Black Bean & Mango Salsa

I brought only one recipe down to Mexico with me, mostly because I didn’t have a lot of time to look for any more in the madness that comes with trying to get a family of 6 ready to go on vacation and leave your farm behind all while having yours kitchen and family room floors refinished and some rooms painted while you are gone. Amanda may be in college, but we were having major passport-renewal technical glitches that required working out, as she was flying directly from Lexington to Mexico to meet us.

We few into Cancun but are staying in a small town about 1-1/2 hours away called Akumal. We went into the tiny town today and bought the ingredients needed for this salsa and I made it after dinner tonight so that it can marinate in the fridge and we’ll have it tomorrow. I’ve made this many times before, and not only is it great alone with chips, but it’s awesome on fish and flank steak as well. It’s one of those recipes where measuring ingredients isn’t really necessary.

Black Bean & Mango Salsa

Makes about 5 cups.

Published July 1, 1996 in Cook’s Illustrated Magazine. Altered by Crafty Farm Girl, March, 2012.

Ingredients

    • 1 large can (or 2 small) black beans, drained and rinsed
    • 1 mango , peeled, seeded and diced small
    • 1/2 red bell pepper , cored, seeded and diced small
    • 1/2 medium red onion , diced small
    • 3/4 cup pineapple juice
    • 1/4 cup lime juice from 2 medium limes
    • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
    • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
    • 1 small jalapeño chile , seeded and minced
    • Salt and ground black pepper

Instructions:

Mix all ingredients, including salt and pepper to taste, in medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate to blend flavors, at least 1 hour or up to 4 days.

Preserved Lemons

I recently bought the cookbook Cooking My Way Back Home  by Mitchell Rosenthall and it’s really lovely. He has a recipe in there for sauteed scallops with spiced couscous and preserved lemon-curry sauce that looks amazing. After reading through it, I knew that I would never be able to find preserved lemons where I live. Luckily, he gives the recipe in the back of the book. It’s quite easy, but it takes 3-4 weeks to make it in that once you prepare the lemons they have to sit for 3-4 weeks with an occasional shake of the jar, to be finished.

So, if you think this recipe sounds like something you might want to make, then make up a batch of these preserved lemons and you’ll be ready when I am!

He prefers Meyer lemons, which I was able to find at the grocery, but says that regular lemons will work as well. Meyer lemons are a little bit milder and are say to be a bit more like a lemon with a little orange in it. They are a beautiful color and their skin is much smoother than a traditional lemon.

Preserved Lemons

  • 8 to 10 lemons (Meyers are especially fine preserved)
  • 2 to 3 cups kosher salt
  • 6 star anise pods
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice as needed

Cut a thin slice off one end of each lemon. Then make 2 evenly spaced cuts along the length of each lemon, cutting only three-fourths of the way through so that the lemon is divided into quarters and the quarters are still attached at the uncut end. Pull the sections apart to expose the flesh and pack each lemon with the salt.




Toss 3 star anise pods and 1 cinnamon stick into a sterilized jar, then begin packing the salted lemons tightly into the jar. When you have packed in half of the lemons, add the remaining star anise pods and cinnamon stick, and then add the remaining lemons. As you pack in the lemons, they will release their juice. When all of the lemons are in the jar (or as many as you can stuff in there), the lemons should be covered with juice. If not, add lemon juice as needed to cover all lemons.




Mash down the lemons as much as you can, and stuff more in if you can.


I could only get 7 out of 10 lemons into the jar. I squeezed the remaining 3. You should add enough juice to cover all of the lemons.


Seal the jar and store at room temperature in a cupboard. Shake the jar every few days, and add more lemon juice as needed to cover. The lemons will be soft and ready to use in 3 to 4 weeks.


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Queso Fundido

India is by far the pickiest eater in our family, so with her on her 8th grade field trip down to Washington, D.C. this week, I decided this would be a good time to make this queso fundido as it was something everyone (but India) would enjoy.

