Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Best Banana Pudding Ever

This time of year, it seems that I post nothing but appetizers and desserts. But that's the majority of what I'm cooking (or just enjoying thanks to the hard work of others) this time of year. From Halloween to the New Year, it's Party Central. And, except for a dinner party or two, it's mostly nibbles and sweets for the two buffet tables.

But don't wait for a party to make this creamy, sinful banana pudding. It's a great annual tradition around these parts. A friend makes it to bring to our Halloween party and makes way too much (or even one just for me) so that there's plenty leftover for my later guilty pleasure.

The Best Banana Pudding Ever
Serves 8-10 generously.

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 large (5 ounce) box vanilla pudding
3 cups milk
1 large tub frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 box vanilla wafers
6-8 bananas, sliced

Mix the cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk until smooth. Add the pudding mix and milk and mix well. Mix in the whipped topping.

In a the bottom of 9 x 12 baking dish, place a layer of vanilla wafers and then a layer of bananas. Top with half of the pudding mixture. Repeat layers, ending with pudding. Garnish with vanilla wafers and dollops of whipped topping if desired.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Cocktail of the Week: Candy Corn Martini

Need a cocktail to fortify you for the hordes of trick-or-treaters that will descend tomorrow night? Here's the perfect thing.

It's yummy as posted, but the orange liqueur definitely affects the final product. If you're a true candy corn addict, try the infused vodka on its own. Shake it with crushed ice and strain it into a cocktail glass. And but of course, garnish with a bit of candy corn.

Candy Corn Martini
Makes two cocktails.

For the infused vodka:
1/2 cup candy corn
1 1/2 cups vodka

For the martinis:
2 ounces orange liqueur
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 large egg white
Candy corn, for garnish

Infuse the vodka: Combine the candy corn and vodka in an airtight container; set aside for at least 3 hours, then strain.

Make the cordials: Add 4 ounces of the candy corn vodka, the orange liqueur, lemon juice and egg white to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously for at least 30 seconds. Strain into 2 chilled martini glasses and garnish with candy corn.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Most Economical Protein Sources

We all know protein is an important part of our daily meal plan. And we're (mopst of us at least) looking for good deals on teh foods we buy and enjoy. So put those two things together and what do we have? This list of good protein sources and their average cost per 10 grams of protein.

Black beans $.13
Turkey $.14
Chicken breast $.24
Eggs $.26
Whole milk $.30
Ground beef $.34
Ham, boneless $.40
Cheddar cheese $.43
Peanuts $.44
Sirloin steak $.69
Cottage cheese $.96
Soy milk $1.26

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cooking with Books: Prosciutto Wrapped Figs

OK...I'm cheating a little bit with this posting. It's not REALLY from a least not a published one. However, it does come from a collection of recipes provided by one person. Sommelier and chef extraordinaire Andre Immer. I am a proud customer of her A-List Wine Club, and we get three bottles and matching recipes a month. They all go in a notebook until it's time to sample the wines. So it's a cookbook of sorts...(And, don't worry, I'll be talking about her three REAL cookbooks in future posts.)

Most of us have had the old standby appetizer of bacon wrapped dates. (I'm not always a fan...sometimes the bacon is woefully underdone.) This takes it to a new level with prosciutto and fresh figs. Try it and see what you think.

Prosciutto Wrapped Figs

8 large Mission figs, quartered
4 slices prosciutto
Olive oil, for drizzling
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the broiler.

Halve each prosciutto slice lengthwise. Wrap the figs in the prosciutto by placing a fig quarter near one end and rolling the fig up snugly in the prosciutto. Secure each with a toothpick.

Place the prosciutto-wrapped figs on a sheet pan and place in the broiler until the figs begin to bubble and the prosciutto edges begin to crisp. Turn them occasionally with tongs to heat evenly.

Carefully remove toothpicks and place figs on a serving platter. Drizzle sparingly with good-quality olive oil and season with a few grinds of black pepper before serving warm.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Roasted Tomato and Jalapeño Salsa

There is nothing better than fresh salsa. But as the big fat and flavorful farmer's market tomatoes run out at the end of the summer, the watery things we're forced to buy at the supermarket need a little "goosing" to make them appropriate candidates for a good salsa. This recipe does just that by having you roast the vegetables before you blend it all up. It's easy and delicious. Feel free to tinker with the amounts of ingredients if you like your salsa spicier or more garlicky, for example.

