Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Asian Oyster Shooters

I love a good Bloody Mary, but (wait for it) especially one without the alcohol. I love the bold spicy flavors, and sometimes too much vodka overwhelms everything else going on. This recipe take the Bloody Mary on an Eastern journey, incorporating the great flavors of Japanese cooking. It still packs a nice punch though. They oysters are a nice addition also, making these little appetizers perfect for your New Year's soiree. (Or serve them the next morning as an antidote to your New Year's soiree.)

Asian Oyster Shooters
Males 4 servings.

1 cup tomato juice
1/4 cup vodka
1 teaspoon wasabi paste
1 teaspoon mirin
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
Juice of two limes
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 fresh oysters, shucked and cleaned
Lime wedges, for garnish

In a bowl, mix together all the ingredients except the oysters and lime wedges. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour for the flavors to meld.

To serve, place an oyster each in the bottom of four shot glasses. Pour the juice/vodka mixture over them.

Garnish with the lime wedges and serve chilled.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Smoked Salmon with Kettle Chips and Horseradish Sour Cream

What a great combination! Salty potato chips. Tangy sour cream. Spiky horseradish. And creamy smoked salmon. I hate to be cliched, but it's a taste explosion in your mouth.

The sturdy kettle-style potato chips make this an easy appetizer. But it's still classy enough for your New Year's Eve gathering. And PERFECT with bubbly. (Mmmmm....especially a good sparkling rosé.)

Smoked Salmon with Kettle Chips and Horseradish Sour Cream
Makes 20-30 appetizers.

3 tablespoons sour cream
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon chopped shallot
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 (9 ounce) bag kettle-style potato chips
1 (8 ounce) package smoked salmon, sliced
Chopped fresh chives

In a medium bowl, combine sour cream, horseradish, garlic, shallot, pepper and salt; mix well. Squeeze lemon juice into bowl; stir. Refrigerate until needed.

Immediately before serving, place several (20 to 30) flat, unbroken chips on a serving dish. Add a small dollop of the sour cream mixture to the center of each chip.

Cut the salmon slices into strips. Roll up the strips and place on top of the sour cream dollop on the chips. Sprinkle fresh chives on each for garnish.

Monday, December 28, 2009

A New Year's Eve Appetizer: Polenta Rounds and Black-Eyed Pea Dip

This is a yummy appetizer to serve at your New Year's Eve party. If your guests eat a bit after midnight, they're well on their way to a year of good luck...

Polenta Rounds and Black-Eyed Pea Dip
Adapted from Southern Living.
Makes 12-15 individual appetizers or two cups of dip.

(Notes: This recipe is delicious as presented, but you can skip the polenta and serve the dip surrounded by good-quality tortilla chips if you'd like. I originally intended to use my homemade black-eyed peas for this, but ended up using canned peas. It was still wonderful.)

1 (16-oz.) tube refrigerated polenta, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 (15-oz.) can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic pepper
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup light sour cream
Optional: 3 tablespoons finely diced jalapeno pepper

Bake polenta slices according to directions on package.

In a medium skillet, cook peas and next 5 ingredients over medium heat 3 minutes or until water evaporates. Remove from heat; stir in tomatoes and cilantro. If desired, stir in diced jalapeno pepper. Spoon warm black-eyed pea mixture over polenta rounds, and top evenly with sour cream.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Chilled Oysters with Cava Granita

You're going to pop open a bottle of bubbly for New Year's Eve, right? Here's an oh-so-elegant appetizer to include alongside that uses one of MY favorite sparklers...the wonderful version that the Spaniards call cava.

Chilled Oysters with Cava Granita
From The World in Bite Size.
Makes 12 canapes. (But it's easily divided for smaller portions.)

2 1/4 cups cava
1/4 small cucmber, cut in half lengthwise and very thinly sliced (Use a mandoline if you can. You want them almost paper-thin.)
Pinch of kosher salt
12 oysters, shucked and cleaned
1/2 ounce caviar

Mix 1 1/4 cups water with the cava in a small shallow container and place in the freezer.

After 30 minutes, remove the cava mizture from the freezer and break up the granules with a fork. Return it to the freezer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, toss the salt with the cucumber slices to extract excess water.

Remove the oysters from their shells. Wash and dry the shells, reserving one half for serving each oyster. (Note: I cheated and used pre-shucked oysters and used little Chinese soup spoons to serve.)

To serve, place a bed of two or three cucumber slices in each half shell and top with an oyster.

