Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Yellow Squash Ribbons with Red Onion and Parmesan

The Chicago architect Louis Sullivan said that "form follows function." Well, I have my own new catchphrase. "Taste trumps technique." The combination of ingredients in this recipe sounded interesting. But when it was time to prepare it, seeding the squash and slicing it into thin ribbons just didn't sound like fun. So I simplified things by slicing the squash into thin rounds. (Also used garlic pepper in place of the minced garlic.)

And the taste did trump the fact that I cut back on technique. Sweet squash. Smoky red onion. Spicy red pepper on the back of your palate. Melded together with the salty tang of Parmesan. ( I wonder what a piece of good Swiss might add instead...) Delicious.

I've posted the original recipe below...in case you're feeling more ambitious than I was...

Yellow Squash Ribbons with Red Onion and Parmesan
From Cooking Light.
Makes 4 servings.

4 medium yellow squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup thinly vertically sliced red onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup (1 ounce) shaved fresh Parmesan cheese

Using a vegetable peeler, shave squash into ribbons to measure 5 cups. Discard seeds and core of squash.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add squash, onion, and garlic; cook 4 minutes or until onion is tender, gently stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Add salt, red pepper, and black pepper, and toss gently to combine. Sprinkle with cheese.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Red Chile Sauce

Be ready for the question when you order at a restaurant in New Mexico..."Red or green?" Take your pick. Or do as I do and say "Christmas." That means the best of both worlds.

I've posted my green chile sauce recipe before. Now it's time for its smoky cousin. This recipe comes from Katharine Kagel, chef of the wonderful Cafe Pasqual's in Santa Fe.

Red Chile Sauce
Makes about 4 cups.

12 ounces dried red New Mexico chiles, rinsed, stemmed and seeded
1 white onion, coarsely chopped
8 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano leaves
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin

Rehydrate the chiles by placing them in a stockpot and covering them with hot tap water. Let them soak until soft and pliable, about 20 minutes. (Open a window or turn on the exhaust fan if the fumes start to get to you...)

When the chiles are hydrated, add all the remaining ingredients to the pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Then reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

Drain the chiles, reserving the liquid. Working in batches, place the chiles in a blender, filling it about three-fourths full. Add about 1/2 cup of the reserved liquid and blend the contents to a thick catsup like consistency.

When the sauce is thoroughly blended, pass it through a fine mesh strainer. The finished sauce will be smooth and thick. Repeat until all the chile mixture has been used. Season to taste with salt.

Store the sauce in the fridge for up to 4 days. You can freeze it for up to 2 months.

It's smoky sweet and delicious. great on enchiladas, grilled chicken, roast pork, and... Try it and see.

Friday, September 25, 2009

What To Do With All That Chow Chow...

If you were smart (or just adventurous), you followed my lead and made a big batch of chow chow. Now what do you do with it? If you're nice, you've shared some with friends and neighbors. But hopefully not too much...there's lots you can do with it.

First off, it's a simple relish for all the usual suspects. Black-eyed peas or pinto beans. Scrambled eggs. A good hot dog. Etc. But there's lots more...
  • This one's thanks to a friend of mine. When making your regular mayo-based tuna salad, instead of pickles use a tablespoonful or so of chow chow.
  • I took it a (healthier) step further...no mayo, just mixed some chow chow into the tuna. Spread it on a piece of whole wheat toast and topped it with a slice of tomato and a couple pieces Swiss cheese. A quick run under the broiler...now there's a tuna melt.
  • I haven't tried it yet, but I'm thinking it might be a nice addition to the egg filling in your deviled eggs.
  • How about using it as an unexpected garnish on soft tacos or fajitas?
  • I bet you've used the old trick of spicy red pepper jelly on some cream cheese as a quick appetizer. How about chow chow instead?

You have any ideas to share? Drop them in the comments below...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Cocktail of the Week: Moscow Mule

Sometimes there's simply no reason to be fancy-schmancy with a cocktail. Just the facts, ma'am. This is one of those. The most complicated thing about it is opening a can of ginger beer. (It's a non-alcoholic mixer. Don't worry...you can substitute ginger ale if you'd rather.)

Moscow Mule
Makes one cocktail.

Fill a chilled glass with crushed ice.

Add 2 ounces vodka and 2 tablespoons lime juice and stir.

Top with 4 ounces of ginger beer and garnish with a lime wedge.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Build a Better Sandwich.

