Farfalle with Cherry Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Since it is tomato season and I am currently pulling more tomatoes than I can eat, I needed to do something creative with them that allows me to highlight their sweetness without completely overpowering the flavor. I also wanted something that was easy and I could pull most of the ingredients from the garden or what I usually have on hand. Here is what I came up with:

The Software
8 oz. pasta, preferably farfalle
8 oz. cherry tomatoes, halved
1 oz. goat cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup dry vermouth
1/3 cup sweet onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
5 basil leaves, chiffonade
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup pasta water, reserved
Salt and pepper

 

The Recipe
Cook the pasta until al dente, reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta water when done. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions and a pinch of salt and cook until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Add the vermouth and cook for 1 minute. Add the cream and cook until the sauce coats the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes. Add the pasta and goat cheese and toss until the pasta is coated and the cheese is melted, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes are warmed through, about 3-4 minutes. If the sauce is too thick at this point, add a bit of the pasta water to thin it out (There shouldn’t be big puddles of it in the pot, you are really just creating enough sauce to coat everything). Check seasonings, remove from heat, add the basil and serve.

 

Notes
The recipe should serve 4 easily but can be easily scaled. I used Sun Gold tomatoes since that is what I had in the garden, but just about any tomato would work – just cut them small enough to be one bite. Some chives would also be a nice finish to this if you don’t have any basil and this could also work with the addition of some hot pepper flakes – just add them in when you put the vermouth in. If you don’t have vermouth, you can use any white wine that you would like.

Skillet Fried Potatoes

By Iron Chef Leftovers

This type of steamer basket works best. You can get them at Amazon.com for about $8.
This type of steamer basket works best. You can get them at Amazon.com for about $8.

I do entirely too much reading of cookbooks. These days, I am not really looking for recipe ideas, more just to learn techniques. One thing that I hate to cook, but Mrs. Iron Chef loves to eat are potatoes. For me, they really are just a vehicle for adding stuff to it, much like chicken breast, so you go from healthy to unhealthy in a hurry since potatoes don’t inherently have much taste. For my End of the World meal, I was making beef stew served in a can, which I thought about it, and what goes better with beef stew than potatoes (well, celery root puree, sun choke puree…just humor me here). I took a hybrid technique from Modernist Cuisine and Cook’s Illustrated to come up with this recipe. This really isn’t much more difficult to do than making regular potatoes, but you will get better texture on them and you can actually do stage one in advance and finish them when you are ready to serve. When you are done, you should end up with potatoes that are creamy on the inside and crispy on the outside. The only special equipment you really need is a steamer basket.

The Software
1 large Yukon Gold potato, cut into ¼ inch slices
2 tablespoons fat (bacon fat, duck fat, butter or olive oil all work well. See note below)
Salt and pepper

The Recipe

Stage 1 – Fill a large pot with water to just below the surface of the steamer basket. Heat water over high heat until steam is visible. Add the potatoes to the basket in a single layer. Cover the pot and steam for 13 minutes. Check the potatoes for doneness – you are aiming for them to be slightly al dente and they should have leached their starch to the surface, so they will feel tacky. Remove them to a plate lined with a couple of paper towels and dry. It is important that the potatoes are dry before starting stage 2.

Stage 2 – Heat a large (12 inch) skillet over medium-high heat for 5 minutes (don’t use non-stick here). Add the fat and heat over medium-high heat until it just begins to smoke. Test the heat of the fat by dipping the edge of one potato slice in the fat. If it sizzles immediately, the fat is hot enough and you can add the potatoes in a single layer. If they all won’t fit in the skillet, you can do stage 2 in multiple batches. If the fat is not hot enough, continue heating it until you can get your test to sizzle. You are really just browning/reheating the potatoes and looking to get a golden crust on each side, so you probably won’t need more than about 2 minutes of cooking time on each side, checking after 1 minute to see the progress. After both sides are browned, remove to a cooking rack or a plate with a paper towel, season with salt and pepper to taste and serve right away. It pairs nicely with this Beef Carbonnade recipe.

Your end result should look something like this. You can also get really classy and serve it in a can, like I did.
Your end result should look something like this. You can also get really classy and serve it in a can, like I did.

Notes
You really want the potatoes dry before putting them in the fat since hot fat + water = bad news. Your cooking time will really depend on what type of fat you use. Animal fats (butter, bacon fat, duck fat) have a lower smoke point than vegetable fats (olive oil, vegetable oil), so they will reach that stage quicker and take longer to brown the potatoes, which is why you really want to check them after about the first minute. You can actually skip stage 2 if you want and just serve the potatoes steamed. Just increase the cooking time to about 16 minutes in the steamer. This dish would also benefit from the addition of some fresh rosemary, sage or thyme.

