INCREDIBLY SIMPLE TIMES FOUR: OCTOBER 2018

Time to feature recipes that are so simple they hardly qualify as such.

INCREDIBLY SIMPLE #1

AIR-FRIED CHICKPEAS
(also work in a regular oven)

AIR-FRIED CHICKPEAS

1 can chickpeas
a little olive oil
spices of your choice (I used Southwest mix from Penzey’s)
salt
grated Parmigiano cheese

Drain the chickpeas and dry them on paper towels. You need to prevent them from steaming, as much as possible. Place them in a bowl, coat lightly with olive oil, and add the spices of your choice, just a little sprinkle will do. Season with salt.

Spray the basket of your air-fryer with olive oil. Set it to 360 F. Add the chickpeas and roast them for 12 to 15 minutes, shaking the basket every five minutes or so.  Transfer them to a serving bowl, and sprinkle Parmigiano while they are hot. Enjoy right away, or store them for many hours at room temperature, uncovered. They are still excellent next day.

If using a regular oven, set it to 400F, and roast the chickpeas for 25 to 30 minutes.

to print the recipe, click here

I’ve made them both ways, oven and air-fryer. The air-fryer gives a little more crunch, so it is my favorite method. The fact that it is so fast does not hurt it either!  Beware, they are addictive. Perfect to nibble as appetizer but also quite good sprinkled over salads, spinach in particular goes well with crunchy chickpeas. Curry is a great spice to add to them before air-frying/roasting. Make sure to save them in an open bowl, they keep their crunchy nature better that way. Not that they will last that long.

INCREDIBLY SIMPLE #2

LEMONY SAUTEED ZUCCHINI

LEMONY ZUCCHINI

Prepare enough zucchini pieces to almost cover a 12-inch non-stick frying pan, like shown below:


Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pan and allow it to heat until almost smoking. Add the pieces of zucchini, season with salt and pepper, and do not touch them. Let them develop a dark golden color on the side touching the pan, like shown below:

Only when they get to this point, move them to get some color on another side. Again, move them as little as possible, and wait for a deep color to develop. When the zucchini is tender (but not mushy), squeeze lemon juice all over, and shake the pan to move the slices around and gently coat them with the lemony glaze that forms.  Serve immediately, adjust seasoning if necessary.

INCREDIBLY SIMPLE #3

SMOKED RICE

Smoked rice, you ask? I first read about it in a blog I follow, Love and Olive Oil. Lindsay bought some smoked Basmati rice and raved about it. I was intrigued, and decided to take the smoke into my own hands. If you don’t have a smoker, you can follow the method described hereIf you have an electric smoker, it’s quite straightforward…

Add hickory wooden chips (or any wood you like) to the smoker

and set it to 175 F.

Place 2 cups of rice on a quarter-sheet baking pan.

Smoke it for one hour.

Allow it to cool completely, and cook the rice as you normally would.

 

I cooked one cup and saved another smoked cup for later. I was afraid that the rice would be all clumped up, because I did not want to rinse it after smoking. To my surprise, it was super fluffy, all grains well separated. The hour of heating at 175 F did not hurt anything, quite the contrary.  The rice had just the right amount of smokiness, and was excellent as a side dish for some sausages cooked sous-vide. We are smoking rice quite often these days…

INCREDIBLY SIMPLE #4

SOUS-VIDE ITALIAN SAUSAGES

SOUS-VIDE ITALIAN SAUSAGES

5 Italian sausages
1/2 cup Lager beer
salt and pepper

Heat the sous-vide to 170 F.

Place the sausages inside a food-safe plastic bag. Add the beer, season with a little salt and pepper.  Use the water displacement method to close the bag.

Submerge the bag and cook the sausages for 1  to 3 hours.

Remove the sausages from the bag, discard the cooking liquid. Dry the sausages very well, and crisp them up on a non-stick pan with a light coating of oil, or on a hot grill.

The sausages cooked sous-vide can also be kept in the fridge for a couple of days. When you want to serve them, place them in hot water for 5 minutes, then proceed to saute them as described.

to print the recipe, click here

Sous-vide sausages, smoked rice, and a little butternut squash on the side…

When we cook sausages on the grill, we go through a pretty elaborate method of switching them from the grill to a pan with simmering beer on top of the stove. They go back and forth, back and forth, from simmering to the grill, to make sure they end up moist and flavorful. The sous-vide delivers the same quality in terms of texture, without any hassle at all. I doubt I will cook this type of sausage any other way. Even warmed up in the microwave two days later, they were excellent.  If you have a sous-vide gadget, give it a try.