The original recipe called for 1 jalapeño, but I’ve really been enjoying the flavor of  poblano peppers lately, so I used half of a jalapeño and half of a poblano, If you like things really spicy, you can use 2 peppers. If you or your friends are more, ahem, delicate, then stick with one chile and remove the seeds and ribs. I also added a bit more chorizo, as I was making it a meal and not an appetizer, and I used black refried beans that I found at Whole Foods and also added a can of whole black beans as well.

QUESO FUNDIDO

Makes 12 servings (appetizer)

Active time: 35 minutes, Total Time: 45 minutes

No offense to salsa, but come on, who doesn’t love a gooey, cheesy bean dip, bubbling hot like lava from the oven?

I found this recipe in Gourmet Magazine’s “Comfort” special edition publication. Original recipe altered by Crafty Farm Girl, March 2012.

INGREDIENTS:

  • Dried Spanish chorizo, (4 1/2 ounces) skin removed and finely chopped (about a cup)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/2 a fresh jalapeño or Serrano chile, seeded, if desired, and finely chopped
  • 1/2 a fresh poblano pepper, seeded, if desired, and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 (14- to 15-ounce) can refried black or pinto beans
  • 1 (14- to 15-ounce can black beans, drains & rinsed
  • 1/2 cup water, divided
  • 8 ounce Manchego or Monterey Jack cheese, coarsely grated (2 1/4 cups)

ACCOMPANIMENT:

  • Corn tortilla chips

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350o


Cook chorizo in 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring, until golden and pieces start to crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels.



Cook onion, garlic, peppers, and paprika in fat remaining in skillet, stirring occasionally, until vegetables start to soften and turn golden, about 8 minutes.


Stir in 1/4 cup water and simmer, uncovered, until vegetables are tender and almost all liquid is evaporated, about 3 minutes.


Stir in refried beans and remaining 1/4 cup water and simmer until slightly thickened and mixture is bubbling, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the can of refried beans. I know what you're thinking, so don't even say it. I was thinking it too.

But see, it looks much better once you stir it in.


Add the rinsed and drained black beans and stir them in as well.


Remove from heat and stir in reserved chorizo and half the cheese until melted.


Pour bean mixture into a shallow (2-quart) flameproof crock or baking dish and sprinkle with remaining cheese.



Bake in the oven about 10 minutes, until cheese is melted and just starting to brown.


Serve with tortilla chips.

COOKS’ NOTES:

The bean mixture, before the cheese is added, can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Reheat it on top of the stove over medium-low heat, adding additional water if necessary, then stir in half the cheese and continue with the recipe.

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Apricot-Almond Shortbread Bars

I hosted a party this past Monday night for the camp that my children all attend, so while I was working at breakneck speed making a table and cleaning my disastrous house, I also had to cook. It’s more of a finger food event, and some guests had volunteered to bring some things, so I made my Warm Black Bean & Chipotle Dip and then three different types of dessert bars; these Apricot-Almond Shortbread Bars are my absolute favorites. The almond paste in the topping gives it the most amazing flavor when combined with the apricots. I changed the recipe a bit from the original. I increased the quantities as I wanted to make a 13 x 9 x 2 pan, and I added some chopped dried apricots that I soaked in boiling water for 10 minutes. Also, the original recipe just called for 3 tablespoons of Grand Marnier in the filling, but I use a combination of Grand Marnier, Amaretto and almond extract.

Apricot-Almond Shortbread Bars

Makes 32 bars

Original recipe from Bon Appetit, December, 2005.  Altered by Crafty Farm Girl, February, 2012.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1-1/2 cups apricot preserves
  • 2 tablespoons orange liqueur (such as Grand Marnier)
  • 1 tablespoon Amaretto liqueur
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1-1/2  cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 7 oz. almond paste, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, divided
  • Preparation

    Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter a 13 x 9 x 2-inch metal baking pan; line bottom and sides of pan with parchment paper, extending over sides. Butter parchment. Bring 1 cup water to boil in a small saucepan and stir in the chopped dried apricots. Turn off heat and let apricots sit for about 10 minutes. Drain. Mix dried apricots, preserves and orange liqueur in small bowl; set aside.