Toasted Quinoa Hash

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Too bad the Mayans hadn’t actually invented this dish, they might be remembered for something other than they amazing grasp of astronomy and a faulty calendar.

I like quinoa – it is nutty, easy to cook and really healthy for you since it is a whole grain and does not contain gluten. It is also one of the oldest cultivated agricultural products on the planet. I recently served a quinoa hash as a side dish for my End of the World meal. If you need a hearty side dish or something that can be expanded to a meal and cooked in really short time, this is one for you. I got the idea from this recipe from both Modernist Cuisine at Home and Cooks Illustrated, but the recipe is pretty much my version.

The Software
½ cup red (or any type) quinoa
2 teaspoons olive oil
¾ cup stock (chicken of veggie) or water
½ can black beans (preferably low or no sodium)
2 oz. queso fresco

The Recipe
Rinse the quinoa and drain. In a medium sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium high heat until it begins to shimmer. Add the quinoa and toss to coat with the oil. Sautee the quinoa for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden and fragrant. If it starts to brown deeply, lower the heat to medium. Add stock to the pot and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered until the quinoa begins to unfurl, about 15 minutes. Drain the beans and fluff the quinoa with a fork when it is finished. Add the beans to the quinoa, taste (add salt as necessary) and let sit covered for 10 minutes. Plate and sprinkle queso fresco on top. A sprinkle of chopped cilantro would also be nice.

Notes
The quinoa can be made in advanced and reheated with the beans prior to serving. This serves as a nice base for chicken, fish, veggies, or pretty much anything that you would want to put with it. Make sure you rinse the quinoa first and drain most of the water before putting it in the oil. Rinsing it removes a naturally occurring chemical on the grain that produces bitter flavors if you make it without washing it first. Quinoa can be found at most supermarkets either in the bulk food section, the rice isle, organic section or the ethnic foods section.

Enchilada Sauce – Another Use for Green Tomatoes

By Iron Chef Leftovers

If you have green tomatoes, one of the best things to use them for is enchiladas. You can easily use the tomatoes to replace tomatillos in the sauce and get something that tastes about 100 times better than anything that will come out of a can.

The Software
3 lbs. green tomatoes, cut into 1 inch pieces, woody parts removed
¼ cup minced onion
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 jalapeno pepper, diced, seeds removed
2 cups stock or water
Salt

The Recipe
In a sauce pan over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add onion and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly, until they begin to become translucent. Add garlic and cook for additional 30 seconds until the garlic becomes fragrant. Add the tomatoes, pepper and liquid and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 10-15 minutes until the tomatoes are tender. In several batches, take the contents of the pot and puree until smooth. Return the puree to the pot over medium heat and bring to a boil. Once the sauce begins to boil, continue to cook until it thickens (5-10 minutes), stirring about every minute. Once the sauce has reached the desired consistency, add salt to taste and it is ready to use.

Notes
You can pretty much put this over anything – pasta, chicken, pork, veggies or enchiladas. If you like it hotter, add more peppers, or better yet, add some serrano peppers. If you like it less spicy, remove the pepper or reduce the amount. If you want a super kicked up version of this sauce, when you add the garlic, add 1 ½ teaspoons of the following: cumin, dried oregano, smoked paprika, adobo, garlic powder and black pepper. Follow the recipe as is otherwise.

Farro – The Other Brown Grain

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Farro, or emmer as it is also known, is an ancient grain that is popular in Italian cooking and is starting to gain acceptance in the US because of its high nutritional value and diabetic friendly properties. I tend to use is as a substitute for rice and I love its nutty flavor and tend to cook it to an al dente consistency to give it some toothiness. It is a simple grain to cook and it is pretty much like cooking rice.

The Software
½ cup farro
2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt

The Recipe
In a medium sauce pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the farro and toss in the olive oil until coated. Cook over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds. Add the stock and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Once at a boil, reduce heat to medium low and simmer covered for 30-40 minutes. Check the grain after about 25 minutes – you are looking for a consistency that is slightly chewy, but not crunchy. The farro may be cooked before it absorbs all of the liquid. If it is, drain the liquid and season as needed (a little salt and pepper usually are nice, maybe a couple of teaspoons of nice olive oil). This can be served either hot or cold.

