Friday, July 31, 2009

Cucumber Canapes

These are the kind of things you should serve at teatime...if we actually observed teatime. But you could certainly have them with a cocktail. I've even made them as a healthy snack, leaving the bread out and spreading the cream cheese between two cucumber slices.

Cucumber Canapes
Makes 36 canapes.

3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 envelope Italian dressing mix
1 (12 ounce) loaf cocktail rye (or pumpernickel) bread
1 large cucumber, thinly sliced into 36 slices

Beat the first four ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth.

Spread cream cheese mixture over bread slices. Top each with a cucumber slice. Garnish with fresh dill sprigs.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tomato Flatbread with Goat Cheese

This recipe is the latest chapter in how to deal with ALL THESE TOMATOES. Delicious. And the dough is now my go-to pizza crust.

Tomato Flatbread with Goat Cheese
Makes 12 servings.
From Cooking Light.

1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
3/4 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
11.25 ounces all-purpose flour (about 2 1/2 cups)
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
Cooking spray
3 medium heirloom tomatoes, cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices (about 1 1/4 pounds)
1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled goat cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
8 basil leaves
Freshly ground black pepper (optional)

Dissolve yeast in 3/4 cup warm water in a small bowl; let stand 5 minutes or until bubbly. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl; make a well in center of mixture. Add yeast mixture to flour mixture; stir just until moist. Add oil, and stir until a dough forms.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size. (Press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.)

Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes. Roll dough into a 16 x 11–inch rectangle; place dough on a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise 1 hour or until doubled in size.

While dough rises, arrange tomato slices in a single layer on several layers of paper towels; cover with additional paper towels. Lightly press down occasionally.

Preheat oven to 375°.

Arrange tomato slices over dough. Sprinkle evenly with cheese. Bake at 375° for 28 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove flatbread from pan; cool 5 minutes on a wire rack.

Sprinkle with chives and parsley. Arrange basil over flatbread; sprinkle with additional pepper, if desired.

What's That Wonderful Smell?

I know I talk a lot about food (and cocktails) on here. But that's just because those are the easiest things to talk about and replicate. There is much more to the full Life Should Be Beautiful philosophy. We have to surround ourselves with things that stimulate all the senses. Not just taste, but touch, sight, sound and smell.

I was reminded of this the other night when I stepped out onto our back deck. It was a pretty muggy evening, but a little bit of a breeze helped. It ruffled the leaves in the trees just enough to help drown out the nearby freeway. I sat down to pet the dogs and a wonderful odor wafted past. I looked up to realize that our night jasmine bush had bloomed. It's a non-descript enough plant...nothing much to look at. But several times a summer, it blooms in hundreds of little spikes that open only at night. The resultant odor is heady and tropical. The perfect things for a relaxing evening under the stars.

It just reminded me of other ways I make sure smell is a part of our home life. Sure, the kitchen is often sending our great aromas, but what else? Here are a few:
  • Fill a mister bottle with distilled water and add a few drops of essential oils...lavender and vanilla maybe. Spray your sheets and pillowcases right before bed.
  • Candles are always a great choice. Find good-quality ones. I prefer spicy smells...clove, cinnamon, even a "synthetic" smell like leather.
  • Throw a couple orange or lime peels in a small saucepan filled with water and simmer gently.

Those are just a few. How do you fill your home with pleasant smells?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Cocktail of the Week: Sweet Tea Vodka and Lemonade

We Southerners love our sweet tea. Tea so laced with sugar that it's almost chewy. Nothing is better on a summer day. Strike that...they've made it better by making vodka taste like it.

Discovered this tasty treat at the bar at the Ritz Carlton here in Dallas. We asked the bartender to make us something refreshing on a hot summer evening. He splashed a bit of sweet tea vodka in an ice-filled glass and topped it off with lemonade. Slyly, he pointed out that it was called a John Daly. (Get it? The alcoholic version of an Arnold Palmer.)

So go buy some sweet tea vodka and mix one up. Just be's so refreshing that it might sneak up on you.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Chicken and Cilantro Bites

These are yummy little Asian meatballs. They'd be fun at a party, but would also be a delicious light main course...maybe served on an Asian slaw of some sort. Sounds like a great summer meal to me.

Chicken and Cilantro Bites
From Gourmet magazine.
Makes about 30 hors d'oeuvres.

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar (not seasoned)
1 lb ground chicken (not breast meat)
1 large egg
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 scallions, finely chopped
2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Stir together soy and vinegar in a bowl for dipping sauce.

Stir together chicken, egg, cilantro, scallions, sesame oil, and salt with a fork until just blended.
Spread cornstarch in a shallow baking pan. With wet hands form chicken mixture into 1-inch balls, transferring them to baking pan as formed. Wash and dry your hands, then gently roll balls in cornstarch until coated. (Balls will be soft.)

