Sunday, May 31, 2009

Almond Cold-Oven Cake

Here's a flavorful pound cake its name suggests...does not require pre-heating your oven. Perfect for summer baking. And perfect topped with summer fruit like peaches...

Almond Cold-Oven Cake
1 1/2 cup butter, softened
3 cups sugar
5 eggs
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Cream butter; gradually add sugar, beating well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine flour and baking powder; add to creamed mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix well after each addition. Stir in flavorings.

Sprinkle almonds in bottom of greased and floured 10-inch tube pan; pour batter over almonds. Place in cold oven. Turn oven on to 350; bake 1 hour and 10 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of cake come out clean. Let cool in pan 10 minutes; remove from pan, and let cool completely on a wire rack.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Grilled Shrimp with Strawberry Salsa

Here's a summery recipe that pairs perfectly with a slightly chilled glass of rosé wine. Maybe the MacPherson from Texas or the Miner Sangiovese Rosato from California. Either way you have a success on your hands.

Grilled Shrimp with Strawberry Salsa
Serves four.

2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons pure olive oil
3 tablespoons minced shallots, divided
20 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 cups strawberries, hulled and diced
1 tablespoon aged balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Preheat grill to medium heat.

Combine the garlic, parsley and thyme with 2 tablespoons of the shallots and 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a small mixing bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Thread shrimp on water-soaked bamboo skewers, five per "kabob," using two skewers per kabob so they will lay flat on the grill. Place the shrimp on a platter and brush with oil mixture. Place the shrimp skewers on the grill and cook for 1 to 2 minutes per side.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons in a small skillet over medium heat. Saute the shallot until soft and fragrant, approximately 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the strawberries, vinegar and basil. Season to taste with lots of freshly ground pepper and serve with the grilled shrimp.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Linguine with Goat Cheese, Bacon and Roasted Garlic

This is comfort food taken to a new level. A gourmet variation of macaroni and cheese. Good grub.

I made it a couple of weeks ago to go with a bottle-aged Bordeaux that Andrea Immer sent along in my wine club shipment. It got the highest rating possible from my other half: "I could eat this everyday for the rest of my life."

Linguine with Goat Cheese, Bacon and Roasted Garlic
Serves six.

12 ounces linguini pasta
1 head roasted garlic*
8 ounces fresh goat cheese
3 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

Bring a large pot of slated water to boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Meanwhile, chop 7 cloves of the roasted garlic, reserving the remainder for another use. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta water. In a large bowl, toss the hot pasta with the garlic, bacon, goat cheese, Parmesan and 2 tablespoons of the reserved pasta water, tossing well to melt the cheeses. Add more reserved pasta water if needed to make a "sauce" that clings to the pasta. Season to taste with salt and pepper and add the parsley, tossing to mix. Serve immediately.

* To roast garlic, remove some of the papery skin from a head of garlic and cut the top third off to expose the cloves. Place on a piece of aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil and seal the foil into a package. Bake at 350° until tender, about one hour. Allow to cool. When ready to use, simply squeeze the garlic from the root end to extract amount needed.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Seared Tuna with Scallion Cream or Basil Oil

Tuna is a wonderful bridge kind of protein. It's the perfect choice when you want fish with a little might just be the next best thing to a good steak in my book.

And while it's wonderful as is, or crusted with sesame seeds, a nice sauce can make it truly special. Here are a couple: one with a bit of green and a bit of spice and the other a silky summer-infused oil.

Scallion Cream
Makes enough sauce for four tuna steaks.

2 green onions, trimmed
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon sake
Wasabi powder to taste.

Blend all ingredients in food processor and then heat to reduce by about half.

Basil Oil
Makes more than enough sauce for four tuna steaks. Use the leftovers to drizzle over steamed veggies or as the base for a delicious vinaigrette.

2 cups packed basil leaves
1 cup olive oil

Bring 4 quarts water to a boil and add 3 teaspoons salt. Set up an ice bath.

