came down with a nasty flu-like bug that knocked me out for 10 days. Whew! Good riddance, January!

Turkey with Stuffing

Although the holidays are long gone, this recipe certainly has a holiday feel to it. While Alton’s other turkey recipes have really featured the turkey itself, this one is all about the stuffing. In the episode, Alton actually goes into very little detail about prepping/cooking the turkey, so I opted to brine my turkey, using the brine recipe from the original Good Eats Thanksgiving special. The premise of this recipe is that Alton can make a well-balanced stuffing that will cook inside the turkey, and that the turkey and stuffing will reach their desired temperatures at nearly the same time. To make the stuffing, chop 1 C each of onion, celery, and green bell pepper.

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A cup each of celery, onion, and green bell pepper.

Toss the chopped vegetables with 1 T vegetable oil and 1 T Kosher salt. Spread the vegetables on a sheet pan and roast them for 25 minutes at 400.

After 25 minutes, add 3 C cubed Challah bread (I made my own) to the vegetables, give everything a toss, and continue roasting for 10 more minutes.

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My Challah bread, ready to be cubed.

Next, place two ounces of dried mushrooms (porcini, morels, or shiitakes) in a bowl and pour a quart of boiling chicken stock over them. Let the mushrooms rehydrate for about 30 minutes.

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Shiitake mushrooms, soaking in boiling chicken broth.

When the mushrooms have finished their soak, drain them (reserving their liquid), chop them, and place them in a large bowl, along with 4 ounces dried cherries, 2 ounces chopped pecans, 2 beaten eggs, 2 t dry rubbed sage, 2 t dry parsley, the roasted vegetables and bread, and 1/2 t pepper.

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Dried cherries and chopped pecans.

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Chopped mushrooms added to cherries and pecans.

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Chopped mushrooms added to cherries and pecans, along with eggs, rubbed sage, and dry parsley.

Add enough of the reserved mushroom liquid to moisten, but not saturate, the mixture; I used about a cup, though Alton was vague about this in the episode and it actually appeared as if he added all of the reserved liquid.

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Challah, vegetables, pepper, and mushroom liquid added to mixture.

Place the stuffing in a cotton produce bag, or use cheesecloth to make one – you can seal it with butcher’s twine. Place the bag of stuffing in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave it on high for six minutes. Also, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

To put the stuffing in the turkey, prop the open end of the turkey up on the side of a bowl and use tongs to plunge the bag of stuffing into the bird. If you have a plastic cutting board, you can form it into a tube shape, insert the tube-shaped cutting board into the cavity, and push the bag through the tube.

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Microwaved stuffing placed inside turkey.

For this recipe, you will ideally want two thermometers – one inserted in the thigh and one inserted into the center of the stuffing; I only have one oven-safe thermometer, so I placed that in the thigh and checked the stuffing periodically with an instant read thermometer. Place the bird in a roasting pan and roast it for 45 minutes at 400 degrees. After 45 minutes, decrease the oven temperature to 350 and cook until both the stuffing and the thigh meat are about 170 degrees. When done cooking, remove the stuffing bag with tongs and place the stuffing in a serving bowl.

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Turkey after cooking to thigh temperature of 170.

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Alton’s stuffing.

Tent the turkey with foil and let it rest for 15-20 minutes before carving. Okay, so there were some good things about this recipe and some bad things. This stuffing has a wide variety of both flavors and textures, with flavors ranging from sweet/tart to umami, and textures that range from slightly crunchy to moist and soft. I will say that the stuffing would have been too wet, and probably overpowered with mushroom flavor, if I had added all of the mushroom liquid as Alton appeared to do in the show. My biggest problem with this recipe was that it didn’t achieve the goal of having the stuffing and turkey finish cooking at the same time. For me, the stuffing was done cooking long before the turkey was, so I ended up pulling the stuffing out early while I had to continue cooking the bird for a good 20 minutes. In my mind, that makes this recipe a failure. Also, I think the bird could have done with a little less cooking. While I would consider making the stuffing again, I would not attempt to cook it in the bird again. Instead, I would opt for either the original Good Eats roast turkey or the butterflied, dry brined turkey.