Spoon some granita onto each oyster. Top with a bit of caviar.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Cranberry Upside-Down Cake

If you're like me, it's that final push before the Christmas festivities. And, if you're like me, its no longer about the gifts and stockings (done and done), it's about the food and wine. Struggling with a dessert to serve. Here's one to check out. It's fairly simple to make and boasts a stunning topping of jewel-like cranberries. (I also discovered via a leftover piece this morning that it's a great stand-in for a coffee cake...and still just as festive looking.)

Cranberry Upside-Down Cake
From Cooking Light magazine.
Makes 12 servings.

Cooking spray
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
6 ounces fresh or frozen, thawed, cranberries

6.75 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup 1% low-fat milk
2 large egg whites

Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare topping, lightly coat a 9-inch round cake pan with cooking spray. Heat brown sugar and 2 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook 2 minutes or until butter melts and sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. Pour sugar mixture into prepared cake pan, tilting pan to coat bottom evenly. Arrange cranberries evenly over sugar mixture.

To prepare cake, weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; stir with a whisk. Place granulated sugar and 1/2 cup butter in a bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Fold flour mixture into sugar mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

Beat the egg whites with a mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form using clean, dry beaters. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter. Spoon the batter over the cranberries, spreading evenly. Bake at 350° for 55 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in pan 15 minutes on a wire rack. Loosen cake from sides of pan using a narrow metal spatula. Place a serving plate upside down on top of cake, and invert the cake pan onto the plate. Let stand 5 minutes, and remove the pan. Serve warm.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Blue Cheese Bacon Dip

Christmas for my family is a "meaty" holiday. No turkey for us. Mom buys a beef tenderloin as big as a Yule log, slaps some bacon on it and we roast it until medium rare. Accompanied by a fully-loaded baked potato, sauteed mushrooms and a good red wine (this year I'm taking a lip smacker of a Cabernet Franc), it's a feast fit for a king (or three).

So no wimpy appetizers need apply. This is what I'll be taking to contribute to our pot-luck pre-dinner/during-unwrapping buffet. (I might even set aside a spoonful or two to put in the aforementioned baked potato on my plate.)

Blue Cheese Bacon Dip
From Southern Living magazine.
Makes 12-15 servings.

7 bacon slices, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup half-and-half
4 ounces crumbled blue cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
3 tablespoons chopped walnuts, toasted

Cook chopped bacon in a skillet over medium-high heat 10 minutes or until crisp. Drain bacon, and set aside. Add minced garlic to skillet, and sauté 1 minute.

Beat cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Add half-and-half, beating until combined. Stir in bacon, garlic, blue cheese, and chives. Spoon mixture evenly into 4 (1-cup) individual baking dishes.

Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Sprinkle evenly with chopped walnuts, and serve with grape clusters and flatbread, assorted crackers or toasted baguette slices.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Cranberry-Mulled Wine

A warm glass of something is always a nice nightcap as you look at your Christmas tree. Here's my hot toddy of choice this holiday season.

Cranberry-Mulled Wine
Serves 12-15.

8 cardamom pods
4 4-inch cinnamon sticks, broken
12 whole cloves
1 can (about 11.5 ounces) frozen cranberry juice concentrate
1 bottle merlot or other fruity red wine
1/4 cup orange juice or orange liqueur (i.e. Cointreau)
1/3 cup honey

Lightly crush the cardamom pods to break. Center the cardamom, cinnamon and cloves on a square of cheesecloth, bring up the corners and tie closed with clean kitchen string.

In a slow cooker, mix the cranberry juice concentrate and the wine until combined. Stir in the honey and orange juice/liqueur; add the spice bag. Cover and cook on low 4 to 6 hours or on high 2 hours to 2 hours 30 minutes.

Remove and discard the spice bag. Ladle the punch into glasses to serve.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Crab Fondue

Here's an old-fashioned recipe that is quite tasty. It's a good hot appetizer to serve in a slow cooker set on warm.

1 package (8 ounce) cream cheese
1 jar Kraft Olde English Cheese Spread
1/2 cup half and half
1 can crab meat
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon onion salt

Melt cream cheese and cheese spread in double boiler or small slow cooker. Stir in half and half and add other ingredients. Serve warm with cubes of French bread for dipping.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Beefy Black Bean Stew

Christmas is hurtling down the tracks at us like Santa's sleigh on steroids. There's wrapping, baking, decorating, shopping and so much more to get done. If your workshop is like mine, you and the elves will be pulling some late nights. But don't settle for pizza or take-out Chinese, do yourself a favor and whip up a batch of this stew. Set it in the fridge and you'll have a quick and delicious meal for a night or two later this week.