Blanch basil for two minutes in boiling water, then transfer immediately to an ice bath. Cool for 2 minutes; drain, then squeeze excess water from basil.

Blend basil and 1 cup olive oil in blender until well-mixed.

Strain through a coffee filter or cheesecloth.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Lemon-Spice Bread Pudding with Sauteed Peaches

Here's a summery take on bread pudding. Perfect topped with warmed peaches. Makes you want to run to the farmer's market, doesn't it?

Lemon-Spice Bread Pudding with Sautéed Peaches
From Bon Appetit.
Makes 8 servings.

6 cups 1-inch bread cubes from day-old rustic bread with crusts (about 11 ounces)
5 tablespoons butter, melted
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 cups whole milk
1 cup whipping cream
4 cardamom pods, crushed
2 whole star anise
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350°F. Toss bread and melted butter on large rimmed baking sheet to coat. Place bread in oven and toast until golden, tossing occasionally, about 15 minutes. Cool.

Meanwhile, scrape seeds from vanilla bean into heavy medium saucepan; add bean. Add milk, cream, cardamom, star anise, and lemon peel to pan and bring to simmer. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep 30 minutes. Strain.

Whisk eggs, sugar, and salt in large bowl. Gradually whisk milk mixture into egg mixture. Add bread and toss gently to combine. Cover and let stand at room temperature, stirring occasionally, at least 1 hour and up to 2 hours.

Position rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350F. Butter 11x7x2-inch glass baking dish. Transfer bread mixture to prepared dish. Bake until just set, about 55 minutes. Cool pudding at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with sautéed peaches.

Sautéed Peaches

4 peaches, halved, pitted, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

Place peaches, juice, and sugar in large bowl; toss to coat. Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add peaches; cook until juices thicken slightly, stirring gently, about 3 minutes.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Chile-Glazed Halibut with Avocado-Tomatillo Sauce

In this recipe, fish is given a kick in the pants with a delicious spicy-sweet glaze. The sauce makes it a perfect early summer meal.

Two notes: Instead of grilling, you can also simply bake the fish at 400° for 10 minutes. If you bake this way, you can use a more delicate (and less expensive) white fish like tilapia.

Chile-Glazed Halibut with Avocado-Tomatillo Sauce
Makes 6 servings.
From Bon Appetit.

6 tablespoons fresh orange juice
6 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 teaspoons minced canned chipotle chiles
1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Mix all ingredients in blender until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

1 large avocado, halved, pitted, peeled
2 medium tomatillos (about 4 ounces), husked, rinsed, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 teaspoon (or more) hot pepper sauce

Combine all ingredients in blender; blend until smooth.

6 5-ounce halibut fillets (each about 1 inch thick)
1 orange with skin, cut lengthwise in half, thinly sliced crosswise
Ground cumin

Prepare barbecue (medium heat). Make crosswise slits in each fillet, cutting to within 1/4 inch of bottom and spacing slits about 3/4 inch apart. Brush glaze over top and into slits. Place orange slices in slits. Sprinkle fish with ground cumin, salt, and pepper. Place fish, orange side up, on grill; cover and cook until fish is opaque, about 8 minutes. Using wide spatula, carefully transfer fish to platter. Let rest several minutes. Spoon avocado sauce onto plates, spreading slightly. Arrange 1 fillet over sauce on each plate and serve.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Hoisin Mayonnaise

Here's another recipe courtesy of Andrea Immer that I prepared to go with a bottle of wine her club had sent. The wine was a Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir from Gundlach-Bundschu and it was delicious. As Andrea describes it..."exotic and hauntingly subtle." The pork was just as exotic...serve it with your favorite Pinot or Syrah.

Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Hoisin Mayonnaise
Serves four.

2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-14 ounce pork tenderloin
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven to 375°. In a mortar or spice grinder, lightly crush the coriander and fennel seeds and pour onto a plate. Season the tenderloin on all sides with salt and pepper, then roll it in the seed mixture to coat evenly on all sides.

