Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Parmesan & Basil Zucchini

Served with Mushroom & Onion Smothered Chicken
People always tell us that they don't have time, money, patience or know-how to cook a good, healthy dinner at night.  We call bullshit on that!  We're broke people who stick to a weekly budget and we cook simple, healthy meals several times a week after both of us working a full day (usually with enough leftover to eat a healthy lunch the next day, saving even more money).  A lot of the recipes we post on here are our "splurges" away from our regular, simple roasted protein/veggie dinners.  I was about to make one of those simple dinners tonight, but then I thought I'd "get crazy" by doing a sauce and cheesing up the veggies.  I wasn't really considering posting the recipes, they seemed too simple.  Justin asked, "Why not?  People like fast, easy and cheap recipes and it was really good!"  So it's coming at you... basic stuff!

This tune's been going through my head the last few weeks as I've seen a lot of The Transplants' recent tour pics.  Elvis Cortez, lead singer of Left Alone, was touring with them.  So I've found myself listening to some Left Alone in the last few days, and this is them doing "My Whole Life".  -jen

Time: 10 minutes
Difficulty:  Easy
Serves: 2-4
  • 4 medium zucchini, sliced about 1/4" thick rounds
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese 
  • salt and pepper
 In a large bowl or plastic zip bag, combine zucchini and olive oil to coat.  Turn oven to broil.  Arrange zucchini in an even layer on a large baking sheet (I always line it with foil for ease of clean up!)  Sprinkle basil and Parmesan evenly over zucchini.  Broil for 3-5, until cheese browns.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Rancid Recipes #4: Wild Rice Stuffed Pork Chops

It's been a little while since I've posted a Rancid Recipe (such a delicious sounding title, to be sure).  Today's music selection was inspired by a dream I recently had that Tim Armstrong and I were taking a class on identifying Hollywood celebrities.  We both failed miserably, told the instructor that it was a bullshit class, and left to watch the movie "High Fidelity" with my brother.  I don't know what the dream means, but it put me into a Tim Armstrong music kick: Op Ivy, Transplants, Tim Timebomb & Friends, his solo stuff, and of course, Rancid.  Apparently, they knew from the very first show what it was all about.

The idea for this recipe popped into my head about a month ago, transformed a lot during late
nights of intoxication, Food Network, and conversation, and finally came into existence splendidly last night.  Do you have any idea how tickled I am when a recipe from scratch turns out perfectly with no need for alterations?!  Of course you don't, because you're not dining in my house (but perhaps you SHOULD be, Rancid members?)  The stranger in my head does a little dance when this happens and there was dancing last night, by glob!  It's a little time consuming (the recipe, not the dancing in my head), but well worth the time!  The combination of mushrooms, onions and apples was killer!

I think some of the ingredients in this recipe need a little explanation, though.  It does contain wild rice, as the title states, and I learned something - there is no correct way to cook wild rice.  I got mine out of the bulk bin at my local co-op and followed the instructions on the dispenser: 2 cups liquid to 1 cup wild rice.  I did exactly that, and the rice came out a little crunchy.  I loved it.  Justin didn't care for the consistency at all.  So researching wild rice, I found that different suppliers process it differently and you can't always cook two different brands the same way.  Basically, it's preference.  Do you like it crunchy or do you want to cook it until the rice bursts open and is softer.  Your call.  You have to just follow the instructions on the one you purchase and adjust according to your preference.

The lion's mane mushrooms are my next ingredient to discuss.  These obviously are not sold in your local supermarket (as Food Network often likes to tell its watchers about exotic foods).  We can sometimes find them in our co-op or local organic stores, but we mostly buy them in the summer at our local farmers markets.  And while you could use regular button mushrooms, crimini or portabello mushrooms for this recipe, there's no way you're going to get the same flavour out of them.  Lion's mane was first described to us as having a lobster flavour.  If you look them up on Wiki, it says when cooked, they have the consistency of seafood.  Well, I sort of agree and disagree with both.  Once that's in your head, that's what you think of (and now I put it in your head), but really, I'd just say they have a very rich, earthy flavour.  They're awesome.  If you like mushrooms and have never tried these, seek them out.  It'll be worth it.

And so we move on to the musical stylings of my favourite band, Rancid, bringing us their song, "Last One To Die".  As they wrap up their tour (which we very sadly don't get to see, again, because we're poor and live behind the Redwood Curtain) and prepare for a new album to come out, I think to myself - maybe they will be the last ones to die.  -jen

Time:  1.5 - 2 hours
Difficulty:  Medium
Serves:  6

Wild Rice:
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons chicken base 
  • 1 teaspoon rubbed sage
  • 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • black pepper to taste (about 1/2 a teaspoon)
Chops & Stuffing:
  • 6 thick pork loin chops (we like ours brined, recipe and how-to here)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups diced lion's mane mushrooms
  • 3/4 cup oyster mushrooms (you can use all lion's mane if you like)
  • 1 cup yellow onion, diced (about 1/2 of a large onion)
  • 2 cups apple, peeled and diced (about 2 medium apples of your preference - sour or sweet, either would be tasty)
  • 1 teaspoon rubbed sage
  • 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • salt and pepper to taste
Rinse wild rice to remove loose hulls and strain the water out.  In a medium sauce pan, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium-high heat.  Add rice and brown, stirring frequently for 2-3 minutes.  Add water and stir in chicken base, sage, tarragon, celery salt and black pepper.  Bring just to a boil, then put a lid on the pan and lower the heat to a simmer.  Cook without removing the lid or stirring for 50 minutes.  Remove from heat and let rest for 10 minutes.  (If you don't like crunchy wild rice, you may want to use 1 more cup of water, 1 more teaspoon chicken base, and a little more of each herb) and cook until the rice grains burst, about 60 minutes, then drain any remaining water from rice.)

While rice cooks, in a large saute pan or skillet, heat 3 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil over a medium-high heat.  Add mushrooms, onion, and apples.  Saute for about 7 minutes, or until the onion becomes slightly translucent.  Add sage, tarragon and salt and pepper (I used about 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 a teaspoon black pepper), and cook for a few more minutes.  Remove from heat and add mixture to wild rice.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, F.  Carefully cut a pocket into the pork chops with a sharp knife,
making sure not to open the ends or the back side.  Place each chop into a gallon-sized Ziplock bag and pound flat.

Season the outside of the pork chop (both sides) with salt and pepper.  Drizzle a little olive oil on a sheet pan (we always cover ours with foil for easy clean up.)  Stuff each pork chop with as much of the wild rice stuffing as it will hold and carefully lay the stuffed chop on the baking sheet.  Place in the oven and cook at 350 degrees F for 40-45 minutes, depending on the thickness of your chop.  Best to use a meat thermometer and cook until pork reaches 140 degrees F, then let rest.  The carry-over will bring it to a safe 145 degrees.