Stuffed Squash

Since the tendency with stuffing is to stuff vegetables into meat, Alton decided to formulate a recipe where a meat filling is stuffed into squash. Acorn squash are the squash of choice for this recipe, as they are perfect for individual servings. To make four servings (I only made two), cut the lids off of four acorn squash and scoop out their seeds; be very careful when doing this, as I discovered it is very easy to poke a hole in the bottom of the squash! Be sure to save the lids for later. If your squash will not sit flat, you can also cut off part of the bottoms to make them level.

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My two acorn squash, ready to be prepped.

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Lids off and scooping out seeds.

Set the prepared squash on a parchment-lined sheet pan. To make the filling, cook 1/2 pound ground pork in a large skillet over medium heat until the pork is no longer pink. Transfer the pork to a small bowl and set it aside.

Return the pan to the burner, but decrease the heat slightly. Add 1 T olive oil to the pan, along with 1/4 C chopped carrots, 1/4 C chopped celery, 1/4 C chopped onion, and a pinch of Kosher salt. Cook the vegetables until they have softened a bit.

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Celery, onion, and carrot added to hot oil, along with a pinch of Kosher salt.

Deglaze the pan by adding 1/2 C white wine and scraping up any browned bits.

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Wine added to deglaze the pan.

Follow the wine with 10 ounces of thawed/drained/chopped frozen spinach, 1 1/2 C cooked rice, 1 1/2 t dried oregano, the cooked pork, and 1/2 C toasted pine nuts.

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Spinach, rice, oregano, pork, and pine nuts added to the skillet.

Stir the filling until it is heated through and add a few grinds of black pepper. Remove the filling from the heat and place 1/2 T butter in the bottom of each prepared squash.

Spoon the stuffing into the squash, avoiding tightly packing the stuffing.

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Filling spooned into prepped squash and lids placed on top.

Place the lids on the squash and cook them for one hour at 400 degrees, or until the squash are just fork tender.

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Alton’s stuffed squash.

We ate these squash as our dinner entrée and were pretty happy with them. Ted really does not care for squash, in general, but he agreed that the sweetness of the squash paired well with the very savory pork filling. This is a an easy meal that really gives you both your protein and veggies in one, and the individual squash “serving dishes” are sort of fun. The squash also did not become mushy, as some squash are wont to do. I could see making the filling ahead of time for these, and on a busy weeknight you would only have to fill the squash and put them in the oven. Super easy!

 

The 93rd episode of Good Eats is all about ways to utilize a variety of grains in the kitchen; wheat berries, bulgur, and couscous are the stars of the show. Wheat berries are whole wheat kernels that have not been processed. Bulgur, on the other hand, is whole wheat that has been cracked and partially cooked. Finally, couscous is actually not a grain at all, but a pasta that is often mistaken for being a grain because of its nutty flavor and usage in grain-like recipes. First up:  wheat berries.

Basic Cooked Wheat Berries

Alton first demonstrates his go-to method for cooking wheat berries, which can then be used in a variety of recipes. To begin, place 2 C of wheat berries in a large skillet, toasting them over medium-high heat until they begin to smell nutty. This toasting step is omitted in the online recipe, but certainly imparts more flavor in the finished wheat berries.

Place the toasted wheat berries in a pressure cooker, adding two heavy pinches of Kosher salt and 4 C of water, or enough to cover the wheat berries by about an inch.

Close the lid of the pressure cooker and bring it up to pressure over high heat. Decrease the heat and maintain the pressure for 45 minutes. If you have an electric range like I do, you may find that you have to adjust the burner temperature regularly to maintain pressure.

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Pressure cooker, being brought to pressure.