Roast the pork tenderloin about 20 minutes about 20 minutes, until an instant read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat registers 145°. Transfer the tenderloin to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, stir together the mayonnaise, Hoisin sauce and balsamic vinegar until well-combined.

Slice the pork into medallions, dollop with the sauce and serve.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Fettucine with Prosciutto, Wild Mushrooms and Sage

Here is a rich and earthy pasta dish...nothing light about it. And it's plenty complicated to make. But it's delicious...almost sublime with a big wine like a Riserva Rioja or a Super Tuscan.

Fettucine with Prosciutto, Wild Mushrooms and Sage
Serves four.

1 1/2 cups vegetable stock, chicken stock, or water
1 ounce dried mushrooms, preferably porcinis or morels
6 quarts salted water
3 teaspoons pure olive oil
3/4 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms (button or cremini mushrooms may be substituted)
3 ounces prosciutto
8-10 fresh sage leaves
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
8 ounces dry fettucine
Salt and pepper

In a small saucepan, bring the 1 1/2 cups stock or water to a boil and remove from heat. Add the dried mushrooms to the hot liquid and let soak for 30 minutes.

While mushrooms are soaking, bring the salted water and 1 teaspoon of the olive oil to a boil in a deep pot. Trim tough stem ends of shiitakes, if using. Slice the fresh mushrooms 1/4 inch thick and set aside.

Slice the prosciutto and the sage leaves into thin slivers and place in small containers, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Remove the dried mushrooms from the soaking liquid, squeezing out excess liquid, and reserve. Strain the mushroom liquid through a fine sieve lined with a coffee filter, and place it in a small saucepan on medium heat. Simmer until reduced by half, and keep warm.

Meanwhile, rinse the reconstituted dried mushrooms to remove any grit, pat them dry, and chop them fine.

In a wide skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the butter and 2 teaspoons of the olive on medium-high, and add the fresh mushrooms. Cook, stirring, about 3 minutes. Add the sherry vinegar and reconstituted dried mushrooms and continue to cook an additional 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Add the dry fettucine to the pot of boiling water and cook al dente according to package directions.

While pasta is cooking, finish the sauce. In a skillet large enough to hold the quantity of cooked pasta and the mushroom mixture, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons butter on low. Add the prosciutto and sage strips, stir, and remove from the heat.

Drain the pasta, reserving some of the hot cooking liquid, and add the pasta to the skillet along with the mushrooms and warm mushroom liquid. Return the skillet to medium heat and add 1 cup of the hot pasta cooking water, stirring to mix and heat briefly. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve immediately in pasta bowls or deep, rimmed plates.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Pine Nut Crusted Tilapia

The other half and I were in Napa a couple of weeks ago celebrating another year of putting up with each other. We drank our way through the valley (with hired driver, thank you very much) and bought a bottle or two along the way. So, as the shipments start to arrive, storage has become an issue. We have a wine refrigerator that we use as our "cellar"--putting the more expensive (and for us that's like $30) bottles in there.

Problem is, we have too much of the "expensive" wine for too little storage. A couple of solutions present themselves. Get another wine fridge? Nah...not enough room. Drink some of the bottles already in there? You betcha!

Quite a few of the good bottles have come from the wine club I am in that Andrea Immer organizes. Wonderful wines from around the world that are always accompanied by informative tasting notes and delicious recipes to pair with the wines. That's the plan...several nights of great food and sumptuous wines.

Last night's bottle was a Napa Chardonnay...the 2005 Kuleto Estate Family Vineyards from Napa Valley. (On the list for the next Napa trip.) It was delicious. Not over-oaked, but full of balanced and concentrated complexity. It was the perfect foil to this really simple recipe. If you don't have a bottle of the Kuleto on hand, grab another Chardonnay...or even a smoky Sauvignon Blanc like Chateau St. Jean.

Pine Nut Crusted Tilapia
Serves four.

