Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Cocktail of the Week: Spiked Peach Limeade Granita

I'm not sure you can still find fresh peaches at the farmer's market, like I did when I tried this recipe six weeks or so ago...but frozen peaches would work just fine. I skipped the freeze and scrape steps for this and just froze it in the bowl and then threw it in a blender. Delicious. A last hurrah to summer here in the South...

Spiked Peach Limeade Granita
From Cooking Light magazine.
Makes eight one-cup servings.

4 cups water
3 cups peach slices (about 3 medium) (or use frozen)
1 1/3 cups sugar
6 mint leaves
1 1/3 cups fresh lime juice
3/4 cup rum
Peach slices and fresh mint sprigs .for garnish

Combine first 4 ingredients in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer for 5 minutes. Cool, and discard mint.

Place half of peach mixture in a blender; process until smooth. Pour pureed peach mixture into a 13 x 9–inch baking dish. Combine remaining peach mixture, juice, and rum in blender; process until smooth. Add to baking dish.

Freeze 8 hours or until firm. Remove mixture from freezer; scrape entire mixture with a fork until fluffy. Serve immediately. Garnish with peach slices and mint sprigs, if desired.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Buttermilk Breakfast Cake with Buttermilk Vanilla Glaze

This week's Sweet Sunday feature is great at night for dessert...and delicious for breakfast, as the name says. The buttermilk in both cake and glaze add an interesting tang to an easy-to-mix cake.

Buttermilk Breakfast Cake
From Southern Living.
Makes 10-12 servings.

1 (18.25-oz.) package white cake mix
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup melted butter
5 large eggs
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350°. Beat first 3 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer 1 1/2 minutes or until thoroughly blended; add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

Stir together brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.

Grease a 12-cup Bundt pan with shortening; sprinkle with 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar.

Spoon one-third of batter into prepared pan; sprinkle brown sugar mixture evenly over batter. Top with remaining batter.

Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool cake in pan on a wire rack 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack, and cool 20 minutes. Drizzle Buttermilk-Vanilla Glaze over slightly warm cake.

Buttermilk-Vanilla Glaze

1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 to 2 Tbsp. buttermilk

Stir together first 3 ingredients and 1 Tbsp. buttermilk until smooth, adding additional 1 Tbsp. buttermilk, if necessary, for desired consistency.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins

White bread. Peanut Butter (chunky of course). And strawberry jam. THAT's the perfect sammich. So when rolled into a muffin recipe, of course it must be tried. And it was quite successful. A little "wheaty," (Cooking Light of course) but yummy. And sure to be a favorite of your kids. You might actually be able to get them to eat a healthy breakfast...

Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins
From Cooking Light magazine.
Makes one dozen muffins.

1 cup all-purpose flour (about 4 1/2 ounces)
3/4 cup whole wheat flour (about 3 1/2 ounces)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups fat-free milk
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup egg substitute
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cooking spray
1/4 cup strawberry jam

Preheat oven to 400°.

Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours, sugars, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl; stir with a whisk. Make a well in center of mixture. Combine milk and next 4 ingredients (through vanilla); add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.
Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Fill each cup half full with batter. Spoon 1 teaspoon jam into each cup. Spoon remaining batter on top to cover jam. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Let cool in pan 5 minutes. Remove from pan, and cool on a wire rack.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Seared Scallops over Bacon and Spinach Salad with Cider Vinaigrette

Here in Dallas, we were kissed by a couple of autumnal days last week. The light has changed and the nights are cooler (even if oh so slightly). So, while salads are still in vogue, they begin to call for a little more heft...a little more spice, a little more heat.

This one fits the bill perfectly. And it calls for a layering of the most autumnal of ingredients--sliced apples, apple cider and apple cider vinegar. It was great the first night with scallops as called for. The second night with curry-dusted grilled shrimp. And even the third day as a salad on its own. Add this one to your file.

Seared Scallops over Bacon and Spinach Salad with Cider Vinaigrette
From Cooking Light.
Makes four servings.