    Using electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in large bowl until well blended. Beat in almond extract. Add flour and salt; beat just until blended. Transfer 1 cup of dough to another small bowl; add crumbled almond paste and mix with fingertips until small clumps form. Mix in 1/4 cup sliced almonds; set aside for topping.


    Press remaining dough evenly onto bottom of prepared pan. Spread preserves mixture evenly over. Using fingertips, coarsely crumble topping over preserves, then sprinkle 1/4 cup almonds over. Press topping lightly into preserves.


    Bake shortbread until top and crust edges are golden brown, about 1 hour. Cool completely in pan on rack. Using parchment paper as aid, lift shortbread from pan. Cut shortbread into 4 equal strips, then cut each strip crosswise into 8 small bar cookies.


    DO AHEAD Can be prepared ahead. Store in single layer in airtight container at room temperature up to 4 days or freeze up to 2 weeks.

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Cinnamon Brown Butter Breakfast Puffs


This is a recipes I got off Smitten Kitchen a few weeks ago. I made it one weekend morning for the kids, and they were so excited.

Cinnamon Brown Butter Breakfast Puffs

Recipe from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted from Betty Crocker and others

If you don’t wish to use buttermilk, you can replace it with regular milk and nix the baking soda (keeping the baking powder). I like to get the toppings ready first because they take so little time to bake, you don’t want to be scrambling to have something to dip them in.

Yield: 9 to 12 standard muffin-size puffs or 30-ish miniature ones. Try not to overfill as I did or you won’t get big domes on them.

Coating
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons unsalted butter

Puffs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup (5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing muffin cups
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 12 standard size or 30 miniature muffin cups, or line cups with paper liners.

Prepare coatings: In a small saucepan, melt 6 tablespoons butter over medium heat and continue to cook it, stirring frequently, until brown bits form on the bottom and it smells nutty and heavenly. Immediately remove from heat and set aside. In a small bowl, combine 2/3 cup sugar and cinnamon. Set aside as well.


Prepare puffs: Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg together in a medium bowl and set aside. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat softened butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Mix in 1/3 of flour mixture, followed by 1/2 of buttermilk, repeating again and finishing with the flour mixture. Mix only until combined.


Spoon into prepared muffin cups, filling only 3/4 of the way. (If you overfill them they won’t dome up properly.) Bake standard sized muffins for 20 to 25 minutes and miniature muffins for 12 to 14 minutes. When finished, muffins will feel springy to the touch and a tester inserted into the center will come out clean. Transfer them in their pan to a wire rack.


As soon as you feel you’re able to pick one up, take your first puff and roll the top and upper edges in the browned butter. Don’t be afraid to pick up the browned butter solids at the bottom of the saucepan; they’re the dreamiest part. Let any excess butter drip off for a second before gently rolling the butter-soaked cake top in cinnamon-sugar. I find if you roll too firmly, or have too much wet/not absorbed butter on top, the sugar can clump off, which is heartbreaking. Transfer puff to wire rack to set and repeat with remaining puffs. Eat warm.




For an even more indulgent, doughnut-like puff: Make an extra two tablespoons of the browned butter and roll the whole puff in it and the cinnamon sugar. (I usually have enough cinnamon sugar to fully roll the puffs.)

Do ahead: Puffs are best within hours after they are baked. They can be made it advance and stored in a freezer bag until needed, too. Simply spread them out on a baking tray and reheat them until warm in the oven.

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Warm Black Bean & Chipotle Dip

I’ve had this recipe cut out from an issue of Fine Cooking’s December, 2006 issue since it was first published. I have copies at home and in Wyoming. It’s such a great dip for a party, to bring to a pot luck, or even as a meal (that’s what we had last night). It freezes great too. Even though I’m not a big watcher of the Super Bowl, I thought it would be fun for Jim and the kids to have some Super Bowl-type foods to eat while watching the commercials, woops, I meant game, so I divided the recipe into two smaller casserole dishes and saved one to re-heat tomorrow night.