Roasted Tomato and Jalapeño Salsa
Makes about 2 cups.

3 ripe tomatoes, cored
1/2 white onion
1 jalapeno, stemmed, cut in half and seeded
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Roast the vegetables in a 400° oven for 25 minutes, turning once. Allow to cool. Then place all the ingredients into a blender or food processor. Pulse for 3-4 seconds, until incorporated. Make sure not to overblend. You want a chunky, non-runny salsa.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Easy Orange Danish Rolls

When I was growing up, a big weekend breakfast treat was those orange danish rolls that came in the can. (How 70's suburban, right?) They were oh-so-much-more exotic than cinnamon rolls. I giggled when I found this recipe in Southern Living almost a year ago. I pulled it out when I was feeling nostalgic one recent Saturday morning. Took me right back to the golden years.

Easy Orange Danish Rolls
Makes 11 rolls.
Adapted from Southern Living.

1/2 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
11/2 teaspoons orange zest
1 (11-oz.) can refrigerated crescent rolls
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk

Preheat oven to 375°. Beat cream cheese, light brown sugar, and orange zest at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Unroll crescent dough onto a lightly floured surface. Roll lightly to seal perforations.

Spread cream cheese mixture over dough, leaving a 1/4-inch border. Sprinkle with granulated sugar. Gently roll up dough, starting at 1 long side. Cut into 11 (1 1/4-inch) slices.

Place slices in a lightly greased 8-inch round cake pan. Brush top of dough with melted butter. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until golden.

Stir together powdered sugar and milk in a small bowl until smooth. Drizzle over hot rolls. Serve immediately.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Storing Fresh Ginger

There's a little bowlk on our counter where I "store" a few things that we use in cooking often. Onions, garlic and shallots. And fresh ginger. Trouble is that the ginger sometimes starts to dry out (or even sprout) if I buy too big a piece and don't get around to using it fast enough. Here's a tip I'm going to try:

Peel a large piece of fresh ginger and grate the entire thing. Put the grated ginger into a freezer bag and flatten into a thin layer. When you need fresh ginger, just break off a piece and use it in the recipe.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Baker Hotel Spinach Rockefeller

The Baker Hotel here in Dallas was the epitome of elegant hotels for more than half a century. From its opening in 1925 until it closed in 1979 (Unfortunately, the Hotel was demolished in 1980.), guests could dine in lavish rooms like the Peacock Terrace or the Crystal Room on fare like this delicious recipe. It's a take on the classic Oysters Rockefeller, with tomato slices replacing the oysters. It was a perfect side to a grilled ribeye steak one recent Sunday night.

1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach
2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons minced scallions
1 egg
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
¼ teaspoon minced garlic
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
4 to 6 tomato slices, each ¼ -inch thick
1/8 teaspoon garlic salt

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Cook spinach according to package directions; drain well.

Place spinach, bread crumbs, scallions, egg, melted butter, parmesan cheese, optional MSG, garlic, thyme, black pepper, cayenne and salt in a medium bowl. Mix well.

Arrange tomato slices in a glass pie plate or other shallow baking dish; sprinkle with garlic salt. Spoon about 1/4 cup spinach mixture onto each tomato slice and shape into a dome.

Bake 15 minutes, or until set and heated through. Makes 2 to 3 servings.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Mustard-Roasted Pork Tenderloin

Simple is sometimes (ok...most of the time) better. It is amazing the depth of flavor that a humble ingredient like a good-quality mustard can bring to a dish. Here's a perfect example.

Mustard-Roasted Pork Tenderloin
Serves eight.

1/4 cup grainy Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin

Preheat the oven to 375.

Combine the mustard and the pepper and rub all over the pork. Place in a roasting pan and roast until a meat thermometer inserted into the center of the pork registers 145, about 25 minutes. (It should be slightly pink in the center.)

Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes. To serve, cut into medium slices.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cooking with Books: Cafe Pasqual's Pupusas

I continue to try and recreate my recent and wonderful Santa Fe food experience here in North Texas. I have blogged before on my chile roasting/peeling/chopping adventures. And posted two delicious chile sauce recipes...both red AND green. But I knew it would take work to manage making the pupusas (a Salvadoran specialty) which I had at Cafe Pasqual's as a light dinner late one August evening. Luckily, chef Katharine Kagel has two cookbooks out that I used as mentor. This recipe comes from the second cookbook, titled simply Cooking with Cafe Pasqual's. I need a little more practice with the cakes were a little on the chewy side...but it's still a wonderful dish to try.

(A hint: The veggie filling is delicious in and of itself. With some leftover filling that I had, I stuffed a couple of bell peppers and baked for about 20 minutes with a little grated Monterey Jack cheese and crushed tortilla chips on top.)

Napo's Pupusas
Makes 6 servings.

2 cups dry masa harina
11 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups water
2 zucchini, grated
1/2 large white onion, grated
1 cup fresh corn kernels (cut from about two ears of corn)
1 cup green chile sauce
2 tomatoes, cored and diced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese

Place the masa into a bowl and add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, mixing it with your hands.

When the ingredients are mixed enough to yield small meal, slowly add the water, incorporating into the masa mixture by rocking the heel and palm of your hand. (The dough will be sticky.) When all the water has been incorporated, refrigerate the dough, covering it with plastic wrap.

Put 2 tablespoons of the remaining oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the zucchini, onion, corn, green chile sauce and tomatoes. Sauté the mixture for 5 minutes, then add the salt and pepper to taste. Remove the mixture to a strainer and drain the juices, pressing gently with the back of a wooden spoon to remove excess moisture.

To make the pupusas, cut 6 pieces of parchment paper into 16 inch by 6 inch pieces. Remove the masa from the refrigerator and form 12 balls of equal size. Place a piece of parchment paper on the work surface and use a brush to oil it lightly with olive oil. Place 2 of the balls near either and of the paper, then place plastic wrap over each ball. Find a flat round object measuring 4 to 5 inches in diameter. Press firmly over each masa ball to create a thin flat circle of masa, about 1/4 inch thick. Remove the plastic and place 2 tablespoons each of the vegetable mixture and the cheese in the center of one of the masa disks and spread over the surface. Using the parchment paper, fold the other disk over onto the first. Seal them by gently pressing down all around the edges. Repeat to form 6 pupusas. Keep the pupusas covered until ready to sauté.

On a hot griddle or nonstick saute pan, place 1 tablespoon of oil and brown each pupusa on both side, about 4 minutes per side.

Serve garnished with salsa and escabeche.

Monday, October 19, 2009

When Life Gives You Lemons...Do This With Them.

Sure lemons are great for iced tea and a good Tom Collins cocktail, but there are so many additional household uses for the yellow orb. Try some of these cleaning tips:
  • Clean your countertops by dipping the cut side of a lemon half in baking soda and scrubbing away. Wipe countertop with a wet sponge and let dry. (Don't use on delicate stone like marble or stainless steel.)
  • To increase the grease-cutting power of your dishwashing detergent, add a teaspoon of lemon juice.
  • If you have scale on your faucets, rub lemon juice on the taps and let sit overnight. Wipe clean the next morning with a damp cloth.
  • If you get fish or garlic smell on your hands while cooking, rub them with lemon juice to neutralize the odor.
  • If you have an unpleasant odor coming from your garbage disposal, cut a lemon in half and then run both pieces through the disposal.
  • If you get those pinkish stains from tomato sauce etc. in your plastic storage containers, rub lemon juice on the stains, let dry in a sunny spot and then wash as usual.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Tomato and Mozzarella Lollipops

I'm always on the hunt for fun, delicious and EASY nibbles. For parties, sure. But sometimes also just as a snack while I'm having a drink or fixing dinner.

I've certainly served little Caprese salads on a skewer before. Bit of tomato, piece of mozzarella. Both wrapped in a basil leaf and impaled on a bamboo skewer. They're always a hit.

I was thrilled to run across this more elegant presentation recently. They're on the list for the Halloween party.

Tomato and Mozzarella Lollipops
Makes 12 lollipops.