After 45 minutes of cooking, release the pressure from your cooker. I had never cooked wheat berries before, so I was not sure exactly what a perfectly cooked wheat berry would look like.

I found the wheat berries to have a nutty flavor and a slightly chewy al dente texture. I took Alton’s recommendations and used my wheat berries to make the next two recipes in the episode:  wheat berry tapenade and mushroom wheat berry pilaf.

Wheat Berry Tapenade

The first way Alton suggests to use cooked wheat berries is in his wheat berry tapenade. For the tapenade, combine three minced garlic cloves, 1 C chopped Kalamata olives, 1/2 t Dijon mustard, and 1 t Kosher salt.

Stir in 1 C of cooked wheat berries, and serve the tapenade with crackers or toast.

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Cooked wheat berries added to olive mixture.

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Wheat berry tapenade.

We ate this as an appetizer one evening and both thought it was super tasty. In fact, we ate a whole bowl. This tasted like any great Kalamata tapenade, but with much more to offer in the texture department. The salty, briny flavor of the olives supplemented with the tang of the mustard paired well with the nuttiness of the wheat berries. I did end up adding a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to my tapenade, as I felt it could use a small kick of acid. This is a healthy and fast appetizer to make (once the wheat berries are already cooked), and I will be making it again very soon.

Mushroom Wheat Berry Pilaf

I can only assume that Alton is a huge fan of his mushroom wheat berry pilaf, as an updated version of this recipe appears in his newest cookbook. The biggest difference between this version and the updated recipe is that the updated recipe uses no rice. For the pilaf, heat 1 T olive oil in a large skillet, adding 1 1/2 C chopped onion, a pinch of Kosher salt, 5 minced garlic cloves, and 1 T butter. Stir after each addition.

Increase the heat to high and add 1 pound of sliced mushrooms (I used cremini), and 1 T soy sauce.

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Mushrooms and soy sauce added to skillet.

Continue to cook the mushrooms until they have reduced by half, which will take a little while.

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Mushrooms, cooked until reduced by half.

Once the mushrooms have reduced, add 1/4 C chicken broth, 1/4 C red wine, 1 C cooked wheat berries, 1 1/2 C cooked rice, 1/2 t chopped fresh thyme, 1 t chopped fresh rosemary, and 1 t chopped lemon zest.

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Mushroom wheat berry pilaf.

We ate this as an entrée and both really liked it. For a vegetarian entree it had a lot of flavor and a variety of textures. The mushrooms and soy sauce give this dish a lot of umami flavor, while the herbs give it a nice freshness. The lemon zest comes through in this recipe in a big way, giving a refreshing, bright tang that really lightens everything up. Plus, this is another healthy, delicious way to incorporate whole grains. This is a fantastic recipe that could be used as either an entree or a side.

Bulgur Gazpacho

You had me at “gazpacho.” I absolutely love a spicy, tangy gazpacho, so this recipe piqued my interest right away.

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Ingredients for bulgur gazpacho: cucumber, scallions, bulgur, cumin, tomato puree, tomato/veg juice, tomato, garlic, green bell pepper, balsamic vinegar, hot sauce, and Kosher salt.

Start by bringing 1 C of water to a boil with 1/2 C tomato puree; I did this in the microwave.

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Water and tomato puree being heated to a boil.

Pour the tomato mixture over 3/4 C bulgur in a bowl, sloshing to combine. Cover the bowl with a plate and set it aside for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, add 1 minced garlic clove, 4 sliced scallions, 1 C seeded/diced cucumber, 1 C chopped tomato, and 3/4 C diced green bell pepper.

Next, stir in 1/2-1 C tomato juice (I used spicy V8), 2 T balsamic vinegar, 1-2 t hot sauce, 1/2 t cumin, and 1 1/2 t Kosher salt. Stir the gazpacho until combined and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour before eating.

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Bulgur gazpacho.