There's a time and a place for a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich. There is no time nor place in the universe for bologna and cheese.

There you have it....I'm a sandwich snob.

That's not to say I don't eat them. I do. But they have to be special. What do I mean? OK...pay attention.

The Foundation: Bread
Tuna fish and bacon and tomato sandwiches belong on white bread. Not much else does. For my kind of sandwich, it needs to be good multi-grain bread. Or a crusty roll. Focaccia perhaps. Or even a big spinach tortilla to make a wrap.

How about some spread?
A good brick house needs some mortar to hold it together. That's a bad architectural analogy but you get the idea. There's the standard mustard and/or mayo, but even that can be gussied up. A few herbs in the mayonnaise. Stone-ground mustard. No reason to stop there though. Why not pesto? Flavored cream cheese. This recipe proves that something as simple as mashed white beans work also.

Add the meat.
Yes, all sandwiches must include meat. (Or a rather meaty stand-in...substitute a grilled or broiled portabello mushroom if you must.) We're on a roll here though. Good bread and good spread can't be topped with olive loaf. Hit up your deli for good quality turkey. (I like the peppered or Cajun kind.) Some really rare roast beef. (Thinly sliced steak leftovers can work well.) Or grill your own chicken breast. You're well on your way to the best sandwich you've ever had.

Time for the rabbit food.
I have to have something green on my sandwiches. Skip the iceberg though. How about spinach or arugula? Good leaf lettuce is perfectly fine. Go granola with sprouts. Or a little Southern with cole slaw. But we're not done yet.

A few more veggies please....
Time for the crowning touch. Tomatoes. Onions. (Grill them if you can.) Roasted red peppers. Cucumber. Think big...

So what do you think? That's my process. Add a comment and tell me yours. I'm always up for something new. (just follow the rules...)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Parmesan Okra

I usually fix okra one of two ways. Take the tiny baby pods and steam briefly, finishing with a pat of butter. Eat immediately...sometimes straight out of the saucepan. Or (This one's a lot less healthy.) dipped in milk and coated in cornmeal for a quick crispy frying. Comfort food at it's finest.

But here's a new one...it's yummy. Might just have to add it to the regular repertoire.

Parmesan Okra
Makes four servings.

1 pound fresh okra, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons Greek seasoning
1/4 cup freshly shaved Parmesan cheese

Sauté okra in hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat 5 to 6 minutes or until crisp-tender.

Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and seasoning, and cook, stirring often, 3 minutes.

Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, and serve immediately.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Open-Faced Tuna Sandwich

Typically, my tuna fish sandwich is a concoction of tuna, mayonnaise and sweet pickles. Slathered on white bread with extra mayo...and usually accompanied by a big handful of Fritos. Delicious, but not real healthy.

So here's my tuna sandwich for today. Still just as delicious and MUCH better for me. Now, if I could only find a healthy alternative to Fritos....

Open-Faced Tuna Sandwich

Combine 1 can (6 ounces) of tuna packed in water, drained, with 1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil, and 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice in a small bowl. Season with pepper. Spoon onto two pieces of multi-grain bread (toasted if you'd like). Top each with a couple more fresh basil leaves.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Tequila-Spiked Salsa

I had a surplus of tomatoes about to go too ripe on the counter right before Labor Day. I made this salsa and topped a burger with it. It's got a kicky tang with just a background hint of the tequila's bite. Salsa aficionados, know this...this is not a traditional spicy salsa. I added just a hint of heat with a bit of cayenne pepper. But don't overdo it; you don't want to overshadow the brightness of the salsa.

Tequila-Spiced Salsa
Adapted from Cooking Light magazine.
Makes 3 cups.

2 cups chopped seeded tomato
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup chopped peeled avocado
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon tequila
1 tablespoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, tossing gently.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Smothered Pork Chops with Mustard and Thyme

The other morning, before I left for work, I pulled a couple of pork chops out of the freezer and threw them in the fridge to thaw. I was thinking simple seasonings and a good grilling. But then my other half had a rough day at work. Comfort food was called for. Found a recipe in Cooking Light and adapted it a bit. With a few pantry ingredients (Beef broth? Check. Dijon mustard? Got it. Dried thyme? But of course.) and a side of rice to soak up the delicious sauce, a dinner legend was born.