I realize that this series of Incredibly Easy recipes used an air-fryer, electric smoker, and a sous-vide, but except for the Italian sausages, all others can be prepared without any special cooking equipment.

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BOURBON-GLAZED PORK TENDERLOIN WITH PEA PESTO

At the risk of having some readers running away, I inform that this was made sous-vide. But, you can adapt to your favorite method of cooking without problems. I made the glaze and the pesto the day before, and started the tenderloin in the sous-vide at lunch time, for a fantastically easy dinner on a Thursday evening. As I pat myself on the back, allow me to share the recipe with you.

BOURBON-GLAZED PORK TENDERLOIN WITH PEA PESTO
(adapted from Modernist Cooking Made Easy)

1 pork tenderloin (450g to 900g)
small pat of butter
2 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper

for the Bourbon glaze:
1 cup bourbon
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup ketchup
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup apple cider
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cayenne chile powder
1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
Salt and pepper

for the pesto:
2 cups frozen peas
1 cup packed fresh spinach
1/2 cup pecans
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp dried mint
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons grated Parmigiano cheese
Salt and pepper

At least 3 to 6 hours before serving heat a water bath to 150°F (or your favorite temperature for this type of meat).  Salt and pepper the pork then rub the lemon juice all over it. Place the pork in a sous vide bag with the butter then use the water displacement method to close the bag. Cook the pork for 3 to 6 hours.

Make the glaze by mixing together all ingredients in a pan, and simmering for about 30 minutes, until thickened. Reserve in the fridge if made in advance.

Make the pesto by adding all ingredients up to olive oil to the bowl of a food processor. When it’s all very smooth, add the olive oil, stir the Parmigiano cheese, and season with salt and pepper.  It is better if made in advance so that the flavors have a chance to develop together.  

At dinner time, heat  your grill or the broiler in the oven.  Remove the pork from the sous vide bag and pat dry. Brush the tenderloin with the glaze and sear it on the first side for a couple of minutes. Brush the glaze on the side facing up and turn the tenderloin. Repeat several times until it is coated with the glaze, cooking about 30 to 60 seconds per turn. Remove from the heat, brush once more with the glaze, slice and serve with the pesto at room temperature.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The composite photo above shows how I almost pulled my left hamstring. I started “simmering” the components of the glaze, but evidently things got out of control, and I happened to catch the scene from the other side of the kitchen. Let’s say I arrived in time to prevent a huge mess, but not without some discomfort on a big muscle that was not happy with the unexpected sprint. Oh, well. It was all worth it. The glaze is pretty spectacular. And yes, I increased the heat again to catch it on camera because it was quite beautiful in its own adrenaline-inducing way. Reminded me of the lab in Brazil, when we used to throw dry ice in hot coffee. Fun times. Have you ever done that? Pretty cool, check it out here.

But, where was I? Oh, yes, our dinner. The pesto was wonderful too, but hubby preferred it warmed up, more like a pea puree of sorts. I like the contrast of cold with hot food, but I can actually enjoy it both ways. I leave the idea here, so you can decide how to serve it.  On a chilly evening, the puree idea is quite attractive.

Those familiar with sous-vide cooking might be wondering why I chose water displacement instead of vacuum sealing the bag. I’ve cooked pork tenderloin both ways, and in my opinion the vacuum sealing is too strong for this delicate type of meat. I find that it compresses the meat too much. By using the water replacement, it cooks with a perfect texture. Give it a try…

Great weeknight dinner! Pork, pea pesto, and roasted butternut squash.

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SOUS-VIDE EGG BITES

Disclaimer: I am taking liberties with the term sous-vide, which means under vacuum. Obviously, not the case when using food placed inside a glass jar. But Sous-vide egg bites sounds better than “Water-Bath-Precision-Cooked Egg Bites”  

😉

Whenever we travel, we need to get our Java fix at Starbucks. Not our favorite coffee shop (we are partial to Peet’s or smaller, family operated joints), but sometimes it is the most convenient option. In one of these trips a few years ago, I noticed in their menu “sous-vide egg bites.” Seemed like a perfect option, not carb-loaded as most items available. Because we usually cannot cook during trips, I’m always trying to find ways to moderate the carb intake while away from home. I was intrigued and ordered one. Loved it. Now, whenever we find ourselves at Starbucks, I get my sous-vide egg fix. But what is even better than that? I can make them at home, six at a time, and grab them from the fridge whenever I want. A super brief encounter with microwaves and I’m all set!