Beefy Black Bean Stew
From Southern Living magazine.
Makes 8 servings.

1 (1 3/4- to 2-lb.) flank steak
1 (32-oz.) container beef broth, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium-size green bell pepper, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 (15-oz.) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (28-oz.) can petite diced tomatoes
1 (12-oz.) dark beer
1 (6-oz.) can tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Preheat oven to 400°. Cut beef against the grain into 1-inch strips. Line bottom and sides of a 13- x 9-inch pan with aluminum foil, allowing 2 to 3 inches to extend over sides. Place beef in a single layer in pan. Pour 1 cup beef broth over beef. Cover tightly with aluminum foil.

Bake at 400° 1 hour or until beef is shreddable. Remove beef from pan, reserving drippings. Shred beef with 2 forks.

Sauté onion and next 5 ingredients in hot oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Stir in shredded beef, reserved pan drippings, beans, next 4 ingredients, and remaining beef broth. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring occasionally, 45 minutes.

Serve with sour cream, grated cheese and/or tortilla strips.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Eggnog Cheesecake Bars

Here's something to put out for Santa on Christmas Eve. Ho ho ho....

Eggnog Cheesecake Bars
From Martha Stewart Living.
Makes 18 bars.

Cooking spray
12 graham crackers, finely ground (1 1/2 cups)
3/4 plus 3 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 pound cream cheese, room temperature
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup eggnog
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus one teaspoon brandy
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, plus more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350°. Coat a 9 inch square baking pan with cooking spray. Stir together graham crackers, 3 tablespoons sugar, and the melted butter. Press into bottom of pan. Bake until crust is just brown around the edges, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool.

Meanwhile, beat cream cheese with a mixer on medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining 3/4 cup sugar, the eggs, yolk, eggnog, flour, brandy, vanilla, nutmeg, and salt. Beat until smooth. Pour filling over crust. Set pan in a roasting pan and add enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of baking pan. Bake until just set, 40 to 45 minutes. Remove baking pan from water bath, transfer to wire rack. Let cool slightly, about 30 minutes. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Cut into 1 1/2 by 3-inch bars. Lightly dust the tops of bars with nutmeg just before serving. Makes 18 bars.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Pimento-Cheese Potato Gratin

I haven't had a chance to buy Simple Made Southern, the new cookbook by the Lee brothers. A Southerner by birth, I've had a great time recently rediscovering this unique culinary heritage. Both old-fashioned recipes like pickles and relishes, as well as a few of the dishes that my mom fixed all the time. But I like the Lee approach...Southern ingredients used in new ways. No, the results are not always the healthiest of foods, but they are delicious. This potato casserole which riffs on that Southern sandwich staple, pimento cheese, is no exception. It was published in our local newspaper and prompted me to put the cookbook on my Amazon wish list.

Pimento-Cheese Potato Gratin
From the Lee Brothers.
Makes 6 servings.

3 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
1 1⁄2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1⁄4-inch-thick rounds (Note: I didn't peel the potatoes and really liked the rustic touch that added.)
3⁄4 cup heavy cream
3 shallots, finely diced (scant 1⁄2 cup)
1⁄4 teaspoon crushed dried red chile flakes
1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
One 9-ounce jar roasted red peppers or piquillo peppers, with their liquid
8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (about 2 cups)

Heat the oven to 375° F, with racks positioned in the middle and the top third of the oven.

In a 3- to 4-quart stockpot, bring 2 quarts water and 2 teaspoons of the salt to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook for 10 minutes. Then drain, and set them aside.

Combine the cream, shallots, chile flakes, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, the black pepper, and 2 tablespoons of the liquid from the jar of roasted peppers in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook until the chile flakes have begun to stain the cream, about 2 minutes. Add half of the cheese and stir until it melts, about 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat.

Layer roughly a third of the potatoes in a 6-cup baking dish, overlapping them slightly so that they fit in an even layer. Scatter half of the roasted peppers on top of the potatoes (cut up any peppers that have remained whole so that they lie flat), and repeat layering potatoes and peppers until all the peppers and potatoes have been used. Pour the cream mixture over the potatoes and peppers, and agitate the dish to distribute the liquid throughout. Cover with aluminum foil and bake on the middle rack for 15 minutes.