Smothered Pork Chops with Mustard and Thyme
Makes 2 servings. (That's as written. There was plenty of gravy leftover. I would be quite easy to nestle a couple more pork chops in for the long simmer.)

1 can beef broth
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour plus more for coating pork chops
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 boneless center-cut loin pork chops (about 1 1/2 inches thick)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon dried thyme
2 cups thinly sliced onion
Fresh thyme leaves for optional garnish

Combine beef broth, milk, 2 tablespoons flour, and mustard in a small bowl; stir with a whisk. Set aside.

Lightly coat each pork chop with flour. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork chops to pan; sauté 1 1/2 minutes on each side until pork is lightly browned.

Reduce heat to medium. Add onion; sauté 10 minutes or until lightly golden. Add milk mixture, stirring with a whisk. Stir in dried thyme. Add pork. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for an hour and fifteen minutes. (You might have to adjust cooking times up or down based on thickness of pork chops.)

Serve sprinkled with fresh thyme leaves.

Food/Wine Pairing: This dish wanted a light red, but something assertive enough to stand up to the slightly tangy pan gravy. I uncorked a Syrah from California and thought the pairing was a homerun.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Field Pea Salad

I found myself recently with a few leftover purple hull peas that I had cooked up. Pulled this recipe out and whipped a little salad that some might say compares to an old Southern recipe called Texas caviar. It's a great side for a hamburger or hot dog. Heck...you might even want to just pile it on top.

Field Pea Salad
From Southern Living.
Makes eight servings.

3 cups fresh or frozen assorted field peas (Or use leftovers like me. Just drain and rinse and skip to the second step.)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced (I substituted a couple of teaspoons of garlic pepper and skipped the pepper below.)
1 teaspoon hot sauce
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 small red onion, diced
1 celery rib, diced
1 cup chopped ham (Optional. I didn't use.)
1 teaspoon vegetable oil

Prepare peas according to package directions; drain and let cool 1 hour.

Whisk together sugar and next 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Add 1/4 cup oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until smooth. Add cooked field peas, bell pepper, onion, and celery, tossing to coat; cover and chill 8 hours.

Sauté ham in 1 tsp. hot oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat 4 to 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Stir into pea mixture just before serving.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Grilled Chile Relish

For Labor Day last week, we had family and friends over for a Burger Bash. Yeah, we had the same ol' lettuce and tomato and onion and mustard and mayo. But I wanted to take things to another level. I did some brainstorming over a couple of days and came up with some interesting toppings combinations. Think New Mexico with roasted chiles, Monterey Jack cheese and a fried egg. And that's just the start. I'll post them soon.

Here's a pretty simple topping that I tried. It's deliciously rich and has so much flavor that it's all you need between patty and bun. Grill it up as you cook your burgers.

Grilled Chile Relish
Makes 3 cups.
From Food and Wine magazine.

4 poblano chiles
4 Anaheim chiles
(Note: I used 8 mild Hatch green chiles since they were still in season.)
1 large sweet onion, sliced 1/2 inch thick
Vegetable oil
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup each of whole-grain mustard and Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Light a grill. Rub the chiles and onion with oil and grill until charred, 8 minutes. Peel and seed the chiles and cut into thin strips; chop the onion. Transfer the vegetables to a saucepan. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer over moderate heat, then serve.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Squash, Red Pepper and Corn Gratin with Cheddar Crust

I posted yesterday my solution to some extra cucumbers that were lying around. The orphaned squash situation was worse. So off to my trusty recipe files I went. Eureka! Delicious cheesy squash casserole.

Squash, Red Pepper and Corn Gratin with Cheddar Crust
Makes 8-10 servings.
From Bon Appetit magazine.

2 1/2 tablespoons butter
2 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk, hot
3/4 cup (packed) coarsely grated extra-sharp white cheddar cheese
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound medium-size yellow crookneck squash, trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
1 pound medium-size zucchini, trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
1 1/4 cups diced onion
1 cup diced red bell pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

1 1/2 cups (packed) fresh breadcrumbs made from crusty French bread (do not remove crust)
1/2 cup (packed) coarsely grated extra-sharp white cheddar cheese (about 2 ounces)
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted

For sauce:Melt butter in heavy medium skillet over medium heat. Add flour and whisk 1 minute. Whisk in hot milk; whisk until mixture boils, thickens, and is smooth, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Add cheese and hot pepper sauce and whisk until cheese melts. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

For vegetables:Butter 11x7x2-inch glass baking dish. Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of yellow squash and half of zucchini; sauté until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Transfer squash-zucchini mixture to large bowl. Repeat with 1/2 tablespoon oil and remaining yellow squash and zucchini. (Note: If your household prefers softer squash (as my other half definitely does), you might just steam the squash pieces rather than sautéing them.)

