Tag Archives: inspiration

Confit… con? or fit?

2 Jun

Confit: [kohn-FEE, kon-FEE]

This specialty of Gascony, France, is derived from an ancient method of preserving meat (usually goose, duck or pork) whereby it is salted and slowly cooked in its own fat. The cooked meat is then packed into a crock or pot and covered with its cooking fat, which acts as a seal and preservative. Confit  can be refrigerated up to 6 months. Confit d’oie and confit de canard are preserved goose and preserved duck, respectively.

© Copyright Barron’s Educational Services, Inc. 1995 based on THE FOOD LOVER’S COMPANION, 2nd edition, by Sharon Tyler Herbst.

Read More http://www.epicurious.com/tools/fooddictionary/entry?id=2028#ixzz1OA1VZ100

Confit, as defined above is reserved for slowly cooking poultry in their own fats for preservation reasons. But, lately, it seems as though you can “confit” anything. I’ve seen recipes for tomato confit, garlic confit, lemon confit and most recently, chickpea confit. Personally, I feel that confit is turning into one of those culinary terms like carpaccio. You see anything sliced paper thin is a carpaccio of “fill in the blank.” Granted anything salted and slowly cooked in fat sounds delicious to me, but is it really a confit?

It’s an interesting thought really. Why not just poach these items in oil. They certainly done have their own fat to bring to the party. But what’s the different between oil poaching and confit? Mostly, when you poach something in oil, you are removing the item from the cooking liquid whereas with a confit it is being stored in the fat. Still, doesn’t tomato confit sound so much more luxurious than tomato dip or even preserved tomatoes. And an oil poached tomato kinda sounds like a greasy mess.

Confit or not, I made my version of chickpea confit. The bottom line is that this is a dip or spread. It’s similar to hummus but with infinitely more flavor and texture. Plus it sounds so elegant for a dip. Here’s the recipe:Chickpea Confit

Chickpea Confit
1 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 large garlic cloves
1 sprig rosemary
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup canola oil

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over low for 45 mins-1 hour. Let the mixture cool slightly and mash with a fork. Serve chilled with fresh baguette or crackers.

So what is my final verdict on the proper nomenclature? Well, I think that whenever something sounds exotic and exciting it makes me want to eat it more. I’m still not convinced that radish carpaccio should be allowed… but the idea of elevating a simple vegetable to new heights by cooking as if it was as special as duck or goose, can only be a good thing.

Always thinking of the next meal

-Katie

Week 2… Let the criticism begin

24 Oct

So this week was all about the trials and tribulations of learning on the job. As previously mentioned, this job came with no manual or instructions. As long as the kids received a hot meal things would be good. My menu was creative and filling. I had some classic dishes as well as some new things. The kids seemed excited. Quite frankly, I was too. It was my first week on my own and I was full of adrenaline. I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy, but my parents were helping me shop, so at least that part was going faster. I had know idea what was to come…

Monday- Mac ‘n’ Cheese. I figured this was a no brainer. All kids like mac and cheese. I inherited 3 cases of goldfish crackers and needed to use it up. (No amount of tomato soup could use up these goldfish) I saw on TV that there is a restaurant out there that makes a crust for their mac and cheese using goldfish crackers. I thought, Brilliant! I’ll borrow the idea, and the kids will love it. As soon as I started serving, the kids revolted. “Why are there goldfish in the mac and cheese?” “Can I have mine plain?” “Why would you do that?” The list goes on. I knew going into this job that my creativity would be limited, but I never thought something as small as goldfish crackers on baked mac and cheese would have such a negative result. I served peas and oranges a long side as well as shortbread cookies. Even with all this, it was apparently not enough to please.

Tuesday- French Bread pizza. Who didn’t like French Bread Pizza Day when they were in school. I remember thinking it was one of the best days. We didn’t have homemade FBP though, we had frozen, re-heated Ellio’s. It was good, but nothing beats homemade… or so I thought. I was really excited for this day. I made the turkey sausage from scratch and was working the sauce. I took a little shortcut and used canned tomatoes to save time. I flavored the sauce with onion, garlic, spinach and mushrooms. I pureed everything together so the kiddies didn’t see the vegetables. I thought it was great. Everything tasted wonderful and looked perfect. I served fruit on the side. I really thought this was going to be a homerun. Each pizza was about 7 inches in length and piled with toppings and cheese. The comments were shocking. Not enough food. The kids are still hungry. Well, that is the worst. I never want anyone to be hungry. But, seriously these pizzas were huge. And they were heavy. They probably weighed a 1/2 pound each. But… the kids were still hungry.