Warm Black Bean & Chipotle Dip

Recipe from Fine Cooking, December 1, 2006 issue

Serves 10 to 12

This is a great party dip that can be fully assembled up to 2 days ahead. Keep covered and refrigerated until ready to bake.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil; more for the baking dish
2 medium tomatoes, cored and cut into medium dice
2 teaspoons kosher salt; more as needed
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 15-1/2 ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained well
2 canned chipotles en adobo, minced (about 1 tablespoon), plus 3 tablespoons adobo sauce
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (if frozen, thaw first)
1-1/2 cups (6 oz.) grated Monterey Jack cheese
1-1/2 cups (6 oz.) grated sharp cheddar cheese
¾ cup chopped fresh cilantro
Freshly ground black pepper
Tortilla chips for serving

Heat the oven to 425ºF. Grease a 1-1/2 quart baking dish with oil and line a baking sheet with foil. (Note I made to smaller dips in two baking dishes.) Set the tomatoes in a colander over the sink and sprinkle with 1 tsp. of the salt.


Heat the oil in a large (12-inch) skillet over medium high heat until shimmering hot. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onion, sprinkle with 1 tsp. salt, and cook, stirring, until softened and translucent, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic and chili powder and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add half of the black beans, the chipotles and adobo sauce, and ¾ cup water and bring to a boil. Cook until the liquid reduces by about half, 2 to 3 minutes.


Transfer the bean mixture to a food processor, add the vinegar, and process until smooth. Let cool for a couple of minutes and then transfer to a large bowl. Add the rest of the beans, the tomatoes, corn, half of each of the cheeses, and ½ cup of the cilantro. Mix well and season to taste with salt and pepper.



Transfer to the prepared baking dish (I used two smaller baking dishes) and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake on the foil-lined baking sheet (to catch drips) until the cheese melts and browns around the edges, about 15 minutes (longer if refrigerated). Sprinkle with the remaining cilantro and serve with the tortilla chips for dipping.





nutrition information (per serving):
Size : based on twelve servings; Calories (kcal): 230; Fat (g): 12; Fat Calories (kcal): 110; Saturated Fat (g): 6; Protein (g): 12; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 4.5; Carbohydrates (g): 19; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 0.5; Sodium (mg): 510; Cholesterol (mg): 30; Fiber (g): 4;

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Indian Fry Bread Tacos

Indian Fry Bread. I hadn’t thought of it in years, but being in Austin brought it all rushing back to me. Austin was full of vintage travel trailers turned into food carts, and one that we saw served savory Fry Bread with all kinds of delicious things on them. Of course none were open for business when my sister and I stumbled across them, but they sparked a memory.


This is one of the first recipes I ever made when I was a kid, and I made a ton of it. It was a bread – sort of, but it had instant milk powder in it and no yeast. Because it didn’t have yeast, you didn’t have to wait hours for it to rise, just a 10 minute rest and it was ready to go. I guess it’s similar to the kind of fried dough you can get at most carnival and agricultural fair midways, but I can’t say for sure since I’ve never tried that kind.

I decided I had to make this for my own kids to try, and thought to use the fry bread as taco shells would be perfect. It turns out this is not an uncommon use for them, as the internet had many recipes to choose from in this style.I really just took the recipe for the fry bread and figured I’d be able to manage the taco part on my own.

Indian Fry Bread

There were tons of recipes for Indian fry bread on the internet, but I really had to search to find one that used powdered milk, which is the way I grew up making it. You can even just eat the bread plain with a sprinkle of seasoned salt, grated parmesan or cinnamon sugar.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup milk powder
1 cup water + a bit more
4 cups oil for frying, or as needed

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, milk powder, baking powder, and salt. Stir in water and mix until the dough comes together. Add more flour if necessary to be able to handle the dough. On a floured surface, knead the dough until smooth, at least 5 minutes. Cover the dough very lightly with olive oil and let the dough rest for 10 minutes.