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic; sauté until onion is golden and pepper is tender, about 7 minutes. Stir in corn and rosemary. Transfer to bowl with squash-zucchini mixture. Mix in cheese sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to prepared dish.

For topping:Preheat oven to 400°F. Mix breadcrumbs, cheese, and melted butter in bowl until crumbs are coated with butter. Sprinkle crumbs evenly over gratin. Bake until vegetables are heated through and crumbs are crisp and golden, about 35 minutes.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Cucumber Salad with Dilled Sour Cream

I tend to go crazy at the farmers market. Twenty bucks can go a long way, so while we enjoy the bounty, I sometimes look up and find a few stray squash or cucumbers hanging around. the squash is a story for another day...today's post deals withe the two lonely cukes that I refused to send to the indignity of compost. I flipped through my folders and found this recipe. Serendipitously (love that word!), it was the day before our Labor Day Burger Bash. In a moment of inspiration, I decided that it would be a great topping for one of my freshly grilled sliders.

I was sooooo right. And it would be great tucked into a pita stuffed with grilled shrimp or spread onto a hot dog. Try it and see what you think...

Cucumber Salad with Dilled Sour Cream
Makes 4 servings.
Adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray.

2 cucumbers (about 1 pound)—peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and sliced on an angle 1/4 inch thick
Salt and pepper
2/3 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh dill
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon sugar
1 small red onion, thinly sliced

In a colander set over a bowl, toss the cucumbers with 2 teaspoons salt. Let drain for at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sour cream, apple cider vinegar, dill, red pepper flakes, and sugar. Add the drained cucumbers and the onion and toss. Season with pepper.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Pickled Watermelon Rind

I know it sounds crazy, but the last bounty of summer has me thinking about Thanksgiving. Wait, wait....I'll explain.

Growing up, Turkey Day dinners were always at my grandmother's house in Oklahoma. Sure we had the usual suspects...turkey, dressing, pies, green bean casserole...but the highlight was actually the relish tray. I mean trayS. The finest antique cut and pressed glass dishes holding pit-in black olives (back in the day when they were actually hard to find), spiced peaches and cranberry sauce.

Oh, and pickled watermelon rind. It was the only time of the year I ate it...and I loved it. Tangy tart and sweet, it's truly a "Southern thing." It seemed to disappear from grocery store shelves for a while, but I eventually tracked it down and was responsible for bringing it to Thanksgiving dinner...now at my parents' house.

But this year, I'm actually one-upping my grandmother (sorry!) and making my own. Found a watermelon at the grocery and got to work. After scooping the flesh out and using it for the watermelon lemonade recipe I posted the other day, I got to work with the vegetable peeler scraping the outer skin off (the hardest part of the process). After brining and canning, I was left with several jars of pickles that my family will "ooh" and "aahhh" over come November.

Pickled Watermelon Rind
Makes 3 pint jars.
From Cooking Light.

1 (6-pound) watermelon
6 cups water
2 tablespoons salt, divided
1 teaspoon pickling spice
3 (1/4-inch) slices fresh ginger
2 whole cloves
2 whole allspice
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup white vinegar

Carefully remove outer green layer from watermelon rind using a vegetable peeler. Reserve remaining watermelon for another use. Cut rind into 1/2-inch pieces. Bring 6 cups water and 5 teaspoons salt to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add rind to pan. Reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain rind. Place in a large bowl.

Place pickling spice, ginger, cloves, allspice, and cinnamon on a double layer of cheesecloth. Gather edges of cheesecloth together; tie securely. Combine cheesecloth bag, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, sugar, and vinegar in saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Pour hot vinegar mixture over rind. Cool to room temperature. Cover and chill 12 hours.

