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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Breakfast Rice

Sometimes necessity is the mother of deliciousness. Last week, caught up in Thanksgiving lists and plans, we forgot to buy fruit and bread for breakfast, and we also forgot to make granola. One morning we woke up with virtually nothing to eat.

As we never, ever, skip breakfast, this posed a challenge.

Foraging through our overloaded pre-Thanksgiving refrigerator, we found that we had leftover brown rice and soy milk, and we remembered a dish we used to make, from the undelicious-sounding but very good Ayurvedic Cookbook, by Amadea Morningstar. You simply simmer cooked white or brown rice with an equal amount of milk, along with a shake of cinnamon and a handful of raisins, for a delicate-tasting and surprisingly hearty breakfast dish. If you start with leftover rice, the whole process takes about five minutes—just long enough for the rice to absorb some hot milk and for the raisins to plump up.

We've said it before, but this experience reinforced our conviction: never, ever, throw out leftover rice.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks

Today, as we prepare our Thanksgiving meal and look forward to dinner with dear friends and a houseful of dogs, we are grateful for many things. Among them: the faithful readers of Eat Well, Eat Cheap (particularly Belinda, the world's best commenter!). Thank you all. Hope you have a great holiday.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good

This time of year, sugar pumpkins (also known as pie pumpkins) are in abundance, prized not only for their decorative value but for their sweet, velvety flesh. Listening to NPR one evening, we heard Dorie Greenspan share a recipe that immediately captivated us, both because of the ease of preparation and the NPR interviewer's rapturous description.

Dorie Greenspan calls this Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good, because you can put pretty much anything in a whole pumpkin, bake it, and wind up with something delicious.

The first time we tried it, we used the NPR recipe, which relied on breadcrumbs. It was good, but we should have doubled the amount of filling to fully stuff the pumpkin, and we should have used a lot more cheese. The second time, we used wild rice, brown rice, and almonds, and made sure to fill the pumpkin cavity, and it was wonderful.

In both cases, we served this as a main course, accompanied by a green salad. But it would make a great addition to the Thanksgiving table.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Retro Aprons Will Put You in the Mood to Cook

We're not very big on oversized and overequipped kitchens, having sadly observed over the years that there is too often an inverse relationship between décor and deliciousness. Give us some sharp knives, some good pans, some reliable heat, and a little bit of counter space, and we're generally pretty happy. But every so often we see something we covet, because we know it will make cooking more fun.

Case in point: Becky McFarlan Schreiner's wonderful retro aprons, which are available online and can be viewed on Facebook. For their anniversary this year, Tim gave Ruth an old-fashioned number with big red buttons, polka dots, and blenders (yes, blenders) on it, and she feels like Lucy Ricardo every time she puts it on. The apron is a daily reminder that cooking should be fun, and that even the occasional kitchen disaster can still be good for a laugh.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Shake Your Wine?

Who ever heard of shaking a bottle of wine to make it taste better?

The people at Mollydooker Wines in Australia claim that they use nitrogen in their winemaking so that they put in fewer sulfites. Shaking the bottle allegedly puts flavor back in the wine. It's like instant aeration.

You would not, of course, do this with sparkling wine. And, in fact, you really need a screw cap to guarantee that you don't dribble wine all over the place, because the secret is pouring a little wine out of the bottle, then recapping before you shake upside down for about 5 seconds or so.

After the first shake, open the cap to release any pressure, close it up and shake again. Let the resulting bubbles settle for a minute and pour.

Here's a link to the Mollydooker website page that contains a video of the owners showing you how to do "The Mollydooker Shake." Once on the page, click on the video link and have fun shaking your Mollydooker — or other inexpensive red wine for the matter.

Surprise Dinner Guests? Try This!