Heat 1/4 cup vegetable oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then cook half of balls, turning over occasionally, until firm and golden (they will flatten slightly), 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Add remaining 1/4 cup oil to skillet and cook remaining balls in same manner. Serve meatballs with dipping sauce.

(Note: I also think a sweetish garlic chili sauce makes a delicious dipping sauce for these.)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Honey-Tomato Bruschetta with Ricotta

This was a hit as a part of the first course of our recent wine dinner. Paired with sparkling wine from the Schramsberg winery in Napa, California, it was sweet, tangy and toasty all at the same time. Just like the wine was.

And I made it a locavore's delight. Homemade ricotta. Organic baguette. Thyme and basil from my garden. And fresh tomatoes and honey from the farmers market. A guilty pleasure without any of the guilt.

Honey-Tomato Bruschetta with Ricotta
From Food & Wine magazine.
Makes 6 servings.

2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons thyme leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
12 baguette slices, cut 1/2 inch thick on the bias
1 cup fresh ricotta (8 ounces)
1 tablespoon honey
6 basil leaves, thinly sliced or torn

Preheat the oven to 300°. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, toss the tomatoes with the olive oil, honey, thyme leaves, salt and pepper. Scrape the tomatoes onto the prepared baking sheet and turn them cut side up. Bake the tomatoes for about 1 hour and 25 minutes, until they begin to shrivel and brown. Let cool.

Preheat the broiler. Spread out the baguette slices on a baking sheet. Broil for about 30 seconds on each side, until the edges are golden brown.

Spread the ricotta over the baguette slices and top with the slow-roasted tomatoes. Lightly drizzle the tomatoes with the buckwheat honey, sprinkle with the sliced basil and serve with additional buckwheat honey on the side.

Note: The roasted tomatoes can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Basil Cream Sauce

Here's a sauce I made for some butter-poached shrimp for the recent wine dinner extravaganza. It comes from the fine folks at Schramsberg; they suggested it over chicken with penne pasta. I just switched the protein around. It's quite versatile...would be good on fish, veggies or just plain ol' pasta.

Note: I diced the vegetables quite finely since the sauce was going on a hoity-toity appetizer plate (so much so that my sister wondered who had chopped things up so tiny), but a rough dice is fine.

Basil Cream Sauce
Makes about three cups.

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
4 cloves garlic, chopped
6 green onions, sliced (reserve 1/4 green ends for garnish)
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup white wine (or sparkling)
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
3/4 cup chicken stock
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped

Add the olive oil and butter to a pan and heat over medium heat. Add the chopped green onions, garlic and diced red bell pepper and sauté 3 minutes.

Stir in the flour and cook 2 minutes.

Whisk in the wine and cook 1 minute.

Whisk lemon juice, chicken broth and cream into the sauce. Cook and let thicken slightly, about 3 minutes.

Stir in the chopped basil and parsley.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Boston Lettuce Salad with Beets and Yogurt Dressing

Right now, here in Dallas, there are some nights that it's simply too hot to cook. If you've raosted a few beets in advance, this tasty salad is a cinch to prepare. And it's complex enough with tanginess, crunch and the sweet earthy flavor of the beets, that a large portion makes a perfectly satisfying summer meal.

Boston Lettuce Salad with Beets and Yogurt Dressing
From Martha Stewart's Everyday Food.
Makes 4 servings.

3/4 pound beets (2 large or 8 small), trimmed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1/2 cup Greek yogurt (full-fat or 2 percent)
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
1 head Boston lettuce
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon
1/2 cup unsalted pistachios, toasted

Preheat oven to 450°. Place beets in a 12-inch square piece of foil. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil and season with salt and pepper; fold foil into a packet. Roast until beets are easily pierced with a paring knife, 30 to 45 minutes. When cool enough to handle, peel beets and cut into wedges.

Whisk together yogurt, vinegar, and 2 tablespoons oil; season dressing with salt and pepper. Thin as desired with 1 to 2 tablespoons water.

Divide lettuce among plates and top with beets, tarragon, pistachios, and dressing. Serve immediately.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Black Bean Butter Sauce

If you're like me, you have a freezer full of "proteins." Pork tenderloin, steak, chicken breast. It's incredibly easy to come home and roast them or grill them. But how do you dress them up? here's a great way to do just that. A tangy rich sauce that's quick and easy to prepare. And it was decadent enough to serve as a part of a recent multi-course wine dinner. The pairing? A spicy Syrah. Try it on your own and see.

Black Bean Butter Sauce
Serves 4-6.

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 5 equal pieces
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons shallots
1 tablespoon Chinese black bean sauce (You'll find it jarred in the Asian section of your grocery.)
1 1/3 cups dry white wine (leftover/stale is OK)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a small saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and shallots, cover, and cook without stirring until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the black bean sauce, wine and soy sauce and mix well.