4 tilapia fillets (app. 6 ounces each)
Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 Panko bread crumbs
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/3 cup dry white wine

Preheat a small skillet over medium heat. Meanwhile, season tilapia with salt and pepper.

Toast the pine nuts in the skillet, tossing frequently, until evenly browned, about five minutes. (Watch them carefully and make sure they don't burn.) Remove from the heat and finely chop.

Toss the chopped pine nuts with the Panko and pour mixture onto a plate. Dip the fillets in the mixture and coat evenly.

Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet until hot. Add the butter. When the butter has melted, add the fillets in a single layer. Cook until the first side is golden brown, about 5-7 minutes. Turn the fillets and continue cooking until the other side is browned and the fillets are cooked through, about 4-6 minutes.

Remove the fillets and set aside, keeping them warm.

Add the wine to the skillet and cook, scraping the bottom to loosen the browned bits and allowing the wine to reduce a bit.

Drizzle the wine reduction over the fillets and serve.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Cilantro Citrus Chicken

Here's a brightly fresh Southwestern take on grilled chicken.

Cilantro Citrus Chicken
From Cooking Light magazine.
(As written, the recipe serves twelve. I made the same amount of marinade and used it to grill four skinless boneless chicken breasts.)

1/2 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 garlic cloves
12 (8-ounce) skinless, bone-in chicken breast halves
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cooking spray

Combine first seven ingredients in a food processor; process until smooth. Place six chicken breast halves and half of herb mixture in a large zip-top plastic bag. Place remaining breast halves and remaining herb mixture in a second large zip-top plastic bag. Seal and marinate in refrigerator 1 hour, turning bags occasionally.

Prepare grill.

Remove chicken from bag; discard marinade. Let chicken stand 15 minutes. Sprinkle chicken evenly with salt, cumin, and pepper. Place chicken, breast side down, on a grill rack coated with cooking spray. Grill 12 minutes on each side or until a thermometer registers 165°, turning once.

Serve with traditional Mexican sides, like black beans and rice. Or go exotic with an avocado sauce and cilantro-jalapeno pasta. Any way, it's delicious.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Penne with Vodka and Tomato Cream Sauce

Getting back to basics can be good. This is comfort food at its finest...not on my diet plan, but great for a cheat night or after a particularly long day at work.

Penne with Vodka and Tomato Cream Sauce
Serves four.

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 (28 oz.) can Italian plum tomatoes, drained, seeded, chopped
1 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup vodka
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 pound penne pasta (any tubular pasta)
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Minced fresh chives or Italian parsley

Melt butter with oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook until almost no liquid remains in pan, stirring frequently, about 25 minutes. Add cream, vodka and red pepper and boil until thickened to sauce consistency, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Sauce can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate).

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Drain well. Transfer to a large bowl. Bring sauce to simmer. Pour over pasta and toss well. Sprinkle with Parmesan and chives or parsley and serve.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Chilled Blueberry Pie

Blueberries are at the farmers market, so it's time for this pie to get in your belly....

Chilled Blueberry Pie

4 cups fresh blueberries
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup corn syrup
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 (9 inch) graham cracker crust

Process one cup blueberries in food processor until smooth. Combine cornstarch and water in a medium saucepan, stirring until smooth. Add corn syrup, lemon juice and blueberry puree. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly; boil one minute. Cool for one hour, then fold in remaining 3 cups of blueberries and set aside.

Beat whipping cream until foamy; gradually add powdered sugar, beating until soft peaks form. Spread in bottom and up sides of pie crust, forming a 1 inch thick shell.

Spoon blueberry mixture into whipped cream shell. Chill at least 4 hours before serving.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Two Southwestern Sauces

Who says grilled chicken has to be boring? These sauces take this everyday meal to a whole new level. They also would be great on salmon, slather on shrimp or topping pork or brisket tacos. In short, they need to be a part of your regular repertoire.

Guacamole Sauce
Makes about one cup sauce.