We've all been there: Beloved pals drop by for a surprise visit around dinnertime, and although you're delighted to see them, you're not sure what to feed them. Ro Ann Redlin rides to the aid of Eat Well, Eat Cheap readers with this quick, easy, delicious dish:

She notes, "If you have a well-stocked larder, this should be no problem. Suspend your thoughts about anchovies. The anchovies will dissipate in this recipe, leaving a deep, smoky flavor." 

Ro Ann didn't provide a name for this dish, so we kicked around a few, including Pearl Harbor Pasta and Apache Linguine. But finally, in the interests of offending as few readers as possible, we decided upon a name that seemed to describe the ingredients as well as the circumstances:

Delightful Surprise Linguine 

7 to 8 ounces dry linguine
high-quality olive oil
2 to 4 ounces good bottled or canned anchovies
2 cloves minced garlic
chopped flat leaf parsley to garnish

1. Cook linguine until al dente (it will continue cooking a bit), drain, and turn into a large pan. 

2. Add anchovies and olive oil to taste. The pasta should be nicely coated. Cook until the anchovies "melt" and add the minced garlic at the very end. 

Serves 3 to 4. 

Note: Do not add cheese. Anchovies and Parmesan are both 'braggarts'' and together can overwhelm your dish.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bargain Wine of the Week: McLaren Vale of Australia

We're going to break the rules here just a bit to give you an overall hint that will serve you well in the wine aisles of your local store.

Here it is: Look for wines from McLaren Vale in Australia. These are wines of conviction that will always go with everything on the table. But you will always be surprised and pleased. They are never boring and very rarely a disappointment.

We thought of this because we saw a promotion for Cape Barren Wines Native Goose from McLaren Vale for $14. It reminded us that we can't remember the last wine from the Vale that we weren't absolutely gushing over. This one is a GSM, common wine lingo, especially in the Vale, that means it is made with Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre grapes.

This wine rated a 90 from Wine Spectator and here is what it said:

Deep crimson red in color, the nose delivers intense plum and prune aromas with a hint of cassis and five-spice. A big, tightly structured style offering dense black fruit flavours complimented by anise and mocha accents. The palate carries a long length of persistence with a hint of savoury oak and a delicious fruit sweetness on the finish.

Look for wines from McLaren Vale for something that will dance on your palate and wake up your taste buds.

A Carnivore Prepares A Vegetarian Meal

Vegetarian main dishes also make great vegetable sides.

Our friend Paul, who has been a guest poster a few times, recently volunteered to cook dinner for a bunch of vegetarians. Before you carnivores all run off to the next web site, remember that vegetable dishes good enough to be main dishes make stupendous vegetable sides. And these days, more and more of us are having to cook for vegetarian friends.

He didn't include recipes, but these dishes are self-explanatory to good cooks — or are the sorts of dishes that are easily found on the Internet. Many, like the grilled corn and tomato salad and the mango salsa and roasted potatoes are pretty easy.

Either way, this menu is good food for thought.

Hors d’oeuvres
·  Crostini (grilled ciabatta with toppings: garlic roasted with balsamic vinegar, mushrooms in
       butter and herbs, tapenade, roasted red peppers, mozzarella in garlic/herb infused olive oil)
· Sautéed zucchini blossoms stuffed with herbed ricotta or bufalo mozzarella

Pass-around main dishes
· Brown & wild rice with toasted walnuts, scallions, and dried apricots
· Butternut squash ravioli with toasted walnuts, chives, and apple-infused butter
· Grilled zucchini/summer squash layered with shaved goats-milk Gouda and fresh herbs
· Grilled corn and tomato salad
· Pan-roasted Portobello mushrooms with red pepper sauce and pecorino shavings
· Insalata Caprese with heirloom tomatoes and bufalo mozzarella
· Roasted potatoes with homemade pesto on arugula
· Mango salad or salsa (chunks of mango, cherry tomatoes, scallions, jicama, bell pepper, and mint)

· Grilled white peach halves filled with mascarpone and fresh blueberry/port reduction

See Paul's other posts: Red Pepper Sauce, Tapenade, Italian Salsa Verde (All-Occasion Green Sauce), and Make Your Own Chutney.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Bargain Wine of the Week: 2008 La Mano Mencia Roble

La Mano Mencia Roble is another of the 12 wines we purchased that had been rated 90 or better by a wine magazine but cost us less than $10. See our post about the wines we bought. This one was less than $8.