Uncover the dish, sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top, and place the dish on the top oven rack. Bake for 8 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and gently browned on top. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Maryland Crab Melt-Aways

Yummy AND convenient. Are there two better words out there when it comes to appetizers? The yummy part will become self-evident as you imagine these ingredients working together. Convenience? Well. you assemble these and then freeze them...the Ziploc bags sitting there enticingly for your next impromptu soiree. (Which might, by the way, simply involve you and a nice glass of white wine.)

Maryland Crab Melt-Aways
Recipe courtesy Anne Legg (adapted slightly)

1 stick unsalted butter
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
3 ounces smoked Gouda cheese, cubed (Cotswold or Brie)
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic powder (or garlic pepper)
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1 teaspoon Louisiana hot sauce
1 teaspoon lemon juice
8 ounces fresh crab meat, picked over and flaked
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
4 tablespoons finely chopped roasted red peppers
6 English muffins

Place butter and mayo in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until smooth.

Drop Gouda cheese into the processor with the motor running and process until smooth.

Add seasonings, hot sauce and lemon juice and process to blend.

Scrape mixture into a bowl and fold in the crabmeat, parsley and red pepper, mixing well.

Using a serrated knife, evenly split the English muffins.

Divide the crab mixture evenly among the English muffin halves. Using a spatula, spread the mixture to the edges of each muffin.

Freeze melt-aways in single layer on a cookie sheet until solid, about 2 hours.

Once frozen, cut English muffins in even quarters. Bag and keep frozen until ready to use.

To serve, broil crab-side up until browned and bubbly, about 10-12 minutes.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Crab Stuffed Mushrooms En Croute

We've all had stuffed mushrooms, but maybe never like these.

Crab Stuffed Mushrooms En Croute
Makes 20 bundles.

1/2 cup herb flavored cheese (like Boursin)
1/2 cup finely minced crabmeat
20 uniformly sized mushrooms, stems removed
1 box phyllo dough, thawed
1/3 cup butter, melted
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine cheese and crab in a small bowl. Stuff each mushroom cap with crab-cheese mixture.

Brush one phyllo sheet with melted butter, cover with another sheet, and brush with more melted butter. Cut stacked phyllo sheets into four squares. Place a mushroom, cheese side up, in the center of each square. Season with salt and pepper. Lift sides of pastry over mushrooms to resemble small bundles and form a "purse," pinching edges to seal.

Repeat five more times to make a total of 20 bundles.

Place on a greased baking sheet and brush with beaten egg. Bake for about 15 minutes until pastry is crisp and golden. Serve hot.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Red Wine Mayonnaise

A Christmas tradition with my family is beef tenderloin on Christmas night. With baked potatoes, sauteed mushrooms and a glass (or three) of good Cabernet Franc, it's a perfect ending to the hectic holiday season.

The great news is that there are always leftovers. And I confess to being a fan of cold rare roast beef. Sliced thinly (but not too), it's great on a piece of good-quality bread with a little spinach or romaine lettuce. usually, my condiment of choice is a little horseradish-laced sour cream. This year though, I'm branching out and slathering the bread with this yumminess.

I found this recipe earlier this year and used it for our Halloween party. I topped lightly toasted baguette slices with a dollop of this red wine mayo and a sliver of Central Market's honey flank steak. Dee-lish.

Red-Wine Mayonnaise
Makes about 1/2 cup.

3 cups good red wine (leftover is fine)
Bouquet garni (bay leaf and sprigs of sage, thyme and parsley wrapped in a small square of cheesecloth)
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
5 juniper berries
1/2 cup mayonnaise.

Place the wine, bouquet garni, peppercorns and juniper berries in a small saucepan. Reduce over medium-high heat until approximately two tablespoons of wine remain. (Watch carefully at end of process to make sure wine does not burn.)

Strain through a fine sieve. (Make sure and squeeze liquid out of cheesecloth.) Set aside to cool.

Stir the wine reduction into the mayonnaise.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Bacon Wrapped and Pecan Stuffed Dates

OK...this recipe is not healthy, but it's delicious. (There can be no doubt it's from Paula Deen.) This one is another favorite of my other half when we have a party.

Bacon Wrapped and Pecan Stuffed Dates
Makes 30 pieces.

30 dates
30 pecan halves
10 slices bacon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Pit dates.