Increase the heat to medium-high and reduce the liquids by two-thirds. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the remaining butter by tablespoons.

Add the rice vinegar and black pepper gradually until the sauce has a subtle acidic tang and a gentle "bite."

Serve over seared shrimp, pork or chicken.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

It's a Southern Thing: Chow Chow Relish

I recently posted the following as my Facebook status update: "I have become a Southern woman of a certain age." Now, not literally...but I found myself canning (canning!) a batch of that Southernest of condiments: chow chow.

But there's more to the story...

I recently tried this recipe for fried green tomatoes. Well, it seems one can't just buy two green tomatoes at the farmers market as the recipe calls for. So I found myself with four or five "extras" sitting on the counter. I wondered what to do with them and my other half suggested I make chow chow like his grandmother used to make. Of course he had no recipe. Off to the Internet I went.

I found this recipe and after his taste test, he said it was spot on. The batch was so big, I went ahead and canned it (something I had never done before which turned out to be far easier than I anticipated). We gave it away so quickly that I found myself making a second batch the following week. This time I added two poblano peppers for a little more kick. It was a great call...I will now include it in the posted recipe.

Try it and see what you think. It's delicious on peas or beans, on sandwiches, in scrambled eggs...the possibilities are endless.

Chow Chow
Makes 5 1/2 pints.

5 green bell peppers
5 red bell peppers
2 large green tomatoes
2 large onions
2 poblano peppers, halved and seeded
1/2 small cabbage
1/4 cup pickling salt
3 cups sugar
2 cups white vinegar (5% acidity)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons celery seeds
3/4 teaspoon turmeric

Chop first 5 ingredients.*

Stir together chopped vegetables and salt in a large Dutch oven. Cover and chill 8 hours. Rinse and drain; return mixture to Dutch oven. Stir in sugar and remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 3 minutes.

Pack hot mixture into hot jars, filling to 1/2 inch from top. Remove air bubbles; wipe jar rims.

Cover at once with metal lids, and screw on bands.

Process in boiling-water bath 15 minutes.

* Although our grandmothers didn't have one, an alligator chopper makes this recipe much easier.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tomato-Leek Pie

As I mentioned recently, tomatoes are ubiquitous in our kitchen these days. It's one of the things that enables me to put up with the ridiculously hot summer days that we are subjected to here in North Texas.

Here's a recipe from Southern Living, always a good resource for "down-home" recipes utilizing fresh produce. It combines fresh tomatoes with buttery leeks and a tangy topping...all baked in flaky pastry. A great combination.

A couple of suggestions: Next time I make it (and there WILL be a next time), I might increase the amount of Parmesan/mayo topping. You might substitute onion for leeks if you had to, but the leeks add a great herbal quality. And... try to use the entire pie at one meal. It can get a bit soggy if you reheat it in the microwave the next day for lunch.

Food/Wine Pairing: We didn't try this, but I was struck as I tasted this dish, that a crisp Sauvignon Blanc would be perfect with this. As it usually is with most fresh tomato dishes.

Tomato-Leek Pie
From Southern Living magazine.
Makes 6 servings.

1/2 (15-oz.) package refrigerated piecrusts
2 medium-size red tomatoes
2 medium-size yellow tomatoes
1 green tomato
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 medium leek
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 450°.

Fit piecrust into a 9-inch pie plate according to package directions; fold edges under, and crimp.Bake at 450° for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven, and let cool 5 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°.

Cut tomatoes into 1/4-inch slices. Place tomatoes on a paper towel-lined wire rack. Sprinkle tomatoes with kosher salt. Let stand 20 minutes. Pat dry with paper towels.

Remove and discard root end and dark green top of leek. Cut in half lengthwise, and rinse thoroughly under cold running water to remove grit and sand. Thinly slice leek.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add leek, and sauté 3 to 5 minutes or until tender.

Layer leek on bottom of prepared crust. Top with tomato slices, and sprinkle with pepper. Stir together cheese, mayonnaise, and egg in a medium bowl until blended. Spread cheese mixture over top of tomatoes.

Bake at 375° for 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Let stand 10 minutes. Garnish with parsley leaves, if desired.

Food/Wine Pairing: Although we did not try this, I bet a Sauvignon Blanc would be perfect with it would be with most fresh tomato dishes.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Pea and Parmesan Ravioli

This was the second course at the wine dinner in June. I served three ravioli apiece. Increase that number to 5 or 6 and you have a wonderful light summer meal.

Pea and Parmesan Ravioli
From Gourmet magazine.
Serves 4-6. (Makes about 32 ravioli.)

2 2/3 cups frozen peas (3/4 pound)
1/3 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano plus additional for serving
2 teaspoons chopped mint
About 64 dumpling or wonton wrappers (I bought fresh pasta sheets from a local pasta maker and then use my handy ravoili press.)
3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted

Cook peas in boiling salted water until just tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and cool, then purée in a food processor. Stir in cheese, mint, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.