Heat oil in a large, deep heavy skillet. Oil should be about 1 1/2 inches deep. Put a small piece of dough in the cold oil. The oil is ready to fry when the dough sizzles and becomes golden brown.

I divided my dough into 6 pieces, but these made pretty large taco shells. You could divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a round disc. Use a rolling pin, roll the dough to 1/4″-1/8″ inch in thickness. Stack the rolled dough rounds together on a plate and cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel until ready to use.

Fry breads in the hot oil until golden on both sides, turning only once. Drain on paper towels.Don’t let the bread get too brown or it will be brittle. Ideally it will be a bit pliable to use as a taco shell, so keep that in mind when frying the bread.


SERVE: top the fried bread with taco meat, lettuce and the condiments you like (sour cream, pickled chillies, guacamole etc.)

Taco Ingredients

Tacos are a very personal thing. People like their own particular brand of seasoning. Some like it spicy, some like it mild. Some like guacamole or sour cream on theirs. Some like cheese. So really, all I will do is list suggestions here. My own family’s personal food quirks dictate what I can and cannot put on our tacos.

What I can say I did was ask to have my ground beef ground coarsely at the meat counter. I don’t know what inspired me to do this, but it was brilliant for tacos of this style I thought. Since I was feeding a family of 5, I got about 1-1/2 pounds of ground meat.

Ground beef for tacos
Taco seasoning (I like Old El Paso with reduced salt)
Lettuce, chopped
Plum tomatoes, diced
Cheddar cheese, grated
Taco Sauce
Red onion, finely diced
chopped olives
Refried beans
Chopped cilantro
Sliced avocado
Sour Cream
Guacamole



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Skillet-Fried Chicken

The cover of this month’s Bon Appetit claims this is the only fried chicken recipe you’ll ever need. Mighty lofty claims I thought. I figured I’d better try it out and report back. Since Jim was going to be out of town tonight (he’s not a big fried chicken fan), I decided tonight was the perfect opportunity.

I have not made a ton of fried chicken in my life, but I’ve certainly made it a few times. It always seems very complicated. Lots of buttermilk, lots of soaking. This recipe wasn’t like that. There’s one cup of buttermilk used in the dipping liquid. The spices you marinate the chicken in overnight weren’t complicated. You didn’t even need a ton of oil. And for once I didn’t change, increase or decrease a single ingredient – I made the recipe exactly as it was printed.

Skillet-Fried Chicken

To learn the best way to cut a chicken into ten pieces and see a video of the recipe being prepared from start to finish, go to bonappetit.com/go/friedchicken.

4 Servings

Recipe by The Bon Appétit Test Kitchen, published in the February, 2012 issue.

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons kosher salt, divided
2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 3–4-lb. chicken (not kosher), cut into 10 pieces, backbone and wing tips removed
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Peanut oil (for frying)

Special Equipment:

A deep-fry thermometer

Preparation:

Whisk 1 Tbsp. salt, 2 tsp. black pepper, paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, and onion powder in a small bowl. Season chicken with spices. Place chicken in a medium bowl, cover, and chill overnight.


Let chicken stand covered at room temperature for 1 hour. After marinating in the spices for a day, the chicken was already looking tasty. Whisk buttermilk, egg, and 1/2 cup water in a medium bowl. Whisk flour, cornstarch, remaining 1 Tbsp. salt, and remaining 1 Tbsp. pepper in a 9x13x2″ baking dish.


Pour oil into a 10″–12″ cast-iron skillet or other heavy straight-sided skillet (not nonstick) to a depth of 3/4″. Prop deep-fry thermometer in oil so bulb is submerged. Heat over medium-high heat until thermometer registers 350°. Meanwhile, set a wire rack inside a large rimmed baking sheet.

Working with 1 piece at a time (use 1 hand for wet ingredients and the other for dry ingredients), dip chicken in buttermilk mixture, allowing excess to drip back into bowl. Dredge in flour mixture; tap against bowl to shake off excess.