1/4 cup roughly chopped green onions
1/4 cup parsley leaves
1/4 cup fat-free sour cream
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 ripe peeled avocado, seeded and coarsely chopped

Place all ingredients in a small food processor or blender and chop until smooth. Sauce can be served cold or at room temperature.

Black Bean Sauce
Makes about two cups sauce.

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup unsweetened orange juice
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic

Place all ingredients in a small food processor or blender and chop until smooth. Pour into a saucepan and cook over medium heat until heated.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Tilapia Baked in Couscous

I serve couscous quite often as a healthy side dish. Here's taking it one step further...crusting tilapia with a flavorful couscous mixture, then baking it. All you need then to complete the meal is a salad or green vegetable of some sort.

Tilapia Baked in Couscous
Serves four.
Adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray.

One 10-ounce box couscous
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
1 tablespoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice plus 1 lemon, thinly sliced
Four 8-ounce tilapia fillets
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 375°. In a large bowl, combine the couscous, almonds, sun-dried tomatoes and cumin and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the 1/4 cup olive oil and the lemon juice.

Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Arrange the tilapia fillets in a single layer in the dish, season with salt and pepper and drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Cover the fish with the couscous mixture and arrange the lemon slices on top. Pour 2 1/2 cups water around the fish, cover with foil and bake until tender, about 25 minutes. Top with the parsley.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Cocktail of the Week: Blue Hawaiian

It's not quite summer yet, but drink one or two of these and you'll think it is.

Blue Hawaiian
Makes one cocktail.

1 ounce light rum
2 ounces pineapple juice
1 ounce blue curacao
1 ounce cream of coconut
1 slice pineapple
1 cherry

Blend rum, blue curacao, pineapple juice and cream of coconut with one cup of ice in an electric blender at high speed. Pour contents into a highball glass.

Garnish with the slice of pineapple and the cherry.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mustard Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are an easy side dish, right? Sure...but they can get boring after a while. Even when enriched with butter, milk and generous amounts of salt and pepper. So I'm always happy when I learn of a new way to make them interesting. Here's one I should have thought of before. A bit of good quality Dijon mustard.

(And it's a perfect side dish for any meat that has a bit of mustard in the recipe. Like this rack of lamb or these easy chicken breasts.)

Mustard Mashed Potatoes
Makes six servings.

2 3/4 pounds medium-size Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, quartered
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, room temperature
2/3 cup (or more) whole milk
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Cook potatoes in large pot of boiling salted water until very tender, about 25 minutes. Drain well.
Return potatoes to pot. Add butter and mash potatoes until almost smooth. Mix in 2/3 cup milk and Dijon mustard. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Pork Butt with Worcestershire Sauce

I'm not sure how "Hawaiian" this recipe is...even though that's its origin. What I AM sure of is that it's a great way to fix an inexpensive piece of meat with delicious results.

Pork Butt with Worcestershire Sauce
Makes 6 to 8 servings.

1 (5-pound) pork butt
6 tablespoons Hawaiian salt or kosher salt
10 tablespoons liquid smoke
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
6 banana leaves

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Slit the pork in several places and rub the salt, liquid smoke, and Worcestershire sauce all over the pork butt.

Wrap the pork in the banana leaves and then wrap it in foil. Place pork in a 9 by 13-inch pan and bake for 4 hours.

Once pork comes out of oven, shred with a fork and serve.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Farmer's Market Rules!!!'s not quite summer here in Dallas. (Thank goodness...the humidity and 100° temperatures will come soon enough.) But it feels like it after one of my errands yesterday.

While downtown, I decided to stop by and see what early season veggies were in the farmer's shed. (Shed 1. Dallasite locavores...don't shop anywhere else.) I hit the mother lode. First and foremost, there are already East Texas tomatoes in. Both big beefy slicers and smaller heirloom types. The are sitting on a windowsill waiting to be sliced and topped with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

But that's not all....

Tiny baby beets perfect for roasting with thyme and Balsamic vinegar. Then sprinkled with good-quality goat cheese while still warm.