12 cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoons pesto
12 bocconcini (baby mozzarella) or 12 small pieces of mozzarella
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped basil

Remove the top of each tomato with a sharp knife and scoop out the seeds with a melon baller. You'll end up with a "shell."

Spoon a little pesto into each shell and insert a piece of the mozzarella.

Skewer the bottom of each tomato with a bamboo skewer.

Combine the lemon zest, olive oil and basil in a small bowl. Dip each skewer in the mixture so that the mozzarella is "sprinkled" with the basil and lemon zest.

Serve upright in a glass with kosher salt in the bottom of it to anchor the skewers.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Basil Caesar Salad

Gourmet magazine is no more. But I still have lots of recipe pages ripped from my issues stashed in file folders. It will definitely live on here...

I always have bunches of basil this time of year. Frost hasn't zapped it yet. But I've never been one to make pesto and freeze it in ice cube trays as all the gurus tell me too. So I have to find other ways to use it up. This recipe is one of my newest techniques.

Basil Caesar Salad
Serves 6 to 8 as a side dish.

1 (10-inch) piece baguette, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 garlic clove
1 large egg
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon anchovy paste
1 cup basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
1 package romaine hearts (1 pound), leaves separated and washed well, then halved crosswise
1 cup coarsely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle.

Toss bread with 2 tablespoons oil and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a large 4-sided sheet pan, then spread out in 1 layer. Toast in oven, stirring halfway through, until golden, 12 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, with motor running, drop garlic into a food processor and finely chop. Add egg, lemon juice, anchovy paste, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and pulse until combined. With motor running, add remaining 6 tablespoons oil in a slow stream, blending until emulsified. Add herbs and blend until dressing turns green and herbs are finely chopped.

Toss romaine with dressing, croutons, and half of cheese in a large bowl. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Take A Night Off.

Lord knows I do. If you think that I am in the kitchen every night creating new gourmet creations, you'd be wrong. Sure, I love cooking. But not THAT much.

So take my example. Find quality take-out sources and rely on them for your periodic night off. Now I'm not talking national chains or (God forbid) drive-though. I'm talking about the neighborhood pizza joint. The taco stand. Quality Chinese (or even better, Thai). Or, if you're as lucky as we are, the Italian place around the corner that makes the best fettucini alfredo you've ever tasted.

Phone it in, pick it up and enjoy. On your own plates and with your own wine, you'll be glad you did.

After all, the Life Should Be Beautiful philosophy has simplicity as one of its core tenets. Go to it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Goat Cheese in Provencal Oil

YUM. That's pretty much the only introduction this recipe needs.

Hint: You'll want some crusty bread ready when it's finished.

Goat Cheese in Provencal Oil
Serves four.

One log goat cheese cut into four segments
4 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped roughly
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
4 small bay leaves
4 sprigs rosemary
4 sprigs thyme
2/3 cup olive oil

Place each goat cheese piece in a small ramekin. Divide the tomatoes, peppercorns and herbs equally between the four ramekins. Cover the cheeses with olive oil.

Preheat the oven to 250°. Place the ramekins in a roasting pan with and inch of water in the bottom and heat in the oven for 30 minutes. The cheese will be warm and slighlty softened in texture.

Spread warm cheese on crusty bread. (Don't forget to sop up some of the deliciously flavored oil also.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cooking with Books: Spanikopita

Tuesday means another cookbook posting...until we get to March, then it's one a day for a month.

One section of my cookbook library deals with foods from particular regions of the world. Of course I have Italian and Chinese foods covered, but also quite a few on Spain and other far flung locales. I'm not sure where I first picked up Jim Botsacos' The New Greek Cuisine, but it's been on my shelf unused for a couple of years now. I finally cracked it open last week.

And I'm glad I did. It's packed full of recipes with traditional Mediterranean ingredients like lamb, olives, seafood and tomatoes. It was struggle to pick just one to be the first.

In the end, I decided to try one of the recipes we non-natives think of most often when we consider Greek food. Spanikopita. And it's perfect timing. I tried a couple pieces for myself. (Delicious and flaky and herbal without the overwhelming feta taste one sometimes gets.) I threw the rest in a freezer bag to serve at next weekend's Halloween fete.