Strain rind mixture through a sieve over a saucepan; return solids to bowl. Bring liquid to a boil; carefully pour over solids. Chill at least 8 hours before serving. (Note: I canned the pickles by pouring into sterilized jars and processing in boiling water according to Ball canning procedures.)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Marinated Bocconcini

Here's a great and easy nibble. Perfect with a glass of wine or cocktail. And even better when shared at home at an impromptu gathering of friends and neighbors. Strangely enough, bocconcini has become a fridge staple for me. Marinated like this or plain, it's delicious speared on a toothpick with a bit of tomato and dipped in pesto.

P.S. Bocconcini is simply bite-sized fresh mozzarella balls.

Marinated Bocconcini

1 pint bocconcini
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Italian herb seasoning (or just oregano)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Freshly ground pepper and kosher salt
1/3 cup basil, cut in chiffonade

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Marinate at room temperature for at least one hour.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Cocktail of the Week (sorta): Watermelon Lemonade

Labor Day has come and gone. It's the last gasp of summer...although it will stay plenty warm here in Dallas for the next several weeks. Here's a drink that captures those lazy crazy days perfectly.

Watermelon Lemonade
Makes about 3 quarts

1 small watermelon
1 can frozen lemonade concentrate
Water and simple syrup to taste

Scoop the flesh from one watermelon and place in large bowl. In batches, pureé in a blender until smooth. Strain liquid through a sieve and place in a pitcher. Stir in lemonade concentrate. Add water and simple syrup until your ideal level of tart-sweetness is reached.

Make it a cocktail by spiking it with a little citrus vodka (maybe even sweet tea vodka). Now that's summer in a glass!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Pickled Cucumber, Red Onion and Radishes

Summer is not quiiiiite over....but it's close. So it's time to make a few more pickles. You can double the recipe and can these by processing in a hot water bath or just eat them within the next three weeks as a last blast salute to summer's bounty.

Pickled Cucumber, Red Onion and Radishes
From Martha Stewart Living.
Makes about 4 cups.

1 English cucumber, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds (I prefer them peeled.)
1 small red onion, sliced into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
8 radishes, sliced into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
1/4 cup coarse salt
2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds

Toss vegetables with 2 tablespoons salt in a large colander set over a bowl, and refrigerate for 1 hour. Rinse well, pat dry, and place vegetables in a clean glass jar or glass bowl.

Bring remaining 2 tablespoons salt, the vinegar, sugar, peppercorns, mustard and coriander seeds to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer for 5 minutes. Pour over vegetables, and let cool for 1 hour. Cover, and refrigerate overnight or up to 3 weeks.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Green Chile Sauce

Regular readers of this blog (thanks, folks!) heard me talk last week about my experience roasting and peeling Hatch chiles. Well, now, it's time that you start to see (and try for yourself) the fruits of my labors. Over the next couple of weeks, I'll be posting recipes for sauces, enchiladas, chile rellenos and more. Enjoy!

First step was green chile sauce...the "gravy" of New Mexico. Inspired by a dinner at Cafe Pasqual's in Santa Fe (and the subsequent purchase of a couple of chef Katharine Kagel's cookbooks), here's the recipe I arrived at. It was delicious in our stacked enchiladas, but would also be great spooned over grilled chicken or fish, scrambled eggs, you name it.

Green Chile Sauce
Makes about 4 cups. (Double the recipe and freeze the extra...you'll thank me later.)

About three pounds fresh green New Mexico chiles (I'm a wimp and used all mild...still plenty of kick!), roasted, peeled, seeded, deveined and chopped to measure 3 cups
4 cups water (A portion can be chicken or vegetable stock.)
1/2 white onion, cut into medium dice (It will "melt" down to smaller pieces.)
1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano (Find the Mexican (and not Greek) oregano if you can.)
3 tablespoons garlic pepper (Garlic pepper is one of my secret ingredients, but use 2 tablespoons minced garlic if you'd rather.)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons sugar, optional

Place all of the ingredients, except the oil and flour, in a large saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until thickened, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a saucepan, stir the oil and flour together with a whisk until well-blended. Place saucepan over medium heat and cook until hot an bubbling. Reduce heat to low and whisk until roux is golden brown and has a nutty smell. Remove from the heat.

Add 1/2 cup of the chile mixture to the roux and whisk thoroughly until smooth. (Be careful...it might splatter.) Add back into the chile mixture and cook over low heat until the sauce thickens. Season with salt to taste.

Here's where my palate chickened out and I added 3 tablespoons sugar to mellow the heat of the chiles. You might want to do the same.