Turnips. I'll boil them and mash them with a little butter and salt to make my other half incredibly happy. Now, if I can just come with an interesting recipe for the greens.

Green beans that I'll simmer with bacon and chopped onion until meltingly tender. And new potatoes that will go in the green bean bath for the last hour or so of cooking.

And to gild the lily, wonderfully sweet spring red and white onions. They'll go on top of the tomatoes, in the green beans and are good enough to eat out of hand.

Also found some handmade pasta and the most wonderful farm-raised eggs. (They were perfect this morning in my Mother's Day Eggs Benedict.)

This is only the beginning. I'll be there almost every weekend. And my $20 or so will continue to yield a cornucopia of goodies. I already have my eyes on jalapeno peppers. Yellow squash. Cucumbers. And of course, more and more tomatoes.

Maybe I'll see you down there?

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Fillet of Cod with Asparagus and Prosciutto

Combining healthy ingredients like cod and asparagus with a bit of prosciutto for richness makes these dinners in a packet a great weeknight meal.

Fillet of Cod with Asparagus and Prosciutto
Makes six servings.

From Bon Appetit.

2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
1 tablespoon plus 6 teaspoons olive oil
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
6 6-ounce cod fillets, pinbones removed
6 ounces paper-thin prosciutto slices, halved lengthwise

Cook asparagus in large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain. Transfer to bowl of ice water to cool. Drain well.

Mash garlic and 1 teaspoon salt to paste in small bowl. Melt butter with 1 tablespoon oil in small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic paste; stir until pale golden, about 1 minute. Stir in lemon juice, peel, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 500°F. Cut out six 12-inch squares of parchment paper. Place 1 parchment square on work surface. Drizzle 1 teaspoon oil over parchment. Place 1 cod fillet in center of parchment. Spoon 1/6 of garlic-lemon mixture over fish. Cover with 1/6 of asparagus spears. Arrange 1/6 of prosciutto slices over. Fold 2 opposite sides of parchment in over fish and vegetables, then fold in remaining 2 sides, enclosing completely. Fasten parchment edges together with paper clips to seal packet. Place on large rimmed baking sheet. Repeat procedure with remaining parchment, oil, fish, garlic-lemon mixture, asparagus, and prosciutto. (Can be prepared 6 hours ahead. Refrigerate.)

Bake fish until just opaque in center (parchment will turn golden brown), about 12 minutes. Transfer 1 parchment packet to each of 6 plates. Open parchment packets and serve.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Whitefish with Radicchio, White Beans and Lemon Vinaigrette

In this recipe from Food Network's Giada De Laurentiis, simple tilapia (or other fish fillets) become the centerpiece of a hearty dinner made fresh with a citrusy vinaigrette.

Whitefish with Radicchio, White Beans and Lemon Vinaigrette
Makes 6 servings.

8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 shallots, thinly sliced
1 large head radicchio (about 12 ounces), coarsely chopped
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup fish broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 (5 to 6-ounce) whitefish fillets, such as tilapia
All-purpose flour, for dredging
Lemon Vinaigrette, recipe follows

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute until tender, about 2 minutes. Add the radicchio and saute until wilted, about 5 minutes. Add the beans and broth, and cook until the beans are heated through, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Season the radicchio mixture, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a 14-inch (or 2 smaller) nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the fillets with salt and pepper. Dredge the fillets in flour to coat completely. Shake of the excess flour and fry 3 fillets in each pan until they are golden brown and just cooked through, about 3 minutes per side.

Spoon the radicchio mixture over the center of the plates. Top with the fillets. Drizzle the vinaigrette over and serve immediately.

Lemon Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup lightly packed fresh Italian parsley leaves
2 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Blend the lemon juice, parsley, garlic, lemon zest, salt, and pepper in a blender. With the machine running, gradually blend in the oil. Season the vinaigrette, to taste, with more salt and pepper.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Sweet and Spicy Almonds

Almonds are good for you. I read recently that we should eat twelve a day to keep heart healthy. Now these almonds are not quite as healthy, gilded as they are with a bit of butter and a sweet spicy glaze. But a touch of decadence is almost always a good thing.