1 cup apple cider
2 teaspoons sugar
4 slices center-cut bacon
1/4 cup chopped shallots
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced Granny Smith apple (about one)
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 (6-ounce) package fresh baby spinach
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
20 sea scallops (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 teaspoons olive oil

Combine cider and sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil; cook until reduced to 1/4 cup (about 9 minutes). Remove from heat.

Cook bacon in a small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving 1 teaspoon drippings in pan; set bacon aside. Add chopped shallots to drippings in pan; sauté 1 minute. Remove pan from heat; stir in cider mixture, cider vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and black pepper.

Crumble reserved bacon. Combine bacon, Granny Smith apple, onion, and spinach in a large bowl.

Combine remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, curry powder, and red pepper in a small bowl. Sprinkle salt mixture evenly over both sides of scallops. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add scallops to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until done.

Drizzle cider mixture over spinach mixture; toss gently to coat. Place about 2 1/2 cups salad mixture on each of 4 plates; top each serving with 5 scallops.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Strawberries Romanoff

Here's another Sweet Sunday.

The word for the day is "macerate." M-A-C-E-R-A-T-E. It means marinating fruit in liquid. It's a wonderful way to make a quick dessert. And when the macerating is done in a classic liqueur like Grand Marnier, it has to be a winner.

This is delicious just topped with a bit of whipped cream, but would also be great over pound cake or ice cream.

Strawberries Romanoff
From Cooking Light.
Serves four.

4 cups sliced strawberries (about 1 1/2 pounds)
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/4 cup Cointreau or Grand Marnier (orange-flavored liqueur)
1/3 cup whipping cream, chilled
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Mint sprigs (optional)

Combine first 3 ingredients in a bowl. Cover and chill 3 1/2 hours.

Place cream, 3 tablespoons sugar, and vanilla in a small bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form. Spoon over strawberry mixture. Garnish with mint, if desired. Serve immediately.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Slow Cooker Sausage and Vegetable Risotto

I am a big fan of risotto. But I've never made it. My regular white rice hasn't turned out wonderfully lately for some reason, so the idea of stranding over a pan and stirring for an hour or more is simply not appealing.

So how excited was I to find this recipe? While I have to admit I was skeptical, I had faith in my fave Food & Wine...so I tried it over Hurricane Ike weekend. It was incredible. I don't know that I will ever fix risotto the traditional way.

Slow Cooker Sausage and Vegetable Risotto
From Food & Wine magazine.
Serves six.

4 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 pound sweet Italian sausages, casings removed
3 tablespoons water
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups arborio rice (14 ounces)
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 tablespoon kosher salt (Note: I cut this back to 1 teaspoon with wonderful results. The Parmesan adds plenty of salt.)
5 cups baby spinach (5 ounces)
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
Freshly ground pepper

Turn a 6- to 7-quart slow cooker to high.

In a saucepan, bring the broth to a simmer.

In a skillet, cook the sausage with the water over moderately high heat, breaking it up with a spoon until the water has evaporated and the sausage is browned, 10 minutes. Transfer the sausage to the slow cooker.

In the same skillet, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat until translucent, 4 minutes. Add the wine and cook, scraping up any browned bits until the wine is reduced by half, 2 minutes. Stir in the rice and cook until all of the wine has been absorbed.

Scrape the rice into the slow cooker. Add the hot broth, zucchini and salt and cover. Cook for 1 hour, stirring once halfway through. The risotto is done when the rice is al dente and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Turn off the slow cooker.

Stir the spinach into the risotto until just wilted. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and the grated cheese, season with pepper and serve immediately, passing additional cheese at the table.

Food/Wine Pairing: You can go white OR red here. Maybe a fruity Italian white like Masi Masianco. Or a simple European red from Italy or France. This dish will stand up to almost everything.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Bayou Shrimp Stew

Well...Hurricane Ike was a disappointment. In a good way, certainly. Even here in Dallas they were predicting fifty mile an hour winds, six inches of rain, etcetera, etcetera. So I was ready. I perused the recipe files. Hit Central Market for all the necessary ingredients. And got ready to cook.