Sure enough, we really enjoyed this recipe. Though this isn’t soupy, it does have the vibrant, zesty flavors of a gazpacho. Also, with the addition of bulgur, this gazpacho has enough substance to stand alone as an entrée. There is also a lot of texture to this dish, coming from the variety of vegetables and the bulgur. This would be a really nice summer entree or side dish.

Steamed Couscous

Couscous is something we used to eat a lot, and this episode made me realize it is something we should eat more often. Alton begins his couscous segment with his recipe for steamed couscous, which can then be used in any couscous recipe. To make Alton’s couscous, prepare a steamer basket by adding water to the bottom pan, keeping the water level a couple inches below the bottom of the top basket. Heat the pan, allowing steam to begin to form. I used my pasta pot.

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Preheating steamer.

Meanwhile, rinse 2 C of couscous with water and turn it out onto a sheet pan. Sprinkle the couscous all over with Kosher salt.

Once steam has formed in your steamer, line the top part of the steamer with a damp kitchen towel and dump the couscous into the towel. Fold the towel over the couscous, forming a bundle. Place the lid on the steamer and set a timer for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, use tongs to lift the couscous-filled towel, dumping the couscous onto the sheet pan again. Drizzle 1/2 C cold water over the couscous, tossing.

Next, spritz the couscous with oil or non-stick spray, also lubing your hands. Rub the oil into the couscous for about three minutes, breaking up any clumps.

Once again, transfer the couscous back into the towel-lined steamer, folding the towel over the couscous. Place the lid on the steamer and steam the couscous for a final 10 minutes.

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Couscous after final 10 minute steaming.

I have to say that this couscous method is the most labor-intensive one I have ever used. The resulting couscous was fluffy and lump-free, but I don’t think I would go to the trouble of making couscous this way again. I did what Alton did and used my steamed couscous to make his cherry couscous pudding, which follows below.

Cherry Couscous Pudding

Although I have eaten my share of couscous, I had never had it in a sweet application… until this recipe. For this one, heat 1/2 C whole milk, 3 T sugar, and 1/4 C dried cherries. Once warm, set aside for 10 minutes to steep.

After 10 minutes, add the pulp of one vanilla bean to the milk.

Pour the milk mixture over your steamed couscous (see above), stirring to combine.

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Milk mixture poured over steamed couscous.

Add 8 ounces vanilla yogurt and refrigerate the pudding for at least an hour before serving.

Sprinkle individual servings of the pudding with cinnamon.

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Couscous pudding, sprinkled with cinnamon.

This recipe was a real dud. It was dry and flavorless, but I think I know what the issue was. In the episode, Alton cooked his steamed couscous as written above, using the full batch of couscous to make this pudding. In looking at the online recipe, I see that it calls for only 1 1/2 C of the steamed couscous. This may be a first, but I think the online recipe may be correct, while Alton’s preparation in the episode resulted in a super dry couscous that was anything but pudding-like. I am somewhat tempted to make this again with only 1 1/2 C of couscous, as surely it would have better flavor and texture. Honestly, this is the first couscous recipe I have not liked, and I cannot recommend it as it was prepared in the episode.

The 73rd episode of Good Eats is all about tomatoes and different uses for them. Seeing that Ted is not a huge tomato fan, I was not sure what he would think of some of these applications, but worst case scenario would see me stocking up heavily on lycopene. Alton went over some tomato facts in the episode, stating that there are six types of tomatoes we can get commercially – globe, plum, cherry, pear, grape, and currant (in order of size from largest to smallest). A beefsteak tomato is a red globe tomato that is extra large in size. Oh, and never store tomatoes in the refrigerator, as temperatures colder than 50 degrees permanently stop a component of tomatoes that gives them flavor.

Stuffed Tomatoes

For six servings of Alton’s stuffed tomatoes, cut the tops off of six large globe tomatoes, using a serrated knife. Scrape the seeds and pulp out of the tomato, using your fingers or a grapefruit spoon.