Sweet and Spicy Almonds
Makes 2 1/2 cups.

2 1/2 cups raw almonds
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Roast the almonds in a baking dish about ten minutes, until fragrant and toasted.

Transfer the nuts to a bowl and toss with the butter. Sprinkle the sugar, salt and cayenne over the nuts and toss to coat. Let cool slighly before serving.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Mashed Potatoes with Goat Cheese and Chives

Here's another way to "gussy up" mashed potatoes.

Mashed Potatoes with Goat Cheese and Chives
Makes 12 servings.
From Cooking Light.

3 pounds peeled baking potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup (6 ounces) goat cheese
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives

Place potatoes in a saucepan, and cover with cold water to 2 inches above. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until tender; drain. Return the potatoes to pan over low heat; add remaining 1 teaspoon salt and butter to pan. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher to desired consistency.

Add cheese and pepper to potato mixture; stir until cheese melts. Stir in milk; cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; stir in chives.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Southwestern Chicken Bundles

Here's a stuffed chicken recipe that's easy enough to fix on a weeknight. Especially if said weeknight is Cinco de Mayo.

Southwestern Chicken Bundles
Serves four.

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 (5 1/4 ounce) can whole green chiles, drained
4 (1 ounce) slices Monterey Jack pepper cheese
1 large egg
2 tablespoons water
1 cup tortilla chips, crushed

Place chicken between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap. Flatten to 1/8 inch thickness with a meat mallet or rolling pin.

Top each chicken breast with 1 green chile and 1 cheese slice. Roll up and secure with a toothpick.

Whisk together egg and 2 tablespoons water in a shallow bowl.

Dip chicken rolls in egg mixture and dredge in the crushed chips.

Place the rolls in a lightly greased baking dish.

Bake at 375° for 30 to 35 minutes.

Let stand for 5 minutes before slicing.

Serve with salsa.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Spicy Shrimp Tamales with Roasted Tomatillo Sauce and Goat Cheese the Life Should Be Beautiful mantra also says things shouldn't be overly complicated. But I also like a challenge. It's why I make fresh ravioli once every couple of years. (I just buy the high-quality frozen stuff available the rest of the time.) Why I have a recipe for homemade egg nog in my arsenal. And why I once made these delicious tamales. It's been several years...might just be time to make them again. How about for Cinco de Mayo?

Spicy Shrimp Tamales with Roasted Tomatillo Sauce and Goat Cheese
Makes about 15 tamales.

1 pound tomatillos, husked
1 white onion, peeled
4 garlic cloves
2 Anaheim green chiles, seeds and stems removed
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cilantro
2 cups prepared masa
6 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
1 bag dried cornhusks, cleaned and soaked
2 pounds jumbo shrimp, cleaned
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon coriander
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil

Place tomatillos, onion, garlic, and green chiles in a roasting pan and bake in a preheated 400 degree F oven for 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer the roasted vegetables to a food processor along with any juices that are at the bottom of the pan. Add the cumin, salt, and cilantro. Pulse the mixture until combined but still chunky. You may add a bit of water or broth if the mixture is too thick. Reserve half the sauce to serve with the tamales.

In a deep bowl, combine the masa and remaining half of the tomatillo sauce. Beat until fully incorporated and the dough is green. Fold in the softened goat cheese.

Set the cornhusks on a sheet pan covered by a damp towel. Lay the husk flat on a plate with the smooth side up and the narrow end facing you. Spread a thin, even layer of the masa mixture over the surface of the husk with a tablespoon that is dipped in water. Fold the narrow end up to the center then fold both sides together to enclose the filling. The sticky masa will form a seal. Pinch the wide top closed.