You can refrigerate for 5-7 days. You can also freeze in 1 or 2 cup portions for up to four months.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Almond-Banana Smoothies

Smoothies continue to be a staple for me at breakfast. It's just so easy to throw some fruit and "stuff" in the blender before I go to bed. Add some ice in the a.m., flip it on and presto.

Recently, I discovered another magical ingredient to add...almond milk. It's great for anyone who can't handle lactose, and we all know how healthy almonds are for us. Here's a recipe I've started using. I'm betting that peaches and/or blueberries would also be delicious. Like a cobbler in a glass.

Almond-Banana Smoothies
Makes anywhere from 1-4 servings, depending on how much you're up for.

2 large bananas, peeled and sliced
2 cups almond milk (You could also substitute milk, but I'd add a teaspoon or so of almond extract to get that great nutty flavor.)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of cinnamon and/or nutmeg
2 cups ice cubes or crushed ice

Blend all ingredients in blender until smooth. (You can dump first five ingredients in blender container and refrigerate overnight. At breakfast time, add ice and blend.)

Friday, September 04, 2009

Edamame with Chili Salt

I love me some edamame. Always have several bags (both shelled and unshelled) of it in the freezer for a last-minute snack. It's delicious steamed and then sprinkled with a little good-quality salt, but adding a couple of other pantry ingredients takes it to a whole new level.

Edamame with Chile Salt
Makes about four snack-size servings.

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 pound frozen edamame in shells

Pulse red pepper flakes in a spice grinder until finely ground. Mix with salt and sugar in a small bowl.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add frozen edamame and cook until bright green and heated through, about 4 minutes. Strain and transfer to a large bowl. Toss with chile salt mixture and serve immediately.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

A Few Kitchen Tips

I keep a folder of handy time-savers and tips that I find online or in magazines. Here's a capsule of several that I have found useful in the last several months.
  • Avoid soggy rice. Put a folded towel between the lid and the pot when cooking rice. the condensation will be absorbed by the towel and won't drip back into the rice. (Obviously, you have to make sure the towel is sufficiently clear of the burner. Smoky rice is no better than soggy rice.)
  • Baste with flair. Add some extra flavor as you roast or grill by tying fresh herbs to your basting brush. With each swipe, you'll add extra flavor to whatever you're cooking.
  • Toast breadcrumbs quickly. I always try to keep breadcrumbs on hand, usually there is a big Ziploc bag in the freezer. But if you're in a jam, you can toast fresh breadcrumbs in the microwave. Put one cup in and zap on high for 3 minutes.
  • Steam in the microwave. Vegetables steamed in the microwave are just as delicious and healthy as those cooked on the stovetop. And they don't heat up the kitchen nearly as much. Here's how to fix asparagus: Place trimmed spears in a backing dish. Add 2 tablespoons water and cover tightly with a lid or plastic wrap. Cook on high until crisp-tender for 4 to 9 minutes. (Be careful not to overcook.) let stand, covered, for 2 minutes. Experiment with other veggies like squash, broccoli and cauliflower. Times should be about the same.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Heirloom Tomatoes with Summer Succotash

I refuse to believe that summer is over. Sure...I'm thrilled that I'm sitting here with the windows open instead of the a/c blasting. And the countdown has begun for our Halloween blowout...with Turkey Day and Christmas not far behind. But, dang, I'm gonna miss tomatoes from the market. Summer squash. And other surprises (like the fresh lima beans in this recipe) courtesy of our local farmers.

So I'm going to hang on to it as long as I can. And make dishes like this until the very last second possible....

(A couple of notes: I like my lima beans more tender than this recipe calls for. So I cooked them for about an hour with a little bit of salt pork flavoring the cooking water a couple of days ago. Scooped out 3/4 cup and rinsed and drained them before continuing. Also...my tomato was not as tender as I wanted it, so rather than stuffing it, I chopped it into chunks after roasting and threw it in with the other veggies. And don't skip the chives. They're a great and necessary flash of flavor.)

Heirloom Tomatoes with Summer Succotash
From Food & Wine magazine.
Makes 4 servings.

3/4 cup shelled lima beans (4 ounces)
1 large ear of corn, kernels cut off the cob (about 3/4 cup)
8 firm, ripe heirloom tomatoes (about 5 ounces each)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium red or yellow bell pepper, finely diced
1 1/2 tablespoons snipped chives

Preheat the oven to 425°. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the lima beans and corn and boil until tender, about 3 minutes. Drain the beans and corn, transfer to a bowl and let cool.