Spanikopita (Spinach, Leeks and Feta Wrapped in Crispy Phyllo)
From The New Greek Cuisine
Makes about 5 dozen.

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds fresh spinach, stems removed
Kosher salt
1 1/2 cups finely diced onion
1 1/2 cups finely diced white park of leek
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 large egg
3/4 crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons grated kefaiotyro cheese (I couldn't find this so I left it out.)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill
1 pound frozen phyllo dough, thawed according to package directions

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the spinach in handfuls, season with a pinch of salt, and sauté until all of the spinach has wilted, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer to a colander placed in a bowl so that all liquid can be reserved. Press on the spinach to drain off any excess liquid.

Spread the spinach out on a baking pan. Transfer to the refrigerator for about 30 minutes or until cool.

When the spinach is cool, transfer to a clean cutting board. Using a sharp knife or cleaver, chop the spinach until very, very fine. Set aside.

Heat 1/4 cup of the remaining olive oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add the onion and another pinch of salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, or until the onion is soft and translucent but has not taken on any color.

Stir in the leek, cover again, and cook for about 5 minutes. Uncover, add the garlic and another pinch of salt, and continue to cook for 2 minutes, or until the leeks have softened but not taken on any color.

Add the reserved chopped spinach, stirring until well blended. If the mixture appears dry, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of the reserved spinach juice. Cook for 3 minutes longer, or until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Transfer the spinach mixture to a baking pan, spreading it out with a spatula to make an even layer. Refrigerate for about 1 hour, or until chilled.

Remove the chilled spinach mixture from the refrigerator and transfer it to a mixing bowl. Stir in the egg, cheeses, mint, and dill. Season with salt to taste and set aside.

Line at least two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

Lay the phyllo out and cover with a damp towel to keep from drying out.

Working with one sheet at a time, lay the phyllo out on a clean dry surface. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat the phyllo with olive oil. Using a small sharp knife, cut the oiled phyllo lengthwise into seven 2-inch-wide strips. Working with one strip at a time, place 1 tablespoon of the spinach mixture in the lower corner of the dough. Fold the bottom end of the dough over the spinach to meet the right end of the dough, forming a triangle. Continue folding in the triangle shape until the entire strip has been folded.

Place the triangles on the prepared baking sheets as they are finished. (For very even browning, place the pies on wire racks on the cookie sheets before baking.) Continue making triangles until all the spinach mixture has been used.

When all of the pieces have been made, place the baking sheets in the preheated oven and bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp. Remove from the oven and serve hot.

Note: Spanikopita can be made ahead and frozen, unbaked, for up to 3 weeks. Bake as directed above allowing about 5 extra minutes cooking time.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Smoked Salmon Crisps

I didn't blog about our May trip to the Mecca for foodies...Thomas Keller's The French Laundry in Yountville, Napa Valley, California.

Two reasons: a) I didn't want to gloat. (And I would was the most amazing, albeit most expensive, meal I'd ever had. And b) I really don't think my pedantic prose could have done justice to the sublime experiences that were on my plate that night.

But I was excited when a recent issue of Food & Wine included a recipe for the amuse bouche that was the first course we had. Salty salmon with the bracing tang of lemon zest. Topped with rich crème fraîche and tucked into a buttery sweet tuile cone. I never knew one bite could mean so much.

This version is simplified. No need to be fussy and shape the cones. These flat versions are just as delicious. (And so delicious that I almost ate them all before the salmon topping ever got involved.)

Smoked Salmon Crisps
Makes 3 dozen crisps. (Or at least it's supposed to...I didn't quite get that many out of the recipe.)

4 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 chilled large egg white
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
4 ounces sliced smoked salmon, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons very finely chopped shallot
1 1/2 teaspoons very finely chopped chives, plus a few snipped, for garnish
1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Freshly ground white pepper
1/2 cup crème fraîche

Preheat the oven to 400°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the sugar and salt. Add the egg white and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the butter until smooth and creamy.

Spoon teaspoons of the batter 3 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets and spread to 2-inch rounds. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and bake in the upper and middle third of the oven for about 15 minutes, shifting the pans from top to bottom and front to back, until the tuiles are golden and fragrant. Let cool completely.