SOUS-VIDE EGG BITES
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, adapted from several sources)

6 (4-ounce) jars with screw caps
6 large eggs
½ cup heavy cream
¼ cup cream cheese
¼ cup grated mozzarella cheese
½ teaspoon salt

add-ons:
12 cherry tomatoes, roasted
or
pieces of cooked bacon
or
diced ham
or
caramelized onions
or
smoked salmon

Heat the sous-vide water-bath to 185ºF.

Combine the eggs, heavy cream, cream cheese, mozzarella cheese and salt in a blender and blend until smooth. Put the additions of your choice in the bottom of each jar and then fill the jars with the egg mixture. Screw the lids on, only fingertip tight. Do not screw them tightly.

Place the jars into the sous-vide water bath and cook for 45 to 60 minutes.  Remove the jars very carefully from the water-bath (use tongs, they will be very hot). Enjoy warm or refrigerate for a few days.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Most exciting part of this recipe is dropping the little jars in the sous-vide bath. What can I say? I am easily amused. It is very important not to tighten the lids too much, but of course if you don’t fully close them it will be a very messy situation. So what I do is: I tighten them well, then unscrew just a little bit.

You can adapt this method to your taste, using the add-ons I suggested, or anything else you might like. Perhaps cooked broccoli, sautéed spinach, grated carrots. Very flexible recipe. I normally make a batch in the weekend and enjoy a couple of these as a light lunch during the week. A little Ak-Mak cracker on the side, and I am a very happy sous-vider.

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RACK OF LAMB SOUS-VIDE WITH COUSCOUS SALAD

Mid-July, and here I am to share with you a recipe we enjoyed on the first week of January. No particular reason for dragging my feet for so long, it was a memorable dinner, probably the juiciest lamb we’ve had at home. It was prepared sous-vide, but of course you can use any method you are comfortable with. The thing is, rack of lamb is such a special cut, I always get a bit nervous when I have to prepare it. It must be medium-rare, or you’ll have a disaster on your plate. Of course, meat thermometers are there to help us out, but the option of using sous-vide takes the stress completely out of it. I love that. For the same dinner, I made Potatoes Anna, but that is still a work in progress. Read on…

RACK OF LAMB SOUS-VIDE  WITH COUSCOUS SALAD
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, adapted from several sources)

for the meat:
1 rack of lamb
1 teaspoon oregano (I used Mexican)
1 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
Salt and pepper
for the salad:
2 cups cooked couscous
1 cucumber, diced
2 large Roma tomatoes, diced
dried mint to taste  (use fresh when available)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
to glaze:
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Heat the water bath to 130 ° F.

Season the lamb lightly with salt and pepper all over. Mix the oregano, paprika and coriander in a small bowl. Rub the mixture over the meat, place it in a sous-vide type bag and seal it.  Submerge in the heated water-bath and cook for 4 hours.

For the salad, heat the olive oil on a small pan, just to raise its temperature, no need to have it smoking.  Remove from heat, add the dried mint, and let it cool to room temperature. Whisk the lemon juice. Mix the cooked couscous, cucumber, and tomatoes in a bowl. Add the prepared dressing. If using fresh mint, simply add it to the olive oil and lemon juice, no need to warm the oil up. Season with salt and pepper, taste and adjust seasoning.

When the lamb is almost ready to leave the water-bath, make a glaze mixing the honey with lemon juice. Remove the lamb from the bag, brush some of the glaze all over and sear the surface either on a very hot skillet, or on a hot grill. You can also run it under the broiler, watching it carefully.  Slice the lamb in individual ribs, and serve with the cool couscous salad.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This was superb! You can double the recipe, cook two racks of lamb and invite a couple of special friends over. But in this particular dinner, it was just the two of us. And three pups absolutely mesmerized by the smell wafting through the kitchen.  Now, to the Potatoes Anna, one of my favorite ways to enjoy potatoes, a bit of an indulgence, of course. Potatoes and butter in proportions to make those two little entities show up, one on each side of your head. The evil one tells you not to worry about a thing, life is short. The other one asks if you noticed how much butter went into that innocent looking platter of food… Tell them both to leave you alone, enjoy the meal and be a bit more austere for a couple of days. There. You’ve got this!