Wednesday- Meatloaf. It’s strange… I grew up with meatloaf. My mom made it a lot. Apparently it’s no longer the dinner time staple it was. The kids actually liked this one. My problem… I had no idea how much to make and I was really close to running out. The kids were used to having corn and mashed potatoes on the side. Personally, I’m not sure how you can count either of these as a vegetable, but the woman before me did. I added peas to the mix and oranges for dessert. Again the biggest comment, not enough food. At this point I was going crazy. Yes, I’ll admit the meatloaf portions were a little small, but I was really tight on servings and I had to make it work. I figured with all the starches on the side that it would be OK. After all, this was only my second week and I’m still adjusting to my portioning. Little did I know that the portion sizes of the sides were getting so big that I was running low on those as well. My volunteers seem to think that more is better, but in reality, it’s not. First of all, kids don’t need to each a cup of corn, a cup and a half of mashed potatoes and 4 oz of protein. Plus, they had the option of peas and oranges. The trays are getting so heavy that the kids are dropping them. I just don’t understand. Size wise, this should be plenty but parents are saying no.

Thursday- Tacozagna. This was a gamble. I was trying a recipe that I had never made before. It’s a Rachel Ray recipe that I adapted to fit my needs. I over made. I wanted to make sure there was more than enough for everyone. I served chips on the side and fruit, and the PTO was providing ice cream. As I was portioning out the trays, some moms were watching what I was doing. I laughed a little and said, “Wow, these are huge portions.” Each serving was at least 8oz. The dish was made with ground turkey, beans, cheese and flour tortillas. It was a hearty meal to say the least. Then they were given the option to top it with lettuce, tomato or salsa. The moms’ reaction? “Actually, it’s just enough.” Are you kidding me? Maybe it’s just enough for an 8th grade boy… but that it a lot of food for a kindergartner. The kids really liked it. A few of them can up to me and said thank you and said it tasted really good.

I’m finding it really hard to keep my food costs down and give the kids enough to eat and give them enough variety that if they don’t want fruits or vegetables, that they aren’t going hungry. The frustrating thing is that I have no control over what they choose to eat besides putting it on their plate. If they get to the table and don’t eat something or don’t like it, I can’t help it. I can’t force feed these kids. I seem to have a mixed support. People believe in my fresh foods philosophy, but are stalling process by telling me to offer chips and cookies at every meal. Portion size is a huge issue in this country. Everything is super-sized. This week’s menu is challenging. Not only, because it’s just me doing it, but because some of my choices don’t have a lot of side with them. I’m going to have to pull out some miracles and hope that what I offer is enough and that the kids like it.

Always thinking of the next meal

-Katie

I will tira-miss-u

5 Jan

I’m watching what I’m eating. I feel depressed just thinking about that phrase. Let’s face it, I love all things butter, cream and chocolate. I like salt and sugar and egg yolks. God, help me. Life is short and I want to enjoy every mouth full!

With that being said, I’m a realist. Life is short, but I don’t want it to be any shorter. I’m trying to switch up my usual cooking to be more healthy, without losing any flavor. And really, if I can, I want to add more flavor.

Tiramisu is one of my all time favorite desserts. What isn’t to love about espresso and rum soaked cakes layered between creamy, whipped mascarpone cheese and cocoa? So, how do you make this dish lighter and tastier? Start with portion size. Small portions are all the rage in restaurants. Desserts served in shot glasses make you feel less guilty but still leave you satisfied. I “plated” these little beauties in mini trifle dishes, but a tall shot glass would be a perfect substitute.

My first upgrade to this classic Italian dish was to use low fat dark chocolate biscotti instead of lady fingers. I used Martha’s recipe for the biscotti, but I substituted non fat greek yogurt for the oil. I then crumbled 4 biscotti and put 1 at the bottom of each dish. I mixed 1 tablespoon of instant espresso with a 1/2 cup of hot water and 1 tablespoon spiced rum. Spoon 1 1/2 tablespoon of the espresso mixture over the cookies.

For the cheese layer, instead of mascarpone, I combined 3/4 cup non fat greek yogurt, 1/4 cup light, whipped cream cheese, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1/3 cup powdered sugar. Layer this on top of the cookies and then continue to layer until you’ve run out of ingredients. To garnish, sprinkle with any remaining biscotti crumbs and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

I know these changes don’t make this dish fat free, or super low calorie, but it is dessert and it is better than the usual. Remember the key is portion size. The double dark chocolate biscotti with take care of your chocolate craving and the creamy yogurt layer tastes like a cross between cheesecake and cannoli filling.

