Veal Chops with Sun-Dried Tomato Risotto

Ever since the first time I made risotto, I’ve wanted to make it with sun-dried tomatoes.

There’s a lot of fear surrounding homemade risotto –this stigma that if you stop stirring you’ll be banished to kitchen hell. The truth is…that isn’t the truth. Yes, you need strong arms and patience. But it’s really only 20 minutes of your time, so what’s the big deal, right? The end result is so creamy and rich that you’ll think it was worth it.

So I did it: sun-dried tomato risotto. Once you’ve made a basic risotto, any flavors can be added to it to make it even more spectacular and unique. I needed a meat to go with this dish and veal loin chops were on sale (cheaper than a ribeye). Veal loin chops are the equivalent to a T-bone steak, but it’s juicier and more tender. Jon remarked that it was sinful for a baby cow to taste so good…and I couldn’t agree more. Sorry, baby cow. 😦

Before you judge me any further for my use of butter, let me explain. You know that unbelievable steak you had last week? Know why it tastes so great? Butter. That incredibly silky smooth sauce served over your pasta? Butter. Those chocolate chip cookies you can’t get enough of? Butter. There you have it – butter is better. Use less if you want, but I can’t promise it’ll be the same.

Sun-Dried Tomato Risotto 

1 quart chicken broth

1 stick butter, divided in half

1/2 medium sized onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes

1 1/2 cups arborio rice

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

garnish: fresh basil

1. Bring chicken broth to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and set aside. Cover to keep warm.

2. Melt 1/2 stick butter in a medium size sauce pan. Add onions and garlic and cook until tender. (*note – the only thing that smells better than onions and garlic cooking in olive oil is onions and garlic cooking in butter)

3. Add sun-dried tomatoes and cook for about 10 minutes.

4. Add arborio rice and coat with the juices formed from the onions, garlic, and butter.

5. Add the white wine and stir until all liquid is absorbed.

6. Add chicken stock half a cup at at time, stirring between each addition so that liquid is full absorbed.

7. When all chicken stock has been added, mix in the parmesan cheese along with the other half of the stick of butter, cut into cubes. Garnish with basil and serve.

Veal Loin Chops with Brown Butter Sage Sauce

2 veal loin chops

flour, salt, and pepper for dredging

1/2 stick butter

2 tablespoons milk

4 fresh sage leaves

1. Dredge veal in flour, salt, and pepper.

2. Melt butter in a large skillet. Add sage leaves and veal, cooking for about 4 minutes on each side.

3. Remove veal from the pan and add milk to thicken the sauce. Return veal to pan and cook for additional 2-3 minutes. Serve immediately.

on bread alone

It’s frustrating that something so simple — something that people ate in biblical times — can not be easily created in my kitchen. It’s probable that baking a loaf of bread is trying even in a kitchen this isn’t 5,280 feet above sea level. It has to ferment, and proof, and rise – and after all that work you’re supposed to punch that dough right in the kisser? Really? No wonder that bread doesn’t want to bake…it’s totally stressed out.

I’ve had issues with all sorts of baked goods at high altitude – cookies, pizza dough, shortbread. When I took on the task of baking homemade whole wheat bread, I am sure my subconscious knew that it’d probably go wrong. But I didn’t really want to admit to myself that it actually would go wrong.

The first attempt I made at whole wheat bread generated a rock. I mean, like, solid airless dough hardened in the oven. A rock. The dog didn’t even want to eat it. Failure.

Of course, my dear friend Smitten Kitchen references The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, a book that I’d willingly accept as a gift.  I don’t necessarily know why this worked, but it did. Interestingly, the recipe calls for mixing the yeast in directly with the flour and then adding water. My biggest problem with my bread failure was that it just wouldn’t rise, which is silly because I’ve heard that the problem with baking yeast based goods at high altitude is that it rises too much and too quickly. Alas, not for me which is why I probably ended up with that boulder in my oven. So, to insure rising, I heated my oven to 170 degrees and then turned it off. I covered my bowl o’ dough with a dish towel and let it rise for 90 minutes in the warm, draft-free oven. Holy smokes, the thing tripled in size. This was so much fun that I think I might just always bake homemade bread. Here’s the recipe:

Light Wheat Bread
*note: this is originally called for powdered milk. I did’t have it, thus I didn’t use it…

Makes one two-pound loaf

2 1/2 cups  unbleached bread flour
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar or honey ( I used both 🙂 )
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups water, at room temperature

1. Stir together the bread flour, whole-wheat flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in a 4-quart mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). Add the butter, honey, and water. Stir (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment) until the ingredients form a ball. If there is still flour in the bottom of the bowl, dribble in additional water. The dough should feel soft and supple. It is better for it to be a little too soft that to be too stiff and tough.