In a medium bowl, combine the salmon with the shallot, chopped chives, lemon zest and a pinch of white pepper. Spoon the salmon onto the tuiles and top with a dollop of crème fraîche and a couple of snipped chives. Serve right away.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Leftovers for Breakfast

Heard the saying "Necessity is the mother of invention." I have a new one..."Leftovers are the mother of invention." Last weekend, after hot tea and the paper, I wanted something more for breakfast than the usual bowl of cereal or poached egg. So I poked around in the fridge and rustled up the ingredients for an impromptu plate of scrambled eggs supreme.

Here were the ingredients:
  • A half cup or so of leftover Stouffer's spinach souffle.
  • A couple of slices of tomato.
  • A quarter of a red onion.
  • Two or three tablespoonsful of Hollandaise sauce from broccoli a couple of nights previous.

So I put an English muffin in to toast and pulled out the non-stick sauté plan. Drizzle of olive oil. Diced the onion finely and cooked for a few minutes. Chopped the tomato and threw it in. Finished up with the spinach and stirred it in. Poured three beaten eggs on top and scrambled away. When they were done to my liking I threw them on the English muffin then spooned on the Hollandaise.

Yum. Yum.

Now I don't expect you to have the same ingredients in your refrigerator. (Frankly, I'd be a little creeped out if you did.) But hopefully your own leftovers can inspire you to similarly inventive heights.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Linguine with Mussels and Fresh Herbs

I've talked about the method to my mussel madness before. My theme and variations. I still look for great ideas from other sources though. Gourmet magazine provided me this one. I don't usually sully my mussels with pasta, but the unexpected combination of fennel seed, red pepper (I'd actually add more next time), herbs (make sure and include dill for an interesting twist), and Parmesan (although, frankly, I think the dish would succeed without it) is quite tasty. Try it for yourself...

Linguine with Mussels and Fresh Herbs
From Gourmet magazine.
Serves 6. (It's easy to make for two. Make a full complement of sauce and use smaller amounts of pasta and mussels.)

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (I only used a couple of tablespoons.)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 large garlic cloves, sliced
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 cup dry white wine (The Spanish sparkling wine I had open worked just fine in a pinch.)
2 pounds cultivated mussels, scrubbed
1 pound thin linguine
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 1/2 cups chopped herbs such as basil, dill, flat-leaf parsley, and oregano

Heat oil and butter in a 5-to 6-quart heavy pot over medium heat until foam subsides. Cook garlic, fennel seeds, and red pepper flakes with 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper, stirring, until garlic is softened, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add wine and boil until reduced by half, 4 to 5 minutes.

Add mussels and cook, covered, shaking pot occasionally, just until mussels open wide, 5 to 8 minutes. (Discard any that remain unopened after 8 minutes.) Remove from heat and keep warm.

Meanwhile, cook linguine in a pasta pot of well-salted boiling water until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain linguine.

Toss linguine with mussels and any liquid from pot, cheese, and herbs. Thin with reserved cooking water if desired.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Roasted New Potatoes with Poblano Chiles

I loves me some roasted new potatoes. A bit of fresh rosemary. A generous sprinkle of garlic pepper. And a big gusher of good olive oil. Yum.

But here's another way to do things. Cut the potatoes and the poblanos in small pieces and it will be great. Not only as a side for pork tenderloin or grilled skirt steak. But also as a filling (along with scrambled eggs) for breakfast tacos. Or an interesting fajita topping. Whatever way...these papas have a nice subtle burn.

Roasted New Potatoes with Poblano Chiles
From Bon Appetit.
Makes eight servings.

4 large fresh poblano chiles
2 pounds new potatoes (such as red-skinned, fingerling, or Yukon Gold)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 white onion, halved, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced

Char chiles over direct flame or in broiler until blackened on all sides. (Try this technique.) Enclose in paper bag and let steam 10 minutes. Peel and seed chiles. Cut lengthwise into thin strips.