Place 5 pieces of chicken in skillet. Fry chicken, turning with tongs every 1–2 minutes and adjusting heat to maintain a steady temperature of 300°–325°, until skin is deep golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of chicken registers 165°, about 10 minutes for wings and 12 minutes for thighs, legs, and breasts. I was pretty impressed with how close I got to the perfect internal temperature!


Using tongs, remove chicken from skillet, allowing excess oil to drip back into skillet; transfer chicken to prepared rack.


Repeat with remaining chicken pieces; let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.



So what’s my verdict on the chicken? I think Bon Appetit was right and you can throw out all of your other fried chicken recipes. It was easy, crispy, a little spicy but not too much. My son, who for some reason hasn’t had much of an appetite lately, ate three pieces and claimed we should from now on have “Fried Chicken Friday’s”. When I said I didn’t think that was probably going to happen, he said that he at least needed to eat this every week and a half.

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Scallion Meatballs with Soy-Ginger Dipping Sauce


My life has been so busy lately that I feel lucky if I get to eat a meal, and getting to sit down to eat it would feel extra luxurious. Except for dinner, I always with sit down with the family for that. Often I go weeks without having a moment to check out some of my favorite cooking blogs, as was the case on Monday when I finally took a moment to visit Smitten Kitchen. I’ve always loved her site, and her recipes always work. When I got on the other day, I printed out 3 of the first 4 recipes I scrolled through, and I am proud to say that less than 48 hours later, I had made all 3 and they all were terrific. I’m starting with this recipe for no particular reason.

As I was assembling the ingredients for this I realized I had a bit of a brain lapse while in the grocery store. I was standing there looking at the ground turkey that the recipe called for and was just getting so grossed out at the way it looked, that I wandered over to the ground pork and decided that, this being an asian-style recipe, using half turkey and half pork would probably be an interesting and appropriate substitution. But, when I was gathering my ingredients today I pulled my ground pork and ground beef out of the fridge — I accidentally bought ground beef instead of the ground turkey; I guess I really do have an aversion to it. So I used 50% ground pork and 50% ground beef, and they tasted great. If you’ve got a similar aversion, you can substitute the same. I’m going to write the recipe exactly as I used it, but the original recipe called for 1 pound of ground turkey. Deb had reduced the cilantro and ginger from what was originally called for. I increased mine a bit, since I adore both ginger and cilantro. You can use less if you prefer. I also reduced the dipping sauce down significantly so it would really cling to the meatballs.

Scallion Meatballs with Soy-Ginger Dipping Sauce

Original recipe from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Canal House Cooking, vol. 3

Note: This recipe is gluten-free if you use a soy sauce that is labeled gluten free. There were many options on the shelf at the store.

Yield: The original recipe suggest 24, Smitten Kitchen got 34, and I got a whopping 51 meatballs, but I happened to have a tiny ice cream scoop that measures exactly 1 tablespoon that I used, so my meatballs were very uniform in size.

Sauce

  • ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup soy sauce, preferably Japanese or reduced sodium
  • ½ cup mirin (sweet rice wine), or
  • ½ cup sake with
  • ¼  cup sugar
  • ¼  cup peeled, chopped ginger  (I probably used a tad more than 1/4 cup, but that’s a lot of ginger)
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 4 whole black peppercorns (no, I did not count how many I put in there)

Meatballs

    • ½ pound ground pork
    • ½ pound ground beef
    • 4 large or 6 small scallions, finely chopped
    • Half bunch cilantro, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup) (the cilantro-averse can use flat-leaf parsley)
    • 1 large egg
    • 2 tablespoons sesame oil, toasted if you can find it
    • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
    • Freshly ground black pepper
    • Vegetable oil

Make sauce:  Bring sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar melts completely. Reduce heat to a medium-low and add soy sauce, mirin, ginger, coriander and peppercorns. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half, about 30 minutes, though this took me a bit longer to reduce it until it was syrupy enough that I thought it would coat, and not just dribble off the meatballs. You can keep it on a back burner, stirring it frequently, while browning the meatballs in the next step. Once it has reduced to your satisfaction, strain through a sieve (I actually chose to not strain the sauce, but go ahead and follow the recipe.)