Sprinkle the tomatoes liberally with Kosher salt and invert them on a rack for 15 minutes; this will remove excess moisture from the tomato shells.

While the tomatoes drain, combine 2 C sauvignon blanc and 1 C hot water; add 3 C dried mushrooms to the liquid mixture to rehydrate.

While Alton used a blend of chanterelles, morels, and shiitakes, I only used shiitakes. Next, heat a large skillet, adding 2 T olive oil, 1 T minced garlic, 2 T minced shallots, and 1 C finely diced onion. Cook the onion until translucent.

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Garlic, shallots, and onion, cooking in olive oil.

Using your hands, squeeze excess moisture from the hydrated mushrooms, reserving the liquid. Chop the mushrooms and add them to the pan, cooking for five minutes over medium heat.

Add a cup of your reserved mushroom liquid to the pan and bring it to a simmer for five minutes. Follow this up with 1/4 t pepper and 1 chopped tomato. Finally, add 1 1/4 C panko breadcrumbs.

By this time, your tomato shells should have shed any excess moisture and you can use a measuring cup to fill the shells with the mushroom mixture.

For a final topping, combine 3 1/2 ounces of goat cheese with 1 T parsley, dividing this mixture evenly among the tomatoes. Place the stuffed tomatoes under a preheated broiler for 5-7 minutes, and enjoy!

We ate Alton’s stuffed tomatoes as a side dish to my mom’s hearty minestrone soup.

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Stuffed tomatoes alongside hearty minestrone soup.

Ted thought this recipe was just OK, as he didn’t care for the tomato shells. As a tomato fan, however, I thought Alton’s stuffed tomatoes were delicious. The tomato shells maintained their texture and were far from soggy, contributing a bright tomato flavor. The mushroom filling had a fantastic umami flavor and slightly crunchy texture, and, well, who doesn’t like goat cheese? This recipe is a great blend of textures and flavors, and could be served as a vegetable side dish or as a vegetarian entree.

Tomato Sauce

I was curious to see how this episode’s tomato sauce would compare to Alton’s canned tomato sauce that I made over two years ago when I was writing up the second season of Good Eats. This episode is all about using fresh tomatoes, and this recipe calls for 20 fresh Roma tomatoes. In addition, you’ll need olive oil, fresh thyme, fresh oregano, Kosher salt, pepper, garlic, and onion.

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Garlic, onion, oregano, and thyme.

Begin by halving/seeding the Roma tomatoes, placing them cut side up in two 13×9-inch glass baking dishes.

Spritz (or, in my case, drizzle) the tomatoes with olive oil, and sprinkle them evenly with 1 T each of chopped fresh thyme and oregano. Alternatively, you can use 2 t of each herb, dried.

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Tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with oregano and thyme.

Sprinkle Kosher salt and 1/2 t black pepper over the tomatoes, along with 2 t minced garlic and 1 C finely diced onion (any type will work).

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Kosher salt, pepper, garlic, and onion added to tomatoes.

Stick the tomatoes into a 325-degree oven for two hours.

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Tomatoes after roasting for two hours.

After two hours, increase the oven’s temperature to 400 degrees for an additional half hour.

Remove the tomatoes from the oven and run them through a food mill (I have my mom’s ancient one that she used to use for applesauce) to get rid of their skins/seeds; you can do this directly over a medium saucepan. It will take a while to push them all through the food mill and you will get very little yield.

Add a cup of white wine (Alton used “cheap Chardonnay”) and bring the sauce to a boil over medium heat. Once boiling, decrease the heat and simmer the sauce for five minutes.

I served this tomato sauce over pasta, along with homemade lamb/beef meatballs (made by Ted) and Parmesan.

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Alton’s completed tomato sauce. with pasta and meatballs.