The Bierzo region in Northwestern Spain is not one of the country's well-known wine regions. It is home to the Mencia grape, one that we'd frankly never heard of. That's probably why a highly rated wine costs so little. The red Mencia grape so closely resembles Cabernet Franc that the local synonym is "Cabernet."

After some airing we discovered that this wine drinks much like a Cabernet Sauvignon. It's crimson color is deep, but the wine is not inky at all. We thought it smelled a bit of coffee, but the winery insists it's an earthy note. Either way, it keeps the wine's blueberry hints from being too fruity.

This is not a complex wine, but we had it with ribs and a pasta with heavy garlic on successive nights and it danced quite nicely with them both. The spiciness of the wine cut through the Bar-B-Q sauce and the heavy garlic.

Robert Parker gave this little-known gem a 90 and said it "has extraordinary depth and concentration for its humble price. We agree.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Wine Bargain of the Week: Pillar Box Red 2007

A week or so ago we offered up a recent wine order in which we bought 12 bottles of wine, all rated 90 or higher by a wine magazine and all selling for less than a 10-spot. This is as close as it comes to a fool-proof way to buy good-to-great — and cheap — wine that you haven't tried before.

We suppose it would be possible to buy this way at a fairly big discount store with well-marked counter cards identifying the wines that were highly rated. But the easiest place to to it is online, as we did with our recent order.

We've now tried a few of these bargains to bark about, and today we want to celebrate one that frankly surprised us. Pillar Box is a winery in South Australia that has been putting out award-winning wines for more than a century.

The winery is named for the proprietor of the 19th century mail service that picked up its boxes of wine for delivery elsewhere. The Padthaway area winery also makes Henry's Drive and Parson's Flat wines, but its Pillar Box Red refers to the color of the wine cases, which had been all hues of the earth until someone finally said all would be identifiable red.

The famous wine critic Robert Parker loves the Pillar Box Red and consistently gives it high ratings. We bought the 2007 red, which is a mix of 65% Shiraz, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot. Parker gave it a 90. We bought it for $9.95, but we've seen it a bit higher elsewhere. Even the winery's Reserve Red — also high rated — is less than $20.

The deepness of the red color scared us when we opened the wine. This was not the color of blood, or even dried blood, but a deep mountain lake filled with dried blood. It is so red, it's purple. But the flavors are wonderful. It was perfect with the homemade mushroom soup and popovers we were serving, because it is earthy, spicey, full of black currant sharp fruitiness.

We find unfamiliar Australian wines a crapshoot because the Aussies love to make distinctive wines of conviction. That means they are often unique, and sometimes just don't work on many people's taste buds. But this is one beefy, deep red, hearty wine that is great with lots of different foods.

Speaking of beefy, this wine would be perfect with a medium-rare steak or a lamb chop.

Video Recipe: Pasta with Pumpkin, Sausage and Kale

Here's another video recipe by our friend John Ross. This one was shot for Fine Cooking magazine. Now you have something to do with those leftover jack o lanterns. The recipe is for pasta with pumpkin, sausage and kale. Click the link or the video arrow below.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Good Cheap Cookware and Kitchen Supplies: Discount Retailers

We've written about how great discounters like TJ Maxx, Ross, and Marshalls are for marked-down oils, spices, and oddball gourmet items. After scouring our three local stores, we're convinced that these are also great places to buy cookware.