Give this recipe a try. It’s definitely a treat and a good way to keep on track

Always thinking of the next meal

-Katie

Velvety Garlic Soup, Duxelles, and Monte Cristos

14 Sep

So today was another fantastic day recipe testing. I’m making Velvety Garlic Soup, Duxelles, and Monte Cristo Sandwiches. I have to say it is a strange combination, but I have the ingredients, so that’s the menu. First, the garlic soup. Yes, garlic is a very potent herb/vegetable but handled correctly, it is beautiful.

Ok so here’s the deal. When garlic is roasted it become something better, something magical. When garlic is roasted it transforms into this beautifully sweet and slightly bitter. The soup is gentle. Don’t get me wrong it tastes like garlic, but unlike an Italian dinner the garlic is mild and understated. Here’s the recipe:

Velvety Garlic Soup

Garlic Soup ready to be frozen

Garlic Soup ready to be frozen

2 cups garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 cup olive oil

2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup of yellow onion, medium dice
1 tablespoon thyme, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup heavy cream

Make a small pouch out of aluminum foil and put the garlic and olive oil. Roast in the oven at 350 for 45 minutes. Meanwhile, sweat the onion and thyme together in a saucepan. When the garlic is finished roasting, add it to the the sautéing onions. Add the stock and season. Purée the soup and finish with cream. Re-season and serve hot. Garnish with shaved parmesan and fresh minced parsley.

The garlic soup is a wonderful dish for this time of the year. It’s easy to find garlic and the warmth makes you thankful that the seasons are finally turning.

Duxelles before puréeing

Duxelles before puréeing

Next, duxelles. Now this a a classic french recipe that is typically used in dishes like beef Wellington. But, it can also be used as a spread, dip, or appetizer. In perfect English, this is a mushroom purée. It’s very simple. Start with a 1/2 cup minced yellow onion. Melt 2 tablespoons over medium heat and add the onions. While the onions are sweating, mince 8-10 large button mushrooms. You can use any type of mushroom you like but the more wild the mushroom, the more intense the mushroom flavor will be. When the onions are soft add in the mushrooms. Cook on low for 20-25 minutes. When the mushrooms are soft purée the whole mixture together, adding water as needed. Season and serve. I’ll be serving mine as an appetizer in crostini with manchego cheese and parsley.

The monte cristos are one of my favorites. This classic dish is very simple to make. First, assemble the sandwich. You need two slices of bread (I like an egg bread like challah, or white bread). In between the bread put 2 slices of american cheese and 2 slices of honey ham. Here’s the best part. Make a custard. Yes, you read correctly, custard. In the simplest terms, a monte cristo is grilled ham and cheese that is dipped in a sweet custard and cooked like French toast! The custard I like is 3 eggs, 1 cup milk, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Assemble the sandwiches and the dip in the custard. On a greased griddle, fry the sandwiches. Garnish with powdered sugar and strawberry jam or mustard on the side.

Always thinking of the next meal

-Katie

Inspiration in strange places

1 Aug

So tonight’s dinner was inspired by a classic drink, the Bloody Mary. I love taking flavors that I know work well together and making something completely original with it. So here’s the recipe:

IMG_0711

Bloody Mary Roasted Shrimp over Polenta

for the polenta-

1/2 cup white wine
1 cup water
1 teaspoon butter
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 cup polenta
2 tablespoons sour cream
salt and pepper to taste

for the shrimp-

1 cup cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup green beans
6 shrimp
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1 tablespoon horseradish
salt and pepper to taste

Start the polenta by bringing all the ingredients except the polenta and sour cream to a boil. Quickly wisk in the polenta and continue to wisk until the grains are cooked through. Wisk in the sour cream and season. Set aside and keep warm.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl toss the shrimp, beans, and tomatoes with the spices and hot sauce with a drizzle of oil. Roast the shrimp and veggies for 10-15 minutes or until the shrimp are opaque. Once the shrimp is cooked, toss with the horseradish and salt and pepper. Pour the polenta in a serving bowl and top with the shrimp and veggies. Serve hot…

I love making recipes like this one. It really does taste like a bloody Mary. The key ingredient is the celery seed. You can make this as spicy as you want… just add more hot sauce. The green beans in the dish came from the pickled beans that you sometimes get in a Bloody Mary. I guess you could use celery, but I’m a big fan of the beans. Next up… something inspired by a piña colada 🙂

Always thinking of the next meal

-Katie