Put a rounded teaspoon filling in center of a wrapper. Lightly brush edge of wrapper with water, then place a second wrapper on top and seal, pressing out any trapped air. Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling, keeping ravioli covered as you work.

Boil ravioli in 2 batches in a pasta pot of salted boiling water until tender, 2 to 3 minutes per batch, removing with a slotted spoon. Drizzle with butter and sprinkle with cheese and pepper.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Creole Marinated Tomatoes

I seem to have tomatoes coming out of my ears. (And squash also, but that's for another posting.) When I walk up to Lemley's produce stand at the Dallas Farmers Market, I want to do the right thing. So I ignore the red-skinned beauties set in glowing stacks up on the table and point to the bushel baskets of "overripes" on the concrete floor. They're a great deal, and except for the occasional blemish or a couple that truly ARE overripe, perfectly acceptable.

Trouble is we can't eat them all fast enough. Especially when I end up with another big bag of the golden ones also. Therefore, tomato recipes are quite welcome right now.

This is a great one. Sure, we've all thrown some cut-up tomatoes into a mixture of olive oil and vinegar. Perfectly delicious. But marinating them in this tangy, sweet, herbal Creole-inspired mixture provides a wonderfully complex salad that would be a great side dish or a wonderfully healthy snack.

Creole Marinated Tomatoes
From Bon Appetit magazine.
Makes 8 servings.

3 pounds large tomatoes, cored, each cut into 6 wedges
4 large green onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine tomatoes, green onions, and parsley in large bowl. Combine oil and all remaining ingredients in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until sugar and salt dissolve, about 1 minute. Stir warm marinade into tomato mixture. Chill at least 4 hours and up to 6 hours.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Wine Dinner Extravaganza 2009

It was time. The entire clan was to be gathered here in Dallas, so it was time for a wine dinner. These have become an annual affair, born of my need a decade ago to share some semi-expensive bottles of wine. I was single at the time and didn't want to drink them myself. There are always fun, and, if I do say so myself, I have become very good at planning, organizing and executing a great evening of food and wine.

Here's the report on the latest edition:

First Course:
Bruschetta with House-Made Ricotta. Lemley’s Farm Tomatoes and Zip Code Honey
Butter-Poached Shrimp with Basil Cream
Broiled Mussels with Spicy Breadcrumbs
paired with
Schramsberg Brut, Napa Valley, 2003

I always start with sparkling wine, This year, in tribute to our recent Napa trip, we served a California powerhouse. The three little nibbles played off the complexities of the wine...toasty, sweet, creamy...the list goes on and on.

Second Course:
Pea and Parmesan Ravioli
paired with
Venge Champ des Fleurs Proprietary White, Napa Valley, 2008

This was all about tangy. Herbal filling stuffed in fresh pasta with just a touch of butter. And the wine was perfect. A white blend from a wonderful "boutique" winery in California.

Third Course:
Grilled Aged Gouda and Membrillo Sandwiches
paired with
Stuhlmuller Reserve Chardonnay, Alexander Valley, 2006

Kicked-up grilled cheese with a rich and creamy Chardonnay. That's heaven.

Fourth Course:
Pork Tenderloin with Black Bean Butter Sauce
paired with
Venge Gladys’ Vineyard Syrah, Napa Valley, 2007

Simply-roasted pork tenderloin with a tangy sauce. Just the thing to play off a spicy Syrah.

Main Course:
Juha’s Farm Lamb Stew
paired with
Cliff Lede Cabernet Sauvignon St. Helena, Napa Valley, 2006

Big bold stew with big bold wine. Yum.

Cheese Trio:
Jasper Hill Constant Bliss (Vermont, cow’s milk), Walserstolz (Austria, cow’s milk), Point Reyes Blue (California, cow’s milk)
paired with
Viansa “La NebbiaNebbiolo, Sonoma County, 2005

I love cheese before dessert. And this was a nice mix of creamy, sharp and tangy. Alongside we served a nice earthy dry red wine from one of my favorite wineries in Sonoma County, California.

Seared Black Mission Figs and Lemley’s Farm Peaches with Balsamic Reduction and Crème Fraiche

This is a perfect summer dessert. And it was the perfect ending to a wonderful meal.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Cocktail of the Week: Summer Sangria

Have you noticed? It's HOT! So hot that I break a sweat shaking a cocktail...

Here's the solution. Make a big pitcher of this delicious stuff to work on all week. It's tart and sweet and refreshing.

Summer Sangria
Adapted from a Food Network recipe.
Makes 12-16 servings.

1 orange, sliced
1 lime, sliced
1 apple, cored and sliced
1 bottle red wine (This is not the place for a big Cab. Try a fruity Pinot Noir.)
2 cups white rum
1/2 cup orange liqueur, like Cointreau
1 1/2 cups orange juice
3/4 cup pomegranate juice
1/4 cup simple syrup
Club soda

Place the orange, lime and apple in a large pitcher. Cover with all remaining ingredients, reserving the club soda.