Cut bacon slices into three pieces. Place slices in one layer on a microwave safe plate and partially cook at full power for two minutes. Let cool slightly

Stuff each date with a pecan half. (You can gild the lily and stuff a small piece of blue cheese in with the pecan.) Wrap one piece of bacon around each stuffed date and secure with a toothpick. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until bacon is crisp. Place on a paper towel lined plate to drain and serve.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Cheese Dip with Crawfish

Queso (aka Velveeta and Rotel) is a standby of parties here in Texas. It's easy to make (especially in a slow cooker) and quite tasty. Here is a riff on that basic recipe that makes it a little more elegant and "gourmet."

Cheese Dip with Crawfish
Makes 6 cups dip.
From Cooking Light magazine.

2 teaspoons butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound frozen cooked peeled and deveined crawfish tail meat, thawed, rinsed, and drained (You can also substitute small shrimp.)
1 pound light processed cheese, cubed (such as Velveeta Light)
1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chiles, undrained
1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chiles, drained
1/2 cup chopped green onions

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook 5 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Add crawfish or shrimp; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove mixture from pan; cover and keep warm.

Add cheese and tomatoes to pan; cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes or until cheese melts. Stir in crawfish mixture and chopped green onions. Serve with tortilla chips. Garnish with green onion strips, if desired.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Balsamic White Bean Dip with Rosemary and Sage

Dips like hummus (made with garbanzo beans) and this one are easy last-minute food processor party foods. Dump the ingredients in and pulse away. The final product is delicious with veggies or pita crisps. (Only drawback is the brownish color...not the most attractive. Who cares when it tastes this good though.)

Balsamic White Bean Dip
Makes about 1 1/2 cups dip.

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon extravirgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons minced fresh sage
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 (19-ounce) can cannellini beans or other white beans, rinsed and drained

Combine all ingredients in a food processor; process until smooth.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ooey Gooey Cocktail Toasts

I can't believe I have never posted this recipe in the three years of this blog. It's a delicious messy treat that we've adopted from family friends. It's always at the top of my other half's wish list every time we have a party. Serve it at one of your holiday shindigs. You won't regret it.

Ooey Gooey Cocktail Toasts
Makes 12-24 toasts depending on how heavily you top them.

1 pound lean ground beef
1 pound hot breakfast sausage
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 pound Velveeta
1 loaf rye cocktail bread

In a large skillet, brown meats. Add seasonings.

Cut the Velveeta into small cubes and melt into the meat mixture.

Spoon onto slices of rye cocktail bread and bake for 15 minutes at 350°. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Tangy Cole Slaw

Cole slaw has become one of my new favorites. There are so many ways to change it up. Here's an Asian take with peanuts. And the one I always fix with barbecue. It's such an easy thing to throw together when you're at a loss for a green vegetable or salad substitute.

Here's one more take on the classic. I adapted it from a Martha Stewart recipe. It's perfect in the turkey reuben I posted right after Thanksgiving.

Tangy Cole Slaw
Makes two cups.

1/4 cup white-wine vinegar
3 tablespoons safflower oil (or olive or canola)
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon grainy mustard
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon garlic pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 small head green cabbage, finely shredded (3 cups)
1 medium carrot, coarsely grated
(Or substitute half of a bag of pre-shredded cole slaw mix for the cabbage and carrots.)

Whisk vinegar, oil, celery seeds, mustard, salt, garlic pepper, and sugar in a medium bowl. Add cabbage and carrot, and stir to combine.

Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour before using, or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day (bring to room temperature before using).

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Farmer's Market in December

An article on locavore cooking the other day got me to thinking. What options were there at our local farmer's market during the "off" season. Sure, I hit the place weekly during the growing season to get tomatoes, squash, green beans and more. And I've been intrigued by the increasing variety of non-fruit/non-vegetable options that have begun to show up. But what about December?

So I decided to trek downtown this past weekend and see what was going on. The atmosphere was perfect for my hunt. Mid-thirties, cloudy and blustery. I knew I wasn't going to find many growing green things this time.

But I DID find a cornucopia of locally-produced items that were quite satisfying. Here's my scouting report:

  • Olive oil and garlic-stuffed olives from Texas Olive Ranch. The oil is yellowy-green and viscous and puts a tickle at the back of your throat when you taste it. I can't wait to try the garlic-stuffed olives in a martini made with Tito's Vodka, another Texas find.