Honestly, I was disappointed in this sauce. This recipe made just enough sauce for a pound of pasta, and it was nothing special. The wine flavor seemed too prominent for my taste, so I would simmer it longer, if I were to make this again… which I probably will not do. I expected to prefer this sauce over the one from season two, especially since this one uses fresh tomatoes, but I would choose Alton’s canned sauce any day.

TBL Panzanella

The final recipe from this episode is for a TBL (tomato/bacon/lettuce) panzanella salad. In the episode, Alton demonstrates that this panzanella is a great alternative to a BLT sandwich, and that it showcases tomatoes very well. I love a good panzanella, or a good BLT for that matter, so I was enthusiastic about this recipe. Beginning the night before you want to eat this panzanella, cut a quart of 1-inch high-quality bread cubes, placing them on a pan to dry overnight.

The following day, cook six slices of bacon, saving the drippings. I used my bacon that I made from episode 59.

Cut the bacon into 1-inch pieces and place them into a large bowl.

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Chopped bacon.

In a separate bowl, toss the dried bread cubes with the warm bacon drippings.

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Dried bread cubes tossed with bacon drippings.

Next, sear 2 C of halved grape tomatoes in a hot pan, face down, for about five minutes. Add the seared tomatoes to the bacon bowl.

Halve 2 C of raw yellow pear tomatoes (I had to use yellow grape tomatoes), adding them to the bacon/tomato bowl. Next, add 2 C of chopped Romaine lettuce.

In a small lidded container, shake together 3 T olive oil, 1/4 C red wine vinegar, 1/4 t salt, and 1/4 t pepper.

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Olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper for the dressing.

Combine the bread cubes with the rest of the salad and drizzle on the dressing. Finish the salad off by adding a chiffonade of fresh basil and mint.

I thought this was a really good panzanella salad. The bread cubes stayed crunchy, the bacon added meatiness, and the tomatoes gave a super fresh flavor. I thought the vinegar-based dressing paired well also.This is also a very colorful, pretty salad. To me, this is more of a warm weather meal, but we enjoyed it nonetheless. I think this still had a few too many tomatoes for Ted’s taste, but I may make this again for myself and enjoy it on a sunny day on the deck.

Crepes are a true favorite of mine. My mom would make crepes for us occasionally when we were kids, usually serving them for breakfast with bananas, strawberries, and whipped cream. Yes, we were quite fortunate to have a mom who made us such wonderful breakfasts! It had been quite a while since I had last made crepes (years, probably), so I had a good time revisiting crepes in this episode.

Crepes

Alton’s plain crepes are made by combining 2 eggs, 3/4 C milk, 1/2 C water, 1 C flour, and 3 T melted butter in a blender.

Blend the crepe mixture for only 7-10 seconds, as you do not want to over-mix the batter. To make your crepes sweet, add 1 t vanilla and 2 1/2 T sugar to your batter.

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Vanilla and sugar are added to the batter to make sweet crepes.

Sweet crepes are great with Nutella. My brother and I enjoyed many Nutella crepes when we took a trip to Paris a few years ago.

Alternatively, to make savory crepes, add 1/4 t salt and 1/4 C chopped fresh herbs to the batter.

Refrigerate the batter for 1-24 hours before cooking your crepes. When ready to make your crepes, heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Lube your pan with butter and wait until the butter begins to bubble. You should only need to lube your pan prior to the first crepe.

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Pan lubed with butter.

Using a 1/4 cup measure, pour a thin layer of batter into the pan, swirling the pan to coat as you pour. A full 1/4 C of batter will be too much. For my pan, filling the measuring cup about 2/3 full resulted in perfect crepes. When the edges of your crepe start to pull back from the pan, your crepe is ready to flip.

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Crepe batter poured into lubed pan.

Alton flipped his crepe in mid-air, but I used my fingers to lift and flip my crepe. Cook the second side of the crepe just until set.

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Crepe finishing its cooking in the pan.

You can keep your crepes warm for about 30 minutes in a low oven. For longer storage, stack your crepes between layers of wax paper and refrigerate or freeze.