Stand the tamales up in a large steamer or colander with the pinched end up. Load the steamer into a large pot filled with 2-inches of water. The water should not touch the tamales. Lay a damp cloth over the tamales and cover with lid. Keep the water at a low boil, checking periodically to make sure the water doesn't boil away. Steam the tamales for 2 hours.

Coat the shrimp with cumin, chili powder, cayenne, coriander, salt, and pepper. Heat oil in a saute pan, cook the shrimp for 5 minutes until pink. To serve, unfold the tamales, top with the spicy shrimp and spoon the reserved tomatillo sauce over the top.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Sole Fillets in White Wine Sauce

Here's a fairly simple preparation of sole fillets that results in a delicious dish that is definitely dinner party material.

Sole Fillets in White Wine Sauce
Makes four servings.

8 button mushrooms
8 sole fillets
1 tablespoons chopped onion or shallots
1 tablespoon butter
2/3 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup fish broth (or water in a pinch)
3/4 cup whipping cream (or milk to save fat and calories)
1/2 cup butter
Juice of 1/3 lemon
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Dill, to garnish if desired

Clean the mushrooms and chop finely.

Gently flatten the sole fillets and season with salt. Top fillets with chopped mushrooms and set aside.

In a wide skillet, sauté onion in 1 tablespoon butter until translucent. Do not brown.

Add fish fillets to pan. Pour in wine and fish broth or water. Cover and steam for 5 minutes.

Carefully remove the fish to a serving plate and keep warm.

Strain juices in to a saucepan. Add cream or milk. Cook until reduced by about half. dd butter, a teaspoon at a time, whisking. season to taste with lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Pour sauce over fish. Garnish with fresh dill and serve.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Blueberry Crisp

Here's a simple and tasty way to prepare all those Texas blueberries that are plentiful and inexpensive at farmer's markets and grocery stores right now.

Blueberry Crisp

Toss 6 cups of fresh blueberries in a mixture of 1 tablespoon grated lemon rind and 1 cup sugar. Pout into a 7" by 11" baking dish.

To make the topping, combine the following with a pastry blender or in the food processor until crumbly.

2/3 cup flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
8 tablespoons butter, sliced into pieces

Sprinkle topping over blueberries and bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes until filling is bubbly and topping is slightly browned.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Chicken Breasts with Prosicutto and Sage

These days we're all trying to be economical. Around here, I hit the grocery stores when meats or fish are on sale and buy plenty. Then I use my handy vacuum sealer and freeze them in dinner-size portions. A couple of chicken breasts. Couple of salmon fillets. You get the idea.

But then I'm faced with what to do with all that bounty. Grilled chicken...only good every so often. So I'm always looking for simple inspirations on ways to kick up the flavor a little. Here's a perfect example. Some fresh sage and a little prosciutto create a wonderfully complex tasting dish...without it being complicated to prepare.

Chicken Breasts with Prosciutto and Sage
Serves 6.

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
24 leaves fresh sage, stems removed
6 slices prosciutto
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons dry sherry

Rinse and pat dry the chicken breast halves. Place them smooth-side up on a work surface. Place four sage leaves at an angle atop each chicken breast, spacing them evenly for a striped look.

Working one at a time, carefully center a prosciutto slice on each chicken breast covering the sage leaves. Wrap the slice around and secure with toothpicks.

In a nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium. Place the chicken breasts sage-side down in the pan. Cover and cook for ten minutes. Turn the chicken breasts and continue cooking, uncovered, until cooked through, about 5-7 minutes, depending on the thickness of the chicken. Transfer the chicken breasts to a plate and keep warm.

Add the sherry tot he pan and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook, scraping to loosen any browned bits, until the liquid in the pan thickens slightly.

Drizzle the sauce over the chicken and serve immediately.

Food-Wine Pairing: Forget about the white wine with chicken rule for this one. The additions of earthy sage and sweet-salty prosciutto cry out for a red. Maybe a little fruit forward but still plenty of structure. Syrah? Super Tuscan? Merlot? Heck, try all three and let me know what you think.