Not much rain and not much wind, but plenty of cooking this weekend. Here's one of the successful recipes. Although I'd make a change. We're not a big fan of tarragon...which was a big part of the herb mix I had on hand. So next time, I'd substitute Italian herb seasoning and its prevailing oregano for the perfect dish.

The breadcrumb topping (again with the Italian herb seasoning substitution from now on) is wonderful. Could stand on its own on fish, steamed veggies or roast pork tenderloin.

Bayou Shrimp Stew
From Everyday with Rachael Ray magazine.
Serves eight.

6 tablespoons butter
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3/4 cup bread crumbs
2 teaspoons herbes de Provence (As I've said, I'd substitute Italian herb seasoning.)
Salt and pepper
12 ounces andouille sausage, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 onions, finely chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1/3 cup flour
1 cup frozen shelled edamame
Two 15-ounce cans white beans, rinsed
2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined

In a medium skillet, melt 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add half the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Stir in the bread crumbs, 1 teaspoon herbes de Provence, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Remove from the heat.

In a Dutch oven, cook the sausage over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 7 minutes; transfer to a plate. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, remaining garlic and 1 teaspoon herbes de Provence, the onions and bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually stir in 2 cups water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and edamame and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Add the white beans and bring to a simmer. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, until firm and opaque, 3 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the seasoned crumbs over each portion.

Food/Wine Pairing: Try a fruity red with this one. A Syrah. An Oregon Pinot Noir. Or a rustic Rioja from Spain.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Cherry Sour Cream Coffee Cake

I have folders and folders of recipes for desserts and baked goods. I never get to them. No one in this house has much of a sweet tooth...plus, after a big meal (that we usually eat too late), there no time nor appetite. But I am going to make a concerted effort to try some of these recipes out. I always need good desserts for company or parties. So, welcome to the first edition of my weekly "Sweet Sunday."

This one isn't exactly a dessert...although it would fit the bill perfectly with a dollop of whipped cream on top. It's a great coffee cake though...try it for breakfast soon.

Cherry Sour Cream Coffee Cake
From Cooking Light.
Makes 16 servings.

1/2 cup whole wheat flour (about 2 1/4 ounces)
1/2 cup regular oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons chopped pecans
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1 tablespoon canola oil

Cooking spray
1/4 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg white
2 cups all-purpose flour (about 9 ounces)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup fat-free sour cream
2 cups pitted fresh cherries, coarsely chopped (about 10 ounces) (Note: I HATE pitting cherries, so took a shortcut and bought a can of cherries in water. However, I made the mistake of chopping them in the food processor...it made them too runny to provide chunks of cherry in the final cake. They gave it a great flavor though.)

To prepare streusel, lightly spoon whole wheat flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine whole wheat flour and next 4 ingredients. Add concentrate and 1 tablespoon oil; stir until crumbly.

Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare cake, coat a 9-inch tube pan with cooking spray. Combine 1/4 cup oil and melted butter in a medium bowl. Add granulated sugar, vanilla, egg, and egg white; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth.

Lightly spoon all-purpose flour in dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine all-purpose flour and next 3 ingredients in a large bowl. Add flour mixture and sour cream alternately to egg mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in cherries.

Spoon half of batter into prepared pan; sprinkle with half of streusel. Spoon in remaining batter; top with remaining streusel. Bake at 350° for 55 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; run a knife around outside edge. Cool completely in pan.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Halibut with White Beans in Tomato-Rosemary Broth

Yeah, so Food and Wine is my favorite foodie magazine. But, Cooking Light is a close second... because of recipes like this. Delicious. Hearty. Healthy. And pretty much always inspiring. This one wasn't perfect as written, but provided plenty of food for thought to produce a really fantastic meal. (As to the improvements/inspirations: We like our fish with a bit of bread crumb crunch on top. And I added a bit of Parmesan to richen the broth. I'll highlight my adaptations below....)