Notes
You can replace the stock with water if you want – the stock adds flavor, but isn’t necessary. Use farro in place of brown rice as a side dish or put it cold on a salad for a nice, nutty crunch. It is also really good with some slivered almonds and dried cranberries as a side dish – just add those in once the liquid is drained and toss.

Mexican Chicken Cacciatore

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Ok, I promise this is the last of the tomato recipes I will post for a while. I just have about 25 lbs. or so of tomatoes that I have been trying to make my way through, so I have been coming up with new and creative ways to use them. The other night, I thought chicken cacciatore, but I had a bunch of other ingredients I wanted to use and I had a hankering for some black beans, so I decided to do a Mexican version of the classic Italian dish.

The Software
8 oz. chicken breast, cut into ½ inch pieces
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground adobe or paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ cup onions, sliced thin
1 large bell pepper, cut into ½ inch pieces
1 tablespoon chile pepper
¾ lb. tomatoes, cut into ½ inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup minced cilantro

 

Mecican Chicken Caccitore – All part of a well balanced meal

The Recipe
Heat a 12 inch skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil when hot. Pat dry the chicken and combine in a bowl with the cumin, garlic, salt and paprika. Toss to coat. When the oil is just beginning to smoke, add the chicken to the pan. Sear for 2 minutes until just beginning to brown (you are not trying to cook it, just brown it). Transfer to a bowl. Add one table spoon of oil. Reduce heat to medium and heat the oil for one minute. Add the onions and sauté until they become translucent – about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and oregano and cook until the tomatoes have just begun to fall apart. Add the peppers and cook for about 8-10 minutes until the tomatoes have completed broken down into a smooth sauce. Add the chicken and cilantro and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer until the chicken is cooked but still tender – 5-7 minutes. Check seasonings, adjust as necessary and serve.

Notes
I served this over yellow rice and black beans, but you could serve this over whatever you would like. I used a pablano pepper, but if you like hotter, use any you would like. If the sauce is too thick, add a little water, white wine or stock. You want it to be moderately thick before you add the chicken. If it is too thin, keep cooking it before you add the chicken until it reaches the thickness you want. I didn’t bother seeding or peeling the tomatoes, but you could do that if you desire. The recipe serves 2 easily – we actually had leftovers.

Quick Tomato Salad

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Since I now need to harvest all of my tomatoes before the cool nights cause them to split (not to mention the basil, tarragon and Vietnamese coriander), dinner pretty much every night in the Iron Chef household is going to consist of something tomatoish. A nice, quick and easy recipe is a tomato salad. It is cool and refreshing for those remaining few warm evenings and it is quick and simple if you don’t want to think about putting together something elaborate.

The Software
½ cucumber, seeds removed, cut into ¼ inch pieces
¼ cup onion, sliced thin or cut into ¼ inch pieces
¾ lb. tomatoes, cut into ½ inch pieces
1 tbsp. basil, minced
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ tsp. red wine vinegar
Salt
Pepper

 

The finished product in all its tomato happiness.

The Salad
Combine cucumbers, onion, tomatoes, olive oil and vinegar into a bowl. Toss to combine and let stand for 7 minutes on the counter. Add basil and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a crusty piece of bread to soak up the juices.

Notes
That is it, quick and easy. You can skip the sitting for 7 minutes piece and serve right away, but that will mean your onions will be stronger in flavor and you won’t get the really tasty juice to soak up. You can really add anything you want to this, but in season tomatoes bring much more flavor to the party. If you are using out of season tomatoes, use balsamic vinegar instead of red wine to account for the lack of sweetness in the tomatoes. If you tomatoes are like mine, super sweet, don’t use balsamic – it will be too sweet. The recipe feeds two easily and can be scaled as much as you want.

Tomato and Goat Cheese Scramble

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Happy little eggs just waiting to be eaten

If you are like me and decided to grow tomatoes in the Seattle area, you are just beginning to enjoy the fruits of your labor, although you are probably hoping that the 80% of the tomatoes on your plant that are still green will ever ripen. (Quick hint – cut back on watering them, it will cause them to stop producing fruit and try to ripen what is there). That being said, I tend to get more tomatoes than I know what to do with in one sitting, so I get creative with them. Since the ones that I grow at home taste about 100 times better than anything you can get in the store, I use them in just about everything. One of my favorite applications is with eggs. You don’t need to cook them and they add a ton of flavor and brightness to any egg dish. Below is a recent breakfast I made for Mrs. Iron Chef Leftovers with some of the tomatoes and basil from the garden. The recipe feeds one but can be easily scaled.