  • Bison chili and stuffed jalapenos from Chapman Chile Kitchen, recently named one of the best new restaurants in Dallas by D Magazine. The chili (no beans, we got the mild version) has a nice heat and a bit of sweetness. The stuffed peppers, baked not fried, keep a nice crunch when you reheat them. I'm definitely going to have to head to their place for lunch soon. Can't wait to try the blue cheese bison burger.

  • Wheat bread from Mennonite bakers Rosey Ridge Farms. The cinnamon rolls also looked awfully tempting.

  • I usually buy my eggs from JUHA Ranch's booth, but she was out. She sent me "next door" and I bought a couple of dozen from Busy B's Market. Scrambled up Sunday morning, they were rich and the most beautiful orange-yellow you've ever seen.

  • I also replenished my stock of cookies from Wackym's Kitchen. (Strangely enough, I first found these little goodies at a local car wash!) The crisp wafers come in all sorts of interesting flavors. I love the salted caramel and margarita versions for the tough of salt you get in every bite.

Lesson learned. There's still plenty to discover even when the tomatoes are long gone. As a matter of fact, it's opened my eyes up to a lot more local possibilities. I'm thinking of experimenting sometime in the spring by going completely local for a week. It's clear there's plenty out there to help me do it.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Cocktail of the Week: The Prairie Basil Gimlet

I managed to rescue some big bunches of basil from our herb garden just before the Arctic blast came through last week. Sure I could whip up some pesto to freeze, but why bother when Central Market is so close at hand. I thought it was much more appropriate to use it in this cocktail recipe I found.

The Prairie Basil Gimlet
Makes one cocktail.

2 ounces high-quality vodka
1/2 ounce St. Germain elderflower liqueur
1 squeeze fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
2 large basil leaves

Combine ingredients in a shaker. Muddle the basil gently in the liquid. You want to release the oils without breaking up the leaves. Add aice to the shaker and shake well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with another basil leaf that you spank between your hands to release its oil.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Three-Cheese Mini Macs

Creamy mac and cheese in bite-size packages. Ain't nothing wrong with that....

(Note: I adjusted the directions slightly to make the individual portions easier to get out of the mini muffin tins. I have posted my new technology below.)

Three-Cheese Mini Macs
Makes 48 mini-servings. (But don't worry if you need fewer. The mac and cheese is just fine on its own as a leftover in the next couple of days.)
Adapted slightly from Food & Wine magazine.

1/2 pound elbow macaroni
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
4 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded (1 packed cup)
4 ounces deli-sliced American cheese, chopped
1 large egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika

Preheat the oven to 425°.

In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the macaroni until al dente, about 5 minutes. Drain, shaking off the excess water.

Spray four 12-cup, nonstick mini muffin tins with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large saucepan, melt the 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter. Whisk in the flour over moderate heat for 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk and cook, whisking, until boiling, about 5 minutes. Add the cheddar and American cheeses and whisk until melted. Off the heat, whisk in the egg yolk and paprika. Fold in the macaroni.

Spoon slightly rounded tablespoons of the macaroni into the prepared muffin cups, packing them gently. Sprinkle the 2 tablespoons of Parmigiano on top.

Bake the mini macs in the upper and middle thirds of the oven for about 10 minutes, until golden and sizzling. Let cool for 5 min­utes. Using a small spoon, carefully loosen the mini macs, transfer to a platter and serve.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Marinated Cheese

Get ready for lots of party food ideas over the next few weeks. After all, 'tis the season....

Usually, for a party, I put out a cheese board. Three or four varied and delicious cheeses. Recently though, I decided to try something else. It seemed I was always spending a lot of money on something that only a few people nibbled on. And I was left with plenty of cheese to nibble on myself afterwards. Not so great for my diet.

So when I ran across this several-years-old Southern Living recipe in my files, I thought I would give it a try. It was a hit. And, since it's just a couple blocks of cheese and other store-bought ingredients, oh, so simple. This is one you should keep in your memory bank.

(Note: The original recipe calls for cream cheese in addition to the Cheddar and Monterey Jack. I couldn't figure out an easy way to slice it without getting messy, so I have omitted it.)

Marinated Cheese
Makes 25 appetizer servings.

1 (0.7-oz.) envelope Italian dressing mix
1/2 cup vegetable (or olive) oil
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 tablespoons minced green onion
2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 (8-oz.) block Monterey Jack cheese, chilled
1 (8-oz.) block Cheddar cheese, chilled
1 (4-oz.) jar chopped pimiento, drained
Assorted crackers

Whisk together first 6 ingredients. Set aside.