Cook potatoes in large pot of boiling salted water until almost tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain; cool. Cut potatoes lengthwise in half. Place in 15x10x2-inch glass baking dish. Add oil and toss to coat. Arrange in single layer, cut side up. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Roast potatoes until just beginning to brown, tossing occasionally, about 40 minutes. Mix in onion and garlic. Roast 5 minutes. Mix in chile strips. Roast until heated through, 5 to 10 minutes longer. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Cooking From Books: Goat Cheese Tarts with Black Oil

I have LOTS of cookbooks. I mean LOTS. They are reference books, sources of inspiration, and food porn. Love them.

And I've always intended to pass the best parts of some of them on in this blog. But I get bogged down by the countless family recipes and ripped-out magazine pages I also cook from. Well, suddenly, I learn that October is National Cookbook Month. Perfect time to post a cookbook recipe a day, right? Yeah...if I were prepared. So you'll have to wait for March...National Reading Month...for daily cookbook tidbits.

In the meantime, I'll make another commitment. Every Tuesday will be another installment of "Cooking from Books." Let's get things rolling.

One of my favorite sources for good cookbooks is the discount shelves at Barnes and Noble. That's where I found this one. The World in Bite Size. We entertain a lot, so I'm always looking for new recipes for appetizers, canapes and other nibbles. This one is packed with them. Author Paul Gayler takes us on a world journey of "tapas, mezze and other tasty morsels."

Here's one of the best. I am very familiar with the delicious combo of puff pastry, goat cheese and roasted tomatoes. But, here, black olive-laced oil and a sliver of pear takes it to new levels.

Goat Cheese Tarts with Black Oil
From The World In Bite Size.
Makes twelve tarts.

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 black olives, pitted
12 large cherry tomatoes
1 teaspoon sugar
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive oil
1 package puff pastry dough
4 ounces fresh goat cheese, cut into twelve pieces
1 small ripe pear, peeled and thinly shaved

Make the black oil by blending the oil and olives in a small blender until the olives are finely chopped and incorporated into the oil.

Preheat the oven to 425°.

Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and place on a foil-lined baking dish. Sprinkle them with the sugar, garlic, oregano, salt, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Place in the oven and roast for 30 minutes. (They should end up soft and wilted, but not mushy.) Remove from the oven and let cool.

Roll out the puff pastry to 1/8 inch thick, then cut out twelve 3-inch circles. Prick each pastry circle with a fork and top with roasted tomatoes.

Transfer to a baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes, until the tarts are nearly cooked. Scatter the goat cheese over them and return to the oven for another 2 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool. Before serving, drizzle with the black oil and top with shavings of the thinly sliced pear.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Happy Birthday to the Bloody Mary!

Food & Wine passes along the reminder that the Bloody Mary turns 75 years old today. From its beginnings at New York's St. Regis Hotel, this tomatoey cocktail has gone through a thousand makeovers. Here's one of my favorites. Is it a cocktail on a toothpick? Or just an appetizer? Not sure about classification, but I AM sure that these little juice bombs are yummy....

Bloody Mary Vodka Tomatoes

1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup pepper-flavored vodka (I'm tempted to try them with citrus vodka too.)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Dash of Tabasco sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Pinch of celery salt
Pinch of garlic salt
Pinch of celery seed(Or whatever goes into your favorite Bloody Mary recipe)
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon lemon pepper

Prick each tomato 3 times, piercing completely through with a toothpick. That will create 6 holes into which the liquid mixture can seep. Place tomatoes in medium bowl.Pour vodka and "Bloody Mary" ingredients over tomatoes and stir gently to combine.

Soak the tomatoes in the vodka mixture for at least two hours, ideally overnight.

To serve, place in small bowl. Mix salt and lemon pepper in bowl and serve alongside with toothpicks.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Parmesan Zucchini Sticks with Smoky Romesco Sauce

I love my life in the 'burbs north of Dallas. BUT...if I could live any place else on the planet, it would be somewhere in Spain. I love the spirit of the place. And the food. (And the wine.)

I've researched Spanish cooking pretty religiously. I've prepared paella. Made shrimp with garlic. Even a classic tapa like jamon croquettes. But I'd never made a Romesco sauce. That classic blend of roasted red peppers, almonds and the best of Spanish spices. That changed tonight...

I originally tabbed this recipe as another creative way to fix the ubiquitous zucchini. But, I have to admit, the sauce might be the star of this one. And it's really not that complicated. Try will be delicious with seared scallops. Roast chicken. By the spoonful. Whatever.