Make meatballs:  Mix ground pork and beef (or turkey), scallions, cilantro, egg, sesame oil, soy sauce and several grindings of black pepper in a bowl. You can mix the meatballs with a fork; it seems to work the ingredients into each other well, but growing up making swedish meatballs, I always use my freshly washed hands to mix my meatballs.


Roll tablespoon-sized knobs of the mixture into balls. I used a tiny ice cream scoop that I have, and first scooped all the meatballs and then I rolled them with slightly wet hands. The mixture is pretty soft, so you can try rolling them, or gently toss the meatballs from palm to palm until they’re roundish 


In a skillet over medium-high heat, generously cover bottom of pan with vegetable oil. Working in batches to avoid crowding, place meatballs in pan and cook, turning, until browned all over and cooked inside, about 8 minutes per batch. I drained mine on a paper towel slightly before putting on a serving plate.


Arrange on a platter (a heated one will keep them warm longer), spoon a little sauce over each meatball, and serve with toothpicks. Alternatively, you can serve the glaze on the side, to dip the meatballs.


Do ahead: The sauce can be made up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated until needed. If needed, you can rewarm or keep the meatballs warm in a 200-degree oven until ready to serve.

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Orzo and Kidney Bean Soup with Kielbasa & Bacon


I was in the mood for soup on Thursday, and found this recipe on my favorite go-to recipe site, Cook’s Illustrated. I did change quite a bit from the original recipe, but it was a great launching pad for recipe creativity. I’m not a big cabbage fan, so I substituted kale instead and doubled the called for carrots and celery. I also wanted to make it more of a meal, so in addition to increasing the bacon slightly, I also added 8 oz. of chopped kielbasa to the soup. And I don’t care what anybody says about flavor; I think that gelatinous juice that canned beans are in is nasty. I rinsed and drained mine before adding to the soup. I was afraid that the soup wouldn’t have enough flavor with just using water as the base, so I eliminated some of the water and substituted 26 oz. of chicken broth instead. I wasn’t sure what to think of the cinnamon called for, but I used it. I can’t say I tasted it, but you’re free to use it or eliminate it. Although the original recipe called for only white pepper, I also added about ½ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper.

ORZO AND KIDNEY BEAN SOUP

Serves 6 to 8 as a main course.  

Original recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, published September 1, 1999.  Recipe altered significantly by Crafty Farm Girl, January 2012.

Don’t grate your potato until just ready to add it to the soup or it will discolor quickly. Adding the pasta to the pot last, when just about ready to serve, helps it hold onto its bite.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 
ounces bacon or pancetta, diced fine
  • 8 oz. kielbasa, quartered lengthwise and sliced about 1/3” thick
  • 4 oz. chopped kale (or more to taste)
  • 1 
medium onion, diced fine
  • 2
 medium leeks, white parts only, washed thoroughly and chopped fine
  • 2
 small carrots, peeled and diced fine
  • 2
 ribs celery, diced fine
  • 1
 potato, peeled and coarsely grated
  • 1
(16-ounce) can red kidney beans (red), about 1 1/2 cups, rinsed and drained
  • 1/ 4
teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/4
 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • About ¾ teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 6 
ounces orzo (1 cup)
  • Grated Parmesan cheese


Instructions
Brown the bacon in the olive oil in a large soup kettle or stockpot over medium heat. When it’s beginning to get brown add the sliced and quartered kielbasa and continue to cook, stirring frequently until the bacon has finished cooking and the kielbasa is a bit browned.


To that same pot add the chopped kale, onion, leeks, carrots and celery and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes, stirring a few times as you sauté . Add reserved potato, beans, peppers, salt, cinnamon, 1 quart hot water and 26 oz. chicken broth; bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer about 5 minutes to meld flavors.


Add orzo, reduce heat to low, and simmer until orzo is tender, 7 to 8 minutes. If you find soup is too thick, you can thin it with additional chicken stock or water.


Adjust seasoning with additional salt, if necessary, and serve, passing grated cheese separately.





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