 

The lovely raw ingredients. It is making me hungry just looking at them

 

 

The Software
2 Large eggs
1 tablespoon diced or minced onion
¼ cup tomatoes, diced
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon basil, chiffanade (probably about 1 large leaf)
1 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
1 teaspoon olive oil
Salt
Pepper

The Scramble
In a medium, non-stick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until it starts to become translucent, about 5 minutes. While the oil is heating, combine eggs and milk and beat with a fork until combined, let sit. Add the eggs to the pan when the onions are cooked and turn heat to medium low. When the eggs begin to start to form a curd (i.e. begin to become solid) gently break apart with a silicone spatula into smaller pieces; this will happen quickly, so keep an eye on it. Add the goat cheese and stir until incorporated; maybe 1-2 minutes. Once everything is incorporated, remove from heat and add the tomatoes and basil. Toss to combine and let sit for one minute. Add salt and pepper to taste, plate and serve to a happy wife.

The finished product. You may commence your drooling now.

Notes
You can leave out the cheese or substitute it with just about any kind you want. I happen to love the combination of goat cheese, tomato and basil, but cheddar works well also. The key to this dish is the low heat – it will allow the curds to be fluffy and light. Also, the more liquid you add to the eggs before cooking them, the fluffier they become. If you have particularly juicy tomatoes, remove some of the liquid before adding to the pan, otherwise you will have watery scrambled eggs. I tend to not cook the tomatoes because I like their raw flavor better. If you want to cook them, add them to the onions after they have been cooking for about 3 minutes. This recipe also works as an omelet too, but that is for another show.

Avocado Yogurt Dressing

By Iron Chef Leftovers

It is summer and it is hot out, so you probably don’t feel like cooking anything in the kitchen and you don’t always have veggies that can be grilled easily. I tend to eat a lot of salad in the summer – they are quick and easy, refreshing and tasty salad greens are easily found during the summer. Another summertime treat are avocados. Mrs. Iron Chef loves them and they are very versatile. They also make a great salad dressing that is so good that you can actually use it as an accompaniment to fish, chicken or pork (and probably beef, although I have never tried it). All you need is 5 minutes, a few simple ingredients and a blender.

The Software
½ of a ripe avocado, pitted, skin removed and roughly chopped
½ cup good quality yogurt
¼ cup cilantro
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
Salt
Pepper

The Recipe
Take all of the ingredients except the oil and add the blender. Pulse a few times to break up the avocado and then with the blender running, add the oil slowly until the dressing comes together. Add salt and pepper to taste and you are done. Toss with salad or serve as a sauce for meat or veggies.

Notes
A clove of garlic, a squeeze of lime or a small hot pepper would also be nice in this dressing. If you would like the dressing thinner, add some water slowly to dilute until you reach the ideal consistency. This makes about 1 cup of dressing, which is a lot of a salad, but it is so good you might not end up with leftovers anyway.

Creamy Mushroom Soup – An Even Easier Recipe

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Here is the even easier version of the Mushroom Soup recipe posted yesterday. It is relative since this saves you about 5 minutes total on the cooking of the soup and exchanges the roux and the volute with an extra potato for thickening. These recipes make about 1 quart of soup and freeze really well.

The Software
1 1/2 lbs mushrooms – you can use any kind you want
3 small or 2 medium Yukon Gold potato
1/2 oz dried Porcini (or any other kind of dried) mushrooms
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups water
1/4 cup marsala or port wine
1/8 cup cognac
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and Pepper

The Prep
Rinse the mushrooms well to remove dirt – you don’t need to worry about soaking them with water – they aren’t going to be seared. Half any that are larger than a 1 inch diameter. Scrub the potatoes and cut into quarters for a small potato or eights for a medium one.

The Soup
Add the mushrooms, potatoes, stock, thyme, marsala and cognac to the pot (don’t add the water just yet).If there is not enough liquid in the pot to cover all the dry ingredients, add a bit more stock or water to cover. Just a reminder, mushrooms do float, so it may look like they are not covered. If you are not sure, submerge them and see if there is any liquid on top of them. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 1 hour.

The Finish
Puree the soup in three parts in a blender (BE CAREFUL, it is HOT). Taste and add salt and pepper. If you want a thinner soup, add additional stock or water. The soup is great on its own or add in some rice or pasta, maybe a few leaves of fresh thyme or a dab of sour cream or a dash of sherry vinegar and consume.