Corn Chowder and Beer Bread

Summertime comes quickly here.  Temperatures have gone from the low 80’s to the upper 90’s in about a week.  The kids have already spent so much time in the pool that their hair has a faint tinge of green to it.  That means that we will start to see fresh ears of corn in the grocery store and in farm stands along the rural roads.   Sweet, plump ears of corn make the most delicious corn chowder.  But, have I mentioned that we are moving and I am not buying groceries?  As of yesterday afternoon, my freezer had one and half bags of frozen corn, two bags of pearl onions and a quarter bag of frozen spinach.  I am now down to pearl onions and spinach.  Call me a sell-out but the chowder was delicious.  I know it would be even better with fresh corn but what did Catherine say about better being the enemy of good enough?

To dip into the soup I made a loaf of beer bread from The All New Joy of Cooking.  This is a great recipe not only because the bread is so good but also because it is so quick to make.  From a standing start, I can have this loaf of bread in the oven in 5 minutes.  You can use any beer you have on hand but I like to use the darkest kind I can find in the beer fridge.

I also made a salad but I had to improvise the dressing because I am out of oil; corn, peanut, olive, motor, it’s all gone.  I decided to use about two tablespoons of tapenade as a substitute for the usual olive oil and it was delicious.  It was pungent with Kalamata olives and blended seamlessly with the rest of the vinaigrette ingredients.  It was so successful that I will now make tapenade a regular part of our house salad dressing.  I’m thinking our next meal will somehow incorporate frozen spinach and pearl onions with a tapenade vinaigrette.

-Andra

Corn Chowder

1/2 cup of chopped cured country style ham or bacon

4 T of butter  (if you need more fat)

2 red bell peppers, diced

2 small onions, diced

1 stalk of celery, diced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 Idaho potatoes, diced

6 cups of chicken or vegetable broth

2 cups of milk (for a richer version, substitute cream)

4 cups of frozen corn or 5 or six ears of fresh

Sprig of fresh rosemary

Salt and pepper to taste

Render the ham or bacon in the bottom of a large dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the butter if your ham did not render enough fat.  Saute the peppers, onions, celery and garlic until softened, about 5 – 7 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, add the potatoes and milk and boil until the potatoes have softened about 8 – 10 minutes.  Add the corn and simmer for 10 minutes.  Blend the soup with an immersion blender to help thicken the soup but not completely puree the soup.  You should still see lots of red pepper and corn.  Turn the soup down to a simmer, drop in the rosemary and let the soup simmer and thicken, about 20 minutes.  Remove the rosemary and add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with cayenne pepper or hot smoked paprika to pass at the table.

Quick Beer Bread from The All New Joy of Cooking

1 cup of whole-wheat flour

1 cup of all-purpose flour

1/2 cups of old-fashioned rolled oats

2 tablespoon of sugar

2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups of beer, not flat

Position rack in the lower third of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Grease a 6-cup loaf pan.

Whisk the dry ingredients in a bowl.  Fold in the beer just until the dry ingredients are moistened.  Scrape the batter into the pan and spread evenly.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center and all the way to the bottom of the pan comes out clean, 35-40 minutes.  Let cool in the pan on a rack for 5-10 minutes before turning out  to cool completely on the rack.

That’s a Wrap!

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Yesterday,  I had lunch at a great restaurant, Cafe Organic.  I was with my Crazy Cult from CrossFit so I had to eat something that kind of fit the Paleo Pyramid.  As much as the grilled chicken fingers on the kids’ meal called to me I decided on a wrap filled with tempeh, red pepper hummus, cucumber, zucchini, greek olives,  greens and some other healthy thing rolled neatly in a collard green leaf.  It sounds strange but it was so delicious.  I couldn’t wait to make these at home and I just so happen to have collard greens growing in my backyard.

A perfect segue for a gratuitous garden shot…

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My wraps do not look as pretty as the ones Cafe Organic make but they were so delicious that my son ate three of them.  He only stopped when we ran out of bacon.  Did he love the bacon more than the collard greens?  Yes.  But, he did eat three huge leaves of collard greens, raw.  I call that a win-win.  The wraps were filled with roast chicken breast, bacon, tomato, avocado and fontina.  This was served alongside roasted red pepper soup, one of our favorites and so easy to make.  Catherine talks about that here where she serves it with BLATs as we used to do.  But the collard wrap may have just put the panini press out of commission for awhile.