2. Sprinkle bread flour on the counter, and transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mix on medium speed with the dough hook *I used the dough hook because it is AWESOME). Add more flour if needed to make a firm, supple dough that is slightly tacky but not sticky. Kneading should take about 10 minutes (6 minutes by machine). Preheat oven to 170 degrees and then turn it off. Cover bowl with a dish towel and let sit in the oven.

3. Ferment in the oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

4. Remove the dough from the bowl and press it by hand into a rectangle about 3/4 inch thick, 6 inches wide, and 8 to 10 inches long. Form it into a loaf by working from the short side of the dough, rolling up the length of the dough one section at a time, pinching the crease with each rotation to strengthen the surface tension. It will spread wider as you roll it. Pinch the final seam closed with the back edge of your hand or with your thumbs. Place the loaf in a lightly oiled 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch bread pan; the ends of the loaf should touch the ends of the pan to ensure an even rise. Mist the top with spray oil and loosely cover with plastic wrap.

5. Proof at room temperature for approximately 60 to 90 minutes (as in, original recipe says 90 minutes.

6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F with the oven rack on the middle shelf.

7. Place the bread pan on a sheet pan and bake for 30 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees for even baking and continue baking for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the oven. If you want to use a meat thermometer to determine if your bread is done, it should register at about 190 degrees in the center.

8. Let cook for at least an hour before slicing.

I still think this bread was dense. It’s hard to make whole wheat bread that isn’t. Oh, but you say that bread you buy in the grocery store isn’t dense? Check the label. Bet you can’t pronounce half of what’s in it — gross! Nonetheless, it was a great bread with dinner, kinda like what you’d get at a restaurant with oil and vinegar…which was exactly how we ate it.

Sweet Potato Tartlets

I made these to go with a pork roast, which I would have blogged about except for the fact that once I tasted these the pork became seemingly less delicious and uninteresting. In fact, I ate about 2 bites of pork and about 5 of these.

Of course, in true Megan OCD form, I had bought sweet potatoes 4 days in advance because that’s how I grocery shop – on Sundays and for the whole week. (You wanna hang out on Wednesday? Sorry, I’ve got a date with an eggplant. Seriously. I’m that weird.) I was thinking I could just mash them and make a quick Thanksgiving-like sweet potato casserole. But then that would have involved another dirty dish and the pile was big and I’d spent 20 hours in the clinic at that point in the week. In other words, I was feeling lazy and needed an idea so I turned to my new bff Smitten Kitchen.

Not that I want you to read anyone else’s food blog except for mine, but she’s a true inspiration. She’s wonderful. And her kitchen is only 42 sq feet in an apartment in NYC. And she’s got a recipe for everything, including sweet potatoes.

I landed on this recipe for sweet potatoes with pecans and goat cheese and fell in love. Pecans + sweet potatoes makes for a heavenly combination. I would know, seeing as I made a sweet potato casserole with a pecan streusel last Thanksgiving. As you’d expect, the catch to this fabulous discovery is that I did not have pecans and was obviously not running to the store considering that this whole recipe hunt had begun because I was lazy.

But I did have walnuts. And since goat cheese is the most delicious form of cultured milk on the planet, I definitely had a little log of that in the fridge. So, smittenkitchen.com, thanks for the inspiration.

Sweet Potato Tartlets

2 large sweet potatoes, sliced into medallions

1/2 cup evoo

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup goat cheese, crumbled

preheat oven to 375 degrees

1. Lay sweet potatoes evenly on a baking sheet.

2. Whisk brown sugar and evoo together in a small bowl and drizzle over sweet potatoes.

3. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until sweet potatoes are tender. While baking, mix together cheese and nuts.

4.  Remove sweet potatoes from the oven and top with nut and cheese mixture. Return to oven and toast for 5-10 minutes.

 

*By the way, don’t call these yams. Those “candied yams” that you have at Thanksgiving are only marketed like that in the US South (and I have no idea why). You can read about the differences here. The orange flesh of the real deal is super rich in beta carotene, just like carrots. It’s good for your eyes and your skin, but a true yam is incredibly low in the vitamin. Don’t be fooled!

Cranberry and Almond Granola

Mom and Dad – I know what you’re thinking. We always told her that when she moved to Colorado she’d be “granola”. I think that implies something about being a vegan and dancing around barefoot in a tie dye dress with flowers in my hair and hemp jewelry on every appendage while listening to Bob Marley. To which, my response 7 years later is: yes, I listen to Bob Marley, and I may have at one point worn a hemp bracelet, and yeah, there was that brief stage in my life when I swore off meat and dairy (not recommended). HOWEVER…the fact that I have made homemade granola simply makes me feel accomplished. The thought of making something from scratch that I’d normally buy in a package at the store is a) reassuring – I know exactly what’s going into it  and there’s no preservatives or chemicals that I can’t pronounce and b) it’s really cool to take a bite, sit back, and think to myself, I made this and it.is.awesome.