But, I digress. I told you the Potatoes Anna are a work in progress, and you might be wondering why. Here it is…

A bit too brown, I think.  I used the method by America’s Test Kitchen, but I think it calls for too long on top of the stove. Maybe the flame in our stove is stronger than the one they used. That could explain, it’s hard to believe they would have made a mistake. Next time I intend to cut the time a bit shorter or use one of the weaker flames on the back of our Supernova. At any rate, the inside was very creamy, perfectly cooked.

Once I re-visit and optimize this recipe, I will be ready to share with you!

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PORK TENDERLOIN, BRACIOLE STYLE

There I go taking liberties with food once again. Braciole is a very traditional Italian recipe made with beef. Flank steak, butterflied and pounded thin is the meat of choice for it. I used pork tenderloin. And I made it sous-vide. Reckless. Times two.

PORK TENDERLOIN, BRACIOLE STYLE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by Jeff Mauro)

1 pork tenderloin, butterflied, pounded thin
salt and pepper
smoked mozzarella, sliced thin
8 asparagus stalks, blanched and cooled
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup sun-dried cherry tomatoes packed in oil, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons walnuts, toasted and diced
3 tablespoons raisins
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
for searing:
a little olive oil
a little lemon juice
a touch of maple syrup

Make the filling by mixing Panko bread crumbs, tomatoes, walnuts, raisins and olive oil in a small bowl. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Place the butterflied pork tenderloin on a flat surface, season with salt and pepper. Lay slices of smoked mozzarella over the surface, leaving a little border without cheese all around. Place the stalks of asparagus over the cheese, add the filling on top.  Roll the meat as tightly as  you can make it, tie with kitchen twine at 2 inch intervals. Season the surface lightly with salt and pepper. If using sous-vide, seal the meat and place in a water-bath set to 140F. Cook for 2 to 6 hours.

Make the brushing sauce by mixing  olive oil, lemon juice, and maple syrup in a small bowl. Remove the meat from the bag,  brush the surface with the olive oil mixture, and sear on a hot grill or non-stick pan. Cut in slices and serve.

If cooking on a regular oven, sear the surface of the meat over high heat after brushing with the olive oil mixture. Place in a 375 F oven until done to your liking.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: You can definitely make this exact recipe without a sous-vide gadget. The  big advantage of sous-vide is keeping the rolled meat nicely tight. No filling spills out, it is all contained by the vacuum packing. And, of course, the flexibility with timing is a nice touch too. Anywhere from 2 to 6 hours will work perfectly well, all you have to do after is sear the outside for cosmetic reasons. For our taste the pork cooked at 140F was too rare. I was kicking myself for choosing that temperature, knowing that we do not like the taste of the meat when it’s still a bit pink. So, full disclosure: I seared the cut slices briefly on a skillet before we enjoyed them. Next time I’ll go for 150F.

The smoked  mozzarella does a magical job in the filling. It packs so much flavor, and it pairs well with the sweetness of the raisins and the sun-dried tomatoes. A very nice main dish well suited for company. You can serve it with many sides: mashed cauliflower, mashed potatoes, a little pasta, or a lemony risotto. If you prefer a more austere route, just a salad with a bright vinaigrette will do.

Soon I’ll make the traditional version with flank steak, since we enjoyed this one so much.  Flank steak will be easier to roll in layers, the pork tenderloin ends up more like a single layer of meat enclosing the filling.  I imagine that I could have pounded it a bit thinner, but I was afraid to compromise the texture of the meat.  At any rate, this one is a keeper, and I hope that – sous-vide or not – you’ll give it a try.

Make me happy… grab a pin!

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PORK MEDALLIONS WITH BLACKBERRY COMPOTE

Sounds pretty fancy, doesn’t it? But this was our dinner on a humble Wednesday night, which would make it appropriate for a “Celebrate Wednesday” post. It’s been a long while,  I confess I totally forgot about my own blog feature. The pork was prepared sous-vide, but of course you can use any method you prefer. I love the sous-vide path because it results in perfect texture and gives me a lot of flexibility in timing.  In the case of medallions, after cooking them whole in the water bath I slice and sear them briefly on a screaming hot non-stick pan with ridges, but you can also use a grill. On weeknights I am all for convenience and prefer not to wait for the grill to heat up.  Your call.

pork-tenderloin

PORK MEDALLIONS WITH BLACKBERRY COMPOTE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)
(sous-vide or regular cooking)

1 pork tenderloin, trimmed, silver skin removed
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 tablespoon butter
lemon juice
for the compote:
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups blackberries
1 teaspoon arrowroot powder
2 teaspoons lemon juice
zest of 1/2 lemon
pinch of cardamon
pinch of salt

Season the pork with salt, rub the ginger all over, squirt a little lemon juice. Place it in a vacuum sealable bag, add the butter on top and seal the bag. Cook sous-vide at 140 to 145 F for 3 to 6 hours. When it’s time to serve, cut the pork in medallions and sear each slice on a screaming hot pan, preferably non-stick with ridges.  You can also sear it on a grill.  If you don’t have a sous-vide gadget, sear the pork after seasoning on a skillet with a mixture of butter and olive oil, then place in a 400 F oven until done to your liking.  Cut in slices and proceed with the recipe.