Cut Monterey Jack cheese in half lengthwise. Cut each half crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Repeat with Cheddar cheese.

Arrange cheese in 4 rows in a shallow 2-qt. baking dish, alternating Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheese. Pour marinade over cheese. Cover and chill at least 8 hours.

When ready to serve, place cheese and marinade on a rimmed platter in rows. Top with pimiento, and serve with assorted crackers or toothpicks.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Escabeche: Pickled Vegetables

Escabache is an acidic liquid used to marinate fish and other delicacies. It's also used to "pickle" vegetables. I've posted a yummy Mexican version before. Here's an El Salvadoran version that is more slaw-like. It's also an electric pink color thanks to the beets. It makes a great garnish for pupusas. Or as a topping for burgers or soft tacos.

Verduras en Escabeche
Makes 4 servings.

2 carrots, peeled and julienned into 2 inch long strips
2 jalapeños, stemmed, seeded and cut into julienne
2 cups shredded green cabbage
1 small cooked beet, peeled and cut into julienne
1 white onion, sliced thinly
3 tablespoons white vinegar
2 cups water (or to cover)
1 1/2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
4 chiles de arbol, stemmed and crushed (substitute a teaspoon or so of red pepper flakes if you'd like)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar

Combine all ingredients and marinate overnight in the refrigerator, covered. Drain the mixture before serving.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Oven-Roasted Mushrooms with Mozzarella Bread

On a chilly December night, one wants a meal to warm the so-called "cockles" of your heart. At the same time, there's no reason that the dish has to be complicated. Frankly, good ingredients prepared simply can be great comfort food. Here's just such a recipe. Use the best quality ingredients you can find- like exotic mushrooms and artisan mozzarella- for an out-of-this-world experience. Serve an earthy red a Chianti or an Old World Pinot Noir alongside.
Oven-Roasted Mushrooms with Mozzarella Bread
Serves 2.

10 ounces mushrooms (portobello, shitake, oyster, button, etc.)
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 ball mozzarella, thinly sliced
2 small ciabatta rolls, cut in half horizontally

Preheat the oven to 425°.

Clean the mushrooms, cut in thick slices, and place in a roasting pan. Drizzle olive oil over them, add the garlic and thyme, season with salt and pepper and toss together. Roast for 15-20 minutes, until the mushrooms are golden and tender.

Meanwhile, lay mozzarella slices so they overlap on the ciabatta halves and drizzle with the remaining olive oil. Place on a baking tray and bake until golden and crispy and the cheese is melting.

To serve, cut the cheesy bread into thin pieces and arrange around the mushrooms.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Lemony Cole Slaw with Fresh Dill

There is absolutely NO reason that cole slaw should be a summer-only food. Sure it's great with barbecue and burgers, but this one is a crisp fresh side dish that you should serve year-round. It makes a perfect salad substitute. (And use the extra as a sandwich topping at work the next day.)

Confession: The original recipe came from a healthy food type magazine, so it included no mayo. I gilded the lily by adding a couple tablespoons. It made it just creamy enough.

Lemony Cole Slaw with Fresh Dill
Makes 6 servings.

8 cups shredded green cabbage (or cole slaw mix)
1 cup chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup grape seed oil (olive oil is fine)
1 teaspoon sugar

Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste if desired. Cover and chill 1 hour or overnight.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Bengali Blackened Salmon

Salmon continues to grow on me. (Three years ago, I wouldn't touch the stuff.) But recipes like this--full of bold flavors--will keep me coming back for more. I first found it in a book of appetizers; they suggest is serving it as little bite-size pieces garnished with a slice of lime. I'll take a FULL-size serving, thank you...

Bengali Blackened Salmon
Serves two.

1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed
1/2 teaspoon garlic pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 (6 ounce) salmon fillets, skinned and boned
Olive oil

Mix all spices and salt together. Rub into both sides of the salmon. Cover and leave at room temperate for 20-30 minutes.

Heat a sauté pan over high heat. Add a little oil and add the salmon. Cook, without disturbing, for two minutes. Turn the fish over, cover and cook for another two minutes. The exterior will be blackened, but the interior will still be about a medium rare.

Food-Wine Pairing: I'd uncork a fruity Pinot Noir for this one. Maybe Sebastiani.