Slice off the bottom of each tomato so it sits flat. Using a knife, cut around the center of each tomato to form a cone that can easily be removed once the tomato is baked. Brush the tomatoes with olive oil and set them in a large pie plate, stem side up. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper and roast just until tender, about 5 minutes. Let cool slightly, then spoon out and discard the centers to make room for the succotash.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt 1 1/2 teaspoons of the butter in the 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the bell pepper and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Add the limas and corn and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons of butter and the chives and season with salt and pepper. Spoon the succotash into the tomatoes and serve warm or at room temperature.

Buddha's Delight: Stir-Fried Chinese Vegetables

This recipe, originally from Weight Watchers magazine, was just the thing for a supper during my week of "recovery" from too much food in Santa Fe and New York. I adapted it to add some additional flavor without too many more calories.

Be aware that the recipe will feed four as a main course. So, unless everyone in the family is joining you on the health kick...or you want a lot of leftovers for lunches and snacks, feel free to adjust the amounts called for.

Buddha's Delight: Stir-Fried Chinese Vegetables
Serves 4-6.

1/4 cup vegetable (or chicken) broth
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons finely chopped ginger
1 tablespoon chili oil (Substitute canola oil if you must, but throw in a pinch of red pepper flakes later in the cooking to add some heat.)
1 head bok choy, chopped
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1/2 white onion, coarsely chopped
1 cup fresh snow peas, trimmed
1 carrot, grated
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 can sliced water chestnuts, drained
Drizzle of toasted sesame oil

Combine the broth, soy sauce, garlic and ginger in a small bowl. Set aside.

Heat a wok over high heat until a drop of water sizzles in it. Pour in the oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the bok choy, bell pepper and onion. Stir-fry over high heat for three minutes.

Add the reserved broth mixture, snow peas and carrot. Reduce the heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are crisp-tender, about three minutes.

Add hoisin sauce and water chestnuts. Cook, stirring frequently, until heated through, about 1 minute.

Drizzle with toasted sesame oil and stir. Serve immediately over rice. (Brown rice to be extra healthy.)

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

A Hatch Chile Pepper-orama

I was in Santa Fe, New Mexico a couple of weekends ago. The place has really grown on me in the last couple of years. It's a perfect place to escape Dallas heat in August...and a wonderfully relaxing place. There's not much to do except walk around and check out the stores and galleries.

Oh, and eat.

I had some delicious meals over my long weekend. Stacked enchiladas. Tapas. Pupusas. Guacamole. Posole. Chile rellenos. I came back home culinarily inspired. What perfect timing then that it was Hatch Chile Festival time at Central Market. Armed with advice from other more experienced chile heads, I set out to tame the Hatch beast.

I knew I wanted to have plenty. I had several recipes to try, plus wanted to dice some and freeze them for other uses (omelettes, casseroles, etc.) later on. The little devils are only available at this time of the year...and the Anaheims you can get year-round are poor substitutes.

Rather than pay the $25 a box to have them roasted for me, I loaded up a couple of grocery bags with about 10 pounds of peppers and went to work. Turned the gas grill on full-blast and dumped a single layer of peppers on and closed the lid. The thermometer said it was about 450° in there. I let them go for 5 or 6 minutes and then turned them. You want them to blister and blacken so that you can peel them easily.

Took them off the grill and put them in a large bowl and covered them tightly with foil. Let them steam for about 20 minutes...until they were cool enough to handle. Then went to work. Folks suggest using rubber gloves for this step, but I found that I lost to much dexterity when I put them on. I had taken my contacts out as a precaution and didn't seem to get too much chile on my hands.

Peeled the papery skin off the peppers...some more easily than others. The ones that emerged whole were set aside to become chile rellenos. Others went into a pile for slicing and dicing.

Experts say don't rinse them, but I did. I found it much easier to get last bits of peel and seeds out that way. The whole ones went onto a cookie sheet for the first freeze. (That way, they won't stick together in the bag.) Others were diced and packaged in 1/2 cup measures. (Hint: One pound of fresh peppers yields about one cup of roasted product.)

I started using them immediately. That very night, I made green chile sauce for stacked enchiladas and fried up some chile rellenos. Stay tuned for those reports in the very near future.