-Andra

Braised Chicken and Vegetables over Jasmine Rice

This picture is my first attempt at Instagram.  Why hadn’t one of the 15 million Instagram users talked me through this before?  Maybe my 15 million friends run in a different circle.  Today I dedicate myself to figuring out how to take better pictures of dinner with it.  I’ll have to ignore my kids, but they really want better pictures of dinner too.  Especially the 18-month old.  Who, incidentally, ate an entire chicken thigh last night.  (Yes, I did cut it up for her, her knife skills are terrible.)

I used chicken thighs and breasts and braised them with about a cup of red wine and about a half cup of leftover Dijon vinaigrette.  I added mushrooms, artichokes, sliced potatoes and onions and used fresh thyme and dried Herbs de Provence.  I cooked it for two hours at 325°.  I replaced half the cooking liquid for the rice with white wine and added a bay leaf.

It was Instalicious.

– Catherine

Better: It Really Is The Enemy of Good Enough

I’ve been making meatballs for years, always with Cook’s Illustrated’s recipe from their “New Best Recipe Cookbook”.  It’s great, and it’s never left any of us thinking that we needed a new meatball recipe.  Recently, however, I read this and got carried away with the idea for a meatball recipe that was SO good, pasta was unnecessary.

The Mozza meatball recipe is more time-consuming and involved than the Cook’s Illustrated version.  Maybe I did something wrong, but our feeling was that they were good, but not better than the Cook’s Illustrated recipe.

What’s the moral of the story?  An old family motto, “Better is the enemy of good enough,” is true.  Mozza meatballs that take twice as long are not better than the easy Cook’s Illustrated meatballs.

Spaghetti and Meatballs (Cook’s Illustrated, January 1998)

Serves 4 to 6

Meatballs
2 slices white sandwich bread (crusts discarded), torn into small cubes
½ cup buttermilk or 6 tablespoons plain yogurt thinned with 2 tablespoons sweet milk
¾ pound ground beef chuck (or 1 pound if omitting ground pork below)
¼ pound ground pork (to be mixed with ground chuck)
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
1 large egg yolk
1 small clove garlic, minced (1 teaspoon)
¾ teaspoon table salt
Ground black pepper
vegetable oil for pan-frying (about 1¼ cups)

Simple Tomato Sauce
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil leaves
Table salt and ground black pepper
1 pound spaghetti
grated Parmesan cheese
1. For the meatballs: Combine bread and buttermilk in small bowl, mashing occasionally with fork, until smooth paste forms, about 10 minutes.

2. Mix all meatball ingredients, including bread mixture and pepper to taste in medium bowl. Lightly form 3 tablespoons of mixture into 1½-inch round meatballs; repeat with remaining mixture to form approximately 14 meatballs. (Compacting them can make the meatballs dense and hard. Can be placed on large plate, covered loosely with plastic wrap, and refrigerated for several hours.)

3. Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in large pot for cooking pasta.

4. Meanwhile, heat ¼-inch vegetable oil over medium-high heat in 10- or 11-inch sauté pan. When edge of meatball dipped in oil sizzles, add meatballs in single layer. Fry, turning several times, until nicely browned on all sides, about 10 minutes, regulating heat as needed to keep oil sizzling but not smoking. Transfer browned meatballs to paper towel–lined plate; set aside. Repeat, if necessary, with remaining meatballs.

5. For the sauce, discard oil in pan, leaving behind any browned bits. Add olive oil along with garlic; sauté, scraping up any browned bits, just until garlic is golden, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, bring to boil, and simmer gently until sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. Stir in basil; add salt and pepper to taste. Add meatballs and simmer, turning them occasionally, until heated through, about 5 minutes. Keep warm over low flame.

6. Meanwhile, add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta to boiling water. Cook until al dente, drain, and return to pot. Ladle several large spoonfuls of tomato sauce (without meatballs) over spaghetti and toss until noodles are well coated. Divide pasta among individual bowls and top each with a little more tomato sauce and 2 to 3 meatballs. Serve immediately with grated cheese passed separately.

– Catherine

Roast Chicken with Potatoes and Arugula Salad

So, the name of the blog is “Our Last Supper”, not “Our Last Supper If It Was A Totally Original Meal Idea”.

Sometimes you just have to kick it old school with a roast chicken, potatoes and arugula salad.

I’ve made a lot of roast chickens (or chicken?  What’s the plural of roast chicken?)  Here’s what I’ve learned:  the chicken needs to be stuffed with two halves of a juicy lemon and any fresh herbs you have.  The potatoes need lemon, olive oil and grainy Dijon mustard.  The chicken need to be GENEROUSLY seasoned with salt and pepper and the whole thing tastes better when roasted in a cast iron skillet and served with GENEROUSLY poured white wine.

Don’t believe what Andra tells you.  This is the real “Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner.”

– Catherine

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