Halibut with White Beans in Tomato-Rosemary Broth
Adapted from Cooking Light magazine.
Serves four.

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 (6-ounce) halibut fillets
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups chopped plum tomato (about 4)
1 1/2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 (16-ounce) can cannellini beans or other white beans, rinsed and drained 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
(My additions: 1 cup bread crumbs, 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (plus 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese), 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle fish evenly with salt and pepper. Add fish to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side. Remove fish from pan and place in baking dish or pie plate. Cover fish in mixture of bread crumbs, 2 tablespoons Parmesan and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Place in oven and bake for ten minutes or until done.

Meanwhile, add garlic to skillet in which fish was cooked; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Stir in tomato, broth, wine, and beans; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Right before removing from heat, stir in one tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese. Remove from heat; stir in rosemary.

Serve immediately by placing fish on top of bean mixture in rimmed bowls. Garnish with a fresh sprig of rosemary.

Food/Wine Pairing: This is one of those borderline dishes that gives you plenty of options. A Sauvignon Blanc or Albarino has the acidity to stand up to rich flavors. An unoaked Chardonnay would complement the creaminess of the white beans. And even a light Pinot Noir would work. I took the easy route...it's summer, so we uncorked a rosé. It was the perfect balance between richness and acidity. Try it and let me know what you think.

Ironically, I tried this recipe on the same night that my brother had a brief layover at the airport and we discussed a possible wine dinner for December. Guess what? This dish makes the cut.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Cocktails of the Week: Apple Cider Cocktails

When I was at the grocery store shopping for this wonderful scallops and spinach salad recipe, I bought an entire half liter of apple cider. Then only needed a little bit for the recipe. What to do with the rest?

Although these first days of autumn are the time to start thinking about apple cider, it's still a bit early (and hot!) for spiced cider served full-on steaming in mugs. So how about a crisp cool cocktail--or three-- with apple cider as a base ingredient? I've listed ingredients in "parts" so that you can make as many or as few as you need.

Any or all of them could be "gussied up" with a cinnamon sugar rim on the cocktail glass.

Pama-Apple Cocktail
This first one has a beautiful rich color (and flavor) thanks to Pama pomegranate liqueur.

4 parts apple cider
1 part Pama liqueur
1 part high-quality vodka

Shake all ingredients in an ice-filled shaker and strain into cocktail glasses.

Apple Almond Cocktail
If you add a pinch of cinnamon to this, it's like apple almond crumble in a glass. The perfect combination of after-dinner drink and dessert.

1 part apple cider
1 part amaretto
1 part high-quality vodka

Shake all ingredients in an ice-filled shaker and strain into cocktail glasses.

Seattle Sidecar
I found this one on the Internet. It reminds me of a daiquri...but has a defnite autumnal color and taste.

1 part apple cider
1 part dark rum
1 part orange-flavored liqueur
1/2 part freshly-squeezed lime juice
Splash of simple syrup

Shake all ingredients in an ice-filled shaker and strain into cocktail glasses.

If you have your own tricks for cider in cocktails, please add them as Comments below.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Romaine Salad with Corn and Pepitas

Summertime (and it's still hot here in Big D!) is the time of year for crisp salads. Not fancy mixed greens, but mainstays like romaine (or even iceberg). They're crunchy and refreshing. Here's one that's slightly south of the border inspired with the sweetness of corn, the spice of cumin and the crunch of pumpkin seeds.

Romaine Salad with Corn and Pepitas
From Martha Stewart's Everyday Food.
Serves 4

1/3 cup pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 head romaine lettuce (about 1 pound), thinly sliced crosswise
1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pepitas on a rimmed baking sheet, and toast until golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together sour cream, vinegar, and cumin; season with salt and pepper. Add romaine, corn, onion, and pepitas. Toss to combine; season with salt and pepper.