Saturday, January 07, 2006

A menu for the second week of January, 2006

We all live busy lives, and thus, while the ideal is to make fresh food as frequently as possible, it is not always practical. However, the modern miracle of refrigeration makes it frequently a good idea to make a larger quantity of food than is to be eaten at a given meal and to freeze the rest.

In our basement, we have a large upright freezer, well stocked with venison, chicken, pork, turkeys, produce from the garden, and pre-prepared meals. Some of the menu this week will draw from the freezer, but when this happens I'll make sure to post the recipies that were originally used.

Monday night we will be home late, so a quick meal is necessary: Pizza! From the freezer we will take our homemade pizza rounds (made over the weekend from surplus bread dough) and the pizza sauce, and we'll add pepperoni, green peppers, onions, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, and grated mozzarella for a quick and tasty meal. Pop a slice in the toaster oven at 400° for about 10 minutes, and the meal is made!

Pizza Sauce:
This very simple pizza sauce is a snap to cook. Ingredients:
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced into chunks
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes (about 2 1/2 cups of tomatoes from my garden or whole canned tomatoes, coarsely chopped in the food processor)
  • 2 tsp oregano
In a pan, heat the olive oil and sautee the garlic until golden brown. Add the crushed tomatoes and oregano, and simmer until the sauce is of the desired thickness!

Another quick meal tonight, though a gourmet one! Pan-seared venison loin medallions (you can substitute fine cuts of beef) with salt-encrusted baked potatoes and a simple salad of mixed greens with tomato and onion.

To cook the venison:
You'll need one 6-8 ounce slice of loin for each person; beef tenderloin can be used, or any tender boneless cut, but being a hunter has its advantages! The steaks should be about 1 1/2" - 2" thick and trimmed of all fat.

First, heat your oven to 500°. At the same time, put a cast iron or stainless steel skillet on the stove, and heat over high heat with no oil in the pan. We are going to quickly sear the meat, so you want the pan to be hot as a branding iron. Pat the meat dry with a paper towel, then sprinkle liberally on both sides with coarse salt. Don't use any oil in the pan - it must be dry, and pepper will burn at the temperatures we're using so don't put anything but salt on the meat. Drop the steaks into the searing-hot pan, and let them sit there for 90 seconds without touching them. Be not afraid - you won't ruin the meat if you follow these directions exactly. After 90 seconds, use tongs to quickly turn the steaks to the other side and let sit for 60 seconds. Remove the pan from the stovetop and put into the preheated oven for 3 1/2 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and place the steaks on a warmed plate, and cover with a tent of foil for a couple of minutes before serving.

As an experiment, I used a pressure cooker to precook the potatoes to reduce the overall cooking time. I used 2 cups of water and the steaming rack, and cooked the potatoes for 12 minutes after full pressure was achieved. Another 10 minutes at 400° in the toaster oven and they were ready!

Shrimp and asparagus tempura and bok choy over brown and wild rice. This is a new recipe for us. You can also use green bell pepper, broccoli, green beans, onion rings, or whatever other vegetables you like. Tempura jalapenos stuffed with cream cheese add some spice!

Before you start cooking everything else, put the rice on and set up your steamer for the bok choy. A tip about cooking rice: any amount of rice can be successfully cooked to perfection by adding one pinky-fingernail's depth of water above the surface of the rice, bringing the pot to a boil, then immediately covering the pot and turning the temperature to low. If you have an electric stove, transfer the pot to a different burner preheated to low, because the temperature of the coils or cooking surface drops too slowly.

Dipping sauce for tempura:

1/2 C rice vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
1/4 C sugar
1/4 C honey or brown sugar
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp red pepper flakes

Simmer the vinegar, sugar, and honey in a saucepan over medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat; then mash together the garlic and salt and add to the liquid along with the pepper flakes. Cool before serving.

Ingredients for breading:
1 C all-purpose flour
1/3 C corn starch
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
cayenne pepper to taste
1 1/4 C club soda

While heating a pan of oil, mix the dry ingredients, then stir in the club soda with a fork to make a lumpy batter. When the oil reaches 375°, dredge the vegetables in the batter and fry in the oil until golden brown (1-2 minutes), then remove with a slotted spoon and drain. Do the same with the shrimp.

This Burmese chicken curry comes from an excellent but obscure cookbook, Under the Golden Pagoda: The Best of Burmese Cooking by Aung Aung Taik. This is also the source of a shredded crispy chicken recipe that is a favorite of mine.


2 chicken breasts
1/2 tsp salt
1/4-1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp ground red chili powder
1/2 C water
1 can coconut milk

Cut up the chicken breasts into 3/4" chunks and mix in a bowl with the salt and turmeric. Mix thoroughly with your hands and let stand for 10 minutes.

Heat a bit of oil in a pan over medium heat; add the onions and garlic and sautee until soft, then add the chicken, paprika, and chili powder. Cook, stirring, until the chicken is cooked through, then add the water and coconut milk and simmer, covered but with the lid ajar, for 30 minutes.

The leftovers of this dish don't seem to freeze very well (nothing using coconut milk really does,) so it's good to plan to use them for a lunch some time later in the week.

Leftovers! By this time of the week, there are usually a couple of things in the fridge that need eating, though we may also thaw something frozen. This week it looks like it's going to be stuff from the freezer, perhaps pizzaiola and bean soup. I'll post these recipes when I get a chance later on.

I haven't decided quite yet what to make for Saturday! There's an excellent stuffed pork chop recipe in an Italian cookbook of mine that I'd like to repeat, and since it takes a bit more time to prepare it might be a good Saturday meal. As I recall, this recipe makes a lot of the stuffing, so I might pull a pork loin from the freezer and prepare a number of the stuffed chops, and freeze uncooked all but the ones we plan to have for dinner. This will give me another couple of quick meals for those nights when we won't be home until late in the evening.


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