My first attempt at granola was disastrous. I only lay half the blame on myself. It’s honestly the stupid oven’s fault. Apparently 350 degrees is too hot to bake granola (but not according to Martha or Ina, just according to Megan’s oven.) I was heartbroken. The Susie Homemaker in me was so excited to wake up on Saturday morning and bake this beautiful homemade cereal from scratch, and then all those happy thoughts went down the toilet when I could smell burnt coconut (gross!).

On the following day – a snowy/rainy/gross wintry mix of a Sunday – my granola debacle was over. It turns out, that mixing oats and honey with a spoon doesn’t evenly distribute the goo (DUH, Megan). Using your hands, although sticky, gets the job done. To account for the fact that my oven gets hotter than Hades, I reduced the temp to 250.  I know 100 degrees difference sounds drastic, but when you’ve filled your house with the smell of burning oats once you really don’t want to do it again. Not to mention the fact that the Granola Disaster of 2011 resulted in me throwing a temper tantrum in the middle of my kitchen and I really didn’t need to show that side of myself again (not that the cat cares).

Here’s the recipe that worked..

Cranberry and Almond Granola

2 cups old-fashioned oats

1 cup shredded sweetened coconut

1 cup sliced almonds

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 honey

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon cinnamon sugar

1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

1. In a large mixing bowl, mix together oats, coconut and almonds. 

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, honey, brown sugar and cinnamon sugar. The mixture will be thick.

3. Lay oat mixture on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Drizzle honey mixture over the oats and mix well with hands.

4. Bake for about 45 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasional with a spatula.

5. When granola is golden, take from oven and allow to cool. Mix in cranberries.

Granola can be stored in an air tight container until it is devoured.

Also, this recipe is incredibly flexible. Any dried fruit works, any nut works, and you can certainly eliminate the coconut if you hate it.

Roasted Dill Chicken Legs and Root Vegetables

Spring has sprung in the Rockies (well, every other day at least…cold yesterday, warm today…those mountains make the weather here crazy). I’m headed to Florida in a few weeks and the thought of squeezing my foodie thighs and hips into a bikini is more than horrifying. Not that I’m going to crash diet or sweat it out at Zumba (Please people, who has time to work out when you have to cook?) The least I can do is attempt to stay away from the cheese and the butter and the heavy cream. In my world, that’s dieting. Everything is better with those three dairy ingredients. Ugh. Into the protein and veggie world I go…

Anyone who knows my boyfriend is aware of the fact that he likes to grow…anything. We are starting to accumulate quite the garden – which, when you are renting a house, can be quite an endeavor since everything is potted including the fruit trees. If my memory serves me (and I’m sure I’m forgetting a few things), he currently has sprouting: cucumbers, garlic, onions, raspberries, blueberries, a few varieties of grapes, strawberries, asparagus, eggplant, cherry trees, apple trees, aspens, peach trees, basil, oregano, dill, pineapple sage…and the lists gets longer everyday.

We won’t have actual fruit or veggies for a while, but the herbs are all set to go. So I had him cut me some dill sprigs for this recipe. Not only was this rather healthy, but I thought it was beautiful and pretty tasty considering that it was just plain old chicken and potatoes. Also, the veggies were cheap and so were the quartered chicken legs ($1.10 each! – heck yes Sunflower Market!)

Roasted Dill Chicken Legs and Root Vegetables

2 quartered chicken legs

10 fingerling potatoes, halved

5 carrots, cut into 1 inch logs

1 bunch radishes, halved

1 bunch green onions (half coarsely chopped, half whole)

1 onion, quartered

juice of 2 lemons

1/4 cup evoo

chicken broth

salt & pepper to taste

4-5 sprigs fresh dill

 

1. Remove any excess fat from the chicken legs. Drizzle olive oil over the chicken, and squeeze the juice of one lemon over each chicken leg, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and 2-3 sprigs of dill on each leg. Marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

2. While chicken is marinating, chop all the veggies and place in the bottom of a roasting pan with enough chicken broth to cover.

3. After 30 minutes have passed. arrange chicken on top of vegetables. Add whole green onions around the chicken to flavor the veggies and broth.  Cover and roast at 375 degrees for an hour, basting every 15 minutes.

4. After an hour, remove the top of the roasting pan. Cook until for another 20-30 minutes or until the chicken is browned, basting occasionally to keep chicken moist. Serve immediately.