Chill in the refrigerator for several hours. Serve in ice-filled goblets. Top with club soda.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Jalapeno Popper Macaroni and Cheese

We had the great good fortune of hanging out with some good friends at their gorgeous East Texas lakehouse one recent weekend. You know me...I had bugged our guests about what I could bring food-wise. They graciously said that all was taken care of. (And it was! Yummy brisket. Fantastic potato salad. BBQ chicken sliders. My mouth waters at the memory.)

That said...I was lucky enough across this recipe as I perused one of my "food" magazines before we hit the lake. A quick trip to the grocery store and some easy preparation led to this wonderful addition to the buffet.

(And, a word to the wise...I got inspired when I fixed some leftovers a couple days later. Jalapeno poppers are fired, right? So, where's the "breading" in this recipe? Problem solved. Sprinkle some breadcrumbs on top of the casserole before heating. Just watch them carefully so they don't get overbrowned.)

Jalapeno Popper Macaroni and Cheese
Serves 4-6.
From Everyday with Rachael Ray.

Salt and pepper
1 pound cavatappi (I used rotini and it was still wonderful.)
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 jalapeños, seeded and thinly sliced
2 serrano chiles, seeded and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups milk
8 ounces cream cheese
2 teaspoons garlic pepper
2 cups shredded Monterrey Jack cheese (or substitute "Mexican Cheese blend" if that's all you can find)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente. Drain and return to the pan.

In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the jalapeños and serranos and garlic and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add to the pasta.

Preheat the oven to 400°.

In a saucepan, combine the milk, cream cheese and garlic pepper. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until smooth, about 5 minutes. Pour into pasta.

Stir in the Jack cheese and season with salt and pepper.

Transfer into a baking dish and bake until heated through and slightly brown on top, about 10 minutes. (Don't forget to add a sprinkling of breadcrumbs if you're so inclined. You can also turn the broiler on for 3-5 minutes to get an extra crispy layer on top.)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sesame and Miso-Glazed Scallops

Here's an exotic shellfish recipe to pair with your favorite Chardonnay.

Sesame and Miso-Glazed Scallops
Serves 8.

Kosher salt
30 sea scallops, muscle removed
Freshly ground white pepper
1/3 cup mirin (sweet Japanese rice wine)
1 cup white miso paste
1/2 cup saké
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil, for cooking scallops
1 tablespoon toasted pure sesame oil

Garnish: 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted; 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds; 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped

Preheat the broiler. Dry scallops and season lightly on both sides with salt and shite pepper. In a small bowl, stir together the mirin and white miso paste. In a small saucepan, heat saké to a simmer;add sugar and stir to dissolve. Combine with miso mixture to form a glaze. Lightly coat a heavy flat-bottomed skillet with the olive oil and arrange scallops in the pan, being careful not to crowd them. Coat tops of scallops with glaze and place under the preheated broiler for 3 minutes, until the glaze begins to bubble and the scallops are partially cooked through. Remove the pan from the oven and carefully turn scallops glaze-side down in the same pan.

Return the pan to the oven and continue cooking until just cooked through, another 3 to 4 minutes. Remove and immediately turn the scallops glaze-side up.

To serve, place five scallops glaze-side up on each plate. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and cilantro and a dollop or two of the miso glaze.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Zucchini and Yellow Squash Gratin

Zucchini seems to inspire jokes like this one....

What's the perfect zucchini recipe?

1 bushel zucchini
1 raincoat
1 pair of sunglasses
A moderately fast car

Directions:Go to a busy parking lot. Drive around until you find an unlocked car. Put the zucchini in the back seat and drive away FAST before you are discovered!

Why? Beacuse it seems to be so easy to grow. While folks struggle to have their tomatoes set, their cucumbers avoid bitterness and their onions rot, zucchini takes over the garden.

No worries! If you're lucky enough to have this "problem," prepare a great dish like this one:

Zucchini and Yellow Squash Gratin
Makes 4 servings.
From Martha Stewart's Everyday Food.

2 tablespoons butter
2 medium zucchini (about 7 ounces each), sliced crosswise one inch thick
2 medium yellow squash (about 7 ounces each), sliced crosswise one inch thick
2 shallots, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup panko (or regular breadcrumbs)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 450°. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat; add zucchini, yellow squash, shallots, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until zucchini and squash are crisp-tender, 4 to 6 minutes.

Add cream, and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat; stir in 1/2 cup panko and cup Parmesan.