Parmesan Zucchini Sticks with Smoky Romesco Sauce
From Cooking Light.
Makes 8 servings.

3 medium red bell peppers
2 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1/2 cup (1/2-inch) cubed French bread baguette, crusts removed (I just tore my bread up...and left the crusts on. Such a rebel.)
1 1/2 tablespoons smoked almonds
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika (If it's not in your pantry...make it so.)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 large garlic clove

3 large zucchini (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup egg substitute (or REAL eggs, beaten)
Cooking spray

Preheat broiler.

To prepare sauce, cut bell peppers in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membranes. Place bell pepper halves and tomatoes, skin sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet; flatten bell peppers with hand. Broil 10 minutes or until blackened. Place in a zip-top plastic bag; seal. Let stand 15 minutes. Peel and coarsely chop, reserving any liquid. (You can also use the grilling technique previously described about green chiles.)

Combine bell peppers, reserved liquid, tomatoes, and next 8 ingredients (through garlic) in a blender or food processor; process until smooth.

Preheat oven to 400°.

To prepare zucchini, cut 1 zucchini in half crosswise; cut each half lengthwise into 8 wedges. Repeat procedure with remaining zucchini. Combine breadcrumbs, panko, cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and black pepper in a shallow dish. Dip zucchini in egg substitute; dredge in breadcrumb mixture. Place zucchini on a wire rack coated with cooking spray. Lightly coat zucchini with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately with sauce.

Food/Wine Pairing: Awwww...come on. You have to ask? Crack open that Spanish Crianza. Montecillo. El Vinculo. Marques di Ribera. You get the idea....

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Prosciutto and Gruyere Pastry Pinwheels

I'm already thinking about what to serve at our upcoming Halloween bash. I've posted several recipes for toasty puff pastry "pinwheels" before. These Parmesan Spirals from Martha Stewart. And these easy ones which use Stouffer's Spinach Souffle and were a hit during last year's holiday parties. Here's one more twist if you'll pardon the pun...

As is almost always true with a recipe involving puff pastry, it's delicious with a glass of bubbly.

Prosciutto and Gruyere Pastry Pinwheels
From Bon Appetit.
Makes about 30 appetizers.

1 sheet frozen puff pastry (half of one package), thawed
4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
3/4 cup (packed) finely grated Gruyère cheese (about 2 1/2 ounces)
1 egg, beaten

Place pastry sheet on work surface. Cut in half, forming two 9 1/2 x 4 3/4-inch rectangles. Arrange half of prosciutto on 1 rectangle, leaving 1/2-inch border along 1 side. Sprinkle prosciutto with half of basil, then top with half of cheese. Brush plain border with egg glaze.

Starting at long side opposite border, roll up pastry jelly-roll style, pressing gently to seal long edges. Wrap in plastic. Repeat with remaining pastry, prosciutto, basil, cheese, and egg to form second log. Refrigerate until firm, at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 400°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut logs crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick rounds. Arrange rounds on prepared sheets, spacing 1 inch apart. Bake 1 sheet at a time until pastries are golden brown, about 16 minutes.

Using metal spatula, transfer pastries to racks and cool slightly. Serve warm.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Cocktail of the Week: Fields of Gold

This yummy libation comes from personal fave Food & Wine magazine. They suggest that it citrus qualities make it a great pairing with Latin food. That's certainly plausible, but I think it's the perfect cocktail as we enter autumn. It boasts burnished ingredients and rich flavors. And it looks almost like apple cider. I actually think it would be a perfect pre-dinner drink for Thanksgiving night.

(Note: I actually made myself one of these straight-up, straining it into a martini glass. Worked rather well...)

Fields of Gold
Makes one cocktail.

1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 teaspoons warm water
3 orange slices, quartered, plus 1 orange wheel, for garnish
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup bourbon

In a cocktail shaker, stir the honey and water until the honey is dissolved. Add the orange slices and muddle. Fill the shaker with ice and add the lemon juice and bourbon. Shake well and strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. (Be patient with the straining. There's lots of orangey bits to get in the way.) Garnish with the orange wheel.