Mushroom Crepe Cake

Once you have made all of these crepes, what should you do with them? For a savory crepe entree, try Alton’s mushroom crepe cake. You will first need to make a batch of crepes, as described above; you can choose to make plain or savory crepes. I made a batch of plain crepes for my mushroom cake. Next, you will need to make the mushroom filling for your “cake.” Begin by dicing an onion and thinly slicing a pound of mushrooms – Alton used 1/2 pound brown mushrooms and 1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms.

Once you have sliced all of your mushrooms, set half of the mushrooms aside and finely chop the other half.

Set a large skillet over medium-low heat and sweat the onion in 2 T melted butter.

When the onions are translucent, add the mushrooms and 1 t Kosher salt.

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Mushrooms added to the pan.

Cook this mixture until it has reduced by 2/3.

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Mushroom mixture, reduced by 2/3.

Add 4 ounces whole milk to the pan and cook the mixture until it is a loose paste.

Sprinkle 1/2 C shredded provolone over the mushroom mixture, and stir until melted; I had to chop some provolone slices for this, as I could not find a block of provolone at my store.

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Provolone added to the mushroom mixture.

Taste the filling and season it to taste with salt and pepper. To assemble your cake, place two crepes on a buttered sheet pan. Spread a thin layer of the mushroom filling over the crepe and sprinkle chopped chives on top. Top with another crepe.

Continue this layering until you have about eight layers. Sprinkle the top crepe with grated Parmesan cheese and warm the cake in a 250-degree oven until heated through.

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Layers of crepes and mushrooms.

Cut into wedges and serve.

We ate this mushroom cake as a dinner entree and thought it was delicious. I also shared some with my parents and they really enjoyed it. This cake also makes a very pretty presentation, as you can clearly see the layers when you cut the cake into wedges. The mushroom filling is rich, savory, and creamy, while the crepes are light and smooth. I think I will likely make this one again.

Crepes Suzette

For a crepe preparation using dessert crepes, Alton made Crepes Suzette. For this recipe, you will need a batch of dessert crepes, as described above. To make Alton’s version of this classic recipe, combine 4 oz orange liqueur, 1 T sugar, and 1 T brown sugar in a skillet over medium heat.

Stir this mixture until the sugar dissolves and is nearly dry. Stir in 1/4 pound of softened butter and stir the mixture until it tightens.

Add crepes to the pan, coating them evenly with the sauce and folding them into quarters.

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Crepes added to the pan.

Serve the crepes warm with vanilla ice cream.

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Crepes Suzette.

In full disclosure, I folded my crepes prior to putting them in the pan. And, I misread my recipe and added 1/4 C butter instead of 1/4 pound. Big difference, I know. Still, we thought these crepes were a delicious dessert. Though I had heard of Crepes Suzette, I can’t honestly say whether I had eaten them before this. The orange liqueur really does not come through much, as the sauce is really more of a caramel. We ate these two nights for dessert and thought they were great. If you make the crepes ahead of time, these come together in a matter of minutes.

Crepe Quiche Lorraine

The final recipe in this episode is for miniature quiches made with crepe crusts. I used my batch of savory crepes for this recipe. Begin by lining each cup of a nonstick muffin tin with one crepe, allowing the edges to pleat on themselves.

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Crepes lining muffin tin.

For the quiche filling, whisk together 8 eggs and 1 1/2 C milk. Add 1 t Kosher salt and some black pepper.

To each crepe cup add some sauteed onion, crumbled bacon, and shredded cheddar cheese.

Ladle in some of the egg filling.

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Egg filling added to quiches.

Bake the quiches at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, or until set.

My quiches took a few extra minutes of baking. We ate these for dinner and thought they were a creative use of crepes. However, they were not mind blowing. My crepes seemed to be a little too large for the muffin tin, so I would use smaller crepes if I were to make these again. Overall, this was a really good episode and all of the recipes were really fun to make.