Spoon mixture into a shallow 2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining panko and Parmesan; season with salt and pepper. Bake until top is golden, 8 to 10 minutes.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Crab Salad with Wonton Crisps and Lime

My other half HAS to have something crunchy with every meal. To the point that he has to have a handful of potato chips along with a gourmet meal I have prepared. But I can outfox him with a recipe like this. Gourmet and crunchy...perfect. (And if you can sacrifice and not have the fried chips, the salad itself is wonderfully healthy.)

Crab Salad with Wonton Crisps and Lime
From Gourmet magazine.
Serves 8.

For wonton crisps:
8 square wonton wrappers, thawed if frozen
About 6 cups vegetable oil

Halve each wonton wrapper to make 2 rectangles, then halve each rectangle diagonally to make 2 triangles. Heat 1 1/4 inches vegetable oil in a 4- to 5-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until thermometer registers 360°F. Gently lay 4 triangles on oil (do not drop in, or triangles will lose their shape) and fry, turning over once, until just golden, 15 to 30 seconds total.

Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain and season with salt. Fry remaining triangles in same manner.

For crab salad:
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lime zest
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over
2 celery ribs, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/4 cup thinly sliced white and pale green parts of scallions

Whisk together zest, juice, salt, and pepper in a bowl until salt is dissolved, then add olive oil, whisking until combined well.

Add crab, celery, and scallions to dressing and toss gently to combine.

Serve crab salad in martini glasses topped with wonton crisps.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Mussels: Theme and Variations

When I posted this recipe for mussels recently, I mentioned that I don't even use a recipe very often any more. That's because that recipe and the one I've posted below showed me the basics. Now I can riff on that process with ingredients I have on hand or try new and different combinations every time I fix up a pot of these delicious shelled creatures.

Here's my technique:

Sauté your veggies.
In the pot you're using to cook your mussels, heat a tablespoons or two of olive oil. Add two or three veggies and saute for a couple of minutes. Of course, the obvious suspects are garlic and chopped onion, but you can also get exotic with jalapeño, red bell pepper, thinly sliced fennel, ginger, or your other favorites. After these sauté for a few, you could also add some diced tomato for a minute or two. Just think about your favorite flavor combos and experiment away.

Add the aromatics and spices.
Depending on what you're aiming for, you might use any variety of dried herbs. Oregano, thyme, Italian herb seasoning, crushed red pepper, chili powder, cumin, saffron, curry powder. Again, get creative. You'll just want to follow a theme throughout....more on that in a minute.

Time for the liquid.
Since you're essentially steaming the mussels, you need liquid. But not just wnat something that will add another layer of flavor. Lots of recipes call for white wine and that's always a great choice. But you can get more exotic than that. I've used rosé wine. Even sparkling wine. But you could also go with beer. Dry sherry. And there are plenty of non-alcoholic options as well. Chicken, fish or vegetable stock. A can of tomatoes with their juice. Even coconut milk (yuck) for you real exotic types.

Dump in the mussels.
Make sure the mussels are all closed (discard those that aren't) and dump them in. They cook for about five minutes. This time, you discard those that are still closed.

Gild the lily.
A little greenery is always nice at this point. A handful of coarsely chopped parsley or basil. Even some baby spinach. Adds a nice color and texture to your final dish. Now all you need is that crusty bread I mentioned.

Keep with a theme.
Don't confuse your tastebuds by getting too creative. Think of a flavor profile and play within that category. For example, you can go Italian with onion and garlic, tomato, oregano and white wine. Or Southwestern with onion, garlic, red pepper, cumin, and tomatoes in their juice. get the idea? (One of my most successful experiments involved a little diced chorizo sausage, roasted red pepper, garlic, saffron, smoked paprika and a Spanish white wine. Delicious.)

If you're still worried about your improv skills, try this recipe from Food and Wine magazine inspired by the cooking of Galicia, a rugged coastal region in northwestern Spain. It will give you the basics. Then go for it.

Mussels in Sailor's Sauce
Makes 4 servings.

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 jalapeño, finely chopped
1 large tomato—peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, lightly crumbled
Large pinch of Spanish saffron, lightly crumbled
1/2 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Albariño
2 pounds mussels, scrubbed and debearded
1/2 cup fish stock or bottled clam juice
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Crusty country bread, for serving

In a large, heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, garlic and jalapeño and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the tomato, oregano and saffron and cook for 1 minute, stirring. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir it in. Add the wine and mussels, cover the pan and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the fish stock, parsley and lemon juice and cook over high heat, stirring, until the mussels open, about 5 minutes.

Discard any mussels that do not open. Transfer the mussels and their sauce to deep bowls. Serve at once with crusty bread to soak up the sauce.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Crab Quiche

I've always believed that real mean DO eat quiche. Especially when it's as delicious as this one. Add a green salad and a glass or two of your favorite crisply dry white wine, and it's bon appetit time.

Crab Quiche
Makes 6-8 servings.
(And it's delicious the next morning for breakfast.)