Our Marshalls outlet, for example, currently has a fairly wide selection of half-price Le Creuset. Some of these pots are marked as factory seconds, but we couldn't detect any imperfections. A nine-quart Dutch oven that costs $300 from the manufacturer can be had for $150 at Marshalls; a large oval French oven that retails for $400 was selling for $200. Marshalls also had half-price nonstick Calphalon (we couldn't resist the $60 large sauté pan, which came with a nice heavy cover).

There was also a good selection of baking dishes and pans, including Le Creuset casseroles, as well as knives and a wide assortment of kitchen implements that ranged from measuring spoons to mixing bowls.

If you need cookware, first check out your local discount stores; you may be able to find just what you need for a lower price than you would pay at a department store or kitchen store.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Comfort Food for Fall: Popovers

Now that the weather has turned cool and the days are shorter, we find ourselves craving soup: mushroom, vegetable, barley, miso . . . any kind of soup works for us. But soup barely makes a dinner by itself, so to supplement it we often make cornbread or cheese toast (stale bread, grated cheese of any sort, and a broiler; nothing simpler or more frugal). Lately, though, we've been making popovers.

Do people still make popovers? They remind us of the June Cleaver 1950s, maybe because we use a recipe from the old New York Times Cookbook. Or maybe because our mothers made popovers. In any case, we like them so much we invested years ago in a popover pan, which has deeper wells than a muffin tin. (Nothing against muffin tins—that's what our moms used, and they still work just fine—but a popover pan gives you bigger popovers.)  

Here's our version of the Times Cookbook recipe:

1 cup flour
2 eggs
1 cup milk*
1/2 t. salt
1 T. vegetable oil

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Oil popover pan or muffin tin and set it aside.

2. Measure all the ingredients into a bowl and, using either a rotary mixer or a hand blender, mix until the batter is very smooth. Don't be afraid of overbeating; you want it very well mixed.

3. Fill the cups of the pan about half full and bake for 30 minutes. DO NOT PEEK before that, or you might make the popovers collapse. After the time is up, take a look: if the popovers are brown and rigid to the touch, they're done; if they're still a little pale and wobbly, give them another five minutes.

4. When you remove the pan from the oven, pierce each popover with a knife to let the air escape. This will prevent them from getting soggy, especially if there are leftovers.

Leftover cold popovers, dressed with butter and marmalade, make a fine breakfast.

* One day we were out of regular milk, so we apprehensively subbed soy milk, and the popovers came out lighter and crisper than ever before. If you have soy milk on hand, give it a try!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Pasta with Tapenade and Veggies

Back in Connecticut, in the days when we visited more restaurants, we loved Carole Peck's Good News Café in Woodbury. Carole specializes in fresh, organic ingredients and always offers a selection of great vegetarian dishes. We adopted one of our favorites for home use, and over the years it has evolved into a dish we make any time we have nice firm green vegetables on hand—a big bunch of asparagus, say, or a bag of velvety green beans.

The recipe features three ingredients: very small pasta (sometimes known as "soup pasta"), such as tubettini or ditalini; a lightly boiled green vegetable; and a dollop of tapenade. You can prepare it in the time it takes to cook the pasta.

Pasta with Tapenade and Veggies

1 pound small pasta (such as tubettini, ditalini, or acini de pepe)
1 pound or so firm green vegetable (green beans, asparagus, and broccoli all work well), cut into bite-size pieces
3/4 cup tapenade (you may want more or less—if  you're not sure, start with a half cup and work up from there)
2 T. olive oil

1. Start boiling water for pasta and the veggies. You can cook the veggies in the pasta water before cooking the pasta, if you like, or you can use a separate pot to speed things up.

2. While the water is heating, trim and cut the vegetables. Cook them if you are using two pots for the pasta and veggies.

3. If you don't have tapenade on hand, now is a good time to make some.

4. When the water comes to a boil, toss in your pasta and cook until done. Drain it, place it in a good-size bowl, and toss it with the olive oil. Then add the veggies and tapenade, mixing thoroughly.

You can serve this either hot or at room temperature. Feeds four moderate eaters or two to three people of strong appetite.