Make the compote. In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. In a medium bowl, toss the berries with the arrowroot powder, then add the berries, lemon juice, cardamon, and salt to the pan. Cook over low heat until the berries soften and the liquid seems a bit thick and syrupy, about 15 minutes, stirring every once in a while.

Spoon the compote, either warm or room temperature over the seared pork slices, and serve right away.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Pairing pork with fruit works very well for my taste.  Phil goes along for the ride, but I suppose he is not as into it as I am. I debated whether to process the fruit to make more of a sauce, but for the sake of speed and simplicity, I served it with blackberries still intact, although ready to melt in the mouth. The compote was still warm when I spooned over the meat, next day for my lunch I barely killed the cold from the fridge with a quick microwave step. Even at room temperature it does its job well.   Mashed cauliflower and green beans with almonds tied up our dinner. Interestingly,  this meal took me back to a dinner in Germany a looong time ago with my first husband and his family. That evening I had venison with blackberry sauce, and it stayed in my memory as one amazing meal.  I could not participate of their lively conversation in German, so maybe that made it for an even more intense gastronomic experience, all my senses converged to taste and smell…  Gotta dance to the music. Always.

😉

pork-medallions-with-blackberry-compote

 

 

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CHICKEN KORMA-ISH

Chicken Korma is a classic Indian recipe, but due to the considerable amount of liberties I took with this classic, I must be upfront about it in the title, to avoid the Food Police coming after me.  For starters, I cooked it sous-vide. I know, what was I thinking?  But I tell you, the perfect texture is worth it. Perhaps you are familiar with the concept of velveting meat before stir-frying? It is widely used in Chinese cooking and does wonders for chicken breast, pork tenderloin, or shrimp, typical types of protein that will often dry up when submitted to the intense heat of the wok. Chicken Korma is not a stir-fry, but the improvement in texture offered by the gentle cooking in the water-bath made me think of velveting. To add insult to injury, I omitted several spices that make Korma a Korma. There you go. Rebel. My middle name. Inspiration came from this recipe at Anova Culinary, a great source for sous-vide cooking.

chicken-korma

SOUS-VIDE CHICKEN KORMA
(inspired by Anova Culinary)

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 shallot, cut into small dice
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 tablespoon Madras curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup Greek yogurt
1/3 cup cashews
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Fresh cilantro, for serving

Set the sous-vide to 150°F (65°C).

Heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the shallot and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste, salt, ginger, garam masala, curry powder, cinnamon, turmeric and pepper. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until aromatic, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to a food processor or blender. Add the cream, yogurt, cashews, lemon juice, and honey. Process until smooth, about 1 minute. Combine the pureed sauce with the chicken in a large zipper lock bag. Seal the bag using the water immersion technique and place in the water bath. Set the timer for 2 hours to 3 hours.

When the timer goes off, remove the bag from the water bath. Transfer the entire contents of the bag to a serving bowl and garnish with cilantro.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

served

Comments: We adored this recipe. Period. If you look at the original, you’ll notice I substantially reduced the amount of heavy cream. It was plenty rich this way already, and it had enough sauce in the bag to form a luscious sauce. Of course, if you prefer the extra richness given by more cream, go for it.  I also used fewer spices.  On my second time around, instead of cilantro I sautéed a few cashews until golden brown and sprinkled all over when bringing it to the table. Phil liked the second version even better, I cannot decide.  One thing is certain; this will go in our regular rotation of recipes. If you don’t have sous-vide, simply use a regular pan, saute the chicken pieces (you could velvet them before for better texture), then add the ingredients for the sauce and simmer very gently until cooked through.  Yogurt has a tendency to separate, something that might be a bit more likely cooking on the stove top. Indeed, that is another benefit of sous-vide, with such a gentle heat, the yogurt mellows down gently, without putting up a fight and curdling right in front of your eyes…

secondSecond time around… double cashews, ground in the sauce,
and sautéed for serving…


chicken-korma-from-bewitching-kitchen

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