1 pie crust
8 ounces fresh lump crab meat
3 ounces grated Swiss cheese
4 eggs
2 cups milk or cream
1/3 cup minced onion
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Dash of ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 425°.

Place pastry in bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie plate. Crimp edges.

Over the pie crust, sprinkle the crab meat and grated cheese. in a large bowl, beat the eggs, milk, onion, salt and cayenne until blended. Pour mixture over crabmeat and cheese. Sprinkle with parsley.

Place pie plate on a cookie sheet on middle rack of oven. Bake at 425° for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350°. Bake 30 minutes more or until knife, when inserted, comes out clean. Remove quiche from oven and let cool 10 minutes. Serve warm.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Warm Wild Mushroom Salad with Black Truffle Vinaigrette

If you're looking for a new and different side to go with the steak you're throwing on the grill tonight, here's your solution. It goes well with other simply prepared proteins as well...salmon, tuna steak, veal chop or pork tenderloin. Splurge on the truffle oil. It's totally worth it. Yum.

Warm Wild Mushroom Salad with Black Truffle
Makes six servings.

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup white or black truffle oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 pound mixed mushrooms, including shitake, button and cremini, stems trimmed and thinly sliced
1 small shallot, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
8 cups mixed baby lettuces, washed and dried

Whisk the sherry vinegar, balsamic vinegar and mustard in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the truffle oil until emulsified.

Melt the butter over medium heat in a medium skillet until it foams. Add the mushrooms and shallot and cook, stirring, until warmed through and slightly tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a mixing bowl, add half of the chives and toss with half the vinaigrette to coat. season with salt and pepper and cover loosely to keep warm while preparing greens.

In a large bowl , toss the greens with the remaining vinaigrette and chives, and distribute among six salad plates. Top with the warm mushrooms and serve immediately.

Food/Wine Pairing: While a nice California Cabernet is usually my go-to wine with a steak, here the mushrooms cry out for Pinot Noir. And if you're splurging on the truffle oil, might as well have a top-notch bottle of wine. Two of my favorite Pinot Noirs are Goldeneye and Belle Glos (try the Telephone and Clark Vineyard). Both are well-worth the $50 they cost. Cheers...

Monday, July 06, 2009

Hash Brown Potato Casserole

This is much like the infamous "Mormon Potato Casserole" served up at buffet pot-luck dinners. It would also be perfect at your next brunch.

Hash Brown Potato Casserole
Serves 10-12.

1/2 cup butter
1 pint sour cream
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/3 cup diced onion
1/3 cup diced green bell pepper
1/3 cup diced red bell pepper
1 pound frozen hash brown or O'Brien potatoes, thawed

In a small saucepan, heat the soup and butter until the butter is melted and well-combined. Blend in the rest of the ingredients and stir in the potatoes. Place in a 9x13 glass baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

Bake at 350° for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Peach Pound Cake

Peaches are abundant at the farmers market right now. Here's a GREAT way to use them. It was a real hit at the lakehouse this Fourth of July weekend. Delicious for dessert and quite tasty for breakfast also. Make it extra peachy with some diced peaches and whipped cream on top if you'd like. (Thinking about it, it might love a drizzle of amaretto instead.)

Peach Pound Cake

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
6 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
3 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and chopped

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and almond extract..

In a separate mixing bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. Add to creamed mixture. Fold in sour cream and chopped peaches. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours, or until wooden toothpick inserted in center of cake come out clean.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Best Grilled Cheese Ever: Grilled Gouda and Membrillo Sandwiches

Putting together my annual multi-course wine pairing dinner for my family is both art and science. Art in that I want it to be creative in a mind-blowing way. Science in that the progression from light to heavy creates some "rules" within which I work.

First course is almost always a sparkler. Second is a light Sauvignon Blanc or Viognier. And 99% of the time the third course is a pairing with the king of the white grapes--Chardonnay.

I didn't have a great Chardonnay-pairing recipe in my files this time. So I depended on my good "friend" Andrea Immer Robinson and her A-List Wine Club. I found a Stuhlmuller Reserve Chardonnay in the cellar. her food pairing suggestion? This decadent delicious grilled cheese sandwich. It's like nothing you've ever had before, yet remarkably easy to make. Make yourself a batch and uncork a rich and honeyed Chard.

What better way to celebrate the Fourth of July than a kicked-up grilled cheese sandwich?!? So yummy that I came home and fixed one after work just the other night.

Grilled Gouda and Membrillo Sandwiches
Serves 6-8 as a first course or snack.

8 slices multi-grain sandwich bread (I used a "three-seed" bread from my local gourmet market.)
8 ounces aged Gouda cheese, very thinly sliced (Use the good stuff.)
8 ounces membrillo (quince paste), very thinly sliced (or substitute 6 tablespoons apricot jam)

Place four of the bread slices on a work surface and layer with slices of the membrillo to cover (or slather generously with apricot jam).

Distribute the slices of Gouda cheese evenly over the sandwiches and top with the remaining bread slices.

Toast the sandwiches in a heated panini press until the cheese begins to melt and the bread is lightly toasted and crunchy.

Cut the sandwiches into triangles or squares with a sharp knife. Serve hot.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Asian-Style Veggie Noodles

My fascination with Asian cooking continues. I don't know whether it's because there in an inordinate number of those kinds of recipes in my favorite magazines. Or whether it's just a continued result of my wonderful field trip to Asia World Market here in Dallas. Maybe it's just because they are so darn healthy most of the time. Anyway...I digress.

This dish manages to be quite pan-Asian. Japanese, Chinese and Thai ingredients all combine for a delicious final result.

Asian-Style Veggie Noodles
Adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray magazine.
Makes 4 servings.

One 12-ounce package soba noodles
1/4 cup sesame oil
1 head napa cabbage (about 2 pounds), tough center ribs removed and thinly shredded
1 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed
1 bunch scallions, cut on an angle into 2-inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño pepper, halved, seeded and very thinly sliced
One 2-inch piece fresh ginger, grated or finely chopped
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
20 basil leaves

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, add the soba noodles and cook until al dente. Drain.

While the pasta is cooking, in a wok or large skillet, heat the oil over high heat until rippling. Add the cabbage and edamame and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Stir in the scallions, garlic, jalapeño and ginger and stir-fry for 1 minute. Stir in the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, lime juice and black pepper. Add the soba noodles and basil and toss.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Shrimp Salad with Avocado/Lime Vinaigrette

Here's a great picnic recipe. Sweet shrimp, creamy avocado and tangy vinaigrette. With a nicely chilled bottle of Sauvignon Blanc or even rosé, it's an afternoon delight.

Shrimp Salad with Avocado/Lime Vinaigrette
Serves 4.

1 bulb fresh fennel
3 cups fresh baby spinach, washed and dried
1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp
1 avocado, cubed
Juice of 1 1/2 limes
1 pinch chili powder
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 drops liquid smoke seasoning
1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for cooking shrimp

Trim and discard the tops and stem end of the fennel. Quarter the bulb and shave with a mandoline. Place in a bowl with the spinach leaves and toss to combine.

Butterfly each shrimp by cutting part-way through with a paring knife along the vein side from the head to tail. Set shrimp aside.

In a blender, combine half the avocado cubes, the lime juice, chili powder, salt and pepper to taste and liquid smoke. With the blender running, drizzle in the olive oil slowly to make a thick vinaigrette. Taste and add more olive oil and salt if needed to balance the tanginess of the lime.

In a heavy skillet set on medium-high heat, heat one tablespoon olive oil and add the shrimp. Season with salt and pepper and cook, turning each shrimp individually to sear the shrimp on all sides.

Add the shrimp and remaining avocado to the bowl with the spinach and the fennel; drizzle on about 1/3 cup of the vinaigrette and toss to combine. Taste and add more vinaigrette if desired. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Crispy Goat Cheese with Oven-Dried Tomatoes

Here's a delicious appetizer that pairs perfectly with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc. You might just make a meal of it on one of these hot summer evenings.

Crispy Goat Cheese with Oven-Dried Tomatoes
Makes about 32 pieces.

8 plum tomatoes, washed and dried
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for sautéing cheese
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
16 ounces fresh goat cheese
2 eggs 1/4 cup water
2 cups fine dried bread crumbs
baguette, sliced thinly and toasted

Preheat the oven to 350°. Allow goat cheese to come to room temperature for easier handling.

Meanwhile, trim ends from tomatoes and cut each into four slices of equal thickness. Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Arrange tomatoes on the pan, brush with 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Place tomatoes in the oven and bake about 25 minutes, or until they release their moisture and become soft and chewy. (Begin checking after 15 minutes and remove any slices that begin to brown or become too dry.) Remove from oven and reserve. Tomatoes may be made a day ahead; cool, place in airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use.

Place goat cheese on a 20 inch piece of plastic wrap. Slice cheese lengthwise in half using dental floss. Place the cheese halves end-to-end on the plastic wrap. Roll plastic wrap over to cover, then roll and shape to round the edges and re-form the cheese into one long, thin log. Unwrap plastic and, with dental floss, slice into 32 rounds about 1/2 inch thick. Whisk eggs and water together to make an egg wash. Dip each goat cheese slice in egg wash, then in crumbs to coat all sides. Place rounds on a plate, cover with plastic and refrigerate.

Allow tomatoes to come to room temperature. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy skillet to medium. Add goat cheese slices in a single layer and sauté until golden. Turn and sauté other side until golden, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Remove to a platter and continue sautéing the remainder of the slices, wiping out the pan to remove brown bits and adding more oil as necessary.

For each hors d'oeuvre, place a tomato slice on each baguette slice and top with a slice of the cheese. Serve warm.